Friday, 22 July 2016

Back To School Again

Despite my last lesson with Andy Piper, my game hasn't really kicked on as I hoped. I've been struggling to get much golf in which hasn't helped but what golf I had managed wasn't good. I had already had a catch up with Andy booked in. The driver had still been misbehaving and I wanted a different look at bunker technique. This is the one area of the linear short game that hasn't gelled since my lesson in any fashion and I just wanted to see if a simpler approach would help.

The curious thing is despite having played poorly, the swing didn't feel miles off. It was just that the bad shots were catastrophic. There was some good stuff chucked in there and the linear chipping has come on but I couldn't buy a putt.

I have bought a DST compressor eight iron (DST Compressor) to improve my strike and get the hands forward as Andy Piper had been asking at it's been starting to work and improve my striking and getting me in a good position (review will follow in due course). When I started hitting balls in my lesson, Andy was happier with my set up and more importantly my impact position. However there were still issues. In particular I still set up with the heel of the club totally flat on the ground which seems to set the hands rather high at address. Andy wasn't happy and explained it could lead to the toe coming in first given my swing and path. He got a small coin and wanted me to lift the toe enough to slide that under and hit shots without touching the coin.

Setting up properly with the toe off the ground

By lowering the hands a fraction and at the same time softening the right elbow into the body a fraction I could feel the arms and shoulder begin the swing and that the club was turning much better. From the top, it was about my old friend tempo, and making the swing and turn smooth and not a rushed move, lunging forward but trying to stay on top of it. Suddenly with a couple of subtle changes I was chasing range balls towards a target at 150 yards with a seven iron. That's long for me.

Softer right elbow - I need to be aware of not turning it open and keeping it more on top.- this one is a fraction over cooked
Having got the seven iron singing, we move onto the driver. This is a real troublesome club at the moment and either finds the middle of a fairway or is so far right it's in the knee high stuff never to be seen again. No middle ground and I've no idea hole to hole what's coming next.

As expected I hit the first one relatively straight, short but you'd find it on the course. The next couple were carved right, with a bit of right and some additional right on it. Now bearing in mind I'm six feet tall and Andy Piper is several inches shorter. He measured where I was standing at address with the driver and he got in and set up and I was actually closer that he was. I needed to step back, give myself more room  and use my longer arms as levers to generate the power and the ability to hit through freely.

As with the irons and as I've said many times before, Andy Piper doesn't make huge changes unless absolutely necessary and it tends to be simple nips and tucks to get a golfer's swing back. The driver started to fly much higher and longer. I still had a miss right but it was now more of a block and Andy quickly spotted that I was simply holding onto the shot and not releasing properly. I've a couple of drills now to work on that but when I let it all flow, I was ripping it. There is more to come but now I've got the tools to start getting the job done.

That was two easy fixes and so onto the bunker. If you've been following my exploits. you'll know I've been using the linear method of short game and had a lesson with Gary Smith the guru of this style of playing short shots. We looked at bunker play and during the lesson it had worked perfectly but in the weeks since then, issues have crept in and my bunker play hasn't been as good as I'd like. The pitching and chipping are fine but I'm not happy with how the technique translates to the sand. I asked Andy to look at a conventional methods, having shown him my linear. method. He understands it but thinks I can make life simpler. He went through the set up and simply wanted me to turn the body as I have a tendency to just use the arms and not turn through. I was popping them out sweetly, very sweetly to within several feet. Of course this now throws an interesting conundrum about sticking with linear or doing what Andy wants and keeping it simpler.

Another superb hour of tuition was over in a flash but I walked away on a cloud and so much more in tune with my game. The down side is health issues have robbed any opportunity of putting this into practice on the course. In practice, this has still been working fine but I need to find game time. It's club championship weekend next weekend and so I need to find time after work to go out and work hard and get some on course work in. It's a two round event with a cut after round one and the top sixty (and ties) get into Sunday going out in score order so the highest from round one get the early start times. I've made good progress in recent years having not missed a cut and don't intend to break that now.

That's the tuition done for a while. I just need to get the health back to full golfing fitness. It's coming and so with a week to get my game in shape before the club championship I hope to finally get the season off and running. Sadly it has felt so stop/start all year. The handicap has quietly risen from 12.2 to 13.0 and the form has been patchy. It hasn't been all plain sailing and I feel to a degree I've let myself down a little in 2016. However with the big events now here, starting with the club championships at the weekend I still have a chance to get the handicap moving in the right direction. Working with Andy has really helped and I just need to find a way of translating this onto the course. In fact I just need to get out on the course. It seems to be the odd roll up and competition for a few weekends and then something getting in the way to prevent me playing for a while. I work hard on the game, not always successfully and then go out, under prepared and not fulfilling my potential and generally making mistakes and playing poorly.

I've enjoyed my golf to date and really enjoyed my tuition. I've often been accused of getting too many lessons, paralysis by analysis and over complicating things. That's possibly very true. I do like to practice hard and very much like Padraig Harrington (a favourite of mine) enjoy the tinkering process. I stand on the first tee and I never feel overly concerned and worried. I see the first shot, rehearse and commit. It's been known to be a good day. Too many bad days for my liking this year but I still have a committed belief in my ability and once I'm back to full fitness (not long now) I'll be back. I need to take just get my range game onto the course but that's been the story for far too long. Let's see what this week brings, how my game develops and whether I can survive the cut and play both rounds of the club championship. That's my first target. Play well and as I've said before handicap cuts will come along of their own accord.

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