Sunday, 25 July 2010

Captain's Day (Available for Hire)

Played in the morning section of Captain's Day yesterday. It was a shotgun start at 8.00am and I was lucky enough to be starting at the third which isn't the hardest hole out there and in reasonable proximity to the clubhouse. I was partnered with a guy called Len Griffith-Swain who I'd never met (or seen at the club) before and Steve Downey with whom I'd played a medal not so long ago. Standing around waiting for the signal to start, Len told me he had only played about a dozen times so far in 2010. It certainly didn't show as he proceeded to effortlessly spank his first drive down towards the 100 yard marker.

It continued in a similar vein throughout. Both Len and Steve were playing some good golf and racking up pars (net birdies) with ease. I meanwhile was having my usual mixture of good ball striking and huge mistakes. I was in the greenside bunker for three at the par 5 fifth and walked off with a seven having thinned the sand shot into thick rough some twenty yards over the green, pitched back into sand and making a single putt to salvage a point. It wasn't a lone example!

The highlight of the day for me came at the 9th where I managed to find a good drive and my hybrid approach found the left edge of the green. Sadly the flag was situated directly across the green. I had a big left to right breaker and in all honesty was trying to lag it close but it rolled in for a much needed birdie. It was the same old story of just about getting back on track and then throwing in a bad hole to put me out of kilter.

In the end I signed for 34 points which was never going to threaten either the morning starters or those playing in the afternoon. It was eventually good for 31st spot. However for a man that hadn't played much by his own admission, Len had a blinder and scored 41 points (including a blow-out on the 18th). He was leading when I left and it turned out he won it overall and claimed the Henry Cotton Cup (named after the famous golfer who has connections with the club). Steve too had a great morning and carded 39 points and finished 3rd. This isn't the first time this has happened and it seems that a number of players are doing well whenever I am marking their card. I'm not sure if it's my friendly persona, my yo-yo performances making them try harder or fate but I'm thinking about charging for my card marking services.

I went to Sand Martins this morning and ended up hitting the ball pretty well and much better off the tee. I hesitate to say I've found something that works or clicked but I was driving it pretty well and my irons were much crisper. I spent an hour on the short game too and that is also showing some promising signs. With the club championship coming up this weekend I'm going to get out and play as much as I can and not worry too much about technique. Even if I hack it I'll know what my poor shot is and can devise a strategy to get it round somehow. There is a halfway cut after the 1st round on Saturday and to be honest the aim this year is to actually get to peg it up on Sunday.

I did receive some disappointing news that my mate Hywel may well be moving back to the Leatherhead area and so won't be playing at Ascot anymore. I'm not sure what that means in terms of a partner for the Winter and beyond as most members seem to have regular partners. Perhaps once I let everyone know that playing with me is good for a top three finish I'll be inundated with offers.

We'll see.....

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 54

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Chipping and a Game of Two Halves

I had a chipping lesson with Steve Cox, the professional at Sand Martins on Sunday afternoon. It was pre-booked and given that the British Open had turned into a procession it didn't seem as if I was missing out on much. My chipping had regressed recently and Steve was able to confirm what I sort of knew about set up being wrong and the ball position being too far forward. He also wanted me to focus on more of a body turn for any length of chip to prevent me getting too flicky with the hands and arms. Think of it a a mini golf shot.

I struggled initially to get the concept especially the need to rotate the body but we persevered and eventually we reached a eureka moment. We even had enough time to wander over to the bunker and work on my sand skills. Again we changed the set up a little to let the bounce of the club do the work. Like a good boy I stayed behind and worked on it for an hour or so and feel as though it has come back together.

I played 18 holes last night and just met up with a couple of guys on the 3rd. I hit the ball pretty well but unlike Saturday couldn't post the scores. Where I was missing greens, I was chipping as per the lesson to good effect but the putter was stone cold and I couldn't buy a putt all night. I managed to hit another horror drive down nine almost as far right as Saturday and in the next greenside bunker along on 18. This time I got it out much better and made a 5 but this is beginning to play on my mind. I've not hit a great drive there for ages despite the width of the fairway. Something needs to change for Captains Day on Saturday.

Anyway, I put that behind me and was determined to carry on as I had been playing now we were on the back nine. Cue another sliced drive down 10 for the second round in a row and a double bogey. I made a great sand save at the next and then had a horrible 7 at the 12th with a bad drive and eventually a lost ball when I hooked my 3rd into the rough left of the green. I hit the green with the next and two putted. I hit a sublime 4 iron at the 13th for an easy par and was adequate until I hit a snap hook off the 16th tee out of bounds. I compounded it by doing the same on 17 and by the time I hit what should have been an easy 9 iron approach into the pond on 18 I was thoroughly cheesed off with my game.

I'm not sure what the problem is but everything is low and drawing (hooking) left. I think it might be a ball position issue so I'm off to the range on Thursday and Friday to look for the secret before Captains Day. I'm out in the morning, shotgun start, off the 3rd so not too bad a draw. I've no idea who the two guys I'm playing with are (don't even recognise the names) but it would be nice to put up a decent showing in such a big event even if I don't get to win.

It's frustrating again, as it has been almost all of the season. It's just there within touching distance. I can smell that good round but it's not quite there for me. I think it will come and when it clicks there is a very low score waiting to be made. We'll see if the optimism is still there after the range tomorrow.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 54

Stopped By A Snowman in Summer

Played in the monthly medal on Saturday with former captain Geoff Estcourt and single figure player Steve Houghton. Both are great bloke and pretty steady golfers so I knew it would be an enjoyable game. I have to be honest and say I had been hitting it pretty well in practice and there was a glimmer of anticipation ahead of the 1st tee.

I started off reasonably with a opening 4 (net par) having gone in a greenside bunker off the tee and made a solid par at the 2nd despite a horrible hooked drive that barely cleared the ditch some 150 yards off the tee. It continued in a similar vein, not hitting it great but fashioning a score until the 6th. Another poor tee shot went right and out of bounds. The mandatory reload went left of the green but a great up and down limited the damage to a double bogey.

Standing on the ninth tee I knew that a bogey five would see me out level to my handicap. Its not a long hole, only 400 yards but does play directly into the prevailing wind. Even so, a half decent drive, reasonable second and an approach on with two putts to follow and happy days. And that is where the happiness ended. I hit a huge slice that ended up in a greenside bunker left of the 18th green. Despite that I had a stance and a shot. I figured a 7 iron would clear the ditch that crosses the hole and leave a simple shot in. Not too aggressive and a sound strategy. I hit it well too but somehow managed to hook it left (how can you hook a bunker shot?) and it ended up unplayable on the edge of a pond. A drop, fat shot, duffed pitch and finally on for 6. Two putts later I carded a snowman (8) to go out in 44 (+9 gross and three over my handicap).

I dug in as I said I would at the very start of this blog determined to grind as good a score out as possible. I focused on making the buffer zone and protecting my handicap cut from the previous week. I hit another dreadful drive at 10 into the thick clag on the right and had to hack it out. I managed to miss the green with my third but chipped and putted to salvage a net par. I hit the green at the par 3 for a par and it seemed I had steadied the ship. All was going well until the 15th where I hit the fairway and proceeded to hit my second into heavy rough under no pressure at all. I could only hack it out and another shot was frittered away with ease.

By the time I stood on the 18th tee I couldn't make the buffer zone but a par would see me play the back nine in only one over my handicap which would have been acceptable given the quality of my driving and general ball striking. However yet another sliced drive looked as though it had gone out of bounds again but when I got to it, the ball was in play by inches but with a barbed wire fence impeding the swing. I stabbed it forward before hitting a fairway wood into a reasonable position. I then decided to hit a huge pull with only a 9 iron in my hand and into the same greenside bunker I was in playing the 9th (good job I'd raked it properly). I got it out and two putted for a 7 and a final nett 76 (+6). All in all that was only good enough for 12th place in division 2 and no more than I deserved.

I'm not sure what happened other than a sublime mixture of reasonable scoring (not good striking) with the odd horror. I must mention poor old Steve though. As usual he was his normal steady self and standing on 18 had a good chance to post a net 70 (level) and be in with an outside squeak of a top 3. By the end of the 531 yards he was signing for a 10. It was a real shame and came from nowhere so I guess it just shows that in a medal it ain't over until you've made the last putt.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


What happened to Summer? Last week it was tropical and this week squally showers and strong wind. It's made playing and practicing a bit of a mockery. I wanted to really work on my game this week as my friendly game with Paul Sweetman, a fellow Ascot member, 12 handicapper and a real steady player, was a bit of a disaster last Sunday.

It was one of those days when the timing was out and the swing was either too quick or I was too precise and it lacked cohesion. Suffice to say it was a bit of  a chop although I did manage to hit the par 5 fifth hole in two for the first time ever and watched the eagle putt shave the hole (I got the one back for birdie). I did get to the range (Maidenhead Golf Centre) last night and in patches the irons were great but there seems to be a bit of an issue with the big dog.

I was working on the tempo in particular. I use Tour Tempo which is basically beats set to music in a 3:1 ratio where the backswing is three times slower than the downswing. I have the tunes downloaded onto my i-pod and so set it going and swing. The trick is to actually listen for each beat and not to pre-empt it and swing too fast and it does take some getting use to. It has certainly got me swinging much, much slower than I use to but still work to be done. Here is a sample of how it sounds.

It was the start of the Open today and good to see my favourite player Lee Westwood get off to a good start in some of the poorest conditions. His game looks solid and my Homer prediction is for him to break his duck this week and walk away with the Claret Jug. If he doesn't (and I've £10 riding on him) then I'd like to see Poulter do well but sadly he didn't really take advantage of the benign conditions. It was great to see McIlroy set the lowest score but I'm concerned that despite his win in the US at Quail Hollow, that he will be able to handle the pressure and keep it going. He'll definitely win majors but I wonder if this is still a year or so too soon.

I'm definitely going to hit some balls tomorrow night as it's the medal on Saturday. I'm off at 8.40am alongside an ex-captain Geoff Estcourt and single figure golfer Steve Houghton. Lofty company. I had been in decent form but it seems to be tailing off, certainly if last Sunday was anything to go by. Still, I'll go in with no expectations and trying to play with more freedom and less thinking as I have done of late. It seems to be helping. I've a short game lesson booked for Sunday at Sand Martins (where the wife works) with the pro Steve Cox. He was the guy that stopped my outbreak of the shanks and got me into this rich vein of form I'd been enjoying. I'm hoping his chipping MOT will help get my game back on track as we head towards two of the most important days in the calendar, Captains Day (24th July) and the first round of the Club Championship the week after.

Right I'm off to put the I-pod in the bag for tomorrows practice. Back two three. Down two three!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Vexing at Wexham

I played Wexham Park on Wednesday. I've never played it before and to be honest I wasn't looking forward to it after hearing numerous horror stories about the state of the course and the some of the people they let on to play. I was playing with a guy called Jason Ward off the Golf Monthly Forum who had just joined Wexham as a member and Hywel Lloyd my regular sparring partner came along as well.

It's set just outside Slough and adjacent to Wexham Park Hospital and to be fair it only cost £17 with a member so even if it was going to be a goat track it hadn't broken the bank. The first thing you notice is the length. It is only 5,251 yards off the whites and only has two par 5's. Some of the par 4's look like they are in range but looks can be deceiving.

Like a lot of courses, Wexham is screaming out for some rain and the ball is running and running and so it played even shorter than the card. However, the greens, bearing in mind it is a busy pay and play, are in very good order. They hold a shot and are pretty slick to putt on. The 1st is a simple enough par 4 measuring 367 yards with out of bounds (the driving range) down the right. I hooked my drive across the 18th but still only had 134 yards into the green but despite pitching it short it ran over and I started with a 5. I hit my tee shot at the par 3 2nd OB into the range and ran up a six so not a great start. I hit the fairway at the 325 yard 3rd and played a great wedge into about 10 feet. I hadn't had much chance to gauge the greens and ran the birdie putt at least 5 feet past and missed the return. DOH!

I made a good birdie at the 491 yard par 5 but at the next the scorecard said 133 yards. I teed the ball up and took aim. I missed the green left but it wasn't until Jason teed it up that I even saw there was another green about twenty yards further left which was the intended target. I never even saw it! I managed to chip and two putt and moved on very red faced.

The thing that protects the course is that if you want to take the greens on, the holes don't run straight and are protected by trees, ditches and ponds. It is very much a strategic course where plotting your way round even if that means using mid irons off the tee to leave a short approach will yield better scores than trying to blast it into submission.

I played the last four holes of the front nine in one over gross thanks to following the tactical approach. The 10th is a longish par 3 of 198 yards and I carved my drive right amongst the fir trees. I hacked to the front of the green and chipped on. This green is the hardest on the course. Severely contoured it is very slick and I three putted with consummate ease as did my playing partners. The greenstaff could have endless fun with the flag placement and I can imagine it is a bit of a card wrecker in medals.

I managed to birdie the par 4 eleventh with another good wedge to ten feet and a solid putt. After that it was a mixture of pars and bogey's until I carved my tee shot into oblivion at the 16th. I did hit the green at the penultimate hole and hit a good 3 wood off the last which pulled up from the ditch crossing the fairway at 237 yards by a foot or so. It left me a 5 iron in as it plays uphill and I hit a great shot with a hint of draw into the heart of the green and two putted.

None of us had set the course alight but it had been an enjoyable round in hot and humid conditions. I have to be brutally honest and say it was fine to play as a one-off but I think I'd be very bored if I played it on a regular basis. It has great greens though. It isn't a pushover and is probably value for money but I won't be rushing back.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 51

Monday, 5 July 2010

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Having written about how my game has risen from the murky depths over the last few days, I think it's only fair to pay tribute to Steve Cox, one of the teaching pros at Sand Martins. I'm lucky in that my lovely wife works there and as the two teaching pros I usually go to were fully booked she was able to persuade Steve to step into the breach and try and banish my attack of the shanks.

He squeezed me into his packed teaching schedule and although it was a single 45 minute lesson but he spent the time to watch, video and explain my swing and its faults and to give me a couple of simple but effective things to remember and work on. The swing is still a little way from where I want it but my golf has come back and the game is enjoyable once more. The problem with a dose of the shanks is that it's like Russian roulette. You stand over every shot and can never be 100% certain whether it will go roughly where you want it to or fly straight right into the jungle. It saps your confidence and your belief.

I'm not usually one for plugging too much on here, but as the title says, credit where credit is due. If you are ever in the Berkshire area and your game is in need of a fix, then give Steve a shout. It'll be money well spent.

Not Satisifed In The Slightest

When I started this blog, one of the aims for this year was to develop a more ruthless streak. I was fed up of clapping politely as someone else wandered up to collect a prize that deep down I knew should have been mine.

There has been some vast improvement in terms of grinding the best score possible out of a round but sadly, I let all the blog followers, the casual reader of my tome, and myself down yesterday. Although I didn't hit the ball nearly as well as I had over the course of my four rounds on Friday, I still had a creditable score on the front nine in yesterdays monthly stableford and to be quite honest it was there for the taking. In the end, I hit three bad shots on the inward nine. I still played level handicap golf coming home and scored 37 points in total to get a small handicap cut, but I lost on countback to Dave Wild. He's a thoroughly decent bloke and a steady single figure player so all credit to him for playing so well. A lot of people have said I should be enjoying a decent run of form, especially after all that has gone before and the recent dose of the shanks in particular but I can't see it.

The round didn't get off to a good start. I hit the right hand greenside bunker off the first tee. Not a problem usually but managed to pick it cleanly off the sand and it sailed straight over the green into another bunker. A repeat performance had me back in the original trap (good job I had raked it properly). I got it out and holed the putt from ten feet to salvage a point. When I hit my second shot on the next into the bunker short and left and had to stand outside the trap to play the shot the signs weren't good. A great pitch and another ten footer salvaged par.

Something happened. Something wondrous and I went on a run of form I hadn't seen for months and for a few holes my golfing clouds cleared. I parred the third and made birdie at the fourth which I notoriously struggle to play well in competitions despite only being 320 yards in length. I hit a great pitch and left an eight footer uphill that dropped with the last revolution of the ball. I made a par at the 5th and hit a hybrid into the 6th with everything in the tank and only just got onto the putting surface as it played straight into a freshening wind. Another par.

Standing on the 7th, I decided to take a hybrid as it was downwind. To be honest it was a dreadful swing and hooked towards the 3rd fairway. When I got to it, it was in one of the bunkers on the 3rd and all I could do was play out and leave myself a long shot in. I played the approach brilliantly and it drew and ran, but was too strong and went over the back. I could only chip and two putt for one point. A missed green at the 8th led to another single point hole and a terrible chip from pin high at the 9th meant I made a nett par when it could have been better. Still I'd managed to rack up 19 points so things were still rosy.

I hit a great drive down 10 under the watchful gaze of club pro Ali White. My 52 degree wedge to about six feet set up a birdie chance and I converted. Happy days. I got up and down from long and left on the next and suddenly I was flying. However I was pulled up in my tracks. I took a three wood off the 12th as I have recently been hitting it too long and running out of fairway and into the thick rough. It was a tactic that had served me well on Friday and being downwind I was cautiously optimistic. I caught it flush and so was surprised when I got to it and it was under the trees lining the right of the hole. My approach missed the green but I made a nett par. However disaster was about to strike.

Standing on the 13th tee, it was playing into the wind and the flag was at the front of the 186 yard par 3. I opted for the hybrid which had served me well previously. However on this occasion I hit a huge hook and the ball veered left towards tall and thick ferns never to be seen again. No points.

Girding my loins, I hit a huge drive (wind assisted) and only had an 8 iron into the green at the next. The putt was downhill and left to right from about twelve feet and to be honest I was happy to cosy it to the hole. A solid par at the next and things were still on track and we had coped with the bad hole. I had opted for a 3 wood off the 16th as it downwind and I was confident I wouldn't hook it left and out of bounds. I hit a beauty. And then the problems started. My GPS was saying it was 174 to the centre and 161 to the front. I wanted to hit a 7 iron but was worried it would bounce short and run through. I opted to hit an 8 figuring that even if it came up short I'd chip and two putt for my nett par. All this indecision meant I put a very quick and snatchy swing on the shot and pulled it left into the bunker some twenty yards short. When I got to it the ball had run to the back of the bunker and I couldn't get one foot let alone two in there to give me a solid base. In the end I had to stand outside and squat right down. I got it out but nowhere near the green. I salvaged a point but it was really a missed opportunity.

I could only make a four at the 17th after missing the green left at this long par 3. I had mentally worked out my score which is never recommended and knew that a par five at the last would give me 38 points. With the course running fast, the rough being penal and the wind freshening I reckoned that might be good for second or third. I hit a good 3 wood and my 5 wood second left 94 yards to the flag with the wind into and from the right. I then made the final mistake of the round. Standing over the shot, I was conscious of the pond right and the fact that the lie was bare where the fairway was parched. Instead of swinging freely as I should have done I tried to be too precise. I didn't accelerate through impact and the club skidded on the hard ground. It was short of power and heading right. As I wandered around the pond it wasn't in sight and my heart sank. Fortunately it had held up and was dry but I didn't chip it close enough to give me a realistic par chance.

And that was that. I knew there would be a small handicap cut for getting 37 points but assumed that it would be at least two or three short of being a winning score. You can imagine the frustration then when I checked the results last night and saw that I'd lost on countback. In truth it was the tee shot on 13, the second at 16 and the approach to the last that killed me. Any one of those shots executed properly would have been enough.

So what have we learned. Well, there is still a long way to go to reach the gritty competitor I want to be. A revisit to the words of Bob Rotella will be a start.

I also need to focus on one shot at a time and not get carried away but perhaps most importantly I need to relax more. Friday's four round marathon was about hitting it, hitting it again and getting it round. There was plenty of banter and I wasn't overly focused on how I was playing. As a result I had 39 points (with two blobbed holes) in the first round starting at 4.30am and despite being absolutely knackered played the last six holes of the fourth and final round in level par (and that included electing to lay up on the 16th).

Still having come to terms with the bitter taste of defeat I'm going to put a positive spin on events. There wasn't a shank in sight and I played some good stuff especially my driving and putting. I will go away and learn from this and come back bigger and better.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 49

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Aching Limbs But Worth It

We did it! Seventy two holes in one day, playing thirty six consecutively in the morning from 4.30am with a brief one hour break and then another thirty six holes to complete the challenge. It was hard and my aching back, blistered hands and feet and sunburned arms are testament that the Macmillan Longest Day Challenge is no pushover.

However there are some notable pluses

  • We're raising money for such a great cause
  • I got 39 points including two blobbed (no point) holes in the first round (starting as the sun began to put in an appearance)
  • I played the last 6 holes of round one in level par gross
  • I had three birdies in one round
  • I only had 26 putts in the first round
  • I played the last 6 holes of the last round (after 63 holes) in level par
  • I only lost 5 balls all day
There is still time if you want to donate

It's amazing what the body can do. Standing on the 1st tee at 4.30 am with barely five hours sleep and a 229 yard opening hole (and 72 holes) in front of you is not what most coaching manuals say is conducive to good golf. A few swooshes of the club and I pegged up the five wood. 4.30am should be the new starting time for all club competitions as I hit the green and made par. Add in a birdie 4 at the 2nd and everything in the world was good.

Sunrise over the 9th

I was playing the challenge with fellow Royal Ascot member Hywel Lloyd and two intrepid members of the Golf Monthly Forum, Mike Stannard and Paul Little. Hywel and I had done the challenge as a pair last year so knew what we were letting ourselves in for but I'm not sure the other two did.

I raided the birdie bank at the par 4 9th and the par 5 15th as well in the first round. I had started pretty well and rattled out in two shots better than my handicap which had included a lost ball on the 4th. I came back even better with 20 points and again that had included not scoring at the 11th where I had a horrid lie in a bunker under the back lip and could only move it into an even poorer lie under the front bank.

We had paired off to have a friendly match as well as keeping a points tally and Paul and I took on the others and had coasted into a five hole lead as we completed the first round. We went straight past the clubhouse and back onto the first tee again to start round two at just before 8.00am.

If I was happy with a par to start, a monster birdie putt for birdie was the greatest way of forgetting about fatigue and the golf bag I was carrying which was getting heavier hole by hole. By now, the others had woken up and everyone was playing great golf in patches. Paul in particular was in awesome form with the driver and was getting longer and longer. Hywel seemed determined to match him shot for shot and it became a private duel throughout the remainder of the day.

My front nine of the second round (you following this) was another impressive one and I'd gone round in 19 points or one better than my handicap. I fell away on the back nine as tiredness and the lure of the clubhouse and food, drink and a chance to sit down beckoned. By the time we'd holed out on the 18th green and stopped for the large 18 hole breakfast (full English with all the trimmings), it was humid, we were hot and tired and glad to get the shoes off for a while.

We only had an hour for lunch and it seemed to fly by. A quick change into fresh clothes, especially dry socks and shoes and we were ready to start gain. We were on a tight schedule as we knew we had to complete the front nine of the final round before 5.45pm as the club had a Social Scramble organised and it was a shotgun start.

Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the break but my game in the third round was patchy. I had hit the first for the third consecutive time (bet that won't happen in the next competition) but I couldn't string any shots together. I failed to score at the ninth courtesy of a tired shot that sliced, hit the path and bounced onto the putting green out of bounds. The match situation was beginning to fluctuate. Mike was perhaps playing the best golf. Paul in particular was having a hard time, especially playing off a 4 handicap and not having any margin for error. In the end my 32 points was a good return. I'd failed to score on the 16th when I hooked my drive out of bounds and I was starting to feel the pace despite swapping from carrying my bag to using an electric trolley for the last two rounds.

The urge to stop for a cool beer was so tempting but we were tight for time and wanted to make sure we had played the first nine before the Ascot members flocked onto the course. I think because of the rush none of us were particularly careful with our pre-shot routines but Hywel and Mike were still scoring brilliantly as a pair. Mike had chipped in at the par 3 6th for a birdie 2 and the deficit was down to two and by the time we stood on the 10th ready for the final push the match was all square

I'd slumped to my lowest score on any nine of the day with a measly 11 points to my name. I made par at the 10th but had watched as both Paul and Hywel boomed drives to within 50 yards of the green on the 371 yard hole. I'm not sure how they managed it after 63 holes of sapping golf. I lost the plot a bit as fatigue kicked in and the call of the clubhouse got louder but I did mange a good up and down from twelve feet at the 13th to rescue a half.

It's wonderous what a good shot can do so when I hit the green from the rough at the next and made par I was ready to rumble and had a spring back in my step. OK it wasn't the biggest spring by this stage but you get the drift. By the time I'd knocked a wedge to 10 feet and canned a slippery downhiller for a birdie at the next (the 15th or 69th of the day depending on your viewpoint) I was ready for buzzing and the tiredness had evaporated. It also got the score back to all square as Hywel and Mike had steadily gone about whittling the lead and for the first time all day gone into a lead on the 65th.

Paul swapped his driver at the 16th, having already hit one 320 yarder in the second round (and measured by GPS) for a 3 wood and still managed to smack it miles down the fairway. I'm not sure if it was all technique, one final effort before the tank emptied or what but it was impressive to watch. We won the hole to go one up. Mike and Hywel both regrouped to hit the green at our penultimate hole but I got up and down to salvage a half and ensure we went down the last hole of the day one up. I made a surprisingly solid par. I hit the fairway with a 3 wood and hit a tired but straight fairway wood to about 125 yards out (my battery in my GPS device dying on the very last hole when I really needed it). I had water to the right and a crowded patio watching. I trusted my swing and hit the middle of the green about 15 feet way from the pin. It wasn't until we did the mathematics that I realised that despite all that had gone before, I'd played the last six holes in level par again. HAPPY DAYS.

We all got a great reception from everyone on the patio and plenty of plaudits as we sat outside with a well deserved drink and our shoes and socks in a sweaty pile. Had it been worth it? Of course. Would I do it again? Well I had said "never again" last year but do you know what, if you are blessed with a dry day (it doesn't have to even be sunny) decent course and three guys that know how to play the game (technically and spiritually) and have a laugh then I think the answer would be a definite yes. I'll have to see if Paul, Mike and Hywel are up for it.

I did take the camera with me and took a few shots of the day.

That said, I can hardly move today and dedicated as I am, I've not looked at my clubs. My back is sore, my legs ache and I could really do with a rub down with the Sporting Life. I'm off to try and get the body into some sort of working order as I'm back on the tee tomorrow at 8.50 am (some of us have done a full round by then) for the monthly stableford. Anything could happen!

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 48