Thursday, 28 March 2013

Playing Lesson - Putting It Into Action

As you will know, the winter has been a period of swing changes. I've worked hard on implementing these and had relished the chance to put it into action on the course. Naturally, the weather intervened and I've only played a handful of rounds this year. However in practice on the range and in my lessons with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre I am hitting it great but put me on the course and old habits die hard. Rhys wanted to take me out for a playing lesson. Not only would it let him see how I perform on the course but he could give me some pointers, particularly on the short game while in a real life scenario.

It has been a very long time since I've had a playing lesson. I've always found these enlightening and in truth should perhaps have done it more often. To be honest though today had the feel of an appraisal and it was if Rhys was marking me on my work over the winter. It added a certain piquancy to the proceedings.

To be fair to the Downshire, it had dried out fantastically given the hammering it has taken, along with most courses locally, over recent weeks, with snow and above average rainfall. It was still bitterly cold on the first tee as I watched Rhys crack a driver straight down the middle. I'd gone for a three wood off the tee and hit it solidly but pulled it left. I was forced to lay up but it gave me a chance to play a simple chip and run and show Rhys the progress I'd made since our short game lesson. Naturally, I did what I've been doing regularly and hit it heavy. We discussed my thought process, how I saw the shot, where I wanted to land it and how I executed. Add in an ugly three putt from twenty five feet and it was a lovely double bogey to open.

I hit a cracking drive off the second tee. My second was a wee bit heavy but I only had 129yards left. It should have been a smooth eight iron but again I caught it heavy and it came up short. I was left with a tricky shot over the back bank of a bunker to a tight pin. I took my most lofted wedge intent on carrying all the way. Again I didn't execute well although much better than it use to be. Rhys then showed me another way of playing it, putting the ball way back in the stance and trying to almost hook it in. The way he played it and pinched it off the turf, it flew lower and landed and grabbed. I tried it but couldn't get my head around how far back it felt and how inside I felt I had to swing. Still, this was the whole point of the lesson, to try new things and work on my technique.

The third at Downshire is a short par three. The white tee box is tucked away to the left and makes it a tighter shot. It was an eight iron for me and I found the green to make my first par. The tee shot at the fourth is a long, long way back from the tee of the day. I hit my tee shot well but it started a little left and caught a tree and landed just in front of the ladies tee. I hit another and nailed it just to prove I could. I was forced to lay up short of the ditch that crosses the fairway some fifty yards short of the green. My third found the green. I didn't make a good read and three putted.

The fourth is a shortish par four around three hundred and fifty yards. It is a sharp dog leg to the right with a ditch across it at around two hundred and twenty yards. It has been a hole that has never set up well to my eye and as my predominant shot was always a right to left it was always a tough tee shot. I took the three wood and hit it well but down the right. My six iron was just through the green. I had a step to go up to a pin ten feet on the green off a downhill lie. I wanted to hit a wedge but Rhys pointed out the lie took loft off the club and upped it to the 58 degree wedge. To be honest in a competitive game it was a putter all day long but he wanted to test me. He asked me to play it way off the back foot in the same way as we had done at the second. It took a few attempts but finally I got the feeling and knocked it close. Not a shot I would have considered playing but I can see where this will have its merits and is another I need to practice more often.

I hit another superb drive down the next and was faced with 167 yards in. There is a ditch short for anything heavy and a deep bunker front left. The green slopes back to front and the wind was off the right. I aimed a good fifteen yards right. I caught it a little thin but it landed nicely on the putting surface fifteen feet away. Two putts later and I made a solid par. The next is a par three over water. Off the back tee it measured 157 yards. Right in between a five and six iron. I took the longer club. I caught it a little thin as well but it found the green. I coxed the putt to a foot for another par.

The eighth is a straight away par four. I usually take my three wood but today I hit driver. Another great drive and I was left with 82 yards. It would be a 52 yard wedge but with the wind against I opted for a three quarter pitching wedge. I hit it as planned. The work I had done on distance control recently paid off. The birdie putt just shaved the edge.

The last hole on the front nine is a par five.  They are doing a lot of work to remodel the hole with a new bunker right. With one on the left it makes the drive a lot tighter. My drive just about cleared the new trap on the right in the light rough. I hit a good fairway wood and was left with a simple wedge in. I nailed it and hit it too well. I was forty five feet away. The aim was simply to get it close but before I tried Rhys took the opportunity to go through some green reading. I use the Aimpoint method but given the length of the putt and the fact that from the halfway point it started to go downhill we broke it down into two stages. We took the first twenty five feet and read the break and then repeated the process for the second part of the putt and then added the two reads together. I hit it a little firm and ran it three feet past but given the distance I was reasonably happy. I made the return for another par.

Rhys was actually quite happy with everything. I have a few things to tweak and the short game still needs attention but it was a worthwhile process. I didn't make a complete fool of myself as I had feared and my game was actually in a better place than I thought. Rhys didn't over fill my mind with thoughts as we played but waited until I had played the shot before going over what had happened. What he did get me to do was go through my routine on every shot, something I don't always do. It does make a difference.

All in all, it was an afternoon well spent. If you have never had a playing lesson, find yourself a pro and play a few holes. It will open your eyes to how they see the shot compared to you. They will have much more defined targets, will have an area they will miss on and one they won't risk. How many of us, myself included just see the green and the flag and fire without giving it too much thought. It has definitely opened my eyes.

It is Haig Cup weekend at Royal Ascot. This is a bogey competition over the four days of the Easter weekend and you can choose which two days you play. I came second last year with a score that would have won six out of the last seven years but I was usurped by a guy who had a career round in the second round. His second round total was better than my combined score and added to his good first round meant he won it at a canter. I had been nervous going into it as I simply haven't played enough but today has given me a renewed confidence. I am working towards a short game with more shots and adventure and not one dimensional as I have been. That will take time but with the clocks changing this week I can now go out after work and attack it. All in all today has been a good day. The glass is half full and the arc of the curve is upwards.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

A Legend In My Own Mind

Monday morning and I'm at the Downshire Golf Centre ready for the much vaunted and much needed short game lesson with my teaching pro Rhys ap Iolo. As you all know by now the short game has been a bit of a nemesis and I've been between a rock and a hard place in terms of finding a technique that worked for me. All in all it has led to a mind melt and I stood over every chip from a simple chip and run to a pitch over a bunker with the mind racing at a hundred miles an hour and none of the thoughts being particularly positive about the task in hand. The job Rhys had was to simplify the technique and more importantly install some self-belief and flush out the negativity.

Of course, the first thing to do was listen to the proud Welshman revel in the rugby result. Given the extent of the drubbing it was to be expected. By the time we wandered out to the par three course Rhys had finally stopped the onslaught. I hoped his good mood would give me an easy passage into the lesson. Not a chance. Take one flaky short game and give the pupil a bare muddy lie over a bunker to a short sided pin. "Go on and show me how you'd play that" Rhys says. The mind goes into melt down, the swing looks like an octopus in a tornado but the ball finishes three feet from the cup.

We got down to the nitty gritty. A tweak in the set up, utilise the bounce and believe. I dunk one in the bunker and stuff one over the green. Perhaps the flailing octopus was the way forward. Ball by ball it got better as Rhys made the lie harder and harder. Off the muddiest barest lie imaginable he said play it like a bunker shot. I did and it gave a much wider margin of error. The next was off a better class of bare lie and flushed with success I only holed it. I'm a believer.

It was off to the putting green then to work on the chip and run. Again I hoped Rhys would tweak the technique and give me something to pin my faith to. Instead we utilised the bounce but he was more interested on focusing on landing zones, not too specific, but to stand there and really focus on where I wanted the ball to learn. By really zoning in and then taking a final look just before pulling the trigger, it gives the brain a specific goal and it can't then wander and allow negative thoughts or technical messages to pollute the swing.

The longer shots with a pitching wedge or nine iron were fine. Where I've had room to make a fuller swing I've been more comfortable. However Rhys wanted me to chip to a close pin on a side hill lie. My absolute nightmare. The plan was as before. Pick a landing zone, trust the technique, focus and then pull the trigger. There was still tension and as we all know in golf, tension kills and so early results weren't setting the pulse racing.

Focus on the landing zone, trust, zone in and go. Ball by ball things improved. I have a long way to go. It is very much a work in progress. When I lose focus I get tense and it goes wrong. When I get it right I am becoming a short game legend in my own mind. My feel is is superb and it was no surprise that I managed to hole one of these side hill chips. I use to shy away from using my 58 degree wedge which limited my options but when you are at rock bottom you do what you can to get the shot over with as fast as possible and just hope it ends up near the hole.

I appreciate that the focus on the landing zone and getting the picture in the mind is very akin to the stuff Karl Morris has been saying in the apps I've been listening to. I have to say though that the mental imagery is a very powerful tool and I'm amazed at how much less tension there is this way. I need to go away and work on it and Rhys wants me to use the grottiest lies I can find and work on it. If I can master it from a bare, muddy lie, then I can play from a good lie with absolute freedom.

I will become a short game legend and not just in my own mind. Seve was my absolute hero and if I can muster 1% of the skill he had then I will be a very capable player. Until then I have to forget the bad ones and embrace the good ones. There will be good and bad days and as long as the arc of the curve is upwards and there are more good than bad then it will be a start. I will be focusing a lot of time this season on the short game and I will be having another lesson soon to build on the progress I've made.

Of course the crux will come the first time I get on the course and miss a green. Will I be able to dig deep and picture the shot, feel the shot and keep the mental image fresh and just let the swing flow, pop the ball close and put the club back knowing I can make the putt. Of course I can because I am a legend. Well in my mind at least.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Weekend Washout

Meteorological update, 8.00am Sunday March 17th - wet with rain of biblical proportions continuing to fall. It has been a shocking couple of days and unsurprisingly the course has taken another battering with all the rain we've had in the last twenty four hours. It is open, just, but the front nine only. The back nine is shut and the usual few holes, 12, 15 and 16 are waterlogged. Credit must go to David Ansell the head green keeper and his hard working staff for keeping some holes in play to allow the members to get their golfing fix.

I played nine holes on Thursday and it had dried out nicely and was beginning to look in great shape. The greens had been treated again and were a fraction slow but putted true. The fairways and bunkers had dried out and all in all it was starting to come on. Having seen the forecast for Saturday, I had already parked the idea of going out in the normal Saturday roll up. Indeed when I opened the curtains it was chucking it down. Nothing for it but to put the electric blanket on, adjourn back to bed for a lie in until mid-morning and vegetate in front of the sport on the TV in the afternoon. Bliss.

Having seen that the back nine was closed yesterday, the chances of the monthly medal, also acting as the Royal Ascot cup (knockout matchplay) qualifier were slim. As I left the house there was no update on the website so I diligently went for my allotted tee time. Of course, there was to be no miracle, and the back nine was well and truly shut. I adjourned to the range.

I seem to have spent a lot of time the last few days working on the swing. My nine holes on Thursday weren't great. It is sometimes hard, playing on your own, but the swing wasn't feeling good and results were poor. It had started brightly enough with a good opening drive into the green side bunker and great bunker shot to five feet. I made the putt for a sandy par. After that the driver mis-fired, after being a lot more dependable in recent rounds. There was some good stuff in there as well but I wandered onto the practice ground to find the spark. There was some better stuff in patches. The club pro Alistair White was out giving a lesson and he wandered over at the end to cast an eye on my efforts and seemed quite pleased with how I was swinging.

Friday night has become range night, in preparation for the weekend golf. There was a blustery wind and it was raining as I arrived at Blue Mountain but the session was good. I feel as though an old habit of coming too far inside and fanning the club is starting to creep in but the strike and the direction, for the moment at least, are telling me it is fine. It just feels the position halfway back has changed from the one I spent many hours trying to create way back at the start of the Winter when Rhys ap Iolo started his major work on my game. It might need to get him to cast his eyes over it again next time I have a full swing lesson.

Tomorrow is a big day. Those that have played with me in the last twelve months or have followed my exploits on here (don't forget to tell your friends and spread the word) will know that I have been struggling with my chipping. A lot of it is in my head and I'm full of negativity based on a succession of fat and thin chips in every round. I stand over the ball never quite knowing the outcome and that is never a recipe for success. Rhys has been working hard, overly so probably, to get me to think I am a better chipper. It is hard when you can't see the results under pressure on the course or have a technique you can steadfastly trust. We did make some initial changes at the end of the last lesson. Tomorrow though is "C DAY" where we go outside, come rain or shine and get this nailed once and for all hitting off the grass. "C DAY" aka chipping day is the start of another long road but one which will have a huge impact on my game.

Actually I can't wait. If he can just get me something that works technically that I can go away and work on, and if he can detox the poison in my head, the latter being much the bigger task, then I'm prepared to work as hard and for as long as it takes. It really is the missing piece in the jigsaw. I am swinging better than I have in years. I just need to believe in that too. If I can find something to get the ball up and down regularly if I miss a green, even if it is a couple of times per round initially, then those couple of shots will make all the difference. Once I find a short game, single figures and ideally a handicap of 7-8 is there for the taking.

I am not hopeful the course will recover by next weekend when the better ball stableford event is due to take place. It has already been postponed once when we were waterlogged in February. I hope we can get it on. Mike Stannard my partner is in the same boat as me. He has been tinkering with his game and having lessons and it is really close for him too. If we can gel on the same day then his usual steady approach akin to my methodology of loitering with intent, trying to come in on the rare occasion he has a bad hole, then we can give this a real run. Because Mike is so reliable, it frees me to play my shots, which suits my game. I can play conservatively as well without compromising anything. That was the approach I took at the Golf Monthly Centenary Final at the Forest of Arden eighteen months ago with aplomb, coming second overall, pipped on countback, but winning my handicap division. It might be time to re-evaluate.

I do have one gripe though. The golf club mad a big fanfare of joining the social media revolution and getting a dedicated Twitter and Facebook page. Credit to them for doing so as this could be a good and free method of attracting new members and announcing special events. HOWEVER, if you are going to do this then why oh why don't you use it to provide course updates. It is a lot easier for a lot of members to get a tweet or Facebook message than having to log on to a PC or I-pad to look at the website to get the information.

It should only take a few seconds to send these and if you are updating the website then udpdate these other sites as well. That way all basis are covered. It is great that Royal Ascot Golf Club are embracing new technology and the new General Manager David Boyce (or Boycie as some of the members have imaginatively nicknamed him, after the character in Only Fools and Horses) is doing a good job at getting the club out there. It just needs taking to the next level to serve the membership fully. Moan over.

All in all then, not much golfing going on. Range balls are scratching the itch, just. The lure of the second coming of a short game is whetting my appetite and I am still fully engaged on my quest towards single figures. We just need the weather to play ball now. There are some things even golfers can't control.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A Nightmare Weekend

Friday night was lesson time again with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre. I had been swinging reasonably well and although the handicap rose 0.1 last weekend courtesy of 31 points in the monthly stableford I felt that I beginning to take the range work onto the course. Being a diligent pupil I arrived early to warm up. I was hitting the ball nicely. Always a worrying thing. Rhys and I spoke about progress, the lack of playing opportunities with the snow and other things cropping up and discussed the work I'd been doing utilising the Karl Morris information to get the golfing mind in a better place.

Then it was down to business. I was hitting it sweetly. I missed a few right but I understood why. We tweaked the posture at address slightly and tucked the pelvis into a better position. I hit it perfectly. Rhys had taken a video from behind the line and uploaded it onto the PC. What a revelation. Although I am moving naturally away from a true one plane into more of a two plane swing (it's probably a one and a half at the moment!) the swing had a perfect takeaway and as he tracked it to the top of the swing and then back down it remained on a perfect plane throughout. It was as good as my swing has ever been. In fact, after hitting a few more we decided that for now the swing is in a good place and didn't need more work and the rest of the lesson was dedicated to the beginning of the short game revolution. That is a work in progress but we thing we've found the root cause of a lot of the  issues and are now working on a permanent fix.

Suffice to say, the Saturday roll up couldn't have come quick enough and I was buzzing to get out and play. Paired with my good mates Darren and John on a misty dank morning I was ready. My first tee shot was well hit but right, probably down to poor alignment. There is a spur of trees some thirty yards short and right and I was behind those. I couldn't go over and there was only a narrow gap to go through. A long chip and run was called for. I adopted the changes from the lesson and executed well enough to find the green and made a net par.

I hit fairway and green on the next for a stress free par and the fairway on the third. I didn't hit a great approach to the green but pitched on for a net par. I was going along tidily. From nowhere I chucked a double bogey in at the next hooking the drive, pushing the second into sand and three putting. From there mistakes crept in and I was swinging badly. I missed the green right from 120 yards at the fifth and racked up another three putt double. I made another at the short eighth when I went right off the tee and the pitch didn't make the carry over sand and yet another at the ninth when I hit a poor shot into hazard having found the fairway.

The back nine started in similar vein as I hit an ugly drive off the tee into an unplayable position. The tempo had been way too quick, borne from frustration and a degree of embarrassment. I finally found a semblance of a golfer hitting the 178 yard par three eleventh in regulation and followed with a good drive at the next. That was to be as good as it got and the remainder of the round, bar a solid green in regulation par at the fifteenth was a cocktail of bogey and double bogey golf.

I was annoyed and a little bemused at what had happened but today was the Jack Jarratt Trophy. This is a pairs stableford event, a Royal Ascot honours board event, played off three quarter handicap and it is combined stableford points. I was with my usual cohort Mike Stannard and confident that today would be much better.

It was bitterly cold with a biting wind and the course was still wet from heavy midweek rain and so playing its full yardage. My opening tee shot was not a confidence booster, a high sky right flirting dangerously with the out of bounds but it stayed in play. I made a four, usually enough for two points but the first hole was one of those I lose a shot at under the three quarter handicap format. I redeemed it with a great five iron into the green at the third and both Mike and I were ticking over nicely. However it was then that things changed. I made another double at the fourth hole. It is only 320 yards but can be a real sleeper especially with the tricky green but I made a hash of the approach and chip.

Ball striking itself wasn't too bad but I was missing the target. I hit a great 4 iron on the par three sixth but it just drifted right on the breeze into sand. Similarly the approach at the seventh did the same but I had a real "moment" and my escape from sand limped out to the top of the bunker and I duffed the chip to put the ball back on the beach. I splashed out to three feet but by that time couldn't score.

I was trying hard to keep focused, going through the Karl Morris checklist and trying to grind a score. I made a good par to open the back nine and then frittered a shot with a poor escape from sand at the eleventh. In my defence the sand was badly compacted and wet. After that. my game deserted me to a large degree and I couldn't even glimmer satisfaction from the quality of the ball strike. I made another regulation par at the fifteenth and hit a great drive at the 425 yard sixteenth. However it was playing into the teeth of the wind and I was still 225 yards away. It had gone nowhere and the waterlogged fairway hadn't helped. I laid up to 110 yards and knocked it on. However a topped tee shot on the penultimate was a bolt from the blue. I recovered to make the green and rescue a point.

I got a drive away at the last although it wasn't perfect. I hit a good hybrid to leave 118 yards over the pond. I took a club more to make the journey knowing it would stop on the wet green. However I executed so poorly coming up and out of the shot so that it flew short and right to a watery grave. I pitched on and made an ugly double bogey seven but as this was the other hole I lost a shot on under the handicap format it didn't add to our points tally.

While my own round was unravelling, my partner was having his own issues. Hampered by the remnants of a cold he had started in his usually consistent manner. However he began to make his own errors, and was struggling on and around the green more than he usually does. He had thrown in some poor strikes of his own and generally we didn't "ham and egg" at all. In fact there was an air of "wallyness" about the whole performance and it was too litter strewn to ever really be in contention.

Both Mike and I played a like a pair of plonkers! - Me more than him
So where does that leave me? In the words of Squeeze "slaughtered, gutted and heartbroken". How can something so good have disintegrated so quickly in the space of two days. I felt I was fighting the swing both days and that technically it was wrong. I tried hard to do the mental things properly and focus and believe and trust. Hard to do when you are trying to do the things you did with your teaching pro and they aren't coming off. I feel that I tried to do things properly and conditions, particularly today were difficult to say the least. Do I put it down to two poor days at the office? Is it still a lack of playing time in 2013?

I feel really rather low. I feel I let my partner down, not for the first time, even if he was having is own problems. I am looking for positives and struggling to find anything to cling onto. The driver I guess was the strongest club in the bag and I seem to be finding more fairways. I really didn't feel as though I am rotating as well as I did on Friday before and during the lesson. It almost felt as though I was overly trying to rotate and spinning up and out. All I know is that I need to get some more range time in and find the answer. It was my mid to short irons that were the biggest concern and I was regularly missing greens from 140 yards and in. Not what I had been doing for so long in practice.

Definitely not the weekend I was hoping for and another example of how you can go into a round with such high hopes and it is a game that can snatch these away in a flash, shred them and hand them back in pile of broken dreams on the eighteenth green. Still, I've said before Homer's Odyssey is always going to be a long, sometimes difficult journey. At least it wasn't a qualifier for handicap purposes so no damage done in my pursuit for single figures.

The short game is coming and Rhys and I will add some more bricks to our foundations set in place on Friday when we have a short game lesson on the 18th. I have been working hard out of sand in recent weeks and it was another facet that I thought was improving. Maybe the wet sand played a part and so maybe it was just another area just not firing this weekend. I was tempted to hit the internet for some retail therapy and some new shoes or clothes but resisted the urge.

At least I played and finished both rounds without a nagging wisdom tooth a la McIlroy although like him, my head isn't right, at least not this evening. Still I am made of stern stuff. I'll get back on the horse, work even harder and constructively. I'll keep doing the mental work and stay positive and focused on the course, although I did let that slide too over the last few holes as my head dropped a tad. A nightmare weekend. But the good things about nightmare is that you eventually wake up. Maybe I am still coming out of my Winter slumber and I just need the sun on my back. It is a roll up next Saturday and the monthly medal, which is also the qualifier for the Royal Ascot Cup on Sunday.

Lest this not end as a woe is me piece. I am still a long way further forward and the misses are still much better than a year ago. It is still a work in progress across all parts of the game. It is still not really the golfing season and I can't let one bad weekend be a showstopper. I can and will improve. The video on Friday and the sublime feel of club on ball during that lesson tells me it is in there. I just need to get it working regularly. When it is good the good is better than ever before. The bad is a better bad than before and to be honest it was probably a case of frittering shots rather than losing them yesterday and today. Yes there were some bad ones but look at the WGC on the TV tonight and you'll see that even the guys at the top don't get it right all of the time. I will get there.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Sky Caddie SGX

Let me start with a confession. I am a big fan of golf DMD's (distance measuring devices). I want to make that clear as the subject regular appears on many golf forums and always divides opinion between those that think they are the antithesis of the spirit of the game and those that think they are a godsend and an essential part of their golfing kit.

I have used Sky Caddie for many years and had their SC5 model which offered a colour screen which I wanted compared to the more basic models on offer at the time. I got my device soon after they came out in the UK and it has been a fine and faithful servant over hundreds of rounds and given me the vital information I needed on many courses, a lot of which I'd never set foot on before. However, as with many things in life, myself included, it has got old and the battery no longer retains its charge, it loses the signal or fails to change from hole to hole. I was in the market for a new device.

Perhaps the biggest selling point of any Sky Caddie is that they go to each course and measure it by foot on the ground to arguably give the most accurate information for any device on the market. There are a number of devices new for 2013 including the SGXw which is a wireless model. However having had issues with my I-pad and connectivity and being a bit of a technological Luddite I opted for the next model down in the range, the SGX.

This is what Sky Caddie say about it and the features contained in the unit

For the ultimate in convenience and reliability, the SkyCaddie SGX can store up to 30,000 pre-loaded, ground-verified course maps making it ready-to-play out of the box with Basic Green information. The SGX boasts a durable, sleek design with a large 3-inch, easy-to-read, transflective TFT-LCD screen that provides brilliant colour images even in the brightest sunlight.

The SGX uses an innovative dual navigation option to provide golfer friendly, one-handed operation and enhanced precision positioning without blocking critical screen information with fingers and smudges. With its new, intuitive user interface, the SkyCaddie SGX offers everything found in competitive rangefinders plus higher quality, better reliability and several proprietary stroke-saving essentials that have kept SkyCaddie the #1 Rangefinder in Golf for the entire decade.

SkyCaddie SGX Golf GPS Rangefinder Features:

New Design With Brilliant Colour Display

  • Durable, sleek design with a large 3-inch, high-resolution, transflective TFT-LCD screen for brilliant images in the brightest sunlight.
Dual Navigation
  • Golfer friendly, one-handed operation provides more precise positioning and better accuracy without obscuring screen information with fingers and smudges.
TruePoint GPS™ Precision Positioning Technology
  • High performance GPS engine for ultra-fast satellite acquisition and unmatched accuracy and reliability. You can’t trust your club if you can’t trust your caddie.
Omni-Directional, High Performance GPS Antenna
  • Locks quickly to more satellites and stays locked to optimise performance and accuracy in all terrains, even under tree foliage.
High Precision Ground-Verified Course Maps
  • Only SkyCaddie walks every course to make sure you have information you can trust. No Tour Player uses yardage books derived from satellite images or flyovers. Neither should you. Get unlimited access to the most complete, most reliable, ground-verified course maps in the game with a simple annual plan with no hidden fees or variable charges.
Preloaded Courses
  • Up to 30,000 course maps are preloaded and ready-to-play out of the box with Basic Green information. Plus store up to 50 full-featured courses through a SkyCaddie Membership Plan.*
Hazards, Carries and Layups
  • SkyCaddie records thousands of points on each golf course with sub-meter precision. Distances to hazards, carries and layups are displayed automatically as you move down the course. Knowing these critical distances lets you to manage your game and eliminate those 6, 7, and 8’s from your scorecard.
Interactive HoleVue™ With Zoom
  • SkyCaddie is creating, at a rate of hundreds per month, the only high-precision graphics library of every golf hole, based on ground-corrected data. With HoleVue, you’ll know the distance to any point on a hole in order to play that hole with the fewest strokes. Need a close-up view to strategize your next shot? HoleVue includes a patented zoom function to dial into the exact area you need to see.
  • With SkyCaddie’s patented IntelliGreen® technology, the exact shape of the green automatically rotates to match your angle of approach to provide all of the distances you need to hit more greens and avoid 3-putts. This proprietary feature gives you a chance to turn every shot into a scoring opportunity by providing front carry and back distances, depth of green, and distances to any other point on the green — simultaneously.
IntelliGreen® Pro™*
  • Built on proven IntelliGreen technology, IntelliGreen Pro is another proprietary feature that adds distances to major green contours, false fronts, front carry and back distances — plus any other point on the green from your angle of attack. This kind of crucial scoring information is only possible by precision-mapping a golf course from the ground with sub-meter accuracy…and it’s only available with SkyCaddie.
Measure Any Shot
  • Discover exactly how far you hit every club in your bag. Knowing your club distances gives you another way to manage your game better.
Digital Scorecard and Stat Tracking
  • Track your score for every round with the SkyCaddie’s Digital Scorecard, plus see key stats like GIR, fairways hit and total putts with ease. Sync with ClubSG™ for the most comprehensive round analysis in the game.
The Sky Caddie SGX
So you've read what Sky Caddie says but how does it live up to the hype. Let me start with a negative. I have never liked the fact that you have to pay an annual subscription and that if you don't renew, the machine gets locked so you can't even access courses you have already downloaded. I am not a fan of this annual fee and again on many forums it is a familiar gripe. However I do think Sky Caddie have done a good thing offering the first year for free although I accept that there will be a hit next year.

As I've already said, I am a bit of a Luddite but the quick start guide eases you into registering the unit and downloading courses you want. The "Caddie Synch" function is the way the unit gets the information via a USB cable plugged into the laptop. It will feed not only the courses but will give you software upgrades and you can then download scores and other details of your round onto your online account.

So what. The proof of the pudding is out on the course. Well it is quick to load and I have had no trouble with the unit finding the course. I have used it with and without the scoring option and if I'm being brutally honest I found the scoring option fiddly and irritating as it kept asking for the score and number of putts (and fairway hit or not) before moving onto the next hole. I keep my score the old fashioned way with card and pencil and so for me it didn't add anything. I keep my statistics and round details on another bit of software (Scoresaver 2) so I'm not too bothered about downloading my score information.

That is a small grumble. The unit gives you a view of the hole, ideal if you have never seen it before and gives you an idea what lies in front. You have the option to list the hazards, one I've set up, so you can stand on the tee and know how far it is to carry that fairway bunker. It makes the decision making process a lot easier. As you progress down the hole the overhead view accurately shows where you are and what is left to negotiate. As you approach the green you can zoom to the "intelligreen" feature which shows the shape and give you a reading to the front, middle and back. Using the joystick you can move the flag to show its true position on the green and the unit will recalculate these three readings accordingly.

The SGX unit is compact and sits comfortably inside my pocket. It is easy to read and as with my old SC5 model I have confidence in the distances it gives me. I have a very good idea how far I hit each club (having used the ball mark feature on my SC5 on the practice ground) and so it is a very quick process to get a reading, adjust the flag position if I want more detail and decide what club to hit based on the conditions.

I have had used it a number of times now and I'm very pleased with my purchase. It does everything a DMD device should do (with loads of other features like scoring) and is hassle free and above all accurate. Standing on a par 3, I adjusted the flag position and then compared the yardage with the laser device of my partner. We had the same figure and lets face it even if there had been a +/- of a yard of two because he had locked onto the flag, at my level is that going to be a show stopper? I don't think so. The difference in performance between the SGX and my old SC5 is huge. Graphics are sharper, there are more features and the unit has got smaller. It is worth shopping around as there are some great deals on the SGX out there. I have to say aside from the subscription issue, there is very little I can find with the SGX that is a negative. I would give it a solid 8.5/10 and it only loses marks for the fiddly scoring and the annual fee.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Different Year - Same Issues

After just two games in 2013, the competitive season started yesterday in the monthly stableford at Royal Ascot. I'd put some solid work in at the range this week after my practice round on Monday and so was happy with the way I was hitting it. However I still felt deliciously under-prepared but was happy to go out with no expectations and see what happened. I've started working hard on the mental side of the game as well as my swing and so was confident of dealing with whatever happened.

That was tested immediately with a poor tee shot on the first leading to a double bogey. A poor approach at the second lead to another dropped shot when in good position but that was offset by a par at the tricky 366 yard third. One step forward and one back, as I went over the back of the fourth green, catching my approach slightly thin. A very average chip gave me little chance to rescue par. I missed the green from 120 yards at the par five fifth landing in one of the right hand greenside bunkers. My first effort stayed in the sand but my second attempt rolled five feet past the hole but I was able to make a clutch putt.

In this new era of positive mental attitude I know there is no such thing as a bogey hole but the sixth at Royal Ascot has arguably caused me more trouble than any other. It is only 178 yards but with a line of trees and out of bounds tight right, and out of bounds lurking for anything tugged left. It does open out where the trees finish on the right but I seem to have real issues. I hit a solid tee shot but pulled it a fraction. It was arguably too much club and it ended up long and left in a heavy lie. With the pin tucked tight to the left of the green and with a large mound to clear it needed something exceptional to get it close. Sadly that prove too elusive for my flaky short game and my first pitch was heavy and came up short. The double bogey meant no points on that hole.

The view back to the tee on the 6th. It looks so innocent but has ruined my scorecard many times
I hit a great tee shot off the seventh tee and my approach was well struck but wandered into the bunker to the right of the green. I escaped better than I had at the fifth and I made a good read but the putt defied gravity and stayed above ground. Standing on next, the shortest hole on the course at 139 yards, the wind picked up. It made club selection tricky but in truth I didn't make a great swing. Back in sand. I came out again but could only two putt for a single point. I was frittering points but I was sticking to my routine, going through my mental checklist and trying to do things properly. I hit a fantastic drive at the ninth and although my five iron second was a little clean, okay thin, it hit the green. I made a great first putt and narrowly missed the birdie but secured a par to be out in fourteen points. Not fantastic but a platform to build on.

I wasn't happy with my tee shot on the tenth and it left a much longer approach than I was hoping. It was 162 yards and my five iron was superb to eight feet. Another brilliant read on the green and I made the putt for my first birdie of the year and three much needed points. I missed the green with my tee shot on the par three eleventh and yet more sand. It was a deep bunker with not much green but I got it out well. Another solid putt from six feet and a par (net birdie). Another single putt green on the next rescued a net par after I had made a bit of a mockery of the hole. I had elected to lay up after the drive. I missed the fairway and the lie in the rough was poor. I wanted to leave 100 yards and a simple wedge. I hit it too well and left 85 yards. I missed the green which was inexcusable and the chip was scabby but I got away with it. The putter saved me.

Feeling positive, I was working hard to keep the mind quiet and keep everything neutral and calm. I have no idea where the big hook off the tee at the thirteenth came from but it not only cleared the ditch running down the left of hole but much of the rough on the adjacent twelfth as well. Not only was I lucky to find it but it was far enough down to be pin high and with an escape route onto the green. Instead of making the most of my good fortune I duffed the approach and dunked it into the hazard. Another hole with no points.

Previously my mind would have wandered, I would have dwelt on my error and probably have made a mess of the next. The Karl Morris stuff enabled me to go through my routine and clear my head. I made a great drive but pulled the approach. I've started to work hard on my distance control in 2013 especially from 30-60 yards and this paid off when I put my recovery to five feet. Yet another single putt and a great par save. I hit the green in regulation on the par five fifteenth and only had fifteen feet for birdie. The first putt came up two feet shy and for the first time all day I put a bad stroke on it and thee putted to drop a shot.

I hit a rubbish tee shot on the sixteenth. It was a bit of a top and only went about 150 yards meaning I had no way of making the green. I laid up, pitched solidly and was happy to walk off with a net par. The seventeenth is another long par three, coming in at 218 yards. I hit a good looking five wood but it was a tad right and left me a tricky pitch over a bunker to the green. I fluffed it and stuffed it into the sand. I couldn't get up and down and for the third time managed to rack up a hole bereft of points.

I missed the fairway at the last. The lie was good and I needed to hit a hook to avoid the large oak trees down the left and miss the dead tree that stands in the right hand rough some two hundred yards from the green. I pulled it off superbly and the ball bent beautifully in the air to leave 120 yards to the centre of the green. That is about the maximum distance for my nine iron but with the flag situated on the front of the putting surface I thought it would be enough club. There is a pond that guards the right hand side of the green. I hit the nine iron as well as I could have hoped and saw it bounce so assumed it had made dry ground and on the green. When I got to it, the ball was precariously perched on the bank of the pond. I made a reasonable chip to six feet. Using my Aimpoint chart to read the green and the break, I allowed for the the six inches of break it told me I had. If I had been looking at it without the benefit of Aimpoint I would have guessed perhaps two inches. It certainly didn't appear to have that much break. Confident in my read but wary of the putt being downhill and charging it by I made my stroke. It curled to perfection and dropped for another up and down, another single putt green and a par five to finish.

In the end my total of 31 points, 14 out and 17 back, was only good for 14th place in Division One (out of 28 competitors in the division) and I got a 0.1 increase on my handicap. But, and it is a big BUT, there was so much to take away that was good. I had a great mental attitude all the way round and accepted the outcome of both the good and bad shots equally. I was in the present and didn't let my mind dwell on previous bad shots or wander forward to what I might need to do. I hit 75% of the fairways in regulation, only had 30 putts and made 40% of sand saves. Perhaps the only negative was only hitting 22% of greens in regulation.

I am only three games into my 2013 season and already my mental game is stronger and my routine better so that over the ball I give myself the best opportunity possible to execute well. I am swinging well and with the exception of my chipping - AGAIN - all facets are falling into place. The 0.1 increase is an annoyance more than a show stopper in my pursuit towards single figures and there is plenty of time to get that back.

I went in without expectations and three poor holes cost me the chance to get close to my handicap. One was a poor tee shot on the first, one was an inability to capitalise on some good fortune and one was a failure to execute a simple sand save. There were some poor shots in there as well but there always will be and for the most part I was able to recover. In the cold light of day I am perhaps more disappointed. However the pluses more than outweigh the negatives. The only issue I have I have is the short game. Different year, same issues. I really thought I'd started to turn a corner in my practice round on Monday, but add the pressure of a competition and it crumbled like a sandcastle in the incoming tide. I need to get a date in the diary with my teacher Rhys ap Iolo. I did have a lesson booked but as regular followers will know, a bout of the Norovirus put paid to that. It really is the missing link.

I have been working on the short game again today, particularly my wedge play and distance control. It is getting better. I had a good session in the practice bunker too and I'm  beginning to understand what I need to do to control height and distance from various lies. I also spent an hour on the chipping green. I am determined to have a chipping game to match my handicap mark but for all the time I'm investing I don't feel like I'm moving forward. I guess that is why I need Rhys to cast a professional eye over it all but before then I need something to take out on the course. That is where the problem lies at the moment.

Still, when all said and done it is only the start of my season and yesterday was a very powerful and solid foundation and I've laid a few markers down for how I can perform and think on the course. I've a lesson booked for Friday night (too dark to chip) and a roll up game on Saturday. On Sunday it is the Jack Jarrett Trophy at Royal Ascot which is a pairs event, combined stableford scores. My partner Mike Stannard is showing signs of getting his game together and so maybe, just maybe, we can gel on the same day. I feel the arc of the curve is definitely upwards and the glass remains positively half full.