Monday, 30 December 2013

2014 - A Fresh Start

With only a couple of days left in the current year and the joys of moving into a new build house five days before Christmas severely curtailing any playing or practice aspirations, my golfing year is done and dusted. I wanted to play over the festive period but the weather has made that impossible and the high winds have even made any trip to the range or practice area a fruitless exercise in terms of getting any constructive feedback regarding distance and direction. I did manage to escape from the mayhem on Boxing Day for an hour. To be honest I hit it better than I thought I might but there was still a lot of room to grow and improve.

To be honest a lot of 2013 didn't live up to my goals or aspirations in terms of achievements or performances, especially in competitive play. Homer's Odyssey has hit some stormy seas and been temporarily blown off course. The handicap has risen from an optimistic 10.1 this time last year with the golden land of single figures tantalisingly close. It has crept up and up and I fear the first qualifying competition of 2014 may see me creep to 11.5 and off a new mark of 12 to start the year. To be honest, that isn't the end of the world. It just serves as a motivation to drive on harder.

"The strands of time, the rules and chains that bind us
That holds us down until we forget just how to fly
Bound by fears of change from old traditions
Began to sense the great unravelling"

That summed it up nicely and all the issues I was having in making it tell out on the course. I was working hard with my teaching pro Rhys ap Iolo and the swing itself has changed hugely from the end of 2012 and is now a much stronger and repetitive beast. The main issue has been one of trust. I have struggled to take the hard and productive range work and trust it on the course. Too many rounds were there for the taking and I managed to throw in two or three disasters, usually in the midst of some pleasing, steady play to undo all the hard work. I ended the last quarter of this year beginning to do some work on the pre-shot routine, thanks largely to some help from the guys at Pre-Shot Golf ( Sadly the house move curtailed this but it is an area I can address readily at the start of my 2014 golfing year and find a way to de-clutter the noise and thoughts and just stand there and hit it as I know I can from the range work I've done.

"The seeds that we sow today
The loose ends we tie and nurture
The threads that we spin and weave
To uncertain futures we usher them into the light"

It wasn't all doom and gloom and contrary to the popular belief of some, I thoroughly enjoyed playing in 2013 even on those days when the ball and club stubbornly refused to act in tandem and I was directionally challenged in the extreme. I had a few good finishes in club competitions undone by those killer bad holes at wrong times which robbed me of a win or top three finish or two. I made the halfway cut in the club championship, something until last year I'd never done. I was pretty successful in the club matches I played, winning most of the home matches and gleaning some important wins or drawn matches in the away games. I seemed to play with so much more freedom in these better ball games, ironically better still away from the familiar surroundings of Royal Ascot Golf Club. Familiarity breeding contempt?

I also played in a number of Golf Monthly Forum events. The highlight was undoubtedly the Help For Heroes Day in October at West Hill Golf Club. Over a hundred golfers played on a day blessed by fantastic weather. I had a mid-table finish playing in the company of Mike Harris the Golf Monthly Magazine Editor. He's a chap I've known for many years now and always fantastic company and a very steady single figure player. With the contributions from the Golf Monthly Forum the H4H day made in excess of £17,000. This was testament to the hard work and perseverance by a small group of forum members working tirelessly behind the scenes as well as the generosity of many forum members from all parts of the UK who couldn't play in the day but still gave contributions in terms of cash donations or prizes for the raffle and auction.

Over 100 golfers played at the Golf Monthly Forum H4H day at West Hill
I also enjoyed a fantastic day out at Woburn with the Forum. We played the Marquess in the morning which was a little too tight for my game but was a fantastic setting. In the afternoon it was the Dukes course which was much more to my liking and I ended up finishing third in the PM event.

Over the whole of 2013 my bête noire has been the short game. It has crucified any progress and when it has been on I have scored well as I haven't felt under pressure to hit fairways and greens. When it went AWOL, it did so in spectacular fashion. It is an area, along with shots from a hundred yards and in, along with my putting that will be getting the majority of my practice time and where most of the tuition I'm getting will be focused. I have a short game assessment over four lessons with a guy called Liam McCrossen at Pachesham Golf Centre where they have a top notch short game facility, courtesy of my wife as a Christmas present. Their short game area really is superb and despite it being a ninety minute round trip, it is worth the effort. There really isn't anywhere locally that compares or you can access without being a member. I'm hoping he'll give me the boost I need, supply me with the correct technique and that I can get Rhys at the Downshire Golf Centre to build on these strong foundations and get me pitching it closer, getting up and down regularly and holing out more often.

As I've alluded to already, my swing has improved hugely under the tuition of Rhys. I seem to respond best to regular professional instruction and will often go out after a lesson and a few range sessions to bleed the changes into the swing and play well for a few weeks. With this in mind and with an eye on the start of the main season in March, I'm about to embark on weekly lessons with him. This will be one hour's coaching per week, every week until the end of March. We will evaluate and work on all aspects of my game, from the swing to chipping and pitching, putting, course management, and mental routines. All in all a thorough and exciting way of getting ready for the body of the season. With plenty of work needed to get to the promised land of single figures from the 12 handicap starting point this will see me on the front foot from the off.

So what do I want from the 2014 golfing year? Well, first and foremost it has to be a single figure handicap and with the work and tuition being invested anything short will be nothing short of a failure. I want a short game I can rely on in important situations. Actually, if I'm honest I want a short game that is the envy of many in the club but while miracles take a little longer there's no harm in setting the bar nice and high.

I want my driver to behave. At the moment we have a love/hate relationship and as I sit in the comfy clean family area of my new house, reclined on a comfy new sofa, my favourite tunes playing and looking out on the Somme battlefield that is our muddy garden, we are definitely in a "hate" period. The range session on Boxing Day was poor and to be honest, had I driven the ball even half decently in the four ball better ball Winter knockout with my long suffering partner Mike Stannard, we'd have been home and hosed before losing on the third extra hole in near darkness.

I want Royal Ascot to step into the light and be the club it deserves to be. It has the potential to rival many of the more famous names locally and created history as the first Royal club to appoint a female club captain with Anthea Winn having taking the helm

It is a fantastic place to call home and the course is beginning to develop nicely. We are getting the greens back after losing many to disease. The current Course Manager Dave Ansell has done a great job getting them back to a condition we haven't seen since the opening year or two. He has a specific long term plan but results not just on the greens can already been seen. Despite its "Royal" moniker it really isn't a stuffy environment and visitors and new members alike are always guaranteed a warm welcome. Just tell them Homer sent you.

I want the opportunity to play different courses. The club has a reciprocal with a number of clubs and I want to utilise that much more than I have to date. I also won two auction items at the Help For Heroes day for a four ball at The Army Golf Course and a place called Bramley Golf Club near Guildford. The cunning plan is to book a weeks leave during the Royal Ascot race meeting when the golf club has a reduced number of holes in play and access is frankly a pain in the neck, and embark on some days out and about.

I want to win a club competition again. 2013 was a barren year. Prior to that I'd won at least one monthly medal or stableford, over the previous three years. I want to add to my existing two major titles (those gold letter honour board events). Golf is recreational game but I have a fiercely competitive streak and ALWAYS go out wanting to win. It is something my dad instilled in me as a youngster. Play to win but if you can't then lose with humility and good grace. It's advice that has stood me in good stead. I have the potential and lose the killer holes and learn to chip and putt and victory will be mine.

Finally I want to enjoy my golf, whether I play well or not. I want to meet new golfing partners who become firm friends and resurrect long lost acquaintances. It's a fickle mistress I know I'll never control but it doesn't stop me trying. If I can keep a smile on my face long after the buffer zone has gone, another ball disappears from sight or I miss another putt then I'll be pleased. Plenty of others far worse off than me chasing a stupid white ball around a big field.

I hope you all had a good 2013 season and that whatever you want from your own golfing game in 2014 you achieve it and more. Play well, practice hard and don't forget to follow Homer's Odyssey and see if I can achieve my own aspirations and dreams. Happy new year


  1. Good luck with the year, but I hope your golf is better than the doggerel...

    What is it - 'Vogon poetry, the wilderness years vol 3"....???