Sunday, 17 November 2013

Travelled A Long Road

I have recounted a tale of woe in 2013 as far as competitive play is concerned and the handicap has steadily risen from a starting point of 10.1 in January to the current position on the precipice of 12 at 11.4. However, I have also stated, and been lambasted by some, that the quality of the swing and the work I've been doing on it since last Winter is now chalk and cheese from a year ago, and unidentifiable from the golfer that first turned up for a lesson with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre in December 2011.

I haven't been playing much for a variety of reasons and when I've stepped foot on the course results haven't been great. I've had a couple of range session lately where I've struggled and to be honest it was the perfect time to return to Rhys for a refresher. Friday was a little parky standing there warming up but once I got going I was fine. Poor Rhys was freezing imparting his words of wisdom. I was nice and warm but there again I was the one swinging the club.

As normal, we had a chat about what has been happening on the course and practice and I hit a few shots for Rhys to get a feel for what's going on. After that he got the camera out and got some swings captured and we had a look on the computer. What I saw was a 100% vindication of everything I've tried to achieve in 2013 in terms of the swing path. In fact if anything I had over done it and had gone from hugely in to out this time last year, usually getting trapped, causing all sorts of poor shots both left and right, to something a little over the top. That would explain the fade I was seeing on the range and the course.

Having identified the faults, it was time to drill the fix. All the work we had done in 2013 was about getting rid of the historic integral fault of being was too shallow, on the wrong path and having too much hand action to desperately lay club on ball. Rhys has been getting me to swing much steeper to compress down better but more importantly, to get the club path exiting lower and left. That has been the biggest change and has been all about making the path and swing more stable.

Rhys ap Iolo - excellent golf teacher and trick shot impresario
For the first time since the whole process began, we re-introduced a shallow move. The feeling Rhys wants me to get is one of feeling the right shoulder is moving as far away from the right ear as I can while keeping the elbow pointing down at the floor. We also moved the ball back a rotation as I was hitting pulls left when I started to get this change working properly. That was key. With the ball back I could still hit down and compress and still had room to exit left and properly. A dream combination.

There were some pulls left, which I was able to correctly diagnose as club head closed to path and more pilot error than a huge fault. There were still some fades and I could also correctly diagnose that the swing was steeper again and across the ball. My swing isn't textbook and will always be an ugly sister to the Cinderella swings of some of my golfing partners. But and it is a big BUT I own it and at last I understand it fully.

We moved through the bag and club by club the results were excellent. The one club that has destroyed my potentially good rounds all year has been the driver. Rounds have been littered with destructive tee shots and I have never really stood over any tee shot with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Put me on a long tight course like the Marquess at Woburn and it was a recipe for disaster. On the good days, and there have been plenty, mainly in roll up games, I can get it out there. I just can't do it often enough.

Rhys explained that the driver has a unique path of its own and can in theory go more down the line after impact and that my efforts to control an exit left as per the rest of the clubs have given a smaller margin of error. It's amazing how the smallest tweaks can produce big results and I was getting it away much better. Not ideal and some long sessions at the range to adjust the path and build trust lie ahead but I'm armed with the knowledge, the enthusiasm and dare I say, the drive, to get it right.

I played yesterday in the usual Saturday roll up. It started well with a rolled par putt on the first, and for the first five holes was going steadily. From nowhere I hit a shot almost straight right on the sixth tee. It didn't feel like the socket rocket but having said I own my swing, this one had been rented by a golfing novice. It shook my confidence. I bounced back with two good shots at the seventh, a par at the short eight and two great shots into the heart of the ninth.

Then, more disaster. I sliced my tee shot at the tenth. Whoever rented the shot at the sixth had come back. This was just a bad shot. No excuses. However putting a provisional ball down I repeated it. They would have been no more than five feet apart but in the thick, Winter rough they were never seen again. I hit another slice off the tee at the par three 178 yard eleventh. I was getting worried.

However I rallied and hit a stonker off the twelfth, stroke index 1. A four iron from 178 yards to the heart of the green and a twenty five foot putt over a large slope for a superb birdie. From there it was a mixture of some good and some poor shots. I felt concentration slipped a little and I hit a quick snappy hook off the last tee but felt I didn't really follow my usual pre-shot routine and stood there not quite settled. All in all it was a bit hit and miss but there were enough good shots going straight out with the change of path to be more than optimistic.

Today was a range session at Lavender Park Golf Centre in Ascot. The plan was to groove the changes and build the all important and missing trust. There were some poor shots as I tried to get the feeling I had in the teaching bay of that right shoulder travelling back. When it clicked it was really good. Plenty to enjoy and I am certain with some more refining and grooving I can take it onto the course. The driver is still not clicking but when I do get it right, which I was doing more often, it was a better flight and distance increased.

I am hoping that Rhys will send a copy of the swing from December 2012 and the one from the end of the lesson on Friday so I can put them up here and show you exactly what I'm talking about. The evidence is there to see and has proved to me that the long road I've travelled in 2013, even with the humps and bumps along the way has been worth it. Rhys sent a message on Twitter which I think sums it up "now were so close to something repetitive you have a really good chance of making single figures permanent thing keep at it!"

It all goes to prove that sometimes, standing still, some might say regressed, is not a bad thing. I do have trust issues. I have done with the game for a years and that still manifests itself in the short game. This is the next area of focus and I have a plan afoot to begin the work next week. For now though, having seen the evidence on screen I am ecstatic how far I've come and I just need to keep moving it forward. Homer's Odyssey in 2014 won't be becalmed on seas of frustration and errors but will be sailing under full canvass onwards to single figures and beyond, ideally with a win or two along the way for good measure, although if I play well handicap cuts and results take care of themselves. For now though the glass is overflowing with hope and optimism.

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