Wednesday, 20 April 2016

It's Been A While

It's been a while in all senses of the word. My golfing exploits have been seriously curtailed in recent weeks with the ongoing health issues. Practice has been sporadic and so with little to report, there has been a lull in proceedings on here.

I had managed an appearance in the monthly medal at the start of the month. With a lack of golf, especially on the course, I was pleased to avoid any major embarrassment and carded a net 76 (+6) and finished thirteenth in division one. I'm now playing off 13 (12.5 to be exact). The good news however is with the warmer weather, I've started to work on the game a little more and have been playing more golf. Granted last weekend wasn't fantastic and form was shocking and I hit the ball terribly and although I've tried to graft through it at the range, form was patchy at best. My pitching issues returned, partly through a lack of application on my part and partly through dabbling again with various techniques and eventually getting caught between a rock and a hard place.

Before I was taken ill, I put my name on the list for the inter-club matches and was surprised to see my name down in the home game on Saturday against local rivals Maidenhead Golf Club. These matches are hard fought, but are generally friendly games. Some have a small trophy up for grabs (sadly not this one). They aren't as cut throat as some of the knockout matches, usually county or national events, where the better players are representing the club in an attempt for glory.

I was partnered with an old golfing partner Derek Williams. In all honesty, the match was done and dusted by the fifth as we surged into a five up lead. In fairness to the opposition, they never really got started and made a number of poor shots early on. I did rub salt in the wound with an outrageous birdie at the fourth with a viciously curving putt from fifteen feet. They rallied a degree but we were still four up at the turn.

Maidenhead Golf Club
We lost the eleventh to give them a just a hint of a comeback. We won the tricky twelfth courtesy of receiving a shot, and I then hit my shot of the day at the 186 yard thirteenth, sticking a five wood to ten feet for a winning par. We won the fourteenth in relative comfort to tie up the match 5&4. The damage was done early on and had the opposition played the front nine as they had the back, it could have been a tighter game. Overall the match was tied 3-3. Despite the win, I didn't actually play that well. Patchy would describe it well. Some good and some rank rubbish in there as well.

Sunday saw me returning to the scene of the crime. A fortnight ago in the Sunday roll up I posted my lowest ever points score. There is a tradition in the roll up that the lowest score is dubbed "bitch of the day" and as a result has to order the drinks at the bar and serve them to the tables for the other competitors, paid for from the winnings of the roll up top scorer. It was my first time I'd suffered this mis-fortune and the banter was savage and incessant. I wasn't going to repeat the experience in a hurry.

The day dawned cold, but sunny and I stood on the first tee with no expectations, especially given the dodgy form in the match the day before. I had warmed up well and had a good tempo and was striking it reasonably well. My opening tee shot was well hit but left into a bunker. I've struggled with this facet, mainly as the practice bunker has been waterlogged for long periods. It came out well and softly and finished eight feet away. The putt was sweet and dropped for a sandy par.

At the second, I had 176 yards in. I nailed a four iron and assumed it would be on the green. However came up short. Annoying but I was pleased with the shot. The trick was repeated at the third when I hit an equally good five iron which was reluctant to find the green and came up short. I chipped to six feet but missed the putt. Up and down pars at the next two holes and I was on a roll. I gave one back at the sixth, something of a bogey hole for me. However again, I hit the hybrid as well as I could and just missed the green left. It was on a horrid, wet muddy lie and so I did well to get it to six feet but couldn't make par. That was redeemed at the next where I hit a quality five wood from 221 yards and which this time found the green for a safe par.

If you are a regular reader, you will know that in 2015 and in the rare games of 2016, many of my rounds, good, bad or indifferent were regularly blighted by car crash holes. Despite being in the midst of my best round this year, I had one of those moments again. Having found a bunker right of the green at the 139 yard eighth, I thinned the bunker shot, sculled the pitch back into sand and thinned another bunker shot. I pitched on, even though I couldn't add to the stableford tally and walked off with a quadruple bogey. I simply cannot stop chucking these stupid mistakes in.

I made a net par at the ninth and walked off with eighteen points for the front nine. With that calamity on the eighth, in there, I could still have gone out well under handicap for the opening half. As you'll see this was going to have ramifications.

I was in a calm place. For the first time in months, I had an air of serenity, was making some excellent club selections and swinging the club wonderfully well with a superb tempo. My drive on the tenth wasn't the best but found the fairway. I nailed another long iron, a four iron, which this time found the green. I drained a twelve foot downhill for a birdie. I made a small mess on the next, with a double bogey courtesy of a duffed pitch into sand but bounced back again with a par at the hardest hole, stroke index 1. A great drive with a hint of fade around the dog leg, a five wood that again was well struck and again came up short, I chipped past the hole and made another fifteen footer.

I was steady until the sixteenth where I made a double. A net par at the penultimate was followed by a par at the last. I hit a six iron from 146 yards at the last to ensure I cleared the pond lurking to the right of the green. I pushed it and was worried it would find a watery grave. It bounced and I found it on the green. I nestled it down to the hole side for a par. Back in nineteen points, under handicap and a total of thirty seven points. It was leading in the clubhouse and so the "bitch" ghost had been laid to rest. With a big turnout, there was a decent kitty up for grabs and it was heading my way until a player in the last group came in with a 38 point tally. How I was left to rue that mockery I made of the eighth. However it was my best round of the year by a long way.

17th April roll up statistics

I was pleased with the way I played and for a vast amount of the round I hit the ball wonderfully. It's that one car crash hole again that leaves a bitter taste and takes the gloss off what was a good golfing day. It's been a while, especially in terms of playing that well and given everything going on off the course health wise, it's hard to be too picky. However as my health improves as I hope it will and I play more and more, if I want to be competitive, start getting some handicap cuts and generally posting good numbers, then I still need to find a way to stop these. It's still on the agenda to have a session with Andy Piper, the teaching pro I use at Lavender Park Golf Centre in Ascot, to talk about the mental side, NLP thinking and finding a way to stop these silly mistakes.

If I could save the way I felt warming up, my tempo, inner peace and sheer enjoyment of the day, I would love to be able to recall it on those days it isn't clicking. Sadly I can't but hoping it's a sign of better things to come. I am trying to work mainly on the short game aspects and limiting myself to one practice session on the full swing a week. That should make sure I don't over do it from a health perspective and will stop me ingraining swing faults or becoming stale. The short game from a hundred yards in still remains the focus of my attention.

It is so refreshing to give you a glimmer of positivity regarding the golf. Of course I'm acutely aware that my form seems to come and go in a heartbeat at times but with social golf the order of the day this coming weekend I can go out and relax with good company and simply try and repeat the feeling of calm and exquisite tempo I had on Sunday. I am planning to work more on the short game as the pitching in particular is still a concern and I need to make more up and downs with my chipping.

Apologies to one and all for the delay in bringing any form of communique to you and glad that when it came it had a win in a match (and Derek Williams and I stretch our unbeaten run) and that my individual form has, for now turned a corner. I'm hoping to be on here more often as there's a lot of golf, a few ideas for something a little different to bring you, and the odd bit of kit to review. It's been a while. I won't leave it so long next time.