Sunday, 22 January 2017

Live Golf Lesson

Yesterday I had a golf lesson with Andy Piper at Lavender Golf Centre. It was the first of a series of six I've got booked and was basically nothing more than a swing MOT to make sure the basics are in place and to just make a few tweaks here and there. It's now live in full on my Youtube Channel, also called Three Off the Tee (to make life easy) (Three Off The Tee Youtube link). Apologies for the darkness on the film and the residual noise but we were on an open bay at a busy range, and the lighting wasn't fantastic. That said, the quality is good enough to see the swing clearly and the issues as they arise throughout. Again the sound quality is patchy but you can still understand the points Andy is trying to get over.

A very interesting half an hour and to be honest not much changed to get things working better. The biggest issue was a separation at the takeaway causing the club to be too high, with subsequent adjustments required to get the club back to square. Timed well and it worked, but if the timing was out, it caused a number of different misses.

We were working with a seven iron and it only took a couple of swings for Andy to pick up on the separation fault, along with a slide of the hips without turning which was causing the flippy hands and the misses, mainly left but with the odd right hand one thrown in as well.

As you will see if you get over to the Youtube channel and see the video (and when you do, please subscribe), Andy placed a toy frog (no idea where that came from other than the depths of his bag) to stop me going to wide on the way back although a head cover would work equally as well and not perhaps looked as conspicuous. Either way it did the trick and I could really feel when I made contact on the way back and over the course of a few swings got the feeling of taking it back better. It's still going to need work as I've managed to ingrain this fault nice and deeply.

I need to be careful, as pointed out on the film, that I don't then become to quick with the hands and get too snatched and quick. You'll see a couple fly high and right when I do which is a familiar site to me when this happens. In essence I'm looking for a slow, consistent takeaway, good wrist hinge and swing to the top. From there I need to make a good rotation, without any hint of hip slide and through to impact, release and on and up to the follow through.

I've been struggling with big misses right, including a slice with the driver, and so we spent the last fifteen minutes of the lesson looking at that. We've tweaked set up to stand taller and therefore swing on a flatter plane. I need to keep focused on making a better takeaway, without getting too flippy with the hands while ensuring the club comes back more inside and not wide and separated. From there, with the driver I need to stay behind the ball and not slide the hips and look to make a more rotational turn.

Again, from the footage, you'll see that I have a habit of getting two out of three elements of what we were working on, and would usually go back better, and then either not stay behind, and lose it right as a result, or do that but then fail to rotate and so get active with the hands and flip it left again. That said, there are some clips where it all comes together. This is what I need to do regularly to improve on the 47% fairways in regulation I managed last year. Get the ball in play more often, should make it easier to hit greens, and from there make scoring easier. That's the plan

As it was only an MOT, we didn't go into great depth. I haven't played or practiced too much, primarily been fog bound or frozen in the midst of a chilly December and January. I'll start getting into the golf again as the weather improves, seeing no point standing on a freezing range, just because I can. Once that happens, each lesson will take one area of my game and work on it in more depth.

I hope you enjoy this insight into my swing and get a feel for the issues and that you go over to Youtube and have a look at it (despite the quality). Please feel free to like it and more importantly, please subscribe

Saturday, 21 January 2017

It's Live

My Youtube channel now has it's first content. Please log onto Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel
to see the first video, an introduction to myself, why the "Quest For Single Figures" is so important to me and what you can expect going forward in terms of content.

In case you are struggling to log in for any reason, you should be able to find the video here (Three Off The Tee - All About Me)

I hope you like what you see here and going forward and don't forget to click the subscribe button and follow me on social media (Facebook - Martin Bedborough and Twitter - @hackergolfer)

Getting Into The Digital Age

Finally, and as a long term technophobe, I've taken the plunge and come lurching towards the digital age. If you read my last post you'll know I've set up a Youtube channel (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel). This is something completely new and exciting and as time goes on, you'll enjoy the video content I upload. The channel is designed to run alongside this blog which will continue in it's current format and I've started off with an introductory video about me and the 2017 Quest For  Single Figures.

So here it is then, my first video so please be gentle with me. Talk about nerve racking. Give me the first tee shot of the day in the monthly medal or a three footer on the last to win a club competition any time. It's a little basic as a starter and I was very self conscious but we've all got to begin somewhere and I hope this gives you all a better idea who I am, what I'm about as a golfer and why this obsession with single figures is so important to me.

I will be breaking the channel content into three distinct section.

Now I know that watching a middle aged, mid-handicap golfer hitting balls inconsistently is never going to be prime time viewing or that engaging, it will serve an important purpose for me and my attempts to improve and reach my objectives. I can visually see what my swing looks like over all facets of the game and as we all know feel versus real are rarely one and the same thing. As an example I did some quick filming at the range while I was working on my pitching. The quality of the video was very poor (too poor to post) given the lack of lighting on the range and the fact it was a a typical cold wet English Winter's day but what it did show is that when I pitch, particularly on anything from 30-50 yards that begin to require longer swings, there is a huge lack of connection between my body and my arms. That would explain the inconsistent nature of my practice off grass and on the course. So simple and so easy to see.

I will be filming all parts of my practice and where necessary showing this to Andy Piper at Lavender Park Golf Centre who teaches me. I have a series of six lessons booked for 2017, the first of which is imminent, but other than these one to ones the only time he may see my swing is if I am working on my game at the range and he's passing on the way to or from a lesson in another bay. He knows all about the Quest For Single Figures, and is a strong supporter of it and feels that with the work we put in this time last year, had I not been ill (and struggled for most of 2016 as a result) then the handicap had every chance of coming down, if not touching single figures. By showing the footage (and it being in a convenient place to view, rather than sending numerous emails and attachments) he's going to look at it and review it with me as part of the lesson plan.

I happen to think however, that by publishing my own foibles in practice on here for you all to see, and given that we (or most of us) all share a common denominator of being handicap golfers, albeit of different standards, it's not only cathartic, but we can share our knowledge and experiences. Some of you may have, or still have similar swing faults and have some excellent drills or tips for improving and changing these. It may be you see my swing (it will be ugly so keep away from young children!!!) and it'll ring some bells with you. I'm going to be filming some parts of my lessons primarily as an aide memoir to see before/after and make sure I don't lapse into old habits.

As I said, watching me hit balls poorly miss putts and chip and pitch in mediocrity isn't going to be riveting viewing and fear not these will be short clips both for your sanity and that of my teaching pro.

On The Course
I am very luck to be playing a number of wonderful courses in 2017 all of which feature in any top 100 UK course listing. These include a day at Sunningdale (Sunningdale Golf Club website) playing both the Old and New courses. I am also playing thirty six holes at the New Zealand Golf Club. This is a very prestigious club in Surrey, that prides itself on keeping itself to itself and doesn't try to compete with any of it's equally famous neighbours including the W's (Woking, West Hill and Worplesdon) and does things it's own way and in it's own time. It promises to be a unique experience. Finally I'll be playing in this years Golf Monthly Forum Help For Heroes charity day which this year is being held at Hankley Common Golf Club (Hankley Common Golf Club website).

I plan to follow in well trodden footsteps and film some footage of these majestic courses, which should be in their prime when I play them in the height of Summer, and also film myself trying to take them on as well as filming some of my playing partners and the exploits at these days that go to make these days such huge fun to play it.

I'm also going to do some filming at my own club, Royal Ascot. I hope to capture some of the fun and games of our weekend roll ups, where the craic is mighty and no quarter ever asked or given. I hope to show me playing a few of my favourite holes (and one or two that often give me grief).

Finally as a member of a golf society, they'll be some days out with these guys as well. The standard of the golf may be patchy at times but again the company is great. Whilst these may not be on any world class courses, each will have their own unique flavour to capture.

As you'll know if you've read this blog on a regular basis, I've given my views on a number of different clubs and golf related products, especially training aids. We're all aware that social media is regularly awash with product reviews of the latest shiny bit of kit, and that there are a plethora of people, usually golf professionals with a massive online presence (Rick Shiels, Mark Crossfield and Peter Finch as prime examples of UK based pro's) that review in massive depth every single piece of kit coming onto the market. Now while I'll never match any of that in my wildest dreams (although what a dream job)  and while these reviews are brilliant in their own right, how realistic are they when they post their own swing data up there to look at? I can't match their swing speeds, spin rates or distances. What I want to do, and is to hit some clubs and film it and give my own impartial opinions, as a handicap golfer, with all the foibles that go along with that fact, based on how I hit them. It's as simple as that. I'll also be keeping an eye out for some training aids and other accessories perhaps not in the mainstream, a bit like the cut price laser rangefinder I did recently (Suaoki Rangefinder Review).

All in all then. a lot to be getting on with and I'm really looking forward to the Youtube channel being something that is fun to do, and hopefully can provide a morsel of enjoyment and fun for the viewer as well. If everything goes as I plan, the Quest For Single Figures will really take shape in 2017. I need a fast start and then a period of conciliation before going down further.

I hope you'll support the channel and subscribe. I'm acutely aware that Youtube is swamped by this sort of content, most of which is started in such good faith and with great intentions and which slowly fizzles and dries up. As you'll see, this blog has already had longevity, a few changes of direction and is still going and that's what I hope from the video content. Only time will tell, but your comments will be a massive help, good, bad or indifferent (aside from the guaranteed idiot posts) and as I said at the very beginning will be crucial to this technological dinosaur doing it, and hopefully doing it well.


Monday, 16 January 2017

2017 - The Year Everything Changes

Happy New Year and welcome to the first post of 2017. I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and New Year with friends and family and received lots of great golfing goodies. I'm starting the year on as positive a note as I can and hopefully it's a vibe I'll maintain for the next twelve months.

There are still some residual health issues that are impacting my golf and so I'm not playing or working on my game as much as I'd like at the moment, but it's still the winter and so I'm not losing too much sleep over it. To be honest the idea of standing on a freezing cold range or playing on a frozen course with temporary greens doesn't fill me with enthusiasm and a warm glow, and my time will be better spent waiting for conditions to be conducive to constructive range sessions and getting out on a playable course.

As you will tell from the title, I'm hoping this year is the one where everything changes. I'm still working on the Quest For Single Figures, and this is still a two pronged attack, with the aim to drop my handicap from 14 back to 12 which is where I sat last year before I started to become ill. From there, it'll be a full on attack towards my aim of single figures. By making it two steps, it allows me to set some realistic and achievable goals and break my practice down into some purposeful segments.

I'm also going to be doing something new (for me) and I've set up a Youtube channel (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) to stand alongside this blog where I can post some video footage. There is some logic to this (in my mind at least) where I can review my own swing, and send it to Andy Piper, the golf professional I use for lessons locally, which I hope will give him some feedback on what I'm doing right and wrong. Of course watching a mid handicap golfer hitting balls inconsistently is hardly gripping stuff, so I'll also be doing some on course stuff as well. I've got games booked at some fantastic courses, including Sunningdale Old and New, New Zealand Golf Club and Hankley Common and so it'll be fun to get some footage of these wonderful courses and my attempts to play them. Finally, it'll give me a chance to review some of the gear I'll be trying over 2017 and give some totally impartial advice. As a handicap golfer, I hope the information will be a lot more relevant than watching some of these product reviews from professional golfers, where distances and strike will be far different to what I (and probably many of you) can achieve.

It's something I'm really excited about and I hope you enjoy the content. I'll be posting the first one up there for your amusement in the next few days. It's a basic introduction to who I am, what I'm trying to achieve this year and how I plan to get to where I want to go. It's a little basic but we've all got to start somewhere. There will be a lot going on so please subscribe to the Youtube channel (and let me know if there is anything you want to see) and follow me via my Twitter account which is @hackergolfer

Another huge change coming in for 2017 is my approach to my golf, especially out on the course. There has been a regular conflict when I play between keeping the mind (the monkey brain) quiet and just picking a target and swinging. Too often rounds have been blighted by swing thoughts or when things start to unravel, too many negative thoughts. I know where I want my handicap to go and what I need to do to achieve this. If I play with an emptier mind, I'll free myself up to be the best golfer I can and once I start scoring well the handicap cuts take care of itself.

This is a big leap of faith for me as I've always been someone that is driven by numbers and an organised approach (not just in golf) and so simply going out and playing is something that won't come easily to me. It is however something I need to do. Many many people, on here, on forums and at my club all say "you think too much" and there comes a time when so many people saying the same thing so often, may have a resonance of truth about it.

That's not to say I don't need help in the mental side. As I've mentioned before many times on here, my mental attitude on the course leaves a lot to be desired at times, especially in terms of focus, picking targets and pre-shot routines. I've dipped my toe into NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) to let the sub-conscious take over, and to start relaxing and just trusting myself. Less is definitely more in terms of my thinking. If I do the right thing in practice I can trust the work I do, pick my targets more specifically on the course, go through a meaningful pre-shot routine and fire. Hit fairways, hit greens and make the putts. It's an easy game I'm guilty of over-complicating on many levels.

I played my first competitive round of 2017, well actually my first round of any description  on Sunday 8th January. Let's just say 2017 can only get better and I eased myself to a 0.1 handicap rise. That makes me officially 14.0 (and which satisfies the OCD within to see it as a whole number) and has definitely rekindled my fire to make 2017 a great golfing one for me.

In my defence, there were mitigating circumstances. The health scare I had over the Christmas period, over and above what else happened in 2016 on that front, has had some residual effects on my game. It's hopefully starting to get sorted but it's a slow old process. That however wasn't the biggest barrier to playing well on the day. That falls squarely on the shoulders of those producing the weather forecasts, either electronically or on the TV forecasts both nationally and locally. Everywhere, including the Met Office and BBC weather apps, the BBC South news bulletin and the BBC national forecast all said conditions on Sunday would be cloudy, mild with no rain forecast.

Yes, in hindsight it was probably a schoolboy error given we're still playing winter golf, but I failed to pack a rain hood for my bag, any waterproof trousers, towels or any spare gloves over and above the two I had in the bag. Conditions in warm up were misty and damp but with no rain. As soon as I stood on the first tee, it started to drizzle and by the end of the hole was coming down as steady, light rain. Suffice to say, grips got wet, I got wet and by the time I had put my tee shot on the third hole into the out of bounds environmental area (a carry of 180 yards I normally make with ease) I was cold, damp, miserable and thoroughly cheesed off with golf and any thoughts of the Quest For Single Figures -2017 were banished as a bad idea.

Let's gloss over the front nine entirely. I was awful and even stopped taking down my statistics, something I've not done before. I should have kept these going if only to show me at a later date where it all went wrong, but I didn't and I wasn't a happy golfer by the time I failed to trouble the scorer at the ninth hole. Fortunately I was able to get a spare towel and gloves from my locker on the way to the tenth tee and could finally dry the grips on each shot sufficiently to feel in control on each shot. There was still a lot of rubbish on the back nine, and my lack of playing on the course was highlighted. There was some better stuff and ball striking (and direction) was better but I'm still a long way short of what I can do and what I need to.

I managed a measly 24 points, not quite my worse stableford score ever, but not good, but still managed twelfth place in division two. In fact 29 points was good enough for third place in the division and so perhaps given all the problems I had in my round it wasn't as bad as it seemed. At least the rest of my golfing 2017 can only get better!!

So there you have it. There is an awful lot going to be happening in the coming few months and I'm really excited by it all. Spring is coming, and I can get out and play some great golf and get that handicap down. I hope to be trying a lot of gear out as well as a few other pieces of golfing paraphernalia perhaps not quite so mainstream. There will be a lot more video content and this blog will continue on a regular basis. I have a very good feeling that 2017 is definitely going to be the year when everything changes.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Milford Golf Club

I am fortunate enough to occasionally play in a good friend's golf society and usually get invited to their Christmas outing. However, we seem to be climatically challenged every time we play at this time of year. Last year we played at Cuddington Golf Club, near Banstead in Surrey, in gale force winds gusting around 50-60mph at times. It was certainly challenging on an already tricky course.

This year we were playing at Milford Golf Club. This is owned by Crown Golf (Crown Golf's Website) and sited in a small town called Godalming in Surrey, some seven miles or so from cathedral town of Guildford. The club was opened in 1993 and the course was designed by Peter Alliss and Clive Clark on former orchard land (Milford Golf Club website). It isn't a long course, playing only 5,890 yards off the whites and just 5,521 yards of the yellow tee of the day.

This year, our climatic challenge was fog. Thick, old fashioned pea souper fog. Visibility was only one hundred yards, less in places, and to be brutally honest was probably too dangerous to be open. It was however and we were out there. In our defence, there was no-one behind, and the group in front aided by shouting back when they were clear from the fairway and after putting out on the greens.

The view from the 1st at Milford Golf Club. In fact there was a gap in the fog and this was as clear as it got all day
I've played several Crown Golf courses, including the now defunct Blue Mountain Golf Club, near my old home in Bracknell and it does seem to be company policy to keep their courses open at all costs. As a result, I thought the conditioning of Milford was patchy in places, especially on the tee boxes and the fairways were muddy, and bereft of grass. That said, given that the greens had been frozen in the previous few days, they were receptive and putted very well, if a little on the slow side and were in better condition than some courses I've played in winter.

I haven't played much golf in recent weeks as you'll know if you're a regular reader of this blog and I wasn't overly blessed with any sort of form. I had been to the range using a newly acquired practice aid, the Swingyde (Swingyde Training Aid Review) which had been going well but had no thoughts aside from playing with two of my best friends and having some fun.

I've known my two partners for many years and while neither have any aspirations to be anything other than social golfers, they always try hard, can produce some golf holes of absolute brilliance along with some golf shots that defy description or belief. The banter however is consistently fierce and no quarter ever asked or given. Under a barrage of quips, I stood on the first tee, peered vainly down the fairway and got ready to play. My driver met the ball and it flew high and straight for the seventy or so yards we could see it and I assumed it had found the fairway.

Myself (right) and playing partners about to do battle
There must be something about playing blind. I was swinging within myself, especially off the tee and finding fairways with alarming regularity. I wasn't always hitting greens, but given the fact at times we couldn't even see the green let alone where the flag was placed I was prepared to cut myself some slack. My shots were always there or thereabouts and left simple chips or bunker shots to set up simple par or net pars and keep the score ticking over.

Despite being short in length, Milford Golf Club has water that comes into play on several holes including the sixth hole, a par three of 192 yards and a cute penultimate hole, only 93 yards on the card but which plays entirely over water to a small green, protected by two bunkers.

Milford Golf Club's 17th hole - their signature hole (not taken in the fog we played in!)
There is also a railway line that runs alongside several holes. It evokes images of places like Royal Troon and other famous courses with train tracks alongside. At Milford, there are certainly a couple of holes where a wild drive will require a reload as it finds the railway.

It's perhaps unfair to do a review of the course at it was hard to see any hole in detail and certainly hard to pick any defining characteristics. That said, I played what was presented to me very well and managed to acquire 38 points to win the guest prize (and was the best score overall). I also won the longest drive, which was a strange notion as someone who is not known as a long hitter by any stretch of the imagination. I also managed to stick my approach to the short seventeenth to fifteen feet to win nearest the pin (less said about the subsequent three putts the better). I cleaned up and not entirely sure I'll be invited back this time next year, at least without a significant handicap reduction.

Milford Golf Club Statistics

It's a very friendly club, with a small range, and a pleasant clubhouse. I liked the first hole, which played 390 yards off the yellow tees and stretches out to the 400 yard mark off the competition tees.

The 1st at Milford Golf Club - a hole that will pose questions from the start of the round
It's a left to right dog leg (not that we could tell in the fog) but with trees down the right, it was important to get a drive away that was straight or favoured the left side although there are mounds situated down the left that could impede a view of the green if a player was too far to that side. It's a hole that definitely asks some questions straight away and reminds you that despite the total yardage on the scorecard, this isn't going to be a push over.

There are five par three's at Milford Golf Club, and they all have something to offer. I've already mentioned the 6th hole that plays over a lake in front of the tee, and the clubs signature hole, the seventeenth, but for me the 15th is perhaps best of the lot. At 214 off the whites, playing up to a raised green it has three deep bunkers right and another to the left of the green. Even off the yellow tees it's a lusty blow to get all 187 yards as it definitely plays longer and the bunkers are definitely to be avoided.
The view of Milford's well appointed clubhouse, putting green with the 18th green behind

It's a course that definitely requires another visit in more accommodating circumstances. It's a course that requires a little bit of care and thought and is definitely one where trying to blast driver and take advantage of the lack of yardage can be a dangerous thing. The greens putted well enough, if a little woolly. They aren't the biggest in the world and so accuracy with the approach shots is a necessity. There are definitely some well placed fairway bunkers and the rough looked as though it could be penal come the warmer weather and so finding the fairway would be paramount when played again.

All in all it was a very enjoyable day (it always is when you do so well) and despite the limitations of the weather, I think all of us had fun. It might be short in stature and still relatively young in years, but Milford Golf Club is a members club that gives a visitor a warm welcome.