Monday, 11 November 2013

The Monster Is On The Loose

I've not had the opportunity to play or practice much and having gone to the driving range on Friday and Saturday, the swing is in a state of flux. There is still some decent shots in the locker but the back swing has deserted me and I feel I am working overtime to get the club on a good path back to the ball and exiting nicely as per the work I've been doing in my lessons.

Some of the regular followers of Homer's Odyssey will be aware that my good friend Rob Dickman has recently found the game and fallen in love with it and has joined Epsom Golf Club, high on the famous downs looking down over the iconic race course. On a glorious day like yesterday, you looked on the vista that is the London skyline, including famous landmarks such as the Wembley Arch and the Shard. (

Ready for the off.. or was I dozing and dreaming of how to play this game?

The monster golf has created was let off the lead again and conditions were far more playable than the last encounter which had biblical rain, howling wind and the full Donner und Blitzen effect. I wasn't sure which Homer was coming out to play. The mediocre golfer struggling on the range or the one just out for a knock with a mate, swinging easily and with ease. I got a decent enough opener away but my second came up short. I fell foul of the opening green last time and the devious hollows and mounds, arguably where they bury the bodies of the Derby winners (it really is that contoured). My chip was struck nicely and still wandered to the fringe. An opening double.

The second is a right to left dog leg and I cracked a nice three wood away. Technically the swing was awful but the result was good and it left just a nine iron in. The approach is across a valley to a thin green and a busy road behind so distance control is paramount. I stuck it to eight feet and confidently rolled the birdie putt in.

However from there form deserted me. A bogey at the tricky third was followed by a par at the next. The course then turns towards the top of the downs and plays up towards the grandstand. I hit a reasonable drive. Rob then rocked up and after I pointed out that the driver needs the ball teed up higher he boomed the best drive I'd seen him hit on his golfing journey. He has found the confidence to swing quicker, but has still retained control and he is getting better distance and trajectory. I hit a rubbish approach short and then managed to miss the green from 120 yards with my third. No excuse other than a poor swing and another double. An errant drive back down the hill at the next into thick rough led to another double. The drive at the next went right too but I scrambled a bogey.

I was struggling and a made a mess of the eighth and ninth to go out in a measly fourteen points. I wasn't swinging great and the whole thing felt out of sorts and I couldn't feel it at all. I needed to get the back nine off to a quick start. The tenth is a short par four measuring 279 yards. I wasn't far short of the green and had I taken the driver I could have got close to the putting surface. As it was a good pitch set up a makeable birdie putt but the ball refused to drop.

I love the eleventh hole, a par five that runs down the side of the road taking drivers up to the downs but on this occasion I could only make a net par having gone into the rough left off the tee and then hitting a poor approach. The swing even with a mid iron was a battle. The next two are par threes and to be honest but this stage it was damage limitation on each hole and every time I thought I was making inroads into the front nine carnage, I'd drop another shot. Missing the green with an eight iron at the 133 yard thirteenth with a thin low slice was a bitter pill.

Rob had started the back nine well and was making a bogey or double at worse on each hole. He was swinging with confidence unlike me. Don't get me wrong, although I was keeping a tally the score wasn't the be all and end all. I was enjoying his company, the surroundings and watching him progress as a golfer. It was a social round. The fifteenth is a par five. The tee shot is an uphill shot, as the hole dog legs right to left and then drops down to the green. I hit a better tee shot and left 234 yards in. I hit a three wood and caught it flush but it still didn't get there. I pitched from twenty yards but again couldn't make the putt for birdie.

The sixteenth at Epsom is an iconic hole. Played downhill through a valley it's drivable by the longer hitters. At 288 yards it isn't long. I reached for the driver. The round had passed me by as far as the score card was concerned so this was a chance for some fun. I hit it well but the wet landing zone denied me a chance to make the green as the ball didn't run. This is another green with huge slopes and I had knocked it to twenty feet. It was a sharp right to left putt. I stroked it with a surgeon's touch but the slope and gravity meant it ran six feet past and I missed the return.

The iconic 16th played through a valley. The green though is fiendishly difficult
I found the fringe of the green at the penultimate hole but again managed to three putt. The last is a sweeping par four played across a valley off the tee. I got the drive away to leave two hundred yards in. I hit a horrible topped second and my wedge from 74 yards came up woefully short. I started with a double and ended the same way. I got it round in 31 points. It wasn't a disaster.

I really enjoyed the game and I am pleased to see Rob's progress continues as he whittled another shot of his previous best. He had been going along nicely but had two eights on the fifteenth and sixteenth. He came back with a good bogey at the last courtesy of  a fine read by yours truly and he holed out from ten feet. He needs to find a short game but I am sure he'll have lessons and will improve. He isn't alone needing to find a short game but I have plans afoot.

I hate swinging badly. I know golf is a fickle game and it comes and goes but at the moment progress is slow. I appreciate that a lack of playing and a lack of quality practice means the swing won't be there 100% of the time but at the moment I have no faith in it and every swing feels different. The range sessions have highlighted the fact that the swing is still in a state of flux and the path is still not always correct.

I have a lesson booked in for this Friday with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre near Wokingham. He has been working on my swing since December 2011 and we made some big changes last winter and I always felt 2013 was a transitional year. The ball striking is so much better. I just need to tighten everything up and make it a more simplified action. At the moment there are too many moving parts and I want Rhys to look at the back swing. I don't feel I am taking it away well and so everything else is a compensation. The round at Epsom was an exercise in getting it round even when you know you are having a bad day and so to that end I thought I achieved that.

Winter is always a time to lay the foundations for the next season and work on the mistakes of this year. I have said before I don't think the fact that my handicap is now one round away from reaching 12 again is a true reflection on how far I've gone with the swing this year. I want to get a more positive attitude in 2014 especially on days like Sunday when it is clear the swing isn't there and if I can get the short game firing I know there is a score that can still be made.

As for now, the monster is back under control. Rob has more games lined up and we've planned to play at my home course at Royal Ascot after Christmas so I'm keen to see how he plays on an unfamiliar course and off the white tees! As for me I still have an unbreakable belief that I can make single figures and the lesson on Friday and the opportunity to play some social golf over the next few weeks will give me a barometer of what needs doing after Christmas. It wasn't an earth shattering round, it was functional. Rob moves on. Some good shots for us both to take away, good company and a pleasant Sunday afternoon playing golf on a nice course. What isn't to like?

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