Thursday, 28 June 2018

So Much Going On

The boy's back again. It's full on at work and with my golf and it's been busy, busy, busy. I hope you're all well and your golfing season is going well. So much news, where to start?

The Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel (Click here to go to the Three Off The Tee Channel)
If any of you have your own youtube channel you'll know how time consuming filming and editing content can be. However I'm pleased to say I've finally got more videos to share. Please click on the links, share them around (PLEASE), give the video a thumbs up and please comment. Youtube loves a thumbs up and a comment and it makes a difference. It also really helps if you can subscribe

Golf Psych Preview Video
As I mentioned in my last blog, I am doing some work on improving my golf thinking (more of which to come shortly. For now though, check this video introducing James Lambdon, a golf psychologist (on twitter at @The_Golf_Psych or his website http://www.thegolfpsych.co.uk/). Here's an introductory video. Thinking Better - Golf Psychology With James Lambdon

Linear Method Demonstration - A Self Taught Mid-Handicapper
I have spoken many, many times about the linear method. This is a new method of playing short game shots devised by Gary Smith. It utilises the bounce more than the normal methods. It's a different concept especially in the set up. Check out my demonstration video here Linear Demonstration. IT IS NOT AN INSTRUCTION VIDEO. I have put links at the bottom of the video for Gary Smith's resources to see professional tuition.

That said I am really excited about this video. It one I really want to be shared as much as you can. I really believe in the linear method (put linear in the search box on the front page of my blog to see previous posts) and while its a bit funky, it's something that really works and is making a difference to my scores and may do the same for your own game.

The Quest For Single Figures
I know what you're asking, what's happened to the "Quest For Single Figures". Well the good news is, I'm starting to play some decent golf. I even managed a win in the May stableford (which qualifies me for the Royal Ascot "Masters" at the end of the season which is an invite only 36 hole medal event for competition winners only). I followed that up with a second place in my division in the June stableford.

So what has that meant for "The Quest". Well the good news is the handicap is finally on the move the right way. I had clicked over to a fifteen handicap (official handicap 14.5) but my 38 points in the May stableford was good enough for a 0.6 cut taking me to 13.9. I then had an increase so back to 14.0 and then my second play got me another 0.3 cut. Following me? Well that took my handicap back to 13.7 and having now had another 0.1 increase I currently sit on 14 and if I go under handicap in my next event I could get down to 13. It's taking time to get the handicap moving but I'm still plugging away.

Check out my statistics from my May win. As you can see, my scrambling numbers were excellent and a real testament to how well the linear method has made a difference (and how seamlessly I segue this blog).

May 2018 Statistics

I was really happy with the way I was playing in general terms but I've not been able to play at Royal Ascot Golf Club. Firstly there was the club foursomes which I was in, and following that the Royal Ascot race meeting was on. While the course is reduced in size (for helicopter and VIP parking) access can be really difficult especially as I work during the day so effectively it becomes a no go area.

This means I feel like I've hit a wall and have to start again to regain my timing and work on my swing. It's an annual problem. I am back on the course for the first time in a fortnight this coming weekend (June 30th) so we'll treat it as a practice and see exactly where my game is at.

Better Golf Thinking
As I've alluded to with my video link above, I have started my work on better thinking. This is an ongoing project and I'm really excited that online golf magazine Golfhacker (http://www.golfhacker.org or on twitter at https://twitter.com/Golfhacker_mag) has given me the opportunity to articulate my progress in a series of articles.

I have had an introductory meeting with James Lambdon at Cumberwell Golf Club near Bath. It was a fascinating meeting and we've touched on a number of issues that affect my thinking on the course, whether it's going well or not. I've now got a development plan to work through, and I'll be doing regular video updates on the Youtube channel (so you really should be subscribing) as I take it to the practice ground and the course.

James Lambdon - aka The Golf Psych who has agreed to work with my to improve my golf thinking.
It's an area I've been interested in for a long time. I've spoken about NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and how I want to develop a stronger mindset on the course. I'd like to thank James and Golfhacker for the unique opportunity and really think this is going to make a difference and will assist in the "Quest For Single Figures"

Linear Short Game
Way back, when I was setting my goals for the 2018 season, I wanted to really focus on the short game from 100 yards and in. I've been flip-flopping between a standard short game technique and the linear method, different as it is. I've made a definitive decision. I'm sticking to my guns and adopting the linear method. It's something that's going to take a lot of work to get it working and to become something I can use without focusing on technical thoughts on each shot (which ties back into my Better Golf Thinking - can you see how this is starting to hang together). As a result I have signed up to the Gary Smith Short Game Academy (https://www.garysmithgolfacademy.com/) which is a fabulous online resource which goes through each area in great detail, has a task to complete to ensure you've understood each section, and has a wealth of videos to watch.

Moving Forward
Now the circus that is Royal Ascot racing has rolled out of town, I can get back to grinding my game out. The technique had been functioning well as my win and second place demonstrate but having not had a chance to work on it I am going to be rusty. I'm really looking forward to getting some range time, along with my ongoing linear short game work and kicking on strongly in the second half of the season.

I am playing in a charity golf day at Chigwell Golf Club in Essex on July 12th for the DreamFactory (http://www.yourdreamfactory.org/) which helps children and young adults from 3-25 with life limiting or life threatening illnesses. We have a space on the team to play with myself, Golfhacker magazine and a youtube contributor and single figure golfer William Murfitt (William Murfitt Youtube). It's £75 for the day including dinner and contact me on here or via my twitter account (https://twitter.com/hackergolfer)

As I said at the outset, there's so much going on. Work is frantic at the moment which is impacting practice time but now we're in the midst of some glorious weather I'm determined to get out on the course and play as much as I can. I'm excited by everything I've got coming up and will be reporting back on here as I go. I hope you can join me for another blog update soon.

In the meantime I implore you to subscribe to the Youtube Channel and especially share and comment on the Linear video, This has become a real pet subject and while it takes time initially, is a simple to use, simple to understand method and will help your game.

Enjoy the summer. Play well, shoot low and see you again soon

Sunday, 13 May 2018

In Full Swing

I'm back. Apologies but there has been a awful lot going on and off the golf course and I've been very busy and so time has been hard to find. The season is up and running and I hope your golfing season has started well and you're on the way to achieving your golfing goals.

I've been playing as much as I can, primarily at weekends but practice and weekday evening rounds haven't been as fruitful as I'd have wanted to date. Hopefully that's about to change. Way back at the start of the year, my handicap stood at 14.2 and the plan was to hit the ground running and make a fast start, get some early cuts and really make a charge towards single figures.

If you've read my blogs, sparse as they have been, you'll know I missed a lot of my winter work with a niggling back injury. This meant I haven't really got that solid period of practice behind me and consequently form has been patchy. The bad news is I've gone up to 14.5 which means the handicap now sits at 15 although the last two rounds have been in the buffer zone so I hope I can kick forward again.

I know it's been a while, and if you are a new reader to my ramblings (and you are very welcome) you may also know I've also got a Youtube channel that runs in parallel to this blog. You can find it by searching Youtube for Three Off The Tee or by clicking this link (Three Off The Tee Channel). While you are there please make sure you subscribe as there is some very interesting stuff coming soon.

You'll see that there are a few new(ish) videos on the channel including my 2018 What's In The Bag which you can watch here (WITB 2018) and there's a video charting my goals and objectives for the year which you can see here (2018 Goals And Objectives). I hope you enjoy them and if you have any comments please leave them in the relevant comments section of the videos. I'd love to hear what you think.

I've teamed up with a different playing partner for the pairs events at my home club, Royal Ascot in 2018. He's an old friend who rejoined the club at the start of the year and is a guy I've known socially for the best part of thirty years. He's called Dave Hurn, and we've played two pairs events already. We came tantalisingly close in our first effort, despite Dave having an off day and were only a point of second place and came a creditable fifth. We played again recently in the Jubilee Cup, a pairs better ball event. It's a competition I've won before and one of the cub's honours board events (majors). Again we started slowly and were two over handicap after four holes and then woke up. In the end we finished in 5th place again, but with a few putts dropping and a better start could have easily broken into the top three. The vibe between us is as strong as ever and we're not taking ourselves too seriously and will always have a laugh and a beer after. It has the potential to be a very good partnership going forward.

There is a lot coming up. As well as taking a more free and organic approach to the "Quest For Single Figures" and reducing the amount of tuition I take, in an attempt to reduce the amount of thoughts in my head on the course. I aim to practice less on the full swing, and in a more strategic and focused manner, and with the onus primarily on the area from 100 yards and in.

I am going to be doing some work with a great online publication called Golf Hacker Magazine. Check out their website here (http://www.golfhacker.org/)  and their twitter account (https://twitter.com/Golfhacker_mag) and hope to be doing some writing for them going forward. I've also teamed up with the Golf Hacker editor Nick, and two others. First is a wonderful and inspirational young lady called Jasmine, aka The Jazzy Golfer. Check her twitter profile here, (https://twitter.com/thejazzygolfer). She is doing great things online and really working hard to get more women into golf and has already had some huge and deserved recognition. Secondly but no means least is a guy, originally hailing not so far from where I live now, but now residing in Wales by the name of William Murfitt. He has his own Youtube channel which you can see here (William Murfitt Golf) and his twitter account,(https://twitter.com/MurfittWilliam).

So what I hear you wearily ask? Well we've formed a dream team to play in a charity golf day at Chigwell Golf Club in Essex to raise funds for Avril's Dream (https://twitter.com/avrilsdream). Do yourself a favour and go to the website and see the fantastic work they are doing (http://www.yourdreamfactory.org/). It has been set up to brighten the lives and encourage hope in children and young adults with life limiting or life threatening conditions. It promises to be a great day and something I'll be filming for my Youtube channel.

The exciting news keeps coming. I am also hoping to team up with James Lambdon, aka the Golf Psych, Again I'll put a link to his twitter page (https://twitter.com/The_Golf_Psych) and the website (http://www.thegolfpsych.co.uk/) so you can see what he's all about. If the plans come off we're hoping to use me as a guinea pig and his techniques to improve my thinking when I play golf and chart the progress in a regular feature in Golf Hacker. I'm very excited and hope we can get it sorted. It's a subject I've spoken about at length. I need to improve my thinking on the course. I need to free my mind away from too many technical thoughts, and when the bad shots happen, finding a way to cope mentally, accept the error and move on.

I'm going to be doing a lot of stuff on the mental side of the game. It's going to be something different and hopefully will add an edge to my game when the going gets hard
The funny thing is, I regularly get told by members (and other golfers at club matches etc) that I have a decent swing and that it's all in my head. It's something I am beginning to accept and the need to try and find a textbook golf swing is waning and I can play with what I have. Admittedly I have to sharpen my short game, and that's the focus of my attention in practice. I need to quieten my golfing monkey, think better and give myself a clear mental focus and targets whenever I play. I hope to have more news soon.

We have the Jamega Tour (http://www.jamegatour.co.uk/) back at Royal Ascot Golf Club (http://www.royalascotgolfclub.co.uk/) this weekend for the pro-am and for their professional event next week. It's a developmental tour and they enjoyed our course and hospitality twice last season. I have to be honest and the green staff at the club have worked wonders in the last few months in some trying weather conditions. The greens are the best they have been since we moved to our new home in August 2005. The presentation of the course is first class at the moment, and there are new features including new and modern patio furniture to enjoy a post round drink. I think it's going to be a great few days with the tour in town and the course will be a challenge to all of the professionals, but a fair one.

The Royal Ascot Clubhouse. Home this week to the Jamega Tour. The course has never looked or played better. 
My golfing season is about to get into full swing. I am trying hard to make inroads into the handicap and get "The Quest For Single Figures" up and running for 2018. I know there are some good scores in there if I stop making some silly mistakes, which hopefully is where "The Golf Psych" comes into his own. And you thought this was all a mish-mash of random thoughts and ideas!!!

I'm sorry once again for the huge gap between posts and hopefully I'm back and keeping you posted on all things related to my golf going forward. In the meantime, I hope your own golf is up and running and you are playing well. Thanks for reading this latest offering and I'll see you for another blog soon.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Return Of The Beast

Theoretically Spring has arrived and we're only a few weeks from The Masters at Augusta and the clocks change next weekend meaning longer nights. So why does it feel like the middle of December with snow on the ground, a wind chill somewhere near -7 and the golf course is shut. In short, the brother of the "Beast From The East" has returned and like its sibling predecessor has brought a wintry backlash. There's no merit standing in that cold on the range, I can't get out and play. Doesn't the weather know I'm a man on a schedule and "The Quest For Single Figures" needs to be up and running.

I really feel like I've lost ground and my winter preparation feels really disjointed and that I am far from ready. When I've been out on the course the putting has been terrible. It needs remedial work on the putting green. My pitching is a mess and I hoped to get out and have a lesson to sort this on Tuesday (21st) but not sure the weather is going to play ball. 

No words needed. I think many UK golfers feel exactly this way


So what's new? Well I've put a new video on the Three Off The Tee youtube channel that runs parallel to this blog. Check it out here (Three Off The Tee Youtube) which talks through the "What's in The Bag". I urge you to click on this link What's In The Bag - WITB and watch it. As you'll see there are some new additions in there and I've a few equipment issues to work out. I'd love you to comment on the video and let me know what's in your bag this year and why. 

While we're talking about my youtube channel, I can also offer you a chance to win a great prize, although probably only of interest if you're in the UK. Would you like to go to the world famous Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey, and watch the top European tour professionals as well as a host of celebrities from the world of sport and entertainment. If so, I've two tickets to give away to the celebrity pro-am on Wednesday 23rd May. You need to make your own way to and from the event but I reckon it'll be a great chance to get up close to these stars and will be a great day out.

All you have to do is subscribe to the youtube channel. This is mandatory to enter. Add a comment to any video I post, including this one giving the full competition details (Competition Time) with "BMW Tickets" and you're entered into the free draw. You can enter more than once (one comment per video). 

Golfing wise, it's been very stop/start. I've not really played too much golf. What I have played has been pairs events recently. My partner and I came 6th in the pairs stableford, but only a point away from second, in the Better Ball Competition and last week I played in the Jack Jarrett Trophy at Royal Ascot. It's better ball stableford, 90% handicap meaning I was off 13, and both scores to count. My usual partner was away, the replacement I had, cried off ill on the Thursday and I was grateful to the club captain for finding me an 11th hour replacement on the Friday night.

I had some irons in the bag (so you'll want to check the WITB video above) and to be honest neither of us had a great day. I played average at best with the swing feeling decidedly rusty, the short game non-existent and the putter stone cold. I managed to sleep walk my way to a decent 17 points going out. I'm not quite sure how as my mind was pretty disengaged and I was just hitting it without too much thought process.

Sadly I woke from my zombie like state on the 10th and so began a torrid back nine as my mind wandered and the swing fell out of kilter. I had no touch on my greens and was suddenly rushing putts five foot past and missing the one back. I was driving well enough but my next shot would be abject for no reason. It was a miserly 12 points back for 29 in total. Suffice to say my partner (off six) had an even worse day out and so we never threatened but even so managed a mid-table 21st place finish. 

Since then I have had one mediocre range session. I won't be working on my game this weekend in these freezing conditions. I've a lesson booked on Tuesday and had planned to address the pitching issues, ideally off grass, but the weather looks set to scupper that. If it does I'll have a thirty minute MOT lesson and just get the basics checked over and hopefully a few tweaks to keep the swing on track. 

Other than that, I'm planning to work hard on my game once the mercury rises again and that Baltic wind drops. It's still the pitching that's the stumbling block. I still flip flop between a traditional technique and the linear method which has more moving parts but when it's on is fantastic and I feel I can produce a variety of shots and with great control. 

I wish I could fill you in with more progress on the "Quest For Single Figures" However I've devised a practice schedule to take to the range and practice ground. I won't be doing each part of this every session but will focus on one area of my game each day and mark my scores and try and improve that next time. See what you think and let me know.


I hope where ever you are, the weather improves soon and you can get on the course and we can finally get the 2018 season up and running. Don't forget to click on the links to my videos, watch them and please give them a thumbs up and add a comment. Go ahead and enter the BMW PGA Celebrity Pro-Am competition. I'll see you again for another blog soon and hopefully they'll be no repeat of the beast to report.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Will Winter Ever End?

With another cold snap forecast for the weekend in the UK and the feel like temperatures predicted at around -5, there seems to be no end to Winter at the moment. We've been lucky in deepest, darkest Berkshire that we've not seen the snow fall many parts of the country have, but playing on frozen greens and in a biting wind takes a special kind of golfing dedication. I'm beginning to question whether I've still got that.

My Youtube channel is still growing. If you haven't already subscribed, have a look at here (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) and make sure you do. If you do so and comment on any of my videos, starting with the latest, a nine hole scramble test around Royal Ascot Golf Club, (check it here Scramble Test) and include the phrase "BMW PGA Pro-Am" I'll enter you into a free draw to win two tickets for the pro-am that is the curtain raiser to the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. The pro-am will take place on the 23rd May. All you have to do is subscribe, and leave a comment on any video before April 30th. Come on, get involved. You know you want to.

I know there are a lot of Royal Ascot members that read these ramblings some come on guys, get involved with the channel and subscribe. There's a lot of stuff I want to do in 2018 and I'd like to include you in it so click that subscribe button now. My channel is going to get much bigger and I'm going to be doing a lot of collaborations and content this year and I want anyone who is a subscriber (not just those at my club) to get involved. Let's make it a two way thing.

It's been a while since I was on here last. I hope everyone is getting some golf of some description or at least working hard at the range, ready for warmer weather. Competitively, there hasn't been a lot of golf going on and there has only been two individual and one pairs event so far in 2018.

The Quest For Single Figures started 2018 on 14.2 and I've had one buffer zone in the January monthly stableford and narrowly missed out on the buffer in the February version scoring 33 and 35 points respectively off the yellow tees (CSS being 69 against a par of 70) so I'm up to 14.3 as I type. Not ideal but a solid enough base to begin this years effort to get down and ideally to single figures.

There's a video coming on the channel soon outlining my goals and objectives for 2018 so check that when it drops but goal remains the same. I have struggled this winter with a bad back which has seriously hampered play and practice and so my much vaunted plans to work on the swing changes from my lesson with Paul Foston at the London Club (courtesy of Golf Monthly) haven't materialised. However I'm starting to show some promising signs and when I'm on at the moment it's usually decent. Sadly though I'm still struggling to be "on" often enough and there are still some poor rounds in there. It's difficult. It's winter golf with bare or muddy lies which makes pitching and chipping hard and swinging with so many layers on to keep warm makes tempo and consistency tricky.

Let me just say, there's going to be a distinct change of focus. The Quest For Single Figures" remains the ultimate target but the way we get there is going to change. I feel that at times it has become an all-encompassing pursuit. I'm taking a far more organic approach in 2018. My practice regime is going to be stripped back and more time spent on the course. Practice is going to be split 80/20 in favour of the short game. I intend to do a lot more on course practice and will be doing many more scramble tests, pitching challenges from varying distances (see this 40 yard pitching challenge video https://youtu.be/5FsjsSX9v5k for an idea of what I am on about). I'm also going to introduce a bunker challenge too.

I need to simplify. One shot at a time and keep a clear head

I have found these challenges are far more realistic and there is a distinct pressure trying to get up and down from different lies and from different distances. I've already found that when I'm playing and face this sort of shot, I am more confident about executing having done so in practice. I also intend to do a lot of work on my putting. It's an area that's letting me down, especially holing out from 3-6 foot. This is usually a strength but one I've neglected over the winter and is something I need to get onto quickly.

My point (rambling as it is) is I need to take pressure off myself and let the good rounds dictate handicap cuts and "The Quest" will take care of itself. I've tried too hard I feel, and arguably had too much tuition trying to get something that is technically correct. My swing has flaws, but there again if  look around my club at those already off single figures, many have swings that vary from very orthodox to the downright agricultural but the point is, they keep the ball in play and for the most part have very proficient short games.

My practice time is heavily short game based therefore. I intend one range session per week on the long game. That's all. I want to spend the majority on the course, either playing or working on these scramble tests with a single short game practice session per week, working on a specific area each time thrown in.

As I've alluded to already, there are some promising signs. I played a better ball stableford competition on Sunday (18th February) and I've entered into a new partnership. My new man has rejoined after a number of years away and we go way back, as far as the golf club being situated in the middle of Ascot race course, and we know each other away from golf too (usually in a pub). This competition was our first outing. We ended up coming sixth, out of thirty three teams with 42 points and while the winning pair romped it with 47 points, we were only a point off second place (43 points). I had a good day out and had 37 points (off the yellow tees) with my own ball. As always, and it's a recurring sense of immense frustration, I chucked two horror holes in.

This time it was our par five 15th having been in position A on the fairway off the tee. I didn't feel comfortable over my second, considered stepping off the shot, but as we all do, assumed it'll work out and shunted the ball into the rubbish and ran up a triple bogey (for no points). Going out of bounds off the next racked up an eight on a par four. Even by his own admission, my partner didn't play well, but with no "I" in team, he found his form on these two holes for a par (net birdie) on the fifteenth and a bogey (net par) on the sixteenth. We dovetailed well and the signs for a productive partnership are definitely there.

I've put my statistics on here. They are well worth a look and I played really well. I need to keep it going for the full eighteen holes and it wasn't a perfect round and I made mistakes but for the time of year it's very exciting

Better Ball Statistics

I'm going to be working hard on a clearer mind on the golf course. I thought my way round well bar two holes. It is something I'm working on, a solid pre-shot routine, a clear target, no swing thoughts, smooth tempo and execute. I'm going to do some work on my swing between now and the real start of the season, but I'm not going to be making wholesale changes. I'm working on a better takeaway, a shorter swing and most importantly a better clearance on the down swing to give myself more room through impact. So far it's starting to come together.

All of which brings me neatly back to my opening tirade. The weather for the weekend is bitter and I fail to see any productivity in my game in being out there, hitting to rock solid, frozen greens and getting so cold I lose feel in my hands. Last weekend was a teasing glimpse of Spring but now we're back in the depths of cold Winter. When will it end so I can get out and make 2018 the year I make a real assault on single figures.

I hope you enjoyed this update. Please take a few moments to subscribe to the youtube channel and if you want to enter the draw for the BMW PGA pro-am tickets, simply comment on the Scramble Test video or any others I put up before 30th April to go into the free draw (you have to make your own way to Wentworth!)

I hope your game is coming into shape and if you have set your own goals, please let me know by leaving a comment on here (or my youtube channel). I hope the weather is kinder wherever you are but fear not, the Masters and so the start of the season is coming and coming fast. Keep patient, enjoy your golf and I'll see you for another update soon.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Product Review - Puttout Training Aid & Putting Mat

Welcome to the first blog of 2018. Happy new year to one and all and I wish you and your family a fantastic year and may all your golfing ambitions come to fruition. I'm starting with a product review (the clue is in the title!) and this looks at the Puttout training aid and the accompanying mat.

I was lucky enough to receive one of the training aids to review by Puttout and a big thank you to Patrick and Charlotte for sending this and giving me the opportunity. As always, there is a video review of the products and you can see both in operation and you can check out my Youtube review here (Puttout Review).

There is also a chance to enter the competition to win a Puttout training aid. Not a bad way to start the year and it's open to anyone, so even if you're not in the UK, please feel free to enter and I'll make sure you get it wherever you are in the world.

Lets start then with the training aid. There are a myriad of putting aids out there. However, I firmly feel this is one of the most innovative, and more importantly one of the few that actually match expectations and improve the putting stroke, particularly in terms of feel.

It is a compact design and folds up nice and small and fits inside any golf bag and could be used at the golf club, at home or in an office. On the base are a number of sharp plastic spikes that ensure the Puttout will sit on any carpet or on the putting green and stay in place.

The Puttout Training Aid - small enough to be taken anywhere
So what is it? Well in simple terms, it consists of a hole sized rubber base and a parabolic ramp. This ramp will only accept a ball struck on line and at a reasonable speed and will throw off any that are not quite on line or hit too hard. It works in a simple but effective manner too. The ball will travel up the ramp and the distance it returns towards you represents the distance past the hole the ball would have gone.

I've added a link to a video from Puttout which will show in more detail (and far better than I can) how it came to be and what it's all about. It's well worth a view - Puttout Video

Now if you are like me and struggle at times from six feet and beyond to control the pace of putts and can often run the ball a troublesome distance beyond the cup and leave a tester coming back (three putt hell) then this device is perfect for learning and ingraining distance control. Depending on who you listen to, the optimum distance to get the ball past the hole to give it the best chance of going in is 12-18 inches and so by using the Puttout regularly you can train a stroke that gets the ball returning down the ramp that ideal distance. You can see that in the video.

However the Puttout is more than a one trick device. There is a plastic insert in the ramp that can be pushed down to leave a circular gap. This allows you to challenge yourself and your friends to make the perfect putt, which is one at the correct speed and line at which the ball will run up the ramp and nestle in the hole and stay there. Trust me, this is not as simple as it sounds. The video below shows you exactly what I mean


So there you go, two training devices within one aid. Let me do what I always do and give it marks out of ten in a number of categories

Looks
The Puttout has very sleek looks. It's compact and clean in its design. There is nothing superfluous or unnecessary. The hole in the ramp that can be used for the perfect putt or slotted back if you are simply using the slope to work on pace, slots back and forth and nestles in the base securely and out of sight. 9/10

Construction
The Puttout is light but is robust. The plastic in the ramp is strong enough to take being in the golf bag and the hole sized rubber at the end is firmly attached. There are very few components and it's designed simply but effectively. 8/10

Cost & Availability
The Puttout come is at under £20 and is widely available at American Golf, a host of other outlets and is widely available online. The cost isn't prohibitive and there are far more expensive and less effective aid out there. 8/10

Effectiveness
As I said very early on, this is one of the best indoor practice aids for putting I have used. I don't say that easily, nor have I any endorsement or association with Puttout and as always, these reviews are an independent mid-handicappers viewpoint. It is excellent, and is intuitive and simple to use and gives instant feedback on the pace (and line of the putt). With regular use, its easy to develop improved distance control. When you fold the insert down and aim for the perfect putt, this feedback is enhanced as it really is only the ideally hit putt that will roll up and stay in the hole. 10/10

Longevity
As I've hinted, there are many putting aids out there (many of which I have probably dabbled with) but a lot are short lived and are used diligently in the first few weeks and then consigned to a dusty corner. With the Puttout being so compact and easy to set up, and so easy to use, it makes it very simple to get out and work on the stroke for a while each evening. I take mine to the bedroom while the wife watches the soaps on TV and do thirty minutes while the programme is on. A little and often really will work wonders and it's something I can see myself going back to again and again. 9/10

Overall
The Puttout has hit the market to rave reviews and has been immensely popular. If you use social media you'll see many posts with happy golfers (and often their families) using it. As training aids go, this is one that has made a big impact very quickly and if you haven't seen one yet, or better still tried one, then you are missing out. It is small, well priced and more importantly works. That's a rare combination. 10/10

I haven't finished yet. As well as the Puttout training aid, thy have now released a putting mat to sit alongside. Now let me be perfectly honest and upfront, I am not a huge fan of mats. I find many, crease up and make it hard to make a decent putt, many are either way too slow or run at an Augusta pace that is unrealistic. Many are poorly made and fray or fall apart.

I was given the Puttout mat as a Christmas present and was a little wary based on my previous experiences. It comes in two colours, a traditional green version and a stylish slate grey colour. It's not small, and gives you a chance to putt up to six feet and so with an additional area behind this, it comes in at around eight feet in length and so it is something you may need to bear in mind. Indeed, the only two places I can really use it comfortably are the hallway or the bedroom.

The mat itself comes inside a robust cardboard tube and that sits inside an handy carry case. Puttout say the tube and design of the mat means it is a case of simply rolling it out and start putting. I've found that while it does roll neatly out from its rolled up form, it does need a quick walk over to flatten it down properly

The Puttout mat comes neatly packed. Ideal for simple storage
The tube and bag does make it very simple to store and sit out of the way. Again, this has been a bugbear of other mats and they've often not rolled or folded away compactly and always seem in the way. This takes very little time to roll out and then simply rolls up again, sits inside the cardboard tube and inside the bag. The base is made of sturdy rubber and I've had the mat on a tiled floor and carpet and it has sat in place on both.

The mat can be used in either direction. There is a mark in the centre where the Puttout training device can be situated, but if used the other way, there is an end section, box shaped where you can simply work at stroking the ball into to work on feel.

It is however when putting towards the training aid that the mat is at its best. There are alignment lines to the side where you can set up and work on the basics and ensure the club, body and shoulders are all in the correct place.

The Puttout mat - it offers a chance to make putts up to six feet in length
Puttout are saying that the mat runs at the equivalent of 10 on the stimpmeter and to my mind that is fairly representative of a good speed of the greens at the majority of members clubs around the country. Of course there will be those that have greens that are quicker and slower but as an average I think it's pretty good. I happen to think their judgement is also fairly accurate having used it over the festive period and tried it on the practice green at my own club.

There are clearly defined distances laid out on the mat at intervals from a foot up to six feet away so it is perfect for developing a perfect stroke and more importantly the perfect feel from a variety of distances. I have done a review on another product, the No 3 Putt (No 3 Putt Review) which is a device I use on the practice green at my club and has been in my bag for many years now, and I have said that repetition breeds confidence and I feel when using the No 3 Putt and now the Puttout that I can play on the course and have great belief in my stroke and feel and can stand over a putt reliant on the work I've put in and simply focus on a good line and trust my stroke. Putting with such freedom, and devoid from too many thoughts makes a big difference.

Let me finish by giving you my thought on the Puttout putting mat.

Construction
This mat bucks the trend of many and is well constructed. It has an excellent rubber base that really works well on most floor surfaces. The material on top seems well made and the markings on it are clear and well laid out. 7/10

Size
This is both a benefit and a hindrance for the Puttout mat. It is excellent in offering the golfer a chance to work on putts up to six feet in length which is something many other mats on the market don't do, and given that there are increments every foot, it offers a chance to work on many different putts. However, being so long, and with the rest of the mat at either end, it does come in at around eight feet in length. This could be restrictive for many. I would have liked to use it in the comfort of my front room but without moving the coffee table each time I can't. Pedantic? Maybe but it's definitely a consideration that needs thinking about. 7/10

Effectiveness
As I said at the outset, putting mats and I haven't always got on. However this one really does feel different and when used in conjunction with the Puttout training aid comes together to present a really a potent practice combination. The mat runs at a good and realistic speed. The mat doesn't seem to crease or fold in use. There is a number of training modes over and above using the aid that the lines present. It's one of the better mats out there. 8/10

Cost
Let's be upfront, this mat isn't cheap. It comes in at about £70 (ok £69.99) and while there are some models out there that are even more expensive, there are also cheaper offerings. Whether that cheaper price comes with compromised quality is a different discussion. I feel that the price of the Puttout is realistic for what you get for the money and is fairly priced. 6/10

Storage & Set Up
The Puttout mat comes in a handy carry bag and is stored within a sturdy cardboard tube and it really does make it easy to store out of the way when not in use. It does simply roll out into place and doesn't need a lot of effort (or a host of books or weights) to ensure it is flat and ready to go. 9/10

Longevity
The mat is sturdy enough and I think you'll need to have a putting regime similar to Jordan Spieth to wear it out quickly. It is well made and designed to last. With the Puttout training aid being fiendishly addictive in its own right, when used with the mat it's a potent combination and one I have been using on a daily basis. It has a good speed and allows me to work on a variety of distances. Whisper it quietly but I may finally have found a putting mat that I can and will use on a regular basis and not lose interest in a few weeks. 8/10

Overall
I make no bones of not being a huge putting mat fan based on previous experience. This Puttout mat is different. As a stand alone mat it would be a reasonable practice aid but add the Puttout aid and the mat really comes into its own. Price and length could be two negatives and so you'll need to decide if you have the budget and room to use this. However as it can be used on most surfaces there should be somewhere you can roll it out and get to work on your stroke. The mat is easy to roll out and put away, and is easy to store. I have found it functional and effective in the short time I've had it and can see no reason why I won't continue to keep doing so. 8/10

Sorry it's a long one to start the year but as always with these independent, mid-handicap reviews I want to give you comprehensive and honest opinions on each product to help you decide if it is something you would consider buying and using. I make no apologies for that. I hope you find this one (and all the others) useful. If I am being honest, the Puttout training aid is a great product and as a stand alone is a worthwhile purchase, but, I do feel the Puttout mat is a decent product and together provide a very pleasing duo.

Thank you for your support in 2017 and especially to those that took the trouble to watch the video links I've included. I am keen to make my Youtube channel (please take a look here - Three Off The Tee Youtube) a really interactive place, and hopefully provide some content you enjoy, and more importantly want to you to respond to. I want to be grow it and as I do be able to offer some great opportunities and giveaways. If you have watched the video review already don't forget to thumbs up the video and comment to enter the free draw to win a Puttout training aid.

Please help to make it a bigger and better place in 2018. Many thanks for your support.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

That's All Folks For 2017

I hope you and your family have had a great Christmas and I wish you all a peaceful, healthy 2018 and hope it's the year you achieve your golfing ambitions. It's that time of the year to look back and reflect on 2017.

As far as my golf went, let's start on the not so good. I refuse to call them negatives. From a handicap perspective I started the year on 14.0 and sit here after my last competition of the year on 14.2 and while I don't see a 0.2 increase over the course of a season as that bad a return, the "Quest For Single Figures" remains as far away as it did in 2017.

I had a lot of bad events, where for whatever reason my head or technique wasn't there. I had others where I'd have a reasonable start and fade away with a poor hole leading to other mistakes and before I knew it I'd played myself out of contention. Add in the fact, health and fitness has again been a factor and I was hospitalised in February and out of action for a number of weeks afterwards. I've recently struggled with a back injury and this has also curtailed my practice and playing time.

It may be churlish, but I've also included my youtube channel (which you can find here The Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) as I had hoped it would have gotten a bigger response in terms of subscribers from here. However if you have subscribed, watched any of the videos, shared or commented then I thank you. I have some big plans for the channel in 2018 and would love you to be involved so it's not to late to go over, click the subscribe button and be ready to join me going forward.

Technically, my swing has continued to be a conundrum. When it's on I'm a match for anyone but as you'll know if you've seen any of my video footage on here or the youtube channel, there are so many flaws and moving parts that it's hard to always get that to work in perfect synchronicity. If you've read my previous blogs about a lesson I had courtesy of Golf Monthly with one of their top 25 coaches, at London Club, you'll know Paul Foston has given me a lot to be working on (Lesson Part One and Lesson Part Two). I've not really had much chance to work on it and the work I've done hasn't produced the results I want yet. If I'm honest, as I type this my swing feels a mess and I'm struggling. Let's hoe that will change in 2018 once and for all and I can make inroads into that handicap and get "The Quest" well and truly on track.

So what have been the highlights? Well undoubtedly winning the Centenary Medal at Royal Ascot Golf Club in June. The fact that I scored a net 68 (-2) and won was a surprise in itself but to then find out the even was a trophy event and to receive that from the Club Captain on presentation night was doubly pleasing

To the winner the spoils - The Centenary Cup
Aside from that as I do every year, I got to play with so many new and old golfing friends and on some new and wonderful courses. I've been very lucky and through Golf Monthly Forum, my own club and some contacts I've made from the Three Off The Tee youtube channel, I've had a number of great opportunities. Arguably the best of these is the annual Help For Heroes Charity Event which this year was played on a the top 100 course Hankley Common. My golf on the day was poor but as always it was secondary to the cause. Of course, playing both the old and new courses at Sunningdale and at the unique New Zealand Club were two other days to stay in the memory for a long time.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at The London Club getting some superb tuition from Paul Foston (check the videos here Live Lesson Part One and Live Lesson Part Two) and will be working hard on the changes again in 2018.

Talking of 2018, what is going to be going on? I'm going to be doing some great work as part of the team for Golf Hacker magazine (online and going into print soon). It's going to be a massive year for Golf Hacker (check them out here http://www.golfhacker.org/ and more importantly on their twitter site at @Golfhacker_mag) and get involved. You'll be glad you did. I'm also doing some collaboration with another great online magazine called Inside Golf. Again, go to their twitter page (at @InsideGolf_mag) as they are another that will be going from strength to strength and I'm honoured to have been asked to help.

I have a lot of great content coming to the youtube channel including some great prize giveaways, some fantastic reviews, and a lot of exciting on course collaborations with a number of other great youtube channels. I'm also hoping to do some fantastic stuff with a number of people to grow the game for lady golfers and juniors.

As for my golf, well as I've touched upon I've already got some stuff to work on to make the swing simpler and more repetitive. I've been given some lesson vouchers as a Christmas present but feel the main focus of attention has to be the short game. This is still an area that causes me issues. As for The Quest For Single Figures, I plan to take a more organic approach in my approach. I don't want to put any pressures on myself, something I'm far too aware I've done in the past. There is a single figure golfer waiting to break out and he just needs the room to be allowed to do so. I will be making some golfing plans shortly, which I'll share with you on here and the youtube channel. A lot of those will developing the short game stuff I worked on especially the pitching challenges (see here for an example of a pitching challenge - 40 Yard Pitching Challenge) and expanding that to include chipping and bunker tests too. I found doing on course challenges far more helpful and it definitely made a difference so I'm hoping this will continue

As always, thank you so much for your continued support, not only in reading my random thoughts here but watching the youtube videos, and leaving comments and suggestions. It really means a lot and I thank you for doing so. Please support the youtube channel (and subscribe) and if you want to be involved in some of the great stuff going on in 2018 then contact me here or on youtube. It just remains for me to hope you have a great 2018 and whatever your ambitions, dreams and hopes, golfing or otherwise, they come to fruition.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

That Winning Feeling

Welcome back. As you will recall from my last blog, things had taken a turn for the better and I had just had my best ever round at Royal Ascot Golf Club, shooting a gross 78 (+8) which was comprised of two book ended nines of 39 shots each.

I had the opportunity to get nine holes in two days later on Monday 20th November and decided to take the camera along and do an on course vlog to chart my progress. It's been a while since I put one of the on my Three Off The Tee Channel (check it out here Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) and after all, confidence was high and I was hoping for good things.

You can check the nine holes out here (Better and Wetter Nine Hole Vlog). I won't spoil it for you but I do urge you to watch all the way through, give it a thumbs up and if you have any comments to leave them at the bottom of the video. I'm not giving anything away by saying that I was not fully prepared for the conditions from the seventh hole onwards!

As I have written before, this winter will see me embark on a huge swing change to try and find something shorter, more compact and more functional to set me on the road towards single figures. I had hoped this would be fully underway, but I've been struggling with back problems and so playing and range time has been severely curtailed. That is why I was so excited and enthused by my best ever eighteen hole score at my home club as it had come from nowhere.

The swing I had for that round and the one you'll see in the video are very much the current incarnation, and bears no resemblance to the one I envisage starting the 2018 season with. However as you can see, I am managing to play some functional golf with it. That does then beg the question why make wholesale changes? Having pursued this "Quest For Single Figures" for a good few seasons now it would appear pretty clear cut (at least in my own mind) that while we had a brief flirtation with this nirvana a good while ago now, in general terms what  have is pretty flawed technically and is reliant on a lot of timing, co-ordination, planetary alignment and a roll of the dice. Of course, as I work hard to improve areas like pitching then hopefully my scrambling statistics will improve and this will impact scores in a positive fashion, even on poor ball striking days.

You may have seen me doing a pitching scramble test on my Youtube channel already. If not check it out here (40 Yard Pitching Challenge). I plan to do a few more of these over the winter and also add in a chipping scramble test as well. I need to really grind the short game. It's an area that seems to have been overlooked of late as my focus has been on the long game following my lesson courtesy of Golf Monthly at the London Club in Kent with Paul Foston, who is one of their top 25 coaches.

It was presentation night recently at Royal Ascot Golf Club. You may recall I won the Centenary Medal in June. Usually, medal winners only get a small medal (obviously) to record the win but apparently as I won the division and had the best net score, there was a trophy is presented for this one medal of the year. As you can see below, it's always good to get my hands on a piece of silverware.

The Centenary Medal Trophy
It's rekindle that winning feeling and served to simply work harder over the winter. These back issues, which feel muscular and means I'm simply not giving the injury time to fully heal, have really restricted what I can do in all areas of the game and is becoming a real source of frustration. It isn't helped by the current cold snap in the UK and standing on a freezing range is not going to help rehabilitation. However I'm torn between trying to hit some balls and be in a position to play weekends with a semblance of confidence or having a few weeks of complete rest. Watching my friends on Youtube and on other social media platforms, I feel as though time is passing me by and I'm already playing catch up which is why I feel compelled to push. Of course I'm aware that doing too much may cause more damage and an even longer lay-off. It's a real conundrum for me

I also managed to get my hand on the Jubilee Cup. No you didn't miss the announcement of another storming win, especially as this is one of the club's majors and is an honours board event. I actually won it with my partner back in 2008 but wasn't able to attend the presentation event that year. Again, it felt good to get my hands on that particular trophy (below) even if it was a few years after the event.

Better late than never. Finally got my hands on the Jubilee Cup I won in 2008
I have to be honest dear reader, and say that the last round and my best score and what transpired in the nine holes has got me thinking more and more. There is clearly a golfer in there desperately fighting to get out and every now and then it makes an appearance. I have always been a somewhat streaky player, even as far back as my junior days and so transient form is nothing new to me. What I do want to acquire is a better mental attitude and I'm still looking at doing some NLP (neuro linguistic programming) to help quieten the brain down on the course, get better focus, visualise better and deal with bad shots in a less damaging way. As I've mentioned, the swing does need work to get me towards single figures and more importantly keep me there. At 50+ years of age, this does represent last chance saloon and so the information I've had from Paul Foston will form the foundation on which to base these changes.

I have spoken before of a desire not to use another swing coach and over complicate or conflict with the work I want to do but I have to confess I'm beginning to wonder if that was a little short sighted. I won't be having regular access to Paul Foston as he's based miles away down in Kent and have only planned one follow up session before the season starts to recap the work I've done and see what needs working on going forward. That then relies on me working alone and I'm not comfortable with that. I'm thinking of getting one or two lessons booked with the guy I was using before the London Club opportunity. If you haven't seen what it was all about check these two videos here, including some behind the scenes footage on how a golf magazine gets those shots you see in each issue (xxxx)

I feel I may be better off going through what I've been given to work on with my teaching professional, valuate the work I've done to date, and get professional input on how I'm progressing and the issues remaining. I can then work on what will be a huge change, especially the cupped wrist and over swing, ingrained now in over thirty years of playing, confident I'm on the right path technically.

As always then, in this world of the obsessive golfer, there is so much going on. Stick around and see how the winter work goes and please make sure you subscribe to my Youtube channel. There's a lot of great content coming and the more I can grow it and the more interactive we can become (so give those videos a thumbs up and please comment) the more I can offer back in terms of giveaways and opportunities. I have some more product reviews coming as well which I don't think you'll want to miss.

I hope you enjoy the video footage, especially the nine hole vlog, and I'll be back soon with more news on "The Quest" and hopefully with ongoing good news about the swing and the way I'm playing. Hopefully all that hard work will lead to a great 2018 and that winning feeling.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

A Small Step

It's been a month or so since my last post. It's been a stop/start sort of time with some really miserable weather meaning that golf on the course has been intermittent. I've done some range work, and tried to work on the beginning of the swing changes I've been mentioning on here and my Three Off The Tee Youtube channel (https://tinyurl.com/jxd9dxy)

I managed to play in a competition at my home course, Royal Ascot back on 4th November. To say conditions weren't ideal would be an understatement. A cliche even. Persistent heavy drizzle and a wind that had a telling effect on club selection. I have to say, the competition came way too soon into the beginning of the swing change for me to feel comfortable with my game. Add in the conditions and I wasn't in a good place.

In the end, I shot 29 points so another 0.1 on the handicap put onto the handicap. Never mind. just another small hurdle to get over on my way to single figures. It's no big deal. In the end, I even finished in the top ten of division two and only five points off the winning score.

It had started reasonably and I left the fourth green with seven points. The opening quartet at Royal Ascot off the whites, especially in a competitive round, and if I can walk off the fourth, level two's with a par five to come then I feel it's been a good start. However I made a real mess off the fifth from nowhere and after that, any faith I had in the work invested evaporated in a poor front nine. A paltry thirteen points. I did manage to find a way of playing ugly on the back nine and scored sixteen points. Was I disappointed with 29? Yes and no. I wasn't expecting to play well given the state of my game and the conditions and so had low expectations. Even so, I wasn't happy with what I produced and didn't swing as I had in practice. While I had been working well on the range, the swing is nowhere near where it's suppose to be or where I'm aiming for from my London Club lessons (check the Youtube footage here (London Club - Part One and London Club - Part Two). That was annoying

So where am I now? Very good question and one I'm glad you asked. If I'm being honest I feel a little lost. I seem to have lost my way in practice. The ball striking is reasonable but I seem to have strayed from the original plan, to reduce the length of the back swing, flatten the downswing and reduce the follow through. My practice has been disjointed. Too many swing thoughts, too many "what if I try this." I need to strip it back to basics. Regroup, refocus and stick to the plan. I've sat through the two videos again myself (go on, they aren't that bad) and have got my mind straight again.

Having said all that and not played for a couple of weeks, I was out in the roll up (Saturday 18th). It was a small turn out and cold, breezy and with range forecast. I've not been feeling 100% health wise recently, and very fatigued. Warm up was rushed and I was going out merely to play with some friends. Score was going to be irrelevant to me. I had no swing thoughts, indeed I didn't really know what swing I had.

What happened is a small step. A wake up call? A slice of luck? Perhaps justification that I am on the right path? The course was playing long, even with the white tees a little further forward than normal and the temperature was cold, and the grass wet. The semi-rough and longer grass definitely areas to be avoided.

So what happened? I shot my lowest gross score at Royal Ascot off the white tees. A gross 78 (+8) and an even 39 on both sides. My points tally of 42 was enough to win the money with ease. I'm annoyed that it wasn't a competitive card or I'll be sitting here off 12. Still, given where I feel my game has been, where my practice has been it was a bolt from the blue. A birdie set me up on the second and it should have been back to back, as I hit a sensational five iron to 6 feet at the third only to see the putt take a horrid bobble when tracking the hole.

Managed to take the kitty in the Saturday roll up. best ever gross score and yet I don't feel the swing is right
I worked hard on my pitching last weekend and was really happy in strong winds and sodden ground with the contact and control. In the warm up yesterday I couldn't find it at all. Everything was a thin bullet. Of course, golf seems to have a psychic ability to sense a weakness in your game and ask some questions of that facet. The first of these came at the sixth where I missed the par three left and had a twenty five yard pitch over a slope to a tight pin. It needed a lofted shot and off a reasonable lie should have been one I could perform. Instead a thinned shot through the green and it needed a good up and down to rescue a bogey. Similarly at the next, when left 52 yards, off a fairway lie, there was fear in the shot and it came up on the fringe. A thinned pitch at the ninth and a pattern was emerging and again a delicate chip and six foot putt salvaged a bogey. In all this there was a topped tee shot at the par three eighth and so while I was making a score, the game was not firing on all cylinders.

You can tell when your luck is in. On the 178 yard eleventh I thinned, almost topped a hybrid which ran the length of the hole and onto the green. On any other day that would have found the cabbage or stopped miles away.

I may be putting myself down.

Check out the statistics, especially the scrambling November roll up statistics

The back nine was tough and I did make some great up and downs, especially from the short side at the 12th and from wide of the 13th to make great pars. I holed a great par putt from eight feet at the fifteenth and hit the longest drive of the day down the hardest driving hole, the 425 yard par four. I only had 189 yards in and went to hit hybrid. I had been working hard all round on a solid pre-shot routine and a good focus. On this particular shot, I had no image, and negative thoughts and should have backed off. As the rain was a heavy drizzle all I wanted to do was protect the score and get in. I hit a horror low and left into a copse. I found it but could only move it a few yards.

On the back nine I had reverted to the linear method. If you haven't heard of this, type "linear" in the search box as I've written about this before and the blogs contain footage of it in action. I had a smelly pitch but put it to six feet and sunk it for a bogey. Up and down for par at the penultimate hole and a bombed drive down the last. The rain was getting heavier. The second was pulled left and took the green out of the equation but brought the water short and right into play. I opted to lay up but then hit a duffed pitch. A better one followed but I made a nasty double bogey to finish.

All in all though lots to be pleased about. My best score ever, some fantastic short game and putting and for the most part some good focus on each shot. It was pleasing as it was unexpected. I'm not sure where that leaves me and whether my game is actually in a better place than I think. Maybe the changes don't need to be as dramatic as I think and maybe I can play with a steep shaft. Somehow I fear not and it'll just be the same old, same old if I do so while I can enjoy a small step forward I fear it's masking the bigger picture.

With this in mind it's back to work on the swing, and more focus needed to the short game. I have said this before so apologies for the repetition but I still hanker after the linear method despite my continual attempts at a conventional pitching method. It just doesn't sit as comfortably as the linear version and despite not working on it I could still use it to decent effect on the course. Another conundrum to throw into the mix.

So then, yet more to ponder and I hope you're enjoying the challenge I'm on as much as I am. There's a lot to work on and there's a lot coming to my Youtube channel so if you don't subscribe go over and do so. I'll be back soon with an update on my progress but until then thanks for your continuing support.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Quest For Single Figures 2018 - Part One - Line In The Sand

Welcome back. If you've been following recent events you'll know that I recently had an hours lesson at the London Club in Kent, with one of Golf Monthly's top 25 coaches, Paul Foston. Firstly a big thanks to both Paul for his expertise and input and to Golf Monthly for putting this on and the London Club for being such generous hosts.

I put two videos up of the lesson on my youtube channel. If you haven't checked these out, you can click on the links below. While you are there, don't forget to subscribe if you haven't already done so, thumbs up both videos (youtube loves a good thumbs up) and if you have any comments. please put them in the comments section and I'll respond.

Golf Lesson With Paul Foston - Part One (Live Lesson Part One)
Golf Lesson With Paul Foston - Part Two (Live Lesson Part Two

It has been a hugely frustrating time since the lesson as my back has been playing up and playing and practice has been severely restricted. However I've been hugely enthused and engaged again with my golf since coming back from the London Club and it has renewed my belief that there is a single figure golfer lying within and that I'm capable of releasing him. Also, if you've watched my youtube videos or seen previous blogs on here you'll know that my job was in danger and I was in danger of redundancy. I'm pleased to say that situation has been resolved, I am still in gainful employment and can get back to working on my game.

As the title says, this is the start of "The Quest For Single Figures 2018" and I took some footage at the practice ground at Royal Ascot on Sunday 15th October. In fact, the ball striking was pretty good, something Paul Foston commented on in the lesson, and dispersion was a little better than it has been. I recorded some shots and put it on the youtube channel and you can switch over to see it by simply clicking the link below.

The Quest Update #1

As you'll see, technically there are still a number of glaring issues including a cupped wrist, swinging back too far, standing the shaft up in the downswing and flipping the hands at impact. Apart from that it is quite functional!

I am now beginning the massive task of unpicking a swing built over the last thirty plus years, sort out the major issues, and replace those with the stuff Paul showed me at the London Club. For me, this really marks a line in the sand. A mark of passage and the end of my swing in it's current incarnation.



In fact there is an air of synchronicity with it all. I started my 2017 golf season with a handicap of 14.0 and as I draw this line under everything, the handicap is.....14.0 so for all my bad days and the odd good ones (I did have a win and a second this season) there has been no change at all in the handicap. I am under no illusion that this will increase over the winter, partly because the course will be playing its full length in the damp, cold conditions but also because these changes will take time to bed in, especially in a competitive round with the handicap on the line.

I have a series of things I need to achieve to make my swing robust, compact and functional as Paul demonstrates on film. The first of these has two distinct stages, shortening the swing, losing that additional six inches of swing I put on each one that takes it too far and causes me to lift up, and then getting rid of a cupped wrist and getting the wrist flatter or even bowed. Let's be perfectly clear about this, it represents a major change, almost going back to the very beginning and trying to rebuild a swing from scratch and it's not going to be easy. Losing the extra six inches and the wrist position is going to take many hours, loads of balls, work at home and patience.

Until I have these components fixed, I can't move onto stopping the shaft standing up, although I am hoping a better back swing position will allow a better transition and turn. The club seems to move down and out and I need to be getting the shaft becoming more shallow and the butt of the club moving out towards the ball. Again this is massive and will be a huge undertaking.

I have a game plan to see how far I get by late January/early February and take that down to Paul's state of the art studio in Kent (Paul Foston Academy). Hopefully I'll have made good progress and Paul can tidy up the remaining issues and get me ready for a fast start in the 2018.

Of course, I appreciate that working solely on the long game and the swing changes isn't going to be great in terms of a) boredom, b) developing new faults and c) hindering the other facets including chipping, pitching and putting. I am formulating some plans to develop my short game. Again if you have watched the youtube channel you'll see some pitching challenges. I plan to develop these further and add some chipping challenges too. Here are the links to my original pitching challenge and my second attempt which shows how far the technique had come on. Had I putted better in the second one I could have had a career day out.

Original pitching challenge
Second pitch challenge

Of course I can't forget putting and I will be working hard on my stroke. I'm not overly fussed by the number of putts holes especially on bobbly winter greens. I will work hard on those important two and three foot putts. I did a recent blog on a great training aid I use regularly, the No 3 Putt. Check out what I said here and a link to see it in action (No 3 Putt blog). It's something that really helps and I plan to work with it all winter and once the greens get back to normal come next Spring.

One thing I will be doing is keeping statistics. I did start this last year in good faith but I have to be honest and say compiling it by hand and doing it on a spreadsheet was laborious. I'm going to look at some of the apps and software out on the market and see if there is anything that meets my needs.

I'm a firm believer in keeping statistics as a way of improving. It has to be better to set challenges and goals rather than bashing balls aimlessly at a range target without any correlation of whether your accuracy, distance control and technique has improved. As I've stated, I've already started on pitching and done two from 40 yards. I need to get out over the winter and get some more from different distances. Add in some skills tests to work on the chipping and bunker play and that area of the game will have quantifiable data to chart progress. Again before we really hit the 2018 season in March I'll invest in a few short game refresher lessons just to hone the technique further. If of course I struggle over the winter then I'll look at this area and some tuition earlier.

I hope the renewed air of optimism an positivity I'm feeling since coming back from the London Club is permeating through. Alas my back has been knackered but I did play in the Pro's Day at my club, Royal Ascot, last Saturday to show my support and because it was off the yellows so a shorter course. I struggled to turn with my back in the first few holes but ended up with a respectable 34 points. As this was the first time trying to put Paul's ideas into practice I thought, given the injury, it was a better than expected return. Certainly there were enough good shots to give me encouragement.



All in all then an end of an era and a start of a new chapter and "The Quest For Single Figures" starts today. Check out the video link of the swings and see where the base line technique is. I think over the months you'll see that shift and improve. Add in the grind on my short game and come next March I'm going to be in a very happy place and ready to hit the season fast. Of course I'll keep you abreast of progress so keep your eye out for new footage on the youtube channel (subscribe and you won't miss anything, especially those of you Stateside) and for more posts on here.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Lesson With Golf Monthly Top 25 Coach (Part Two)

Welcome to the second part of my lesson with Paul Foston at the London Club, courtesy of Golf Monthly. If you read the previous blog, this was a prize on the Golf Monthly Forum (http://forums.golf-monthly.co.uk/).

In the second part here, Golf Lesson With Paul Foston (Part Two) we've just taken a break for a heavy rain shower, but we're back out, and I'm still desperately struggling to implement the changes Paul wants to make to my game. There's an element of frustration creeping in as I can't seem shorten my swing on the way back and on the way through.

As I said in the last blog, the changes are significant and a major inherent flaw I have of always adding six inches to the length of the back swing, which is making the change to a shorter swing very hard. Real and feel are proving two difficult things to align. I'll get there. As you'll see, when the ball isn't there I can get into a great position back and through but put that stupid ball in the way, the brain and body refuse to talk to each other.

It was a frustrating situation for me. Paul was trying to impart some valuable information in a limited time frame. It's not how I usually have my tuition as I tend to block book lessons, so the teaching professional and I have more time to make a change, for me to take these away and work on it, and then present the revised swing back for the next lesson. There was a lot of information Paul was giving me and I understand, trust and respect his input but with the over swing a major barrier, incorporating these so quickly was proving hard, with the pressure of Golf Monthly covering the event, the windy damp conditions, and the glare of the other golfers using the range and wondering who the heck this rubbish golfer was and why he's getting so much attention.

Let me reiterate what I said in my last blog. I wasn't trying to ignore what Paul was doing. It was my own technical inability preventing the change. I've made a conscious decision not to take any tuition for the moment and get conflicting input and advice from my current teaching professional. That isn't taking anything away from what my current tutor is doing, but the advice Paul gave me has made a lot of sense and on the rare occasion I got it right in the video the difference was clear. I simply don't want to many swing ideas and thoughts in my head,

My plan going forward is take the changes and drills from the London Club and work as hard and diligently as I can. The season is drawing to an end and there aren't too many competitions to worry about. I can simply focus on taking the club back on a better path and not outside the line as I currently do and then focus on that troublesome short back swing and flat (or bowed) wrist position. I can't really move onto rotating into impact and then onto the shorter swing until these first two parts are ground in. Don't forget to check part one of the video here Golf Lesson With Paul Foston - Part One to get the full picture of the lesson and what Paul is wanting me to do.

In the last part of the second video, you'll see how Golf Monthly (and other magazines) get the pictures for this instruction articles that appear in the magazine and on their social media content. Again this was something out of my comfort zone and was getting a huge amount of attention from everyone else on the range.

I'd like to repeat my thanks to Jake from Golf Monthly, Paul Foston, Dan the photographer and the London Club for their hospitality. It was a different sort of lesson, but one I really enjoyed. I have a lot to work on but the thing that really excites me is seeing that what Paul wants me to do will make a difference. As a golfer over fifty years of age, this will be a last chance to make the big changes I need to incorporate into my swing if my "Quest For Single Figures" is ever to come to fruition. As ever I'm driven. If you have ever seen any of the short introductions all of my video on my youtube channel (Three Off The Tee Channel) you'll see they all contain one message "A Golfing Obsession".

I am obsessed by the game and trying to be the best player I can. I've often heard the "you try too hard" or you practice too much" or the classic "you're thinking too much" comments. You know what? They may be right but I've always ploughed my own furrow in this journey to single figures and enjoyed the successes and the knock backs have only strengthened the resolve.

What I'll do now is go away with the stuff Paul showed me and grind it away over the winter. I plan to go back down to Kent and to Paul Foston's state of the art studio (Paul Foston Golf Academy) at some point between the new year and the start of the 2018 season to show him where my swing has got to and ask him to cast a keen eye on where I am and suggest how I go forward ready for the next (perhaps final) assault on single figures.

Stay tuned to this blog and the youtube channel for details of my progress. There will also be other interesting video content on the youtube site. While you are there don't forget to subscribe, thumb up the videos and leave any comments you have and I'll make sure I respond,

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Lesson With Golf Monthly Top 25 Coach

Welcome back to the Three Off The Tee blog. As you may be aware, I am an active member of the Golf Monthly Forum (The Golf Monthly Forum Link) and it's a great melting pot to discuss all things golf related (and non-golf subjects). Games are arranged on a local level regularly, and there is an annual Help For Heroes charity day, held at a course always rated in the UK top 100.

Forum members are very lucky that Golf Monthly take a keen interest on the goings on and we are indebted to the editor Mike Harris and his team. We are also fortunate that they provide a number of opportunities for forum members to enter competitions to win places at product tests and many other prizes. They recently ran a competition to give eight lucky winners a chance to have a 90 minute lesson at the London Club in Kent with one of their panel of top 25 coaches (The Golf Monthly Top 25 Teaching Panel).  I was fortunate enough to be selected for a ball striking lesson, having suffered in the last month or so with a big pull left.

On Friday September 29th, I braved the M25 and arrived bright and early to a London Club being battered by strong winds and peppered by squally showers. I enjoyed a lovely breakfast and headed to the range to warm up and await the arrival Jake O'Reilly, the Golf Monthly Technical Writer, a photographer to record the day for a future copy of the magazine and their social media, and my teacher.

I was being taught by Paul Foston, a GM coach with an impressive CV (Paul Foston). I had my wife on hand to film the day for my youtube channel. I've managed to condense 90 minutes of tuition into two videos. The first one, featuring the early shots and Paul's initial prognosis is already up on the channel and I strongly recommend you watch it here to understand what faults Paul saw and how we began to tackle these and move my game forward - London Club Tuition - Part One

As you will see from this first instalment and part two which is going to drop on my channel in a few days time, there's a lot of issues in my game. Perhaps the biggest, and the one that will be the hardest to break is the over swing. As you'll see, feel and real are two different things for me and while I think I've made a short swing, the club continues to travel at least six inches further than I think. This has blighted my game for years and is going to take a lot of work to get the club anywhere remotely in the positions Paul is asking for. Add on the need to stop cupping the wrists, again something I've had since I learnt the game in the late 70's and making the wrist flatter and bowed is going to be difficult.

Until I can make these first two elements into something more in line with what I'm showed in the video I can't move on to address the other issues. This is going to be forming the basis of all my range work in the coming weeks as well as some practice at home, just taking the club away in a less jerky manner, more inside and then stopping correctly with the wrist in the correct position. Slow motion work, rehearsals and repetition is all required.

At the end of the second video I've added a little bonus. If you've ever wondered how a golf magazine gets the pictures that feature in technical and tuition pieces and on their internet content, you'll be able to see what happens.

I hope you enjoy this first video and the subsequent second part coming. It's something very different. Despite the difficult conditions with the wind gusting into our faces, showers (including one that enforced a short break) and cool temperatures, it was a great lesson. I found it hard to take in all the changes Paul wanted to make and while it may seem on film I'm ignoring what I'm being told, the reality is my inability as a golfer to control the club very well and certainly reduce my swing length. As you can imagine, being filmed and coached on a busy range at a top club brought a lot of attention and it was hard, certainly early on, to focus on the job in hand without feeling very self conscious and a host of eyes looking at me and wondering what was going on.

I have a plan to work hard on what I've been shown in the next few months. I've taken the decision not to take tuition from any other local professionals. I have the information and drills from the day to work on and feel any outside input will muddy the waters. The idea is to work on the shorter swing over the winter and then book an hour lesson with Paul at his state of the art studio in the new year, certainly prior to the start of the 2018 season for him to cast an expert eye on progress and refine what I bring to him.

I'd like to thank Paul for all his help, Jake from Golf Monthly, Dan the photographer and my lovely wife for recording it all on film in the wet and windy conditions. A big thanks to the London Club for their hospitality and for Mike Harris for making the forum possible.

I hope you enjoy both parts of these tuition videos. It was a unique opportunity and I hope its some content you'll enjoy. Please subscribe to the youtube channel while you are there, thumbs up the video (youtube loves the thumbs up) and if you have any comments please feel free to put them in the comments box and I'll respond.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Product Review - Vice Pro Plus Golf Ball

Thank you for joining me for another product review. As always, it's an honest, no frills opinion, without any technology and gadgets or affiliation to any of the products being looked at. So what is it all about? Who are Vice and what is the Pro Plus golf ball.

Vice are a German company, founded in 2012, and were designed to bring premium golf balls at a cheaper price, and do so by only selling over the internet and directly to the consumer. They offer some fantastic price breaks for buying in bulk. Don't be fooled, cheap doesn't mean poor quality and Vice claim they perform equally if not better than other comparable balls already on the market.

Vice have five balls in their range:
Drive - 2 piece
Tour - 3 piece
Pro Soft - 3 piece
Pro - 3 piece
Pro Plus - 4 piece

They offer a selection pack (£15.95) which offers a two ball sleeve of each make of ball so golfers can try them all and find one that works best for their own game before committing and placing an order.

I tested their four piece ball the Pro Plus. Now let me make a small confession, I've not been playing a premium ball (four or five piece) for a while now and have preferred a three piece version (AD333 tour or Titleist NXT).

As always, there is a video on my Three Off The Tee Youtube channel and if you want to see how the ball performed on the course, click here (Vice Pro Plus Review - On The Course). As with all my ball reviews, it's my mid-handicap swing, three holes ( par 3, 4 and a par 5) and my verdict. No launch monitor, no technical data. Hit it, find it and hit it again until it goes in the hole.

So what do I think? I had a go at the Pro Plus in lime and white. This is what Vice say about the lime version:
The day glow Neon Lime colour ensures maximum visibility for both the long and the short game. The optimised visibility arises by transformation of the dark or invisible spectral daylight by fluorescence into very bright, long-wavelength visible light. The micro molecular structure of cast urethane is extremely soft but also very resistant. The very thin coating and special adhesion to the green offers the player superbly smooth and on-demand feel of the ball and controllable, high degree of backspin thanks to the S2TG technology.

I have to be honest, I thought the finish looked a little dull, almost a matte finish in both the lime and white version. Not a huge problem and in that manner it reminded me of the Volvik Vivid which I reviewed (Volvik Vivid - 1st review and Volvik Vivid - Follow Up Review). 

Vice say these golf balls are suppose to perform equally as well as the other, more well known equivalent brands, but are a fraction of the cost. As you'll see in the video, my ball striking wasn't the best, but captures accurately the vagaries of being a 14 handicap golfer and the way my swing can change on a daily basis. That is why I feel these reviews offer a unique and unbiased verdict without needing to look at swing data, which for many golfers is of little interest. 

A cut away of the Vice Pro Plus ball showing the four layers
Did they live up to the claim. Well yes, they did. Even though I didn't hit the driver particularly well, the ball still flew a decent distance. It didn't seem to spin overly and so from the tee I was happy. I enjoyed the feel off the irons on my approach into greens. Again, the strike wasn't perfect but the ball performed well and distance wasn't compromised. However, it's around the green I thought this ball really came into it's own. I've been working hard at my short game so was optimistic my pitching and chipping would hold up but I was really surprised and pleased with the amount of control and in particular the spin I could impart. It really did everything I'd expect from a premium ball and more. 

Feel of a putter is perhaps the most subjective and why the selection pack is a great idea, but the Pro Plus golf ball was very soft feeling off the putter face but without coming off the face like a pudding. It gave a pleasant feedback through the face and I was able to control distance easily as I'd expect with other top end balls

As I've done with other ball reviews I'll finish the review by breaking the Vice Pro Plus into various categories and giving a final verdict

Looks
The lime ball in particular wasn't quite as I expected and I thought it was a little dull in the finish. That said it performed well and was easy to see in flight and stood out well against the grass and in the semi-rough. The white was also less translucent than a conventional premium ball but again stood out well enough. 6/10

Distance
As I said earlier, I've stopped using a four piece ball regularly and prefer the distance I can get from a three piece version even if that perhaps compromises control around the green. I felt the Vice Pro Plus was no longer or shorter of other top end balls I've played. Distance is important to me as I'm a fairly short hitter, although I try not to compromise dispersion looking for yards. As a result, I was pleased with the lack of driver spin. 7/10

Flight
I didn't hit too many good shots in the review (my tee shot on the par 3, the 11th at Royal Ascot probably the best) and so it's perhaps hard to be totally objective but I felt the Pro Plus launched low off the driver and was at best a medium trajectory off the irons. While I can see that being an advantage in windy conditions, I, and I'm sure others would prefer to see my irons coming off higher. That all said, the flight wasn't offensive and its mid-flight angle wouldn't put me off buying this ball if I was in the market for this type of ball. 7/10

Control
Around and on the green, this ball excelled expectations. It checked and spun on command and came off the club face with a buttery soft feel. In fact I felt the Pro Plus was softer and more responsive than most of the other four piece balls I've tried. The only ball that was comparable was the Taylormade five piece TP5 offering. The Vice ball performed well on the green as well and my distance control was on point straight away. 9/10

Durability
I only played three holes with these balls and used both the green and white version and I was a little disappointed that there were a couple of scuff marks on both after the test. Granted I hit out of a bunker which adds friction but I've tested other balls and they've kept their looks slightly better. Maybe it was the matte looking finish of the green version. Maybe it was the quality of my strike. It certainly didn't affect performance and was cosmetic. 7/10

Feel
As always this is the most emotive category but one that most golfers seem fixated on. Ask on any forum what ball a person uses and they will give you a make and model and ask why they prefer this ball and most will say "feel".

I liked the Pro Plus off all the clubs and thought it had a pleasant sound, and a soft satisfying feel off the face, even if the strike was away from the centre. It was most satisfying around the green and I liked the way it responded. 8/10

Overall
Aside from a minor gripe about durability and marking up, everything else about the Vice Pro Plus pleased me. I thought it did exactly what Vice wanted to achieve and was every bit as good as the competition. I'll put the link to the Vice website and you can go on for yourself and see the prices for each ball in the range and compare, dependant on the quantity being ordered, the price of these balls and get a feel for how that stacks up



Overall, on a bad ball striking day, the ball did everything I'd expect from a four piece ball and as I keep stressing was exemplary around the green and in that facet of the game is perhaps the best ball I've tried. Vice are rightly proud of their products, their online only business model and their production values (Vice Production). I'd like to try the Pro Plus again on a better ball striking day to see what else I could squeeze out of it in terms of a few more yards off the tee and see if a better strike leads to a better flight. Again it's a small quibble and even given the performance on the day, this was a solid performing golf ball, with arguably a robust price structure to entice customers to buy in bulk. I was very pleased with it and would happily give it a very solid 8/10