Saturday, 7 May 2016

Another Forward Step

Whilst golfing activities remain somewhat curtailed compared to what I'd like, and certainly I feel my season has yet to start in full glory, what little golf I have been playing has had a lot of good stuff attached to it. If only I was able to do more. That will come

The great British weather has continued to be wet, unusually cold and very windy and while the intent to work on the game remains strong, the actual amount of practice was limited. Indeed with the Jubilee Cup looming yesterday on the bank holiday, and with a weekend away with the wife already booked, I was acutely aware that my playing partner would be severely let down by my lack of playing or practice. As a result I adjourned to the range last Friday. The results weren't pretty but I was getting club on ball. I even managed to cash some brownie points in with the wife and dashed straight from the weekend away to the club to work on my swing, my short game and my putting. She's a wonderful lady!

The Jubilee Cup is a better ball, stableford event. I am actually a previous winner, way back in 2010 but these days I'm a gun for hire without a regular playing partner these days. I managed to get a game with Geoff Jones, a stalwart of the Saturday roll up and off his handicap a very handy man to have on his day. CONGU have changed the way the handicap is worked out and under the old format of three quarter handicap I was due to play off 10 but the new format is 90% and so I got 11 shots. Happy days.

I have still been playing around with short game techniques, particularly in the pitching department. I want to nail my colours firmly to the linear method (I've spoken about it before and plenty on here to digest if you search for "linear" on here, but this is a taste of where I am - http://threeoffthetee.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/2016-looking-forward-to-it.html). I have to be honest for bunker play it is by far the best method I've used. Getting it to work on the chipping and pitching has been a bigger and ongoing issue but I had a positive session on Sunday with linear pitching and chipping, and took it out into my warm up before the Jubilee Cup. It was now about trying to trust it on the course. That however is something I could say about all aspects of my game

My warm up was all about tempo. It had been the key to my last good round in the weekend roll up. I started with pitching, and the linear method was working nicely. I moved onto the full swing, and clicked into a good posture and even better tempo. All was rosy and I was keen to get out and get it on. I ventured to the practice bunker. The linear method of escaping the sand was on point. I had a few balls left. I should have left them where they were but had to go and try and hit a few more seven irons. Suddenly the swing was quicker, I was swaying on the takeaway and all the good work in the previous half an hour unravelled.

I was still determined to do my best to support my partner and so the snap hook off the first wasn't what I envisaged. It actually found a good lie, fortunate not to find the pond and definitely lying better than it deserved. I hit a good recovery but came up short, and into sand. I made a nasty double bogey but Geoff came to the rescue. I hit a sweet approach to three feet to set up a birdie opportunity at the next which I duly converted. We were off and running. Well, until the next hole at least. I went into a hazard off the tee, courtesy of a swing way too fast in tempo and which had too many moving parts. I made a decent double bogey and this time Geoff could do no more than match my score.

We were combining well as a pair. So well in fact that we managed to amass a very credible 21 points going out. Ahead of the card and chugging along nicely. The partnership faced its first crisis at the tenth. I went way left again, and was fortunate a second time, to a) find it at all and b) find it in such a playable lie. I scrambled a net par as my partner had issues of his own. I then produced arguably my shot of the round, drawing a hybrid into the 178 yard par three, playing into the teeth of a strengthening breeze to set up the easiest of pars (net birdie). I then took a back seat for a few holes as my partner came to the fore but was on hand again at the fifteenth to sink a crucial four foot putt for par.

We needed a steady finish. No heroics and no silly mistakes and we were on course to post a decent score. Probably not a winning score but one that may have picked up the minor placings. We both had problems on the sixteenth and for the first time, had conspired to have a bad hole simultaneously. Geoff could only make a double bogey six and I had a three foot putt to improve on that with a bogey (net par). I had worked hard the day before on my short putts and holing out in that crucial area from two to four feet. I had been holing out well all round. I took my Aimpoint read, picked my spot, made sure I was still over the putt and let the putter head flow back and through. The ball travelled towards the hole, actually started to descend and then somehow decided to do a full lap of honour and pop back up and finished, almost mocking me, behind the hole. We had dropped a point at a vital time.

As my handicap has just rolled over to thirteen, I'd normally get a shot at the 218 yard par three penultimate hole. Not today off the 90% mark. My tee shot was right and came up short. It left me a knee knocking pitch off a downhill lie, over a bunker to a tight pin with the green running away. I could see the shot I wanted to play, pitching it on the up slope on the back of the bunker, and letting it take a hop forward and down towards the flag. Irrespective of which short game technique I was embracing, this wasn't an easy shot. Trust the work you'd put in. Trust your feel. Trust your club selection. Trust and execute. If there was ever a moment to see how my linear method was working this was it. It was a pivotal moment coming off the back of the last hole farce. I swung the club. It popped up, cleared the bunker, pitched in my landing zone and meandered towards the hole. In the end it ended up four feet past but it was as good as I could have done. The job wasn't done and I needed the putt. This was a harder putt than the one on the last hole but this time there was no mistake. I made it and saved a crucial par.

The last was playing right back into the wind and as it's a par five uphill with water guarding the green, eating into the front and the right, it proved impossible for my partner and I to manipulate our second shots into a position that made attacking the green a viable option. It would come down to a pitch and putt to make a par (net birdie). In the end, while we both played good shots, we couldn't coax the ball in. We had to make do with a level par eighteen points coming in. Nothing too shabby in that and with twenty one going out, it was thirty nine points in total. In the end, we came sixth. There were three sides on forty points and four on thirty nine. If that putt at the sixteenth had dropped we would have been in the mix. You can say that about any round though can't you. It's all ifs and maybes and had you done this, that or the the other, it could have been so different.

2016 Jubilee Cup statistics

Now the dust has settled, I'm pleased with how Geoff and I combined. It was a partnership that showed some potential, and it's regretful that he already has a regular partner. I will continue to hire myself out (normally to the lowest, nay, only bidder) and hope sooner or later I can find someone willing to join forces with me on an ongoing basis. With my health beginning to improve to a degree, my season is finally ready to blossom and I can get fully into my golf.

A Forward Step - Progress Definitely Being Made
I am still looking at all things short game. That's really where I see my potential to save shots and anything approaching a functional chipping, pitching and bunker game, combined with a solid putting stroke can make a real difference to my scores. In fact, it's my putting that has been a weak link and I'm averaging 34.30 putts per round this season compared to an impressive 31.71 last year. It's things like par scrambles I need to work on, down at just 14% in 2016. That's why most of my practice is focused on the short game. I'm sticking to the linear method. No I mean it this time. I really mean it. This is what I feel more comfortable using, this is what I have used before and what I know can produce results. I've still got my lesson with Gary Smith, the founder of this technique, a Christmas present from my wife, to utilise. I'm hoping this will refine what I am doing and iron out the inevitable flaws I have at the moment.

All in all, there is a rather satisfying air of optimism and last weekend has definitely been another forward step. Now my recent health issues appear to have been sorted (touch wood) and having found a swing and tempo that for the moment is working, I can really get my teeth into my game. I really enjoy working on my game. I've said many times that golf has never come easily and any successes I've achieved have come about by determination, hard work, some sheer bloody mindedness and every now and again a bit of decent playing. I have mentioned that while I remain unbowed in my belief that I can and will get to single figures, 2016 is a season of taking stock, making sure I am back to 100% health and not worry where the handicap goes.

There is still a lot of room to improve in all areas. Getting it right on and around the green is my focus. I want to be the best short game player in the club. Arguably an unrealistic goal, certainly a lofty one, but if you don't set the bar high what have you got to aim for. I play with a large number of members in the monthly competitions, of varying handicaps. What I see on a frequent basis is that many, while not long off the tee and so unable to attack many holes, including some of the longer par threes, many have honed a solid short game. The only area I would say many struggle in, is bunker play. This is something I feel the linear method gives me an advantage in as it really utilises the bounce of the club.

Onwards and upwards dear reader. Short game practice and then a full weekend of playing, including the monthly medal on Sunday. I am back in a good place with a renewed mojo from such a good golfing performance. It is definitely starting to come. I am happy, positive and engaged. I've not been able to write that for a while. Forward steps dear reader. Very big and positive forward steps.

2 comments:

  1. good to see you are enjoying your game again Homer.

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  2. Love your enthusiasm to improve, keep it up!

    ReplyDelete