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.

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