Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Golf Sucks

Golf sucks. There I've said it. Certainly the way I'm playing it does. Another monthly medal on the hallowed turf of Royal Ascot Golf Club and another dose of ignominy with a net 82 and a massive twelve shots over my handicap. Oh golf swing where art thou?

The thing is, I worked really hard on my game last week and in practice I was really happy with the ball striking, flight and dispersion. I was in a smooth tempo and in a very confident, almost bullish mood. Even in the warm up prior to the round there wasn't a hint of the carnage to come. This has been the case recently. If you are a regular reader of the trials and tribulations of a fanatical golfer and his obsessive desire to reach a single figure handicap (and if not I want a written explanation as to why) then you’ll know from recent posts that my current form is nothing like good enough to make this happen any time soon and yet within these are reports of progression being made in practice.

Simply put I cannot replicate what I am doing in practice on the course. I've been back through New Golf Thinking and worked on things like RAF (Rehearse, Aim, Flow) and know I am doing the same thing regarding pre-shot routine. I've been checking posture (a big issue in recent months) and standing over the ball with a clear mind, free from technical swing thoughts. I've spoken before about tempo and how at times I need to slow it to a blur and again it’s something I focused on a lot last week and my swing had a lovely speed and feel to it.

The round itself started off in strange fashion. My tee shot at the 229 yard opener was sweetly struck but a push right. It found a horrible lie in heavy rough, on a down slope and with a bunker to go over. No prizes for guessing where my next was played from. I splashed out well to about ten feet and made the putt for a bogey (and a sand save for the statistics).

And then the rot set in. I lost my tee shot on the second out of bounds right. It was a horrid swing. Way too quick and there was barely a pause between setting up over the ball and pulling the trigger. I was actually aiming for the left side of the fairway and so this slice was forty yards off line. It got what it deserved and an ugly triple bogey put me behind the eight ball.

I steadied the ship over the next few holes and came to the fifth, a 503 par five that starts by curving from right to left off the tee and then snakes back the other way towards the green. This has a wide fairway and room towards the rough right and is definitely one to open the shoulders normally. However, I was aware that the swing wasn't dialled in and so deliberately looked to stand and make a smooth and controlled swing and find some of that elusive tempo it had been lacking. Whether I was too careful or just sub-consciously speeded up is irrelevant. I hit a horrid duck hook left and out of bounds. It would lead to another triple bogey.

The sixth hole is a par three of 178 yards and in the past I've had issues here. However in recent months I have had more success and it holds no fear. It’s nothing more than a smooth long iron or hybrid and plenty of room right once you get past the tree line and the out of bounds lurking. The one place not to miss is left where out of bounds awaits very close by and there is precious little room that side of the green should the ball stay in play. I tried so hard to wipe the memory of the previous hole. My round starts from here and we can still salvage respectability. Not after another supersonic swing close to Mach 1 and another duck hook out of bounds. Another triple bogey. You cannot win a medal with three of those in your opening six holes.

There was nothing that resembled anything I’d worked on all week. By the time I’d limped through the opening nine holes I was a massive +14 gross and had used all of my handicap allowance and would need to play the back nine in +1 gross to have any sniff of the buffer zone and a chance to prevent a handicap increase.

I lost that shot on the tenth with an annoying three putts having found a green in regulation for once. I made double at the next, taking three to escape from a green side bunker at this par three. I eventually made up and down (another sand save) but the damage was done. Our twelfth hole is a sharp dog leg of 409 yards and is stroke index one. I got a good drive away (for once) although it found a juicy lie in the rough. I took a five iron knowing it would come out low and fast and it did exactly that and landed short and rolled up and onto the green to within twelve feet. For once the putter worked and I made a birdie. Too little too late to make a difference but pleasing all the same.

The remaining holes were a combination of bad shots, unforced errors and the occasional glimpse of a proper golfer. It was messy and added up to a disgusting 94 (+24 gross less my handicap to give the net 82). It was only good for a miserable 28th place in division one and almost at the very bottom. Close but not quite thanks to another golfer having an even more torrid time than me.

Golf sucks and the weekend medal was a nightmare of huge proportions
So what happened? Again it’s hard to say. Clearly going out of bounds three times would be the root cause and I didn't drive the ball well all day hitting only 42% of fairways. Naturally this is always going to put pressure on the rest of the game and 22% of greens in regulation illustrates that I never gave myself a chance. I can live with thirty three putts. Not great but not a disaster despite several three putts.

I really don’t know the way forward and my game seems entrenched in a rut. The handicap has gone up yet again and is now 12.1. That’s a million miles away from the 9.4 I need to reach the odyssey of single figures.

I played on Sunday in the normal roll up. Again the opening few holes laid the template. Hook off the tee into a hazard on the first. No points. I carved my second on the second towards out of bounds from the fairway and was lucky it stayed on the golf course. The provisional ball didn't. I missed greens when I found a fairway and the front nine wasn't great. I made a double at the twelfth and then seemed to play well for the final few holes. In the end it was a respectable thirty one points. I still made mistakes and the swing still felt out of sync but I found a way to make a score and get it around.

The game isn't right but I don’t know why and suspect it’s only a tiny problem. I have hit some good shots, enough to convince me I still know what to do some of the time at least. The driver would seem to be the biggest culprit and yet in my practice last week it was behaving obediently. It has to boil down largely to tempo. I'm not making any swing changes and not changing my address position or posture (and I'm being quite circumspect and ensuring it’s good over the ball).

I can’t carry on this way. Golf sucks when you chop it round live a novice and I am so much better than this garbage I keep serving up. I still have a rock firm belief in my talent, ability and sheer stubbornness to get to single figures and the golf professional I have tuition with shares those views. However I need to find a solution to my woes and fast. There are a lot of big events coming up, including the Jubilee Cup at Royal Ascot on Bank Holiday Monday. This is a pair’s event, better ball stableford off three quarter handicaps and I'm a former winner. It’s one of the Royal Ascot honour board events and so quite prestigious. I've also got the Golf Monthly Forum “Race To Hillside” national final (at Hillside naturally) at the end of May and that’s a links course that will take no prisoners, especially if the wind blows and my game is in no shape to deal with the questions that will pose.

The thing is, despite chopping it around like a muppet in the medal I tried on every shot. The head didn't wander or drop as it had in the March medal where I’d carded a gross 91, net 79 and wrote on here how that was as bad as it gets. How very wrong I was as Saturday proved. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger or so they say. I think it’s still a very fine line between this rut I'm in and the form I displayed not so long ago at Blackmoor Golf Club. Nothing has fundamentally changed and aside from a quick tweak with the pro at the range about posture I've not had any further tuition and the work I did over the winter was holding firm.

I'm always keen to hear from others, particularly better players and pros who have gone through similar or worked with club players like me to improve. Where am I going wrong? What can I do differently? If you’d care to comment at the bottom of this I’d be interested to hear your views, especially in light of my recent doldrums. Is it too much practice and too little actual golf played? To me it keeps coming back to tempo and a failure to simply give myself time on the shot to complete the back swing and get back through the ball properly. The transition in particular is rushed and I end up trapped or making compensations on the way back. Let me know what you think.

I hit the range on Monday night and the nightmare continued. I hit the panic button and hastily arranged a lesson for yesterday with a guy called Andrew Piper at Lavender Golf Centre. I've seen him a couple of times before and he never seems to make any major changes but just tweaks what I have. Last night was no different. The posture had regressed again with the shoulders too far over the feet, so back to standing more upright and the weight back on the balls of the feet. And then the big change and a major mind melt.

As suspected and despite my best efforts the tempo was still supersonic. What he asked me to do was swing as slowly as possible and stop once I made a ninety degree shoulder turn. From there just hit it. Wow. So much time through the ball and time on the way back to make a good coil. Of course it wouldn't be me if there wasn't a but coming. I could do the turn as slowly as Andrew wanted, and it really did feel like it was taking ages, but my hands kept on going once I reached a ninety degree turn. With them working independently it was hard then to get back to the ball consistently. When I turned and stopped it was fine. Let the hands carry on and it was carnage, especially when it came to the driver.

I hit the practice ground tonight to hit off grass rather than a range mat and it was very hard. I wasn't helped by a keen wind blowing. I struggled again to stop the hands working too far after my turn. Good ones were nice. Bad ones would have been off the golf course. It's only a first session and not in ideal conditions and so I'm not too upset. Back to the range tomorrow and try again.

Trust me this can’t and won’t continue. I’ll find a way. I hate it when golf sucks. I hate playing badly. I hate not seeing the fruits of my labour in terms of time invested not paying off and I hate not playing anywhere near the ability I know I have and swinging anywhere near the way I’ve done over the Winter. The swing isn’t broken so I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel and I prefer to look at it as being AWOL over the last few rounds. I’ve sent out search teams and once I find it, hopefully in the medal this weekend, you’ll be one of the first to know. Keep the faith dear reader. This ain’t done yet


  1. Martin,
    I like reading your blog and tales of woe, but it is clear the path your on simply is not getting you where you want to go. You seem to have plenty of successful range and practice sessions, but can rarely transfer these successes to the course. I can only draw two conclusions. Either you are over exaggerating your range form or you are simply creating a practice environment which is so different to your on the course environment that it is simply not transferable. Simply put, golf is a game played on a golf course, not from a driving range bay. I apologise for the tone, please be ensured that I am trying to offer you some friendly advice! I'm a reasonable golfer (5hcp), and the thing I struggle with the most is my chipping and pitching up to about 40 yards out. Unfortunately I do not have the same time to commit to practice as you do yourself (!) but by far the most effective way I have found to practice is on the course itself. Not in a roll up, or with other folk. Just nip out for a few holes myself, find a quiet stretch on the course, and chuck down a ball here and a ball there in spots which would intimidate me on the course. It's amazing how quickly I become comfortable facing the types of shots that on a weekend game normally end in disaster. I find this is then transferred to my weekend play far more effectively than time on the range. Please try this. Instead of a couple of range sessions, head up to the course a couple of times a week and spent an hour playing 4 or 5 holes. Keep things simple and I'm sure you will reach your goal. The jump from 12 to 9 is not a difficult one when you are ready for it. You are a just a purple patch away, but to do so you must bring your skills onto the course.
    Play well,

    1. Thanks for taking the time to respond. Some interesting points you raise, many of which I agree with. There's a world of difference between a range and course and while I try and make the practice realistic and not a ball hitting exercise it still doesn't replicate lies and conditions on a course. I am working on my short game from 50 yards and in, but at the moment it's the chips around the green I need to get sorted, followed closely by bunkers

      I love playing solo golf and getting out and playing a few holes and trying a few shots out and I agree that it's the best way of learning different shots.

      Range form isn't being exaggerated (what's the point?) and I have enjoyed some solid sessions and gone out on the course in confident mood. The issue over the last few weeks has been the number of unforced errors, frittering shots away. As you say it's not a million miles from where I want it and if I can halt the 0.1 increases and hit the form my practice shows is in there then I will get some hefty cuts.

      I'm glad you enjoy my humble offerings and I appreciate you taking the effort to reply (get stuck in everyone else!). Contrary to how it may come over, I always enjoy the golf and the work I put in and a bad round is just a catalyst to go out next time and try again. I'll keep your words of wisdom in mind and hope I can do you proud in the medal next Sunday.

  2. Hi mate having read about your woes for months now its time to be honest and upfront.

    You need to stop having lessons,lessons just put more thoughts into your head on top
    of the ones you already have.
    You need to have 1 thought when hitting the ball not 20.
    Im sure by now you know your swing better than any pro so my advice is just play and enjoy.
    You will get to single figures but not if you keep having lessons.
    Good luck

  3. Hi
    Let me first introduce myself. I am 70 yrs old now (where have those years gone?), started as a 24 h'cap- got it all the way down to 3, played as a Cat 1 golfer for 25years. I now no longer play competitions due to the humility of chunking (yipping) chips and yipping 1 foot putts!!!!
    But on a good day I can still shoot 1-4 over (gross) on 9 or 13 holes - whichever we play.I still buy new clubs, practice and read instructional articles. I have kept notebooks over the years of methods and swing thoughts and reread them regularly. So I now have about 4 "systems" I can use at any time and often do in the same 9 holes!!!!
    On the practice ground I can use any of these systems and eventually hit shots that make me say WOW! - BUT as mentioned before, taking that to the course is the most difficult thing. Bottom line is hitting ball after ball on the range is not the same as playing golf.
    Sometimes on the course I vow to play and not think which I find absolutely impossible to do after 3 bad shots!!
    I could write and talk golf for ages!! and I hate this game sometimes.
    Keep at it - bogeys are OK but you must avoid the "dreaded double". Review your course management especially on danger holes - you don't have to use your driver on every par4!