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

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