Monday, 16 May 2016

The Circus Comes To Town

I am pleased to say that for the most part, I've carried the good form from my previous post onwards and that I played last weekend, in both the Saturday roll up and the monthly medal on the Sunday. However it's not all tickety boo in the golfing garden as yet again a mental meltdown cost me dearly. More of that later. Also, I missed out on any playing this weekend just passed although I did get some practice in, not all of it as good as I wanted. However I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Saturday roll up is a relaxed and friendly format, stableford off club handicap, and is usually run as an individual winner takes all, and a team event depending on how many three/four balls we have. If scores are tied, it's one tied all tied, and we usually invest the funds into lottery lucky dip tickets for those partaking that week, in the hope of the "big one" and using any tiny prizes to fund a Christmas drink for all members of the roll up. I say it's friendly but the banter on the course and especially in the 19th after is biting, with no quarter given.

I had been playing well as I alluded to in my last offering. In glorious, nay, barmy weather, I started with a net par and then went on a roll. Par, par, birdie, par, birdie. That meant standing on the seventh I was one under gross. Unheard of, certainly in recent memory. Now I know what you are all going to say, I bet he thinks about it too much. I know the mental side of it and still try to stick to New Golf Thinking (search it on the blog, there's several posts about it) and the old cliche of one shot at a time. No excuses for taking a double then, especially having found the fairway off the tee. Par and then another double, courtesy of a duffed pitch and another par and I was out in 38 gross (+3) or 21 points. There was definitely a lower score, maybe not level par, but definitely lower, in that nine.

Do you know the funniest thing? I wasn't actually striking it that well for the most part. It was scrappy but I was getting it around. I started the back nine with another double but kept the net par scores coming. I did find the green at the par three thirteenth a tricky 186 yard hole I don't get a shot at (SI 17) and while I dropped a few more shots, I managed to sign off with a par at the last. It wasn't pretty. The whole round hadn't been. It was still a respectable seventeen points coming in, for thirty eight in total. I was in the box seat sitting in the bar all the way until the last group when another player matched my efforts. One tied, all tied so the money was invested in the lottery. As I'm typing this you can safely assume we didn't hit the big time.

Naturally, I was in a positive mood going to the medal the next day. The day was even warmer, and for the first time (hopefully not the last) the sun cream was out. Take care out there guys. I was hitting the ball reasonably well, certainly better than the day before, but not as well as I can. However it took me until the fifth to make a par, followed by another at the next. I made a big mess of the shortest hole, the 139 yard par three. Big hook off the tee, trying to go flag hunting, two duffed chips and two putts for a double bogey. The ninth always plays into a breeze even on the warmest of days and it took two of my Sunday best shots to find the fringe left, pin high. I walked off with a par and was level handicap. In a medal I'd take that every time.

Playing the eleventh, the wind picked up. I took an extra club, the hybrid. I cannot lie (well I could) it was a bit of hook but held up in the wind, landed on the front and ran up to three feet. It certainly fooled my playing partners who thought I'd played for it. I knew I'd dodged a bullet. It didn't stop me draining the birdie putt though.

Remember back at the start of this ramble I mentioned a mental meltdown. Those of a nervous disposition should stop reading now. The twelfth is stroke index one, 409 yards in length although it can play shorter if you take on the line of trees to the right of the hole. There is then a ditch some ten yards over the trees that also runs the length of the hole, and so if you're going to take it on, make sure you get hold of all of it. I had already opted to play straight, hope for a small fade if possible, and go from there.

The view from the 12th tee. Only the big boys should take the carry on.
I actually hit a nasty weak slice towards the tree line. I had it already mapped out in my mind. Take your medicine, hit a chip and run with a four or five iron towards the hundred yard marker, pitch on, two putt and no-one need know. When I got to my ball it had actually run further through the trees than I thought. Not a problem, stick with the plan. For no explicable reason, and having found I was capable of making a full swing without catching any limbs, the plan evaporated. I suddenly thought I was Seve reincarnated and could hit a low fade some 170 yards under the limbs in front, move it past the bunker short right and run it up the entrance and to the flag. What could possibly go wrong? Walking off with a nine, yes nine, including the obligatory three putt, it was clear I didn't have an iota of Seve's talent. Why do I never learn. The chip and run forward meant a double was the biggest score I could make. In my (feeble) defence, this particular road crash was a moment of craziness and I am usually so much stronger mentally than that and my normal bad scores come through poor technique. This was a rare moment.

I think they call it bounce back ability and to my credit I realised immediately it was a moment of golfing insanity and not a loss of form. For the second day running I made par at the thirteenth and although my game was getting ragged in the heat, both in the midday sun and the midst of the battle, I was hanging tough, despite a silly bogey at fifteen and a double to follow. I closed with two net pars and so despite the twelfth hole signed for a net 72 (+2) and safely in the buffer zone. I came sixth in division one. The winner, with a marvellous net 66 (-4) was never going to be caught but second was level par. I could have been right in that mix and in line for a top three finish. As you can imagine, the post round beer didn't taste as good as it could have.

As I mentioned I never really felt I was in control of my swing completely, Not during that birdie blitz in the roll up or the true test of golf in the medal. However as you can see from the statistics below, I was hitting all my targets, bar the driver. If I can do that and not feel I'm firing on all cylinders then it has to bode well for the rest of 2016

7th - 8th May statistics

I didn't play this weekend. Life got in the way. That was annoying as it was the monthly stableford and I wanted to get back on the horse and see what I could do. I managed some practice. The short game, and in particular bunkers and pitching with the linear method was better, but my swing was off, and too many moving parts again. It felt I was swaying off the ball in the takeaway which was a fault from a recent lesson. I started hitting it better yesterday but had to really grind it out and so have booked a lesson with Andy Piper, my regular teacher to see the problem and the fix ready for the weekend.

The biggest regret though of not getting a game was the chance to play the course as it was. We have the Jamega Tour (Jamega tour website) in town for a professional event at Royal Ascot. The tour is an initial feeder tour for up and coming professionals to try and make a name and move upwards towards the Europro tour, the European Challenge Tour and then a chance at the big time. Yesterday was official practice day for the Jamega competitors and the course had been set up perfectly. It definitely looked a picture and by all accounts played even better. Greens had been mown and rolled and fairways cut and defined. I tried to listen without showing too many green tinges of jealousy.

I've seen some of the scores from round one and apart from a blistering seven under, there were only twelve under at par or better, proving once again, and something we the members feel every time we play, that the course is no push over. If the professionals can struggle (and there were some big numbers in round one as you'll see on the website) then it gives renewed hope to my own efforts.

I'm looking forward to my lesson this week. It's been a while and Andy Piper has a knack of watching, usually without even filming the swing, making a couple of changes, usually to posture (my biggest issue), tempo or takeaway, and suddenly the ball is flying laser straight. You stand there and wonder what's just happened. It doesn't feel as though anything has altered, certainly after a dozen or so dead straight shots. and you feel six inches taller. I usually hit a small bucket after, just to reinforce the change, and to get it bleeding into my swing. This means I can usually hit the course, or practice ground, confident in the new swing.

As a bit of light relief, I came across this recently. Watch it as I'm sure there is part of you in here. I certainly recognise a few traits myself. As someone who enjoys working hard on his game it was actually a bit of a kick up the backside and a reminder that to get better it isn't about working harder necessarily, but definitely about working smarter. Enjoy. Five Reasons You Don't Get Better At Golf

As I'm in a jovial mood, chipper from recent exploits I'd also like to share a link to a blog Using The Bounce from a regular Golf Monthly Forum member by the name of Chris Swanson. He's as mad about golf as I am and loving the ups and downs of being a handicap golfer. He's set his own targets for the season and has his own thoughts on this great game but his latest offering was so funny but resonated so accurately it needed a bigger audience. I hope you enjoy this ditty about how time consuming golf is Time Consuming Game

So the Jamega circus has come to town. I've played the clown, yet again, albeit a week early, with that madness. For the club it puts us on a bigger golfing map and will increase the profile even further. It's reinforcing how much the course has come on in the last few years and the reputation for being no pushover and it's a prestigious event for a club only into it's twelfth year in its new home. For my part, my golf has got to be seen as moving forward again. I could have done with playing this weekend but that's gone and I need to take the changes from my lesson, work hard and get out next weekend and make some good scores.

I am still working hard on all things linear for my short game. Pitching is coming on and the last week seems to have seen it getting better. I can still get it wrong but it's an ongoing piece of work. Bunker play is good and I can escape every time. I've been trying to learn a specialist drop and stop bunker shot for when I find myself short sided. It's in there, just very hit and miss at the moment and it's not something I'd consider in competitive play unless absolutely necessary for a bit. For a general escape from sand, I am far more consistent but just need to add finesse and distance control. The chipping remains the weakest element and is perhaps something to which I've not allocated as much time as I should have. That is the next thing to be addressed in the coming week or so, weather permitting as even I'm not going to go out after a hard day at work and stand in the rain working on my chipping. So why mention this? Well the loyal amongst you (and I'm truly grateful as you must be long suffering by now) will remember my lovely wife got me a lesson with Gary Smith, the inventor (for want of a better word) of the linear method. I'm now in the process of contacting Gary to arrange to use this, hopefully the week beginning June 13th, when the Royal Ascot race meeting is on and using the golf course becomes mission impossible with the crowds and congestion.

All in all though you find your narrator still in positive mood. I'm looking forward to the next few weeks and getting fully into my golf now the main part of the season is imminent. I've no idea what happens once the circus leaves town this week other than leaving the course in tip top condition and there for me to get out and take on with renewed vigour. I hope you enjoy the other links I've served up for you and I'll see you next time for the next update on this pursuit towards single figures, or at least a single round without a pesky car crash hole or two.

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