Tuesday, 29 November 2016

2017 - The Quest For Single Figures - 1st Update

Having outlined my plans in my last post to turn my golfing fortunes around and start getting it going back down, ultimately to my golfing nirvana of single figures. It's going to be a long slog and I plan to split it into two targets, getting back to my 2016 starting point of 12 and then kicking on from there.

As I mentioned, the short game still remains an area of grave concern, especially in the pitching and chipping departments. I've been a huge advocate of the Gary Smith linear method and it sits perfectly in in head, particularly the way it uses the bounce. It's been particularly successful out of bunkers. I've struggled with the pitching on the course, particularly in terms of distance control and have started drifting back to something more orthodox while retaining the idea of utilising the bounce and taking a shallow divot at most but ideally grazing the turf.

I am working hard on my practice over the winter and working smarter by tracking my statistics as I go. I've been out again on Sunday 27th November to work on my pitching as the next area to get some baseline numbers. I've invested in a digital rangefinder, albeit a cheap but functional version (Suaoki Range Finder) to get more accurate distances, especially from 100 yards and in. I took it out to the practice ground yesterday and measured from 50 and 40 yards to a 16 foot circle with a four foot circle of excellence to aim for. From 30 yards, I narrowed my target down to a 10 foot circle with a three foot circle of excellence.

I've updated my practice diary to include a pitching section where I've recorded my first efforts and have used both my 58 and 52 degree wedges for each distance as they are my main go to clubs for this type of shot. As my technique improves, I aim to tinker with loft and trajectory to give myself a fuller armoury of shots for all conditions. One thing I have found with the linear method is it tends to give a high ball flight. This is fine off firmer summer turf with minimal wind but off wetter winter lies and into a strong, often cold wind it has caused issues. I think this is where my distance control problems have stemmed from and why I feel the need to adopt a more versatile approach.

Winter Practice Diary - Updated

The conditions were typical for the time of year. The grass was wet courtesy of the overnight rain and there were a few muddy and bare lies meaning correct contact was crucial to have any success. My opening effort with the 58 degree wedge from 50 yards wasn't that inspiring. One thing I have noticed though is a feeling of pressure doing this. I found that with the Jordan Spieth putting drill I did. Check my last blog (2017 - The Quest For Single Figures) for more details on that particular practice drill. I'm striving to post the best numbers I can each time, and hopefully improve my personal bests each time after that. Putting the base line numbers for each area means I'm trying on every shot and the pressure does tell. On the plus side I'm developing some good pre-shot routines.

My initial effort with the 58 degree wedge was poor but I improved with the 52 degree wedge. That was a bit of an eye opener and I got a quarter of my 20 balls into that magical four foot circle. From 40 yards my accuracy into the 16 foot circle improved as you'd expect closer to the green. However my accuracy into that circle of excellence dropped. This is the area I need to be hitting to set up birdie chances or rescuing par.

Finally from 30 yards I reduced the target area to a 10 foot circle with a three foot circle of excellence. Again, the number of shots in the general target area went up but also the amount into that ideal area was very small. It's highlight some very interesting things. My more orthodox technique especially from longer distances was poor with a number of fat and thin shots. This dropped as I got closer but they were still there. Also, my accuracy is wanting with 50 yards being especially weak. I'm hoping as my technique strengthens, my mental approach  and my pre-shot routines improve, so will my numbers. I need to extend this out to include pitch shots from 60, 70 and 80 yards, where these will be fuller shots with the 58 and more of a "feel" shot with a three quarter swing with the 52.

At least I've laid some markers down in this area. That leaves chipping and scrambling, including bunkers to do. I then want to move onto approach shots from 150 yards and in and I've got all my areas covered. From there, it's about working on these drills on a regular basis, over the winter and beyond. Couple that with trying to play as much as winter conditions in the UK allow (although I won't play on temporary greens as I find it a lottery and get little from it especially with huge bucket holes on winter greens) and I am confident that along with regular lessons this winter, that come the spring and the dawn of the 2017 season I'm in prime position to fly out of the blocks.

There is one area I've not tackled yet but it's imminent. It'll cause a degree of mockery, especially amongst my golfing peers at the golf club and on the Golf Monthly Forum but it's something I've touched upon over the past few years. My mental attitude on the course is shocking and I've let good rounds unravel and I've had times when I've been beaten mentally before I've played, usually when my warm up hasn't gone according to plan.

I've spoke before of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) which is a convoluted way of stopping myself getting in my own way and letting my sub-conscious brain to dictate my thinking and just letting go and trusting the swing I've got and the work I've done. Andrew Piper, the teaching professional I use has a good reputation in this. I've also had a recommendation from Rick Shiels, a professional making a name for himself on social media (see my last post) with whom I played in a Help For Heroes charity day recently, to use Lee Cromberholme's site (Winning Golf Mind). I've also downloaded an NLP app to listen to.

Now I can hear the sniggers from here, and can second guess some of the cheap and smart comments that will be coming my way. However it's something I've recognised as a problem for a while. Logic (well in my head at least) dictates that the practice I'm putting in now and going forward, will, with the lessons I've got planned, get my game to a certain technical level, sufficient of putting together respectable scores. I need to then simply go out and play. That's something I simply haven't been capable of doing. I've lost count how many times I've heard people say at the club "you practice too much, why don't you get any better?" or "you're trying too hard" and both are perfectly valid. Why don't I improve? I simply can't put together a consistent round. How many times have I inflicted a blog on here upon you, the innocent reader, that contains some great stuff undone by two or three car crash holes.

The good players at my club, especially off single figures don't have textbook swings. They simply understand how to score, without these double and triple bogies (or worse) especially when they aren't playing well. I plan to learn how to think better, think smarter, quieten the monkey brain and let my golf do the talking for me.

It's an area I've been nervous about, not only having to deal with the scoffing and mickey taking, the accusations of taking it all far too seriously, but also because I've not really had the courage to admit that what I've done before in this pursuit of single figures hasn't worked. This is why I've taken a more statistical and results based approach to my practice. Despite all this waffle about targets and aspirations and my practice, the crux of 2017 is actually about taking a simplistic approach and that starts with simple thinking, clear goals and objectives and clear focus on how to achieve these. I need to work on all parts of my game and then harmonise that on the course and let it simply flow. I'm about to start doing the NLP and Winning Golf Mind work so I'll give you an update once I've started to use it and played a number of games with it. That'll probably be mid January. Until then I'll keep you posted on how my game is improving. The hard work has started and 2017 is going to be my year.

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