Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Two Rounds - So Different

It was time for the Longhurst Cup at Royal Ascot this weekend. It's a medal competition and an honours board event so all in all a bit of a big deal. The format means competitors can pick which three days of the long weekend they want to play their two rounds on. I chose to play Sunday and bank holiday Monday.

I have been enjoying some decent form of late and there was nothing much to be concerned about. I started well and scrambled an opening par with a good putt. I followed with three successive pars but made a mockery of the easy par four 4th hole and three putted. A par at the next and one over gross and going well. Then disaster struck.

I pulled the tee shot at the par three 6th but had assumed it had landed in the rough to the left of the green. When we got there it was nowhere to be found and I was forced to make the "walk of shame" back to the tee to hit another. I hit a similar shot and it was very close to disappearing into the bushes. My partners had found the original several feet deep into the undergrowth and totally unplayable. In the end I racked up a horrendous triple bogey. I bounced back with two more pars but then made a mess of getting down from the edge of the ninth with a woeful chip and three putts.

The back nine started well and I was ticking along nicely until I dropped a silly shot at the par five 15th having missed the green with an approach from the rough. From there I melted like a polar ice cap. I took a nightmare triple bogey at the sixteenth including my first four putt in memory. Another dropped shot at the penultimate hole and a bogey at the last completed the limp home. However it was still a respectable 81 gross, net 71 (+1) and was very much in contention with a round to go. Given the two triple bogey's in there it could have been a very low score. What might have been.

The second round started well and I was again ticking along well until I came to the 4th. A decent drive left 132 yards and it should have been an easy 8 iron into the green, two putts and move on. Instead I missed the green right and duffed the chip a few yards onto the green. Three putts later and a nasty double bogey on the card. A par at the next and we were back to the 6th hole. Could I erase the memory of the previous day?

I changed club and hit a 4 iron and hit it well but just missed the green to the right and it landed on the fringe. Another stab instead of a flowing chipping action and another thinned effort left a six foot putt. It stayed out and a double bogey to add to the triple registered the day before.

I rallied and was able to struggle out in one stroke more than my front nine in round one and given that I hadn't hit it well and my chipping had regressed to those dark, miserable days I endured at the start of the season it wasn't a disaster. I just needed to regroup and have a solid back nine.

What followed was a elongated ride on the bogey train. Every hole was the same and I found a way to make a one over par score on each and every hole on the back nine. I didn't hit the ball badly but the problem was that when I missed the green the short game had deserted me completely, my head was scrambled and I was duffing or thinning every recovery. I couldn't make an up and down if my life depended on it.

In the end I racked up an 86, net 76 (+6) and finished on 167, net 147 (+7) and finished 14th overall. I am disappointed but on the other hand if I can play as badly as I did in the second round and six over par is as bad as it get,s it shows that in the bigger scheme of things the ball striking isn't too bad.

The big cause for concern is how quickly the short game has gone backwards and left me. I didn't chip well in the first round but yesterday was a complete nightmare. Why did it happen? How do I stop it happening again? I thought I had really turned a corner but the nightmare lingers on. Given the fact I hadn't really worked on the swing last week I am pretty content with the majority of my game. Sadly I've crept back up to 10.1 and edging myself further and further away from single figures but if you can't chip and putt you can't score.

On the positive side I'm in the Masters at Royal Ascot next weekend. This is an invitational event and open only to winners of monthly medal and stableford events and club honours board events over the last twelve months along with previous winners of the Masters. This is my fifth consecutive year of qualifying for this event. It is 36 holes medal play with both rounds taking place next Sunday. A chance to get straight back on the horse and I will work on the short game and find a way to get it working.

It's strange how well I swung the club in the first round and how easy everything seemed to come and yesterday the timing wasn't there and I couldn't find any sort of spark to galvanise my round and every time I took a step forward I'd take a big step back. Still I guess that encapsulates the frustrating nature of this great game. It is said in these events you can't win it after round one but you can lose it. To that degree I did well to keep in contention and I just need to put two consecutive rounds together, cut out the unforced errors and find a short game. Add in the worse putting performance of 2012 with a four putt and numerous three stabs and it shows how well the rest of the game was. All the shots were wasted around and on the green.

Things will get better. The Masters is the last big event of the year and I plan to go out in style. With a hernia operation and some winter swing changes on the horizon Id love to get to my target of single figures in one fell swoop with two sub-par rounds next week. Here's hoping.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Aimpoint Golf - The Mist Is Lifting

Let me ask you a question. How well do you putt? I'm sure many of you will say "Hey Homer I putt well and hole my fair share". Fair enough say I. Let me ask you another question. Forget putting mechanics, how well do you read the putt? Can you honestly say you can look at every twenty foot putt and say with sincerity you feel confident you know which way the ball will break and how much break to allow?

I attended a seminar by Aimpoint Golf at the Downshire Golf Centre last Friday. Hosted by Jamie Donaldson, their European Senior Instructor it was a two and a half hour course giving detailed information on how to truly read a green and give yourself the correct break. Founded by Mark Sweeney as a ground breaking TV graphic in 2007 many of you will have seen Aimpoint on the Golf Channel coverage of the US PGA Tour. However he soon realised the potential to show the club golfer the correct way to aim their putts correctly and Aimpoint Green Reading was born.

Mark Sweeney - founder of Aimpoint
According to their blurb "After going through the AimPoint Green Reading education, you will never again have to guess at how much a putts breaks. Any putt. Learn that putting is predictable and discover the most effective and reliable ways to determine the direction and precise amount of break for any putt, all based on gravity (only works on earth)". You have to say that is a big sell and going to be hard to live up to.

They have a snazzy video clip which emphasis the point


So what is it all about and does it live up to the hype. It is an intense interactive course but Jamie is an excellent teacher. As well as working alongside tour pros he is able to deliver the key component of green reading in a detailed yet easy to grasp manner. He takes each of the things that make a read and explains their relevance and encourages the group to learn for themselves with some practical examples using the contours of the putting green. It is a real hands on learning experience.

After learning how to read a green, the pupils finally get their hands on their own chart which gives the magic number and shows the amount of break for the putt based on the information gleaned by the read using the techniques shown. The one thing that each and every one of us found was how much break some putts need. I would look at a putt and think 3-4 balls outside the cup. After doing the read, even on a short ten footer the break could be as much as 10 inches and I have clearly been guilty of under estimating break all these years.

The group was split into pairs and we took it in turns to read a putt under Jamie's expert eye. He watched how we assessed the putt making sure we approached the putt from the correct angle, took into account the key factors and used the chart correctly to ascertain the break. The challenge was then to make the putt and standing over the ball after making a read was arguably more nerve wracking than holing a vital putt on the 18th green.

It is something that will take a lot of time and practise to perfect and the quality of the read will improve over time making the line and break something I can trust. It's then down to me to make a decent stroke and deliver the ball accurately and at the correct pace. I've invested in a training aid to help confirm my reads on the practice green and playing a few holes on my own

The Bubble will confirm my reads and help my confidence grow as I continue to learn how to read greens
After all the hype, was it worth the cost? At £90 it wasn't cheap but I should point out that having paid this fee, I am entitled to attend as many fundamental level seminars as I want or feel I need to really grasp the principles. This means I could go another 2-3 times if I desire and it would be free so based on that it isn't as excessive as it sounds.

Does it work? It's early days and I did use it the day after in the monthly stableford. I did feel a little self conscious going through the motions to get my read and looking at the chart. However I did feel happier in the knowledge that if the book said 3 inches left to right then it was 3 inches left to right. I didn't make any putts from distance but each and every one of them gave the hole a chance. I usually have at least one putt per round that I think will go one way or the other and inevitably it will go the opposite way and I never seem to see it. The round on Saturday had none of these and by looking at the lie of the green and using what I was shown I could make a reasonable read. The quality of these will get better over time.

As with a lot of things, Aimpoint won't appeal to everyone and that's fair enough. However if like me you have struggled more with the reading of putts than the stroke itself then it is definitely worth a look. I stand over the ball confident in my ability to send it where I've aimed but now I have ability to aim correctly and that makes a big difference.

If you are interested, you can find out more at Jamie's own site at http://jamiedonaldson.co.uk/Jamie_Donaldson/Home.html or follow him via Twitter at @golfdonaldson. If you still can't find a course being held near you then you can e-mail him at jamie@aimpointgolf.co.uk Courses are regularly held at the Downshire Golf Centre near Bracknell and are organised by Rhys ap Iolo who can be contacted at rhys.apiolo@bracknell-forest.gov.uk or via Twitter at @Rapi31.

I'm not going to preach to you and say it'll make all the difference but I am convinced even at this early stage that it has given me another tool to make the game simpler in the same way having a lesson gives you a building block to swing the club better. It will take time and patience and I've no doubt I'll get frustrated when I get the read wrong or the ball still refuses to go in but in my mind the mist has lifted and I can see all that lies before me.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Two Games - Same Result

It has been a flurry of golfing activity this week. I've discovered I can chip using a conventional chipping method and have lost hours of my week on the putting green grooving the stroke and getting some feel for the shot. Add in a lesson and a seminar on the art of reading greens along with two club competitions and it's been all go.

I played a rare midweek stableford on Thursday afternoon. I tend to be unavailable as work gets in the way and time is limited. I was planning to just have a social round with my regular golfing partner Mike Stannard. He has been struggling a little for form and I wanted to just try a few things out and test the short game on the course. However when he arrived there were two members looking for a game and before I knew it we were in it and on the first tee.

I had one of those rounds that will ring a loud bell with golfers everywhere in competitive play. I couldn't get anything going and every time I made a modicum of progress or recovered from a set back, I'd find a way to undo all the good work. I did have a couple of moments of bad luck too with two shocking lies. I missed the green at the par three eighth only to find the ball lodged on an upslope directly under the lip of the bunker.

On the fifteenth I missed the fairway left in the semi rough but was unfortunate that it found a hole, presumably an old divot and the ball was barely visible let alone playable. I chopped it towards the adjacent fourteenth fairway and then tried to take the green on from 197 yards, Sadly I hit an imposing tree on edge of my target line and the ball went AWOL.

I didn't score on either hole and while you can put a strong argument forward for not being in these positions in the first place, the fact that I couldn't attempt a recovery did seem particularly galling. In between though I did hit some decent shots. I chipped stone dead while standing in a bunker at the seventh with the ball chest high outside the hazard. I chipped and putted for par at the ninth and tenth to salvage par.

In the end my 31 points was only good enough for fifteenth place in the division and a 0.1 increase on the handicap. Still, there was always a chance to repair that with the monthly stableford today. I was paired with Mike Goodwin and Geoff Adamson. Both very good players and Mike has a sublime short game while Geoff hits it miles with effortless ease so I needed to be on my game.

A welcome sight on a very, very hot and testing day
On the hottest day of the year it was always going to be hard going and so it was essential to get off to a quick and solid start. Hitting the opening tee shot out of bounds wasn't the ideal start and even though I chipped an putted with my second ball to salvage a point, the tone was set.

The round had alarming similarities with the midweek competition. I couldn't get anything going but unlike Thursday, the ball striking wasn't as solid especially off the tee. Where I was able to at least get ahead of my handicap on occasions, today I was always hanging on and trying to preserve a net par on most holes.

There were a number of unforced errors but also moments of sheer frustration. I hit my drive on the third hole right but had a good lie and 157 yards to the centre of the green. I hit a lovely six iron but it was literally a yard too short, pitched directly on top of the green side bunker and bounced back in. On another day it would have landed and taken a kick forward. I had a number of makeable putts on several holes but my stroke was poor. It may have been because I was intent on reading the green better following my Aimpoint seminar last night. It's no good knowing it is going to break six inches right to left if you then put an abysmal stroke on the putt.

I had 31 points again and another 0.1 back to get me back to 10.0 and a step further away from that elusive single figure handicap. I didn't play as well today and with the forecast set firmly on SCORCHIO tomorrow I'm in two minds whether to get back out and play or hit some balls, work on the changes my teaching pro Rhys ap Iolo instigated yesterday or try and groove the chipping and putting stroke.

It's been a packed few days but I feel happy that I'm getting the information and ammunition I need to kick on again. You can't play well every time and my two rounds weren't poor but just lacked a spark and the rub of the green in places. I feel better about my short game but need to find my driving again. I do have something from the lesson which should help.

Last year these two scores would have been doom and gloom but I realise my game in 2012 is in a better place and I'm doing the right things. The rounds were different but the result was the same. Sometimes you won't get what you deserve. I shot a personal best recently without swinging well and I know some days you can hit it great and not make a score. These performances were down to errant shots and pure bad luck at times but I'm still just one round away from single figures so there is still plenty to look forward too. If I needed a positive, the hot weather today and Thursday have done wonders for my sun tan.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Running On Empty

After the meltdown on here and the furore around car park golfers, it was back to playing this weekend. Saturday was the usual early morning roll up while Sunday was a club match away at Caversham Heath.

Practice has been sparse so Saturday was really a chance to test my current form and iron out any faults. The tee shot at the opener was a little thin but the first drive of the day with the big dog was solid. The pitch into the green was also thin and a pattern was emerging but despite this I was scoring well and was only one over after six. I dropped my usual shot at the 7th and then missed the green at the short and easy 8th. Still three over gross was better than handicap. Sadly I still had to play the 9th and a shocker off the tee paved the way for an ugly double.

The back nine was a carbon copy. It was another solid start but by the time I dropped a shot at the 14th, I felt tired mentally and physically and dropped shots all the way home. In the end 31 points was a disappointing return but in a small field it was enough to grab the paltry pot.

The round had been a rehearsal for the club match against Caversham Heath. I played the home leg earlier in the season and always enjoy playing at Caversham. It's a long course but it's fair and the greens are always in good nick. I was partnered with Paul Hadden, off 12 as I had been in the first game and so I was with a solid partner.

We started off in explosive fashion. I made a par to win the first, Paul did the same at the second, and I chipped and putted to halve the 3rd. The 4th is a long par five and I made an error off the tee and found a bunker. I didn't get it out very well and with Paul in trouble we were in danger of losing the hole. I went for it and pulled the five wood to cover the 228 yards left. I flushed it and it made the green and I secured a half. We lost the next to a net par but I regained the two hole advantage with a great birdie at the 542 yard par five 6th hole. Good drive. solid second and a wedge to five feet.

However we started to leak shots and both Paul and I started to struggle and we lost three holes on the trot to turn at one down. This would become two and by the time we were on the 14th time was running out. I was in trouble off the tee again but Paul was on the fairway. He hit hit 4 wood into the green at the long 428 yard par four. It was good as soon as it came off the club and heading for the heart of the green. It pitched, ran on and closed in on the flag. It looked close and indeed it was. It rolled up and in for a superb eagle two (net albatross) and was good enough to win the hole.

When the Caversham pair failed to match my par at the 16th we were back to all square. However as I had done on Saturday I was feeling tired and running on empty.

I've run out of gas in my last two rounds - tired physically and mentally
I managed to find the green on the 180 yard par three which plays over a lake. I had a long putt and with one of the opposition handily placed I needed to get it close. One of the features of the greens at Caversham Heath are the undulations and I had a wickedly sloping putt, left to right and down hill. I made a good stroke but was left with a two foot putt for par and a half. I made a good stroke but maybe pushed it a tad or maybe hit it a fraction strong. Either way it missed. One down and one to play.

The last hole is a downhill 415 yard par 4 through a valley with slopes lining both sides. Both Caversham players hit good drives and we needed a win to force a half. I hit another bad drive and hooked it left into the rough. Paul hit a better shot but found a fairway bunker and the writing was on the wall. We lost the hole and the match two down and Royal Ascot were on the end of a 4 1/2 - 1 1/2 thumping.

I didn't play well enough or support my partner enough. I was very tired and although both Saturday and Sunday were warm, I was taking on both fluid and nutrition on a regular basis. I am not in shape to threaten Team GB in Rio but I'm not in bad condition for my age. It isn't the first time this has happened and it is becoming an issue. When I get tired physically the swing gets quick and the driver in particular struggles. I get tired mentally and make some poor decisions and get tired in shot selection, alignment and this feeds back to physical execution.

I've no plans to hit a gym any time soon but it is becoming a cause for concern. I use an electric trolley so I'm not expending energy by carrying. As a diabetic I need to keep the blood sugars level and so I make sure I eat properly and try not to have sport drinks and avoid the sugar spike they can provide. I eat fruit, nuts and weetabix cake (a diabetic recipe involving weetabix bars, milk, raisins - it tastes better than it sounds). It doesn't happen every time I play and not always in warm weather so I can't lay it at the door of the conditions.

At the end of the day, the handicap didn't take a hit, I smuggled a few quid out of my golfing buddies on Saturday and did play some good stuff in places in the match. The game isn't where I'd like it but with a lesson on Friday with Rhys ap Iolo and then a lesson on green reading with Aimpoint (http://aimpointgolf.co.uk/) there is plenty to work on. I'm targeting the Longhurst Cup at Royal Ascot over the Bank Holiday as my next goal. It is a stroke play event over two rounds but players can choose which two days of the three they wish to play on. I'm a former winner in 2000 and would love to win it again. Anything decent scoring wise will get the job done in terms of getting to single figures so there is plenty to shoot for.

I need some fuel in the tank but aside from that I am still in a very much glass half full mood and looking forward to kicking on to the end of the season. I'll keep an eye on the tiredness and fatigue and see what happens but I'll put it down to "one of those things" for the time being. It can't last though and I can't run on empty again.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Car Park Golfers - The Aftermath

It would seem my post on car park golfers have ruffled a few feathers and provoked some debate and comments. It would seem that opinion falls into two distinct camps. On the one hand there are the golfers themselves who see no problem with members playing this way and think that the blog is creating problems where none exist. On the other side of the fence are golf clubs who seem to be desperate for money in frugal times and would seem to need members to utilise the facilities pre or post round.

However, there also seems to be a misconception that I am totally anti car park golfers. This is not true. If this is the only way members can get out and play and 6.30am is the only time that allows them to get a golfing fix and maintain their own domestic balance then I am happy and said as much. They have paid their fees and I'm a firm believer in golf being made as accessible as possible. To that degree I'm pleased to see so many clubs getting rid of the necessity of being proposed and seconded for prospective membership and making the ability to join a club more open and available.
A lot of the comments from those supporting the car park golfer focuses on their right to use the club in any way they seem fit. They have paid their membership fees, sometimes a not insignificant amount per annum, and there is nothing to say they have to use the club, enter competitions or even maintain an active handicap. Very true on every level. Indeed one of the most consistent threads would seem to be that many feel the clubhouse is full of cliques and not actually a welcoming environment and that the cost of a beer or food is expensive, even if the club offers a members discount

The argument would seem to be very much that these members pay their fees each year and so are supplying the club with revenue and therefore have no obligation to do anything more. Again totally correct. They are getting a well maintained course with minimal hassle compared to the lottery of some (definitely not all) pay and plays in terms of condition of the course and the pace of play. Many are competent golfers who adhere to the etiquette of the game in terms of replacing divots and repairing pitch marks and divots. Similarly, not everyone wants to play in competitions and for many they are happy to rock up, go out and go home.
Can golf clubs afford to lose the membership. Probably not and it seems the demographic make up is changing. Fewer it would seem are interested in the social side of being a member and many are just happy to be out playing regularly at a decent course. With some clubs struggling to make the numbers of required members it would be churlish for them to ignore this. However it does then beg the question what if anything do clubs need to do to change the perception of the 19th and make it more welcoming and less intimidating. Clubs need members. That is undeniable and members have the power to decide how they want to exercise their playing privileges once they have paid their subs.

On the flip side, golf clubs surely have an obligation to try and entice members into using the bar and catering and it would seem to be basic marketing. They face an unenviable task of trying to balance the books annually and provide a quality golf course for its members to play on. I know of clubs where there has been uproar at a 2p per pint increase on beer prices and some have commented on the soulless task of working for years to try and raise bar takings by a meagre 2%. For many clubs, the lifeblood is regular green fees and societies. This is fundamental.

However, they also face the challenge of trying to convert the car park golfer. As I said in the original piece if the group of 10 regular early morning players went into the bar for twenty minutes and spent £1.50 per head then over the year that is £750 per annum. Now that is a drop in the ocean, but it doesn't take many of these groups, particularly as the problem extends to midweek members, for the sum to creep up and eventually make a difference.

What can clubs do though? They have to move into the 21st century. Many still seem to operate antiquated rules that make members feel they are walking on eggshells in fear of breaking some obscure rule and incurring the wrath of other members and club officials. That is never going to entice the car park member into changing their habits and quite frankly I wouldn't blame them. There is often a problem with cliques within the 19th too and many observe irregular visitors with suspicion. In tight economic times, bar and food revenue is a small but essential facet of making ends meet. It could be argued, that if members were welcomed into a pleasant, friendly and clean environment then they would be persuaded to use it regularly. I know, as I'm sure you do, of clubs that fail to provide the basics and are unwelcoming and unkempt. Poorly kept beer, unappetising food and dirty furniture are hardly likely to persuade anyone to loiter.

Golf clubs are never going to please all of the members all of the time and never going to convert all of the car park golfers into becoming regular faces in the bar. No-one is trying to argue that this is ever going to happen. Nor should it. However it shouldn't stop them trying. As the advert says "every little helps" and so if they can make profits however small then these can be used to reinvest in course maintenance, keeping the facilities clean and manageable and generally enhancing the membership experience.It is crystal clear that many of you have very strong feeling on the subject of car park golfers and that they have a fundamental right to play as and when they choose.
There are far more important issues regarding being a member of a golf club to be concerned about such as pace of play and the condition of the course itself. Many of you feel the car park golfer poses no threat to the sustainability of a club and that it is the club that has the problem and not the golfer. Having weighed the evidence and compelling arguments on here and on Twitter I'd be inclined in the main to agree. However I still maintain that by giving nothing over and above their annual fees, it does nothing to help a club go forward. Balance that with the fact that for many, even finding their annual fees is now a huge issue, then clubs must welcome their ability to pay their fees at all and the fact that they choose to play and go home, doesn't negate their contribution in the grand scheme of things.

I hope this follow up has cleared any misunderstanding and that I do not see car park golfers as some form of lesser member or someone not doing his bit for the club. It has certainly surprised me on how strongly some of you have felt and the level of opposition to my original piece. I stand by it of course and I'm pleased it provoked a frank discussion and that you feel the onus is totally on the club to find innovative and appealing ways of making the car park golfer want to give more in terms of both his time and money, both of which are limited commodities. It would seem many clubs have either given up the ghost and accepted this type of member for what they are while others seem up for the challenge and are actively seeking a way to get them into the bar on more regular basis.I'd like to thank you for your time in reading the original piece and this follow up and for taking the time where applicable for responding here and via Twitter. If this was contentious what you will make of my thoughts on slow play should make interesting consumption but that is a treat for another day.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Car Park Golfers - Do Clubs Need Them?

Turn up early at most golf clubs every weekend and the chances are you will find a number of cars already parked up and empty. The clubhouse at Royal Ascot opens at 7.00am and I tend to go out early at weekends, around 7.30, competitions permitting, and yet there are usually a dozen or so cars already there.

These car park golfers turn up, change in the car park and go out and play. Let's get it straight, I've no issue with golfers going out as early as possible in the summer light. I'm a firm believer in golf being as accessible as possible and if you have work or family commitments then getting out as and when you can to get your fix is fine by me.

However I do have issues. I have never seen these guys use the clubhouse after their round. They don't even use the changing rooms afterwards. Changing in the car park is against the rules at most clubs, but why bother having these in place if they are never enforced. These guys never step into the 19th for a drink and literally put their clubs in the car, put their shoes on and drive home.

Do golf clubs really need members like this? Granted they do supply the club with a annual revenue stream with their annual subs, but after that what value do they get or do they give the club. From personal experience, these guys never play in club competitions. How can they when the pro shop is closed and they can't pick up their cards? This begs another question. How do they keep an active handicap if they are off so early and never in any club event. Is there any point having a handicap at all if you are never going to test it?

Car park golfers - do we need them?

While I accept that in these challenging times golf clubs need each and every member they can get to balance the books, does a car park member really help? My argument is no. Until last year, the club had a bar levy. Only £50 but on a use it or lose it basis. Come the final weeks of the year, the bar would suddenly have a run on members trying to buy copious bottles of wine to use up their levy. Now call me mercenary, but if you can't spend £4.17 per month in the bar after playing then what is the point in being a member. What exactly are you getting for your membership that you wouldn't get at a local pay and play, arguably at a cheaper cost than your annual subs.

These golfers, and it isn't just at my club, give nothing. If there are ten of them that go out each weekend at first light, and each was to come back into the clubhouse for half a pint or a soft drink at say £1.50 a go, then that is £15 per week. Multiply that by say 50 weeks per year, allowing for holiday or the course being shut for inclement weather, and that is £750 per annum that group has added. Granted it won't go far but how many members does your club have? If you add all these groups of ten up, these £750's mount.

It isn't just weekends either. As you may have grasped by now, I'm a bit of a fanatical golfer. I've been known to hit the practice ground for an hour before going to work. In the week, there are still cars in the car park and evidence of golfers on the course so it isn't a weekend epidemic. Whenever I've taken a day off, and I'm out and about on the putting game, short game area etc. I've watched golfers do exactly the same thing. They come off the course, jump in the car and shoot off home. Surely if you don't work you have time to saunter in for a coffee or a swift half. Even if you are going into the office after your game, then a drink, and maybe a sandwich is going to help you feel more refreshed and in better shape to deal with the challenges to come.

It isn't even the fact that they aren't buying a drink. More hope of England or Team GB winning a penalty shoot-out than these car parkers buying food. As anyone who has had dealing with golf club administration will know, the catering, whether in house or franchised out, has a big impact on the annual outgoings and the final profit and loss figure. These guys make zero contribution. Now I'm not one of these guys that will eat regularly, but I play in club matches, for a match fee, attend events like Captain's day etc and so feel I do "my bit."

I'm pretty certain, these guys would be hard pressed to point out the club vice-captain, members of the board or even the current club champion in an ID parade. That is my next point. While it's great to play with the same gang of friends, surely golf is so much more than that and gives a unique opportunity to meet other people and compete on a level playing field. How can you do that if you never play matches, competitions or even venture into the clubhouse and get a feel for what is going on. I would rather give more five day members the opportunity to play on the premise they use the facilities and spend a little of their hard earned. They would have the opportunity to play in the midweek competitions, mingle and become known and so will feel part of the place if they decide to, or are offered a chance to upgrade.

Royal Ascot has regular membership open days to give potential members a chance to wander around the place, play nine holes with a member of the committee and discuss joining terms and fees. Since their introduction we are seeing an influx of new members about the place and do you know what, they get involved. They play in club competitions and use the 19th afterwards. What more can a club ask?

As I said at the outset, if teeing off at the crack of dawn is the only way to get your golfing fix that is fine by me. Do you really need to be a club member to do so? What are you really getting for your money you couldn't find elsewhere and cheaper? Does a club really need this type of member. Yes and no but what do you do to combat it? Prevent them from going out until the clubhouse opens and you will drive them away and lose their subscription. Not a good option unless your club is fortunate enough to have a waiting list or can entice new members in on a regular basis.

How do you break the circle and entice these members into the club after a round to spend a few vital pounds per week? I've not got a definitive answer but it is an issue golf clubs need to address. It is a problem, not just at my club but everywhere. I remain unconvinced that clubs really need car park golfers in the grand scheme of things. Am I too hard line and intransigent in my views or is the scourge of the car parker really a drain on a modern club?