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