Sunday, 28 February 2010

Reflections

I was at the club earlier watching the 18th green slowly submerge under the torrent of rain and was mulling over where I'm at to date whilst waiting for my full English to be served.

I've got some shiny new sticks which is always nice and gear wise I'm pretty settled which is good. I'm confident with all my clubs in the bag. In terms of Homer's odyssey it's been slow progress. I was really smoking the ball at the beginning of the year but the snow that came put everything on hold and I've never really recaptured the swing I had then. In fact, truth be told, I went backwards and its only now that I'm starting to feel like it's coming back a little bit in terms of the full swing. My short game is still in hibernation.

Competitively I've only managed two rounds so far. My 2nd place in my division in the January stableford was a pleasant confidence boost especially as I only had 14 points going out. I didn't actually strike the ball particularly well but I managed to make a lot of putts. I only had 31 putts for the round and a 33% par save figure tells its own story. A lot of missed greens but managed to get it up and down.

Ironically in my other competitive round I only scored 25 points and on the front nine in particular hit the ball much, much better. However I missed some greens and on the day the short game wasn't there and although I only had two more putts, my par save percentage was a lowly 19%. It just goes to prove that a good ball striking day doesn't mean a good scoring one.

So what about the new tougher Homer. Well he's there near the surface and was definitely on show for the first competition. I'd normally be a little hard on myself after the first nine with only 14 points but more for the way I was playing but I really ground a result out. Even in the other round where it would have been easy to let the head drop I kept trying and had total faith in my new swing changes..

So what have I learned to date? There are a number of issues that need urgent attention and in particular my chipping. My teaching pro should be back to full fitness following knee surgery and so treatment for my ailing short game is at hand next weekend. My range swing and my course game aren't one and the same thing. I'm actually swinging better on the course, which is where it actually matters, but I'm not practicing well and getting way to caught up in trying to replicate technically correct swings as opposed to grooving something repetitive and functional. It may be a case of over egging the pudding practice wise. I'm going to the range this week to break my new irons in but after that I'm thinking of one range session per week to just keep the swing ticking over until the lighter nights. From there it'll be all about shots from inside 120 yards, chipping and putting. These are the keys to shave the shots off I need to reach single figure nirvana.

I've now got a decent partner since my good mate Hywel Lloyd has joined me at Royal Ascot. He's currently off 17 but exceptional value for that and can play much lower and will undoubtedly be single figures before the end of the Summer. We are playing well as a team and have entered a number of the team events in the competitive calender. I was focussing on winning from purely a personal perspective but my 2010 challenge has widened now and we'll see how well our partnership performs.

All in all it hasn't really been the start to the year I wanted, primarily from meterological interference. However it's March tomorrow and the clocks change at the end of the month. Hopefully the course will dry out and reopen soon and I can get down to some serious playing.

Weapons of grass destruction

I've acquired a shiny new set of clubs this week. Having had my heart set on them last year and failing to hit them well at a demo day they were well and truely put on the back burner. However with my recent swing changes starting to show signs of gelling I've taken the plunge. My new weapons of choice are the Taylormade Tour Preferred irons. I've gone for 4-PW with regular R300 shafts.


They aren't the latest offerings out there but I really like the smaller head and thinner top line. They have been bought as an experiment but I got a really, really good deal on them so if the plan doesn't work out I still have my R9's to fall back on and I'll more than cover my outlay if I sell them.

I managed to get out for nine holes yesterday (front nine at Royal Ascot) and broke them in. I actually hit them pretty well especially the PW. I've only used it twice and hit the green with the first shot (to about 15 feet) and then chipped in from off the front of the 9th. With the exception of one poor tee shot at the 6th I struck the ball really well and my short game in particular was pretty sharp. I've had to take the new clubs into the pro to be regripped as they are fractionally too thin for me but once I pick them up midweek I'll be off to the range on a getting to know you session.

I think the bag is more or less set now. I am looking at getting some new shoes (my real weakness) and have my eyes on some black and white Footjoys. I'm also tempted to get jiggy with the Myjoy site where you can design your own Footjoy shoes. I fancy a snazzy pair of black patents. I'm also keeping a beady eye out for the new season golfing shirts too so I can update my wardrobe. I've seen some very trendy looking Footjoy shirts that I'm keen on but may wait and see what Adidas come out with. Vain. Moi?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

It's all in the timing

Started thinking about this blog this morning while sitting in my favourite chair in the 19th with a nice warm latte and watching the parade of umbrellas stretch into the distance down the 2nd. It was suppose to be our 4ball better ball today and I was due out at 9.50am. By the time I was ready to leave the house at 8.30 it was already throwing it down and the sky looked more grim than the face Tiger Woods mother had during his choreographed plea for abosolution.

By the time the froth had gone from the coffee, the 18th was already flooding and the thought of leaving the sanctuary of the clubhouse for four hours as a mudlark was not enticing. However salvation was forthcoming as the greenstaff fired off the klaxon to suspend play about 9.30. Our resident RAF weather expert, ex captain and former secretary Norman Barker had been tracking the deluge on the fly boys internet site and predicted it would blow over by 10.00 and was trying to just get a suspension (it actually stopped at 10.16). However the greens were actually still frozen under the surface and the water had nowhere to go.

I must admit to a machiavellian chuckle as I watched the beaten and bedraggled trudge back towards sanctuary. A quick chat between Captain and greenkeeper and the event was postponed until next Sunday and it was totally the right decision. Well I would say that, warm and dry and just finishing the remainder of my coffee.

Actually I was really up for today. It was the first pairs event my mate Hywel and I were playing in since he joined me at Royal Ascot. We played yesterday and although all the greens were on temporary's and the course was very, very wet in places we were both hitting it well especially Hywel with his new Nike driver. He actually bombed one down the 16th which was about 280 yards and plugged on landing. That's just rude. I was my normal up and down self but was making much better contact with all my shots and even the dodgy short game was in temporary rehab.

It seems this blog is getting a bit of a following and I'd like to thank everyone who's been on here and read the ramblings of a golfing idiot, particularly the Royal Ascot members (pass it on) and those who've taken the trouble to become a follower. It is a little disconcerting when random pros or strangers approach you at the range and want to chat to you about it but I hope you'll continue to chart my progress as 2010 heads towards sunnier and warmer weather. I'm off now to unpack my waterproofs (unused) and watch the final of the Accenture. It's good to see the biblical deluge we endured today can even happen in the Arizona desert but what I want to know is where were the teams with mops to keep our greens playable?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Another weekend of progress and regression

Will I ever learn. As the title says, there are some positives from my golf this weekend, particularly playing yesterday at Royal Ascot with Hywel Lloyd, my long suffering partner. Go down the range today to build on the progress I've been making and WHAM, an old fault of sliding the hips and not turning pops up. It's one of those that for me is a real killer as a lack of proper turn costs yards and as a short hitter I need all the distance I can get. It's also one that I find hard to rectify and so will need to spend a few evenings at the range this week with a ball on a low tee and making slow motion swings and focussing on turning, weight inside the right foot and then releasing through. I should have realised sooner as I could tell the left knee had become way to active and collapsing right which is a sign in my swing that I'm not making a good turn.

At least I hit the ball ok yesterday. Scoring still not great but managed to avenge Hywel's win last week and did him 2&1. We were practicing for the club four ball better ball event next weekend and we've found one huge flaw in our partnership and it's something we did at Captain's Day last year (Hywel was at Leatherhead GC then and played as my guest) where if we are going to play a hole badly, we both do it. Not what you want in a team event.

On the plus side I drove the ball better apart from one horror on the 14th where I carved it over the far side of the 13th (although it does still give a line towards the green). My putting wasn't as hot as normal despite a sand save from ten feet on the first and the short game is still in meltdown despite my midweek lesson. It's my mid irons though that are the real problem and I'm just not getting any power or accuracy with them. Still I got a text from my teaching pro who has been given the green light after knee surgery to start lessons from March 1st. I'll be first in the queue as he rescued my chipping and putting last year and so can work his magic again.

I feel that I'm constantly making a step forward and then two back at the moment. Hywel didn't play too great either (we were 8 over as a better ball) although he was hitting well on Friday. Maybe I'm dragging him down to my level. I'm trying to stay positive and think:

1) It's still winter golf - cold and playing with several layers on. The ground is wet and there's cold air so the ball won't travel as far.
2) I'm in the process of making some fundamental swing changes in terms of posture and turn and these will take time to become second nature.
3) My short game woes may be more mental than technical now but salvation is on the horizon
4) Better to go backwards now rather than when the big events are being played.

Oh well at least there is the golf on the TV to look at. Some of these "celebrities" at the AT&T swing much worse than I do so there is still hope.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 6

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Chipping Away

Just back from a chipping lesson which will hopefully invigorate my ailing short game. In essence the ball position had gone way too far back, my address with my shoulders was closed and I wasn't keeping the weight forward. Apart from that it wasn't in bad shape.

I've a new posture and moved the ball to a much better position but I'm still struggling to get rid of the tendency to get the weight moving back (almost wanting to scoop it) but I've a couple of drills which should help. I spent about thirty minutes working on it afterwards with mixed results. It's still a work in transition and I'm not how much was down to the wet conditions and the freezing cold not letting me focus on what I was trying to do.

I went to a local driving range called Lavender Park in Ascot as they were recommended by a member of my club. It was reasonably priced at £22.50 for 45 minutes but I'm not sure the pro has really cured me and I certainly didn't get all of what he was trying to get over to me. It should be enough to give me something to work on until my usual teaching pro recovers from his surgery and can only lift my short game from its current depths.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Patience Required

Well another golfing weekend draws to a close and the first time my new set up has been out on the course as opposed to the sanctuary of the range. I played a friendly game yesterday with my good mate Hywel, who's recently come over to Ascot. Neither of us played great and I found it hard in particular to trust the new swing and better turn and so was hitting poor shots especially on the opening few holes. It started to click in places but a truely shocking short game and an inability to gauge the speed of the greens (pretty quick actually) meant he turned me over 4&3. Still he's Welsh so I had the last laugh after the rugby.

Monthly stableford today and a much more civilised start time of 9.20 having been first out in the last event. I felt good warming up and so stood on the first tee in confident mood. A 3 wood later and I everything in the world seemed rosy as I stuck it on the middle of the green. Mind you, after all these years playing you'd have thought I'd have known I was heading for a fall. 3 putts later.........

Hit the ball well down the 2nd until I put my approach in a bunker. Hit an aggressive shot to a back flag and overcooked it into the back trap and eventually walked off with a double. The pattern continued. I was striking it really well and had a great tempo and total belief in the new set up and turn but couldn't convert ball striking into a score. Three putts on the 5th and a duffed chip on 6 didn't help. Made a good up and down on 7 and then hit a beautiful 6 iron on the par 3 8th but just drew it left of the green. Another duffed chip and three putts. I was stoked and blasted one way down the ninth to only leave a 6 iron at the 400 yard hole. Hit it great but it came up short. Made bogey to go out in a paltry 12 points.

The back nine did offer some crumbs of comfort, at least initally. Another great drive down the 10th was follwed by a fat approach. Can you see a pattern yet? Hit a beautiful hybrid at the next and it was only a yard or so right but caught the trap. I managed to make a couple of good up and downs at 12 and 13 and my first wayward drive of the day at the 14th meant I had to play safe and make a 5 (net 4). Although the wheels had come off in terms of points, my day was complete when I lost a ball down the next. Hitting from the light rough, we all saw it clear the ditch, bounce far side of the fairway and finish near the 100 yard marker albeit in the rough. Could we find it?

Scrambled a 5 (net 4) at the next after hitting a rubbish drive way right and then managing to miss the green with my third from 100 yards. Quality wedge work. Hit another sweet drive down the long 218 yard 17th pin high and my short game decided to go on holiday to walk away with no points. To cap it all I then hit the worse shot of the day off the last straight right OB and didn't trouble the scorer. A grand total of 25 points.

It sounds like a horror show but it really wasn't. My approach shots were largely to blame and given the wet conditions I should have been hitting one more club. However I can live with missing greens as long as I give myself a chance to chip and putt but when I'm duffing them a yard in front of me or scuttling them over the back it drains the confidence. Another 0.1 back and I'm in grave danger of going back to 12 (now 11.4).

Hywel was playing his first competition today at Ascot and he matched my front nine score. However he must have blitzed the back nine as he came home in 23 points. I hope he has broad shoulders as he'll be carrying me in the four ball better ball on the 21st.

So what was the prognosis from the weekend. The set up is better and I have more room to turn which we like. I'm getting a much better strike and hitting a lot more straight shots. We are liking this too. My chipping is woefully weak and needs addressing urgently. The new grittier Homer needs some work as my head still dropped especially after the lost ball fiasco on the 15th. All in all though there are definite signs of improvement and it is still early season so more positives than negatives.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 5

Saturday, 6 February 2010

My Swing

It's dawned on me that I've done a lot of talking about my swing, what I'm working on and what needs to improve. However, many, sorry most, of you won't have a clue what it looks like let alone whether it is getting better. I went to the range last night to work on the stuff from my lesson on Tuesday and finally it is starting to click into place. Here are a couple of swings with a six iron and a driver. A few people have commented over on the Golf Monthly Forum but please feel free to add any comments or thoughts you have.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elBuVwHzEMQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jwy-K0By1MI

There has definitely been an improvement in in the swing  I'm turning much better and on a more solid base and with the better posture have more room to work in. Hope you like the footage and feel free to speak your mind

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Whoosh

I had a golf lesson tonight with a different teacher as my regular teaching pro is recovering from knee surgery. The guy has seen me at the range and knows what I've been working on so it wasn't like starting from scratch. The major change tonight was in my posture. He filmed my swing and it was clear that I had become very stooped at address and so wasn't giving myself any chance to make a proper turn on a regular basis. He has got me standing much, much taller and with the club actually feeling like its way out in front of me. In fact all he has done was straighten it up so that the bottom of the toe was on the ground and you could only slide a 2p coin into the gap between toe and ground and not the cash mountain the gap I had would have allowed.

From this starting position its much easier to make a wide and full turn. Which brings me onto the next problem - tempo. It was great rehearsing the swing and even hitting off a tee but put a white ball on the mat and there was an irrational fear of having to get it over with. As a result my swing was breaking the sound barrier and a good turn, smooth transition and solid contact was impossible. I guess it's a trust thing. Ball on tee and slow motion swing and I can do it. Ball on mat and it goes to every compass point except straight.

So what did I learn? Well I need to be focussing more on the posture and that I need to rehearse the swing and break it down into slow motion pieces to get the feeling of where the club is going. I need to stay "in" the shot and not come up onto my toes through impact.

I have to say it was a different experience tonight. This guy was a lot more about the why and getting into position whereas my usual teach is more about placing me into the right place as I take the club back and through. Which way will work time will tell. I am happy I understand what he has shown me so I guess it back to hitting off a tee to start with until I can be trusted to swing at a reasonable speed. Good job there are no speed cameras at the range

Competition Time

There's been a huge amount of interest in my little competition. Just guess how many golf balls I'll lose in 2010 (all rounds count) and win a dozen premium golf balls of your choice. You have until the end of March to register and can change your mind as often as you like until the closing date. Comment below and leave your guess. Why not become a follower and keep right up to date with my progress as well as regular spot prizes on offer each month.

Go on, have a punt. What you got to lose?