Monday, 1 April 2013

If This Is The Beginning

All the best plans and all that. Easter was suppose to mark the start of my golfing season with a bogey event at Royal Ascot called the Haig Cup. It is held over the four days (Good Friday-Bank Holiday Monday) and players can choose which two days they play. I had wanted to play Saturday and today. Sadly the wife wasn't very well and so the competition went west. My season now starts next Saturday in the monthly stableford.

It wasn't a golf free zone though. I played a roll up game on Friday. I was surprised just how well the course had dried and the greens were quick for the time of year. It was a bright day but bitterly cold with a biting wind. I had been buoyed by my playing lesson the day before and perhaps unwisely turned up thinking I'd be able to play well. My opening shot was a well struck three wood but it went right behind a row of trees. I played a great recovery through a narrow gap and onto the green only to three putt. I was hitting it well in the opening holes but couldn't score and was making a number of unforced errors. I did stabilise the ship with an outrageous thirty foot putt for birdie at the fourth. However every hole from then until the ninth was a bogey and although I was happy with how I was striking it, I missed too many greens. I made a par at the ninth with a great drive followed by a solid iron into the heart of the green.

The back nine started badly with a hooked drive out of bounds. Tempo not technique to blame. I made a great up and down from right of the twelfth green with nowhere to land the ball holing the putt from ten feet. I repeated the feat at the next having missed the green pin high at the 178 yard par three. These were to be the highlights as I climbed back on the bogey train on the way back to the clubhouse. My chipping, always suspect, fell apart and I missed a couple of key fairways. The score tells a sad story but in the greater scheme of things and for the first full round in nearly three weeks there were some positive signs.

With the wife being ill, I decided to take advantage of the Easter Sunday sunshine and work on my chipping and putting. It was a profitable couple of hours especially on the chipping and I felt as though I'd taking a big step forward.

I opted to play a social game this morning. Cold doesn't even begin to describe how bitter it was. There was low cloud and the wind cut right through even with several layers, a hat, mittens and long johns. It is the coldest I have been on a golf course for a long time. The opening tee shot found a similar position to the one on Friday but my window of opportunity was even smaller. I threaded the ball through the eye of a needle and it ran to the fringe of the green. I rolled a monster putt from twenty five feet for a par. No pictures on the scorecard.

However it was a rare moment of golfing dexterity. A penalty shot at the third after an errant drive, and a putter that misfired meant I was racking up some big numbers. I couldn't find the pace of the greens and kept pulling putts from five feet and in way left of target. It led to a horror four putt at the par three sixth. I had missed the green right and had a tricky pitch over the bunker. I hit a good recovery and then had a total brain freeze with the putter.

The back nine started better although to be honest by this time I was cold and disenchanted and my heart and golfing brain wasn't really at the races. I made a par at the tenth, hitting fairway and green. I even hit the green at the eleventh although in truth it was a scabby tee shot low and left that took advantage of the topography and came in off the back of the bunker. From then on though, it was a similar story to the Good Friday round where I found any way I could to fritter shots away. My final hole was a horror story including a ball dunked into the greenside pond and left a nasty taste.

I have to be truthful and say I wasn't really engaged today and perhaps that led to a few of the mistakes. That said, there was no excuse to putt that badly. I need to look at the basics. I used a putting mirror yesterday in practice and thought I had got the eyes over the ball and the shoulders aligned but clearly there is an issue to make me pull everything left. Work to do.

Throughout the weekend, there were some good shots but the key thing I took away was my tempo. Playing in my lesson with Rhys, I was trying hard to impress the teacher and the whole swing was smooth and under control. It felt this weekend that it was too quick and snatched. Too many moving parts again, especially the lower half and it never gave me time from the backswing back to the ball to turn properly and so hips slid and didn't rotate. The short game I had thought had turned a corner deserted me again. There was a tempo issue here. Yesterday full of confidence the pace of the shot was brisk, back and through. Today, it seemed more deliberate and slower and this was reflected in the outcome.

I am disappointed not to have played in the competition and about the way I played. However if this is the beginning of my season and this is me playing poorly then I have a lot to be optimistic about. It wasn't a case of carving the ball left and right, striking it poorly. More a case of being careless. There were some bad shots but then even the professionals don't hit every one perfectly. It seemed that when I missed a fairway or green I didn't recover and when I did get into a good position I missed my target. As I alluded though, I never seemed fully engaged. It was almost a case of hit it, find it and hit it again.

I should be frustrated. I am but I've not taken these two bad rounds to heart. My competitive season now starts with the monthly medal next Saturday and I've playing in a club match at home to Caversham Heath on Sunday. I could do with the weather warming up (fat chance) and have a few days to work hard on my tempo and more importantly my putting and short game. Now the clocks have changed I get an hour after work every night to tinker and improve. If after next weekend there aren't signs of improvement then my next lesson is due on the 26th so Rhys can have a look at my swing then. I'm hoping that now I can play regularly every weekend and we aren't snowed in or flooded, I can shake the rust off and stop making these silly mistakes. Not quite the weekend I had hoped for but I do feel as though the season is upon me. Now is the time to step up, play well when it counts and finally reach my goal and get to single figures. The hard work starts here.

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