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.