Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Turning A Corner Or Flattering To Deceive - Hillside Awaits

As you will recall, your narrator was waiting on the final placing for his dismal net 82 in the last medal. It was only good for 23rd place in Division one and it was a very poor performance. Undaunted I was able to enjoy some social golf last weekend with no handicap pressure or card in pencil in hand. 

Both rounds on Saturday and Sunday were a curate's egg of good, bad and a few "oh my god's" that defied description. It has been an ongoing problem for a while and it's killing my scores. I didn't disgrace myself too much and finished mid-table in both roll ups. I'm still working hard on improving posture and slowing the tempo down to give myself more time to actually complete the swing going back and finish it off after I strike the ball. In practice it's been steady progress but hasn't transferred to the course...yet.

On Thursday I'm off to Hillside, which is situated next to Open venue, Royal Birkdale and is an final qualifying course in its own right and rated number 30 in the Golf Monthly top 100 courses. I'm not that conversant with the nuances of links golf, rarely getting an opportunity to play this type of golf. It is the Golf Monthly Forum "Race To Hillside" national final and I am there as one of eight regional qualifiers having got through at Blackmoor Golf Club (http://threeoffthetee.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/lightening-strikes-twice.html)

Regular readers will notice your narrator struggling of late and the handicap has gone out from a starting point of 11.7 in 2015 to 12.3 and dangerously close to the 13 mark. Not what I wanted and not ideal in a pursuit to single figures but I never said the journey would be quick or easy!

I hit the range last night and there was some good stuff there. Some not so good but enough to persuade me the 225 mile journey may not be quite the waste of time my current form might indicate. It promises to be a tough test and the forecast is for 15-20mph winds to keep it interesting. They haven't announced which tees we'll be off but it will not doubt be a tough examination

The view to the 1930's style clubhouse
I managed to get today off and was up at Royal Ascot by 7.00am to get a final practice round in before setting off. I have to be honest I wasn't sure what to expect but what transpired may just be a sign I'm turning a corner. I started par, par, birdie, par, par, standing at -1 gross on the sixth tee, It's been a bit of a tricky hole and doesn't suit my eye. It was blowing into a stiff breeze (ideal preparation for my links golf examination) and I hit a four iron to the front edge. Sadly I was to tamely three putt. I dropped a shot at the next after a poor tee shot but it's stroke index 2 (so a net par). A par at the eighth and a I got a good drive away at the ninth. I hit a poor approach, way too fast in my tempo but pitched on and two putted. Out in +2 gross

It was going well until the 12 where I hit a terrible drive, pulled low and left and destined never to be seen again in shin high grass. It led to an ugly triple. It's these killer holes that blight the card too often. I then hit one of those "oh my god shots" off the thirteenth tee off the toe and nearly missing it completely. It led to another double. The fourteenth is a dog leg left to right. I hit a good tee shot but pulled it left of my target line and again it cost me a lost ball and a triple. I'd gone from +3 to +11 in four holes. I can't stop the bleeding. 

I made par at the fifteenth, a battling bogey (net par) at the sixteenth and found the green at the long 218 yard penultimate hole hitting it with an excellent hybrid. I didn't hit a great drive at the last and it found a juicy lie in the rough. I didn't make good conduct but my third was a great fairway wood. I pitched well to twelve feet but couldn't make an unlikely par. All in all it ended up as an 82 gross (+12) and level handicap.

It had the potential to be so much better. Playing on my own (but holing out everything) there was not pressure but on the front nine I was picking my targets and playing the wind magnificently. Definitely some of the best golf I've played for ages. 

Have I turned a corner of am I still flattering to deceive. There's not doubt Hillside will provide a proper examination especially in the predicted winds. If I do what I know I should be doing and swinging that much smoother and slowing it down to Mach 1 or below then who knows?

One thing is for certain, the first will be a tough opener. It measures anything between 386 and 396 yards depending on the tees we'll use. According to the website:

"The railway dominates the left hand side of the hole and the fairway bunkering means that a well positioned drive is crucial. If you manage to stay on the fairway the approach to the green should be relatively straight forward.

The first hole. Not exactly a gentle opener
I'm not convinced and that bunker by the green looks daunting but we'll see how it goes. I'm energised by my performance this morning and I'm too long in the tooth to get overly excited. I've had too many false dawns but it does reiterate the fact that the work I did from Andy Piper at Lavender Park Golf Centre on posture and tempo is starting to pay dividends. There is a good golfer in there and single figures is achievable and still firmly on my agenda. I have a stubborn steadfast belief in what I'm doing and that I'll get there. 

I'll be sure to give you all the details, the good and the ugly and hopefully your narrator will have tales of daring deeds, exciting golf and a good performance. Ideally a win would be good and I always play to win (but lose graciously as my dear old dad use to say) and I am invigorated and ready to go. The bag is packed, the outfit chosen and I'm ready to hit the road. A front nine of +2 gross would be nice. Hopefully the corner has been turned and that Hillside isn't another episode of flattering to deceive.

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