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.

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