Monday, 27 February 2012

Short Game Hope

Well today was the day of days. I had a short game lesson booked to try and find a way of getting this ailing facet back on track. It cripples my golf, prevents me from still posting a reasonable score even when ball striking isn't quite there and frankly scrambles my mind every time I'm faced with what to most golfers is a simple chip.

It boiled down to a question of geometry. I was rubbish at maths and hated geometry but wished I'd paid attention now. It appears that my body angles in set up were about as opposed to where they needed to be as possible. As a result it was impossible to bring the club down at the lowest point onto the ball with any regularity and that the fat and thins were as a direct result of trying to find a way of making contact.

Geometry - I wish I understood it better - it would have made chipping so much easier
The weight was poorly distributed, the shoulders and spine were tilted the wrong way and the head was behind the ball. Apart from that the action had a lot going for it. The lesson was really about making fundamental set up changes to get me to make regular contact with the ball. From there it's a case on trusting the swing to collect the ball and work on landing the ball where we want it and judging the reaction of the ball and the way it rolls out.

With the chest over or just left of the ball, which in turn has moved back a touch in the stance, the head is automatically in a better position. From there it is much easier to keep the right side moving, deliver the club on the ball and continue moving through the shot. I'm not going to become a short game wizard overnight, but the practise I put in after the lesson showed significant signs of improvement and confidence levels are rising.

We spent some time on pre-shot routines and picking and focusing on a specific landing spot which enables me to focus more on what I am trying to do with the shot and not get the brain bogged down in swing thoughts and technique. As long as I can set up in a more neutral and correct manner and let the right side dictate the shot things should become a lot simpler.

I'm sure once I get on the course it will be a struggle to trust it all and think of everything we worked on. On the plus side with the longer nights coming I can just work on the set up, get the action working properly and then begin to really drill down to specific landing zones for different clubs and lies. It is very much a fledgling work in progress but I can at least hit an approach and not have fear and trepidation in my mind in case I miss the green. I now have something I have proved can function and so can work on getting my scramble percentage up and saving more and more shots around the green. With the right technique the only thing holding my short game back will be my imagination. Every sort of shot from high, soft lobs to running checks will be in my repertoire. As a kid I use to love messing around the practise green and can't wait to start having fun again re-learning dormant skills. Game, very much on.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Tea For Two

I played a nice social game with a good friend and fellow Royal Ascot member Paul Sweetman this morning. It's always an enjoyable experience and we have a great time playing together and chew the fat as we wander around. The weather was a perfect Spring like day and very warm for the time of year and the course looked as pretty as a picture. We play a head to head stableford competition and the loser buys a civilised round of tea and toast in afterwards. Paul is a tough cookie, very steady off his 12 handicap and with a wonderful short game so I knew it would be a hard battle especially as I hadn't set the world alight in the roll up yesterday and hadn't taken any of the good practise work I'd done this week out onto the course.

Things started much brighter and I hit the green at the long 228 yard opener. With Paul finding the left hand bunker I was feeling confident of drawing first blood but he played a wonderful twenty yard shot from the stand stone dead for par. Suddenly my twenty five foot putt wasn't looking so easy but I managed to match his par. I hit a great drive at the second and rifled a five wood to within a hundred yards of the green but then made a costly error. I went pin seeking, caught it a little thin and rifled it over the back of the green. Paul made regulation par and I was a point behind.

I should have capitalised at the next where he failed to score after an errant drive but my second shot found the right hand bunker and I failed to escape first time. I got the point back from the previous hole but it should have been better. My bogey lost to his par at the next and the scores were reversed at the par five 5th where I made my five and Paul bogied. It was nip and tuck throughout and to be honest I was striking the ball a lot better than Saturday's round but was still not turning properly or swinging as I had done at the range. The short game was costing me and I couldn't buy a putt.

The back nine was equally tight and there some good shots and a few wayward ones. In my case the weakness in my short game technique was shown up on the 11th and 13th where I missed the green and had a chip off a bare muddy lie. In both cases I caught it way too thin and knifed it way past the hole. Fortunately though there is a short game lesson booked for tomorrow and I'm praying Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre is going to give me a foolproof technique and clear the gremlins and muddy thoughts from my head. If I knuckle down and work on what he shows me then anything resembling an adequate short game is still going to be better than what I have now and save me shots. Bunkers are an issue too but we might have to look at those separately.

On the 16th Paul hit his tee shot out of bounds and I found the middle of the fairway. He couldn't score and all I had to do was make sure I took no more than five (nett four) for a two shot swing. I had 182 yards left for the second and it should have been either an easy hybrid or if I had my thinking head on, a lay up to around fifty yards and a simple pitch on hopefully close enough to single putt. Instead I decided I could macho a 4 iron to the green. Everything moved on the shot and all I succeeded in doing was thin it into the bunker some fifty yards short of the green. No need to panic yet. A simple shot on the green and all was good. Well actually no, all was not good. I caught the ball way too clean and it flew over the green and into deep, deep grass perilously close to the out of bounds. We couldn't find it and I had failed to score too and made what would ultimately be a costly error.

We shared the points at the penultimate hole and I had found the green in regulation at the last. Paul had been forced to lay up but had managed to make a six (nett five and par). I had a twenty yard putt downhill and right to left. I thought I'd hit it well but it broke more than I had allowed and ran three feet past. I couldn't make the return. It was the first and only three putt I'd made all day.

In the end, I'd finished with 32 points but Paul had done me with 34. I'd have two holes that I hadn't scored on including that horror at the 16th and two single point holes on top of that so we were perhaps four or five shots away from playing to or beating my handicap. As several of those shots were poor bunker shots or badly played chips at least I can say the ball striking was better today. The driving in particular was a lot more encouraging.

It's back to repetition work tomorrow and the rest of the week hitting shots and rehearsing and feeling the correct one plane turn, clearing the hips, feeling the club exiting low and left and that I'm hitting down on the ball. I've gone back through the tuition and drill videos Rhys has sent me and I am confident it is in there. It boils down to trust ultimately and clearly somewhere in the sub-conscious I don't fully trust myself with it yet. On the plus side I managed to get it round with very few dramas and that was pleasing. With Paul having reactivated his full membership this year from a restricted one I can look forward to a lot more duels with my old foe and hopefully we can take advantage of some reciprocal arrangements the club has and take our battles to other courses.

In the end all that was left to do was for me to get the tea in. One lump or two?

Saturday, 25 February 2012

New Move - Same Outcome

Having worked really hard at the range this week and feeling as though I'd made some real progress with the swing changes I've been working on, I rocked up at Royal Ascot for the normal Saturday morning roll up. Even on the practise ground the swing was feeling good and so today was about taking the work I'd done and translating it into a trustworthy action on the course.

The opening swing was a good one although I pushed it right of target. However the tee shot at the second set the tone, particularly off the tee for the round. A quick swing, too quick, led to a nasty low snap hook into the hazard. There was no trust in the swing at all. It was more convincing at the third and I hit my approach well but again pushed it and found sand. The bunker gremlins I had last week in the roll up manifested themselves again and from a promising position I failed to score on the hole.
It was better still at the fourth where I managed to hit a great wedge from 102 yards to within six feet and converted for birdie. A solid par followed at the next. However, standing on the tee of the 6th, a real card wrecker for me in the past I was determined to put a good swing on it. I wanted too prove that the hole holds no fear and that under pressure the new swing will stand up. I actually hit the 5 iron pretty well but tugged it left. It should have been a simple enough chip but once again the short game went into meltdown and another hole passed by without troubling the scorers. The short game lesson on Monday can't come quickly enough although I doubt thirty minutes is going to do it.

It was a similar pattern at the 8th. Too long off the tee I hit a ropey chip to the back of the green but managed to salvage a point. Finally on the 9th I made a proper turn and connected with the drive. It flew and left a 5 iron into the green. Another swing replicating the ones at the range and it was in the heart of the green and a regulation par followed.

The back nine started better but another quick and horrid swing on the 12th tee saw me out of position. Poor drives at the 14th and 15th didn't help and although I made a good par at the 15th it was pressure golf and to be honest the swing wasn't coping. Finally, I hit the drive I'd been searching for at the 16th and it rocketed down the fairway. I couldn't follow it up and the hips slid instead of turning on the 5 iron approach and it missed left. What a waste of a good drive.

That drive was to be the defining moment. I had nightmares at both the closing two holes and in the end could only muster a paltry 29 points. We can put two or three lost points down to the errant short game but if I was being honest, the swing didn't work. I knew what I wanted to do and was rehearsing the hip turn in my pre-shot routine but standing over the ball those die hard old habits kept coming back. I need to find a way of replicating the good work I am doing on the range and take it on the course with me. It's a mental thing as well as a physical one

It's a real frustration. I know the new change isn't the finished article yet but having had a good week of practise I was hoping the turn would have been in there today. Maybe it was just a bad day on the course. I hope so. I'm playing again tomorrow with a good friend and fellow Ascot member Paul Sweetman and it's usually for lunch bought by the loser so I need to find a game from somewhere.

I'm calling it a new move and it isn't really. It's just a turn and not a slide of the hips and it is something I should have been doing for a long time but have never managed to find a way for it to work. With the flatter more rounded one plane action it's (or should be) much easier to rotate them. I've got to keep the faith and trust myself to produce it. If I don't we'll have the same outcome as today and the inconsistency that has blighted my game for the last year or so will continue and I can't allow that to happen. All in all I'm a frustrated and annoyed golfer tonight but the forecast is set fair tomorrow, the company will be good and we'll see what the new day brings.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Last Man Standing

The WGC Accenture Matchplay kicks off today at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, Marana, Arizona. It pits the top 64 players based on the official golf rankings and is head to head golf, mano v mano until we get a winner on Sunday evening. Last year Englishman Luke Donald was the victor

There are some intriguing first round matches. Will Tiger Woods be able to continue to show signs of a return to form? He's up against the long hitting Gonzalo Fdez-Castano and I guess the greatest thing in Wooods' favour is par golf isn't a necessity this week. As long as you get it in the hole in one less than your opponent, scores are largely irrelevant and I think that will suit the former world number one. I can see him winning his first round game to set up a second round clash with the winner of the Nick Watney v Darren Clarke game.

What about the reigning champion? Well Luke Donald has a very tough clash in arguably the tie of the round against Ernie Els. Both have swings and tempo to die for and Els is a tough player. Granted he's not been playing his best golf but in an eighteen hole sprint, he's more than capable of beating Donald. Personally I think Luke will edge this one and should see off the winner of the Dufner v Hansen clash in the next round.

What about Lee Westwood? A gritty player, he's another who showed some return to form in the desert recently and perhaps should have won last time out or at least forced a play-off but a poor chip at the last cost him. I fancy the Englishman to win his first round clash and should he get through his second round encounter would come face to face with Tiger.

Ian Poulter has won one of these matchplay events before and so knows how to get the job done. Fresh from the birth of his son Joshua James he should be hungry and should do enough to be Sang-Moon Bae from South Korea. However I don't think he's played enough golf recently to be good enough to go all the way.

With such a big field, picking a winner is tough. I like the draw that McIlroy has and think he will make the last eight with ease. I'm not sure he's quite on song to win it. As a wild card, Garcia looks to be enjoying his golf again and has loads of Ryder Cup experience to draw on but my two picks are Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson. Both hit it a mile and in the rarefied desert air that is going to be a big plus. Both are playing well and both have enough matchplay experience to grind a result out. It's perhaps ironic that with a field so bereft of Americans (only 17 in a field of 64) I've picked two as my choice to win.

Whoever comes out on top, it'll be compulsive viewing. I love matchplay, although as a player I tend to lack the killer instinct to kill a match off. I might get two or three holes in front with five or six left to play and then lose one. Not to panic, I've still got plenty in the bank. Lose another and suddenly the lead is down to one with a few holes left and momentum has left me. I need to get my nose in front and get a taste for blood. Plenty of time to be nice once we've shaken hands. Too many games have slipped through my fingers that were there for the winning.

I use to love watching the World Matchplay at Wentworth which was a bit of a curtain closer for the season and played late September or early October. Perhaps at its peak in the 80's I use to go along regularly and marvel at Seve, Faldo, Woosnam etc. Top players at their peak. Seve was my favourite and matchplay was his kind of game. He had that invincible aura and even when his game was off and he struggled to keep it on the Wentworth Estate, he'd find a way to make par from impossible positions. Impossible to play against and fascinating to watch.

I don't think we'll see anything quite like Seve this week (or ever again) but it's going to be brilliant viewing. I've hidden the remote from the wife, fluffed the cushions in my favourite chair and I'm waiting with eager anticipation for the coverage to start. Who will be last man standing come Sunday night?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Faulty Wiring

I hit the range last night, light of heart and full of intent. The back nine on Sunday had proved that the swing changes are in there and that with a sharp increase in self belief, dedicated and purposeful practise sessions and the continued guidance of my teaching professional, the single figure aspiration he set and I laughed at, may, just may, be more realistic than I thought.

I don't know what happened, but by 6.30pm I was home alone at Blue Mountain near Bracknell. Not another soul on the range at all and no-one came in for the remaining thirty minutes I was there. There had been three others working away at their games when I arrived but one by one they drifted off. I could understand it a few weeks ago when we were gripped by minus temperatures and even last week was a bit parky but it was pleasant enough last night. I would have thought golfers would have been out knocking off the rustiness from their games. Not that I minded though. Once I had finished my paid for allocation, I wandered up and down outside the bays, collected another half bucket and dispatched them too. Well, it wasn't as if I was in any danger of being hit on my Todd.

I was there with one thing in my mind last night. Turning the hips and not sliding them. I need to get them cleared as much as possible through impact as part of this one plane swing I'm working on. That has two benefits. It gets the club out in front of me more allowing me to hit down on a steeper angle and compress the ball properly. It also lets the club travel on the correct, in, square and in path.

Faulty Wiring
The problem I've had, is that I've swung the golf club a particular way for twenty plus years now and was taught in an era when a big leg action was considered acceptable. Times and teaching have moved on but I am having all kinds of problems re-wiring my brain and body to do the same thing. I've written on here recently about coming out of lessons with my teacher, looking at the Plane Truth website and their instructional videos, and having a very strong and clear picture in my mind of how a one plane swing looks and works. Hip slide and a shallow impact position are the two biggest killers this new swing can have.

When it works, the results are really strong and reinforce the pictures in my mind I have. The trouble is, the old habits are so ingrained and there is an unconscious fear of the new swing path that I have real issues converting technique and committing fully.

As I said, in essence, the hips can't clear quickly enough and I really need to feel as though I want to hit everything 45 degrees left to get the club head turning correctly on the way through impact. That is all I worked on. I have to say I think we've finally broken a few mental barriers down. There were still too many shots where the hips slid or the club head travelled down the line of the shot (another big no no) but when I committed and trusted, I really got the hips to turn better and felt much more on top of the ball as I hit it. The good ones were as good as anything I've produced since I stated this rebuild and only reinforced the knowledge I'm on the right track.

I've purchased an impact bag which is sure to endear myself to the neighbours as I live mid-terrace.


Repetition - get that feeling ingrained (not sure the neighbours will be happy though)

The plan is to do ten minutes per day and really focus on that feeling of getting the hips clear and hitting down. Repetition is key I think and as long as I don't get lazy with the swing it has to be a good thing. It's all about re-wiring the old grey matter and accepting the new moves are right and to embrace rather than fight them. I'm back at the range tomorrow, possibly Nobby No Mates again, and will keep on working on it. I'm not unrealistic enough to think I'll walk onto the course in the roll up at the weekend and it'll be great but if we can get more holes like the last six or seven on Sunday, more often, then step by step we'll build into full rounds where the ball striking becomes natural, consistent and good. Then we just have to rely on my chipping and putting. Oh bugger.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Hob Nobbing

Perhaps the greatest joy the game of golf gives is the ability for players from all walks of life and ability to enjoy a game together. Sometimes, usually in the name of charity, its possible for the average club member to rub shoulders with a top professional or famous celebrity and enjoy a few hours in their company playing the noble game on some fantastic course. I've been lucky enough to enjoy the company of a number of well known names (in their day) as a playing partner, as a caddy and even as a member of the same club as these celebrities. There has even been one real Fellini moment when two of the best golfers Britain has produced arrived on my golfing doorstep at the peak of their powers.

Wimbledon Common Golf Club is a humble club set on the edge of the common about a mile from Wimbledon Village. I was lucky enough to have a short spell as the assistant pro working for their long standing professional Jeff Jukes. In the late 1970's and early 80's the club was able to claim the voice of tennis commentary on the BBC, Dan Maskell as a member. Also there during that period was TV actor James Bolam, famous at the time for his role as Terry Collier in the Likely Lads and Jack Ford in When the Boat Comes In.

Dan Maskell in particular was a revered member, with a table always set aside after a game for him to enjoy his post round tea and coffee with his partners. As a rather young, impetuous youth, it was always an intimidating affair playing alongside him, but despite the stiff and brusque exterior he was a warm and engaging partner. Always full of stories about the tennis players of the day (Nastase, Connors etc) if anyone in his fourball hit an outstanding shot, he sometimes used his most remembered and best loved catchphrases such as "Oh, I say!" or "What a peach". He talked as he commentated and the first time he popped out with one of these I have to admit I was gnawing on my golf glove trying hard not to giggle too loudly. He was a lovely, lovely man and even into his 60's played off a 12 handicap and was as tough as iron to beat.


Dan Maskell doing his day job

James Bolam, was another famous member. Not a frequent a visitor due to filming he was another with whom a round of golf was a very enjoyable experience and a man with few airs or graces. Indeed as we share the same birthday (16th June) I use to receive a birthday card each year for a while until he moved to another club. He was another with many a tale to tell, from filming the cult comedy series that made his name to various escapades as a jobbing actor. He was a staunch supporter of charity events and regularly gave up his time. He appeared on the BBC show "Pro Celebrity Golf" which paired two celebrities with two famous golfers of the day for a filmed nine holes usually at somewhere in Scotland like Turnberry or Gleneagles. I actually sold him the pair of shoes he wore on his Pro Celebrity TV appearance during my time as the assistant pro.

James Bolam - hopefully he didn't get blisters from the shoes I sold him
The final member of a celebrity triumvirate I rubbed shoulders with as a start-struck youngster in my time at Wimbledon Common was the Formula 1 world champion and TV Commentator James Hunt. Although not a member of the club he often walked his Alsatian dogs past the pro shop and would regularly pay a green fee to play and once in a while we would pair up for a game. As a sportsman who reached the pinnacle of his field he had that winning mentality. However as a novice golfer he would become very frustrated with his inability to control his little white sphere and the two Alsatians that would accompany us would often be sent deep into the foliage to try and retrieve his ball. Despite his lack of ability he was a joy to spend time with and we'd get some very strange looks as the public on Wimbledon Common realised who it was and I'd often have to wait while he signed an autograph or stopped for a chat.

James Hunt - Mr Laid Back - until he stepped onto the 1st tee
've been fortunate enough to have played in the odd pro-celebrity event myself. There was an annual tournament sponsored by the Daily Express newspaper and the legendary Harry Secombe in aid of the Lords Taverners Charity. This was held at Effingham Golf Club in Surrey and I was partnered with the ex-England wicket keeper from the 1950's and 60's Godfrey Evans. It was a team event and I'm afraid nerves got the better of me standing there with photos being taken, famous faces all around and a reasonable sized crowd. Dear old Godfrey wasn't the most adept player and was quite advanced in years and to be honest struggled with the hilly terrain. There was a marquee behind the 6th green for the players to get a drink. Godfrey ordered a double G&T and sat down to get his breath back. Next thing we knew he'd another double G&T in his hand. It didn't help his golf any. There was another marquee at the 9th and Godfrey repeated the trick. Double G&T when he walked in and joined the back of the queue to get another. However by this time the snifters had kicked in and for the back nine he was "missing in action" and last seen enjoying his drink and chatting to friends and the crowd. Quality effort.

Godfrey Evans - England wicket keeper and fond of a G&T
The following year I was back but this time as a caddy. I was fortunate to have the bag of Bernard Cribbins, narrator of the Wombles on TV and famous in the 1960's for novelty records such as "Hole in the ground" and Right said Fred". He was great with the crowds and slipped into Womble mode for the kids of happily gave a few bars from his tunes. He also appeared in the classic film "The Railway Children" and was happy to talk about his stage and screen life. He has recently come back to prominence as Wilfred Mott in Dr Who which was ironic as he had starred in the 1966 Dr Who film - Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD with Peter Cushing as the doctor. A decent golfer he played very well and was very patient with the crowd and not too wrapped up about the winning or how he played despite my best efforts to plot a course and club him correctly. To be honest it wasn't a chore to carry the bag and he even blagged me a ticket into the main function to have a meal and a drink and paid me handsomely.
 

Bernard Cribbins - kids favourite, housewives favourite and all round Mr Nice Guy
Since then, I've been to a lot of golf events, tournaments and corporate events and seen a host of top players. Just before the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, the European captain Colin Montgomery held a clinic at Silvermere Golf Club in Surrey. It was a chance to get close to the man, watch as he demonstrated how he played certain shots and ask him questions about his game, team selection for the Ryder Cup and on golf in general. He was very engaging and came over very differently from the dour, spikey persona portrayed on TV when he was playing.

Me and Monty at Silvermere
Even when I moved down to deepest Berkshire (well Bracknell) and joined Royal Ascot I wasn't able to escape "celebrity" altogether. When the club was situated in its old home on Ascot Heath, inside the racecourse, Tom O'Connor, comedian, presenter of "Name That Tune" and regular in dictionary corner on Channel 4's Countdown, was a member. He wasn't a frequent visitor but catch him in the 19th and he could never help himself by firing off gag after gag. On the course as well, you could be playing like a one armed man fighting an octopus but he'd take your mind off your own troubles and just have you crying with laughter. Not a swear word in site, but good old fashioned story and joke telling.

Tom O'Connor - one of the funniest guys I've ever met and not a swear word in sight
However, perhaps the most interesting encounter I had was in 1986. It was the last Saturday in March and I'd just come off the course at Wimbledon Common having not played particularly well. Getting changed in the locker room, someone came in and said that Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle were playing at Royal Wimbledon Golf club, some 200 yards down the road. Being a sceptic I couldn't beleive that two of the best golfers in Europe at that time (if not the world) would be playing a course like that on a Saturday afternoon. Still, no harm in going to have a look. Just to be sure you understand.
 

Sandy Lyle - hit it a country mile even with a balata ball
I couldn't beleive it. I caught them up on the third hole and it was just them, their caddies and about twenty others. No ropes, no marshalls. I could look in their bags and Faldo even asked me to show him my swing and gave me a pointer on what I could do better. Watching them play was jaw dropping. This was still the days of persimmon woods with miniscule heads and even smaller sweet spots and balata golf balls. These golfing gods were able to hit it miles and with such control.
 
We got to one hole and I asked Faldo what he planned to hit for his second into the green. We were only about 150 yards away and he said six iron. Now I'd have fancied my chances of getting there with a six iron but this was a golfing icon. "That's way too much club" I cheekily suggested. "No, it's a 6 iron" he replied. He hit this thing and it started off at tree height and then rose like a rocket upwards and landed softly on the green some six feet away. "Yeah, I thought it was a six iron too" I said to him as he walked up to the green. To this day I don't know why they were there. I wanted to get their autographs and the only thing I had was my club diary so both Lyle and Faldo signed the inside cover.
 

Nick Faldo - awesome display of ball striking
Professionals are use to playing with the public. It's part of their job and so I'm sure a lot of the time they are putting their PR faces on and getting the job done. That day with Faldo and Lyle was different. It was like watching two mates having a game at the local muni. Nothing put on, just hit it find it and hit it again.
 
Celebrities too can put on the smiles and make playing partners feel wanted. Its all for charity and everyone is there for a good time. However, meet a few up close and in their personal time and they prove that despite the publicity and wealth, deep down they are ordinary golfers who just share the same love of the game as everyone else.
 
I'm sure many of you will have your own encounters over the years. Feel free to comment and let me know who you've played with either by leaving a message at the bottom of the page or via twitter at @mbedboro. Lets see who's played with the biggest star or best golfer.

Bad But Good

Following on from the poor round that was the Saturday morning roll up, yesterday saw myself and regular partner Mike Stannard paired up in the Royal Ascot 4 ball better ball stableford competition. It's played off 3/4 handicap and so I was playing off 10 and Mike was deep into the realms of a single figure golfer and off 7. It was bitterly cold and there was a strong breeze which really had teeth and made it uncomfortably nippy and challenging to play in. I was actually hitting it well in the warm up and felt confident Mike would be his usual Mr Consistency and help carry me along if the swing was still mis-firing. We were paired with Norman Barker, ex-secretary of Royal Ascot, ex-RAF, member of the club for years and thoroughly pleasant chap. He was with George Spence, one of the "characters" in the 19th, extremely funny, very quick fire with his humour, and on his day a tough golfer to beat.

I actually started off well for the team and although the tee shot was ropey, I did enough to secure a nett par and two points on the opener. However any thoughts that this would be the day the changes bedded in lasted as far as the second hole and a carved slice out of bounds. I was to follow that with a hooked tee shot at the third as well. Fortunately my man was there in a crisis and bailed us out. We both made a horlicks of the 4th to drop a point and both missed chances at the next to get the lost point back.

We were dodging bullets more than taking the game to the course and in the end our total of 16 points going out was probably as good as we could have hope for. Mike wasn't playing as well as he can. As for me, the determination was there but the execution was leaving a lot to be desired and the swing was still not working. Again, I knew what I wanted to do and couldn't convert the swing from the practise ground to the course.

I started the back nine in the same manner as the front and came in for a nett par. I did the same at the next as well and suddenly there was a minor epiphany. The swing suddenly woke up. I hit a pearler off the 12th tee which was unfortunate to find a horrid bare and muddy lie. The tee shot on the 186 yard par three was right out the middle and flew straight at the target with a hint of draw. It landed close to the pin and I have to be honest and say I was getting nervous. There was a big field assembled and not really the ideal day for buying drinks for a hole in one. In the end it finished some six feet away but it was a tricky left to right downhill putt which I couldn't really attack. I made par.

Good tee shots followed at the next two holes and I was keeping the scoreboard ticking over. I didn't hit a good one at the 16th but managed to redeem the situation and make another nett par. I had a nightmare down the penultimate hole but Mike was there to mop up, hitting the green and making a regulation par although the second putt was a lot harder than it needed to be.

Mike hit a wonder drive down the last but wasn't getting a shot. The pressure was on me to follow his lead as I was getting a shot and we wanted to finish in a bit of glory at least. We knew we'd left too much to do and wouldn't be in contention but thought a top 10 place was there for the taking.

I hit it solidly but a bit left. I needed to hit a big hook to take the large tree in front of my direct line out of play and to get maximum distance on a hole that is usually a little damp underfoot and plays into the wind. I produced a stunner. Starting towards the right rough it flew high and majestically and moved some fifteen feet in the air back into the middle of the fairway. I was left with 118 yards in. It would normally be a nine iron but into the wind and with a pond to the right of the green to consider I opted for an easy eight iron. I didn't hit it flush but it stopped some ten feet away. Mike had played the hole well and his approach was just outside mine. He went first and rolled it in for a wonderful birdie and three valuable points.

Mine was downhill with a hint of left to right. I aimed about a ball width left of the hole and hit the putt. It never really looked anywhere else but dead centre. Four, nett three and four points for the team. Poor old George and Norman had got inside our efforts but the hole seemed minute after our birdie putts and neither could convert.

In the end, my birdie was enough to give us 20 points coming home and a total of 36 overall. In the 19th there were lots of tales of what might have been and that the front nine was as brutal as many of us could remember in the teeth of the wind. In the end, our score was good enough for a very respectable 8th place. Bearing in mind I barely made a contribution on the front and that Mike was having a real up and down day too it was a case of "how did we manage that?" and that on even a slightly better ball striking day we could have been right up there. It was funny looking at the card. Mike had come in on seven out of nine holes on the front half and I'd done the same on the back and contributed on seven out of nine. I guess it shows that even when we haven't got our A or even our B games we can still gel as a team. Much promise for the summer then.

For me it's back to the range this week and work on that hip turn through impact and getting the club on a steeper plane on the downswing and working properly after I've hit it. It is in there and it's more a question of re-programming twenty plus years of swinging one way. Teaching this old dog new tricks is going to take time, fortitude and sheer bloody mindedness but my teaching professional promises the end results will be worth it and I believe him. The back nine showed the potential and its time to let it grow.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Plan B Or Not Plan B

It was lesson time again on Thursday. Whilst I am making tiny steps forward with the new swing, there are a number of old habits still belligerently refusing to budge which are holding back progress. A nagging hip slide instead of a turn is one of the main ones and is resulting in the club still coming into impact way too shallow and inside the line. It's about as far away from what a one plane impact should be as possible. Still if you are going to make a mistake, make it a big one!

I still have a very clear picture of what the swing should look like in my head but Rhys wanted to try a plan B and change the grip and go to a two plan swing and take the club away far more upright in an attempt to give the swing the steepness is desperately requires. Whilst I wouldn't say I was overly thrilled at the change, I'm prepared to give anything a go and we worked on it. I left with a fresh image in my mind and a plan to hit the range the next day and work on it.

Friday dawned mild and dry and I diligently headed off to Maidenhead Golf Centre to try and find a way to hit the bloody thing properly. I have to be honest and say plan B was an unmitigated disaster. I've spent so long since December working on the one plane swing I really couldn't find a way to take the club back and return on a steeper path in a way that produced a good conduct.

In the end I made the executive decision to revert back to plan A and stick with the one plane move. I've said to Rhys my teaching pro that I'll find a way to conquer the hip slide for a sharp rotation of the hips (think of the way a baseball player hits it) and that we can then introduce a steeper path once I have the club moving in the right direction. It might be a longer process but hopefully it'll capitalise on the work to date.

Having made my decision and hating to have nagging doubts in my mind I went back to Blue Mountain Driving Range in the evening to get a bucket of balls with the sole purpose of focusing on impact and turning properly. The results were encouraging and I began to make the sort of contact I had been in the run up to Christmas and in subsequent practice sessions and as I dropped off to sleep last night it bode well for the roll up game at Royal Ascot this morning.

I hit some balls to warm up and sure enough back came the hip slide. Still, I was resolute to think once I hit the course the mind would focus and all would be well. That lasted into impact on the first shot. A horrible skyed effort out of bounds which left a scuff mark on the crown and toe of my beloved three wood. The tone was set.

My partners Mace and Stewart were having issues of their own and we were hardly inspiring each other and feeding of the good shots. I did make a birdie at the 4th. The three wood was skinny and thinned right, ending up back onto the 3rd fairway but I hit a good nine iron to five feet and converted. Aside from that, there were precious few highlights to enjoy. The swing wasn't functioning and the more I thought about tempo, hip slide, follow through etc the more it became a pickle. I hit a good drive and second shot down the par 5 last hole which pleased me although the five iron into the wind had more than an element of "pond avoidance" and was never going anywhere near the water by the right of the green and ended up missing the green way left.

On the plus side the putter worked well. There were a few good chips despite not having worked on the short game and we were round in three and a half hours and didn't get wet. On the downside all the good things I'm doing at the range fizzle and fade as soon as I step onto the course. I could be a glass half full type of guy and say it was the first game in a month and so I was rusty but I think the truth is it goes much deeper than that. Its four ball better ball competition time tomorrow and I'm hoping my partner will drag me on his coat tails and I can find some sort of form.

Plan B is dead. Long live Plan A.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Going Back To My Roots

I'm going to take a periodical look at the people and places that have inspired my golfing journey to date. I've posted about my first ever game with my dear departed father (http://threeoffthetee.blogspot.com/2011/05/generation-game.html) but lets go back to where it all started.  For those of you too young to remember, the summer of 1976 was a scorcher. One of the hottest on record, certainly before we'd ever heard of global warming and it was wall to wall sunshine. I'm not sure how I came to hear about it, but Sandown Park Golf Centre, situated in the middle of the race course in leafy Esher, Surrey,  were holding beginner lessons in the school holidays. It was every afternoon between 2.00 and 4.00 for a week.

The entrance to Sandown Park Golf Centre - it's hardly changed since I set foot there back in 1976
I know I'd become vaguely aware of my dad playing a bit of golf and being a member at Wimbledon Common and I'd enjoyed a few rounds of pitch and putt at my local course. I can't recall if I pestered him to go or if he thought it was a good way of keeping me amused for a few hours while he enjoyed some R&R and hit some balls on the range or enjoyed a drink at the bar.

The lessons took place on the grassed area at the far end of the range. There was a dustbin full of balls and the professional went through the basics of the swing, grip, posture, alignment. We hit our compliment of balls and the pro wandered up and down the line correcting our mistakes and encouraging our efforts. The lesson itself only lasted an hour per day, but my abiding memory is being allowed to stay and hit as many balls as we wanted until the dustbin was empty.

Once the week was over, my dad use to take me every Sunday to Sandown Park to practise and eventually I was allowed to venture onto their beginner course, a par three layout behind the driving range. I was rubbish but it just inspired me more and more. Eventually I persuaded my mum, who thought golf would be a passing fad, to cash in my national savings certificates and buy me a half set of clubs and I became the proud owner of a set of Petron Impala's. I had a 3 and 5 wood, a 3, 5, 7 and 9 iron and a putter in a blue tartan effect pencil bag.

I was hooked and my dad paid for some more lessons as I was showing some real natural talent (where did that go?) and I worked hard. Sandown Park was becoming a second home and I progressed to their nine hole course as I honed my skills. It was clear this was more than a phase I was going through and so my parents found the cash to make up the full set. I wanted to play regularly and after my first game on a full size course that was it. If the bug had already bitten, it was now an all consuming passion.

I never knew the name of the teaching professional that gave me those first lessons but I sometimes wonder if he knew what a golfing flame he had lit inside me. It was probably just a week teaching the kids to him but to me it was the start of a long, sometimes tempestuous love affair with this great game.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Crossroads

Hit the range last night keen to wipe away the memory of the weekend practise sessions and the lack of cohesion in my swing. It was good to be able to swing without layer upon layer of clothing restricting movement in an attempt to stave off frostbite. I was determined not to let technical thoughts corrupt the process and wanted to really "feel" the club in the right place. I filmed a few swings to make sure what I thought I was doing matched what I'd been working on in the recent lessons and that I was definitely on the right line.

What transpired was interesting. The camera proved that what I was feeling didn't really correspond to what was going on but a lot of the time the connection and strike was actually more than acceptable and on occasions sublime. I've written about substance over style before and I sent a copy of the video to my teaching professional. He's looked at it and says there is some degree of improvement, not significant and as much as we'd like, but interestingly he responded and said let the ball dictate how you are hitting it.



It's back to the battle between hitting it well and hitting it properly. I want something that does both but clearly we're a long way off from that particular nirvana. Having not been anywhere near a course in a month or so it's hard to know exactly where my game is where it counts. On the plus side I've got another lesson on Thursday night so we can sit down and discuss my progress, or lack of, to date and see where we want to go from there. I'm off on Friday so hoping I can get a game in, even if it's just nine holes and try the swing changes on the course.

I wouldn't say we're at the crossroads yet but the junction is in the distance and coming close into view. How long do you give swing changes before admitting they aren't for you and aren't making a difference. Does changing to a two piece swing, with associated set up changes, mean going right back to the drawing board? Do I just need Rhys to simplify it into basics? Am I just being too impatient and haven't given it enough practise or time?
 
 

Is my swing changes about to hit a crossorad? What direction will it go in next?

We'll see what the next range session brings. Let the way I hit it dictate what is happening. We all know it doesn't have to be pure or textbook to work. Even some of the professionals have exotic actions but the difference is they bring the club back to the ball in the right place every time and that is what I'm lacking. If I can repeat something that works then I'm happy. That seems to be the holy grail.

At least we've warmer weather to enjoy, although there is yet another cold snap due for the end of the week. I've some time off work Friday and next Monday so a great chance to brush up on my game, perhaps even dance with my nemesis, the short game, and get a round or two in. Perhaps it'll click into place but at the moment I'm in what they call conscious competence. I have a level of ability but I'm thinking about the how all the time, both on the range and the course. I need to get up to the next level and let it all flow without any swing thought or conscious movement. Why must golf be so frustrating all of the time?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Getting Frustrated Again

As expected there was no chance to play this weekend but I was looking forward to a couple of range sessions especially after the way I'd hit the ball at Blue Mountain in the freezing cold on Tuesday night. I had really felt I'd turned a corner and had in my mind exactly what I was trying to achieve, especially in the takeaway with the work I've been doing with Rhys ap Iolo at Downshire Golf Centre.

I went to Maidenhead Golf Centre yesterday morning determined that I'd be able to pick up where I'd left off. In truth it was arguably even colder than Tuesday night and I was raw to the bone very quickly and to be honest my heart wasn't in it even after a dozen or so warm up shots with my wedges. I didn't hit the ball well, certainly put little or no thought into what I was trying to achieve and to be truthful wanted to get through the bucket as quickly as I could and head off home to defrost. A wasted session with nothing achieved and little to takeaway of a positive nature.

Today I enjoyed something I've not had in a long time. A proper old fashioned Sunday morning lie in until around midday. After getting up and having some lunch I headed back to Maidenhead Golf Centre to work on the swing again. It was almost tropical, at least three or four degrees above freezing, compared with the conditions of the past seven days.

However that is about as far as the good news went. I put a few swings on camera and what I thought I was doing and certainly what I was rehearsing, were not what I was doing with the ball there. It was the same fatal error for a one plane swing and crossing the hands at the top of the swing. I could have sworn I was taking the club back behind me more and it was in the correct offset position but the camera doesn't lie.

This puts me in a real predicament. Tuesday proves that it works and when it does, the ball striking, distance and flight are unlike anything I've experienced in many years. However if that is going to be a once in a blue moon event then we need to look at a plan B. I am desperate to try an make it work as I really don't want to be flitting between learning this type of swing and then going over to the two plane (or more upright) type which will also involve changes to grip and address.

I'd like to put it down to not hitting any balls from Tuesday until yesterday and the cold being the excuse for it not being a great session. I've no excuse for today though. I'll hit the range again after work tomorrow and have another go. There were some good shots in there but it we aren't getting the club set correctly in the back swing, everything else is a set of compensatory moves. I've already posted about slow progress but I'm finding it really hard to bed these changes in. I keep running the instructional videos Rhys has given me and going through the drills but to no avail.

To make matters worse, there is a four ball better ball competition next Sunday and I really don't want to be letting my partner down (again) and not doing my bit. I've no doubt the course will be fully open by then so we're in it. Right in it in my case. Looking for positives though, there is another lesson booked for Thursday evening and so we can have another go then and chat with Rhys about the lack of progression and I've got Friday off work so I can go to the golf club and really put some work in on the swing and perhaps get a few holes under my belt and see how it stands up on the course.

Why can't I make it work. Golf is a simple game played in a complicated way. I need to get rid of everything my brain and body thinks it knows and re-educate it to swing on a simple one plane axis. It should be so easy. Frustration won't help but sometimes it's hard to stay positive amongst all the mayhem and misery. The good ones are still very good which is what's driving me on to work hard and keep going down this path. Rhys seems convinced it will happen and so maybe after just two lessons I'm expecting too much too quickly from too big a change. It's just when it goes like it did on Tuesday I can see some really low scores coming as a result and the handicap tumbling. Patience Homer. Patience.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Winter Warmers

As the snow is beginning to arrive again and it is still freezing cold I thought I'd share a few of my favourite video clips to lighten the mood. I know a few of you are going stir crazy not being able to play or practise. These have done the rounds before but I still think they are classics. They feature the American golfer Ben Crane. He always comes across as quite focused and intense on the course but it would appear in fact he's a sandwich short of a picnic and just a little bit mad.




I hope you liked them and that we can all get back out and swinging and playing again soon. If you're lucky enough not be affected by the weather and snow and have games booked this weekend, happy golfing!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Happy Homer - Progression At Last

Well after the frustrations of my lesson on Saturday I hit the range last night for the first real practise session since, determined to put the drills in place and get the club moving correctly. It didn't help that the temperature was already -1 when I got there but no pain, no gain and when its working like a dream in the Summer I can look back at the sacrifices I made enduring the cold and smile.

I say I was determined to work on the drills and to be honest I went there with good intentions. I hit a dozen or so looseners and went straight into a drill Rhys had shown me at the weekend and which I'd found useful which was to take my address position with a ball fractionally inside the line and about three to four inches ahead of the club face. The idea was to get into the right take away position first, pause and then try and hit the ball.

From a ball striking perspective I had absolutely no issues but each and every one of them were straight pulls left of the target. Not a hook or a pull but arrow straight some ten or fifteen yards away from where I was intending. On the plus side I was really feeling the correct takeaway and club position and felt my right elbow was tucked in and my right shoulder nice and level. The club was set well and behind me and the hands hadn't extended much above shoulder height. If only it had been that easy on Saturday.

I decided as it was cold (sorry Rhys!) to work on hitting some full swings without the pause. All I was looking for was to make the correct turn. I think the yoof of today class it as an OMG moment. Granted it was only a seven iron and so not the hardest club in the world to hit but wow, what a revelation. I don't know if my head was full of chocolate frogs on Saturday and the messages and images Rhys was trying to get over were lost in translation, or as I alluded to in my last post, I'm just a numpty and couldn't get it, but the shots were top notch.

Somehow from the more rounded and offset back swing position I was coming down and compressing the ball perfectly and it was flying higher than I am use to seeing my wedges go. Arrow straight or with a soft draw, the sweet spot was dotted with imprints from another perfectly hit ball. There were a few where the old habit of the club face travelling down the line after impact took over, but for the most part we were hitting down and the club seemed to know where it wanted to go, correctly back inside after impact, without me thinking about it.

Even though I'd hit 80 balls, it had taken close on ninety minutes as I diligently stopped after every couple of balls and just kept rehearsing the back swing. I had to stop as well and put the winter mitts on every now and then to try and keep the feeling in my hands. It didn't help that Blue Mountain ripped me off to the tune of £1.50. I put my money in their hot drinks machine, picked my option and watched as it whirled and spluttered and came up as saying "complete" with the cup still bone dry and not a drop of warming liquid to be seen. Conveniently there was no-one available to come over from the main clubhouse and I was to go over after my session.

That grumble aside I was euphoric and nearly got another 25 balls to give the driver a bash but decided it's quality and not quantity and that getting home and warm was a sensible option. With Royal Ascot still closed and more snow, heavy frosts and freezing temperatures on the cards I am guessing the ranges will be full of frustrated golfers this weekend. It's where I'm planning to be to try and build on the first building block towards a repeatable one plane swing. Hopefully I'll be able to capture it on camera at some point and for those of you wondering what the Dickens it all means, it should be come a whole lot clearer.

My only niggling concern is the fact I thought I was on the right track last time, prior to the lesson on Saturday, and clearly wasn't. I'm going through the One Plane pupil profile I've been given and looking at the drills and I have a clearer picture of where the right elbow and shoulder need to be. As long as that image stays fresh at the front of my mind we're be laughing. Right time to dig out the thermals in time for my next range session. BRRRRRRR

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Slow Learner Or Harder Than Expected

Way back in 2011, well actually the week before Christmas (but doesn't it feel a long time ago?) I had my first lesson with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre and we embarked on changing the swing I had into a one plane swing. The logic was sound. Make it a simpler motion and once embedded it will make it easier to repeat. That leads to lower scores, my handicap gets cut, I win a few competitions and Rhys gets muchos kudos for being a brilliant teacher. All great stuff and after my first lesson I was already hitting it better.

Christmas came and went and I enjoyed a few rounds of golf. I was hitting it pretty solidly and the work on the range was still good but bit by bit it seemed to wane until the last round I played where it was truly abject in the Saturday roll up. I was suddenly hitting no more than ok on the range and the swing didn't feel as it had done. Fortunately it was my second lesson yesterday and I hoped that the work I had been putting in would have served me well.

In the end it took three shots for Rhys to conclude that we still have a long way to go. My swing had become more upright and I wasn't getting the club anywhere near far enough behind me and that it was crossing over the line at the top. I had known this was a problem from filming my swing but hoped it would be easy to remedy.

Sadly not and as the lesson progressed we tried a couple of different techniques. Eventually Rhys worked out that if I took the club back, stopped and then made the downswing it would give me time to connect everything together. Should be easy right? Well you know me and even when I got back and stopped in a perfect (or passable) one plane takeaway I still managed to make it hard and the next move was to initially move up and not start the downswing. Twenty plus years of swinging back too far and it's like a tic and almost a sub-conscious move of the arms wanting to go further on. In the end he wired me into a weird harness that really restricted my ability and I was only able to make half swings so we could focus on coming down and getting the club moving round in the follow through and not flat and down the ball line. Again a generic problem ingrained in poor coaching and years of practise.

We found that if I placed a ball a few inches inside the line and in front of where I set up at address and then focused on making a proper one plane turn back, stopping, and then trying to hit the ball inside the line it got the club coming down steeper, I could compress more and finally begin to turn back inside on the follow through.

I have to say I think I tried his patience. I was really trying and although I understood where we were going and trying to do I was having one of those days where brain and body weren't wired in together and one failed to react to the other and I sensed a touch of frustration on both sides. In fact it got so bad, there was talk at looking at the two plane swing which involves a change of grip as well if things don't click into place. I am really comfortable with the one plane even if I can't replicate how it should work all the time and the grip is as comfy as a pair of old slippers. You know how hard it can be to break new shoes in sometimes and multiply that by ten and you've an idea of how tough I think a new grip and swing will be. It is certainly a wake up call to get this swing on track.

I stopped off at the range on the way home for a quick bucket of balls before the snow arrived. I decided to ensure every swing was as Rhys instructed and so made the back swing, paused and then hit the shot. I spent a lot of time on the "ball inside the line" drill and made some good contact with most of them although the ball flight was left of the target. I wasn't too fussed as I was looking for the feeling of the right shoulder being more on top at impact and hitting down and then turning back inside.

The snow duly came and so there wasn't a chance to work on it further today. I am pretty frustrated as I thought I'd made real progress after the first lesson but clearly some habits are hard to break. Still in the spirit of the new glass half full Homer for 2012 we'll learn from this step back and come back more determined to get it right. I've found a good drill or two on the Plane Truth pupil website and so I can really work on those at home and put the effort in on the range too.

I always thought of myself as a quick learner when it came to all things golf. Maybe old age is creeping up and the brain and body are starting to get old and confused. I wonder if Rhys can teach using those flash cards kids use to learn to read. Failing that I wonder if I can make a swing and keep my dunces cap on my head. Maybe, just maybe this one plane malarkey is actually a tougher nut to crack than I thought and the initial results led me into a false sense of security. Coming from a more upright and flawed starting position with regards to my swing it was always going to be hard to trust any swing going more behind my body. Until we can get the initial movement back into a decent back swing sorted then we can't really look at the downswing and correct the shallowness of that.

Problems, problems. Still if there's one thing I relish in golf it's a challenge so I say bring it on. I've another lesson booked in for February 16th and so it is a race against time to get this sorted. I've a clear picture in my head of where the club should be and Rhys is going to update my pupil file so that will help as an aide de memoir and we can go from there. Lets have it.

Snow Chance

I had a lesson with Rhys ap Iolo yesterday at the Downshire Golf Centre. I'd hope to be able to get out and work on the drills he showed me but the weather intervened. No golf at all today but I wandered up to Royal Ascot Golf Club with the good lady wife and had a bit of a meander around. Not a soul around. Very nice

The putting green. Not much chance of making a putt on there - The 9th is behind it


A view back to the tee from behind the par three 6th hole

The iconic grandstand on the racecourse from the first tee

The clubhouse at Royal Ascot looking back from the 10th fairway
A view back to the 16th tee from the 150 yards marker - one of the toughest driving holes on the course

The pond by the 18th green

The practise ground - my second home - looking rather forlorn. No chance of hitting any balls today


The putting green again looking towards the 1st green
 Hopefully the thaw will kick in soon and I can find somewhere to put club on ball. Its all rather frustrating as we had a very good lesson yesterday and I'm desperate to make good what I was shown. I'm wondering if the course will be open by next weekend. Time will tell.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Postponed - What A Result

I was due to have the next lesson with my teaching professional Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Complex near Wokingham this evening. I have to be honest and say I wasn't looking forward to it because the temperature at lunchtime was already hovering near freezing and I knew that by 6.15pm if would be below that. When the call came from Rhys to say the lesson was cancelled and re-scheduled to Saturday afternoon I did my best to hide the disappointment in my voice and reluctantly agreed.

It has been silly cold here in Berkshire. I'd already decided not to play in the monthly stableford at Royal Ascot on Saturday as I'm confident that even if they aren't on temporary greens, trying to fire shots into the frozen putting surfaces is going to make scoring a lottery. As it turns out I can look forward to a lesson instead with a lie in watching the golf from the desert.

It's too cold to practise - who wants to hit mini icebergs anyway?
I have to be honest and say I've not been to the range all week despite my best intentions. I just couldn't see the justification in hitting balls for the sake of it in such conditions. The balls aren't going to react properly and its easy to get injured or start making lazy swings and practising bad habits. Why is it you only hit the ball thin when it's freezing cold and spend the next ten minutes waiting for the shooting pains in your hands and arms to subside? It never happens when the ambient temperature is a pleasant 20 degrees celsius.

I'm hoping the rest will do me good and I can come back after the disappointing round last Saturday with renewed enthusiasm after my lesson. Hopefully the snow they are forecasting for the back end of the weekend won't come to much and the milder weather will return next week so I can get back out there and work on the what Rhys shows me.

Definitely a lucky escape tonight. No complaints from me.