Saturday, 8 February 2014

When Will I See You Again?

Another Saturday and yet again all courses in the locality are either shut or should really be and those tempted to play in such conditions need certifying. Where's the pleasure and how can it be good for your game. Even as a self confessed "golfaholic" there is no mileage in playing waterlogged courses just to get a golfing fix.

I couldn't help but laugh at the delicious irony this morning. Having not set foot on any golf course in 2014 let alone the home I call Royal Ascot, and with shut notices up everywhere, my 2014 annual subs reminder landed on my mat this morning reminding me the fees are due on March 1st. When will I see the course again? Actually the answer should have been tomorrow. Granted not Royal Ascot but I've been invited by my best mate Rob Dickman to play at Epsom where he's a member. "We've not been shut all winter" says he. "No temp greens and tees and playing well" says he. I look a their website this morning. COURSE CLOSED. Allegedly they have a men's competition tomorrow and they are protecting it for that. I remain unconvinced and fear my wait will go on.

It hasn't all been doom and gloom though. I have been hitting the range a couple of times a week to keep the swing ticking over and had a lesson with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre. I was there last Saturday on another day the course was shut and had a great session. The changes are really starting to bed in now, on the range at least. I've no idea how they will stand up once I hit a course. My happy place was tempered a little by a off kilter session on the Monday at Lavender Park Driving Range in Ascot. It was after work and to be honest head nor heart were really in it and in the end I stopped hitting full shots and worked on my pitching instead. Since then, the weather has intervened and again. I cannot understand the logic of anyone standing at a range hitting balls when the wind is as strong as it has been. How can you tell what is pilot error and what is just mother nature playing tricks on distance and direction?

The only problem with such a good range session last weekend was I was forced to hit the demo model of the Ping I20 and I25. Even in the daylight it was hard to see how far these were going, especially compared to my Taylormade Tour Preferreds. What it did do though was reiterate my belief that I could play either of these I series clubs and that my confidence with their G25 cousin, especially on the short irons (8-PW) has now gone. It isn't that I can't hit them. I actually hit them well but standing over the shorter clubs, especially on chips and pitches, the much larger heads just look ugly. I don't like the look and I don't have any confidence playing the shot. Vain? Arguably. However with such a fragile golfing psyche as mine, confidence plays a huge part and so getting the smaller headed I series seems a logical move. If I can stand there on a testing pitch to a tight pin and feel happy looking down on the shot with a small head then why not?. I was hitting both the I20 and I25 well and so the only way to decide between them would be to get on a launch monitor and view the numbers.

I told the wife I'm off work on Valentines Day to be with the one I love. I'm sure she thought I meant her but I was referring to the golf course. Actually the course isn't true. I've booked a full fitting centre at Downshire Golf Centre with Rhys. I've made the decision that I'm getting new irons for the 2014 season and it's either the I20 or I25. I want to try a number of shafts and flex just to get the best match for my now much more consistent swing. I know Rhys will be tempting me with the new offering from Taylormade,en_GB,sc.html and maybe even the 2014 Callaway's but I really have an affinity for these two Ping offerings. However we'll just have to see what the monitor reveals. I do like using technology and love trying different head/shaft options looking for the right mix.

I had been mulling over the idea of going to Ping HQ in Gainsborough and getting a full fit in their state of the art custom fit centre. I know my regular Royal Ascot playing partner Mike Stannard went to Titleist for his clubs and raved about the whole experience. Golf Monthly magazine did a competition on their forum to go to Ping and get a full fitting, and speaking online to those lucky enough to have gone on it, it is out of this world. However adding the cost of petrol and possibly an overnight stay to the cost I think I am more than happy to trust the man who has done so much to make my golf swing a lot better in the last twelve months and see what Rhys comes up with.

As I mentioned earlier I've had another lesson with Rhys. It's part of an intense course between now the end of March. I have been swinging it well and these lessons are just a nip and tuck process to ensure I hit the season on the front foot. The Thursday lesson was suppose to be a driver lesson. My Ping G25 is set to ten degrees and I have struggled with the flight. I wanted to tweak it back to 10.5 but Rhys was confident the lower loft was fine. Having watched me hit a few he suggested my posture was too slouched. We got into a more upright position, and it isn't the first time posture has been an issue. I instantly had far more room to swing. The drives were launching on a much better flight and more importantly much straighter. We fed this into my six iron and again the results were another level upon what I already had.

With the issues easily remedied we had time to look at other things. Rhys introduced a slight change to the way I pitch and spoke about pre-shot routines and what to think about over a shot. Nothing earth shattering but just about getting a clear mind and repeatable starting point for the whole process. One thing I have always struggled to do is fade and draw the ball at will and with control. With a swing I am happy with and repeating this seemed the right time to ask the question. With the way I swing and the inherent flaws I have, for me to do this is more reliant on ball position and the position of the club face rather than changing the path as traditionally taught. In the safe confines of the teaching bay it worked and I could produce a soft five yard fade or draw at will. Now to work on this facet to add some creativity to my game and potentially open up tight pin positions.

It was home on the range last night to work on all of this. Not 100% but more than enough good shots to warm the heart on a wet and windy night. The driver is much better now and I just feel more control with the irons. All is great in Homer's Odyssey but until I can step foot on a golf course it's all subjective. Much work still to be done on the short game especially the chipping and putting but that will come in time and I still have plenty of opportunities to get this fixed before the season and my assault begins towards single figures. I'm desperate to play. Golf course, when will I see you again?

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