Thursday, 29 November 2012

No Problemo

It is no secret I struggled on Sunday in my Winter knockout and that recent range sessions haven't warmed the cockles of my heart. Last night was a chance to right the wrongs and I had a lesson booked with Rhys ap Iolo. The warm up session (I use the phrase lightly as it was bitterly cold out there) wasn't great. However under Rhys's critical gaze I hit it much sweeter but there was the odd bad one in there which highlighted the problems I've been having.

The issue I had is I could feel the body moving forward and ahead of the ball and having to make, or try to make, compensations to find the ball and hit it. It is one thing knowing what you are doing wrong but another to fix the fault. The big plus was the problems weren't massive and Rhys wasn't overly surprised I'd made them given the scale of change he'd made in recent lessons. Not only were the issues small in the big scheme of things but they were easily rectified. Ball position and the height of my shoulders were the main culprits. Ball position had crept backwards and so in simple terms the club wasn't getting to the bottom of its arc and therefore it was hard to compress down properly. The right shoulder was dipping instead of turning on a level plane. Rhys asked me to picture the motion of a discus thrower and the way they keep their shoulders level as they release their coil and hurl it into the distance.

The drill he gave me was to move the ball forward and to make a a normal swing but to almost feel the right shoulder rising as though I was going to top it. The new position allowed the club to find the back of the ball at the bottom of its arc and really compress down on it. There was still the odd faux pas where I tried too hard or didn't trust it had edged the body forward again. The good ones though were so good. To keep the shoulders level, Rhys also suggested taking a mid iron and putting the ball on a high tee and picking it off the top.

I mentioned in passing that I felt my tempo was to blame for a lot of the issues. He asked me to explain my pre-shot routine and hit a ball going through the whole process. He then picked a corridor between two flags on the range and challenged me to hit ten balls, going through my pre-shot routine each time. He wanted me to make seven out of ten, landing them between the two flags. I only had a six iron in my hand. What could be simpler?

I got the first three in with ease. Not worrying about keeping the shoulder level or any other swing thought meant I swung with impunity. Contact was perfect and the destination wasn't in doubt. I hit a quick lunge at the next and missed high wide and not very handsome. The fifth was borderline as was the sixth. Rhys pointed out the ball position was creeping back again. The next was perfect. Ball seven wasn't a good stroke but was between the flags and was a good miss if we'd been out on the course but allowable for the purpose of the test. The next was much better but my ninth shot was another miss right. I'd used my three lives and the tenth and final ball was the money shot. I nailed it.

I was surprised as the exercise progressed just how nervous I was getting and wonder if at least one of the misses and the lunge I made was through tension. It highlighted the importance of routine but showed that I need to find a way of checking ball position each time as a part of the tick list before I hit it. I need to find a way to incorporate that and still make the process feel natural and not forced.

We went back to hitting shots (without going through the whole routine) and concentrating on the level shoulder turn. We decided that I needed to put the 6 iron in what I felt would have been a 3 wood position. Of course this meant the longer clubs had to move progressively forward and my driver was almost off my left toe. It look so wrong. Rhys also tweaked my weight distribution for the driver set up and the body position. I didn't hit the first one great but looking down it just seemed alien to everything I knew. However the second was a monster. High long and straight. In the space of two balls I was sold. Granted it is going to need some work, especially trusting the visual aspect but I'm going to have some fun when they start flying.

It was a great lesson. We hadn't made huge changes but the flight and direction were much improved. The interesting thing is, in the beginning and for most of 2012 a lot of the misses were low and left. However in the last few lessons and at the range, the miss has become a miss right. The miss left has almost gone completely. It makes it so much easier if you know where the bad shot is going. When some were left and some were high cuts and fades right it made it so hard. You were under pressure to be "on it" all the time but had no idea where miss was heading. It proves the club face is under much better control and the path itself is improved.

I came into the session a little down in the dumps but came out far happier. It was only small mis-fire and the big end hadn't gone. Rhys never makes the lesson overly technical but there have been some real light bulb moments where it has just clicked and I suddenly understand and can feel what a good swing should be like. I'm sure the road to single figures will continue to have the odd bump along the way but I feel far happier about my game again. We've got a dedicated short game lesson in the diary for a few weeks time which will be fun.

I'm not overly fussed about rushing out onto the course given the state it was in after the rain last week and with the freezing conditions forecast to continue over the weekend. I'd rather keep the swing ticking over, work on better ball placement and get a pre-shot routine I feel comfy with. It seems I am seeing big problems where they don't really exist. My mantra for the next few weeks is no problemo. Bad shots happen but as long as I understand the cause it isn't an issue. I can see big things on the horizon and I'm moving steadily towards them.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

What A Clown

I have made fantastic progress with my swing changes and it even stood up on the course first time out when I played in the Saturday roll up. However having then had a dose of the shanks confidence was dented. I went to the range at Maidenhead Golf Centre on Saturday and to be fair I was actually very happy with the way I hit it. Just as well really as I was playing my first round Winter knockout with my regular partner Mike Stannard on Sunday.

The omens weren't good. Torrential rain on Saturday continued overnight and when I arrived at the club on Sunday morning there were murmurings that the back nine was unplayable and should be shut. Add in the fact that Mike had only jetted back home at 5.00am from a holiday in Vietnam and Cambodia and it wasn't an ideal preparation. Still you have to be in it it win it.

We were drawn against a regular partnership, Vince O'Hara and Paul Hadden who have a degree of form at Royal Ascot in pairs events. Vince can be dangerous off 18 and Paul is steady off 12. We were teeing off at midday and not only was I concerned about the light going but there was further rain forecast.

My opening tee shot wasn't a thing of beauty but I go it away. I made a net par and it was enough for a half. The tee shot at the 2nd was okay but found the light rough and a horrid lie. I couldn't move it forward very far and handed the reins to my partner. Another half. I made a par at the next to keep parity but didn't hit a great drive at the 4th. It was down the right, found the rough and despite vigorous searching never re-appeared.

I wasn't swinging well. Tempo was quick and I think I was getting wrapped up in swing thoughts. I was making too many errors and the more things didn't go my way the more it unravelled. My partner was playing some sterling golf but by the time we lost the 8th to a birdie two we were three down and that remained the score at the turn.

Our opponents made a rare mistake and we clawed the 10th back but Mike three putted the next to give that hole back. I found the fairway at the 12th but then carved a fairway wood right into dead man's country. Mike hit a great approach that ran to the back of the green and again his putter let him down. Both opponents had shots and escaped with a half. We were four down after losing the 13th.

The closing holes from the 14th in to the clubhouse were in a bad condition. The fairways were full of standing water and it was hard to find full relief. The bunkers were flooded but, and it is a fantastic testament to the green keeping staff, the putting surfaces had no standing water and putted well.

I continued to play like a clown. I couldn't string anything together and to be honest given the state of the match, the conditions and the way I was playing interest had waned. I finally hit a good drive down the  par five 15th but we were dormie four down so too little too late. I laid up but even my approach from 130 yards wasn't good enough and found a bunker. As it happened, it made no difference as Vince chipped in from way off the green to make a par and our race was run.

I like a laugh on the course but my performance on Sunday was no joking matter
I felt I'd let my partner down (not for the first time) and that I had let both my teaching pro Rhys ap Iolo and myself down. The swing isn't in freefall but there is definitely a missing piece, a spark not firing. Of course it was only my second round in nearly three months and perhaps a competitive round came too soon into my rehabilitation.

I went to the range after work on Monday. Again there were some shots that were as pure as I can hit it and there were others where everything felt it was moving and it was way out of sync. Of course, the more you try the worse the situation becomes. I think I am thinking too much and trying too hard to manipulate the club on the correct path. On the plus side, my lesson postponed from last Friday has been arranged for tonight. It was suppose to be a short game lesson but I think the swing needs the critical gaze of Rhys to just make sure old habits aren't creeping back.

The forecast is set to be drier but much, much colder and I don't know if the course will be fully open. I'm tempted to see what Rhys says tonight and seek some kind of sanctuary at a driving range with their heated bays and just keep working on the game. On the other side of the coin, I need to be out playing regularly too so it is a bit of a catch 22. I don't want to play if I can't trust the swing and I don't want to be out in sodden conditions and freezing conditions.

I understand there are days when you won't swing well or play great. I accept that. It is days like Sunday where I play like a clown and nothing goes right and you have that feeling of embarrassment for even being on the course that I can do without. I didn't hit anything resembling a socket rocket but the quality of the strike was perhaps the most annoying thing. In my defence the conditions especially on the back nine were bad and exaggerated any mistake. I am putting it down to a very bad day at the office. Nothing more. The swing is a work in progress still. I will have bad days but the end product will mean there will be less and less of these. The bad won't be so bad and I will still be able to get it round and post a score.

In a perverse sort of way I'm happy going out of the knockout. The rumour is it will be a very bad winter and so playing on a frozen course to temporary greens isn't my idea of proper golf and to be honest playing a match in those circumstances owes a lot to lady luck. Now I can focus on my range work and wander out when I want to play a social game and test the progress out without it being a win or bust deal.

Of course if I do play like a clown again I can always ask Santa for a red nose and some funny big shoes.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Double Dose

It's been a funny old week golf wise. Having finally got back on the course last weekend I wanted to work on my game at the range, consolidate and have my short game lesson with Rhys ap Iolo on Friday. The weather was a huge factor with heavy rain and gusty wind. I had the afternoon off work on Tuesday and there was a break in the weather and I hit the range full of anticipation for a solid session.

What transpired wasn't what I had been hoping for. From nowhere, I acquired a dose of the dreaded socket rocket, J. Arthurs, shermans otherwise known as the shanks. It is the most destructive shot in golf. It comes from nowhere but it absolutely drains a player of any shred of confidence. I had warmed up well enough and my wedges were fine but as soon as I swapped to a 9 iron I was slamming the ball into the bay wall. I've had issues before but not since going to the one plane swing. There have been times in lessons where Rhys has changed something and I was convinced I'd be bouncing the ball around the teaching bay but never actually did. Now I was faced with a real outbreak. The problem with the shanks is the tempo gets quicker out of fear and frustration. Even if you go back to basics and drills there is no guarantee it will improve. Whoever said a shank is close to the perfect shot is at best an optimist.

The reason for my problems are usually traced back to a simple flaw. My weight moves forward during the swing onto my toes. In simple terms everything then moves forward by an inch or so so when the club returns to the ball instead of the sweet spot sending the ball into air, high and straight, the hosel strikes it and it goes low and right. Horror.

On the plus side, I went back to my drills. Take the club back halfway. Stop. Back to the top and stop again and then back to the ball. One ball at a time it started to get better but I was scared on every shot. Tempo was shot. I finished on a high of sorts with some decent strikes but it really knocked the recent confidence I'd built up for six.

I had planned to have a day off on Wednesday but I spent the day in work fretting about it and worrying something major had gone wrong with the swing change I'd worked so hard on for the last three weeks or so. I had to get back on it and so I was back on the range mat straight from work. I was very wary and perhaps over cautious and so was pulling a few early shots left where the club wasn't releasing. The good news was it was a very short dose and I only had one semi-shank out of a large bucket of balls. I can live with that and the quality of the strike was much more solid. Once I had worked out I needed the club to be exiting low and left I was back on it.

I had written much on Twitter all week about a short game lesson on Friday with Rhys and the need to banish the short game demons lurking within my golfing psyche. All was set and I was looking forward to it. However much as the shanks had scuppered my expectations for consolidating, illness and in particular a savage migraine meant I had no choice but to postpone the lesson. I was in no state to stand there and swing a club and retired to my pit to recover.

The weather today was dire. It has been raining almost since first light and there was no way I was going to venture out onto a sodden course. I'm playing the first round of the winter knockout tomorrow and I've a feeling that even if the club is open at all it will be sodden and all but unplayable. Not only will I have to contend with the horrendous conditions but my partner is currently on the way back from a holiday in Vietnam and due to land at 5.00am. As we aren't off until nearly midday, I'm worried about getting around in time, but even more concerned that jet lag will hamper my partners performance.

So I've had a double dose (shanks and illness) and my partner is flying halfway around the world from warmer climes into the harsh, wet reality of winter golf. What could possible go wrong? As I'm working on major swing changes this winter my partner Mike Stannard and I have placed no real expectations or hopes on the Winter knockout. We are taking one game at a time and if we take an early bath then so be it. Of course should we make progress and as the swing changes Rhys and I are making bed in, along with an improved short game, then I'm sure our competitive juices will salivate and we'll become far more serious about it.

The short game lesson has been re-booked for next Wednesday. I hit the range this afternoon and the swing is behaving a little better and so I can stand on the 1st tee tomorrow with a modicum of confidence and hopefully provide my partner with some solid support. The short game lesson next week is a big step. How can such a small swing cause so many problems. It is partly in my head and partly indecision in technique. I'vebeen stuck between a rock and a hard place and have been persevering with the linear method of chipping, which uses the bounce a lot more, as opposed to the conventional method of hands and weight forward.

Not the week I was looking for. I had high hopes and great plans. I knew there would be backward steps, but never for one moment thought it would come from the shanks. I thought it would be an inability to understand and incorporate a new move or swing change. I thought I'd be posting tonight about my new found Seve like short game repertoire and new found inner calm. Still we'll see what the match tomorrow brings and it will be good to test my progress to date in a competitive environment. It promises to be an exciting ride one way or another so I'll strap myself in and ride the roller-coaster.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Reality Bites

I'm back. It's official. Despite the rather dour forecast for yesterday morning it was actually dry if somewhat cloudy and nothing was going to stop me going out with the normal Saturday morning roll up. I knew it would be a gentle re-introduction with no pressure and to be honest I was dying to see the familiar faces and test my new swing out for the first time.

I had absolutely no ambitions and simply wanted to knock it round and try the swing out. As you may have realised from recent blogs, progress has been good since my last lesson and I have been been striking it really well. Would it hold up under a real examination. The opening hole at Royal Ascot plays as a 229 yard par three. I stood there with my ball pegged up and a three wood in hand. I addressed it and took aim. The result wasn't perfect and it was a bit of a hook but it ended up just off the green pin high. It could have been a lot worse and even though I didn't put a perfect strike on it I'd go it away.

I had heard good things about the state of the greens considering the time of year and I was surprised at just how quick they were as I trundled my opening putt four feet past the hole. Despite not having worked on my putting at all during my lay-off I was pleased to roll the return in. I made poor swings on the third and fourth tees and could feel the old habit of rotating my arms on the takeaway creeping back in. This meant I started to focus too intently on the takeaway and maybe started having too many swing thoughts bouncing around my head over the ball. The ball striking was nowhere near as crisp as I had been hitting either at the range or off the turf on the practise ground.

On the front nine I rode the bogey train on every hole until the 8th where a poor strike put me in a terrible spot and a double bogey followed. I managed to nail a really solid drive off the ninth tee and find the green to make a good par. Another followed at the tenth and I then found the green at the par three eleventh. Sadly the putter let me down and I three putted but at least the quality of the strike had been there. I carved a drive way right off the twelfth and again at the fifteenth as the big stick misfired.

In the end I didn't play great and really wasn't happy with a lot of what I did. Maybe I'd been lulled into a false sense of progress by the stuff I'd been producing at the range. Don't get me wrong I really enjoyed my round and being back out on the course. I had just hope that I could have hit a few more good shots. I couldn't have played that badly as I cam back with the ball I started with and broke the thirty points barrier. Maybe I'm being a tad too harsh.

I was back on the Royal Ascot practise ground today. Not looking to right the wrongs of yesterday as it wasn't an abject return but to tighten the swing back up. In the end it wasn't the most productive of sessions. It wasn't bad but I just wasn't as happy with my swing and strike as I had been in recent weeks.

In the end I think reality has finally bitten this weekend. I'd been warned that I would have downs as well as ups. I was on a big high after my last lesson and the progress I'd made since so it was perhaps no surprise that the first round would be a real wake up. If anything I was a little more upset about the work out today rather than the round but there was still enough good shots in there. I need to work hard on the takeaway. This was the biggest change I've made to date and is critical to get the club in the right place. It is clearly still a work in progress and too often yesterday and today it wasn't quite right. A long way forward from where I was even six weeks ago but not something I can stand there and rely on to fire every time.

It isn't all doom and gloom. I'm back and playing and my game can only move forward as I play more often. I've a short game lesson on Friday which will start to right a lot of the problems in that area which will drip feed back into my scoring. Plenty still to work on but I've taken the first big step and got back on the course. I've had a bite of reality and that can never be a bad thing. Time to take stock and move on again. Onwards and upwards.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

When The Gods Conspire

My much vaunted and anticipated return to the hallowed turf at Royal Ascot Golf Course failed to materialise this morning. Not because of a lack of intent on my part and despite a frost on the car windows I was up when the alarm went off at silly o'clock, still dark, and ready to hit the shower and get out there.

There was a problem though. She who must be obeyed, my lovely wife was already in the bathroom, suffering the effects of a migraine. She wasn't at all well bless her. As fanatical as I am about my game and as much as I've been desperate to get back out playing and trying the improved swing in real time conditions where you only get one chance, I couldn't bring myself to leave her and wander off to play. Even Im not that heartless.

In the end I took myself into the spare room and dozed the morning away. I had hoped she'd feel better by this afternoon and I could get up to the club and perhaps work on my Aimpoint technique for reading greens. It has been so long since I attended an Aimpoint clinic ( and learnt how to read greens properly. I have got out of the practice of how to do this and my training aid has been lying redundant since its arrival as I bowed out of golf to be with my mum in her last few months, get over her death and deal with the aftermath.

The Aimpoint "Bubble" - a valuable aid to learn the correct reads
In the end though it wasn't to be and I've spent the day being the dutiful husband and tending to her needs. It seems the golfing gods are conspiring to find ways of stopping me playing. I am determined to find a way to get out next weekend. I have been bored rigid with the rubbish on Sunday TV and in the papers. I've had to be very strict with myself as the temptation to surf the online golf stores has been strong and the credit card was last seen scurrying for cover.

Not what I'd hoped for this weekend and it has ultimately all been a bit of a disappointment really. Yes I had a good practice session off grass yesterday and it is money in the bank so to speak in relation to the improved swing and technique. It isn't the same though. I miss my friends at the club. I miss the savage banter in the 19th and above all I miss testing my game, my handicap and my technique, now much improved. Those I spoke to yesterday say the course is holding up well considering the wet weather and that the greens are rather nippy for the time of year. I need to see it for myself.

The wife's illness has opened a Feast of Consequences. I now only have one weekend to play and test everything before I'm due to partner my regular wing man Mike Stannard in our Winter knockout first round. I have no idea about putting in terms of the speed of the greens and the quality of my stroke (aside from not having practised the green reading). My dire short game will have little time for me to find some kind of band-aid to patch it up and cover the cracks.

Still these are negative vibes and I'm far more positive these days. The hard work has been done and even though it hasn't always felt like it but I've made real progress in the last six weeks or so. I know there is more to be done but the money I've invested in the lessons, particularly the last two has been cash well spent. I've relished the challenge of turning instruction into repetitive actions. Sometimes I've been frustrated as I wanted to see instantaneous results. Golf isn't like that and you have to work for your rewards. I love seeing the ball flying off the range mat or the turf long and straight. I've a better understanding of where I need to get the club throughout to work for MY swing. It will never be textbook or picture perfect but as long as it works when I need it and I can call on it when I'm in contention I'll take it.

My coach and I still have a long way to go. There is so much more that needs looking at. The swing still needs more work but it is from 100 yards and in that we really need to look at. The scoring zone, particularly bunkers, chipping and putting, will shave those vital shots and could be the difference between that handicap cut to single figures or treading water as a double digit golfer.

These are for another day. I'll hit the range again this week. Consolidate and refine what I've worked on to date and tick off the days until next weekend when I will absolutely, definitely, positively be back on the course and back playing again

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Prepared And Ready To Rock

I hit the range again last night. The work is beginning to pay off. It may not be the finished article yet and there is a long way to go but at the moment the ball striking and direction are very solid and pleasing. The cunning plan was to hit the balls at Blue Mountain Driving Range, keep everything ticking over and make my grand return this morning at Royal Ascot in the normal Saturday roll up.

A cunning plan indeed but there was one small flaw. It lashed it down with rain overnight and as I wearily opened the curtains this morning it was still throwing it down. In normal circumstances, particularly if I'm in a competition or match then I'd grit my teeth, get ready and go out. However with an untried swing I wasn't really that keen to be out in wet conditions worrying about the elements and the state of my game. Yes it was a wimp out but I prefer to look on it as a pragmatic opportunity.

The rain eventually died away and by lunchtime the sun was out. My cunning plan had changed. There is another roll up on a Sunday morning and with the weather set fair tomorrow, that would be the time to launch my comeback. What it did do was give me a chance to wander up to the practice ground at the club and actually hit balls off grass. Range mats serve a purpose but they can mask a poor strike. With the ground very wet from the overnight rain, hitting off grass would require nothing but a proper strike to make solid contact. Ideal to really test how the swing was going.

As a final preparation before hitting the course for the first time in several months it couldn't have gone any better. Plenty of good shots off difficult muddy turf that flew on a good trajectory with a decent dispersal. I even hit a few with the driver which isn't a strength normally but even these were solid and would have all been on the mown grass. That is the key to winter golf, finding the fairway and bodes well.

The short game and putting have been ignored and I fear these will cancel out a good ball striking round tomorrow but one step at a time. My teaching pro and I have already discussed working on this next and with a lesson booked for November 23rd I won't have long to wait to begin the hard work on this facet. To be honest even with my old swing I was capable of getting it round but I couldn't score around the greens. Homer's Odyssey would have reached home port of single figures a long time ago if I could have chipped and putted better. It is now part psychological and part technical and I don't know what we tackle first, the demons in my head over every chip or the flaky stroke.

What I do know is that my golf is going to be a two prong attack in terms of practice after the short game lesson. The full game still has a lot of work to do and old habits will creep back with alarming speed without due diligence to the changes I've been making. On the flip side, there is a need to get to grips with the short game and winter is the ideal time to do this. I'm happy to substitute playing from time to time to get the short game up to scratch in time for the new season. I just need to be sensible with my time and make sure my practice is done with clear targets and goals.

For now thought I'm like a kid at Christmas. My clubs have been cleaned top and bottom, the bag is packed and I've got my clothes out for the morning. I can't wait to get out there again and even if it goes horribly wrong it is a good barometer as to where I am and what needs looking at. I've done as much preparation as I can and now its time to go out and put it into practice. I'm ready to rock. Bring it on, good bad or indifferent. Apart from anything else it will be good to see the familiar old faces and get involved in the banter again. Tomorrow can't come quickly enough.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Progress - It Doesn't Feel Like It

After the euphoria of the lesson last Friday where the whole One Plane swing fell into place it was back to the range at the weekend to work on the changes. The diligent work I'd done on the back swing had paid huge dividends and my teaching pro Rhys ap Iolo was very pleased with progress. This enabled us to work on the down swing and getting rid of the nasty shallow impact position that had blighted the game for many years and get something a little steeper and able to compress the ball better.

Any of you that have enjoyed a lesson with a golf pro will know that while you are under their gaze in the teaching bay you seem to do no wrong. Once your lesson is finished and you wander off, the magic seems to disappear and you always seem to be struggling to recapture that "feel" you found so readily. And so it was when I wandered up to Maidenhead Driving Range on Sunday morning.

It was cold and the rain had been lashing down in biblical proportions and so any thoughts of going to my home club Royal Ascot and utilising the practice ground were washed away, almost literally. I like the range at Maidenhead. It's tucked away and so doesn't normally attract the type of idiot many ranges have who are trying to bash the cover off the ball, make loads of noise and generally behave in a really annoying manner. It is frequented by golfers trying hard to improve and the quality of mats and the range balls make it an ideal venue to knuckle down and get on with improving.

The session involved a lot of drill repetition trying to ensure the club was exiting left and coming down on a better plane just as it had in the lesson. I was fine when I was doing the pause repetitions similar to the work I'd done with the back swing. When I tried to execute at full pace and without any pausing the results were mixed. I came away with more questions than answers and with a nagging sense of doubt and worry.

Tuesday night after work and I was back at it, this time at Blue Mountain Driving Range. Whether it was the cold or the lure of the football on the TV but it was pretty deserted and allowed me to settle in and try and find the spark that had been there at the lesson. Back to the drills again. Just like the session on Sunday, when I was doing it in practice mode I could really feel the club moving properly. Put it into a full pace swing and initially the results were still mixed.

However I stuck with it. Ball by ball things improved and I captured the work on camera. I am struggling with the longer clubs and off the tee which doesn't bode well for taking it to the course just yet but that isn't really on the radar anyway.

I got home and warily posted a copy of the swing to Rhys for his view. I wanted to make sure he was happy with how things are progressing. His only question was how the ball was behaving. As it went where I wanted it to a lot more often I was pleased to report back that it was going better. He was happy with how the swing looked given the quality on the clip wasn't the best. It seems that we are moving forward even if it doesn't always feel like it. It is a huge project Rhys and I have undertaken to demolish thirty years of faults into a functional and repetitive swing. I perhaps need to learn patience as well as a new swing. The trouble is I want it all and I want it now.

I am pleased with how far I have come so quickly. I do need to keep working at the basics. The back swing will have a tendency to creep back into old habits and I need to be aware of this. The down swing will have a tendency to go too far down the line after impact into a high finish and not exit properly. As long as I'm vigilant I know the work I'm doing is right and will reap rewards once I get back into playing frequently and then into competitive play.

Things are clearly on the up and up and I am going forward and making progress. I have to be a happy Homer. Back to the range tomorrow and the work continues.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Penny Has Finally Dropped

Ladies and Gentlemen, it has taken nine months and a number of lessons but I am pleased to say the penny has finally dropped. I had another lesson with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre last night and was anticipating a review of the back swing changes I've been working so hard on and maybe nurturing and refining the work I'd been doing.

What transpired was the best lesson I've had with Rhys. It was an extended version and due to be an hour although Rhys as ever was generous with his time and it lagged to at least an hour and a quarter, which meant we weren't trying to cram a lot of work into a short time frame. However the most pleasing aspect was the fact that every time Rhys gave me a tweak I was able to tell him how it felt, where I thought the club was and where it had travelled. We weren't bogged down in too much technical stuff and I could finally work more on feel which is how I've always learned best.

To be fair to Rhys, he had so many layers of faults to strip away before we had a basic model we could mould and work with. Now, with Rhys giving the work I had down on the takeaway the seal of approval we could move it forward again. The old swing had always been too shallow into impact but until we were in a position to get the club in the right place at the top there was nothing that could be done to fix this and still allow me to make any decent contact with the ball.

Last night we worked hard on impact and being able to compress down onto the ball better. It isn't just impact that is important but the path the club is travelling on and so the exit and follow through were looked at in detail too. In fact, we ended up working it out in reverse and understanding how the club exits into the follow through let me figure out where it needed to be from the top into the ball.

As I have already said, the fact that I now have a good understanding of what I need to achieve and to a large degree how to do it has fired me up. An example of how you can get more from something working more efficient came when I was working on a stop/start drill. As I had been doing with my back swing work, I took the club halfway back, stopped, to the top and stopped again. I was then trying to focus on just returning the club to the address position to collect the ball and then ensure I made a proper turn into the follow through. I hit it perfectly. Bearing in mind there were pauses and it wasn't a proper swing I was amazed that Trackman said I'd carried it 153 yards. This would have been the top end of my six iron range flat out with the old swing. Less really can mean more. Add in the technical bits such as the club only being one degree open to path at impact, optimum launch angle and spin rate and it reinforced just how much progress I've made.

The penny drops and I can feel and understand where the club is and how it needs to travel - Hallelujah
As always, there is still work to be done. One of the biggest things I need to guard against is the killer position with the club getting across the line. An age old fault the new takeaway has addressed. The danger is the more I focus on the club coming down steeper, more in front of me and turning on the right path, the less I will be aware of where it is at the top.

Rhys has suggested my range work needs to be evenly split with one ball working on the back swing and the next on the steeper downswing and how the club exits. I wrote on here about buzzing from my ball striking at the range this week (make sure you check it out!) and feel from the quality of the strikes last night, that with the club now beginning to travel correctly that this can only get better.

I have to guard against old faults and ingrain the new technique. I also need to shift the focus and look at the short game. While my swing in all its incarnations has allowed me to get the ball around the course to some degree or another, my scoring potential has always been held back by an inability to chip and putt regularly.

I've charted my short game woes in inglorious detail over the last two years or so and it really has been the one thing that has stopped Homer's Odyssey from sailing into the land of peaches and honey and a single figure handicap. Part of it has been getting trapped between a number of styles and technique and part of it has been a mental block and a lack of trust over the ball. One has always fed the other and so the spiral downward continued. Rhys and I are going to start to address this with a short game refresher next time. Now I have an understanding of where the club is suppose to travel it should be easier to get it working better on a shorter shot.

I can't wait to hit the range tomorrow (Sunday) and put last night's work into action and put the hard yards in to get the changes right and ingrained. I'm confident I can get it right and if the six iron results last night are a taste of bigger and better things to come then it will be good. I am under no illusion that having not been on the course for two months or so it won't necessarily be perfect when I do get back out there. Hitting ball after ball at the range isn't the same as the one chance you get on the course but as long as I trust what I've worked on and don't go out with any expectations for a round or two I think results will come.

It has been a long journey to get this far. There is still a long way left to go to realise my potential. At the ripe old age of 46 (and nearly a half on top) this really is the last chance for body and mind to make such big changes to my swing and allow me to get as low as I can. Not only that, but a better, repeatable swing will place less strain on an ageing body and let me potentially play good golf for longer. For now though I am going to enjoy what I've achieved so far and relish the fact that at last the penny has dropped.