I am now the proud owner of some Ping I25 irons. Having solved the conundrum with the shaft options and retrying the new standard CFS shaft Ping sent (http://threeoffthetee.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/a-mystery-wrapped-in-conundrum.html) the numbers were good and the deal was done.
In the meantime, I've continued to have lessons with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre in preparation for the new season. We've put the final two pieces of the jigsaw into place now with a much taller posture designed to give the arms far more room to get back into impact. It hasn't been a smooth transition and it had a big impact on my return to the golf course in the usual Saturday roll up. In my defence it was only the second round of 2014 and so it was difficult to transfer the range work I'd done especially the better posture.
There was plenty of good shots in amongst some less than satisfactory ones and the short game yet again caused a headache. It wasn't as good as I'd hoped but wasn't a total meltdown either. That was to be saved for another day. I rolled in a monster thirty footer at the tenth for a birdie and there was some steady stuff apart from two real disasters on par fives, the fifth and the last. In fact the finish was lame; double, double, quadruple bogey. Until then (the fifth hole aside) I was surprisingly consistent with par and bogey golf meaning I was close to handicap. I had managed to pull off a draw and fade at will to hit the seventh (draw) and fourteenth (fade) which was testament to the control I was now getting in my swing. Like the 2013 though, there were still the bad blow ups that ruined everything.
The next outing was in the Jack Jarrett Trophy, a pairs event, combined stableford off three quarter handicaps. In truth both my partner Mike Stannard and I were shocking from the outset. I went out of bounds at the first and he lost a ball which should have been just short of the green having been a straight, if safe drive. It was never seen again.
We continued to pick bogey and worse from the clutches of safe pars. We both hit some shots that weren't in any instruction manual and our final total never threatened to finish anywhere above the lower reaches of the leader board. In fact it turned out we were disqualified. That summed it up completely. Apparently my handicap had been entered as 12 and not 11 and so should have played off 8 and not 9 as I had done. Schoolboy error!
The second and final part of the swing changes in recent weeks is designed to stop all my lateral movement back and through and create more coil and theoretically more power and distance. The lesson last Wednesday had been one of those penny dropping moments. We had been working on a "feel" to keep the chest more over the ball. Suddenly I was hitting six irons laser straight. Drives were long and high. This was a proper golf swing.
I had hit the range to try and get this to bleed into my swing. It wasn't what I'd hoped for until I discovered I was swinging with the arms and not making a proper turn. Once I got that sorted the ball was behaving as it had in the lesson. Yesterday was the first monthly medal of the year and I got there early to warm up. I was hitting it lovely and in fine fettle.
Sadly, this lasted until the first. A topped drive, pushed second, recovery through the trees that didn't come off and an inevitable three putt led to an opening seven on the par three opener. I steadied the ship but the swing was definitely nothing like the one I had possessed less than an hour before on the range. The low point had to be the Sherman off the tee at the eighth, the shortest hole on the course, a lost ball and a triple bogey.
In the end, my net 82 was a bit of a kick in the teeth truth be told. I had worked hard over the winter and the new posture and better turn was suppose to be the end of the process and give me stability and playability. There were some decent shots in amongst the dross but to be honest I swung it badly. There has been progress and in practice I can hit it well. I just haven't been able to transfer that to the course yet.
I'm not panicking as I have total belief in what Rhys has done and that once I start to play regularly it will fall into place. The medal came too soon and although the handicap increase to 11.5 has tipped me to a playing handicap of 12 I'm not too concerned. I just need to play, play and play some more now and once the clocks change at the end of the month I can get out and get some holes in after work. Once I get the changes, especially the better turn, working, the end product will be more robust and more trustworthy. I will always plough my own furrow in the pursuit of single figures and I will get there. At the moment though, the last two rounds, both competitive, have left a lot to be desired.
I will not be deterred and with a lesson booked for Wednesday I can go back to Rhys and we can continue to work on the posture and the new turn. With social golf lined up for the weekend it is the perfect opportunity to work on everything in a playing environment without the pressure on my handicap.
As for the I25 irons, they are definitely everything I hoped for. The trajectory is much better, I am getting more distance and I have more confidence looking down on the short irons when chipping and pitching. It may seem a contradiction in terms when I've been chopping it in the last two rounds but there has been enough glimpses of the future for me to know things are about to improve. Diamonds in the rough if you will.
It may not feel like progress yet but let me leave you with an interesting thought. Every time I seem to have backwards step and get back to a 12 handicap, I end up with a top three finish, sometimes even a win to get a cut again. Back in 2012 this galvanised a strong season. I can't wait to repeat the performance. Once I get my head of steam up you just watch me go.