Sunday, 30 October 2011

Can't Find It

Let me start with the bad news. The clocks have changed and we're in darkness by 4.30pm now and that will creep ever earlier. Gone for another year are those cheeky nine holes after work or a quick practice session at the club. Instead, months of early tee times and extra layers lay ahead. That last part though seems to be holding off, in Berkshire at least. It has been glorious this weekend and it was shirt sleeve order for the Saturday roll up yesterday.

My golf has taken another dip and as regular followers will know a mysterious slice has crept in and weaved destruction to my medal card last week. With my unique golf swing a slice is the furthest word from my golfing vocabulary. Duck hook, push and sometimes a controlled draw are the stock shots although I can't always guarantee in which order they will appear but never a big left to right banana. Despite my best endeavours at the range Friday night it was still there and so I wasn't full of Autumnal joy for the normal Saturday roll up.

As it happened, in places I hit some decent enough shots and the putter and my pitching went into over-drive around the turn but in between times there were some abominations including a slice out of bounds both the 2nd and the 6th from the tee. In the case of the 2nd hole I made a battling par with my second ball holing out from ten feet to rescue a point but couldn't repeat the magic four holes later.

My game, and in particular the short game came alive as I approached the clubhouse and the end of the front nine. My putter suddenly caught fire and was aided and abetted by an array of wedge shots that had laid dormant in my repertoire for many a long round. I was just short of the green on the tiny 138 yard par three 8th but chipped stone dead for a tap in par. I wasn't striking the ball solidly but I managed to find a fairway at the 9th and then proceeded to miss the green way right leaving a tricky forty yard pitch from heavy rough, over a bunker to a flag cut on a right to left slope. I judged it well to within six feet and converted to save par. I hit a poor tee shot on the 10th, low, left and short and couldn't make the green in regulation. My second shot finished short and left of the putting surface but again I pitched brilliantly and one putted to save another par. I hit a better tee shot on the par three 11th but still managed to miss the green right. From a tricky bare lie I hit a chip and run perfectly to three feet for another single putt green. As if that wasn't enough, I found the fairway on the 12th (stroke index 1) and only had 187 yards into this 409 yarder but hit it heavy and tugged it into the left hand greenside bunker. I got it out well and holed out for another par and a rare sand save. Five straight single putt greens and five straight up and down rescues to save par must be some kind of personal record.

Ironically as soon as I started hitting it well the putter went cold. I found the green in regulation at the long par three 13th and proceeded to three putt. I repeated the trick at the par five 15th too for good measure after again finding the dancefloor in regulation. It did however kick back into life again with yet another up and down from wide of a green on the 16th but I then limped home with two double bogies.

The grand total of 34 points was pleasing considering the swing isn't under control in any way, shape or form and I don't feel confident of putting the same swing on two consecutive shots. However the fact that we were out in glorious sunshine and in shirt sleeves eased the frustration to a large degree.

Winter golf is coming - don't let the current barmy weather fool you otherwise
I opted to hit the range today and work on it. The agonising thing is that it doesn't feel a million miles away. There were far less shots leaked right than in the medal last week and the pitching around the greens was at times sublime and made par saves routine. I have to say it was probably a sound choice. I'm still not hitting it as I want but I do feel a little more in control of the clubhead and have an idea where it is going now. I know when I've not put a good swing on it almost before I've hit it and can tell straight from impact whether it will be a horrid slice (becoming fewer and fewer) or a bit of a hook left.

I also managed to grab five minutes with my teaching professional Paul Harrison and discuss the Winter programme. I've been mulling it over for a few weeks now and have decided that to a large degree the foibles I have that make my swing very much my own are ingrained in their now and are part of my golfing DNA. To get rid of these and get something much more textbook is going to take a mammoth deconstruction and rebuilding programme and to be honest I'm getting to a point now where I'm becoming resigned to the fact that age is creeping up on me and that time on the course is more valuable than time in a bay at a range.

The good news is he doesn't think it's a problem. As my "moves" are repeated on every shot and therefore I swing with a degree of consistency albeit resembling an octopus in a washing machine at times he is happy to work within the constraints he has with the raw materials at hand and that a handicap of 10 is within reach by next season and that with some dedicated work in particular areas such as putting and the short game that could go a shot or two lower.

It is back to competitive golf next weekend with the monthly stableford and the following week Paul and I have our first Winter lesson so we can really see where we are and where we are going. Although I can't find the swing at the moment I'm convinced it hasn't taken early hibernation and that as long as the weather behaves and we can get out an play (heck I'll even suffer with temporary greens if I must) a period of tuition, practice and consolidation, and playing the changes in on a Winter course will leave me in a fantastic position for next season. There is a Golf Monthly Forum meet at Woburn on 29th March 2012 and the plan is to be ready to hit the ground running for that. A new year, a tweaked but not rebuilt game and a legendary course to try it out on. What could be better?

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