Sunday, 27 February 2011

Busy Doing Nothing

I had said yesterday that I'd throw myself into the huge roll up going out this morning and finally put into practice everything I'd worked so hard at the range to achieve. The truth was that the early morning alarm call came and went and I couldn't be bothered. Given the state of the front nine when I played in the Saturday greedy and the fact that the back nine is lower lying and so more prone to not draining, added to the fact that it didn't stop raining until late into the afternoon yesterday I thought the course would be pretty well sodden and hardly conducive to good golf.

It is rare for me not to go and play and even more so not to put a practice session in if I don't fancy a round. Today I did neither. Some on the Golf Monthly Forum have questioned how I can put all the effort in and not improve and maybe (whisper it quietly) they may be right. Everyone says I have a decent swing, even my partners yesterday in the rain. Maybe the problem really is I'm trying to search for perfection when adequacy will do.The truth is I probably just don't trust the swing enough to just stand there and hit it, and I'm always waiting for the moment when the wheels come off, which is either an opening shot out of bounds on the first or into the environmental area off the tee on the third on current form.

The short game does require work. I've alluded to that for a while now but want to wait until practice greens around and about are conducive to some hard work and will bounce and react properly instead of either being tined and sanded or a boggy mire.

I did manage to get something golf related into the day though. I managed to pick up some new 2011 Footjoy gloves in various colours to match my wardrobe of co-ordinated golfing attire and shoe ensemble coming to adorn a fairway near you soon. The withdrawal bug didn't last too long.

The forecast looks reasonable for the next few days if pretty nippy again. I have a diabetic eye test on Wednesday where I have some drops put in my eyes and X-rays taken. It makes the pupils dilate and does make it hard to bear bright lights or focus too well for a few hours but I'm hoping the effects will wear off enough to let me knock it around in the afternoon or as a worse case scenario hit some balls somewhere.

It really was a lazy Sunday busy doing nothing. I can't say I'd like to get use to them but it did make a refreshing change. In golfing terms, perhaps less is more.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

What's The Point?

I went to the range last night and hit the ball really well and so the golfing juices were salivating in anticipation of the normal Saturday morning roll-up and I felt this could be my day. The feeling was tempered by the heavy drizzle I saw through the murky dawn and it was still falling when we got out onto the tee. After the draw was made in time honoured tradition by pulling balls from a hat we were off.

I started off reasonably and made nett pars at the opening two holes. However I had a golfing meltdown at the third and picked up long before the green was in sight. In a way I was fortunate as it started to empty down and it gave me a chance to chuck the waterproofs on. I made a good par courtesy of a left to right eight footer at the 4th and finally strung three good shots together at the 5th but three putted. I pulled the tee shot at the next but played a gem of a chip from the rough to about three foot but over-borrowed the putt and missed it for the par.

I pulled the drive at the next and my second left me a long way short. I hit a good wedge in to about ten feet and managed to coax the downhiller in via the side door for an unlikely par. By the time we got to the 8th it was getting tough. I didn't have a spare towel and everything was starting to get really wet. I missed the green left and thinned my chip. It was heading right off the other side but hit the flag and stopped about four feet away. I didn't have the front to make the putt for par (ok I pushed it).

I wasn't enjoying the conditions or the game. The company was great fun and the banter was flying but I couldn't get the golfing brain working. When I swung my driver on the 9th tee it nearly flew from my grip. All my clubs were soaked and event he rain glove wasn't making a difference. I was so far right off the tee I was in a bunker on the 18th and my recovery only found the ditch on the 9th some 130 yards short of the green. I took a penalty drop and my fourth was short and right. Another mediocre chip left a long twelve footer and even though I knocked it in with aplomb for me enough was enough.

I retired along with two others in the group leaving my old Scottish mucker Billy to tag onto the threeball behind. I couldn't see the point putting myself through another nine holes when the heart wasn't in it and the lure of a sausage baguette and coffee was too much. It's very rare for me not to carry on but I really wasn't up for it. It's suppose to be enjoyment and this wasn't

On the plus side I had ordered a snazzy pair of Footjoy Icon shoes and customised them using their Myjoy service and they had turned up. Ali in the shop had done me a fantastic price on them and all I need now is some dry weather to break them in.

As I was home early the wife was making noises about looking at paints to do up the bedrooms after lunch. With no decent football or other sport on to offer any sort of protection against Homebase I did what any man would do and decided to hit the range. I wasn't swinging as well as yesterday but it wasn't too bad. I'm not sure the swing is there though and it's the problem I have on the course. I can't trust it and so never make a committed swing. Some progress I guess and it built on yesterday until I started to get over tired when it started to go to pot again.

There is a big roll up going out tomorrow. We've inherited 20+ members from Laleham Golf Club (I think) and the normal Sunday greedie are taking them on or so my mate Bash tells me. I fancy a game to make up for today and I'm hoping there will be a spot for me to inflict my game on the newbies. If not I'll hang around and practice.

So all in all a mixed day and still something to look forward to tomorrow. I just hope I can get everything dry in time and the wife will stop moaning about the mess.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Something Positive At Last

I played in the fourball better ball competition today with Martin Davis (Bash) as my wingman and alongside two funny guys and decent golfers in Mark Timms and Keith Feesey (ten and nine handicaps respectively). It was off 3/4 handicaps so I found myself in the realms of the single figure golfer off nine and Bash was down to a nose bleeding thirteen. Mark and Keith were off eight and seven.

It seems Bash is made of stern stuff and having mocked him for calling it a day after nine yesterday, it transpired he went back out later for a full eighteen. I was hoping the extra practice would come in useful as after my woeful exploits yesterday I was a worried man. not so much for the inability to support my partner but for the four hours of grief Messrs Feesey and Timms would be giving me if I chopped all the way round.

As it happens things weren't as grim as I thought. I managed to find the centre of the clubface on the opening drive and it went straight and towards the green, stopping about 10 yards shy. Having gone out of bounds yesterday it made a pleasant change to not have to worry about looking for it from the off. I chipped to about three foot and holed out as did my partner and as he got a shot we were off and running and ahead of the game.

Things were going terribly well until the 3rd when we committed the cardinal sin in this format and both failed to score on the hole. My tee shot was way too quick tempo wise and dived straight left into the environmental area and Bash sliced his right never to be seen again. They say the mark of a good golfer is to bounce back straight away. Good golfer may be pushing it in my case but I found the fairway at the 4th and hit a wedge from 101 yards to within two feet and converted for birdie.

My partner was doing a sterling job of keeping the scoreboard ticking over and although we both had a horror on the 7th we at least got a point. I made a par at the 8th having hit a great six iron to within six feet but never gave the birdie putt a real run. We both made a mockery of the ninth having got close to the green in two and our one point return put us out in 17 points or one over our revised handicap target.

We made a solid start to the back nine and when Bash hit the green at 11 and made par we were back level with our handicaps. He scrambled a good five at the next and I came in at the 12th when my hybrid just found the edge of the green and I made a tricky two footer for par after leaving the first one a bit short. I came in again with a chip and putt at 15 (ok the chip was thinned from forty yards out to fifteen feet and I made a fluky putt). Bash made a great five at the 16th and I played a superb chip from the right of 17 (reminiscent of my one there yesterday but not as close) and holed out. Bash meanwhile nonchalantly hit the green and two putted anyway to steal my thunder but as he had a shot I soon forgave him.

We were one under our handicaps and I knew it wouldn't be enough to win. I didn't think even a par at the last would be good enough but hoped we could perhaps sneak up the leaderboard and maybe a top 10 finish. I gave us the perfect opportunity standing over my approach in from 144 yards but tugged my 7 iron horribly left into the greenside trap. My recovery came out but just shy of the green but I managed to put the lag putt stone dead.

In the end we finished on 37 points for a 15th place finish out of 42 teams which was creditable if not earth shattering. I certainly played a lot more good shots than yesterday in particular and of late in general. We dovetailed as a team pretty well but we just couldn't get putts to drop or made silly errors at the wrong time. I had an absolute ball with Mark and Keith and I think their unique style of humour kept my mind off the golf a lot which helped and I was a lot more relaxed than normal. Definitely something in that.

The one thing that did make life hard was my driving. It had been pretty steady but today it wasn't quite there. I don't think it's a long way off but I tend to work through my bag from wedges upwards when I go to the range and so by the time I get to the driver I'm probably getting a little tired. I'm off on Wednesday afternoon and so weather permitting I might get on the practice ground and work it through. My iron striking was a lot better and all in all there are a lot of positives to build on which certainly wasn't the case this time yesterday.

Spring is just around the corner and I'm hoping my complete game is too.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Wounded Pride

Played this morning despite the incessant drizzle on top of heavy overnight rain. The course was pretty wet in places, particularly the back nine but it was mainly standing casual water on the fairways and the odd tee but the greens had done a great job of draining and each and every one of them was perfectly playable with no puddles.

I can't remember the last time I played a round starting and finishing in waterproofs and it is something usually reserved purely for competitive play but with the Four Ball Better Ball tomorrow I though I owed it to my partner Martin Davis (Bash) to get out and see what shape my game was in. The other hardy souls in our fourball were Colin Osborn and Mike Stannard. Bash and I decided to take the others on.

As for the golf, lets just say Bash is probably scouring the Royal Ascot rulebook as I type to see if a late substitution is allowed. I was crap. Actually I was worse than that. I couldn't get ANYTHING going and the tempo was so fast, the swing so loose and the results were inevitable. I knew it would be a struggle from the moment the opening tee shot went straight right out of bounds. I chopped my way down the second, lost a ball with my drive at the 3rd and only a good chip (no really) at the 4th brought any respectability to proceedings.

The 5th was a snap hook left and when I hit a good shot as I did on the 6th I three putted. The 7th was another story of slices, fats, thinned chips and missed putts. By the time we got to the 9th green (it took me a fair amount of time and shots to get there) it was hammering down and Bash and Colin called it a day. Mike and I decided to venture on. In my case it was in the hope of finding some crumb of comfort. A slappy hooky tee shot on the 10th said it probably wasn't going to be my wisest decision but an exquisite 5 wood from the rough onto the green finally put a flicker of a smile on my lips. Things improved in terms of ball striking until the 14th where I carved my approach way right into the environmental area.

I hit my drive of the day down the 15th and made a par. I pushed the drive at 16 and couldn't go for the green but laid up and hit a good 9 iron in and nearly salvaged a cheeky par. I hit a good 5 wood (probably a club short) down the 17th and had I taken a braver line instead of aiming at the right hand bunker to take the out of bounds left out of the equation it might have been close to the front edge rather than in the rough right with a bunker to carry. I produce shot of the day from nowhere. It was a beautiful high pitch just carrying the bunker, landing softly and rolling down to less than a foot for par. I even manged to find a fairway and green in regulation at the last for a par.

So what did I get out of the effort. My shoes and waterproofs are definitely up to the job and I was bone dry. My tempo still needs work and there are definite ball striking issues. My Ping putter from Monday is still in the bag and performed reasonably although putting like every other facet was in and out (mostly out). Don't hit it into bunkers in these conditions because I'm not good enough to get them out properly.

I even managed to drag poor Mike down to my level. He had a very steady front nine given the conditions and started the back nine well. However by the 14th he was having a few problems and made a few bad swings. I'm not sure how much he was concentrating but the banter was good (he's a fellow Fulham fan and Golf Monthly Forum member) and so it was more about being out and playing than constructing a score. At least I can take heart that some of the more seasoned Ascot members called it quits after just four holes and we managed to tough it out all the way. In fairness the way I played I felt like jacking it in after 4 too!

Don't worry Bash, I've used (I hope) all my bad shots up today. At least you know you are strong enough to carry me and I promise to make at least one valuable contribution along the way. All that is left is to try and get my stuff dried and put away as the wife is starting to make serious tut-tutting noises about my gear spread all over the house. Ooops

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Snuck A Cheeky One In

Had a day off on Monday (thanks to the NHS and flexi time) and with the sun in the sky I thought I deserved nothing less than a round of golf. I got up to Royal Ascot about 11.30 just in time to see a large group heading to the first tee so opted to head for the putting green. I had taken my old Ping Anser 2 putter out from the back of the wardrobe and had it cut down by an inch and so wanted to give it a test run. This was the putter I used to good effect as a junior and when I first joined the club back when we were inside the racecourse. We must have had a serious falling out at some time as it hadn't been in my bag this century.

Hitting some putts with it was like going back in time. The solid face isn't for everyone especially in the world of inserts but it has sublime balance and the touch of a surgeon. I oozed confidence with it and couldn't wait to get out there. I wanted to play by myself as I had hit the range the day before and the ball striking was coming back to something resembling a golf swing. I had given the big group about 45 minutes head start and so set out.

Things were pretty consistent (not a word we've seen much of on here) for the first few holes and I was level par with my handicap by the time I stood on the 6th tee. It could have been better but for a couple of wasted shots but so far so good. I hit a lousy slappy slice that clattered around the trees on the right. I assumed it would be out of bounds and had a quick look to reclaim the offending sphere and carry on. I was getting annoyed as it looked like the shot had cost a ball and some points as I couldn't see it. On the verge of giving up I headed towards the green to see it lying in the open about twenty yards short of the dancefloor. I hit a great pitch to about 5 feet and should have made an unlikely par.

I dropped another shot to my handicap on the 7th. I found the green easily enough but managed to three putt. Perhaps this putter would be going back into hibernation. Fifteen points going out with an ailing short game not helping was a good return and I was pretty happy. A couple of wasted shots and a three putt. Nothing to get alarmed about.

I made a rare par at the 10th (it should be an easy hole) thanks to a teasing downhill right to left six footer (the putter redeeming itself) and I made a sand save at the next to salvage another nett par having duffed a pitch into the sand. Another nett par at the 12th thanks and things were good. Granted the tee shot at the 12th had been carved way right and my recovery had found the bunker some thirty yards short and right but I played a great long bunker shot to eight feet and should have made a career par.

I was wobbling a bit in terms of ball striking. I carved my tee shot at the 13th so far right it landed at the back of the ladies tee on the next but I hit a great recovery to ten feet and only went and holed the putt. I told you the putter was good. The 14th was a disaster thanks to a hooked approach and duffed chips and on the 15th I hit a very rare shot for me, an out and out topped effort from the light rough on the left of the fairway. Another unforced error and another point gone. I hit a great drive down the 16th way past the trees on the right of the hole and only had a six iron in. I didn't hit it great but it found the front left edge. Sadly the flag was back right. The first putt was well short of pace and a three putt was inevitable.

The tee on the 17th had been moved from its normal position and was situated down by the yellow blocks and so the hole was reduced from a 218 yard monster into a more appetising 168 yarder. It didn't stop me putting my ball in the left hand bunker and short siding myself. I played a decent recovery and the putter bailed me out again and another single putt registered a par. The last was anti-climatic as I stumbled to a closing double bogey (for a single point) but I'd managed 16 points on the back nine for 31 in total. Granted it wasn't earth shattering but there were a lot of positives. Some good ball striking, 33 putts and two sand saves stand out. However the chipping was as bad as ever.

I'd caught the groups that had preceded me by the 13th and so I'd spent some time chipping on each hole to give them a chance to play without feeling pressurised by me chasing their tails. I was desperately looking for a spark of light to give me something to work with but sadly the chipping was a mixture of fat shots (the majority) and thins through the green. However I wandered out to the putting green after a well deserved sausage sarnie and a pint to try again and found that catalyst. It isn't text book and it may not stand up to too much scrutiny in the heat of a competition but I found if I deliberately held off the club face so it pointed to the target after impact I got it to fly higher, with more check and I didn't mis-hit as many.

I'm in my usual Saturday swindle this weekend even though the forecast is not good at all so I'll give it a whirl. I need something as I'm playing the Jack Jarrett Trophy (fourball better ball stableford) with Martin Davis (Bash or as I've christened him Butch Cassidy) and so I need to be able to keep my end of things up. It was certainly a productive day and I feel I've moved forward.

Sadly I'll need to put a lot of long days in to get another flexi day and so I can't see another day off coming soon but it's always nice to get a crafty game in and even better if you do okay. See my faithful readers, there are rare occasions when I can actually look as though I know what I'm doing.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Competition Time - Get A Move On

It isn't too late to enter my competition to win a Titleist Vokey wedge of your choice and it is free to enter. I know a lot of the members at Royal Ascot have been reading the blog recently so come on guys have a guess. You more than most know my game and so could have "insider" knowledge. There are also a lot of guys off the Golf Monthly forum that know how my game is fairing so go on guys have a stab. Even if you've stumbled across this humble blog by accident, welcome along and please feel free to join in too. All you have to do is guess what my 2011 stroke average for all games (social and competitive but not including matchplay events) will be.

Just click on the comments box at the bottom of this post and register your guess making sure you give your name so I can get in touch when you win. You have until 31st March to make a decision and if you have already entered you can change your mind up until the deadline.

Good luck

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Getting Close To Panic Time

It's been a turbulent week golfing wise. I hit the range on Tuesday determined to banish the poor swing path that has blighted my game in the last few weeks (way too flat) and lets just say the session was a mess. I went to the range at Blue Mountain on Wednesday hoping a change of scenery would help and it got even worse. I was in such turmoil that I even got the wife to call in a favour at Sand Martins (where she works) and get one of the pros to book a 30 minute quick fix session in before his main teaching lessons for Sunday. I went to Maidenhead Golf Centre on Thursday more in hope than expectation to give it one last go and fixing the problem.

Well blow me down with a feather and call me Fred. What a change in fortunes. I've no real idea what I was doing different but it felt so much more controlled with a better hip turn (not slide) through impact and ball after ball actually going where I intended. Even my normal teaching pro giving a lesson in the next bay but keeping a crafty eye on my progress gave me the thumbs up on the swing.

I hit the Saturday roll up this morning in high hopes. Well I did until I hit a few looseners on the practice ground beforehand. Not a pretty sight and any flimsy charade of confidence in my game floated away like leaves in the breeze. It came as no surprise then when the opening tee shot was a stabby sliced effort right that sailed perilously close to the out of bounds. A nice double to start.

I wrote about the dangers of the 2nd hole the other day and I didn't even get my drive over the ditch some 180 yards away off the white tee. In fact it didn't make the bloody ditch. I was chopping it like king of the choppers and was playing like a rank beginner. Double at the second was followed by double at the third after the recurring nightmare that is my short game manifested itself (it would be a repeating problem throughout the day). I finally found a fairway and green in regulation at the 4th for a welcomed par. However as per normal when I did show a rare semblance of ability like hitting the green on the 6th I'd find a way to nous it up again, in this case three putting. I even went "off piste" at the 7th. I blocked, pushed or sliced dependant on how charitable you are, my tee shot and was blocked out by the large oak near the ditch that runs across the fairway and by some large trees about 100 yards in front of where my ball finished.

I didn't fancy the low running shot under the oak fearing it turning into a hook and going into the environmental area left or not clearing the ditch. Instead I saw sanctuary towards the 8th. The group playing the hole were still on the tee and the green was clear so I decided to aim over the green, hopefully missing the greenside bunkers and landing on the light rough between the tee and green. I didn't catch it cleanly but it made it far enough out to give me an iron in and two putts later I made an adventurous 5 (nett par).

I scrambled 15 points going out. My tee shot on 10 was horrid though (a low duck hook) but I managed to salvage a 5 (nett par) and another 4 (nett 3) at the next. Playing the hardest hole on the course (according to the stroke index at least) I decided to hit a 3 wood in an attempt to get some elevation and find a fairway. Job done. A pretty well struck hybrid and suddenly I'm putting from eight feet for birdie. I made par.

The nightmare that is my chipping came to a crunch at the 14th where I hit one chip so fat the ball went about a foot and then hit another ugly fat to follow. I am pleased to inform blog readers that I am a scratch club thrower. It flew pretty well and I recommend the helicopter method. Actually I'm not proud to have done it and it is pretty rare these days for me to lose my rag that much. Its usually a sigh of resigned indifference but today the red mist finally descended.

Ironically, playing the 18th I pulled my approach way, way left and had a tricky 20 yard chip from the rough and hit it pretty well. I ended up about five feet away and I converted the putt to save par. And therein is the issue. Anything from 15-20 yards away that requires a bit of momentum and I "usually" commit to the shot and make a passable effort. Ask me to chip from around the green or hit a high soft shot or something that requires only a short swing and it opens up a host of possibilities none of which are appetising. The current favourite seems to be the fatted shot although the thin through the green or even the dreaded shank are no more than a breath away.

Chipping is simple. I know that. Stand there, hands forward, weight forward, ball in the middle or slightly back of that. Rock the shoulders keeping the hands in front and the weight forward and your a short game god. How hard can it be? It's got in my head now and like a Trojan virus on a pc its corrupted all my short game files and I can't do it. It's getting to a stage where I'm scared to play the shot as we know it's not going to be great and will cost me. How can you hope to achieve when the confidence is shot so much.

I'm getting really stressed about it all now. The hard work and lessons I put in over the winter particularly before the snow came seem like a distant memory and although the ball striking at the range is showing definite signs of improvement (hitting down and compressing it much more than I use to) I can't find a trigger to capture the good range work I'm doing and transfer it onto the course. Once I'm out there, I feel I need to find every fairway to give me the best chance of hitting the green so that I don't need to chip. You can't play like that.

I'm fed up of everyone telling me to relax and just hit it. I'm doing just that. I've not got any mechanical thoughts going through my head (or much of anything going on in there truth be told) as I swing or walk round. I'm not thinking about my score or next shot as I walk towards where my ball has gone, which isn't taking very long on some holes. I've always been analytical about my game even from those halcyon single figure days back at Wimbledon Common. That's just me.

So what's the answer. Well I'm cutting right back on the range work for the long game. I'm going to trust what I have for a few weeks and see where it goes and then look at a lesson if it doesn't improve. It has to be short game, short game, short game. I have a practice aid called the V-Easy ( designed by a good friend of mine off the Golf Monthly Forum called Bob MacArthur) and I'm going to dust it off and give it a whirl.

It's designed to keep the hands quiet for putting and chipping and to promote that simple rocking motion. You'll probably be seeing a lot of me on the putting green at Royal Ascot over the next few weeks standing there like a numpty with this thing wedged under my arms. Don't laugh at me but take pity on a poor unfortunate soul too stupid to understand the basic mechanics of the simplest shot in golf. If I'm not there then look for me on the practice ground where I'll be trying those short pitches. You'll know I'm there by the low flying clubs as I duff another.

Of course the people you should really feel sorry for are Butch Cassidy, aka Bash (Martin Davis) although probably not too much sympathy for this bandit, and new member and good friend Mike Stannard who have both been lumbered with me as partners in upcoming competitions. I think both will be in the transfer market soon (is there a transfer window in golf?) after carrying me.

At least I didn't lose a ball today! Right I'm off for some Valium and a lie down

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Back For More

It was hard going in gale force winds yesterday and the weather was the same today. What's a guy to do? I could have done chores, gone shopping with the wife or spent a couple of hours bashing balls at the range looking for the golf swing I seem to have carelessly misplaced. In the end it was a no brainer. Get back on the horse, go out and play.

I played with Martin Davis (Bash) and his nephew Matt who are two of the biggest bandits since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Bash has seen his handicap tumble in the last six months and seems to be getting a second income in pro shop vouchers and Matt is never a twenty something handicap with that swing. On a bad day 36 points is a major disappointment to him and when he's on form I'd have to play sub-par round to even compete. Suffice to say we didn't have anything on the outcome.

The wind was as strong as yesterday but thankfully coming from the same direction otherwise that would have made life really interesting. Having played yesterday at least we had a clue what to do. Sadly my game hadn't metamorphosed overnight and I played rubbish early on. I hit a horror second on the 2nd. I'm not sure if it was a slice, block or part shank but whatever type of contact it was it went right and out of bounds. One point after two holes. I wonder if B&Q is open yet?

It did get better. I put an old putter in the bag, replacing my Odyssey White Ice #9 with my Taylormade Rossa. It soon warmed up and I made a great putt from 8 feet at the 5th for a par. After an outrageous lucky bounce prevented my tee shot going out of bounds left on the 7th I chipped on to about 10 feet and canned a downhill left to right putt for a par. The wind was still blowing a real hoolie. I stood on the 8th tee (139 yards) and wasn't sure what to do. I'd hit 6 iron in the stableford yesterday. The wind was into the face but also blowing across from right to left. In a moment of rare clarity, I realised the only real way to play the hole was to treat it like a links hole and play a low 3/4 punch. Now I can't remember the last time I tried one of these shots let alone ever practicing it and so the odds were not high on me pulling it off. Well blow me down with a feather and call me Fred, I struck it beautifully. I never got more than fifteen feet off the ground and cleared the front bunker, pitched on the front and rolled to a stop about twelve feet away. I even managed to two putt for par!

I had 15 points going out so was actually a shot better off than yesterday. As usual Bash and Matt were cruising and both were under their (dubious) handicaps. Do the Davis clan have no shame? I started the back nine quite well until I came to a grinding stop after a poor tee shot at the 12th. Nil point there. I wasn't hitting the ball great at all and to be honest had no control over the swing or any real idea where the ball was going. I frittered a few shots aways in between the odd encouraging good strike and the odd duff (usually a chip - are you surprised?). I finished with a whimper and saved my worse tee shot until the 18th. I never fancied it all the time I stood over it and so the ugly high slice was no surprise when it came. I had the opportunity to still get a point but that hope vanished when I missed the green with the approach shot. A weak chip and two putts for a nice snowman (8) to put on the card. Twelve points back gave me another 27 point haul to add to the one  got yesterday.

Butch and Sundance both played under their handicaps without ever breaking sweat. I feel much more disappointed about the way I played today than I did about yesterdays performance. The short game crucified me again and zapped any waining confidence I had about my ability. I feel so pressurised to hit fairways to give me a chance to hit greens and not have to chip. The swing isn't firing anyway and it's inevitable that I make mistakes.

I'm trying desperately to just hit it and not think it. I am standing over chips with a head devoid of any swing thoughts or mechanics but I can't execute. It's the same with the irons and woods. I am picking the club, taking aim and firing and trusting the swing. It's the bloody swing that isn't working.

If the winds die down I'll hit the range midweek and have another go. It isn't far away. Failing that I'll get my teaching pro Paul Harrison at Maidenhead Golf Centre to give me the once over. After that we tackle the short game nemesis. Get that sorted and I'm pot hunting big time and getting my handicap down to where it should be. I'm coming back for more!

A Tough Day At The Office

It was the monthly stableford yesterday. I was paired with two very good golfers Dave Wood (10 handicap) and Andy Wells (12). I think from memory it was the first time I'd played with Dave but had enjoyed Andy's company on several occasions. The weather forecast all week had been bleak with winds touching gale force and heavy and persistent drizzle on the cards. In the end we only got the winds but they were hard work and made life very, very difficult.

I actually made a solid(ish) start for once and got a four at the first (nett par) and a six (also a nett par) and by the time I made a par at the 5th I only one shot over my handicap. The wind was making club selection very difficult. It was directly into your face at the 3rd and although Dave and I hit ropey drives, Andy hit a decent ball and it actually did very well to clear the environmental area (hazard). The 6th was another struggle. It only measures 178 yards and I hit a decent hybrid, Dave hit his gentlemans persuader (7 wood) and we struggled to get up to the flag. Andy had hit driver but managed to stick it some 10 feet away so clearly some method to his madness.

I made a hash of the 7th after finding the fairway. The wind was across from right to left and I tried to be clever and aimed out to the right of the green expecting the wind to move the ball. I was so focused on the wind I forgot to make decent contact and left it wide and short. Even after chipping on I managed to three putt to drop a point. Conditions were hard enough without making unforced errors. Sadly these silly mistakes are a staple part of my golfing life at the moment and the 8th was a classic case in point. Short and left after the wind had gobbled my ball in flight and moved it some ten yards to the left of where I was aiming, I had a chip over a bunker to a flag no more than four yards onto the green.

Regular readers will know the state of my chipping and short game overall and so you don't need to be a genius to guess where I was playing the next shot from. That's right, the bunker. What a plonker. I got it out quite well actually but missed the putt and a so hole with no points scored. The 9th was really into the headwind. It's 400 yards long. Dave hits a good ball and I hit a decent drive too and we were side by side. We both hit solid seconds but from around 200 yards it was impossible for either of us to get anywhere near the putting surface. I was happy to get there for three, and for once made a putt for an unlikely par. I had 14 points in total for the front nine and given the debacle at the 8th thought that represented a decent return in the conditions.

The wind wasn't going to let up and personally I always find the back nine at Royal Ascot a much tougher proposition. A duffed drive at the 10th was never going to set me up to start with a flourish and in the end I did well to scramble a point. We all know I have a penchant for making high scores from perfect positions but I surpassed myself at the 11th. Playing into a right to left crosswind, slightly into your face, I hit a pearl of a hybrid starting it over the bunker to the right, landing it short and letting it run onto the green. In the conditions it was a very good shot and should have set up a solid par. Of course not. The putter went on holiday and  I had a smelly two footer to avoid four putting. Fortunately it dropped.

Unforced errors (again) cost me shots at 13 and 14 but I did make a good par 5 at the 15th which was another playing its full 478 yards. The 16th is a long par 4 (425yards) but as it was directly downwind I took my 3 wood, partly for position and partly to get it airborne and let the wind take it. I hit the shot of the day and I only had 163 yards left. I took a 6 iron and found the green. Naturally I three putted to ruin all the hard work.

In the end I limped home with 13 points for the a grand total of 27 points and 17th place in Division 1 and another 0.1 back on the handicap. To be honest I wasn't too disappointed. Conditions were as tough as I've played in a very long time and coupled with the poor swing I've got at the moment and a short game that is killing me both mentally and on the scorecard it could have been a lot worse. Surprisingly I was the highest scorer in the group although to be fair to Dave I think he had lost a little interest on the back nine and Andy a couple of bad holes and missed a few putts.

There is still too much going on in the swing and lots to iron out but I don't want to be over analytical or self critical. It is still a work in progress and once I work out how to chip there will be some room to work when I miss a green. I enjoyed the challenge the wind posed and didn't disgrace myself. I'd say that was a fair return.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

A Hackers Guide To Royal Ascot - Hole 2 (Brick Kiln)

Having survived the trials and tribulations of our opening hole we move onto the second, a 535 yard (off the white tees) par 5, stroke index 6. The hole dog legs to the right and is protected by a ditch about 180 yards off the tee, out of bounds tight right the entire length of the drive and by a solitary dead tree trunk in the fairway.

The guide from the clubs website says "An acute dogleg right par 5 of over 500 yards, anything leaking right down the length of the hole will be hard to find in deep rough. Wide of this rough is out of bounds. The central guarding front bunker is some 25 yards from the putting surface. The green is small, with some devilish pin locations".

In fact, the dead tree is a good reference point and the drive should be aimed to the left of that and towards the single bunker. Anything too straight may find the path forward blocked by the trunk. The second shot needs to be played towards the cross bunker short of the green (which also foreshortens the view of the hole) and must miss the bunker to the left of the fairway. Depending on where the flag is located, particularly when it is at the back and on the left, the sensible play is to the heart of the green which slopes uphill from front to back. The back left pin is a real sucker and brings the deep bunker to the left of the green into play.

As with the majority of holes at Royal Ascot if you can get your drive away the hole does (should) play relatively easy and it should be a routine par (or nett par at worse). Of course golf is rarely that simple and I have had more than one mishap on the hole. Probably the biggest faux pas was in the Club Foursomes and I was playing with a 26 handicap (ex) member and long time friend called George McMeekin.

Conditions had been tough with persistent drizzle and a blustery wind. Foursomes is an unforgiving format at the best of times but with a combination of some decent play, good strategy and pieces of good fortune we found ourselves atop the leaderboard at lunch. We had an iffy but not disastrous start when we came to the second. I hit a pretty decent drive, straight but short of the dead tree. My partner had plenty of room and to be fair it didn't really come into play and I thought his fairway wood was a bold (foursomes parlance for reckless) option. Sure enough he hit a huge carving slice out of bounds.

I dropped a ball and prepared to play our 4th shot. Those in glass houses..... as I saw his slice and raised it with a higher more powerful one even further out of bounds and into the woods. He dropped again and pulled an iron out for the 6th shot (five shots and we hadn't moved an inch down the hole yet). He knobbled it down and left about 100 yards in.

I can't speak for George but my brain was in golfing meltdown by now and that is my only defence for pulling a simple wedge approach into the left hand greenside bunker. Inevitably it plugged and George failed to get it out. I hit an apologetic bunker shot onto the fringe of the green for 9 and all that was left was for us to add the obligatory three putt for a nice round dozen.

So there it is. A potential birdie opportunity or a potential card wrecker especially as the drive only needs a slight fade to be flirting with potential disaster and a reload. Right that's two holes down and hopefully our scorecard is relatively intact. Onwards to the third.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

(Texas) Scrambled

I played in the rescheduled Turkey Trot Texas Scramble on Saturday held over from December and all that snow. It's a team format and every player tees off and the team then decides which ball to pick. The player who's ball is in play, hits his next shot and the others all play from the same spot and so on until the hole is completed. Every player had to have a minimum of five drives each.

I played with two great guys Jeff and Dave and we really got on well. We gelled as a team and managed to go out on the front nine in four under par thanks to five birdies and a solitary dropped shot on the 7th. The back nine was a tougher proposition and by the time we stood on the 17th tee were were level par with two birdies offset by two dropped shots for the seven holes played. However we girded our loins and Dave hit a sweet drive to the front edge of the 17th green and then holed an outrageous fifteen foot right to left breaking putt for an unlikely birdie. Not content with that, Jeff took it upon himself to roll in an equally unlikely birdie from the back edge of the final green in full view of the early starters. With the combined handicap taken off, our six under par total was actually a nett 59.2 and looked pretty competitive.

We sat in the bar trying to get some feeling back into our bones. It was perishing out on the course and the wind swept straight into you and personally I wasn't warm from the moment I started until about an hour after I finished. As each group came in and failed to threaten our score things were looking good. We were down to the last group and they were on the green in three and only about ten feet away. I don't know why but there was an air of inevitability about it and so when Andy Hall, one of our greenkeepers, nonchalantly holed out for birdie the writing was on the wall. However the scores needed confirming. In the end, that putt was critical and gave them a gross score of 65 less a team handicap of 6 for a nett 59 and we were beaten by a measly 0.2. Not even a whole shot. Gutted and bugger were two words that came to mind.

There was a second trot on the Sunday (separate event) and so I used it as an excuse to hit the range. It was much warmer than the day before as the biting wind had gone. I haven't really done much work on my swing in 2011 as I've been trying to play as much as I can. I'm not hitting it brilliantly but there were signs in the scramble of it starting to come together, apart from the short game which is under more pressure than the Egyptian President.

I hadn't been hitting it great and the eureka moment I had at the range the other Friday hadn't manifested into the "the key". If anything it had made things worse and I was swinging the club way too flat and causing myself all sorts of problems. I wanted to get back to a simple takeaway straight back and then a turn of the shoulders so I had a much steeper swingpath so that I could really feel I was on top of the shot at impact and compressing it as I'd been doing after my lessons at the end of 2010.

After a lot of hard work, a few truly awful shots mixed in with the good ones I managed to feel as though I was back on track. I was hitting it very solidly and felt much happier with my game. I'm planning to hit the range again this week and see how it copes after the stress of a full day at work and in preparation for the stableford on Saturday. I am wary of another false dawn and go into the competition hoping for a respectable showing but prepared to accept a 0.1 increase if the worse happens. In fact 13 (four competitions and I may be there) is a much truer reflection on where my game is rather than 12 or lower. It isn't firing but then again do I want to peak this early? The good news is that new member (and hopefully my new regular partner) Mike Stannard has got in with one of the Saturday greedies and had a solid 37 points (and still didn't come close to taking the pot) and so he'll be able to carry me until I find my game again. I've decided I need a chipping lesson but really want to wait until the greens get a bit dryer and run better and the fringes aren't too muddy. I think an Easter refresher and then hit the season square on.

As Yazz and the Plastic Population said....."the only way is up"