Saturday, 9 August 2014

Wonky Golf

More glorious weather the weekend after the club championship and I was feeling in confident mood as I'd played some nice golf for the majority of the championship bar two silly holes per round that took the gloss off a good performance. I was swinging the club nicely.

However, I'd hit some balls in the week and it hadn't gone at all to plan and I'd lost whatever feeling and timing I'd had. I knew I should have bottled it up to keep. Saturday was the normal roll up and even in the warm up, the swing didn't feel right and the strikes weren't perfect. Distance and direction were off.

In the end, the Saturday game was a struggle from start to finish. I'd put a different putter in the bag, an Odyssey Tank #1 which is a counter balanced bladed model. There was no particular reason for the change. The Odyssey Protype Tour #9, a half mallet model had been performing very well. I just fancied a change. It was a good idea on paper but on the course itself it wasn't my best idea ever. It didn't stay in the bag for the medal round the following day.

In the end it was a frustrating round. The ball striking was erratic and I was working very hard to perform with any degree of consistency. Good holes were punctuated with bad shots and whenever I felt I had a modicum of control I'd miss a fairway or green with consummate ease. In the end it was a tale of two halves and a modest 14 points going out was improved with a better, under handicap, 20 points on the back nine.

It was never enough to win any money in a tough old roll up school. I was happier with the back nine and hoping to take the form of the last nine into my medal round. I know it's in there. I've been working hard in practice and from time to time shown I'm capable of a low score. I just needed to convert.

I was second group out in the medal on Sunday. Again warm up hadn't gone to plan and I was still hitting it poorly compared to recent weeks. The opening tee shot was high off the club and was never going to make the distance to the green on the 229 yard opener. I chipped and two putted. Net par and no disaster.

I made par at the par five and actually found both fairway and green in regulation. However any thoughts that perhaps things were going to go well drifted away with the tee shot at the third. To say I blocked it right was an understatement. It missed the fairway, the thick collar of rough down the right of the hole and ended up in the fairway bunker on the adjacent fourth fairway. I got it out short of the green, but only into the thick rough. My pitch came up short and I dumped it in sand. However a good splash shot to seven feet let me get a bogey out of the situation. Playing the fourth the correct way, I hit a five wood right. Not as far right as the previous drive but enough to find the rough. I tried to find the green from 125 yards with a nine iron but again was right of target. I chipped between the green side bunkers but the slope took the ball eight feet past. However the Odyssey #9 reminded me why it should always be in the bag as I rolled in a great par putt.

I was right off the tee on the fifth into the rough but managed to coax a five iron from 169 yards to the back of the green. Shame the flag was situated at the very front. I did well to get it to within four feet from all over forty five feet away and made the par putt. For a change, I decided to go left off the tee on the par three sixth. It definitely flirted with the out of bounds but was saved by tangling with a tree and it was short but safely in play. A delightful chip to two feet saved another par. I was just two over par gross after six holes and hadn't hit a decent shot yet.

And then the dream ended. I hooked a hybrid off the tee on the seventh. Heading towards thick rough I hit a provisional. The original was never seen again. I needed a good shot with my second ball, Playing my fourth I hooked it way left. Again I played a provisional. Again the original was lost. Playing the third different ball of the hole and my seventh shot I chipped on weakly, two putted and carded a nine. Not in a medal thank you.

I recovered well enough to hit the green on the short par three to record a par and on the ninth hit a better drive and hit a lovely hybrid from 178 yards into a freshening wind to find the green and secure a decent par. Out in 42, or seven over gross which considering the horror of the ninth was refreshing given the way I was playing. I was grinding a reasonable score.

I started the back nine with a par. Finally a long drawing drive and a decent iron onto the green to set up a nice two putt par. I thought I'd found the green at the par three eleventh but it had rolled off the putting surface. My chip was poor and never really gave me a chance to save par.

I'd run into trouble on the twelfth in the second round of the club championship. This time I opted for a three wood off the tee as it was downwind and found the fairway. I had 168 yards and hit a lovely five iron in. Unfortunately it was right of target and finished pin high right. I chipped on but my first putt was way too strong and left a nasty three footer which I missed. Another double. 

I hit a dreadful tee shot at the thirteenth, another that had troubled me the week before. My approach also missed the green but luckily I chipped to two feet to scramble the ugliest of bogey four's. I went left off the tee with the driver on the fourteenth to add some variety into the mixture of poor shots. It found a good lie in the semi rough and I hit my shot of the day from 234 yards into the green to make a great par. I made bogey at the fifteenth too despite coming up short with my approach, having gone way left off the tee and being forced to chip out. I couldn't reach the green with my third and my approach was short. A good pitch to seven feet and single putt but it was a sloppy bogey.  

I was way right off the tee again on the sixteenth despite hitting three wood and could only pitch back onto the fairway. I then missed the green right from 105 yards with a wedge which is unforgivable. A pitch and two putts and another double bogey. My tee shot at the penultimate hole was good but was long at the 225 yard par three. I pitched back to five feet but didn't make par. 

I found the fairway on the last and hit a reasonable five wood up the fairway on the long uphill par five. By now the heavens had opened and in the rain I pulled a seven iron left of the green. A pitch and two putts for a closing bogey. Back in a poor 44 shots for a total of 86, net 75 (+5) and 17th place in division one. 

It was as good as I could have done and to be honest there were so many poor shots and silly mistakes that took away any momentum. I hadn't played well all weekend. I can't put my finger on what's going wrong and it doesn't feel a million miles away but there were too many shots going left and right. Very wonky golf and it makes scoring very hard to do. 

I've now taking an enforced two week sabbatical from golfing activities. Aside from the fact that Royal Ascot Golf Club being totally closed next weekend for the famous Red Bull air race series, my good lady wife has just had an operation and was discharged from hospital yesterday so I am in full dutiful husband mode to look after her. No practice, no golf. 

To be honest it might be a good thing. I've been working hard all season and while I feel I am progressing forward, the handicap has returned to the starting point at 11.4. The short game and the putting in particular are coming on leaps and bounds and I'm starting to get out what I've put in. 

My season has been a story of improved ball striking and better quality shots. The work I've done with Rhys ap Iolo has really started to pay off. The good work though has been undone through a number of meltdowns per round. These have come from nowhere and are real show stoppers. I've got better at not letting these affect the round and New Golf Thinking has certainly helped keep my mind clear of swing thoughts and negativity.

So how would I sum up the season to date. I'd give myself a B-. Here are my statistics to date and a handicap comparison courtesy of Scoresaver 2 software.

Fairways Hit: 46%  (Hcap Std: 13)
Greens In Reg: 25%  (Hcap Std: 12)
Putts Per Round: 33.25  (Hcap Std: 15)
Sand Saves: 17%  (Hcap Std: 10)
Birdie Conversion: 9%  (Hcap Std: 24)
Par Scrambles: 16%  (Hcap Std: 19)
Driving Distance: n/a  (Hcap Std: n/a)
Penalties Per Round: 1.33  (Hcap Std: 14)

The enforced lay off is going to have one of two consequences. The break will either invigorate and I'll come back fresh and playing well or I'll struggle and have to work twice as hard to get back to form. There is a big event over the bank holiday, the Longhurst Cup. I've won this honour board event in the past (one of my two major wins) but I'll be going straight into this without a single ball struck. Not what I'd call perfect preparation.

Wonky golf isn't fun. It's hard work and to be honest not very enjoyable. I am pleased with how I scrambled as good a score as I can but not how I played. So what of the future? Well I am moving away from the target but I am playing better. A paradox but sometimes you can't always measure progress in terms of handicap progression alone and it's these foolish holes out of nowhere that's the biggest cause of concern in my 2014 season. That is where my problem lies. I'll talk to Rhys when he gets back of his holiday (how inconvenient) and see what he thinks. There has to be a pattern and reason and once I understand that maybe, just maybe I can stop these, get the cuts my improved all round play has deserved.

Clearly my blog reading friends, there won't be an update on Homer's Odyssey for a while but I don't want you wandering off to another blog. There will be a few bits and pieces to keep you more than occupied and interested. For now I'm off to be attend to the sick wife and try not to miss playing and practicing too much.

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