Friday, 31 December 2010

Out With The Old

Well I played the last round of 2010 today. Much like all that has preceded it this year it was a tale of rubbish, some excellence and a lot of mediocrity. Driving is still a big issue, certainly in terms of consistency, and whilst I hit my irons pretty well, the finer detail such as my 5 wood and hybrid completely vanished from my repertoire. I couldn't buy a putt for love nor money and my chipping is still immersed in the depths of a deep psychotic nightmare.

On the plus side the course was fully open and has drained wonderfully. The greens were receptive and putted pretty well considering the battering they've taken. I played with Martin Davis (Bash) and his nephew Matt from my normal Saturday swindle. Both need to take a cold hard look at themselves. How they can sleep at night with the banditry they produce off their handicaps (18 and 26 respectively) amazes me. Actually I jest, and Bash in particular has played in a lot of events this year and is current singles champion. I just wish I had the extra shots my conundrum of a game requires to be competitive at the moment.

So what have we learned this year golfing wise? I guess the most obvious lesson is not to set the bar too high. Coming down from 12 to 9 seemed such a realistic goal given the amount of dedication and practice I put in along with the regular tuition. However, it is one thing being a scratch golfer at the range and another replicating it on the course.

I guess that brings me onto the second realisation. When do we reach a point of having too much tuition? I have an idiosyncratic swing. I know that. Have I gone too far down the road of looking for something picture perfect and failed to capitalise on the talent I have? Clearly something as simple as chipping a ball onto a green and getting it to land and react shouldn't be that hard especially when two PGA professionals have given you the technique to do so. Why then do I feel I'm fighting an electric eel every time I pull a wedge from my bag and face a chip onto the green?

What I have learned this year and which was one of the main aims (so I did fulfill some of goals) is that even if you are playing like a 28 handicap novice it doesn't matter. There is no point being as miserable as sin and a royal pain in the derriere for your partners. Accept it with good grace, fight hard for the best score you can achieve and be gracious at the end. Hit, it, find it and hit it again. Of course on the very rare occasion that the planets are aligned and the golfing gods are in a magnanimous mood, the delight a good round brings is all the sweeter. Savour it though, it will  be gone on breeze as quickly as it arrived.

And so what does 2011 hold in store? Well the fight for single figures is still joined. There are issues to deal with of course. My driving HAS to improve. Royal Ascot in particular, but most courses to some degree, require you to find the fairway in order to score. If you are offline at Ascot then chances are it will be a lost ball (especially with our rough in Summer) or you'll have no type of shot. The short game is the key. My putting has improved considerably and once the greens come back in Spring I can do the requisite work to hone the stroke. It is the chipping that has me waking in a cold sweat. It is clearly a mental issue (along with a technical phobia - trying to be too precise) but how do I banish the nightmare. That is definitely going to be a work in progress.

I'm also hoping to play a lot more course in the coming year, whether as part of the Golf Monthly Forum meets, or awaydays with friends. It is nice to play your own course and try and master it but you can be too insular. Getting away from the known pitfalls will freshen my game up and who knows maybe even spark my golf into life.

Whatever the next twelve months hold for me in both a personal and golfing context, I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to follow the trials and tribulations of 2010 on here and I hope to see you back next year. The blog itself will be bigger and better and there will be a chance to win some great golfing prizes. Some will only be open to followers so if you haven't already signed up then make it your new years resolution to do so. As I've said before when we hit 50 followers I'll be donating £100 to the Help for Heroes charity so please don't lurk in the shadows but come into the light. If you are already a member then tell your golfing pals (and non golfers too) and get them aboard.

I hope you and your families have a great New Years Eve whatever you are doing and that 2011 brings you everything you wish it to.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 74

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Spoils of War

Inevitably when the snow finally came to the Thames Valley it wreaked a terrible vengeance and dumped a thick covering with rampant ferocity. In other words we had three and half inches in two hours. More than enough to render the course, practice ground and surrounding ranges closed for the foreseeable future. I'm just praying it goes in time to get some golf in of some description between Christmas and the New Year.

Fortunately the club was spared any snow last Thursday for the 2010 Presentation Evening and the Christmas raffle. There was a good turn out and it was a nice touch by the club to involve the junior section and present their trophies too. It must help to make them feel integrated. It would have been nice if they could all have been there to collect the prizes but there was still a good showing. I hope it continues and that the junior section is allowed to grow and develop.

I was fortunate enough to be invited as a prize recipient. I was up for the Jubilee Cup that I'd won with Hywel Lloyd way back on May 3rd. To be honest he had a stellar round and set the foundation. I came in a few times on the front nine and kept the ship steady on the sail for home and in the end our 44 points was plenty and we won with a few points to spare. Sadly since then his circumstances have changed and he's left the club so I was left to pick up the spoils alone. The Jubilee Cup is an Ascot major (a gold letter event where your name appears on the honours board). It's my second after winning the Longhurst Cup back in 2000. Although I've won plenty of medals and stablefords since, I've never really contended in a big one for ages and frankly a ten year gap is too long. Still there are good golfers at the club who haven't won any of the majors events so I shouldn't complain too much.




As well as the trophy there was a nice clock in a glass frame as a memento.
 
To the winner the spoils!

Sadly my luck didn't extend to either the pro shop or club raffle prizes but all in all it was still a very good night.

I had seen the forecast, but with my work's Christmas party booked for Friday night I did take the precaution of withdrawing from the stableford on Saturday. I needn't have worried as the weather took care of that for me. It's a pain though as I'd hit the ball better than I'd hoped last weekend in the turkey trot and so was itching to get back out there. I was doubly keen to exorcise the memory of my opening drive too. For those not up to speed, my first competitive shot for over two months was a short. hurried backswing and a quick lunge down at the ball. It went straight right into the trees and out of bounds and was never seen again.

I'll try and get some golf in between now and the start of 2011 whether on the course or at the range. I flattered to deceive this year. As someone once said "I dabbled with the palette without painting the whole picture" and that sums up the 2010 season perfectly. Everytime I though I was making progress and a cut, and my ultimate goal of single figures appeared on the horizon, I'd conspire to make the task doubly difficult.

Still that is golf. A game that can never be beaten although we'll always try. For now though I'll stare outside at the white blanket and wistfully dream of getting back out there again.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Feeling Good

I finished 15th yesterday out of 37 in my division. Given the lack of golf (the range is no substitute for the real thing) and an opening tee shot out of bounds I'm pretty content with that. I wanted to go out and play a few holes this morning but the heavy frost had all the greens back on temporary's and so didn't fancy it.

Still being a diligent fellow and still seeking my goal of single figures I hit the practice ground. It was actually quite pleasant, not too cold and with only a gentle breeze (albeit into my face). I started by working on my pitching which has been an area greatly neglected over the last few months. I set up targets at 35, 50 and 60 yards and used my 52 and 58 degree wedges. I have to say all in all I was very happy, especially with my distance control.

I moved onto the full swing. My wedge play and my 8 iron were very close to what I am working towards. However once I get anything longer in my hand, in this case a 6 iron, it starts to go to pot. I did hit some good shots and it isn't all gloom but old habits die hard and I was definitely spinning the hips instead of turning and coming up out of the shot. However I worked on my driving too and once I stood fractionally closer to the ball at address than I had been it clicked in spectacular style and I was very happy with the results. My chipping (see how hard I worked?) remains as difficult to conquer as ever and I'm getting so wrapped up in technique any natural ability is getting quashed. Still I did leave the practice ground in a positive frame of mind.

Had an enjoyable afternoon putting up the Christmas tree. I've a busy week too. Off to see my friend Fish (ex Marillion) in Kingston on Tuesday. I expect we'll chew the fat after the gig so it'll be a late one and I took the precaution of taking Wednesday off. Hopefully I won't be too tired and can get some more work in on my swing in time for the stableford on Saturday. Thursday night is Presentation Night and I collect my prize for the Jubilee Cup win. It's been too long a wait for another major (ten years to be precise) but I can't wait to go up and get my spoils. Hopefully my luck will continue and I'll pick up a prize in the Christmas draw.

I'm out with work on Friday for our Christmas party. It's times like these when I'm glad I can't drink anymore. In the bad old days it would have been non-stop beers all night and home at silly o'clock. With a competition the next day I'd have either scratched or played through the hangover and had a shocker. Now I can have a few soft drinks and stand on the first with a clear head and hopefully get the first shot in play (unlike yesterday).

I've really enjoyed sharing my rollercoaster golfing year with everyone and hope you've enjoyed the ride too. I'd really like to see a few more followers (if I get 50 I'm going to give £100 to Help for Heroes - see other posts for more information) but above all I'd love you to comment more often. Is there anything you want to see (my swing to cheer you up about the state of your own game, more equipment reviews or more links to the bigger world of golf) or want me to change? Get involved and more importantly get your friends involved too.

Right I'm off to watch the pros do it properly on the telly. Hope to hear from you all soon.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Back In The Swing

What a joy. I finally managed to get out and play a round of golf. The course was almost fully open with only four holes being on temporary greens and so the Christmas Stableford wasn't a qualifier in terms of handicap reduction. I played with two great guys, Gary Wells and Peter Sheffield who were both off 16. They are really easy going and don't take golf (or life) too seriously and it was a good laugh all the way round and in the 19th afterwards.

Given my real lack of golf apart from a few range sessions it seemed a cunning plan to nip to the range last night. It looks like the I15 project may have finally run its course as I took my old Taylormade TP's out as they were the ones I intended to use today. I know I've written about wanting to give the I15's a bash on the course but didn't think a competition was a suitable place to baptise them. I was pleasantly surprised how well I swung the club last night and was cautiously optimistic.

I had decided that if the course was on full temporary greens I wouldn't bother as I don't enjoy hitting to a flag plonked in the middle of a muddy fairway. You can imagine my delight when I saw people on the proper green on the 1st as I drove through the gates. In the end there were only four temporary greens (I could live with that)  and it was a testament to the greenstaff for getting the others playable.

I hit the practice ground to warm up and again was striking the ball impeccably. Surely some mistake as most warm up sessions end up with poor tempo, confidence shot and a sense of unease. I felt unusually chipper as I prepared to tee off. I'm not sure how long it takes from the moment the club goes back until impact but in those nanoseconds everything came crashing down around me. My first shot was a quick stabby effort which seemed to only go back halfway and through. Inevitably the result was not good and I hit it straight right, with a hint of slice at the end for good measure, out of bounds to start with zero points.

However things did get better. I hit a great 6 iron at the second which really epitomised what I'd been working on in my lessons and at the range. I only had 150 yards and with the cold air and wet greens thought it was the perfect club.  It covered the flag but it pitched about three feet too far and went onto the back fringe. On the 3rd I repeated the trick with a great 5 iron but the purity of the strike meant it flew longer than I've been use to.

(Note to self - get back on the practice ground and recheck how far I'm hitting the bloody thing)

There was the usual mixture of good shots and unforced errors. I stood on the 7th fairway partially blocked by the big tree on the left of the hole. I wanted to hit a big hook with my hybrid (a shot I'm comfy with). Sadly I don't know what I did but it went right with a weak flight and ended up on the 8th fairway. I had to wait while the group in front played their shots (always embarrassing) but a glance at my yard finder told me I had 82 yards, a perfect distance form my 52 degree wedge. As the group in front stopped to let me play. I hit a beauty. If rose high and stopped three feett way. I sunk the putt for a great par. On the 8th I missed the green with my tee shot. Why is it you only hit the ball thin when it is cold and it stings your hands and all the way up your arm? It ended up in the right hand bunker but was lying well and with a bit of green to play with. Followers on here will know bunker shots are real hit or miss affairs for me. This time it came out well to about 8 feet leaving a downhill left to right putt. I haven't practiced my putting since the Autumn but it didn't show as the putt dropped dead centre.

Out in 15 points I was quite chuffed with my first half performance. I hit a bad drive on 12. Actually that's not totally correct. I struck it great but pushed it and it caught the imposing oak some 100 yards from the tee. It got through but I didn't have a shot to the green. I played the percentage shot back to the fairway and my wedge from 101 yards was pin high and 6 feet right of the flag. I didn't put a great stroke on the putt though but got away without any damage to the scorecard.

I made a superb up and down on the 16th from the right of the green for a rare par on the hole. Standing on the 17th I took my 3 wood out knowing it was playing all of its 218 yards with the flag at the back. I hadn't hit a great shot with it on either the 1st or the 4th when I'd used it. This time though I hit is sweetly with a controlled bit of draw and it finished just on the fringe of the green. Two putts later and a par on another hole I rarely play well. I didn't hit a great drive down last but did make a good four foot putt for two points having yanked my approach to the green well left of target. Seventeen points coming home to add to my fifteen going out for a grand total of 32. After my first shot of the day I'd have bitten your hand off for that score. It wasn't the best score of the group. Peter had a fine 35 and I just pipped Gary who also had 32 but I had a stronger back nine.

All in all I was pretty pleased with how well it is all coming together. The good ones are much better. I've lost the big yahoo right caused by my hips spinning out too quickly. The short game is still iffy and I lack confidence with it. It's more mental than technical now but we'll look at addressing that in the warmer weather of 2011. However I think deep down in my heart of hearts I've accepted that the I15's aren't the club I'd hoped for. They are a great club but have a slight offset which I don't think helps as I tend to swing inside the line anyway. I'm not going to go down the Mizuno JPX 800 Pro road even though they were a close second in my club testing recently. I've always been a big Taylormade fan and with Golf Monthly revealing they have some new irons due out early next year I'll hold fire and see how they perform.

I'm not playing tomorrow as it's the second part of the Christmas competition for the 17-28 handicappers. I'll probably hit the range and work on the swing some more buoyed by the performance today. It's Presentation Night on Thursday so I'm off to pick up the Jubilee Cup. I'm a little sad my old pal Hywel Lloyd has left the club and so won't be there beside me as he did a lot to secure the win but I'm going to enjoy my moment in the sun. It's been a long wait (since 2000) to win one of the Royal Ascot majors and get my name on the honours board. Lets hope the next one won't take ten years to arrive.

Number of lost balls in 2010 = 73

Monday, 6 December 2010

Getting Close To Seasons End

Well another golfing year is nearly over and I thought I'd share my statistics so far. I've taken these from the Scoresaver 2 (http://www.scoresaver.co.uk/) which is a great way of charting your progress.

Key stats for Martin Bedborough (Hcap: 12)


Fairways Hit: 38% (Hcap Std: 17)

Greens In Reg: 23% (Hcap Std: 13)

Putts Per Round: 33.28 (Hcap Std: 15)

Sand Saves: 15% (Hcap Std: 11)

Birdie Conversion: 11% (Hcap Std: 20)

Par Scrambles: 17% (Hcap Std: 18)

Penalties Per Round: 0.89 (Hcap Std: 9)

Date Range: Current Year: 01/01/2010 to 06/12/2010

So what can we tell. Well firstly it was nowhere good enough this year especially in competitions. I did alright socially but stick a card and pencil in my hand and I seemed to fall to pieces. There were some good rounds, including my Jubilee Cup win and a few top three finishes but there were others that were woeful or promised much and crumbled into missed opportunities.

I guess the key two would be the FIR (Fairways) and GIR (Greens in Regulation). Both are a long way down on where they should be. I've never been a great driver of the ball and so missing too many fairways has put pressure on my ability to hit greens. It does go deeper though. Having hit a fairway I only then hit the green 31% of the time. If I missed the fairway that number dropped to 20%. Clearly then much work to be done on both my driving and iron play.

On the putting and scrambling side I'm actually quite pleased. The putting was better than those figures indicate and came good much later in the season when I swapped to my Odyssey #9. The sand saves are a reward for the hard work I put in to improving my technique but the par scramble figure is indicative of the mental block I seem to have in this part of the game.

And the conclusion. The driving is definitely an issue as is my iron play. It'll be interesting to see how the change of swing to be more over the ball and with a straighter left leg impacts on accuracy. I hope the effects will be positive but only time will tell.

The Jury Are Still Out

Hopefully the majority of the snow has now gone even if the temperature is still bracing at best. The course was closed on Saturday but the range wasn't so I decided to take the I15's for another bash and see if I could make up my mind on them.

I started off really well and the ball striking was pretty good. I'm still trying to bed in the firmer impact position from my last lesson and when I get it right the swing feels much stronger. When I don't it the left leg collapses through impact and I lose all that stored energy. As the lesson went on I got progressively worse and I think I'd lost concentration and got too focused on the changes and not let the swing flow. Suffice to say the ball striking suffered, I couldn't really do the Pings justice and I came home an unhappy camper.

I decided to go to the practice ground at Royal Ascot yesterday. These damn Pings hadn't felt proper grass yet and so I wanted to see how they performed. It was actually quite pleasant standing out there and it wasn't as wet as I'd feared. The grass was rather long though so it felt like every shot was from the light rough and the wind was directly into my face.

As I did on Saturday I started pretty well but as soon as I got the nine iron down towards the longer clubs, I hit problems. I seemed to be hitting everything really heavy and fat and losing a lot of shots left (and low). Even the good contacts had a right to left flight on them. Again I think some of that was down to me swinging poorly but the distances I was getting were very disappointing. It wasn't quite the introduction off grass and the impact I was hoping for with these clubs. It has put me in a quandary. I still think they are great clubs and still think they need to be tested out on the course but I have to say an element of doubt has now crept in.

Where to go next. Well hopefully the course will be open next weekend and I can play in the stableford but I don't think that is the best time to try out new sticks so I might have to wait for some social golf after Christmas to really see how they go. It's all too much!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

Well we didn't get any snow over the weekend but I decided I couldn't face the frozen wasteland and temporary greens masquerading as Royal Ascot and opted to spend a few hours on Saturday morning at the driving range getting myself accustomed to the shiny new Ping I15 irons I'd decided to demo.

Even though the bay was protected from the harshest blasts of the icy wind I still wasn't overly enthused and the heated bay didn't really cut it. I have to be honest and say I ended up getting myself between a rock and a hard place. I really wanted to go through the bag with the Ping irons and give them a damn good workout, but I was also conscious of the need to work on the changes I'd been shown last Saturday in my lesson. In hindsight, the Pings could probably have waited for another day.

In the end I didn't swing the club great, at least not regularly. The clubs themselves played ball and were a dream to hit. The ball striking was pretty good throughout but let's just say there were a few that were directionally challenged left and right. The thing I noticed with the Pings over my Taylormade TP's were just how forgiving they were when it didn't quite find the sweetspot. Mind you, with the ground harder than a train load of Millwall fans it was hard to get any realistic idea of distances.

I had planned to go out on Sunday and repeat the exercise and see what happened but to be honest I looked out of the window about 9.00am and just couldn't be bothered. I was naively thinking I could play the Turkey Trot on the 4th with my old clubs and give the I15's a good honest examination on the Sunday. However having jokingly asked for snow to stop me hitting the Pings at all it seems we are in for a bit of a tricky 24 hours with a decent covering of snow forecast. That should put paid to any thoughts of getting a round in this weekend. Maybe the golfing gods are just teasing me and making me look at the shiny sticks just sitting there crying out to be used.

At least by not playing or practicing I could enjoy the golf from Dubai. I loved the fact that my two favourite players, Westwood and Poulter really went for it. It's a shame the play-off ended the way it did with Teflon (aka Poulter and his non-stick fingers) dropping his ball onto his marker and moving it to pick up a penalty shot. It was questionable whether he'd have made the putt anyway but a sad way to lose such a big event.

If you haven't seen it, Poulter, Westwood and Graham McDowell have been having a real go at each other (in a extremely funny way) on Twitter lately with Westwood and Poulter in particular having some good banter about clothing and colour co-ordination. If you've missed out I strongly suggest getting on there and checking it out.

I'm off to try and keep warm and pray that we escape lightly when the snow comes. After all, don't the Met boys know there are new irons to be used.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Resistance Is Futile

I don't know about anyone else but personally I'm praying for deep snow over the weekend shutting most ranges and courses. Why? It's because I've got a set of Ping I15 irons to trial with a chance to buy them if I get on with them. They are standard black dot loft and lie and are sitting in the spare room gleaming at me, pleading with me to use them.

I was suppose to take them out for an introductory session at the range tonight but the bottom line is it was too damn cold to be standing in the dark swinging a club. Crazy as it sounds I'd rather stand in the even colder air over the weekend and either hit a couple of buckets at the range or ideally get out onto the course with them and see what they can do.

I desperately need to play as I haven't been out on the course for four or five weeks and that wasn't an earth shattering performance either. There have been mitigating circumstances but with the Christmas events on the horizon I do need to test the latest swing upgrades in a competitive environment. There is nothing as competitive as the Saturday roll-up and so I'm aiming to play in that with my shiny new sticks. However if the greens are shut and we'll playing on temporary greens I won't bother. I really find the whole process of trying to get a ball to stop anywhere close on frozen ground futile and destructive to my game. I'll get to the range early instead and make sure I have a heated bay.


I have been coveting these all season and with the exception of the Mizuno JPX800 Pro which runs the I15 a very close second there hasn't been anything I've enjoyed hitting more or indeed I've hit as well. Of course the proof will be in the performance on Saturday and money has yet to change hands so I could (in theory) still walk away. My Taylormade TP's are behaving and my latest lessons are moving my game on in the right direction but we all know the lure of something new. I alluded to it in my last post and to be honest the voice on my shoulder telling me I need these is reaching a deafening crescendo.

I aim to remain objective and not capitulate until I've managed to use them on the course (even if it isn't this weekend) but I can feel the resistance draining away. I've spoken to Santa and he has said I've been a good boy this year and worked hard on my game and so if I like them he'll see what he can do.

There must be someone out there that can help me and save my credit card from a huge dent. I'd throw myself on the mercy of the Golf Monthly Forum but there is a growing trend towards all thing Ping going on there already. Even as I type this there's an urge to get one out of the bag and feel the tacky new grip and look at how well it sits on the ground.

I've got it bad and as far as I can see there's no known cure.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

A Light Bulb Moment

Yesterday was the second of four planned lessons before the onslaught begins next year to right the golfing wrongs of 2010. I've run out of time to reach my goal of single figures. I'm disappointed but pragmatic. I've not played much in the last three months (competitively at least) and so it was always going to be hard to reverse the upward trend in my handicap. I'm quite pleased in a sense that I managed to keep the increase below a whole handicap point (11.3 to 12.1) and now I can focus on refining the technique over the winter months and come out ready for the 2011 season.

Those of you keeping up to date with my rollercoaster ride will know that in the last few weeks since my last lesson I had one magical day at the range where everything clicked and three or four further sessions where it has been better than before but wasn't quite right. I was getting so frustrated. I explained this to Paul Harrison my teaching pro and was reassured when he said he'd been keeping a close eye on me as I worked on each range session and that he was actually pleased with what he'd seen. We discussed what I'd worked on in the last lesson and the feeling of it being 90% there and he took some video footage.

There it was, clear as day. Although I'd changed the way my hips moved from a sliding to a turning action and had a better position at impact, on top of the ball compressing down on it, the left hand side wasn't firm and the left leg was buckled. It meant that a lot of the good work I'd done from takeaway and back into impact was being negated. Once we'd gone through some drills and I got the feeling of how it should look and feel I hit a few balls and it was back to "happy days". The ball fizzed off the face and flew in a straight, penetrating flight. Of course I didn't grasp the concept immediately. That would have been too easy and so I did slip back into "jelly legs" at impact a few times but on the whole another step forward.

I went back today, my golfing mojo positively bubbling with enthusiasm. I have to say it was somewhat bitter in the wind, conveniently blowing straight back into the bay, and for the most part I was the only fool there. It started so well with the wedges and I was in a very happy place. However once I really got into the meat of the session I couldn't get it working. My stance felt awkward and I felt as though my posture was too stooped and I kept hitting balls way left. It became a battle between focusing on feeling relaxed over the ball and working on the straighter and firmer left leg. In the end I lost interest. I couldn't get into a decent routine. The good ones were exactly as they should have been but in between there was some real rubbish.

So what have I taken away from the weekend. On the plus side Paul is very happy with the difference in my impact position. It has taken away the big high cut I use to hit when I spun my hips out of the shot too early and we are making a much better contact more regularly. On the downside, I've not really got to grips with the new change as well as I'd hoped and it is going to need some hard work this week to ingrain the right feelings.

The lightbulb is still shining though. Lets hope we don't have a power-cut.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Beware The Lure Of Shiny Objects

In the end the weight of my duvet first thing Saturday and the heavy overnight rain were enough to persuade me that a round in what racegoers would call good to soft, heavy in places, wasn't really high on the agenda. Truth be told I woke up not feeling too grand anyway and so decided that a day off from all things golf was the order of the day.

I woke up in much finer fettle yesterday and decided that a good range session would be beneficial given the lack of practice (no range sessions at all last week) or golf I've had over recent weeks. Now, as I've described on here before I'm working on a specific feeling, to try and be on top of the ball at impact more so than I have been. Apart from one magical day several weeks ago where it all slotted into place I have to say it has been a bit of a slog. I'm not hitting it badly, and perhaps I'm focusing too much on the technical rather than letting it flow after all the work I've put in (wouldn't be the first time that accusation has been made!).

The ball striking was pretty good but let's just say I was directionally challenged. It is getting me down now (and one of the reasons I didn't put any effort in last week at all) and I feel it is so close to being good but it's one small tweak from clicking. I've got my next lesson on Saturday so hopefully the missing link will be found.

Regular followers will know I went to a Ping demo day a couple of months back and fell in love with the I15 irons. Seeing as I had been a good boy recently I was allowed out to try some more clubs. In particular the MP53, 63 and the JPX 800 and 800 pro from Mizuno as well as a revisit to some Ping gear. All were standard fittings and fitted with regular flex shafts.

MP63

Beautifully crafted club that looks so good behind the ball. I was using the standard regular flex shaft and they felt a fraction lighter than my TM TP's. The short irons were gorgeous and flew great (not too high) and I was fine down to the 7 iron. After that, I'm afraid things went a bit off and I struggled with the longer irons. Not for me I'm afraid but definitely one for good strikers and those who can hit decent irons regularly. Be warned though, poor contact is punished and they aren't the most forgiving iron on the market.

MP53



Much the same as the 63's. Again a stunning club at address and very easy to swing. A nice weight and the club didn't feel heavy at the top of the swing. For me, they gave a much better flight although fractionally higher than I'm use to but were very solid even on off centre shots. More so than the 63's. However these were another set that I really struggled to control the longer iron (particularly the 4 iron). I don't have an issue with my TP's but these really were inconsistant and the long irons in particular were either high slices or were flying very low (head high) even with what seemed to be a decent strike. A confidence shaker and for that reason would be another no.

JPX 800 and 800 Pro

Much chunkier looking than the MP range but having come from TM Tour Burners and R9's these didn't look bad to my eye. The JPX was a very easy to hit club but the ball flight was rainbow like and not as powerful as I wanted. Ideal for anyone from high handicap down to 12 or 13 and very forgiving and surprisingly long.


However the 800 Pro have snuck in under the radar. These were by far the best Mizuno's I tried and all the way up to the 4 iron these were giving a lower more penetrating flight and were long (about 5 yards per club past my TP's). I had the Dynalite Gold R300's in and these were great for my swing. These were the winner by a street and would in my opinion suit anyone from around 20 down to single figures as there is enough forgiveness for the higher figured guys and enough control and playability for those with the requisite skill.

However before I went there were the I15's to try again. I have to admit before these came out I had always given Ping a wide berth. The brand had suffered a lot from it's image of an older player club (probably borne from the 1980s) and to be honest they have always looked ungainly. This year they have launched the S56 for better players (ideal for single figures up to maybe early teens but not for me). the new S series wedges and the I series including a very good driver. However it is the irons that I have liked since their release and I have always hit them well. Yesterday was no exception.

They are so good to hit and the difference in feel between the Ping (cast head) and Mizuno (forged) was negligible. Although the JPX800 and 800 Pro were probably as forgiving if not a little more, the ball flight in the I15 is superb. Now don't get me wrong, my Taylormade TP's are excellent and they have helped my game leaps and bounds and I don't consider myself to be an impulsive type of guy. Have you ever had that feeling and you get that urge, that nagging voice, and you are constantly looking at the particular product on the internet with obsessive tendencies? That was me with the I15's. And the outcome? Well subject to giving a full set a proper test next week I've given into the lure of the shiny object. Will they take my game forward? I hope so but to be on the safe side the TP's aren't going anywhere soon.

And there you have it. I've gone over to the dark side of Ping. I did try the I15 driver as well but to be honest it wasn't for me. Will I change anything else in my bag? That's an interesting question. The G15 woods have received some very good reviews but the driver in particular would have to go a long way to beat the Tour Burner. I have to say my Burner 3 and 5 woods haven't been as consistent as I'd have hope so maybe, just maybe there is a vacancy there and a note to Santa might have to go in for Christmas. As for a hybrid, again it would have to be very good to replace the Burner I have. I've tried the S series wedges and don't like them as I find them too heavy. If I can find some different ones then I might have a think but again the TM ones, particularly the 52 degree wedge, are working well.

All in all an interesting and expensive but very enjoyable day and I hope rewarding one. Time will tell

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Cabin Fever

I've not played for a few weeks either socially or competitively. I've managed to get a few range sessions in but the results have hardly been inspiring. I was really looking forward to getting out on Saturday morning with the usual suspects but given the foul conditions forecast and in particular the torrential rain we've endured here in the last 48 hours, I'm not sure how great the course will be and whether I'd actually be up for the challenge.

On the other hand I can't really find the mental fortitude to go over to the range. I'm desperately trying to bed in the swing changes from my last lesson and had foolishly thought I'd cracked it after an inspired session a few Sunday's back. Of course since then the old faults have started to creep back again and I'm still searching for the missing link.

This lack of golf and inability to regularly recreate the correct swing in practice have left me with the golfing equivalent of cabin fever. I need my fix and  need it now. What to do? Do I go out and play and sod the score but have that lingering whiff of frustration and regret if I play poorly or the course is barely playable or do I bite the bullet and knuckle down to a couple of hours of swing meditation at the range.

Either way I hate this time of the year, particularly in the run up to Christmas. It seems the course is at its most drab to look at and play on. There is a pre-Santa hiatus in the competition calendar and it is hard to get any kind of enthusiasm up to go out and hit balls or play. At least once Christmas is over, there is a chance for a few games over the festive period and then we are into 2011 and the days start getting longer until Spring arrives.

Fortunately there is plenty of comment, banter, opinion and humour on the Golf Monthly Forum so I can at least get some kind of fix amongst fellow golfers in a similar position. Check out the links at the side of the page and sign up.

On a tangent, it was great to see the remembrance silence observed so diligently at a lot of workplaces and golf clubs. I know many clubs sounded their klaxon so even those braving the storms out on the course could join in. I've a lot of friends that have served or are still on active service both at Royal Ascot and beyond and so I always try to ensure this one moment in the year is observed. It is also why I support the Help for Heroes campaign and why I'm desperate to get 50 followers on here. Once I do I'm going to donate £100 to the H4H charity. If you haven't already done so, start following. If you do, pass the blog address onto your golfing mates and your own club. It would be great to get to 50+ and give the cheque for Christmas. As a reward to those who join I'll be running a competition for the followers and you can win a dozen Pro V balls. Go on, make the effort. If not for me, then for those H4H helps.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

A Cry For Help

I have received a lot of praise (and the odd word of criticism too which is always useful) regarding this blog and my journey to date. I know there are a good few Royal Ascot members, fellow Golf Monthly forum members and lots of people from the world of Facebook and Twitter that take the trouble to see my latest attempt to soar with eagles and end up floundering with turkey's. I'd like to take the opportunity to thank you for your time.

However what I really want to do now is move everything forward. Please, please, please sign up as a follower and get involved. I want to hear from you more often about my latest fall from golfing grace, my rare successes and even your thoughts on my swing (see the latest video further down the page). So here is the deal. For every 50 followers of the blog (and we're at 33 without any of you cyberspace lurkers even joining yet) I'll give £100 to the Help for Heroes Charity. If you don't know their work check this site out. They do a sterling job and as I have a few friends in the forces it is something close to my heart. http://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/ Please pass it on to as many Ascot members, forum friends or golfing mates as you can. Not only will you have helped a great charity but as Christmas is coming along, I'm going to run a competition for followers only. I'm not sure what format this will take or the prizes involved (definitely a dozen premium golf balls and maybe something more).

I'm throwing myself to the followers of Homer's Odyssey. Let's see how many new followers we can sign up here for Christmas. Once again I thank you all for your support so far. May your good karma make your golf balls fly long and straight.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Jekyll and Hyde

I had a day off on Wednesday and after the sterling practice session I had put in the previous Sunday I went to the range in buoyant mood ready to put the finishing touches to the swing change I'd been working on. It never ceases to amaze me how fickle golf can be. I think I must enter some subterranean time manipulation vortex that makes the mind and body forget what has gone before.

Sure enough, there I was, same bay as Sunday, same clubs and still feeling great. The warm up went well and the first few half shots were fine and crisp. I moved up to a pitching wedge. It was adequate. Workmanlike if you will but lacked the fizz off the clubface I'd enjoyed. And so it continued as I progressed through the bag. I couldn't find anything that was reminiscent of what I'd achieved not three full days before. The initial move back felt wrong. The turn to the top of the swing was similar to juggling snakes and coming down and through had more lateral slide and movement than a 1980's body popping reunion contest.

Now don't get me wrong, a lot of these shots were passable attempts at golf strokes and the end results were fine, in a relative way. However the difference between the two sessions was chalk and cheese. Suffice to say the buoyant mood was quickly burst and a grey cloud of frustration took its place.

I was due to hit the range tonight. However as it was chucking it down and blowing a hoolie that idea was canned for a night in front of the telly. I'm looking forward to the next comp though. I was down to play in the stableford tomorrow but as has been the case so often recently family matters have had to come first. When I do get out again competitively, if I can bring my Sunday swing to the party then I could have a very, very good day and a long awaited handicap cut beckons. If I turn up with old faults from Wednesday then a 0.1 increase will be virtually guaranteed by half-time. I can't wait to see which Homer turns up. The practice ground beforehand won't be much of a guide. I've had lousy warm ups and storming rounds and other times pured the ball in rehearsal to go and fluff my lines at showtime.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Wow!

I had a lesson the Thursday before last (21st October) but hadn't managed to hit any balls or work on any of the drills as there were darker and more serious issues to attend to. However, looking out of the bedroom window at the heavy drizzle, the proposed round of golf was quickly substituted for a range session and a chance to put some serious time into the drills and working on the swing changes.

Those of you who follow the Golf Monthly Forum (and if you don't get yourself signed up and involved - it is THE best golf forum out there) or have been with me so far on my journey, you will know that my swing is idiosyncratic at best and a blur of flailing limbs on a bad day. I have a real tendency to lift my body into impact and lose my spine angle. The plan for the winter is to stop that as much as possible although I doubt we'll ever eradicate it completely.

The teaching pro I saw, Paul Harrison down at Maidenhead Golf Centre, wanted me to try and turn with the hips on a more level basis as opposed to a lateral slide and to feel as though the chest was more on top of the ball at impact. I have to say doing it again ten days after the lesson felt really strange and totally alien to everything I was use to. Early signs with the wedges weren't great and I was in Shanksville (population 1). However by breaking it down and rehearsing in slow motion without hitting a ball (but probably looking a right idiot) it started to make sense.

When the eureka moment came it was like a smack across the chops with a wet haddock. Suddenly I was compressing down on the ball at impact and they were fizzing away high and arrow straight. When the old habits crept back in I could really feel the difference. I'm a bit gutted that I couldn't have worked on it more before going out yesterday and gotten the feeling. I knew what I was searching for on the course but not how to accomplish it.

I've got a video of the swing. It isn't perfect by any means but I'm a lot more over the ball at impact and the club halfway back and halfway back down towards impact are pretty much on a perfect plane. It was a great shot in the clip and is a real improvement on what I'd been playing with.


Plenty of positives then and hopefully something to work on over the Winter. It's the monthly stableford next Saturday so I think it'll be interesting to see if I can finally take some range form out onto the course.

Club In My Hand

Whilst Homer's Odyssey may have weighed anchor for a short while I was able to take SS Homer for a short trip around the harbour this weekend. I managed to play in the usually Saturday roll up yesterday and having not played or practiced for several weeks optimism wasn't high. It was lower than a snakes belly after an abject warm up where there were more shanks than straight ones.

I wasn't overly fussed about the performance to be fair. After the recent family illness trauma and the cancer diagnosis any golf was a bonus. I was pleasantly surprised to strike a great 3 wood off the 1st just short of the green and chipped to within a foot for an opening par. A fairway, green in regulation and par on the 2nd was too much. My cup runneth over. A poor drive on the 3rd brought reality back as I didn't score any points but I did put the approach to the 4th to within 3 feet but missed an easy birdie. I lost a ball with a horrid tee shot at the 6th and made a safe five at 7. On the next, the short par 3 I had the honour and hit a great 7 iron to within 4 feet. My three partners all followed suit and it was very enjoyable to walk down the hole with all four shots surrounding the flag. I even managed to convert the birdie.

The back nine started off steadily but my putting started to let me down and a couple of three putts really killed my score. There were some highlights including a good recovery from a bad tee shot at the 14th, a fine shot into the green at 16 (followed by another three putt) and a good tee shot into the 17th. However I managed to save the best until last. I hit my best drive of the day and followed it with a reasonable 5 wood to leave 138 to a back flag. Playing directly into the wind I decided to club up and hit a 6 iron. I strike it well. In fact it was probably the only shot all day that actually found the sweetspot but I turned it over into the greenside bunker. Sand shots are usually an achilles heel but I got this one perfectly and it rolled out to withing four feet and I managed to sink the putt to save par.

All in all I managed 33 points which included two holes where I didn't score and 36 putts including 4 x 3 putts. To be truthful I didn't hit any shot apart from the last 6 iron well but found a way to get it round. My drives in particular were poor. None managed to get much above head height except for the two or three that I carved away right where annoyingly they flew on a much higher and agreeable trajectory. Having recently had a lesson and having a change to make but not really having had any chance to practice it I think I got a little too wrapped up in swing thoughts after the bad drive at three and maybe didn't quite let the swing flow. At least I didn't disgrace myself and it was great to be out in the warm Autumnal air.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 72

Friday, 22 October 2010

Firmer Footing

As I alluded too in my previous post, golf is on hold. The timing is bloody frustrating as I had a lesson last night with Paul Harrison from N1 Golf, at the Maidenhead Golf Centre. I'd been looking at stopping the impact position I've had for years which is very much under and away from the ball and looking to get a much more athletic and powerful "on top of the ball" position at impact.

We worked on the David Leadbitter 8 o'clock position taking the club back with the arm until the shoulder has to start moving (rather than the shoulder dictating the swing) and then making the turn. On the way down I needed to feel my right foot come off the ground and looking for a straight arm position with the left arm in line with my left thigh at impact. This effectively gets me much more on top of the shot and squeezing down and compressing the shot giving more power with less effort.

The old swing has a feeling of the hips sliding and dropping (almost a reverse C position) but we're looking now at the hips turning out of the way on the way down and being a lot more level.

I've got a couple of drills to work on which will be useful as I can't see me getting out onto the course for a while with everything else going on. If I can get the drills to become second nature and hopefully still get some range time I'm hopeful I can come back with a much better swing. I know we have had these false dawns before but sometimes you can walk away from a lesson and just know that what you've been shown is a) the right thing for your game b) can be obtained through practice and c) will be a long term fix and bot a quick cure.

Time will tell.

Life Can Be Hard

Apologies for the lack of activity on here but sadly life hasn't been too good lately and so golf has been a long way down the agenda. One of my family members has a serious illness. They have been ill for a while but the diagnosis only came through yesterday and so it's taken a bit of time to sink in. I'll know more about prognosis, treatment etc when I see them over the weekend. As you'll understand, golf and this blog will have to take a back seat for a while.

Rest assured, Homer's Odyssey is far from finished. Let's just call it weighing anchor for a while. I had a lesson last night (before I got the confirmation) and finally feel like I've turned a huge corner and so any spare time I get (or if I just need to empty my mind of everything else) will be spent at the range working on the swing as I can dedicate as much or as little time as circumstances dictate.

I hope I'll be back to my journey, and to golf in general pretty soon but in the interim I'm sure you'll understand if things go a bit quiet on here for a bit.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

This Is Going To Hurt

It's the monthly medal on Saturday and being a dedicated soul I went to the range after work to get back into the groove. Not sure what groove I was getting into or whether the needle had stuck but it was nothing short of shocking. I've developed another dose of the unmentionables and so my playing partners at the weekend are advised not to stand too far forward or right of me when I'm playing in case I decapitate them or if it's one of my low ones, break their ankle.

I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong although the swing is all over the shop and I feel everything is moving. I'm probably rocking back onto my toes again (old habits and all that) but as I can't get to the range tomorrow I'm far from confident about Saturday. As it's a medal there's no hiding place if it all goes wrong and I could be on the receiving end of a very painful scoreline. Still you also have to be in it to win it and I can't believe I've become that bad overnight. Let's put it down to a bad session and chill.

On the plus side I'd already booked a lesson with a guy called Paul Harrison for next Thursday anyway. Paul has helped me a couple of times this season and although we had originally talked about the impact position I'm currently getting into (very spun out) and the need to feel more over the ball as I strike it, I'm sure we'll be able to cure the root cause of my current affliction.

If you've had a flutter on my lost ball count for the year and are trailing, I've a feeling you may have a rollover on Saturday and I'll definitely be making sure the bag is topped up with ammo. In fact I'm off to find some sacrificial balls.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

I Almost Looked Like A Golfer

And so to the monthly stableford. To be honest it was relief it was the old points based format and not a medal as a) I've had a glut of these recently and b) I wasn't feeling overly confident. I was partnered with a left hander, Martin Keeley and Graham Will. I hadn't played with Martin before but knew Graham's game. He's a tiny figure but has a huge golfing heart and makes playing off 6 look sublimely easy.

It was very warm although there was a swirling breeze but beautiful Autumnal conditions to play in so there would be no excuses in the condition of the course or the weather. As yesterday I started well enough with a nett par. There was an early wobble though when my tee shot at the 2nd was too tight down the right and went into the trees and out of bounds. I did manage a par with the second ball to record a point so gave myself a mental pat on the back for bouncing back. A rare par (for me) at the next repaired the damage but I gave another point back at the fourth with a five. I'd missed the green right but hit what I thought was a decent chip, given my current fragility over this facet and the fact there was a bunker in the way. It looked like it might stop a couple of feet away but just found the downslope behind the hole and finished twelve feet away instead.

I then made the first of several errors at the 6th. I missed the green right with a bunker to go over but no room to get it close to the flag. Instead of playing a percentage shot and hoping for a single point I went for the career shot and put it straight in the bunker. I overshot the green with my recovery and although I chipped on and holed a great 8 footer downhill there would be no points.

I hit two horrible shots down the 7th. A topped tee shot just found the fairway and a topped 5 wood was fortunate to get over the ditch and leave me a shot into the green. I hit a great 6 iron from 147 yards to within 7 feet but then hit a tame par putt. Still it had been a good recovery. I hit the green at the par 3 8th and nearly made birdie and an up and down from short of the 9th for a par meant I'd put together a respectable 16 points for the first nine.

I started the second half strongly and chipped and putted at 10 for a par. I'd hit a great drive and just pushed a 7 iron into the fringe. I made a good four at the next (nett par) and creamed a drive off the 12th tee to be standing in the middle of the fairway surveying my shot. The yardage was 162 to a flag at the front which would normally be a full blown 5 iron.With a bit of breeze blowing I opted to take a 4 iron and knew if it was long it would still be middle of the green. What I hadn't factored in was hitting a huge and horrid slice that found a downhill lie close to the 10th green. I still had a relatively easy shot and no panic buttons were being pressed. Of course, life in Homer's world is rarely straightforward and I hit it fat and stuck it into thick grass in a hazard. I took one swing and barely moved it, had another go, and then tried to smash the daylights out of it in frustration which strangely enough worked. I couldn't score on the hole by then of course.

I bounced back and found the green at the long par 3 13th for a solid par. I pushed the drive at 14 right but hit a sensible (no honestly) recovery and pitched on to make a solid 5 (nett 4 and par). As I had done yesterday I creamed my drive down 15 and was in virtually the same place. I went for the same shot with a 5 wood and was determined not to repeat the bad shot and lost ball from 24 hours earlier. On the plus side I found the ball this time but I'd still hit a pushed/sliced 5 wood. I might have an issue! I managed to hit the green from the rough and made par.

I lost another point on the 17th when I pushed a tee shot wide but standing on the 18th there was a good chance of a score around 32 or 33 which given form and confidence would have been a good return. I hit a bad tee shot low and left but it was in a good position and my second wasn't too bad and so it should have been a simple lay up for position and then onto the green. Homer doesn't do simple. I fatted a shot against a tree which bounced backwards. I made better contact with the next shot but it hit a branch from the same bloody tree and dropped straight down. My fifth was a lay up short of the pond and I needed to pitch it close and make a putt to score. I failed to accelerate into the shot and the divot was in danger of going further than the ball. I had to hole out which I didn't look like doing and two putted for an ugly 9 and no points.

My total of 30 doesn't sound impressive but apart from one real bad drive, a poor 4 iron and 2 duffed chips which meant I didn't score on 3 holes, the total for the fifteen holes where I did get points represents playing to my handicap. In fact I came 11th in my division and was comfortably mid-table. For the most part I drove the ball reasonably (for me) and my mid irons (5, 6 and 7) were really strong today. At times I even looked like a golfer and that I knew what I was doing.

I still have real issues chipping. It has to be in the head now. I'm so wound up with the technicalities that I'm losing any feel I had and not committing to any shot with confidence. I can see a short game lesson on the horizon and hope my regular coach Grant Sayer at Maidenhead Golf Club can unscramble my poor confused head. I need a lie down!

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 71

Lost Plot

Another weekend and two conflicting performances. I haven't played for several weeks and have only had limited practicing so there was an air of apprehension around my game in the Saturday roll up. In warm but breezy conditions I hit a great opening 5 wood which boosted confidence levels but which came up well short. I'm not sure if that was the dampness, heavy air or the breeze but I was surprised. Still I made a 4 (nett par) and was happy enough.

In fact I started nice and consistently. I three putted the second but got that back with a chip and a 15 footer at the fourth to play the first four holes level with my handicap. However as quickly as my confidence had been boosted it was shot down again. A poor drive leaked right at the fifth and a hack forward left me with 180 yards to the green. I hit it way right and found it buried deep in the jungle. By the time I'd extricated myself and putted out it was a glorious snowman (8) and no points. A missed green at the next left me with only one point and I was still on the single point train at the 7th having pushed a drive right leaving no shot to the green. I did make a sand save at the next and an up and down for a 5 at the ninth to go out in 14 points. Not earth shattering but acceptable.

And then I lost the plot. I lost a ball at the 10th way right and suddenly couldn't hit a ball at all. I was showcasing all sorts of bad shots including hooks, slices and tops. The 15th epitomised the back nine. I hit a brilliant drive, downwind to only leave 205 yards into the par five. In normal circumstances that's a simple 5 wood. Not a chance as I carved it way right never to be seen again. A good shot followed by nonsense.

I didn't take the money in the roll up and to be honest I left myself pretty worried for the stableford. There was no consistency to the bad shots but add in a major issue with chipping (again) and the outlook was bleak.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 70

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Back To Normality

Well the dust has finally settled on an epic Ryder Cup and as Monty said at his clinic at Silvermere he'd have taken the 14.5-13.5 at the start of the week. I missed the Monday action live on the TV as I was at work but was following it on Yahoo Sport and could see the final match becoming more and more pivotal as the afternoon progressed.

However, for my money the real heroes weren't the twelve guys in the team, the vice-captains or Monty himself. They were the greenkeepers and volunteers who worked so hard especially on Friday morning and again on Sunday to make the course playable in the first instance and such a great theatre to play out the drama.

My own golfing odyssey has been on a bit of a hiatus following illness, the terrible weather and the fact I was a lazy sod and wanted to stay at home and watch the golf on the telly. I did go to the range last Saturday and it wasn't good. Sadly it was another of those sessions where things start off so well and you think you have it sussed and by the end of the second bucket you are pulling your hair out in frustration. I'll venture down on Friday and see how it goes but I'm back out this weekend and will join the usual Saturday morning gang for a game. It's a monthly stableford on Sunday which after a run of medal events is a bit of a welcome change in format.

I'm hoping that the darker nights won't be an end to my practice and the dream of single figures is still alive albeit the flame is burning a little dimmer. I think another lesson may be the order of the day and tweak the problems I'm having at the moment. The plan going forward is to sit down with my teaching pro and see what he thinks needs working on. What I don't want to do is make a major change as I did last year (tempo) unless it is going to be for a sound reason. I'd rather focus on what I already have and chip away at refining that.

I'm off to start the Monty for PM lobby.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Climbing the Walls

I'm not a happy soul. I've been laid low with a heavy cold since Friday and had to pull out of the monthly stableford yesterday. I felt so bad I couldn't even summon the energy to go to the range or work on my short game and spent most of yesterday asleep. I'm pretty fed up as I thought after last week there were definite signs of improvement and was looking forward to a good performance.

I have managed to get to the range this afternoon. To be honest it probably wasn't the brightest idea I've ever had as I still feel really achy and weak and so although the quality of the strike was good my direction was a bit off. I tried to focus on making a shorter and more compact swing, partly to try and alleviate the excessive movement I seem to have in my swing at the moment and partly to try make a solid swing despite feeling so rough.

I'll see how I go but hopefully I'll get a couple of sessions at the range this week. The problem I have is that I can never see where the balls are landing in the darker evenings if I hit more than a 7 iron partly because of my dodgy eyesight and partly because the range lighting is never that good. It becomes a real issue if I want to work on my game in the winter. If I hit a driver, I can tell which direction it started in and whether it was moving in the air but have no real idea of how far or where it actually lands so it makes the whole process a bit of a mockery. Of course, there will be times when the course is sodden, it's pouring and there isn't a competition on where I can get out and hit balls in the daylight at the weekend so it isn't all bad.

I've got a game booked at Sand Martins on Friday with Budely (Paul Sweetman). It'll be good to play a different course with him instead of taking each other on at Ascot. We had talked about going away for a long weekend this summer but with Paul being made redundant this went onto a back burner until next year.

My lay-off has given me a chance to read the latest magazines. Of course the Ryder Cup is the hot topic and after much consideration I'm going for a Europe win 15-13. I don't think it will be as easy as many have predicted and feel that Europe will need a 3 or 4 point lead going into the final day singles in order to hold on and reclaim the trophy. I plan to take the bragging rights off Paul early on Friday and spend the afternoon in the Sand Martins clubhouse watching the foursomes. On Saturday it'll be a roll up with the usual Saturday morning suspects and back home for another afternoon ensconced on the sofa. I think I can probably fit a quick visit to the range on Sunday before the singles start after which I'm putting the wife on regular tea making duty and staying put.

All in all then not much to report. I had hoped to be rejoicing in having met my target of single figures after a glorious Summer but as we all know that never looked like happening. Still we are entering the last quarter of the year and so there's still time. I'm already getting frustrated that I can't get any holes or practice in after work now and my lack of a proper golf fix this weekend has left me going "cold turkey". I even had to endure the pain of a trip to several garden centres yesterday despite my protestation of feeling unwell and being laid up in bed. It better not be another winter like last year as there are only so many rows of pansies a man can look at.

Time for another lemsip and a look at the forecast for next Friday.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Is There Anybody Out There???

I know that the blog is being read and I thank you all for your time. However it would be great if some of you could occasionally post some responses or tell me what you'd like to see me cover. There is an icon at the bottom of each post for you to click on and write away.

All comments, good bad and even downright rude will be gratefully received. Get busy and tell me what you really think!

Back To Reality

Having had a great day out it was back to normality today in the monthly medal. I was partnered with Alan Cutler and John Munday and were off nice and early at 8.30. I've played quite a bit with Alan and he's usually dangerous off his 14 handicap. I hadn't had the pleasure of John's company on the course for a long time but he is very steady off 7 and is usually well up there in most events.

I hadn't been overly happy with my game at the members/guest day yesterday and so wasn't brimming with confidence. It came as something of a shock to the system when I stuck my tee shot at the first into the heart of the green. Knowing how quick the greens had been yesterday I was circumspect in my approach but made a solid par. It was squeaky bum time at the next though. I hit the tee shot well but it was very, very, tight to the trees and out of bounds and none of us saw it land. I hit a provisional and I was getting concerned when I couldn't see it. Fortunately the hole was playing down wind and it had managed to make it all the way to the corner of the dog-leg. I still managed to three putt when I got the green for a six.

Things were going too well and a double bogey six at the 3rd having hit the right hand bunker brought me down to earth. I parred the 4th and 5th and made a four at the seen of my nearest the pin triumph the day before at the 178 yard sixth having found another bunker off the tee. By the time we reached the turn I'd gone out in 42 which was only one over my handicap and so I was still in contention.

I hit a reasonable drive at the 10th and had 177 to the back flag position. I hit a good six iron and mentally congratulated myself as the ball was in the air and heading towards the green on the good execution. It landed on the middle of the green and I was getting ready for a safe par. However it kept on going and tumbled off the back. It found a good lie but with no green to play with and the green sloping sharply away from me I did well to get it to stop within ten feet and made a 5.

And then the trouble started. I hit a rubbish chip from the left of the 11th into the bunker and made a double bogey. I hit my second over the back of the 12th but had lagged my putt up to a foot away and seemed destined to make a safe and respectable 5. It's never that clear cut with me and I pulled the putt way left. I have to admit I did lose some of my competitive edge after that and even a great chip from 30 yards left of the 14th and converting the putt for par couldn't inspire me.

At the 16th I pushed my drive. I could have played safe and run one down towards the 100 yard marker but having nothing to lose decided to try and hit a right to left draw with my five wood. It was a high tariff shot and the fact that it sliced left to right and plunged into thick ferns tells you all you need to know about the merits of trying such a shot. The ball was lost and I ended up with a 7. The lost ball count increased down the last when I carved a tee shot right and out of bounds and finished with an ugly 8 and signed for a nett 79 (+9).

The funny thing was I hadn't actually hit the ball badly and definitely hit it more consistently than yesterday. I just seemed to fritter shots away and never really managed to get anything going. I've certainly had lower scores hitting it worse than today. I couldn't hole a putt and had more than my fair share lip out or shave the hole. I can't really complain though. My ball striking isn't too bad (6/10), my putting is decent despite the blip at 12 (8/10) but my short game has deserted me AGAIN (2/10). The season is more or less over now except for the monthly stableford and medals so I'm going to start thinking about my winter programme. There is a huge swing change I need to make (I lift my spine angle on the downswing which makes it so hard to constantly repeat the swing and make solid contact) but it's so ingrained after all these years I'm not sure if I can ever actually eradicate it. I need to find a simple chipping method as I've made a simple shot way too complicated and scrambled my tiny brain into the process. Plenty of work ahead but the rewards will be worth the effort. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 68

A Grand Day Out

It was Members/Guest day at Royal Ascot yesterday. I think I am safe to say I'm probably the only member who until 9.00am yesterday morning hadn't even met his partner let alone played with him. My guest was a young 24 handicapper called John Sneddon from near Welwyn Garden who I knew via the Golf Monthly Forum and who had jumped at the chance when I offered a place online.

We went out to play a few holes so he could at least get to know some of the layout. I doubt I filled him with much confidence when I hit my tee shot on the first off the white markers right towards the trees never to be seen again. My tee shot at the 2nd wasn't pretty either but I settled down after that. I think John was a little anxious and the fact that the greens had been made ultra fast with some dastardly hole placements didn't help much. We played the first thirteen and went back in time for lunch.

The format for the main event was fourball better ball off full handicaps with a shotgun start. We started on the 13th which John played well to ensure a safe two point start. We were ticking along by the time we got to the 15th where John hit a great tee shot with his 3 wood (he doesn't use a driver). I was a little to the left of the fairway and saw him hit his second which sounded great but I couldn't see where it had gone. I was well chuffed to find out he'd only gone and hit the green in two. So much for a 24 handicap. He duly two putted for four points and we were off and running.

He then started to struggle for a few holes and it was left to me to try and carry the side. Regular readers will know my former partner Hywel became very adept at that role and regularly carried my ineptitude with him. However it was uncharted waters for me. We did alright and didn't commit the cardinal sin of not scoring any points between us. There was a nearest the pin prize for Ascot members on the 6th. I hit a decent shot which came in off the right hand bank and finished about 12 feet away and was good enough to nudge the marker closer. I didn't for one minute think it would be good enough but it was just nice to find the green for a change.

My long standing war with our par 3's is far from over but I definitely won the battle yesterday. I parred the 6th following that tee shot but also parred the long 1st and got a four at the others with the exception of the 8th where a wonderfully struck 7 iron finished 5 feet away and I managed to convert for a birdie.

John has only been playing for a couple of years and this was the first time he'd played in anything like this. I think he did brilliantly and was superb company on and off the course. He has a tidy swing and hits his 3 wood miles. He needs to brush up his chipping and putting (don't we all) but he'll soon get down much lower. After the round we enjoyed a gorgeous three course meal before the prize giving. We'd finished with 42 points in the end and although respectable was never going to be enough. In the end there were three groups on 46 points so we weren't too far back. I thought we'd just be sitting and clapping politely so was pretty surprised when I got called out to receive the prize for nearest the pin. I think it's the first time I've ever won one of these so I was well chuffed.

My day and evening got even better when the raffle prizes were drawn as I managed to win a fourball voucher to play at Windlesham Golf Club near Bagshot. Although it's just down the road it's one of those courses I've never played very often and I think I've only been there once when it first opened. I've got until next June to use it so I think I'll wait for the warmer weather next year.

All in all it was a grand day out. My thanks to John for making it a very enjoyable game and to the club for their catering and prizes and I'm looking forward to next year.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 66

Monday, 13 September 2010

Not Bad - But Nowhere Near Good Enough

I played the Masters event at Royal Ascot yesterday in glorious Autumnal sunshine. However the golf never quite matched the weather and it was definitely a tale of two rounds. Let's just say it was a poor start, rallied, dipped, rose again and whimpered out. More up and downs than a Disneyland ride.

You are never going to be in contention when you start with two double bogies although it could have been so much worse at the first. I hit the tee shot way right towards the out of bounds and we all heard it hit wood which is usually a death knell. I'd just teed up another ball when the group ahead waved to indicate it was in play. I couldn't capitalise and my chip was a little long (it was a blind shot mind) and I couldn't get up and down. The double at the second was due to incompetence on the green and three putts.

I managed to rally and made par courtesy of a chip and putt at the fifth and by the time I'd put my tee shot at the par 3 sixth to five feet and converted the birdie chance I was back level with my handicap. I dropped a silly shot at 8th but only needed a par at the 9th to be out in nett par. I wandered off eventually with a six (another double) thanks to an awful drive and a poor bunker shot.

Never mind I thought. A par at the next to regroup and consolidate and we'd back on track. I hit the fairway and all seemed fine. I hit a great second but turned it over a touch and it pitched in the trap. Another horror shot from the bunker only just got it out and I was back riding the double bogey train again. By the time I'd hit my bunker shot through the green at the 12th and out of bounds (and lost the ball into the bargain) there was no coming back to anywhere near a level par score and it was about damage limitation. Sadly there was precious little of that and I limped home in a nett 78 (+8) and took token satisfaction that I was leading my group at the halfway mark.

After a swift lunch break we were back out. My opening two bogies immediately put me two shots better of than the morning round and by the time I hit my tee shot at the 4th into the rough I was still ahead. The second into the 4th wasn't great and it landed just short of the bunker. There was a huge thud as I fatted the chip into the sandy stuff. I tried to be a smart arse with the escape and left it in the bunker and eventually racked up a 7. Plonker!

There was some good stuff including a great chip and putt at the fifth. I even found the green again at the 6th but decided things were going too well so three putted. I managed to make a par at the 8th but even though I was a shot better down the 9th I was still one shot higher than the morning round. Ironically the ball striking was so much better but the chipping (which I'd worked hard on the day before - what a waste of time that was) and the putting was rubbish.

When I got up and down for par at the 10th I thought nothing of it as there wasn't much left to play for. I hit the green and parred the next and chipped and putted for a par at the hardest hole on the course. I was pleased but it was too little too late in the bigger picture. However I was pleased to hit the green at the long par 3 13th for a par and sunk a great twelve footer for par at the next. I found the green in regulation and made two solid putts and I'd suddenly played the first six holes of the back nine in level par. Well hello!

I obviously scared myself and three putted the next for a messy double bogey to make sure the run exploded. However I managed to chip and putt the long, long 17th (218 yards) for another par and found the fairway with my last tee shot of the day. I hit my second right into thick rough. No problemo I thought. Just chip it out, knock it on and take a six and it would still be a personal best for the last nine holes. However my rescue shot hit one of the saplings and dived off into oblivion, never to be found again. After a penalty drop I chipped out for my fifth, found the green and managed to hole out for another double bogey which left a nasty taste in the mouth.

It was one of those days where I couldn't find any sort of consistency. However I was leased to find out my nett 71 (+1) was the fifth best score of the afternoon and that I finished 13th out of 33. I even managed to get a small cut for my efforts in the afternoon.

In the end there was no Fellini magic. However I do feel there are plenty of strong foundations to build upon and that I just need to find a way of keeping the short game simple and a repeatable technique for the bunkers. Still, onwards and upwards (or downwards for my handicap)

Total number of balls lost in 2010 = 65

Fellini Day

Anyone who is a fan of the Federico Fellini films will know about chance and coincidence. I had a real Fellini day on Saturday. I'd decided not to play in the roll up as it was tipping down and I had a 36 hole competition on Sunday in the Masters (invitational event open only to competition winners in the preceding twelve months).

I'd set out to Sand Martins late morning as they have a superior short game area to Ascot's and it was sunnier than when I'd got up (and saw it pouring down). I got halfway there and the heavens opened so I aborted and came back home, had some lunch and watched the Man Utd game instead. It was a cracking game for the neutral. Once the full time whistle blew I decided to give Sand Martins another and spent a happy hour working on my short game.

When the wife came to pick me up I had a few balls left. Her boss (my wife works at Sand Martins) was hitting on the range so she wandered over to talk to her. My wife's boss (are you still with me?) is the partner of Andrew Hall who owns Sand Martins and is also a top coach and is often featured in Golf International. Now I'm standing there doing my own thing and suddenly he wanders along and starts giving me a couple of tips. Cue a free one hour lesson and some simple but integral swing pointers to work on. Basically my swing problems seem to be path orientated and so he had me trying to hit fades to give myself the feeling of the club being more in front of me at impact.

Surely this was a sign and that his devine words of wisdom would pay off on Sunday in the Masters....

Thursday, 9 September 2010

New Taylormade Irons

As you might have gathered over our journey together, I am a bit of a magpie and get easily drawn to shiny new kit. Not necessarily to buy you understand but to at least try it for myself (and my blog readers) and see if the club matches the hype.

I'm pleased, very pleased, to announce that Taylormade have just launched their new version of the iconic Burner irons, the Burner 2.0. According to the launch video these are the most playable version yet (well they would say that) but are aimed at anyone from a 5-25 handicap. The longer irons have a higher kickpoint to get them airborne and are more forgiving and the shorter irons have been designed with a more compact head, less offset and smaller cavity for more control.

Here is a link to the gallery. http://www.taylormadegolf.com/burner/gallery.aspx

I've also got a few pictures to whet your appetite






These are being marketed as the longest Burner irons yet. Again they would say that as distance sells. Looking at the lofts though it's not hard to see why they go so far. A 45 degree wedge was an 8 iron not so many years ago. http://www.taylormadegolf.com/burner/specs.aspx

That said, I am a self-confessed Taylormade equipment whore so these are very exciting. I think they will be a lot better looking than previous Burner models but will never be as good as say the Mizuno forged clubs which are always sleek and sexy. They are due to be launched in October but I don't have a price yet. I'll be doing my best to source a demo version as quickly as I can as I can already hear my credit card calling!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Different Week - Same Old Story

I played in my regular Saturday morning "greedy" yesterday but had a bit of a shocker. However a lot of it was due to circumstances beyond my control. It was Ladies Captain's Day and so the ladies had the tee booked from 9.00 am until midday. As a result all the normal Saturday morning cliques all rushed to get off early. When I got to the club around 6.50am there were already hordes on the 1st tee and swarms gathering on the putting green. By the time we set out at around 8.30 the course was rammed. Unfortunately, some of the groups we usually avoid are notoriously slow and it took 4 1/2 hours to play a social three ball. I have to be honest and say that by the 11th my concentration was shot and I lost interest. It took so long between shots that when it was my turn to play I was so glad to have a chance to hit the bloody thing I just stepped up and whacked it. No pre-shot routine, very little thought, and zero enjoyment.

I struggled and didn't hit it great although my front nine was decent enough and I was level with my handicap although I should point out that I was enjoying a rare outing off the forward yellow tees. I did alright in patches but there was no rhythm and my tempo was off so the ball striking wasn't great. However I must say there were some that enjoyed themselves. The winner amongst our group, Anthony who plays off 26 managed to get a stonking 43 points and at the same time managed a personal best score. Well done to him, even if he didn't buy me a drink with his winnings!

I played with Budeley (otherwise known as Paul Sweetman) today. I hit the ball far better in terms of ball striking but had a really frustrating day. I kept putting myself in good positions and then missing the target with only short irons in my hand. It didn't start great with a great contact on the first shot of the day. Unfortunately I blocked it straight right and out of bounds. I ticked along nicely until the par 5 fifth. Standing 116 yards away facing my third shot I hit a horrid hook with just a nine iron in my hand. I then managed to turn a safe six (and two points) into a double bogey (and just a single pointer) with three putts from nowhere.

I had a nightmare down the next as we were let through by a fourball. You all know what it's like. You want to get cracking and so rush your shots. Suffice to say I left my first bunker shot in the trap and then hit the next too long. A chip and a putt for another double bogey. I was on the double bogey train at the next although the bare lie I had for my third didn't help. I did finish the first nine with two pars courtesy of a chip and a putt at both.

The back nine was steady and I was level with my handicap until the 15th where I lost a ball. I hit a good drive into the light rough on the right. I took out my 5 wood and hit it great but it just clipped the tree some twenty yards ahead. Neither Paul or I had a clue where the ricochet went and we never even heard it land. And so it continued. I hit a great 3 wood down the 6th and then hooked my second and duffed the chip (another double). Even on the last there was no respite. A good drive went slightly right and sat in some wet rough. Ever the optimist (ok I had a new 5 wood and wanted to hit it) I topped my shot some 50 yards. I stuck my next into a better position and left only 120 yards to the green. It should have been so easy. However being Homer I managed to put a rubbish swing on it and stuck it way right of the target and into the pond. Not a great finish but I did manage to beat Paul which meant he had to stump up for the tea and toast afterwards so it wasn't all bad.

I've had a week off and so I'm back to work tomorrow. Still with a dodgy forecast for most of the week 'm not too upset. I'll get some range time in as the swing is nearly there and then play in the roll up next Saturday. After that it's the Masters on Sunday. Thirty-six holes of medal golf. Still, it's only open to competition winners over the last twelve months so it'll be an elite field. I'm not overly optimistic as I seem to be building a reputation of flattering to deceive but we'll give it a go. Onwards and upwards (a bit like my handicap!)

Total number of balls lost in 2010 = 62

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Interesting? Just a Bit

I spent yesterday afternoon at at golf clinic hosted by Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomery which included a Q&A session as well. He started of by explaining how he sets up to play a shot, including the techniques he uses for moving and shaping a shot, his thought process and pre-shot routine. All pretty standard stuff at these sort of events.

However, it was the Ryder Cup that everyone was interested in and in particular the reason Paul Casey wasn't picked and Harrington was. The first thing of interest was that Monty expects Lee Westwood to be able to play all five rounds at the event. Given that Westwood is not due to start hitting balls following rehab from his injury until Monday it only gives him two weeks to find some decent form and prove his fitness. If Westwood doesn't make it, Casey will be drafted in. The reason Casey wasn't picked initially came down to one discussion between Montgomerie and his vice-captains over the winning putt and who they would want to be standing over a four footer to win the cup. Given his three major titles and reputation for being one of the best pressure putters around it was a deciding factor.

Monty also revealed that he thought Corey Pavin would pick Tiger Woods and probably the next three in the order of merit to make up his wildcard picks. He also said that he expects it to be a very tough match and that home advantage may be the deciding factor.

When pressed on his own future he said that he really wants to get back to playing on tour next season without any distractions. I asked if he had any plans to join the senior tour in three years time. He said no, definitely not as he has had enough of the hassle of travelling. He is exempt until 2015 when he'll be 52 and reckons he'll call it a day when he reaches that age if not before.

Also, there is a protocol that if any member of either side is injured or ill and can't play the singles tie on Sunday that the captain has a name in a sealed envelope with the player he wishes to pull out from his own side. Monty revealed that he won't even be telling his vice-captain's who he plans to pick and has said he wants the envelope returned to him unopened if it isn't required so he can personally destroy it so that the name of the golfer he in essence doesn't think can win his match is never revealed.

So, all in all a very revealing day. It's certainly whetted my appetite for the Ryder Cup even more and I can't wait for it to start. I'm praying Westwood will make it through as I can see him being a lynchpin for the team although I also think if there was any doubts, Monty would know by now.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Monty and Progress

I'm off to Silvermere Golf Club in Cobham tomorrow to watch Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomery give a clinic. Having digested his recent wildcard picks and rumours regarding his personal life the braveheart inside me is tempted to ask him about both. The pragmatic in me recognises that an ejection by security will not be pretty and it's probably wiser to keep my counsel.

I have to say I agree with two of his picks in Molinari and Harrington. I think Molinari was always going to get in after his performance in Scotland over the weekend. Harrington despite a modest (shocking actually) record in the Ryder Cup is still a master of the short game. Given that it's matchplay and so he can afford to have the odd bad hole I think he'll get right under the Americans skin with his gritty perseverance. For the other pick, I'd have taken Justin Rose, a two time winner in America this year and in my mind a perfect foil for Ian Poulter. I'm not sure of the schedule tomorrow and whether it is a full clinic, short game session or an instructional clinic for the Yonex competition winners. Either way I'm sure it'll be interesting. It usually is when Monty is around. Mind you I'll be having words. There I was on Sunday, mobile switched on and waiting, the home phone plugged in and the PC ready to receive e-mails. Everything was set. Did he call? Did he offer me a wildcard based on my fighting round on Sunday morning. No. Spurned again!

I was out on the practice ground tonight working on my pitching, bunker play and chipping. I had a bit of a lightbulb moment after watching an old Golf Monthly instructional CD and have recognised a few basic errors creeping back into the chipping in particular. The section on bunker play has also helped and I was starting to see some real progress. I have been chipping a little better of late but there are still the odd fat, chunky duff or the thinned scuttler through the green lurking in there. It is all a bit nervy still especially in a competition and nothing feels natural and flowing.

I'm off for lunch with the wife tomorrow but think I'll try and sneak a cheeky range session in tomorrow morning just to keep the long game going as it was much improved on Sunday. Then it's just a slow drive back down the A3 to watch Monty do his thing. Life in Homer's golfing world is pretty good right now.