Monday, 28 December 2015

2016 - Looking Forward To It

Let me start by hoping all the members at Royal Ascot Golf Club, all my golfing friends and everyone that reads this offering had a wonderful Christmas and that you and your family have a terrific 2016 and that it's a great one on and off the course.

This holiday season gives me the ideal time to look forward to my 2016 and articulate my thoughts on how I plan to attack my aim to hit single figures. Nothing earth shattering aside from some changes in emphasis, doing some stuff differently and better, and not doing some things as much. I've enjoyed looking back at my 2015 statistics and seeing exactly where my mistakes have come. I've known in my mind where my good and bad golf has come from but always good to see something solid to back it up and reaffirm it.

It has been a very good Christmas for your narrator in terms of golfing presents. I've booked in for an Aimpoint Express reading course at the Downshire Golf Centre for March just as the greens begin to come back to life. and run smoother. I've an Aimpoint Express DVD coming which will give me the heads up before the course and something to refer back to at a later date. On top of that my lovely wife has bought me an Aimpoint Express PLG (putter line gate) which allows me to work on my putting, using Aimpoint to get an accurate read. It should make a world of difference to my putting practice next season (Aimpoint Express PLG). I learnt the original mid-point Aimpoint system using a chart to get my read. Times have changed and while I use a self taught Aimpoint Express read I need to learn all the nuances to make my putting even better. I now average 31.71 putts per round in 2015 down from 33.16 so I've made progress. I just need to shave that down closer to 30 putts per round.

Aimpoint PLG - a device to improve my putting and green reading in practice
Regular readers will know I've had some real issues with the short game and in particular chipping and pitching, the latter being a real thorny problem. I've been caught between a traditional pitching method and the linear method. If you look back at my post from an unconvincing practice session Fair Weather Golfer things were confused. I've worked hard on this aspect since and finally feel that I've made forward progress and I'm nailing my colours to the linear method mast. It's a technique I feel more confident with mentally and so I want to take this forward. Picking, sticking and refining the technique should allow me to take it forward. I'm using it for the chipping as well and again, I feel this year it has helped although I've fallen foul of trying to utilise several techniques. And the point of this waffling? It's very simple. My wife also bought me an hour with the innovator of the linear technique, Gary Smith (Gary Smith Coaching). A chance to get comprehensive tuition from one of the top golf coaches in the UK (Profile) and finally get to grips with this method for all things short game.

Gary Smith - Innovator of the linear short game method
So I have solid plans in place to work on putting and the short game. These are the real areas I need to get right. I seemed to spend time in 2015 on long game lessons and this is perhaps the first area I'm looking to change my emphasis on. I've worked hard with Andrew Piper on my long game. There were times when form completely deserted me and I felt I compelled to get a lesson to address the wrongs. Most times, the problems initiated from the same source, poor posture and alignment and shocking tempo, normally way too fast. I've worked hard this year to improve the posture, and now standing taller and the correct distance from the ball. My alignment issue revolve around a delinquent left shoulder either too closed (right of target) or open (pointing left) which then has a knock on effect once the swing starts. I'm still working hard on getting this right but it's something I can now self manage in practice sessions (I'm coming to them). My tempo is gradually being slowed to a blur. It's much slower than it was when I started with Andrew. I've probably got a way to go on this but for now I'm slower and giving myself more time, with less moving parts to make the shot.

The emphasis in 2016 is to move away from lesson upon lesson. I'll still use them if I lose form totally or a if a damaging fault manifests. Other than that, I intend to utilise the linear method for short game, get a follow up session mid-season with Gary Smith to get the short game nailed. This is where my emphasis will now focus. For the greater part I can get a ball around a course, but a stellar short game, it'll help when I've not got an A or even B game to keep the scores respectable. When I'm playing well this will help me fire some low scores and some handicap cuts. I simply don't need to be overdoing long game lessons and it doesn't need to consume my practice.

I've a cunning plan for practice. Quite simply there will be less of it. I've been guilty of working too hard on all aspects of the game and in truth probably over egged the pudding trying to refine my game. I aim to have a maximum of two practice sessions per week, all based around the short game. My focus is switching from practice to playing. That's perhaps the biggest change for 2016. Get out on the course, and simply play, without worrying too much about the how and why. Everyone I've seen move forward better than me are playing at every opportunity and learning how to make a score.

This brings me neatly onto the next major shift for 2016. Stop the mind working too much and make sure it's only working on what will help. That isn't going to be thousands of swing thoughts per shot. I was using New Golf Thinking as a way to focus on one shot at a time, not dwell on mistakes and prepare properly for every shot before playing it. In truth, I've neglected this in 2015 and allowed my head to be filled with too many technical thoughts (a by product of too much practice) and then doing things poorly mentally when I step on the course.

This will be the final game changer for me going forward. Better thinking on the course. As I sit here typing these thoughts for you to peruse, the concept seems rather simple. I need to re-read New Golf Thinking and redo the tests within the book as a base point. From there, go out, play as much golf as possible, socially and competitively and let the game look after itself. I'll invest in the scoring area with my short game, and the rest should follow. Play with more freedom and trust your game. I've been told by a number of teaching professionals I've either used or have seen me practicing over the years that I have the components of a single figure golf swing. Some of those that have simply seen me swing have had never met me or taught me, or had any concept of my pursuit of single figures so I must be doing something properly. I've proved in Golf Monthly Forum events and at my home club, that I am capable of winning and performing well. Getting my mind right, keeping the monkey brain quiet and just letting the good and positive thoughts emerge will be every bit as powerful and constructive as long game tuition. I do want to speak with Andrew Piper about my on course thinking, along with a review of my 2015 statistics and ensure I'm on the right track. I am sure I am.

And there we have it. Three major changes
1) Linear method for all things short game, a lesson with Gary Smith (and a mid season refresher) and a couple of practice sessions per week

2) Cut back on long game tuition, practice, and get out an play and learn how to utilise the improved short game and craft a score even when not swinging on top form. Learn to play golf again.

3) Get the mind right. Stop over thinking everything. Keep the mind quiet on the course and lose the technical thoughts when I play. Go back to New Golf Thinking and use it to get me set up perfectly over every shot and then trust my decisions and my technique.

I'm really looking forward to the start of 2016 and the next chapter in my golfing odyssey (Homer's odyssey if you will given that's my nickname). I'm not working now until January 4th 2016 and while I've had a self imposed exile for the last month bar a little bit of short game practice, now is the time to get out, play a few games and get ready for a full on assault on single figures next year. I hope whatever you want from your golf in 2016, that you achieve and surpass your expectations and that you enjoy it. I know I will


  1. You state you've improved your putting ratio and have duly displayed the stats above, however, in isolation I don't believe they tell the whole story, have your GIR (greens in regulation) stayed static or been bettered?

    I'm currently reading "Every Shot Counts", it's a very good read, especially for those that spend too much time on putting stats!

  2. Fellow GM Forumite here (albeit with about 48,000 less posts). I admire your love of the game and your dedication to improvement. I can't play the game like you with so much going on in my head. Got down from 11.3 to 7.5 at the age of 58 (59 now), I drive it under 200 yards (albeit arrow straight), my long and medium irons are very poor, but I can chip and putt. I did have a lesson this year, but hardly ever practice so it was neither use nor ornament.

    Good luck to you with your golfing exploits in 2016, and I would love to play with you sometime.