Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Hear Me Roar

What a washout. Bank holiday weekend in Britain usually means only one thing, lousy weather and boy, did it deliver on that front. There was a Royal Ascot major, The Stone Cup, an honours board stableford event, with players putting two cards in over any three days of the long weekend.

Having opened my curtains on Saturday and seen the rain coming down in torrents, I adjourned to bed and decided I wouldn't be playing. That meant it would be Sunday and Monday for me. The weather on Sunday was a little better, dry but with a brisk wind to keep things interesting. To be fair, the course had stood up well to the deluges, and again praise has to go to the green keeper and his staff for getting the course as playable as it was.

I'd played on Friday with a good friend of mine, Rob Dickman. He's only been playing since September and is an academy member at Epsom Golf Club in Surrey, adjacent to the iconic race course and home to The Derby. He ventured up and brought the rain with him. To be fair we started in a mere drizzle but by the fourth hole, it was full waterproofs. Being just a social round, there was no pressure but I didn't feel I swung the club that well but was well chuffed with my 33 point total in the abysmal setting.

Going into the Stone Cup I was looking forward to continuing my "New Golf Thinking" in a competitive round in tricky conditions. It has got some reaction on here, at the club and on the Golf Monthly Forum and I've no doubt the new positive Homer persona is seeing the benefits. If you haven't the faintest idea what I'm talking about check my previous review (http://threeoffthetee.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/the-secret-is-out.html) and do try and keep up. In basic terms it's an e-book written by John O'Keeffe and the golf coach and TV pundit Denis Pugh.

Arriving bright and early, along with a good number of fellow members, we went out in a roll up, drawing balls to pick partners. I was alongside Richard Burton (yes, he's heard them all before) who plays off an impressive 7 handicap, Dave Grove, even lower off 6, and Ian Jolley, off a feisty 14.

I started impressively enough, chipping stone dead from the edge of the green having hit a reasonable opening tee shot. I was feeling good and went through my New Golf Thinking (NGT) routine on the second. However, it's one thing thinking clearly, and another putting a good swing on it. I didn't and carved it into the ditch some 180 yards from the tee. It cost a penalty shot and a messy double bogey.

However, from there, something rather strange began to happen. Those that have followed my tales will know that the short game, especially chipping has for several years been a particular Achilles heel and caused me no end of anguish and affected confidence and dented scores. If you didn't know, where have you been? It's all there for you and even on Twitter (@mbedboro) so you've no excuse. I've been working hard on it for a while now and Rhys Ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre in Wokingham has been working hard on improving both technique and my mental approach. In recent weeks with longer nights and warmer weather I've had a chance to get on the practice green and really develop feel and an understanding of how the stroke and club behave.

On the third I got up and down for a sand save and made a par. It looked like I was going to make a horlicks of the fourth, carving it into the rough, coming up woefully short from the heavy grass. I then pitched to two feet from 56 yards to save yet another par. I made a more regulation par at the fifth but then managed to top my tee shot on the 6th. Yes, that hole again. Once described as a nemesis before NGT I have been playing it a lot better lately and hitting it that badly into the hazard no more than 100 yards off the tee is a new first for me. No points for me there then.

I then pitched close again at the seventh from 82 yards and converted a six footer to make another par. With the wind on the shortest hole on the course, the 139 yard par 3 eighth blowing into my face, I took a six iron with the flag at the back of the green. I didn't hit it great and it ran over the back, giving me a tricky chip, down hill and with little green. I did well to get to within eight feet and then popped the putt in for another par save. Out in 19 points and under handicap with six single putt greens

The back nine started in the same vein and got up and down from the back of the tenth for another par. The twelfth is stroke index 1, allegedly the hardest on the course but playing down wind, I got a reasonable drive away. My approach was too far right and found a bunker some thirty yards short of the green. It came out way too clean and sailed over the back of the green, fortunate not to find the environmental area, out of bounds. Another chip well executed to nine feet and another single putt to salvage a net par.

It was almost a disappointment to hit the green at the 186 yard thirteenth for a straightforward par but I was back on the scrambling trail at the next playing an exquisite chip and run from the left of the green, using the contours to perfection. My hero has always been Seve and this was perhaps as close as I'll ever get to emulate his legendary short game repertoire and expertise. A fairway and green in regulation at the next for another par. The penultimate hole is a monster par three of 218 yards with wind from the right, towards out of bounds. I missed the green left into a bunker but simply splashed it out to less than a foot for par.

When it's your day, it's your day. I found the semi rough on the last hole off the tee. I hit a terrible second with my hybrid and it sailed way right over the tree line towards deep, deep grass. I played a provisional but never really believed I'd ever see the first one again. As we got around the corner, there it was, sitting on the path the green keeper uses to get from hole to hole. Lucky doesn't begin to describe the break. In the end, I made a simple net par. Another 19 points and 38 in total. Not only did it put me in third place but guaranteed my first handicap cut of the year. Here are my statistics for the round courtesy of Scoresaver 2 with the predicted handicap level per category in brackets

Fairways Hit: 33%  (Hcap Std: 20) 4 out of 12
Greens In Reg: 17%  (Hcap Std: 15) 3 of 18
Putts Per Round: 26.00  (Hcap Std: ** Pro **)
Sand Saves: 50%  (Hcap Std: 1) 2 out of 4 attempts
Par Scrambles: 53%  (Hcap Std: 2)

The weather yesterday was grim. It was raining when I arrived and was still coming down in a heavy drizzle by the time I set out. I was out again with Dave Grove who had managed a creditable 37 points himself in his opening round. We were joined by Dave Wild, yet another low handicapper off 6 and my regular partner Mike Stannard off 8. Intimidating. To be fair, they were all pleased with how NGT had helped me amass my 39 points, and I certainly hadn't swung the club well. I simply chipped and putted like a god and plotted my way calmly and clearly round, ignoring the bad shots and feeding off the short game.

I started abysmally and had only managed a miserly five points from my opening four holes. An opening tee shot snap hooked into thick grass set the tone and the tempo was way too quick and the technique wanting. I tried to keep calm, think NGT thoughts and keep patient. I made a par at the fifth and let out a roar and gave a fist pump. Think Ian Poulter at the Ryder Cup. To be honest, I'm not usually that demonstrative on the course and definitely not that vocal. I made a par at the sixth hole to blot out the horror of the day before thanks to yet another chip and putt. Cue yet more fist pumping and another "COME ON". I was really pumped and was getting myself back into contention. By the time I hit a pitch from 99 yards to twelve feet on the ninth and then sunk a twelve foot pat putt the fist pump was going into overdrive.

To be fair, my partners saw the funny side and kept my feet on the ground by mocking me incessantly. Dave Wild had lot to get excited about too, going out in a magnificent level par. Given the conditions it was a great effort and could have been a lot better. He was actually two under par gross on the eighth tee but sadly racked up a double bogey. However he'd played himself up the leader board and was only a few points behind my own tally. Sadly, for as good as his front nine had been, his back nine was the polar opposite. Lost balls, errant drives and a few short putts missed meant he came back in just four points. Many would have been apoplectic but he remained the perfect playing partner, willing me on to get back on an even kilter and kick on. He never once got annoyed, slammed his clubs or got irate. Maybe he's a secret New Golf Thinker!

I made a par at the tenth and there was another big roar and fist pump when I sunk a tricky side hill ten foot putt on the thirteenth for par. I found the fairway on the fourteenth but a little to the right and the tree on the corner of the dog leg prevented a direct approach towards the green. It would require a fade left to right. Not a shape I'm particularly happy playing. With 205 yards to go I pulled the five wood, rehearsed the shot, pictured it and addressed it. I hit it like a dream and it moved ten yards in the air, pitched short of the putting surface and ran onto the green, stopping six feet short. The birdie putt shaved the right edge of the hole but stayed up. However the par meant I was now back level with my handicap. I was right in the mix.

Like Poulter, I was fired up. Fist pumps and plenty of shouts.

I should have been able to kick on. The fifteenth isn't a hard par five but having found the green in regulation, I somehow managed to four putt, missing a short one from inside a foot. I felt I was in a bit of a trance. The clear thinking had gone and the brain was scrambled. Gone was the clear headiness that had compensated for a swing not performing well. I hit another snap hook and was I was lucky for the ball to stay in bounds but I had no swing and had to take a penalty drop. I produced another miracle shot, low under the over hanging branches but drawing back towards the fairway. I got away with a double bogey. It was a set back but a strong last two holes would make it interesting. My race was run at the seventeenth. I hit the tee shot into a bunker and then caught it thin again not taking any of the compacted sand. It sailed miles over the green into deep wet grass. I couldn't find one more miracle to get it up and down. To be honest I could barely see it let alone get a solid contact on it.

My last hole was a mess as well. Another double bogey and it was a limp end to a weekend that had promised so much. Dave Grove had quietly gone about his business and accumulated another 32 points to go with his 37 in round one and that was enough to pip my own score by one. I was already dropping down the list. Mike Stannard even managed to score more than my 30 point total and his round included a lovely birdie three on the twelfth. He's struggled lately for some form but there were definite signs of life. I have to thank them all for going out in the atrocious conditions, their support in my pursuit of glory, and for putting up with my posturing. Totally out of character and just something that came from within as I tried to win for the first time at Royal Ascot for several years.

So what can I take from this. First and foremost, the short game is definitely back. With the planned hard work I'm going to be putting in, this will only get better and better. The putting from inside ten feet is coming on. The New Golf Thinking, and in particular the "shorties" has given me a far more positive attitude and I'm not scared to go for it without worrying about the next one. On the flip side, my swing was way out of kilter all weekend. The tempo was way too quick. It was technically poor but somehow I managed to find a way to get it round. And what about "New Golf Thinking" I hear to you ask? Well I've still got work to do. Having worked so hard to get my score back to level handicap by the fourteenth, I let my mind wander out of the present.

Instead of one shot at a time I was thinking about what I needed to do on each hole. NGT talks about playing a career shot on every one but I lost the focus. Instead of career shot I though pink elephant. See you pictured a pink elephant in your minds eye as your read that didn't you? See how easy it is to picture something you don't want to?

At the end of the day, I got a fantastic handicap cut back to 11 and so the journey towards Homer's Odyssey is well and truly moving forward. In the end I came a creditable sixth and the winner shot a super 41 points in the pouring rain to go with his 40 points on Sunday. I would have needed something like a net 76 (+6) gross to win and in those conditions and with the lousy start that was always a big ask. I'm not happy with how I'm hitting it. I have been swinging better, especially on the range and in recent social games and so I don't think it's a major issue with technique. I'll keep an eye on the next few rounds and maybe get Rhys to have a look.

All in all though many more positives than negatives. I've a feeling you'll be hearing me roar with much more regularity. Well metaphorically anyway. The fist pump may stay as it's a bit of a motivational tool these days. I definitely don't feel comfy doing "a Poulter" but at least I gave my partners something to brighten their day on a rain soaked round. Homer has a short game. I don't let bad shots get in the way and I can fight back from a poor start. I have to admit, I was annoyed with myself yesterday after the round, and although I ultimately wouldn't have won, there was yet another handicap cut there for the taking instead of a 0.1 increase. Having looked at the bigger picture, this performance will hopefully be a catalyst to bigger and better things. Hear me roar!!!!!!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Up's And Downs

What a difference a bit of sunshine makes. It was a glorious weekend and my golfing ensemble for the roll up on Saturday was as vivid as the sun. Some had the audacity to call it garish but what do they know? One thing is for sure if you dare to wear you need to have the game and I was looking forward to it. Armed with the positivity of New Golf Thinking I was in the mood. My opening drive was short and right but an excellent pitch was enough to redeem a net par. However, when I stuffed my drive at the second into the ditch running across the fairway no more than 200 yards from the tee I was testing my positivity to the limit. A penalty drop and a good recovery I still made a six (net five and par).

From then I played some excellent stuff. I even managed to return to the scene of the crime in last weeks medal, the sixth hole where I'd recorded an eight, to hit an exquisite four iron to ten feet. I didn't convert the birdie opportunity but I got my par. Redemption. In the end I rocked out in nineteen points (one under handicap). I was hitting it nicely and in a good place

The tenth tee stands outside the pro's shop. There were a few members loitering with the pro as we made our way onto the tee box and my natty outfit caused a few comments. Give it and take it but having backed myself I needed to deliver with my drive. I nailed it. Long, high and with a hint of draw it was perfect. I missed the green but then produced a great chip with no green to work with and the surface running away from me. I got it to within eight feet and made the par putt.

I made a sand save from the right hand bunker at the eleventh and was flying. I stuttered with a messy double bogey after my tee shot found an unplayable lie. In truth I took too much of a liberty trying to take as much of the dog leg on as I did and it never made the carry landing in the bottom branches of one of the trees guarding the fairway. Still, part of New Golf Thinking is the power to avoid downward spirals and I stood on the thirteenth tee, a par three measuring 186 yards and stuck my hybrid onto the heart of the putting surface to set up a routine par.

I've been working hard on my short game and whisper it quietly, but I'm getting into a good place and beginning to make a few up and downs. I missed the green at the fourteenth and then pitched to three feet and made the par putt. I followed this up with a lovely birdie at the par five fifteenth, rolling in a downhill putt from fifteen feet. I frittered shots away at the sixteenth where I made a messy double bogey and then made a real botch of the seventeenth to record my only no score of the round. I'd missed the green at this 218 yard par three to the right and faced a pitch over the bunker. I was tempted to play the Hollywood flop shot but decided to play or more conservative pitch. In the end I never committed to either option and dumped it in the bunker.

The last hole, Hungry Hill, is a dog leg par five. I nailed another fine drive and hit a good second to leave 115 yards over the corner of the pond. The wind had risen a touch but hit a great nine iron to seven feet and calmly rolled in a birdie putt, downhill left to right. Another nineteen points for a total of thirty eight. I was happy with that although the magic forty points was there for the taking. In the end, it was good enough to tie for first place in the roll up.

Yesterday was a break from the norm. I've a good friend who has taken up the game last September and has joined Epsom Golf Club. It's a short but demanding course with treacherous greens that can make you look foolish at times. It's set high on the downs above the world famous Epsom race course with wonderful views over London.

Playing at a different club I decided to tone down my choice of clothing. The first is a long 205 yard par three and I walked off with a double bogey missing the green and then three putting. I hit a duffed three wood off the tee, had to pitch to 90 yards and then pitched too far. Perched on a steep bank I had a tricky chip on a small green with a slope down to the fairway if I ran off the edge of the putting surface. What to do? Simple. Take your nine iron, bunt it forward and stick it in the hole for a chipped par.

A far more subdued outfit to grace Epsom's tricky course
I then made a bogey four at the par three third missing the green short and left and then went on a par rampage, recording six straight fours. The fifth is a long 412 yard par four uphill towards the majestic grandstand on the racecourse. I chipped and putted again to make a superb par at the stroke index one hole. The sixth turns around playing downhill. It's another long par four, this time measuring 437 yards and yet again a chip and putt for par was secured. In truth I hadn't felt as though my ball striking was as good as the roll up at Royal Ascot but I was getting the job done. A case in point at the next came when I hit a pitching wedge to three feet. In truth I caught it a little clean and it landed short and the contours of the green did the rest. I missed the birdie putt. It lipped out which was annoying.

In the end though I was out in thirty seven blows (+3 gross) and chipped and putted from the back of the tenth for yet another par. The eleventh is a short par five and a good drive left 187 yards in. The secret of playing Epsom is knowing that you can't hold the greens, especially once they dry out in the summer. I hit a good four iron, landing it short but it still ran through the green. Another delightful chip to three feet yielded a birdie. I was two over gross and yet I was three over on the par three's alone.

The view from the fairway on the fifth towards the grandstand on Epsom race course
The twelfth and thirteenth are par threes. I should have been able to convert these easily but missed both greens long and left. My magic touch around the greens betrayed me and I made a bogey on both. I frittered another at the par five fifteenth three putting on an elephant graveyard of a green. The sixteenth is the signature hole playing 288 yards down a valley. I hit a great three wood which ran up some twenty yards short. I hit a great chip, right of the flag as I intended. It ran towards the hole and then kept on running all the way off the back of the green. I failed to get up and down. I followed this with a horrid double bogey on the penultimate hole missing the green right of another short par three.

The last is another a dog left par four, measuring 424 yards. I hit the drive of the day to leave a seven iron into the sunken green. As had been the theme all day, my approach went long and ran up a steep bank, flirting with the out of bounds, to leave a tricky chip downhill. I executed perfectly to two feet to make a closing par. In the end I was round in 78 blows, coming home in forty one (+6 gross). With par being 69 I was well under handicap again. The par threes murdered me and I was +7 for these alone so only dropped two shots on the other thirteen holes.

The view down the eighteenth towards the clubhouse
I have to be extremely happy with my weekend's work. Granted there was no pressure on my rounds with it not being a competition but I was delighted with how I played at Royal Ascot, especially my driving and short game. Yesterday I chipped and putted as well as I have for many a long year and I finally feel as though my game is coming together as a whole. In particular I am thinking with clarity and seeing the shots a lot more clearly and executing without a raft of swing thoughts polluting the golfing mind.

I only had thirty putts at Royal Ascot on Saturday including just twelve putts for the back nine. Yesterday I had thirty two putts but the heavily contoured greens at Epsom are one of the the course's biggest defence and so that was a pleasing return. I've said for a long time that there were good scores coming and I need to keep this form going into the bank holiday weekend next week when I compete in the Stone Cup. If I can keep the short game working then it takes so much pressure off the rest of my game. I'm delighted with where my game is and it has been a weekend of up's and (Epsom) downs. I'll continue to work hard on my game and just need to find some a few handicap cuts now to get Homer's Odyssey back on track. For now though I'll enjoy the fruits of my labours and wait for the after sun to do its work. Homer out

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Snowmen In May

It was monthly medal time at Royal Ascot last weekend. However the weather was far from seasonal for May and there was the threat of heavy showers, especially early on, to go with a wind that was touching thirty miles per hour. Not only did it add a chill to proceedings but it was going to make scoring difficult. The course is beginning to show its teeth with the rough becoming juicy and lush and even the semi rough can be tricky to negotiate. There are some areas where the rough has become very thick and there are definitely a number of no go zones emerging.

I was drawn in the second group out and had an excellent group. I was paired with Royal Ascot stalwart and proficient golfer Geoff Adamson and the legend in his own head and the man known only by his nickname "Jaffs". He is also a talented player and so I was confident we'd produce some decent golf between us in trying conditions.

From a personal perspective I negotiated the opening two holes without any undue alarm and stood on the third tee with the honour. From nowhere I hit a mickey mouse snap hook straight into the out of bounds environmental area. No excuses other than it was a bad swing. A double bogey followed although "Jaffs" followed my lead and ended up even worse off with a seven. At least Geoff played the hole in some semblance on normality.

The fourth hole has one of those no go zones off the tee, down the right hand side. With a three wood in hand and it playing down wind it should have been an easy hole to find a fairway. Instead I hit another poor tee shot fading weakly into what has become deep and penal rough. In truth I was lucky to even find it in there and could only get a sand wedge out. I got it out well. Too well. It dropped apologetically into the fairway bunker and despite a superb long bunker shot it was another bogey and shot gone. I missed the green with my approach at the next which was frustrating, coming in from just 129 yards. Still I wasn't too badly positioned even with the mistakes at three and four.

In the past I've referred to the sixth hole as a nemesis as it has caused me some serious grief. In the world of "New Golf Thinking" that is no longer the case and I took to the tee in a strong mental position and saw only the green and the flag. That's what I saw but what the body produced was something akin to an octopus having a fit and the tee shot went so far right into the trees it wasn't ever going to be seen again. Having to reload I stood there with an empty head, that mistake forgotten. Well so I thought. It went further forward but never looked like making the carry over the trees and out of bounds right. Just in case I teed the next one up as a provisional and sod the "new Golf Thinking" stood there with a red mist descending and smacked the bloody thing as hard as I could. It ended up in the bunker.

The second ball was never discovered and undoubtedly never made the journey over all the trees. In the end I played a decent bunker shot to about fifteen feet but it came as no great shock when the putt ran towards the hole, tantalised me that it might drop and veered away at the last second. In the end I tapped in for a snowman, golfing parlance for an 8 based on the shape of the digit on the card.

The scene of the crime - the 6th hole. 
By the time I'd played through the next three holes, including the short eighth and ninth into the teeth of a wind getting stronger I was out in a dismal 48 shots. That's a massive thirteen over par and had already eaten all my handicap plus one more shot.

I started the back nine much better with a good par at the tenth and a net par four at the tricky eleventh. By the time I got to the thirteenth the wind was at its strongest and although it only plays 186 yards, I took my five wood and hit it sweetly and watched with amusement as the wind took hold of it, stalled the flight and it came up thirty yards short. I made a bogey!

Having found the fairway at the tricky and long par four fourteenth, which is a left to right dog-leg I knew I needed a good run home. My second from 200 yards was good and just ran off the back of the green calling for a deft touch with a tricky downhill chip and run. I nudged it to within seven feet and then made a putt. I got up and down for another par courtesy of an eight foot putt at the next too. I made a bogey at each of the three closing holes but came back in a much more respectable 41 shots for a total of 89 gross or 77 net.

On the plus side, conditions were so tricky the competition scratch score (CSS) went out to 72 and with my horrendous snowman being rounded down to a meagre double bogey for handicap purposes I managed to make the buffer zone and no damage was done to the scorecard. It had been a tough day and in the end both my partners also carded a snowman eight as well. In the sanctuary of the bar it seemed that a large number of players had done the same. No idea why there was so many snowmen in May but that was the way it went. Yes conditions were difficult but many managed decent enough scores so I can't use that as an excuse. Maybe it was just the age old story of card and pencil and the added pressure a medal round seems to inflict on normally calm and sane golfers.

Apart from not damaging my handicap further what can I take out of the day? Well for starters, "New Golf Thinking" is going to need some more time and effort invested on it. I definitely wasn't in a good mental position on the seventh or eighth tees, carrying the baggage of the sixth hole with me. I actually played some good shots on the back nine. There were still some poor ones, especially a hook on the seventeenth. I never really felt I was swinging well or in control of it and so was pleased that in the wind and damp conditions I managed to get it round.

There is a lot to work on. The swing is too in and out at the moment which is annoying considering the work I've put in over the winter. There have been some good days, such as the King of Kings event with Golf Monthly's Forum and my round at The Grove after the "New Golf Thinking" workshop. Those aside it still feels very much like my 2013 season where I can put sixteen or seventeen decent holes together and find a way to undo all of the good work with one poor execution. I am loathe to push the panic button or go back to Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire for a lesson and feel there is a good score in there bursting to get out. I just need to keep knocking on the door and it'll open.

The funny thing is both "Jaffs" and Geoff did exactly the same thing as me and managed to extract mediocrity from the jaws of a decent round which is why I'm still happy with how I'm moving forward towards single figures. It isn't just me. The mental approach is coming on and I will get stronger and more focused. The putter is behaving after the abhorrent performance last weekend and the short game is coming along. I need to focus some time and attention to my chipping and putting which will bring its own rewards but in general terms I am happy. I could be happier of course but with some warmer weather on the horizon, a singles knockout with Huw Edwards in the Weatherall Cup first round to negotiate and some social golf this weekend to enjoy Homer's Odyssey is sailing ahead under full sail. Let's hope the snowmen have melted away.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Still Moving Forward - But What A Waste

What a weekend. Golf, golf and more golf at the Heath of Dreams, Royal Ascot Golf Club. Two competitions, the monthly stableford and the Jubilee Cup, a better ball pairs event. Sandwiched between those was the annual "International" competition, wonderfully organised by two club members, Peter and Charlotte Munk followed by an exquisite BBQ cooked by the club caterers.

We were blessed with great weather for the stableford. It was my first game of golf after my trip to The Grove and the "New Golf Thinking" workshop and a chance to put into action some of the salient points from the day, in particular getting into Mental Position A. (http://threeoffthetee.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/the-secret-is-out.html). I had an early opportunity to test my new mental resilience as the opening tee shot was way right and short of the trees that run across the hole some fifty yards short of the green. I was fortunate enough to have a shot through and under the branches to the back of the green and I managed to scramble two points to open my account.

I hit the second green in regulation but managed to three putt from thirty five feet. Annoying but not a problem as my putting is usually a strong point and everyone has a three putt now and then. By the time I rolled a twenty foot putt in for birdie on the fourth and I was ahead of the card and going well despite not exactly having the ball under full control. Finding the fairway and the green on the par five fifth I was looking good but managed to three putt again, the penalty for not getting onto the correct level of the three tiered green.

My advantage was eroded at the tricky seventh hole. Having found the fairway I made a total mess of the hole to end with a sloppy double bogey and once I hit the shortest hole on the course in regulation before three putting for a third time in the first eight holes I was a shot behind my handicap. It was a deficit I couldn't make up on the ninth despite finding yet another fairway. Out in seventeen points.

I managed to make a solid par at 371 yard tenth and so was back on handicap and starting to play better. Despite the frustrations with the putter I was trying to focus on the positives. New Golf Thinking in action and working well. Not a natural process and it felt a little forced in places but the results were evident in the way I was making the best of a not so great ball striking round. I strongly suggest you download the ebook and see how it can help your own game.

New Golf Thinking - an ebook that will change the way you think on the golf course
I even found the green at the 178 yard par three eleventh. This is always a hard target to find as the green is angled towards the player and so presents a narrow landing error with two bunkers left and a large one front right to catch the wayward strike. Admittedly I hadn't hit the tee shot well and it was a low slinging hook but I was on the putting surface and only twenty five feet to go. I walked off with another bogey thanks for yet another three putt. I was having one of those days with the putter and every green seemed to leave me with a tricky two footer either short or past the hole. I couldn't find the pace at all.

I was back behind the card again after a four at the thirteenth. Never an easy hole it measures 186 yards and is a hard target to find. There is a dip short that not only makes the hole seem shorter than it is but kills anything short. A large tree protects the left edge and there is a grassy run off area to the right. If they were being honest, most would take a four here. It definitely plays harder than stroke index 17. A superb up and down from the left of the fourteenth got me back on an even kilter. Having hit the fifteenth in regulation I was set for another par. Wrong. My fifth, yes fifth three putt of the day saw to that and yet again I was left chasing a score. My race was run with a double bogey on sixteen and a four on the par three seventeenth. In my defence the last par three on the course does measure 218 yards and has out of bounds tight left and a deep bunker to the right. It's actually another hole where four isn't a bad score.

The final hole plays uphill and measures 531 yards but another fairway and green in regulation should have seen me sign off with a par. What other way was there to finish but yet another three putt. Six in one round. A pitiful effort. If I'd converted these there was a victory to be had. In the end I had to be content with fifth place in the division. It was won with 37 points although winner Chris Beckett did deserve his victory having finished eagle, par, par, eagle. Great effort but I can't help feeling this was one that got away although I managed to hit the handicap buffer zone. On a positive note, my thinking was much clearer and when I made bad swings or mistakes I didn't dwell.

Sunday was arguably the best day of the weekend. Bright and sunny and by the time the shotgun start arrived at 2.00pm it was wonderfully hot too. I was in the England "Further South" side partnering Mike Goodwin. We were up against a junior team, Scots, Welsh, Internationals and sides from those independent states "The Geordies" and "The Northerners".

Golfers from many countries enjoyed a great day at the Royal Ascot International Competition
I think the less said about my performance the better. Putting was much better but the ball striking was very in and out. Fortunately my playing partner was a steadying influence and often on hand to mop up my mistakes. I did manage to come in from time to time but our score did nothing to help our side into the top three. To be honest, this event is more about the social side of things, well in my mind at least, and it was fantastic to see the clubhouse full of noise as everyone congregated with a tale to tell. The BBQ put on was first class and many thanks to everyone behind the bar for their patience and diligence, to the serving staff for their sterling efforts getting everyone fed so quickly and to the chef for preparing some excellent fare.

Monday dawned and it was time for the Jubilee Cup. This is a better ball pairs stableford event played off three quarter handicaps. I am a former winner of this, back in 2010. I've now got a new partner, Mike Stannard off an admirable 8 handicap. We've been together as a pair for several years now and although we've chalked up the odd matchplay win we've often flattered to deceive and never seemed to gel as a team in this type of event. Today was going to be better. My New Golf Thinking was going to see me stronger and more resolute.

We started off in normal fashion and only scored a single point on the first. Mike made a par at the second and so we were off and running and when I chipped and putted for a par at the third we were ahead of the game. Easy come, easy go and we both made a mess of the short 320 yard par four. A nothing hole really but it seems to catch so many people out on a regular basis, due in the main to its severely contoured green. It was this green that did for us as we both three putted. I made a par (net birdie) to get us back ahead of the scorecard and Mike made a great chip and putt at the sixth. I'd found the green on this par three but yet again over this weekend I three putted. When Mike made a great birdie at the eighth we were on a roll. We lost a point at the ninth but were still out in a healthy nineteen points.

We gave a point back on the eleventh and I made a good net par at the twelfth to keep us on an even keel. Mike hit a great shot at the thirteenth to secure a par but he found big trouble at the fourteenth. Time for me to step up. I missed the fairway on the 430 yard par four. I was faced with a shot between two trees, having to keep it under the branches from a fluffy lie. I pulled off what would be described as "career shot" in New Golf Thinking and hit it to perfection and landed it on the green. No prizes for guessing what followed. How often would I wreck my hard work with incompetence on the greens. I made a net par but at this stage it wasn't enough.

We needed to attack now to post as competitive a score as we could. I made a par at the fifteenth and we had to go for broke. That lasted as far as our tee shots on the sixteenth. Mike went out of bounds left and I carved my tee shot so far wide it crossed the fifteenth hole running the other way and into a hazard. In the end I was pleased to make a point with a six (net bogey) but our race was run in terms of winning. We only got a solitary point at the seventeenth and although I made a net par at the last, thirty four points was only good enough for eleventh place in a field of twenty four. It was a better performance for us as a pair but we left a lot of shots out there.

In the end, there was some good stuff to enjoy. I hit the ball reasonably well in places and had I been able to putt like a half decent player I could have notched a win, or come close. I might even have helped Mike and I to a higher finish. The most positive note was how I thought. I was always in a strong place all the way round in the stableford and Jubilee Cup. I can't say New Golf Thinking is the be all and end all but it has definitely given me some tools to cope better on the course. I actually hit 75 % of fairways in regulation and 50% of greens in regulation in the stableford but 39 putts was a season low. At least I hit the buffer zone. No need to guess what I'll be working on this week!

Despite all of my putting woes, the greens at Royal Ascot weren't to blame. We came close to losing them a few years back with moss infestation and a green keeper that seemed unable to rectify the problem. However, since our new green keeper arrived a couple of years ago they have returned and are almost as good as when the course opened in 2006. They are almost totally free of moss now, look superb and are putting true. For most, that is all we ask. Pick a line and trust it to run true. They are getting quicker too and will be a challenge in a few weeks when the Summer sun gets on them. Of course he isn't a one man band and the rest of is team deserve praise too. It isn't just the greens though and all the course is starting to look a picture. Well done to one and all.

It could have been better but then again we can always say that. I am pleased with my early season progress having already notched up a win in the Golf Monthly Forum King of Kings South Eastern qualifier at Camberley Heath, a few quid in the Saturday roll up and posted the best score of the day at The Grove New Golf Thinking day. There is still a long way to go and that handicap is still creeping surreptitiously. My golf in general is more consistent and the work I did with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Centre over the Winter is paying off. I am very happy with where I am and continue to plough a lone furrow towards single figures. Next week is the monthly medal and we'll see where that takes me. For the moment though I feel I'm moving forward but wasted a great opportunity. Onwards and in terms of my handicap downwards.