Monday, 19 August 2013

Odyssey Demo Day

Of all the areas of the game, putting has been one constant this year. My season has been a dichotomy of better ball striking and a fledgling short game and a steady rise in handicap as competition rounds have failed to reflect the progress being made. Throughout this the putter has remained a faithful companion. I'd been using an Odyssey ProType Tour Series #9, a milled half mallet style. Whilst it has behaved itself deep in my heart I have yearned to go back to a blade putter. Consequently my Ping Anser 2, a bit of a museum piece these days, has made a sojourn back into the bag for the last few rounds and has been as good as the Odyssey. That in itself has given me a dilemma on which to persevere with

Whilst not directly in the market for a new wand, the fact that there was an Odyssey demo day at Royal Ascot last week meant it seemed rude not to saunter along and at least see what they could offer.

A wide range of putters on offer along with the advice of the trained Odyssey fitters
My eye was immediately drawn to the latest range, the Versa. They are described by the company:

"The Versa line of putters offers Odyssey’s latest breakthrough innovation, Visionary High Contrast Alignment. The black and white contrast accentuates the face angle at address, through the stroke and at impact, improving concentration and allowing you to align your putter more accurately to the target. In addition to offering this innovative alignment technology in our mallet and progressive style putters, this technology has been applied to our blade style putters, providing a functional alignment aide to a traditional style putter. Coupled with a new and improved White Hot insert, the Versa line provides options for every player type."

To be honest I found it too busy at address. There was no denying the quality of the putter and the insert felt a little firmer than some of the predecessors but it wasn't really singing to me. Our putting green is a trifle slow at the moment, around 8.5 on the stimp but I struggled with pace.

I went to the White Hot range. I've been a fan of this for ages and had the #9 model in this range before swapping for the milled face model I have now. Again the blade models didn't really do it. I was better in terms of distance but not so good on shorter ranges. It was at this time that one of the fitters came over and asked me about my current putter(s), my stroke and what I was looking for. Odyssey are using a new fitting system called Eyefit and there is a great video that explains the concept http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNcaqrod-t0#at=26

We decided that I was a three dash fit and having watched me putting asked me if I had considered the Tank model. To be honest, I hadn't heard of it. This is what Odyssey have to say about it

"Our newest addition to the alternative category is called Tank. It comes in short options (34” and 36”) and long options (38” and 40”) and features specifically weighted components with a Tour preferred balance point for a higher MOI and greater stability through impact.

The counterbalance weight (30g in long options and 40g in short options) plus a heavier head (400g) quiet the hands during the stroke. The added weight raises MOI to create more stability through impact, and engages your big muscles to promote more of a pendulum stroke that keeps your wrists from breaking down.
Total Club MOI With Increased Weight
One of the main reasons we’re able to achieve a greater level of stability is due to the total club MOI. The short options (34” and 36” putters) have a total club MOI that is 34% higher than a standard putter with a 19% increase in total club weight. The long options (38” and 40” putters) have a total club MOI that is 109% higher than a standard putter with a 32% increase in total club weight.
Tour Preferred Balance Point
The balance point is lower on the shaft, providing a more conventional feel that Tour players prefer.
New and improved White Hot Pro insert
New and improved White Hot Pro insert is highly engineered for more consistent sound, feel and Tour Proven performance."

The Odyssey Tank - a heavy duty putting machine
It was love at first putt as I slotted in a fifteen foot left to right putt with the first effort. It does what it says on the tin and extra weight really does work in taking the wrist action out of the stroke and gives the putter the feeling of a nice pendulum stroke. It's extra weight means the length of the stroke needs to be shorter but once that little hurdle is cleared it was solid. Even on long down hill putts I could just take it back and through and the heavy head did the work and thirty foot putts down the tier in the green finished next to the hole like an old Labrador nestling by the open fire.

Even the short ones were an eye opener. The heavier head and the counter balance in the grip make it hard to putt on anything but a straight back and through line. It was confidence building to stand over three-five foot putts and just take swing up and down the line and see the ball drop. The insert is definitely firmer than the original White Hot version but having come from a milled faced model this wasn't an issue.

At the moment it only comes in a #1 and #7 design but I loved the 34 inch, three dash model. I kept putting it down, chatting to the Odyssey staff and Ali White, the Royal Ascot club pro and picking it up and trying it again and again.

Plenty of interest in the Odyssey range, and plenty of options to try
I said at the beginning of the piece that I wasn't in the market for a new putter. Technically that's still the case but I've got Ali White to get me a quote for the Tank #1 just to see what he can do against RRP and online prices. If the price is right I am sorely tempted. I am happy with the bladed head design and can only reiterate the heavy head makes the stroke more compact, and really does stop the wrists taking over or breaking down. If I'm to start making some good scores and halt the slide in my handicap I need the short game to continue to flourish but also to be able to get the ball in the hole once I chip it close.

If you are in the market for a new putter, the Odyssey range really does seem to have something to suit everyone and if you can find a demo day at a club or retailer near you I recommend going, if only for the Eyefit to see what style of putter you should be using. For now, I'm putting the ProType Tour #9 back in the bag but I have a feeling it will be usurped by the Tank in the very near future. Or will it?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Dress Standards At Golf Clubs

If you log onto any golfing forum, there is one topic that is guaranteed to polarise opinion and promote numerous points of view, some reasoned, some extremely dogmatic. That subject is dress code standards at golf clubs. This is a complex issue and the arguments cover not only what is or isn't acceptable on the course itself, but clubs attitude to standards in the clubhouse too.

Let me make it perfectly clear from the outset, I am a bit of a traditionalist but with a nod to modern values. My dear old dad use to tell me from a very young age, irrespective of whatever sport I was playing "that if you look like a player then you are well on the road to being one. Look good, feel good." It's an adage I've taken with me ever since and I like to think that I always appear on the first tee smartly turned out and ready to play. I have three distinct parts of my wardrobe. Clothes for work, clothes for socialising and clothes for golf and personally I like to going to the golfing section and picking something to wear. It is part of getting ready to play in the same way as packing my golf gloves and balls.

The first argument put forward, especially by those on the side of wanting a more relaxed attitude is cost. I agree that the cost of golf shirts, in the same way as the cost of replica sport shirts, is extortionate and that the main brands are making a huge killing on a £40 golf shirt. There is the counter-argument that a lot of R&D goes into creating modern fabrics that keep the golfer cool, warm and probably smelling like a walking floral display if the hype is to be believed. I live in England though and don't play in the heat or humidity of the Arizona desert, Turkey or the golfing playgrounds of Spain and Portugal. If we get a month of sunshine that is summer these days. I don't need these all singing all dancing fabrics although of course I do own some. For those on a budget, there are plenty of smart, well made, brands available for £15 or less. Similarly, we have trousers that wick moisture away, have a tailor cut and come in a rainbow of colours that would make that iconic peacock of the loud clothes Ian Poulter and his 1970's predecessor Doug Sanders spoilt for choice. However you can pick up trousers in supermarkets or sport super-stores at a fraction of the price and are perfectly functional and so I reject the argument that it's impossible to dress properly on a budget.


Poulter and Sanders, two golfers never going to be missed out on the course
The argument extends to jeans or cargo pants. Many argue that they wear these regularly, possibly even at work and by being able to step out of the car onto the tee dressed like this makes golf more convenient and accessible. I disagree. A lot of municipal courses, usually the gateway into golf for many, and places where it is thought by many, golf snobs if you will, that anything goes, have their own dress codes which are well policed and maintained. Yes, I've played at places where jeans, football tops and even flip flops on the course are de rigueur and while it may be a huge leap of faith, whenever I've seen this I know a six hour round and no chance of being called through will follow. That isn't to say these don't have their place and for them getting traffic on the course and cash in the tills is more important and I can see where they are coming from.

The driving range is an interesting tangent. Some argue these should be havens to quiet practice and golfing contemplation and will dress in golfing gear. Many rock up after work and still want to work on their game and hit balls in their working attire. Others use these as a playground, and just rock up to hit balls and let off steam and for them dress standards are no consequence. With no rules and regulations anything goes. Personally I am more interested in working on faults or drills and yes I prefer to dress in golf gear, including golf shoes as I just feel more comfortable.

I am all for new golfers finding and enjoying this fickle game. The number of club members are down in these austere times and clubs are closing and we need to make it as open and easy for people to go out and have fun and play golf regularly. This is essential for the existence of courses and the lifeblood of the game for years to come and yet many still feel threatened or put off by the arcane rules around dress. That is wrong. However, it really isn't that hard as I've shown to pick up a pair of trousers and a polo shirt cheaply and I'm sure we are all agree that golf shoes are a given. These don't have to be top of the range either and for the social golfer or newbie, there are plenty of cheap models out there which offer comfort and even a degree of waterproofing. How hard is it to keep these in a bag in the car and spend five minutes changing into when you arrive. Would it be acceptable for Kevin Petersen to walk out at Lords in jeans?

However, this is mainly the hors d'oeuvre to an even bigger crime. Not wearing white socks with shorts. Now I've no idea where this rule came from but it does seem fairly universal. Why? If I had a natty pair of navy shorts why shouldn't I choose to finish it off with blue socks? There was a classic example on one of the online debates that outlines why the topic promotes such passion and why golfers old and new get frustrated.

"I played in an open competition a month ago and the guy in the group in front was about to tee off when the secretary comes running over "you can't wear black socks with shorts you will have to buy some white ones from the pro shop if you haven't got any." The player goes running in to shop to buy some so he could actually play. I just thought how pedantic to do it when he was just about to tee off. The lad then had a nightmare off a round. Clubs need to change certain rules. Times are changing. I am all for dress codes on the course being realistic but some rules are still outdated." Exhibit A. How can that be good for the reputation of the club in question.

That brings us neatly (or not) onto that other hideous transgression, the untucked shirt. Again my preference is to be traditionalist and tucked in as I find flapping material off putting as I swing and it doesn't take much to put my fragile swing out of sync. No-one wants to see masses of flesh on display, male or female, as they whirl their driver like a dervish. It isn't that hard to keep the shirt tucked. Golf isn't a physical impact sport and if you really can't keep it in your trousers (ooh er missus) buy a bigger size. No need for it in my book I'm afraid as it just looks scruffy and unkempt .

A familiar poster in many a changing room across the country. Do we really need to be spoon fed or are rules still being ignored and flouted?

Of course golf clubs have their own dress codes. I have played many courses over the years and I always check their website to check their own take on both and off the course. My take on this is very simple. You either accept the dress code rules the club has in place and comply or don't visit. Don't expect the club to change their standards to match your own.

This extends from the course into the clubhouse. This is arguably where there is the greatest divide in the modern game. A lot of golf clubs are now relaxing dress codes in the 19th and allowing denim and trainers in providing they are "smart." This is ideal, not only for breaking down barriers and moving dress codes forward, but for making it easier for the wife and children to come along and enjoy a drink and bite to eat without being made to feel uneasy about whether they comply to rules. The more people that use the clubhouse the more money the club makes. Simple economics. The problem of course comes with that word "smart." What one person thinks looks good will put others off. You can buy ripped denim by world famous designers. Are they smart? Then there is the argument about socks or no socks. How can one insignificant piece of attire seem to cause so much angst in the golfing fraternity? Smart loafers, trainers or sandals. With or without? The club will have made a decision. Stick with it whether you agree with it or not.

Now I said right at the outset that I'm a traditionalist with a hint to the modern. I am quite traditional about how golfers should dress on the course but off it I am happy if a club wants a more relaxed atmosphere. I know many places where some older members can't embrace this change and will regularly challenge what they consider flagrant breaches of a stringent policy. Usually, the steward will intervene and explain that times have changed. I'm sure some of these older members aren't aware that jacket and tie is no longer required after 7.30. Times are a changing and as the demographic of clubs change to a younger membership I feel that these standards will continue to relax and evolve.

Of course there are some places that have their own take and time has stood still for decades. There are several in my area such as the Berkshire and Sunningdale where a jacket and tie is still required for lunch. If I am a guest for the day I am happy to comply even if it is a complete pain in the rear end having to come in, change, eat and then change back into golf clothing again, especially if the turn around is tight on time. However, I am there as a visitor, these are the rules and usually the quality of the food on offer makes the hassle seem insignificant.

On the subject of jacket and tie, many clubs are doing away with this. Gone are the days of needing one to use the club in the evening, and that can only help encourage people to treat it more as a social club or local pub and go in for a drink and socialise with friends. Nothing beats sitting on the patio in the summer sun with a cold one and watching the evening players come in.

My club plays a number of friendly fixtures with other clubs in the area. In the old days, these would involve the match and then a full blown meal afterwards suited and booted. This would add several hours onto the end of the day and with time being precious and the constraints of family life becoming even tighter, many members were opting not to play. These days, many of the games are started with a brunch before going out, and players wear their golfing attire and sandwiches and chips are served as soon as the last group are in with players no longer required to do change. Some clubs even have spike bars and so you don't even need to change out of golf shoes providing they aren't caked in mud or soaked. It works much better and numbers are starting to increase for these fixtures. Yes, we still have some matches that are more formal and jacket and tie is still required. I accept these are still important and of course there are other dates in the calendar where in my humble opinion, a jacket and tie fits the occasion perfectly and I would be sad to see these phased out.

So where does it leave us? Dazed and confused or chilled and relaxed. On the course I would say standards are pretty unified, if you take the fly in the ointment, white socks, out of the equation. As a visitor look like a golfer on the course and you won't incur the wrath of the Major or the secretary. Off the course, follow the published rules and you will be given a warm and hospitable welcome. As a member, just look around you and see how others dress. If there are plenty prepared to embrace the modern way with louder colours and you feel need to do the same then chances are you won't have any issues. Maybe the look won't work if you are 50, bald, over weight and struggling to break 100 every time but if you can face the wisecracks from your playing partners and those in the bar then why not.

When you join a club, most will explain what they expect in terms of dress and most publish details on the website. Again if you follow your peers I doubt much can go wrong although there will always be those trying to push the boundaries to suit their own ends or make a point. With many clubs being a lot more relaxed these days it shouldn't be hard to find something you feel comfy wearing and doesn't offend the club's fashion police.

I've probably only scraped the surface with this and undoubtedly all of you with have your own views on what is and isn't acceptable. Hopefully you'll let me know but don't shoot the messenger. These are just my own views on what I think. It is a hot topic and very divisive and no doubt you'll all have your own experiences, positive and negative and is very much something golf clubs need to consider whether they want to or not, at some point. There will always be those that prefer to keep the older standards and attitudes especially in the clubhouse and without question you buy into this ethos when you sign up and pay over the membership fees. That is fine. It isn't for me on a regular basis (although I doubt I'd ever have the opportunity to join these places anyway) and I'm quite happy to abide by these rules as and when I visit.

I'm happy to be a member of a club that has relaxed the rules and the atmosphere inside the clubhouse has become more sociable. More are using it without playing a game, and can dress socially to boot. I hope we can draw the line somewhere and we don't go too far and let things like football shirts in. It is still a golf club at the end of the day and I like to make that divide. I can go to the pub if I want to dress like that. Still each club is different and you just need to find one that fits your own requirements.

I look forward to your thoughts and have retired to a secret bomb proof location awaiting the results. Let the fun and mayhem begin!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Still Can't Seal The Deal

Golfers, very much like fishermen, all have a story about the one that got away. We all recognise the characteristics, a tale of stirring effort, with everything in the garden rosy, and then suddenly, an errant shot or a misjudgement and somehow imperceptibly, shots begin to fritter away and a good score becomes something much more mediocre.

And so it came to pass this weekend that I let two rounds slip between my fingers. Saturday was a social round in our usual weekend group. No huge pressure, apart from dealing with the savage banter, some garish clothing and sticking £3 into the kitty and a chance to go out with friends and just play. After a run of medal competitions in the last few weeks it was a relief to have a stableford card in hand. My teaching professional Rhys ap Iolo will be going apoplectic reading this as he is trying to get me to treat every shot as precious and play with a medal card mentality aligned to a new pre-shot routine to get me to really focus on each shot. I see the logic but this was one round I just wanted play and not worry about.

I started with a chip and putt par and although I made the cardinal error of finding sand with my second on par five second and couldn't find the green in regulation I was going along nicely without feeling as though I was actually striking the ball well. By the time I hit my approach at the tough seventh to six feet, narrowly failing to make a rare birdie I was three under my handicap. I gave one back at the shortest hole with an ugly three putt and another at the ninth when I failed to make an up and down but out in a pretty good 19 points or 39 (+4) gross.

I view the tenth and eleventh as makeable pars and a chance to use my shots. Having got my drive away perfectly I was annoyed to then pull my approach way left of the green from a hundred yards out. I missed the green at the eleventh having put a very mediocre swing on my tee shot at the 178 yard par three and missing the target right.

From there I rode the bogey train all the way to the fourteenth. This has been a real card killer for me in recent weeks but I got the perfect drive away into ideal position and only had a mid-iron left. Another modest effort left the ball teetering on the edge of a bunker. I tried to hit a positive chip but only put it in the sand and racked up a nasty double. In the end I made another double at the sixteenth, and a bogey at the last when I hit the drive of the day away, too well, and it found the ditch at the 240 mark. In the end, I came back in 15 points for a 34 point haul. Not a disaster, but never in the hunt for the kitty, and left me pondering how a good score became an average one.

There is always another day in golf, and this time it was a club match away at Caversham Heath. I like the course. It's long but if you get the driver working it gives you a chance to make a score. The greens were in excellent condition despite being tined recently and were very quick but true. As normal, the format was four ball better ball, and I was delighted to be partnered with Russ Adamson. He's a relatively new member but I've played with him several times and he is good value for his 17 handicap and brilliant company to boot. We were matched against a thirteen and eighteen handicap pairing and with the sun shining and a decent breeze to make things interesting it was into battle once more.

Russ made a good opening half and I made an exquisite up and down at the second to take an early lead which lasted one hole. I made another up and down for a par at the fourth to get the advantage back and by the time we walked off the ninth we were three up. Both Russ and I were playing steady golf, complementing each other well. I hit a good drive at the tenth and stuck my approach to four feet and although the birdie putt missed we were four up with eight to play.

We lost the next, a par five, to a par. I could only three putt for a bogey and my partner found trouble off the tee. We lost thirteen and fourteen, the latter to a net birdie and we halved the par five fifteenth when the putter went cold and I three putted for a bogey. Still we were one up and three to play. The sixteenth at Caversham Heath is a 393 yard par four with a pond guarding the left side of the green and a number of bunkers to negotiate of the tee. I got a great drive away to leave a six iron in. I cut it away and it found a bunker but I splashed out to fifteen feet. One of our opponents was out of the hole and the other had a thirty foot putt, downhill. He hit the putt and it raced down the slope but somehow found the centre of the hole and dropped. Had it missed it was off the front of the green and off down the fairway. Suddenly I had my putt for a half which I missed.

We lost the seventeenth too. Both Russ and I hit bad tee shots at the par three after one of the Caversham pair found the green to put the pressure on. We were now one down and one to play. The last is 415 yards and I found the ideal spot off the tee. Faced with a five iron in, anything on the green would have a chance with  both opponents short in two. I put a tight swing on it and missed right. On the short side with a down hill lie and a huge slope to negotiate it was a tough ask but I hit a pitch and run with an eight iron. The pace was perfect to just reach the green and slope did the rest taking it close. Eight feet was as good as I could have done. The opponents duly made a five and suddenly I needed this to halve the game. It brushed the hole but we'd be been beaten one down.

The club managed to get a half, 3-3 overall, the first time we had avoided defeat in the away leg. However Caversham had the lead from the first match at Royal Ascot and so won overall 6 1/2 - 5 1/2. For the first time there was a trophy up for grabs and so Caversham Heath were the inaugural winners.

I have to be honest and say I didn't really feel as though Russ and I had done too much wrong down the stretch, with the exception of the seventeenth. I was very happy with the way I was hitting the ball and even though the putter was cold, I was scoring close to my handicap. I am annoyed I couldn't seal the deal on either round when in a strong position. Of course team match play is a different beast to a stableford round but you still have to make a score and I can't seem to do it for the full round.

I've been doing a lot of work via the internet with a company called Pre-Shot Golf, http://www.pre-shot.co.uk/ and controlling the monkey brain, the dominant part of the brain that protects against perceived threats such as not playing as well as you can or looking foolish in front of others if you hit a bad shot. It is about letting the logical side of the brain dominate and allow you to play with more freedom and not worrying about the outcome but accepting it and finding a positive to take away from each shot you hit. Add in the work I've been doing on a pre-shot routine with Rhys ap Iolo in my recent lessons and I am developing a stronger attitude to go with my improving technique.

It won't come as any surprise then to know that my great front nine on Saturday and strong first ten holes yesterday seemed to come from a calm place without any technical thoughts, without any concern on what score I may or may not hit and what I needed to do going forward. As soon as that monkey brain gets going, the golf goes off. The mind wanders, questions about my ability arise, especially if one or two aren't executed as well as those previously. It is clearly a long road ahead to utilise this thought process and ensure I stick to my routine, something I didn't feel I did in the latter stages of either round.

What I am pleased with is the consistency that is starting to come into my game. I am still getting the odd show stopper hole, but bit by bit I am getting closer to posting a good score and getting a handicap cut to get Homer's odyssey back on track. On the down side, the putter has been pretty cold in the last few rounds. I'm tempted to get the old Ping Anser 2 out for my friendly game on Wednesday. There is an Odyssey putter demo day at the golf club on Friday and I am hoping to find out if the putter I am using (an Odyssey ProType Tour Series milled #9) is actually suited to my stroke. I am looking at a putting lesson soon just to make sure the mechanics and set up are sound.

All in all then a weekend of missed opportunities but plenty of positives to take away as well. Things feel as though they are moving in the right direction and although the short game and putter could be better, the ball striking is much improved as is my thought process and routines. I've banged on about it being close and despite the handicap rising steadily all season, I still think a good score is just around the corner if I can seal the deal and string a full round together. That is the key. I've a few days off work this week and so aim to work on the short game between a few rounds, including a midweek stableford, and try and build on the good work this weekend. The season isn't over and I can still make it a memorable one. It starts again now.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Double Trouble

We all know what a fickle mistress golf can be and this weekend she has given me a salutary lesson. I had a practice session on Friday afternoon and was hitting the ball very well and preparations for the club match away at Tylney Park on Saturday were good. Sunday would see the monthly medal and to be honest I was looking forward to my golf.

I had been critical of Tylney Park in the past and my last visit in the corresponding fixture last year was clouded by thick rough making it too difficult for the average club golfer. I missed a green on one hole by a matter of yards and lost a ball. Not fair in my book and you can't expect golfers of my ilk to hit every putting surface coming in from 150+ yards. I wasn't overly looking forward to returning but I was to be pleasantly surprised. The rough had been cut back but was still penal if you strayed too far off line but there was a bigger margin of error. I thought visually the course looked better too. It is a long course off the white tees but never felt like a slog. It isn't a bomber's course and you have to think about all shots. The greens are protected by severe slopes and run quick so you need to put the ball in the right place on the greens.

As normal the format was four ball better ball and I was with an 18 handicapper, Derek Williams, who I had played with many times before. Steady and reliable he was an ideal foil for my game. We were against a 9 and 23 handicapper. Single figure golfers are always hard opponents, and playing off single figures around a long course like Tylney Park is a good achievement. I've been bitten by higher handicappers before and wasn't taken it lightly.

The opener is a dog leg par five and I hit a gorgeous three wood off the tee to the corner. I pulled my second but got lucky and then missed the green with my approach. My chip left a real roller coaster putt and I needed a tricky eight footer for bogey and a half. I got it. After that we shared the spoils, going one down, pulling it back and then going down again. We got back to all square on the seventh and then Derek and I capitalised on a few loose shots by our opponents and won then next four holes to take a commanding lead. The hosts steadied the ship with a half at the twelfth and then won the next two and suddenly we were just two up and four to play. A precarious position.

Our nine handicapper had played the 519 yard par five 14th impressively. Playing into a stiffening wind he battered a drive and then hit a three wood with a hint of draw between the bunkers guarding the front of the green. He just ran through but a chip and a putt gave him a deserved birdie. He repeated the birdie fest at the long 405 yard 15th and the lead was down to one. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and Derek stepped up and answered the call. The 16th is another monster par for measuring 402 yards. Mr Williams was receiving a shot and found the fairway off the tee. I assumed he would lay up but he pulled a fairway wood and proceeded to produce a superb shot onto the green. Two putts and we were dormie two up. I managed a deciding half at the 17th and we'd won 2&1 and Royal Ascot take a 3 1/2 - 1 1/2 lead into the return match in October.

The course was in fantastic condition and I think I had judged it unfairly based on last year's visit. I think it helped that I played very nicely and was driving the ball very well. It has been a bit of a weakness but I was never in any trouble off the tee. I used my head and took the three wood at times to keep the ball in play on the tighter holes. I didn't hit my irons very well on the opening few holes but once I found a green with my approach to the 4th I relaxed and swung freely for the rest of the round. I kept the monkey brain quiet and had a good pre-shot routine on every shot.

Tylney Park - long but fair and well worth a visit.
On the form I'd shown I was looking forward to the monthly medal. The weather was dry but there was a nagging breeze to keep everyone honest. I was partnered with John Munday who plays a mean game off 6 and a new partner, Alan Vela-Wilding off 10. I'd seen Alan around the club but never had the pleasure of his company for a game.

I was hitting it well, warming up and was feeling rather positive about things. I started off steadily enough with a 4 (net par) on the 229 yard opener having found the right hand greenside bunker off the tee. The second is a dog leg par five and I pulled the driver full of confidence after the impressive driving display the previous day. What I produced was a pull left towards the thick stuff. My provisional was much the same. Sadly despite our best efforts the first ball was never seen again and although I made par with the second ball it was an early double bogey. I steadied with three consecutive pars and then came to the par three 6th.

Regular followers will know this hole had given me some issues in the past but recently I had begun to play it with more confidence especially since adopting a solid pre-shot routine. I went through the routine but just put a rank bad swing on it and hooked it left towards out of bounds. My provisional came up just short but was a better shot (why do provisional shots always go well?). I was fortunate to find my original still in play. However a duffed chip and a poor follow up left me walking away with another double.

I have been working hard on the mental side of things and taking one hole at a time. Forgetting what had gone before I hit a good tee shot at the next and followed it with a drawn hybrid into the heart of the green. It was just as I had planned it and it finished five feet away. I converted for a rare birdie and followed with a par at the next. I dropped a shot at the ninth. My drive was again pulled left and I missed the green with my approach from the semi-rough . However, I'd gone out in 40 (+5 gross) and that had included those two annoying doubles.

My drive was errant at the 10th but this time went right. In my defence, a group wandered behind the tee talking and clunking their bags and clubs. I had already stepped off the shot once, they stopped so I addressed it again. As I swung, they inexplicably started walking off again. I had committed but hadn't swung it well. I found it in the thick rough, hacked it out and made a battling bogey. With a par secured at the 11th, I was going along well although I hadn't felt I was swinging the club with any of the authority I'd possessed the day before.

Another missed fairway at the 12th led to a chip back into position but I missed the green from 160 yards and despite the first putt shaving the hole I made a horrid double bogey. I then followed it with another at the 178 yard 13th with a miserable three putt. Two became three when I racked up another double at the 14th. This hole had ruined much of my club championship hopes last weekend and when I hit a high cut off the tee the signs weren't good. I rushed my recovery and only moved it a few yards leaving nearly 170 yards in. I missed the green and although my chip was good I couldn't make the putt.

I made a solid par at the 15th and if I could find a way to par my way in I could still shoot level par which would normally be good for a top five finish and maybe even higher. I've been hitting three wood off the 425 yard par four 16th. It usually plays straight down wind but has out of bounds tight left and the landing area is only twenty yards wide. I missed the fairway right but hit a low four iron back into position and pitched on to 25 feet. My first putt was good but left a nasty two footer which I missed. Another double.

I found the green at the penultimate hole, another par three in excess of 200 yards and made a par and the buffer zone was still in my grasp. The last is a par five with an environmental area in front of the tee, thick rough left and out of bounds right. It isn't an intimidating driving hole despite this and with the three wood in hand it should have been simple to find the fairway. Instead, I did something I've never done on this hole before and topped it straight into the environmental area. I've no idea where the mistake came from. I'd gone through my routine but just nobbled it. In the end I made another double bogey.

In the end, I came back in 45 for a total of 85 (net 74 or +4) which was good enough for 14th place in division one. However with seven double bogies on my card it was a score that had got away and the back nine just fell apart. If I was being honest I didn't feel I had swung the club well and despite the good score going out was never really in control of my golf ball.

I am bitterly disappointed about the round and even 24 hours later it is still bugging me. I know golf is all about "ifs and what could have beens" but if four of those nasty doubles had been a par or even a single and I would have been level if not under par and heading for a cut. Nothing really gelled and the tee shots were the main culprit. I couldn't seem to get it into position on any hole and was fighting to make a score on each one. I couldn't miss a fairway at Tylney Park.

I should have been soaring like an eagle but floundered like a turkey. It's hard to put a finger on why. I had been playing well both in practice and on the course and had gone into the medal in a good place. Yes my short game wasn't great but I hadn't really given it a huge amount of focus in recent times with only a couple of brief sessions but it was a frustrating day and if I missed a green I couldn't make the save but that wasn't the issue. It really felt that despite sticking to the pre-shot routine, I wasn't comfy over the ball. No idea if it was just me, whether the routine was out of kilter or whether I just swing it poorly.

I am trying to be positive and taking solace from the fact that the ball striking on Friday in practice and in the match  was crisp and efficient and as good as it had been in a long time. The warm up on Sunday carried that forward and I am just wondering if I let the Monkey Brain take control on the back nine. I certainly felt I rushed on several holes and need to step back and play a pace that allows me to take control of my breathing, set my mind, have a positive plan for the hole. This stuff I am doing on the mind side and routine is new to me and I will make mistakes. I've seen it working and helping so I know I need to keep going.

I am still positive that although the handicap is at an alarming 11.2 I am working on the right stuff and will get my rewards. I am putting together some decent run of holes but can't seem to string a full eighteen together. That will come. I am going to focus on the short game again this week (weather permitting given the British summer) and not worry about the full swing technique. Tylney Park proved the driver can behave and I'm playing a match at Caversham Heath next Sunday which is another long course where driving is paramount to scoring well. If it behaves I'll move on and look at this as one that got away.

Sometimes you have to take the cruel twists of fate our golfing mistress hands out and learn from the mistakes made. When she presents you with opportunities to do well you need to take advantage of these. I won't make the same mistake again and there won't be any more double trouble.