Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The End Of A Good Spell.. Or The Start Of Another?

Things have been quietly improving over recent weeks. I had a lovely handicap cut over the Bank Holiday weekend and recent form has been consistent. It’s been a long time since I’ve written that word on here. I’ve had a far more positive outlook courtesy of the work I’m doing with New Golf Thinking and even the short game has been behaving itself.

With that in mind I was looking forward to the monthly stableford on Saturday. Warm up went well and I was confident. However a thirty minute delay for a passing thunderstorm didn’t help and it all felt rushed on the first tee. My opening drive was a big snap hook left into the pond and an opening triple bogey and no points.
In truth, things barely progressed from there and if I’m brutally honest I didn’t engage my golfing brain or any of the facets I’ve learnt from the work I’d done on New Golf Thinking. It has a whole section on positivity and bouncing back but I seemed to forget everything. In my defence the weather was atrocious calling for full waterproofs and I was more focused on keeping everything dry and avoiding the long grass than on anything else. However, with the swing misbehaving, and a living in a world of hook and push, the ball wasn’t going where I wanted. Nor was it finding the middle of the club. No amount of thinking, New Golf or otherwise, was going to change a directionally challenged shot.

In the end I crawled out in a miserable thirteen points. About right for the dross I’d produced. Still, there was another nine to go and a solid back half could still claw back an air of respectability. That lasted as long as it took me to play the tenth hole. Another double bogey.

At least by now the rain had gone and we were enjoying sun. It did little to brighten the mood. Despite a fairway and green in regulation at the twelfth for a par there was precious little change in fortunes and the second nine followed the trend of the first with too many bad shots, too many wasted ones and far too few that were good. Even when I did find the fairway or make a good swing, this was followed up by something that wasn’t as good and I just couldn’t cobble anything together. In the end, my measly twenty seven points meant a 0.1 handicap increase and a lowly sixteenth place finish in division one and an end to the recent good run.

I decided to bite the bullet on Sunday morning and sacrifice my golfing soul to the elite roll up group known as the “Hooded Claw”. I’ve been using Sunday’s to work on my game (and enjoy a lie in) but I wanted to get out in the sunshine and right the wrongs of the competition.

Joined by the walking book of knowledge (some of which may even be true) Mick Mills and Russ Adamson, a man never going to be lost in the dark with his bright golf shirts, I was determined to play better. Yet again, I failed to engage my New Golf Thinking and yet again I chopped it around the sun drenched “Heath of Dreams”. There is definitely a correlation between the power of this New Golf Thinking and an ability to play with a clear head and think and execute well. It does what is says on the tin.

The “Claw” has a special prize for the lowest score of the day, “the bitch”. The unlucky person has to do all the fetching and carrying of drink orders and I was pretty certain my score of 25 was going to be nailed on for that dubious honour. Fortunately my blushes were spared, just. However it had been another terrible round.

All in all then, definitely a weekend to forget and the end of my good streak. Or is it just the beginning of another one? I’m annoyed with myself for not using what has been working and for not swinging well. I’d worked hard on chipping and putting and also on pitching, especially in the 30-60 yard area. Could I buy a putt? Could I pitch? Was my chipping strong? Of course not. That’s frustrating. It’s all about the scoring zone from a hundred yards and in this summer for me and where much of my practice time has been targeted.  If I can get the ball close and make more up and downs, it’s going to take the pressure off the rest of my game. It’s the difference between a 0.1 handicap increase and the buffer zone or a handicap cut. More work to be done. That’s fine. I’m enjoying working on the chipping and putting and have fallen in love with all things short game connected.

I’ve done a lot of work on my swing over the winter with Rhys ap Iolo at the Downshire Golf Complex in Wokingham and it had been working a lot better. There were a lot of old faults rearing their ugly head that I thought I’d banished. I’ve booked a refresher lesson for the 16th (my birthday!) to just tweak things and freshen them up ready to kick on for the second half of the season. That desire for single figures is as strong as ever and the recent cut to 11 has brought it much closer. I can see it there on the horizon and now it is pedal to the metal and time to accelerate onwards.

What can I take from the weekend? Well my crappiest golf this season is a lot better than it would have been this time last year. My short game, bad as it was, is still better than it has been. I did hit some nice shots too. Just not that many. It has also proved, as if I needed verification, that New Golf Thinking, is a powerful weapon in my armoury. Those of you that read my last offering (and if not, take yourself there immediately) will know that I was in contention for large periods of the Stone Cup over the Bank Holiday. My second round began poorly but I showed good mental fortitude to get myself back to a point where I was level with my handicap by the fourteenth hole. In the end I fell away but I was in with a shout right up until the last few holes. That is a huge step forward in itself. My rambling point is that I hit a lot of bad shots in the second round of that competition but a better mental attitude made a big difference.

I am making a big thing of New Golf thinking for a reason. As well as being in the new edition of Golf Monthly as part of a feature on the subject (be warned, there is a mug shot of me in there), and my recent trip to The Grove, it works. It isn’t some form of crutch or something I can pin my successes or failures against and it won’t hide poor technique and execution. It does however give me clarity and a feeling of calm sadly lacking at the weekend.
I do feel disappointed at the way I played. I always do when I don’t perform as I know I can. That’s just my golfing DNA. Let me make one thing crystal clear though. I enjoy my golf irrespective of the outcome. These days I play free from a myriad of swing thoughts over the ball and even if my score isn’t what I’d have wanted, I know I am still moving forward. I am driven. That’s just me and while some may say at times I’m too intense that’s the way I am with golf and I make no apologies for that. It’s probably way too late to change and even if it isn’t I won’t be doing so anytime soon. I’m like a dog with a bone and won’t be happy until I reach single figures. When I do, I’m sure they’ll be another golfing goal to be reached and so it goes on.

I hit the ball much better on the practice ground last night and hopefully I’ve sorted some of the problems out in time for the monthly medal on Saturday. I plan to thrown myself upon “The Claw” again on Sunday and then the course is effectively closed while the world famous Royal Ascot horse racing takes place next week. That gives me time to recharge the batteries, have the lesson to check everything is working and then put the work in on the range ready to come back after the enforced lay off ready to play my best golf.

I’ve consigned last week to history and it’s all about the next game. It's the start of a new good spell. Single figures will be mine.

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