Sunday, 14 October 2018

Weather Wins Out

As golfers we are constantly looking at the weather. Will it rain? Is it going to be windy? For the most part we’re a fairly robust and hardy bunch and will usually venture out in most conditions, especially if it’s a match or competition. Now I don’t know about you, but having said that, it’s one thing to already be on the course and playing and for the conditions to deteriorate, especially rain, but a totally different scenario knowing a few days in advance it’s going to be pouring before you even get to the club and there’s no sign of it stopping until long after you’ve finished. That takes a different mind-set totally.

I think you can guess what’s coming. We were due to play a friendly club match against Tylney Park at my home club, Royal Ascot. It was the return leg following the first game at Tylney Park at which Royal Ascot took away a 4-2 lead. Sadly, I was one of the two that lost although in my defence my partner on the day had one of those rounds we all know so well and for the most part struggled. That said, he did come in in the early stages and definitely kept us in it or it could all have ended far earlier and in a greater deficit. The weather forecast had said heavy rain throughout the day for a few days before. For once the forecasters were spot on.



Having woken to a leaden sky, the rain soon came and it was almost biblical by the time we convened for brunch. We were introduced to our opposition, Chris Mitchell off 21 and John Weatherley off 12 who had more than a passing to resemblance to the wrestling star of the 1970’s Jacky Pallo complete with trademark ponytail

It was with a heavy heart that I put the waterproofs on in the locker room knowing I wouldn’t be taking them off again until I returned at the end of the round. No point warming up and getting everything wet and the fact the putting green already had a puddle on it didn’t bode well. Things didn’t get better when my partner Harvey Woods and I made a farce of the opening hole to go one down immediately. We got it back and then lost another. I scrambled a half in a double bogey seven at the par five 5th having played three off the tee (a great name for a youtube channel, so go check it out here The Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel and PLEASE subscribe while you’re there).

Conditions were horrendous to put it mildly. From the outset every hole had standing water and many greens had puddles. Finding relief from standing water was becoming harder and harder and while scoring wasn’t great, it was a nip and tuck match and played in great spirits. It was a feeling of all in it together and all four of us simply laughed at the absurdity of what faced us, the rubbish we were playing and enjoying the good ones when they came along.

Having got it back to all square at the 7th Harvey made a great half at the eighth for a crucial half and we managed to get our noses in front one up after winning the 9th. I have to be honest I wasn’t relishing another two hours in those conditions. I had wet gloves on both hands and was wringing water out of both before playing each shot. I’d taken the precaution of wearing my waterproof socks (a great idea for Christmas) and these were working overtime but my feet were dry and warm.

As we headed towards the 10th across the car park I was so pleased to see both captains standing at the front door to the club waving us in. Match abandoned as a draw, all scores on the day null and void. I don’t think anyone in our group or across both teams were too distraught at that decision and with the course only going to hold more water a sensible move to protect it, especially the greens. As a result, it was decided the match score from the first game stood and so Royal Ascot got a narrow win.

I’d like to thank my playing partner Harvey, especially for keeping us in it and getting us in front, even in vain, and to both Tylney members Chris and John who were a joy to play with and I’d like the chance of a home and away rematch next year.

Sometimes as our captain Stuart Pearce said in the introductions to the proceedings you have to “man up” but even then, you have to be pragmatic and the decision to call it off was a wise one. It definitely takes a strong mind not to let conditions get the better of you and amongst the rain and the puddles there were some good shots from everyone in our group. There’s definitely a certain madness we golfers have to go out in such conditions to get our golfing fix and represent our clubs. Sometimes the weather may win the battle but as golfers we’ll win the war

Thursday, 11 October 2018

European Senior Masters Pro-Am Day


Last week I had the opportunity to attend the pro-am day at the European Senior Masters at the famous Forest of Arden course in Warwickshire. The Arden Course was designed by Donald Steel and opened in the 1970’s sitting within Lord Aylesford’s vast 10,000 acre estate. It has already played host to seven English Opens and five British Masters and this was the second year of hosting the Senior Masters. I was also fortunate enough to be attending on a media pass courtesy of Golfhacker magazine (Golfhacker Website) and Champions UK plc

As part of that I had managed to get an invite to an exclusive round table interview with former Ryder cup player and winning captain Ian Woosnam, European Senior Masters host and former Ryder Cup hero Peter Baker and two French stars of the European Tour and former Ryder Cup players Jean Van De Velde and Thomas Levet (who was also making his European Seniors debut at this event). Golfhacker was the only magazine invited to what should have been a ten minute series of quick fire questions but which turned into a forty five minute discussion on the recent success in Paris and all things Ryder Cup.

Tournament Logo

I was lucky enough to film it all. It was also filmed by European Tour Productions (who managed to walk through my static camera position several times) and the entire interview is available to watch here. It really is worth a watch, even at forty five minutes long. Check it out here (Ryder Cup GOLD video)

After this unique opportunity drew to a close I wandered to the range and putting green to watch a few of the players warming up before heading to the first tee to watch Woosnam and Baker play (it was a shotgun start) and then wandering around a few holes. I managed to get a few players in action and hope this video captures a little of the flavour of the pro-am day. Watch it here (European Senior Masters - A Flavour Of The Day)

As I wandered around the course, it brought back mixed memories. I’d played the course back in October 2011 in the Golf Monthly Centenary Final which was a national event. I qualified at St Pierre in Chepstow and the final was around the Arden course being played by the professionals this week. I say mixed memories as I really enjoyed the course and the setting, played nice and steady and while I won the handicap section, I came second overall and lost on last six count back. If you never read my round up you can do here (Fine Margins Blog).

My tee shot on the 18th at the Forest of Arden in the Golf Monthly Centenary Final
I had a wonderful day covering the event. The organisers were brilliant, the players approachable and the media pass opened up a few opportunities for forthcoming collaborations on Youtube. If you don’t already subscribe, please go over to my channel now (Three Off The Tee youtube channel). 
Once I hit 300 subscribers I’ve a giveaway coming and as I alluded to, there are some interesting projects coming up which I hope I can get some of the channel subscribers involved in.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay around for the actual event which ran from Friday to Sunday and was eventually won by Santiago Luna of Spain. He was knocking it nicely in the pro-am and maybe I should have read the signs and invested a few pounds on him winning. I followed the progress via the European Seniors twitter thread and despite a few weather issues it was a marvellous event resulting in a narrow win for Luna.

I know Golfhacker are planning a return visit next year and I hope the Forest of Arden host the event again. It’s a majestic setting and provides a stiff test for the players especially in autumnal conditions. This year Golfhacker got behind the scenes and looked at what the scorers do as they follow each group and worked on one of the main scoreboards. I’m hoping for a similar behind the scenes opportunity next year. Golfhacker is designed for the average golfer. That’s the likes of you and me. It tries not to be fixated on the main European and PGA tours but covers a chunk of the ladies game and especially the seniors, as well as travel and product reviews.

As part of their seniors coverage I’m trying to arrange and exclusive interview with Australian former European tour member (and three time winner) and senior tour member Peter O’Malley. Hopefully we can get this organised and filmed early in the 2019 season so another great reason to subscribe to the channel now. I’ve met him informally at my home club Royal Ascot and he’s good fun to be with and has a whole storybook of tales to tell from his time on tour.

Finally a huge thanks once again to everyone involved making my trip to the pro-am such and enjoyable experience. The Forest of Arden holds so many memories for me and it’s definitely a course I’m keen to play again. If any of the European Senior Masters organisers want to save me a pro-am spot for next year I’m more than happy to put my iffy swing on camera and show it to the crowds. Now that would be fun.

There’s plenty of other great stuff coming up here too including a much overdue review of the Taylormade Project (s) and Vice DRIVE golf balls. I’ve already done the video reviews (watch here Project (s) video review and Vice DRIVE ball review) but as with all my product reviews I also provide a more detailed review here. I’ve an update on my own golf and the “Quest For Single Figures”. I’ve played a couple of interesting courses and a favourite annual event so plenty to chat about. There was also a club match against Tylney Park to discuss which had several “incidents”. Thanks as always for your time in reading my ramblings and I’ll see you for another blog soon.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Ryder Cup Gold


When you are in the presence of a Ryder Cup Legend like Ian Woosnan, and European team members that have been there and done it as Peter Baker, Jean Van De Velde and Thomas Levet have, you have to simply sit and listen to what they have to say about everything connected to the Ryder Cup.

I was incredibly privileged to be invited by Nick Kevern, editor of Golfhacker magazine, Champions UK PLC, the European Senior Tour and European Tour productions to a round table event on pro-am day at the European Senior Masters at the Forest of Arden.

Golfhacker (Golfhacker website) were the only magazine invited. It should only have lasted fifteen minutes, but as you'll see, once these Ryder Cup stalwarts started talking it was difficult to stop them. In fact had the pro-am not been a shotgun at midday I feel they'd have kept going. My camera was fixed but this was being filmed by European Tour Productions so there are times when their cameraman walks through shot but it doesn't detract from the Ryder Cup gold coming from the table. Enjoy this rare and unique insight into the Ryder Cup from the European perspective. It may not make comfortable listening for American viewers but it's an honest and open assessment of the Ryder Cup just gone with these European team members (and winning captain) and gives their own views on what the European team did well compared to the US side and provide a rare insight into a team room.



This was a one off opportunity and I hope the video is an interesting window into all things Ryder Cup. https://youtu.be/JzKbA3Kypew


I'd love to hear any comments you may have about what these four fantastic Ryder Cup golfers have to say. If you have any thoughts please leave them in the comments section and I'll respond. I'd love to hear what you have to say and think about their insights. At the same time, please subscribe to my youtube channel. The more subscribers I get the more opportunities to provide unique content like this.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Twisting My Melon


Hello once again. Welcome to this, the latest blog update on “The Quest For Single Figures”. It’s getting to that time again isn’t it, when the nights are drawing in and there’s not enough light to squeeze nine holes in after work. I always find this part of the year a rather curious ying/yang time. I love the majesty of nature and the colourful display as the trees begin to change colour but feel sad that another summer of golf is behind me and we’ve got winter golf ahead and in particular playing in several layers of clothing and in damp conditions underfoot.

All well and I good, but what’s been happening.? As always, there’s a fair bit going on. My Three Off The Tee youtube channel is beginning to grow and I’m tantalisingly close to hitting 250 subscribers. If you are new to these ramblings or resisted the urge to this point, please go and check it out here (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) for a number of reviews and some subjects I hope you’ll find interesting, particularly the linear method of short game, aimpoint and my recent exploits at the British Par 3 Championship. If you haven’t subscribed, please do so, and if you already do, many thanks for that, but please pass the word to your golfing friends. Once I hit 300 subscribers I’ll make sure there is a decent giveaway to mark this.

I am also hoping to be at the Farmfoods European Senior Masters at the Forest of Arden (a course I know well – Fine Margins - Golf Monthly Centenary Final) to help cover the pro-am for Golfhacker magazine and get some content for my youtube channel (Golfhacker Website). I’ll be sure to post a blog at some point as it promises to be a great day.

Golfing wise, there’s been plenty to tell you about. Having gone from brilliant sunshine and crispy hard fairways, last week saw gale force winds and biblical rain. On Sunday our planned match at home to Caversham Heath was postponed much to my annoyance. I got turned over in the away game and was keen to make amends. The club has taken a very sensible decision and brought winter rules in early as the green staff are faced with a big task to try and get the fairways back from the damage the heat caused over the summer.  They have already started their remedial work hence the early requirement for pick and place on the fairways.

As I am sure I have mentioned in previous posts, “The Quest” has taken a bit of a hammering in 2018 and despite a win and a second place earlier in the season, the handicap has been mostly stuck in reverse and I’ve collected 0.1 increased with alarming regularity. Before I started in the monthly stableford last weekend (22nd September) the handicap had climbed to 14.8 (15) and had risen a disappointing 0.8 in 2018. I can’t protest it isn’t a fair representation as I’ve not managed to do it often enough in competitive play. I feel I’ve put the hard work in, especially from 100 yards and in and in general terms my game is half decent. I simply can’t string eighteen holes together.



As a result of my competition win (and cut) I qualified for the Royal Ascot “Masters” which is a 36 hole medal event over one day. Conditions weren’t easy and I was a little disappointed with my opening 75 (+5) which was largely a result of two triple bogey sevens on the front nine. However the biggest problem on the day was slow play and a round not far short of five hours and a gap of three holes between one group and the ones ahead wasn’t acceptable. It wasn’t much better in the afternoon. The issue has been discussed and noted within the club and I don’t want to dwell on the subject further, suffice to say it did take some of the gloss of having qualified and spoilt a day I was looking forward to. I shot a net 79 (+9) in the afternoon again largely assisted by two treble bogey holes. To be honest the afternoon round was a snapshot of my glorious inconsistency all season.

I have actually been playing some decent golf in recent weeks and have had some strong showings in the roll up’s on a Saturday and Sunday, never quite good enough to take any cash, and still subject to a momentary lapse of reason and a bad hole or two, but much better than it has been.

As mentioned, last weekend was the monthly stableford. It was much cooler and there was a constant annoying drizzle throughout although the predicted strong winds didn’t show until after I finished. For once I started rather well and had three straight pars from the second, to get through the opening quartet of holes two under my handicap. The fifth at Royal Ascot is a par five and is usually viewed by many as a good hole to pick a shot up on to handicap. That was certainly my intention. The tiger line is down the left of the fairway as it’s the shortest route and the ball invariably runs on and on once it hits the fairway. In my defence your honour, this wasn’t what I was trying. I was looking to hit a draw starting centrally and moving the ball to the left. Instead I started it about five feet too far left of hitting the optimum line and it flew straight into the trees never to be found again (at least by me) and I was forced to hit three off the tee. That’s a great name for a blog and youtube channel if ever I heard it. In the end I walked off with a nasty eight and all that hard work at the start blown away in one hole.

My golf is like Russian roulette. I know there’s a disaster in there, but never sure which hole its coming on. In the end I went out in 43 which was one over handicap. A strong start to the back nine with pars at the tenth and eleventh got me into red numbers again and under handicap. A streaky net par at the next, followed by a battling bogey at the thirteenth when I had to hole from twelve feet for the bogey tempered progress but I was still level par.

I suppose one of the benefits of the handicap heading upwards is getting an extra shot. In my case this has now come at the par five sixteenth which I played in textbook fashion to make a gross par and slip once more under handicap. I was unlucky at the next when a good drive and well struck second saw the ball run just through the back on the very difficult 425 yard par four. I hit a good chip to six feet and felt more than a little aggrieved to see the put hit the right half of the hole but remain above ground.

I am trying to be more patient on the course and this was rewarded with a par at the penultimate hole. I hit a terrible drive, way right into the heavy rough, managed to find it and pitched on to fifteen feet. I’d have been happy with a four (net par) but was chuffed to see the putt drop. That put me two under handicap. With the last to play, in my head I was thinking I needed a gross par to be in contention.
I did part one of the equation and hit the best drive of the day. However once over my ball, I felt very tight over the shot. Perhaps it was nerves, and definitely something I’ve been working hard on the mental side to overcome, but I was more aware of the poorest scenarios rather than simply hitting it up the fairway and leaving a simple iron to the green. It was definitely not a good mind set and not I’ve been working on.

In the end it was a damp squib, much like the weather and I only made a net par. It was good enough though for 38 points in total. I was surprised to see I’d come back in 21 points which I knew put me in pole position for any count back to determine the outcome but the back nine hadn’t felt that good as I played it. There is maybe a lot to be said for keeping the focus and playing one hole at a time and not getting too far ahead of myself.

As soon as I got into the sanctuary of the 19th there was a better score of 39 points in. Damn that messy fifth hole. Damn that missed put on the sixteenth. Damn that tame finish and damn the chap that beat me. Actually the guy that won division 2 with that score is a good golfer and great playing partner and I always enjoy his company when we play. He’s been a bit up and down in recent weeks form wise so nice to see him get back on it. Shame he couldn’t have waited a few more days though!

In the end my score was good enough for second place in my division so I should pick up a few quid in the competition pot and also from the group bet we have. However, far better than that, I managed a 0.6 cut and so I am back down to 14 and my official handicap has returned to 14.2. This was where I started 2018 and so I’m pleased for now at least there has been no difference to the handicap this year. The battle as we enter the last hurrah of the season is to get it down further before we move into a new year.

I have said many times, I’m not convinced handicap is always a true barometer of progress and I’ve played many good rounds this year (and previous years) but as the fifth hole showed, I still chuck too many unforced and unnecessary mistakes it too often. It’s a tiresome trait and one I’ve battled for ages. My thinking on the course is clearer and there are far less technical thoughts littering my golfing brain over the ball so why do I keep boring you with the same story. I spoke in my last blog about “Changing The Tune” and in lots of ways I’m doing so, but what do I need to do to put a consistent round together for the full eighteen holes? To quote a song from my youth, “It’s twisting my melons” Happy Mondays - Step On

Happy Mondays - Step On - the single that "twisting my melons comes from
I’m going to take the positives from the last few weeks. I am playing reasonably and very happy to have got cut again. Much overdue of course but where does “The Quest” go from here?  As I alluded to, we’re fast approaching winter golf again but that doesn’t have to be the end of my ambitions to end 2018 lower than I started. My course is in very good nick throughout the year and usually manages to run a qualifying competition each month, subject to conditions (frost, snow etc.).

What I do want to do is sit down with the teaching professional I use, Andy Piper at Lavender Golf Centre, and discuss the highs and the lows and get a series of lessons booked in. I have mentioned before the fact I am trying to reduce the tuition I have, bar the odd emergency fix when things go totally amiss. To my mind, winter is always the ideal time to make any significant technical changes and use the time to work these in on the range and the course. I don’t think there is actually too much to change and it’s more a case of refining and polishing what I have. I plan to use some weekends to work specifically on my short game and really hone the linear method of playing these shots and try and get a short game from 100 yards and in that’s really robust.

Thank you for your enduring patience reading another diatribe and while I’ve found it cathartic to get the angst of slow play and another near miss off my chest, I feel sure it hasn’t been such an experience for you. You’re nearly there and your patience deserves rewarding, so go pour yourself a large drink. Heaven knows reading this rubbish you deserve one.

Yet again I’ve flattered to deceive or as I heard a radio commentator once say when describing French footballing legend Eric Cantona in one game, “dabbled with the palette without painting the full picture”. A brilliant comment and a superb epitaph to my 2018 season to date I feel. I am going to use the near miss last weekend as a catalyst and try and kick on again. I know there is a consistent eighteen holes in me and that when it clicks and I get it all out and for the whole round there is a very low score and big cut fighting to come out. I hope it’s soon! I will continue to do some golf psychology work with James Lambdon (aka The Golf Psych) and work on the mental side of the game. It’s an area I can improve and as my last hole in the competition showed still have inclinations to get tight and nervous when I am in contention.

It’s onwards and hopefully downwards in terms of my handicap. There is plenty to be getting on with and still a lot of competitions to play in. I have some fixed ideas on what I need to be working on and a dogmatic, stubborn self-belief that I can make single figures. As far as I’m concerned to date this year my handicap has simply been marking time. Now is the time to start kicking on again. Thanks once more for reading and I’ll be back to regale you with my progression on “The Quest” and everything else golf related that I’ve been up to in the near future. For now, play well wherever you are and I hope your season has gone well to date and you can find a way to cap it off in style.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Oops I Did It Again!

Welcome to you all and another blog. As always loads to for me to fill you in on with regards my golf, The Quest For Single Figures (which seems more like a holy grail than golfing target - more on that to come) and a couple of new video offerings from my youtube channel. If you haven't subscribed to that yet, go to it here Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel and do so.

Talking of that, let's start with product reviews. As you'll see I've done two recent golf ball reviews on the Vice Drive two piece offering see the video here Vice Drive and the Taylormade Project (S) which is a three piece model. Again see what I made of it here (Project (S). As always I'll be doing a more in depth review on both in the near future and go into more detail on how I felt each performed. For now though enjoy the video, subscribe to the channel, give the video a thumbs up and if you want to know more or have any questions leave them in the comments section of the video and I'll respond

One thing I wrote about a while back was reducing the amount of tuition I am taking. It got to the point where I felt I was almost always working on some change or another from a piece of coaching and that my game and my swing never really had a chance to settle down and for myself to give me a chance to play with what I have. For the most part I've stuck to my word. However, having struggled in the last month or so, I went back to Andy Piper at Lavender Golf Centre in Ascot for a thirty minute MOT. The good news was, for the most part what I have is functional. However I'd become way too active with the hands and wrists on the takeaway and it was too "snatchy" which meant I took it too far inside while lifting it. The simple solution was to work on a one piece takeaway and work on one very, very old but effective drill. Put a club (short iron) in the belly button, assume the address position and and turn, keeping the club in the navel. Then repeat that with the actual swing. Very simple and something that I can return to as an initial starting point.

Now the astute amongst you will have seen the title. No, it's not me doing my best Britney Spears impression (and you should be very thankful for that, trust me).



I'm referring to my handicap. It's clicked back over to 14.5. It makes that "Quest For Single Figures" seem forever way. However what I feel I need to remind everyone of is that I started 2018 at 14.2 and so in the grand scheme of things my handicap has moved 0.3 all season. Hardly a disaster. Granted it's not where I want to be, and definitely not where "The Quest" was planned to be by this stage of 2018.

That brings me to my main point of this post and one I hope will produce some debate. Should the handicap be regarded as the sole indicator of how a player is performing. According to some research conducted by HowdidIdo, in strokeplay, from some 3,601,169 rounds entered into their system, only 26% of these were inside the buffer zone. In stableford, from a total of 3,818,527 rounds that spiked but only to 31%. They then broke that down into handicap category to show how often each section achieved buffer,

Category 1 - (5 handicap or less) = 36%
Category 2 - (6-12 handicap) = 32%
Category 3 - (13-20 handicap) = 29%
Category 4 - (21-28 handicap) = 26%
Category 5 - (29 handicap and above) - 19%

That means for my level of play I'm expected to hit buffer zone no more than 29% as an average. That means I could be three over handicap (net 73 in medal events at my golf club) without a handicap cut. I would suggest if HowdidIdo drilled further, the average per category, of times players play and get a cut would significantly reduce further.

This brings me to the crux. Based even on this very basic breakdown, is the handicap a true reflection of how a player is given at any given time? I've written many times on here of how I feel I am striking the ball really nicely but managing to chuck one or two bad holes in that means I may miss buffer, even by a single shot. I totally accept we have to have the system to manage the handicaps and allow each and every one of us to play on an even playing field (we won't even mention bandits, that's a whole separate blog).



Of course we have days when it doesn't go well. If it's going to go wrong it will. I'm talking about those nearly days where it was so good for so long. What happens, if like me you work on the game, and perhaps have tuition. This all takes time to bleed in from a change in the lesson to something that feels comfortable and works on the course. If you look at a string of 0.1 increases on the handicap, the casual observer would be forgiven for thinking this player is in a rut. In fact, the opposite may be true. That player could have had a lesson, been making the changes and getting better but not quite had the breaks or found a way to hold it together under the pressure of card and pencil in hand.

For me, it's about the ability to combine everything on one day I find difficult. I've written about the mental side of golf and the work I've been doing courtesy of Golfhacker magazine (Golfhacker website) with James Lambdon to improve my thinking and resilience. It's very early days into a long process but so far the results are proving very encouraging and it is definitely making me stronger. I am getting into the mix more in roll up games (and have taken a few quid recently), had a win and a second in 2018. That said I am still chucking a car crash hole into the equation. That is where the focus of my next session with James will be centred.

If you factor in things like golf tuition and the player making swing changes, I'd argue the handicap simply doesn't provide the full picture. Now there isn't (or shouldn't) be anything other than the handicap system but there will be people seeing my handicap has reached 15 and think I won't see 12 again let along single figures. They may, in the fullness of time be proved right. However for everyone working so hard on their games, it is reaching their own personal goals and objectives that drives them on. This means handicaps will increase as they work on their own changes. Hopefully though, when the good times come, the handicap cuts will be significant and there will be some successes in there.

We (well me as a Category 3 player) will only hit buffer just 3/10 times on average and as I surmised, get a cut less often than that. Does it really mean all category three (and factor in for your own standard) players are really playing that badly for the other 7/10 times they don't hit buffer? Let's assume that amongst those seven games I don;'t make the buffer I chuck in two really bad games and disregard those that's five games where I don't make the zone and the handicap goes up. In medal play in particular, that could be down to one hole. I played yesterday. fresh from my lesson on Thursday changing the takeaway into a medal yesterday and shot net 77 (+7). I had an 8 (+3) on a par 5, a 5(+2) on a par three and a 6 (+2, and caused by chipping from the fairway into a bunker but let's not go there). That means for the other fifteen holes I was a competent player despite the new swing change and played to handicap. This where I struggle when people look at 0.1's. We are NOT consistent enough.

When we improve, so in my case getting to category 2 is my first objective, then that level of consistency should begin to improve. However as the figures show, even then buffer is only a fairly meagre 32%. Granted the buffer figures are a fraction higher for stableford play but even then for the most part we don't play to our handicaps. That doesn't stop each and everyone of us going out week in, week out, in all types of weather to try again believing this game in "THE ONE" where it clicks. Perhaps that's why when we do get this rare handicap cuts we wear them as badges of honour. Maybe you've got a cut this weekend (and if so well done) but logic (and the figures) will say it may be a while until the next one. Even when we hit those ever so rare purple patches, I think many will agree the trough we hit at the end of it comes as a sudden and painful hit and seems to last even longer before the next sign of progress.

So there you go, a slightly different post for you to contemplate. Do handicaps provide an accurate and honest assessment of where a player is with their game? Please let me know what you think.

Don't forget to look at the reviews for the Vice Drive and Taylormade Project (S) and subscribe to my channel while you are there. As always my game gives me joy and frustration in equal measures. Handicap wise it's a step back but there is some good in there. I've a few big events left in 2018 to make and impression and compete as well as getting the cuts I desire. Stick around for full product reviews on the two golf balls and more updates on where my game is. Thanks for reading, and play well. 

Sunday, 12 August 2018

The British Par 3 Championship

No, I'd never really heard of the British Par 3 Championship either (British Par 3 website). I think I'd seen glimpses of it on Sky Sports but it looked like another celebrity golf event. Having now experienced it for the first time, I realise that I have been missing out on what in essence is a rather well kept secret.

As you will know by now if you are a regular follower (and thanks as always for the continued support, and if you don't subscribe here and to my Three Off The Tee youtube channel, which is a click away here Three Off The Tee Channel please do so now and make a middle aged golf hacker very happy) that I am doing some collaborations with Golfhacker magazine, which is a fantastic online magazine that is going from strength to strength. It is aimed at people like you and I, the average golfer. Check out their website here to see what the latest issue has to offer - Golfhacker website

Thanks to Nick Kevern, the Golfhacker editor and the nice people at Champions (UK) plc. Check out what they are all about here - (The Champions (UK) plc website). I managed to get a media pass for the Friday, celebrity finals day. My brief was to simply try and get some simple two minute vignettes from a few of the celebrities, while not intruding on their time or golf too much. So not much to ask a media novice. How did I get on? Check out my efforts on this video - British Par 3 - The Interviews

For those that aren't sure, The British Par 3 Championship is set in a stunning location in the Midlands at Nailcote Hall, not far from the main Warwick University campus. Not only is this a fantastic hotel in its own right, but the course on which everyone plays is stunning. It's short as a par 3 course would indicate, but the holes are fiendishly difficult with tiny greens that were running so fast despite the odd rain show on them. Accuracy is everything.

The great thing about this event is there really is something for everybody. Aside from a tented village and activities to try, It attracts a host of professional golfers, including ex major winners like 2005 US Open Michael Campbell, Masters winner Ian Woosnam OBE and the events host each year Tony Jacklin CBE. It also has a number of LET members such as the fabulous Carly Booth and the up and coming Inchi Mehmet. On top of that are a host of TV and sporting stars that give up their time for free to come and play and raise huge amounts for charity, and the public are actively encourage here to come up and interact with them. To a person, each and every one was so generous to all requests for autographs and photos and it sends such a positive message. In my own mind, if golf wants to attract new people into the great game of golf, they should simply use this event as a template

I managed to get a photo with golf legend Tony Jacklin. A man that has done everything in the game but also a true gent and wonderful host to the British Par 3 Championship

As I alluded to, it's set in a small space, so you do have to keep your wits about you on certain holes but for the most part, there is plenty of room to wander around, enjoy the course in its full glory and see players tackle the challenge laid out before them. Some managed it better than others.

As someone once said (far better than I'm doing) pictures paint a thousand words. Let me show you this, a video I made of my own experience, outside of my media duties. I hope it does some justice to the fun that my wife, a golf widow and someone who had never been to a golf event of any description, and I had. Check it here The Flavour of the British Par 3 Championships

I had a fantastic day. It was a privilege to have a media pass (access all areas and with a glorious lunch thrown in), it's not necessary for people to come along and have a good time. I couldn't believe how many children, especially young children who were there, and were having a great time seeing some of their heroes in action. It's an easy location to get to from most parts of England, although I did speak to some from Wales and Scotland that had come down. The weather had been glorious until I turned up and brought heavy rain showers and the odd clap of thunder with me.

My only regret was not being able to actually have a go and test my golfing skills around the course. Nick Kevern and his partner in crime for the week William Murfitt (check his videos of the week on his own youtube channel here which will show far more of the activities during the week - (William Murfitt Youtube Channel) did get on one evening. It really found them out and re-emphasised just how hard it is for professional and amateur alike.

I hope you enjoyed this blog. Please take the time to click on the links provided as there really is some good stuff to enjoy. More importantly though, if you want to go to somewhere different to get you golf fix, mingle with a few famous names and have a great day out, make sure you book up for the 2019 event. I'll be there for sure.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Time For More Viewing

Welcome back. It's still scorching hot here in the UK and the fairways across the country are brown and parched and even short hitters like me are enjoying the benefits of longer distances off the tee. In a similar vein to my last blog, there is still huge amounts going on and I'll be doing a full update very soon and I've also some very exciting things coming up, particularly next week.

With that to look forward to, I've decided to showcase the latest video content from the sister Three Off The Tee youtube channel. There has been plenty of content and while some featured in the last post, I've put them back here for those that missed them. If you've not been following my exploits on here for a while or have only just stumbled across these whimsical ramblings for the first time welcome.

Linear Method
This is a revolutionary way of playing all the short game shots. If you type "linear" into the search box it'll bring up all of my blogs regarding this. That said, I decided to re-visit this and produce a demonstration from a mid-handicapper's perspective, and from someone who has self taught himself the basics of the technique. Check it out here Linear Demonstration

Better Golf Thinking
It has been over a month since I met James Lambdon, a golf psychologist. We are beginning to work together to to see if he can help improve the way I think around the golf course, not only when I'm playing well but also when things aren't going so well. Check the preview video here Better Golf Thinking With James Lambdon (The Golf Psych)

So that was what has bone before. Now for the main event. I was invited by the online golf magazine Golfhacker (The Golfhacker Website) to join them at Chigwell Golf Club (course report coming) and form a dream team with another youtube contributor, William Murfitt. Check his channel here (William Murfitt Youtube). We were raising funds for small but wonderful charity, The Dream Factory which grant wishes to children with life changing or terminal illnesses.

The Dream Factory
During the evening, post golf, we were shown a video which detailed the history of the charity and the work it does. It's a powerful film and if you choose not to watch any other piece of content on here, I implore you to spend four minutes watching this. It's very moving and yet has a positive message. The Dream Factory - Granting Wishes

As I've said, the main part of the day was a charity golf day. The Golfhacker Dream Team of myself, Nick Kevern, the editor of Golfhacker magazine, William Murfitt and Mark Sapsford, who made up the team and came in at the eleventh hour. I filmed as we plotted our way around the course and I hope this video captures some of the good shots (and the bad) and reflects the fun we had. Sadly we never threatened the prize table but that wasn't what the day was about. Watch our golfing antics here Dream Factory Golf Day

In the evening, we were joined by two celebrities, both patrons of the charity. The first was the ex-football manager Harry Redknapp and the other is the star of stage and screen Vicki Michelle who many may remember from the BBC comedy series Allo Allo. The day was held the day after England played Croatia in the world cup and he did a fantastic Q&A session. Vicki Michelle then spoke about the work of the charity. It's a very entertaining video and something very different for my channel. I think you'll like this a lot 'Arry & Vicki - The Dream Factory Entertainment

As always, plenty going on. My next blog will be a full update of how my golf is going and in particular "The Quest For Single Figures" It will feature some more good, some not so good and some interesting plans going forward. Stick around for that but for now, thanks for taking the time to read this latest blog. I hope you did look at some of the links I posted and that you enjoyed them. Please subscribe to my channel, please give the videos a thumbs up (youtube loves a thumbs up). If you could also share the videos and really get the message out there your help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks once again, I hope the sun isn't too hot where you are and that your golf is going well. See you next time

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.