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.