Friday, 31 December 2010

Out With The Old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 74

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Spoils of War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Feeling Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Back In The Swing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number of lost balls in 2010 = 73

Monday, 6 December 2010

Getting Close To Seasons End

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

Key stats for Martin Bedborough (Hcap: 12)

Fairways Hit: 38% (Hcap Std: 17)

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

Putts Per Round: 33.28 (Hcap Std: 15)

Sand Saves: 15% (Hcap Std: 11)

Birdie Conversion: 11% (Hcap Std: 20)

Par Scrambles: 17% (Hcap Std: 18)

Penalties Per Round: 0.89 (Hcap Std: 9)

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

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

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

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

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

The Jury Are Still Out

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

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

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

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

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