Monday, 21 July 2014

I'm A Silly Old Hector

Some of you of a certain age may remember a children's TV series from the late 1960's and 70's called Hector's House. The main character was a dog, who seemed to get into endless mishaps. You can see where this is leading......

The season is reaching a peak and it's pinnacle the Club Championship is this coming weekend at Royal Ascot. I've not actually been playing too much, hence the lack of activity on here. I did manage a game last Saturday in the normal Saturday morning roll up. I actually started quite well until I came to a certain par 3, that pesky sixth hole. Despite my best New Golf Thinking and positive mindset I managed to lose a ball and didn't score any points. Despite this I managed to play the other eight holes of the front nine in a pleasing one over gross. From there I managed to find new and inventive way of letting a good round escape and although I came in under handicap it wasn't enough to take any money.

The following day was the monthly medal. Still buoyed by the comments made by a fellow member about all my practice not paying off in a competition and annoyed by my lame finish in the stableford the week before, I was looking for a good score. I missed the green at the first but chipped to four feet. I tried to save par but missed the putt. Two pars were secured and although I missed the fairway left on the fourth I had a good line into the green from the semi rough. I only had 125 yards and it was a smooth nine iron. I pulled it miles left and pitching on the bank by the green it rolled to its inevitable destination out of bounds. It was an unnecessary double bogey.

I found the fairway at the par five fifth but made a mess of the second shot to leave 150 yards in. I missed the green right into sand but having worked hard on my bunker play in recent I was confident that even if I couldn't get up and down I'd make no more than a six. I've no excuse but left the first bunker shot in the sand. I'm a silly old Hector!

Back to back double bogey's are not what's required in a medal round and now I faced that pesky sixth hole again. A huge part of this New Golf Thinking is about not spiralling down. Don't let one bad shot, one bad hole turn into two and so on. Time to get the round back on track. By my reckoning I was due a par on the hole and  hit a positive four iron into the heart of the green to sixteen feet for a simple two putt par.

The seventh is a 398 yard par four with a ditch traversing the fairway around the 230 yard mark. I hit a four iron but it was down the left hand side of the fairway. There is a large oak that sits to the left of the fairway by the ditch. I had to move the ball from right to left. Aiming at the right hand green side bunker I hit it like a dream. It curled in the air, pitched short and ran to fifteen feet. Although I missed the birdie it was a no thrills par.

I dropped a shot on the shortest hole on the course, hitting a seven iron right into another bunker. I found what can only be described as a "fried egg" lie and the ball was well and truly plugged. I got it out but had a thirty five foot putt for par. In the end, I was pleased to escape with a four. I redeemed myself with par at the ninth, pitching to five feet having missed the green to the right. It added up to 41 strokes going out or +6 gross in old fashioned money.

I started the back nine with a par, and narrowly missed the green right at the 178 yard par three eleventh. I putted it from a reasonable lie but it came up dreadfully short going up a steep slope and I couldn't make par from ten feet. Still it wasn't a bad start. The next, the twelfth is stroke index 1 and is a sharp dog leg left to right. Big hitters can take on a line of trees that flank the right side of the fairway. Succeed and it's a short second shot to the green. Fail and the same trees will block progress at best and can seriously hamper a second shot. It was playing down wind and so I took a bold line. It was a fateful error and the wild shot arced towards a patch of thick ferns and deep rough. I was lucky to find it at all but had no shot and was forced to take a penalty drop. Another double bogey.

John O'Keefe, author of New Golf Thinking will be pleased to read that I spiralled up at the next. Its another long par three of 186 yards. I nailed a hybrid to seven feet and made the birdie putt for a rare two. It got the round back on track. A shot went at the next. My drive found the fairway at the corner of the dog leg but the tree that resides on the apex of the bend blocked a direct line. I had to try and fade a five iron. Not my favourite shape and I hit it dead straight to miss the green left. A tame pitch and two putts.

I made par at fifteen and a a bogey at the sixteenth. I'd found the fairway but took five iron from 189 yards to come up short and right when a smooth four iron was the right club all day long. The penultimate hole is another testing par three at 218 yards. I missed the green right and had no green to work with so was happy to pitch on, two putt and get away with a bogey four. In fact. I'm happy with four at that hole most rounds especially with out of bounds lurking left and deep and heavy rough not too far away down the right side.

Coming to the last and a routine par five would see me home in 81 and a net level par 70. I only just missed the fairway down the right side but it nestled down in the semi rough. I tried to get a hybrid to the ball but only succeeded in carving it high, wide and not very handsome into a copse of trees and knee high rough. I could still be out there now looking for it and had more chance of discovering lost tribes. Lost ball. I got the next one down the fairway to leave a pitch in from 95 yards. I hit it fat. Big ball before little ball and it went nowhere. I pitched on and executed well to seven feet and made the putt for a lame double bogey finish. I'm a silly old Hector!

Hector, a silly old fool always getting into scrapes. So reminiscent of my golf. Lots of good and then the odd bad hole
In the end it was good enough for a net 72 (+2) and seventh place in division one. Level par (70) would have been good enough and so the four doubles were a real killer. To be honest, I never felt I was hitting the ball nicely all day long. The mistakes at the fourth and fifth were schoolboy errors. The double at twelve was an errant drive and the last was another poor swing from a poor lie.

I only had one practice session to work on the swing but in truth after a long and tiring day in work, the session didn't achieve much and was more an exercise in bashing balls than constructively looking for the reason why ball striking was off.

I played on Friday in the AGS (Ascot Golf Society) summer meeting off the yellow tees at Royal Ascot. Scorcio. The mercury touched 30 degrees and it was hot, arguably too hot. In a shotgun start I was face to face with that hole again to start, the par three sixth. My opening five iron was right off the bottom groove but it made the green for par. Although the day is a fun event, I wanted to play well but again it was an annoying day of not quite hitting it as I'd want, finding a way to make a score and then finding ways to throw in bad holes to ruin the hard work. In the end I stumbled home with 38 points for a top half finish.

The weekend saw me working on my ball striking on Saturday and Sunday was dedicated to chipping, putting from ten feet and in and some more bunker practice. It's been another frustrating chapter in Homer's Odyssey and the medal was a great opportunity to get a much wanted handicap cut but in the end was a buffer zone finish. It isn't miles off. I'm not spraying it and I'm making some good scores. I just can't stop throwing in bad holes. I'm a silly old Hector!

The weekend work has seen spirits rise. The short game is coming on but needs regular attention. I'm getting more confident holing out during rounds from five-ten feet and the work I did yesterday will renew that confidence. I'm definitely beginning to make a few more putts per round from this range and it's making a difference to scores. Confidence breeds confidence.

This weekend is the club championship. The main prize is for the best gross scores over two rounds and being brutally realistic, short of a second coming, there's no way I can compete. There is a handicap prize and this is where I'm looking. The format is a medal round on Saturday and a halfway cut on completion of play and the top forty or so go out in reverse score order (lowest round one gross scores going out last). I need to stamp out the silly errors which have littered the last few competitive rounds. take my practice work into my golf, go out, have fun and aim to be playing on Sunday in round two. Last year was the first time in ages that I'd survived the halfway axe with a steady net 72 but slipped to a net 77 and a mid table finish.

I feel there is a real score in there. The last few rounds have proved I'm capable of making a decent hash of things even when the game isn't on song. That's the secret to good scoring. I have to stop being a silly old Hector two or three times a round but if I do, I can go low. I'm aiming to play as much as I can this week, with a nod to the short game at some point. I want to be playing as much as I can. The course is where scores are made.

So dear reader there you have it. No handicap progression and another potential win, certainly a top three finish snatched away. Still you have to focus on the positives and if I can play this well and this consistently not hitting it well and get so close, then a good round is going to be a real handicap reducer. Those innocuous comments made in passing are still spurring me on (and yes I finished ahead of the .guy for the second competition running) and as a firm believer in getting out only what you put in, I'm still in a strong position for a big second half of the season starting with the big one next weekend. Time to leave Hector in his house

Monday, 7 July 2014

On The Right Track - Or Must Try Harder

There seems to be a pattern emerging. Stuck behind my desk for eight hours a day, the sun beats down and the weather is perfect for golf. Step out at the weekend for a competition and the waterproofs are required. How does that happen? To be honest I've taken advantage of the decent weather and been out playing a lot more. It might only be nine holes after work but it's given me a chance to enhance the work I've been doing in practice out where it matters.

This weekend was time for the monthly stableford at Royal Ascot Golf Club. Fired by the words from a member about my inability to make it count in competitions and buoyed by my general standard of play I was ready to go. There was an almighty deluge before I was due out which meant no warm up. On the plus side it had fizzled out to an annoying drizzle by my tee time but it meant I could play the opening hole without the need to wear full waterproofs.

It worked and I found the heart of the green at the 229 yard opener. I wasn't so impressed with the three putts that followed but no real harm down. A par followed at the second and third and I was hitting the ball nicely and things were ticking along. I found heavy rough off the tee at the fourth and my approach came up short leaving a horror putt  from off the green to a hole perched on an huge slope. Using my Aimpoint chart and making a perfect read, I allowed the 28 inches it indicated, yes really, and nursed it perfectly to a couple of inches. A fine save. Coming to the fifth, a par five of 503 yards I was way offline from the tee, played back onto the fairway and then hit a hybrid from 187 yards pin high just off the putting surface. I rolled it in for a birdie. I was flying.

I gave a point back at the sixth hole. I would call it my nemesis but that sort of thinking is banned under New Golf Thinking. In the end the chip and putt for a bogey was a good result. I dropped another shot at the ninth but was out in two under my handicap and twenty points. When I started the back nine in the same fashion as the front, with a par, par, par run I was suddenly five shots under my handicap. The thirteenth at Royal Ascot is another long par three playing 186 yards. I hit a wonderful hybrid into the wind and found the middle of the green for a satisfying par. I followed this with a net par at the next.

The fifteenth is another par five. I got a drive away into the left hand semi rough and hit a six iron to leave 107 yards from a good lie in the left hand semi. With just a wedge in my hand and five under my handicap, a green in regulation and two putts would see me in a wonderful position to contend and get a handicap cut. I pulled the wedge left into a bunker. A rare poor shot. I've been working hard on my bunker play lately and so was still feeling positive. I made a terrible swing, caught it way too heavy, and decelerated into the ball leaving it in the bunker. For my next trick, I got it out but somehow managed to contrive to double hit the ball. That was the hole finished and no points.

Part of New Golf Thinking is the ability to stop spiralling downwards after a bad hole. The sixteenth is the tightest driving hole on the course with out of bounds tight left. There are two large trees protecting the right side of the fairway and lush rough for anything too far right taking the out of bounds out of play. I produced my drive of the day and hit it miles. The hole measures 425 yards and I was left with just a six iron from 167 yards. It found the front of the green but I three putted from thirty five feet. A net par but it should have been much better.

The closing holes at Royal Ascot are tough. The penultimate hole is another long par three at 218 yards again with out of bounds in close proximity to the left. I missed the green pin high right and having to pitch over a bunker and with no green to use I was happy to get away with a bogey. I was still two under handicap on the last tee. It's a closing par five, dog legging to the right, and playing uphill with a pond guarding the right hand side of the green.

All I needed was one more good drive. As I mentioned in my last post, my teaching professional Rhys Ap Iolo is trying to get my shoulders lower at address. The bad shot comes from the right shoulder getting too high leading to a hook. No prizes for guessing what came next. A big hook deep into the thick rough. My provisional followed the same route. Fortunately I found the first ball. However, I could barely move it forward and I was playing four by the time I got it back on the fairway. In the end, no points was an inevitability. Thirty six points was eventually only good for eighth place in division one. It could have been so much better and there should have been a handicap cut to rejoice.

I suppose I should be happy with the way I managed to play so well for so much of the round. It proves I'm definitely on the right track and my golf is improving. What it did show though was I've yet to master this New Golf Thinking malarkey when I'm in contention. I fell away in the Stone Cup recently and again on Saturday. I can excuse myself the fifteenth. Bad holes happen and I bounced back well enough bar the three putt. However on the last I rushed. I didn't complete my pre shot routine and it was hurried and I paid the price. There is a lot in New Golf Thinking about RAF (rehearse, aim, flow). It stops the mind wandering. If I said pink elephant, as you read that your mind immediately visualised a pink elephant didn't it. It can't process the word "don't" so if you stand there and think "don't hit it left" or "don't go in the bunker" it processes the muscle memory to do exactly that.

Be honest, you saw this in your mind's eye when you read Pink Elephant didn't you

It was a good round. Don't get me wrong and I'm pleased with how my game is moving on. I just need to find a way to seal the deal though and getting into contention is the first step. There's more work to be done on New Golf Thinking and the short game and putting practice is paying dividends. I am working hard on my swing and the ball striking is better. It's moving nicely in the right direction. I just need to get some handicap cuts to put Homer's Odyssey on the right track. I'm pleased but frustrated. It's not the first time I've felt like that but onwards and upwards.

As a final aside, that member that fired my competitive juices languished a long way behind my tally. Thanks for the motivation and I hope that this round is proof enough that the old boy still has some life in him and that single figures will be reached. For now, I'll continue to plough my own furrow. Time for another chapter of New Golf Thinking me thinks.