Sunday, 23 November 2014

Another Season Almost Done And Dusted

Sitting indoors with the rain teeming down in deepest Berkshire, it feels like winter is finally here and that the golfing season for 2014 is more or less done and dusted. There are one or two more competitions at Royal Ascot Golf Club to enjoy in the run up to Christmas and then a full and active calendar starting again in January but for now it's time to sit back and reflect on where Homer's Odyssey took me.

Well first and foremost I didn't reach the promised land of single figures. To be honest starting at 11.4 in January I never really got the handicap moving the right way and loitered around 11 all season, reaching a low of 10.9 following 39 points in the Stone Cup over the May bank holiday. Since then it's climbed with the odd buffer zone thrown in but currently sits at 11.7 (playing off 12). All in all it moved up just 0.3 over the whole season and so I feel there has been far more consistency this year than recent years. However there is still a feeling of disappointment that after a good winter of lessons with Rhys ap Iolo working on the swing, I didn't manage to really ever get going.

However there is still much to enjoy. As I do each and every year, I've played different courses, met different people and really enjoyed my golf. It may not seem so at times on here, but despite the all the hard work I put in, and despite the set backs and pitfalls, every time I tee it up, I'm there for enjoyment first and foremost. If I do something well then great. If I have a bad round, I'll go back and start working even harder. That I'm afraid is just the way I am.

So what positives can I take? Well for one, the swing itself continues to develop and mature and has become far more robust and reliable. There are far less moving parts, it's on a better path and I am hitting it much better more often. The short game has come and gone and remains a source of constant frustration, although I have remedial plans in place for early 2015 to sort this once and for all. Putting has become a strong facet and both my pace, reading using Aimpoint and holing out from that crucial 2-3 foot range has become far more reliable.

I had a lovely win in March at the Golf Monthly Forum King of King's qualifier at Camberley Heath, shooting a gross 80 (net 68) including a back nine of just +4 gross and squeezed home on count back. It was one of those days when the driver in particular was working well and so I found myself in little trouble and could go for greens or lay up to the ideal yardage.

Since then, arguably the peak of the season, I've usually managed to find new and fresh ways of playing fifteen or sixteen holes in a round nicely and then chucking a real scorecard wrecker in from nowhere. It's been a recurring theme and I'm sure if you've been a regular follower of my progress (and if not why not?) then you'll know I've been going well in club competitions and right in the mix and then falling away. Of course there have also been rounds when I struggled to string two consecutive good shots together but that's the nature of this fickle mistress we call golf.

Below are my figures for the season with a comparison from the software (Scoresaver 2) on how that compares to my playing handicap of 12

Fairways Hit: 44%  (Hcap Std: 14)
Greens In Reg: 26%  (Hcap Std: 12)
Putts Per Round: 33.16  (Hcap Std: 15)
Sand Saves: 12%  (Hcap Std: 14)
Birdie Conversion: 11%  (Hcap Std: 20)
Par Scrambles: 16%  (Hcap Std: 19)
Penalties Per Round: 1.44  (Hcap Std: 15)

On first viewing that wouldn't seem to represent progress but many of these figures, especially greens in regulations and putts per round are far better (up from 22% and 34.65). The fairways hit is a little down and clearly I'm not making anything near enough birdies or scrambling well enough. Again in isolation they don't tell the full story but it does give me a benchmark to compare my progression year on year

Enough of the numbers. I have also been lucky enough to have enjoyed a fantastic opportunity courtesy of Golf Monthly to take part in New Golf Thinking at The Grove near Watford and in updates with the author John O'Keeffe since ( It's a developing thing with John and Golf Monthly and believe there's going to be an update in the magazine in the new year.

What this has done is give me a far clearer mind set on the course and the ability to play one shot at a time much more often. It's an ongoing project and I still don't do it all of the time but for the most part it's been a great asset as well as giving me the opportunity of a free round at The Grove. What it does so well for my own game is stop one bad shot or one bad hole becoming a downward spiral and compounding the errors on the next hole and the one after that. Again, if you've read my reports, you'll see that after I've chucked these silly holes in, I now seem to respond with a solid par or better at the next hole. In days gone by I'd have stewed, started thinking about technique and leaked more shots. It's been a great tool and for the price of a couple of pints I seriously recommend you downloading it on Kindle or buying the paperback.

I had a great day at the Golf Monthly Help For Heroes Day in September and was pleased to have helped raise over £15,000 for a great cause. We played at North Hants Golf Club and it's a course you simply have to play. Very challenging but still a fair test, its a heathland course that rewards accuracy and punishes heavily anything wayward. I didn't have my best day and finished mid-table but had a fantastic day with some Golf Monthly Forum members I'd only conversed with online from Scotland and Bolton. It really has become a must play event on the forum.

So where does the future take me? Well for starters I am steadfast in my belief I have the ability to get to single figures. That point has already been reiterated to me, not only by Rhys ap Iolo who has worked hard to get my swing working as well as it has but by a guy called Andy Piper at Lavender Park Golf Centre. I went to see him recently on the recommendation of several single figure players at my club. We only tweaked set up, including getting rid of a cupped wrist at address, better posture and alignment and I'm already reaping benefits. He has a pedigree in the short game and will be my secret weapon in this area for 2015.

For me, winter golf is more about getting out whenever the conditions and weather allow and just playing without too much focus on scores. It's a chance to take the work from lessons and the range onto the course and see how it stands up. The season won't really kick off until the start of March and I intend to be ready. I need to look at three areas over the winter and going forward. Chipping, short range pitches from the 20-30 yard area and bunkers. The latter is getting better but not good enough and the other two are just too inconsistent. I've got to the point now where I trust the swing to function more often than not. I will continue to work on it and can always get it looked at if it misfires. I've probably got it as close to a modern day swing as I'll get and it's nothing like the 80's model I've carried with me for three decades. The transition has been long and at time painful in terms of frustration, but I think it's been for the better.

So there we have it. A season of good and bad but far more consistency and I can end 2014 in a Homer happy place. It's been eventful but as I've said I've met new people, played new courses and had new golfing experiences on and off the course. I've learnt more and becoming a better golfer. Sometimes progress can't always be marked by handicap progression and scores. Yes, it's annoying that all the optimism at the start of the 2014 season really didn't manifest into a handicap drop and instead I slipped over the threshold to 12 but I've not really moved at all from the starting point. All round I've improved and I just need to find a way to string eighteen holes together and lose those killer shots at the wrong time. However, anyone watching the season ending coverage of the European Tour today on TV will see how even the best can make double bogey when right in the heart of the battle. It gives me hope even at my humble level.

I hope your 2014 season has given you all that you hoped and if not, you've understood why and will be able to find a way to make 2015 work for you. As for Three Off The Tee, they'll be a few subtle changes including a few more equipment reviews, more course reviews and some more general posts, akin to the ones I've done on club membership, dress codes and car park golfers. I doubt all of you will agree necessarily with my point of view but hopefully it'll promote some thoughts and comments. I'm hoping to post far more video footage of the swing for the guru's to consider. It won't be pretty necessarily but it doesn't have to be as long as it works. Hopefully the 2015 version will be bigger and better and I hope you enjoy it.

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