Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Secret Is Out

Regular readers will know that I've been teasing you about a big day at The Grove in association with Golf Monthly magazine. Well the secret is out after my big day yesterday. I was selected to attend a panel made up of members of the Golf Monthly Forum (http://forums.golf-monthly.co.uk/) to test a new e-book called "New Golf Thinking" by John O'Keeffe and Denis Pugh. The latter will be known to many as a coach to a number of top European players and is a regular studio guest on Sky Sport's golf coverage.

The day itself was hosted by John O'Keeffe. A former top global manager for Proctor and Gamble, John was a member of the Great Britain hockey squad and in the Olympic programme for two years before the Munich games. He retired from hockey at twenty one and went on to become a world expert in developing techniques to achieve high personal performance in the workplace (see www.businessbeyondthebox.com). As a single figure golfer in his own right he's collaborated with Denis Pugh to write New Golf Thinking which gives the reader seven breakthrough techniques to lower scores.



Now I can hear the groans already. Another mumbo jumbo psychology book in a market place already flooded with them from the likes of Bob Rotella and many others. This is where the Golf Monthly forum panel comes in. We were selected to meet with John, spend a few hours listening to him explaining some of the techniques in the book and then take the tools we'd learnt onto the prestigious course at The Grove. Designed by Kyle Phillips and having played host to the 2006 American Express World Golf Championship won by Tiger Woods, we would be tackling it off the daunting medal tees measuring 6766 yards.

It's well known that despite advances in tuition and equipment technology, average scores and club handicaps are no lower. The two traditional ways to improve aren't working. Technical teaching on the range is not enough in itself to significantly lower scores on the course. Looking to improve through sports psychology material to solve golf's non-technical problems has been too complicated and impractical for most. What John and Denis have developed are seven simple thinking techniques that are used successfully on problems outside of golf and adapted them to the game.

Like many I've dabbled in some of these books, particularly the Rotella series and used the advice contained in them for a while. Sooner or later I drift away from the teachings, particularly when things go wrong. As many have commented before, part of my trouble has been a head brimming with thoughts, technical and mental. For several years, I've actually been trying to play with an empty head and basically pick a target, trust the work on the range to hone my swing, and hit the thing. I was worried that this may be a step back into those dark days with too much going on in my head but was prepared to give it a go.

As part of the selection process I had to submit a synopsis to Mike Harris, editor of Golf Monthly, on some of the problems in my game including 2-3 non-technical problems causing me not to score as well as I want and what frustrates me about how I play. Where to start? Actually the answers were simple. I hit it well on the range and in lessons but can't take range form out onto the course. The frustration comes from a short game that has held me back and the ability to play well for many holes before throwing in a killer score to ruin a potentially good round. It seemed to strike a chord and here I was in a meeting room in The Grove along with seven other nervous forum members.

The morning was full on although John's teaching method is very easy going. Each of us had our own individual issues and it was impossible to condense all seven of the techniques into one morning session. The first task was to complete a "thinking" handicap based on seven areas (bounce back, rise to the occasion, can do, self start, freshen up, results driven and clear headed). For each of us this was significantly over our playing handicap showing we all had areas to work on.

The book is really easy to understand and will appeal to golfers of all abilities. I'm not going to go into any great detail here as you really need to download it for yourself and work through it. The great thing is, you can choose a section that specifically applies to the issues you have and start with these before working through the rest of the book.

After lunch it was time to hit the course and put the theoretical into practice. As it wasn't a competitive round, we were given a shot performance sheet to complete after each shot. This is designed to get the golfer to focus on aiming for the very best shot, a "career shot" on every shot taken. While a career shot on every stroke is impossible, there is a "score improver", "score maintainer" or a "score worsener". An iron shot to within three feet of the hole would be an improver. A mis-hit second shot on a par five that still goes 150 yards down the fairway would be a maintainer and a slice into the water would be a score worsener. With time and practice this will get the golfer to focus solely on the shot at hand and playing one shot at a time.

The opener at The Grove is a gentle right to left dog leg measuring 340 yards off the medal tees. I hit an opening three wood onto the fairway and then popped a six iron to six feet. There might just be something in this New Golf Thinking. I didn't make the birdie but the mood was set. I played some good golf on what is a long and tricky course. There were a few bad shots. Off a handicap of 12 these are inevitable but none of these were too destructive and I was able to recover the ball into a scoring position. It was difficult and a little time consuming filling in the sheet after every shot, but the course was empty, real millionaire golf, and so we weren't holding any groups up behind.

The 167 yard par 3, 4th hole
In the end, I scored thirty two points, seventeen out and fifteen coming home. To be honest by the last three holes I was mentally and physically exhausted and made some tired swings. However as a whole I was more than happy with the way I hit the ball and more importantly the decision making and thought processes I adopted.

As part of deal, I will be giving regular updates which will appear in forthcoming Golf Monthly editions so I'm afraid readers will be seeing and hearing a lot more about New Thinking. The plan is to see how I progress with the intent being that these new skills will assist me to realise my ambition to reach single figures.

It was a fantastic day and I must thank Golf Monthly for putting the event on in the first place, John O'Keeffe for his time and good humour giving us the initial tools to start the process and to the Grove for their great service and providing a golf course in fantastic condition.

This is a shift of emphasis although it won't stop the lessons and practice. However, the change of direction is a new way of approaching my golf. It isn't an overnight process, hence the ongoing updates in the magazine, but over time I am hoping I can find a way to play golf, especially competitive golf, with a mind focused on the job in hand. If and when things go wrong, I should be able to use the techniques in the book to keep the mind from thinking destructive thoughts and keep myself mentally on track. Of course you still have to make a good swing but with the work I've put in on improving my technique, this side of things is beginning to move forward already, including that nemesis the short game.

The book is available on Kindle, Amazon and as an I book and is definitely worth investing in. It is simple in its approach but the content will resonate with many golfers without it being too complicated. It really is new thinking and breaks down the barriers we've all put up around our own games. Of course, I'll be posting about progress, on here and in Golf Monthly and so you can see how it helps (or not) my game. As for now, initial signs from my round yesterday are encouraging and with the competitive part of the season beginning in earnest it'll be interesting to see how I get on.

Many will see it as a fad, mumbo jumbo or something silly and unwarranted for a mid handicap club golfer but those open minded enough to download the book themselves will see how the processes apply not only to golf but to life in general. I'm off to do some more reading and look at the areas that I need to work on. Even if I score badly in the monthly stableford on Saturday it won't be through bad thinking. Homer out.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Driving Me To Distraction

Easter at Royal Ascot Golf Club means one thing. The annual bogey competition, the Haig Cup. It isn't a format I particularly enjoy despite being runner-up two years ago. Despite winning the Saturday roll up the previous week I wasn't comfortable with my form. Too in and out and too many unforced errors.

I'd had a playing lesson with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Complex on the 11th. It was a chance for him to see how I performed on the course, particularly as I've been going through a phase of hitting it well in lessons and in practice without translating that to the course and good scores. The driver in particular had been causing me issues and I was struggling to get the ball in play regularly. A fairway in regulation figure of 48% for March was testament to the struggle I was having. Of course, the golfing gods were mocking and I was drove the ball really well with Rhys in attendance. He noticed a few things and gave me a few pointers but overall he was pleased. Keep doing the things you are doing and stay patient was the summary.

I had no real expectations about the Haig Cup. The bogey format is unforgiving. In basic terms, it is matchplay against the course where a birdie (net) equals a win, a par (net) is a half and a bogey is a loss. In stableford, bogey can still be your friend and at least a point keeps the board ticking over. In bogey there is no hiding place. The course never concedes a putt, misses a fairway or makes a mistake. It's unrelenting.

I played my first round on Good Friday with my usual playing partner Mike Stannard, an eight handicapper and Andy Gow, another single figure man off nine. My twelve handicap seemed a bit inadequate in this esteemed company. On a bright chilly day I was keen to play, enjoy it and not worry too much about the outcome. In recent competitions, the opening hole hasn't been kind to me. Today was different and I stuck my tee shot on the tough 229 yard opener to six feet. With my shot, I had two putts for an opening win. My first putt was well struck and caught the left lip but did a lap of the hole before spinning out some three feet away. Inevitably I missed the return and turned a win into a half.

I secured a win at the par five second holing an outrageous thirty five foot putt from just off the edge of the green for a gross birdie. From there, the course and I traded blows. I threw away a good chance at the fifth missing the green from 99 yards with my approach for a half. I then made a great chip and putt at the next to salvage another half. My short game is showing shoots of recovery and I've adopted a much more conventional approach. For now I have a clear mind and a technique that is holding up. It's been a long time since I could say that about my chipping.

As I have alluded, my driving wasn't perfect. I wasn't sending my little white sphere into another post code but I was finding the semi-rough. Not the end of the world but tricky enough to cause me to miss greens and not threaten to go ahead of the course. Still by the ninth tee I was all square. Another drive into the right hand semi left me 197 yards. The wind at Royal Ascot always blows into your face on the ninth. Always has and even in the height of summer with not a cloud in the air there always seems to be a breeze here. Today though it was playing downwind which gave me a chance to hit the green. I only managed to find the right hand bunker but my bunker play is progressing and I was confident of getting it out and still putting for a win. I executed in text book fashion but there was barely a grain of sand above the base and the bounce of the club skidded and the ball went over the back. In the end I lost the hole in meek fashion yet felt I had executed well on the approach and the bunker shot.

The opening two holes of the back nine are shot holes for me and should be good chances to make a par and get ahead. I hooked my approach at the tenth to miss the green and in the end I did well to salvage a half. A poor tee shot at the 178 yard eleventh led to another half. I found both the fairway and green in regulation at the stroke index 1, 409 yard par four twelfth. As normal I grasped mediocrity from the jaws of success and three putted from the front of the green to a back left pin placement.

One down became two down at the thirteenth. I continued to make miss the fairways, doing so on the fourteenth and fifteenth to ensure these were halved. The penultimate hole is a tough nut. Measuring 218 yards with out of bounds tight left, heavy rough not too far to the right and bunkers either side of a green that slopes back to front and right to left as you approach it, the putting surface is always hard to find. This is where a bogey in stableford isn't seen as a bad result. That is exactly what I got and found myself three down. Another miss right at the last off the tee meant I could only advance the ball down the hole on the 531 yard par five to leave 151 yards. It was a six iron but with the pond guarding the right hand side of the green it was a tricky shot. I executed well and made a solid par to reduce the deficit to two down after my opening round.

The format requires players to put two cards in over the four days of the Easter break but they can pick and choose which days they want to play. With the forecast for later in the long weekend deteriorating I opted to play on the Saturday. I went out with two stalwarts of the Saturday roll up, Jim Hanley and John Moss.

The trend was repeated from round one. Too many missed fairways put a large strain on the rest of my game and made it hard to win holes and reduce the deficit. I missed the fairway left on the third, only by a foot or so and only had a nine iron in from 130 yards. The approach was horrid, some might call it a near shank and I was way right. A deft pitch from forty yards to four feet salvaged a par and a win. Suddenly the overall deficit was down to one. That lasted one hole losing the fourth to a bogey before a par (net birdie) at the fifth restored the score to +1 on the day. Playing the sixth, I took a four iron from 177 yards. I hit it well and it missed the green by by a matter of yards, caught the cart path and flew forward. It was never seen again. I don't mind a bad score, whatever the format, if I make a bad swing but this was perfectly struck. Mind you no-one said golf was fair.

I lost the shortest hole on the course courtesy of a messy double bogey and by the time I made a half at the ninth I was back to one down on the day. As I'd done the day before, I made mistakes at ten and eleven and hit the twelfth in regulation again to three putt yet again, this time from some ten feet closer. I lost the thirteenth again and suddenly I was two down on the day and four down overall.

I missed another fairway on the long 430 yard fourteenth but had a good lie in the semi rough and was able to hit a glorious five wood into the heart of the green to make a great par and reduce the deficit. I made a horrible swing on the seventeenth. Too quick with too many moving parts I hit a duck hook. Heart in mouth time it looked for all the world like it had to go out of bounds but somehow pulled up in the rough to leave a pitch in. I put it fifteen feet away but never looked like holing the putt. Driving off the last hole, I hit the ball right towards the out of bounds but we were all in agreement that it was in play and in the rough. Despite using my full five minutes search time, I never found it. The rough wasn't particularly thick and it is a popular area and so I was surprised and not a little frustrated and annoyed. It left a bit of a bitter taste and I finished three down on the day and five down overall.

In the end my efforts were good enough for a mid table finish in thirty third place out of ninety entrants. That was a fair return bearing the poor driving and the fact the putter on both days was out of sorts (36 putts on Friday and 34 on Saturday) and a lot of short putts were missed. In the second round in particular I never really got the ball running at the hole on those crucial three footers. The holes were cut in some tricky places which didn't help and they were running quicker, testament to the great work the green keepers have been doing getting them back to former glory after a few years infested with moss and disease, but I too tentative.

On the plus side my ball striking, aside from the driving was very solid particularly in the longer end of the bag. My pitching and chipping is coming on nicely and there is much to be encouraged by. If I'm honest, there was probably a +1, level score in there. Not enough to have won but it would have been nice to have come out on top against the course. As it was, my score was about right. Too many unforced errors and spurned opportunities but I am still moving in the right direction. The driver was the culprit. There weren't too many that were wild and most were only yards off the mown grass but with the rain and sun the semi rough is becoming juicy and definitely becoming a half shot penalty in some places when the ball sits down.

So where do I go from here? Well there was a buffer zone and a 0.1 handicap increase but given the tough format and the fact I only just missed two buffer zones that'll do for me. My focus of attention this week will be on getting the driver working but also getting some time on the practice green and getting use to making those three and four foot putts again. The reads were good but there was no pace to the putt. Be confident and don't worry about the one back a la Mickleson I think. The swing is generally in a good place and I've my very hush hush event at The Grove next week which will sort a lot of stuff out for me. More than that I am not at liberty to divulge at this juncture. I'll keep plugging away and staying patient. The weekend wasn't a disaster and more good stuff than bad. Hopefully with some constructive practice behind me I can make a good showing in the medal on Saturday. If not I'll dust myself down and try again. I've ploughed my own furrow for a good few years now and my steadfast belief that there is a single figure player waiting to break out remains undiminished. Homer's Odyssey continues and as long as I don't get driven to distraction off the tee, the progress I'm making will get me there.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Masters - An Armchair Fan

The Masters. For any golf fan those two words are iconic. They evoke so many images from green jackets, blooms in full colour and a golf course without a single blade of grass daring to be out of place. Throw in the best golfers in the world, a course that's as familiar to the viewer as it is to the players and the small matter of it being the first major of 2014 and everything is set up, as it is every year for the best show in town to begin.

My own love affair with all things Augusta started around 1980. I was a fourteen years old, playing out of Wimbledon Common Golf Club, working in the shop as an assistant whenever possible and loving all things golf. My hero was Seve. He was the reason I took the game up and my inspiration. Whenever I was on the course, being young and fearless I'd always take the "Seve option" and go for the impossible. Of course in my case it rarely came off but inside my own head I was Seve. Of course, staying up late on that Sunday night to see him win only fuelled the fires more. Everything about the Masters was perfect. I wanted more. 


Amen Corner was and still is a tournament within a tournament especially in the white hot heat on Sunday afternoon with the title on the line. It begins on the 11th known as "White Dogwood" and is a par four of 505 yards. Players drive to the top of the hill before one of the most daunting approaches in golf. An ominous pond lies in wait to the left of the green, with its closely shaved bank ensuring anything pulled left will find a watery grave. Many players will bail out right but that just leaves a treacherous downhill chip back towards the water. 


The 12th is arguably the most famous short hole in golf. Known as "Golden Bell" the green is only twenty feet deep and the wind is notoriously hard to read. When it's swirling the water at the front sees a lot of action and the correct yardage is paramount. Go long to avoid the water leaves a chip off the pine straw back towards the pond. In my opinion if you offered anyone four pars here, not one player would argue and would bite your hand off.


The final hole of the triumvirate makes a full house and is a par five called "Azalea". This hole marks the start of the stretch where scores can really be made at Augusts and a number of wins can be traced back to the scores made between the 13th and 17th. It's a short par five by modern standards and is another tee shot requiring a right to left draw off the tee with many players opting for a 3 wood to put the ball in the right place. Every player will be able to reach in two but with an uneven stance for the second shot, Rae's Creek is always in their mind. That said, I expect to see more eagles than double bogies but under pressure on Sunday anything other than a perfect execution will have a huge impact on the destiny of the title. 



The 13th At Augusta. A reachable par five but beware of Rae's Creek
For many years the armchair viewer only had one choice. The BBC had the sole rights and we were treated to the buttery tones of the doyen of golf commentary, Peter Alliss. His whimsical style guided the viewer from hole to hole aided by his sidekick Ken Brown who would report from the course. Ken would give the audience an understanding on what the player had left and the shot required. Peter Alliss then painted words onto the canvass. There were also the "Ken On The Course" segue which showed how tricky the course was and perhaps more interestingly the topography. It may appear flat, especially in the days before high definition TV and the like but Augusta is actually a rolling course and these contours can make a huge difference to the shot a player chooses. Just another piece of the jigsaw to be put into place. 

Seve was back as winner in 1983. I was made up. However for European golf, the golden period started in 1988 with Sandy Lyle winning, hitting that iconic shot from the bunker on the left hand side of the last which flew past the flag and inch by inch began to roll back towards the cup. He holed out and then performed that little jig of joy. Faldo (three times) Olazabel (twice) Woosnam and Langer all won in a golden period for the European Tour. Since then and Olazabel's last win in 1999 there hasn't been a European winner. This seems strange given the dominance in the Ryder Cup and the fact there have been home grown winners in all the other majors. I hope this changes soon.



Seve receiving his 1983 green jacket from Craig Stadler who had won the year before
I'd love to see a European winner again this year. Westwood to break his duck? Maybe but will the putter behave. Rose is already a major winner and has a decent record. Can he step up? McIlroy is a two time major champion and seems to be getting back to the very top of his game. Will the pressure of being favourite be too much? What of others? Garcia is playing well and seems to have slain his putting demons. What about Scott the Aussie retaining. Possible but unlikely. The home crowds love an American winner. With Woods out who will be their big hopes. Mickleson loves the place but his driving may be too erratic. Bubba has the power and can move the ball but I don't think he's got the form. In truth you can make a case for any number of players from across the globe and that is one of the Master's greatest strengths. It has all the ingredients to make the outcome uncertain until the last putt drops. 

In the old days it was the BBC that brought the viewer all the pictures. These days, the new kids on the block are Sky Sports. They now have the rights to all four days and as they have done with many other sports they have brought a fresh hi-tech approach to their presentation. They certainly leave no stone unturned, have a huge number of commentators and on course experts as well as a host of guests in their studio. 


I know this fresh approach doesn't sit easily with some and for many Peter Alliss will always be the voice of golf but for me, I like Sky's fresh approach. Ewen Murray their chief commentator has a huge knowledge of the game and his Scottish brogue brings a calm authority to proceedings. Alliss will dabble with the palette before painting the full picture. Ewen Murray will give the viewer the words to the pictures in a more direct approach, but the experience is none the worse for this. Both masters of their trade, both so different in their manner. The great thing for the armchair fan is that for the final two rounds there is still the choice between the BBC and Sky. Pick your favourite and enjoy.


Everyone has their own favourite hole. For me, it is the sixteenth on Masters Sunday. A short par three, the severity of the hole is dictated by the flag position. When it is on the lower tier, close to the water as it will be on Sunday, the player has to be pinpoint accurate. The ideal shot is some twenty yards right and allowing the slope to feed the ball back towards the hole. With the finishing line almost in site, an expectant crowd ringing the green, the majesty of the hole floods the screen watching at home. 



The 16th hole. My personal favourite. Short but no pushover
I don't know what it is about Augusta. It may be the simple fact it's the only major course that's played at the same place every year. It may be the way the Augusta committee set the course up in picture perfect condition. Even the flowers seem to bloom to command. It may be the fact that it gives the chance for players to make a score, but it can punish in the blink of an eye. Remember McIlroy at the 10th? One thing is absolutely certain. The long suffering wife has no chance of getting hold of the remote over the next four days as I absorb each and every shot from the most picture perfect golf course. As for my winner, I've an inkling Garcia may just evoke memories of Seve. If not, I fancy Jason Day to make it another Australian victory. There again what do I know? I'll be there though watching every twist and turn and I'm sure I'm not going to be the only one. Enjoy!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Shhhh - Keep It To Yourself

I've written many times on here about the inner demons that haunt my golfing psyche, especially in the short game zone, but that also seem to prevent me from always taken progression from lessons and practice onto the course. I asked Santa for some trust (http://threeoffthetee.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/dear-santa.html) and have spoken a lot about working more on pre-shot routines and becoming stronger mentally.

I have something rather special coming up at the end of the month that will do everything I need. At the moment this is top secret. All I can divulge is this is at The Grove courtesy of Mike Harris, editor of Golf Monthly, and that it is an ongoing project.


It isn't the first time I've been to The Grove with Golf Monthly. A few years back I took part in Powerplay Golf, a nine hole concept based on two flags per green, with a white and black target to aim for. You had to nominate which flag was in play on the tee and had to pick three black flags, worth double stableford points, in the nine holes. It was good fun, but sadly a concept that has seemed to have failed to develop since.

Everything about The Grove speaks quality and it's a first class golfing venue and so I am very excited about the day being planned. There is something going on in the morning, a break for lunch and then onto the course to try the morning work out. Just keep it to yourself for the moment!

The 4th at The Grove. If it looks like this at the end of the month then I'm in golfing heaven
This is all to come, but for now I'm ploughing on with the work I've been doing with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire. The swing is moving on and the short game, like the course at Royal Ascot, is beginning to show green shoots of growth. Since the disappointment of the last monthly medal which saw the handicap click over to 11.5 (playing off 12) I've had success at Camberley Heath in the Golf Monthly Forum King of King event, winning the day with a net 68. In the roll up games I've played. it has been back to the usual mix of very good and some destructive shots thrown in. Work still to do it would seem in transferring the work I'm doing off course out where it matters.

Back to the competitive arena yesterday in the monthly stableford. I had a superb group with Jim Hanley and Martin Davis (aka "Bash") who play regularly in our Saturday roll up. Always good company and competent golfers in their own rights. "Bash" has a swing that can only be described as unique, but don't be fooled and his twelve handicap is more than competitive and he can definitely play. Jim is a much steadier fellow and manages to rack up the points almost by stealth. It was set for a good day. I'd had a lesson on Thursday and Rhys had tweaked the swing a fraction. That is all we're doing now, refining what I have and just trying to eliminate the series of bad habits I've accumulated over the last twenty years.

My round started off poorly with a pushed drive. Blocked by the line of trees to the right of the hole I squeezed a shot to the fringe of the green, no more than fifteen feet away but then managed to three putt. A good drive and second at the par five second should have set up an easy nine iron into the green. I caught it slightly heavy. A good chip kept on running and I couldn't save par from eight feet. My indifferent start looked to have continued at the third with a bad drive right. It was compounded by a bad hybrid that finished in the heavy rough lining the right edge of the hole. The pitch only found sand and a double bogey loomed. I splashed out to twelve feet and then coaxed the putt home. A great save that should have kicked fired the round. A great drive at the fourth was negated by a heavy strike with a wedge into the green that came up short. The forty foot putt from the fringe was good but I missed the five footer for par.

Things improved after that I played the rest of the front nine in two over par gross, dropping shots at the tough seventh and the ninth that played into the teeth of a strengthening wind. The topped second at the ninth put some pressure on but I took two clubs more than normal and coaxed a six iron into the green from 135 yards. Two putts and a nett par took me out in seventeen points.

I had a chance at the tenth to get that shot back but missed the green left with my approach from 137 yards. I made a good chip which was pleasing for the soul but with no green to work with and the putting surface running away, eighteen feet was as close as I could get.

If I'm honest the back nine was a mix on some poor execution and some good recovering. I carved a horrid hybrid miles right at the 186 yard thirteenth. With a large tree in the way, aerial wasn't an option. I hit a good pitch and run to twenty feet and somehow managed to salvage par with a single putt. The fifteenth cost me a shot, thanks in main to a poor second shot into the rough on the right and a missed green with the approach. I got that straight back at the 425 yard sixteenth. Drive of the day left 198 yards and my hybrid ran to the back of the green. Two putts later and a safe par.

The penultimate hole has been a bit of a trial recently. It has out of bounds down the left and heavy rough to the right although to be fair it shouldn't come into play unless you hit a bad shot. I've lost several left in recent weeks but went right into the rough. It was a bad shot and although I hit a good sand wedge in, the long grass prevented any spin and the ball trundled on, before falling almost apologetically into the bunker left of the green and finished close to the lip. I got it out well to twelve feet but the missed putt meant no points.

In the end, my thirty three points was a fair return. Not enough to prevent another 0.1 increase in the handicap and given the change I've been working on, it was reasonable. The changes to posture and turn are big in the scheme of things and having come from many years of hip slide, courtesy of the foundations I had as a junior, it is a hard thing to change to something more rotational. Look at this swing sequence of Johnny Miller and you get the idea

It's coming along step by step and I am working hard to bleed the changes into my game and take the range work out on the course. This is where my top secret day at The Grove is going to come in. It's going to give me some tools to be a much stronger player. With technique and mental robustness about to align into a powerful force I am still confident that 2014 is going to be a stellar season. If I can play mediocre golf and still card thirty three points, then the signs are good. Last year the same mediocrity would have been anywhere from 26-30 points and so that in itself is progress. I have work to do on the way I turn, into the coil and then into impact but when I get it right now, I hit it better and longer. We all want that don't we.

I've a playing lesson with Rhys in the diary for Friday so I can go out and show him how it's going on the course. I'm hoping he can give me some pointers, especially to eliminate those killer shots, usually off the tee. At Camberley Heath I drove the ball beautifully and so it was no surprise that I was able to score so much better. I'll keep plugging away at the short game, working on a bulletproof technique and continue to make the posture and turn changes more permanent. I'm in a good golfing place, and despite an early season handicap rise, the day at The Grove and the work Rhys is doing will provide long term dividends. Things are coming together bit by bit and no point peaking too soon! It is The Masters at Augusta this week and like many others, to me this signals the start of the golfing season proper. Time to get busy. Until the next time, Homer out