Tuesday, 6 June 2017

End Of The Road - Or The Start Of The Journey

"Always make a total effort even when the odds are against you" - Arnold Palmer

So why the inspirational start? I had this blog already written and it wasn't going to be a good one. There has been a lot going on personally away from the "Quest For Single Figures" and it was going to begin to have an impact on the amount of golf I could play and certainly the amount of practice I could do.

While this was never going to be the end of "The Quest" it did mean flipping everything on it's head especially in terms of the golf swing and a requirement to change everything to compensate for a condition that had worsened since I was hospitalised last year and which has begun to have a negative impact on my balance and therefore making a consistent and in particular a stable swing difficult. It's not every shot but it's like a ticking bomb waiting for the swing where the balance goes as I hit it. Looking back since speaking with the consultant, it has made sense and looking deeper into some of my statistics and especially my errant and most destructive shots, with the driver and the longer clubs, balance was definitely an underlying factor and I can definitely remember coming "out" of shots or struggling to turn through it and hold a decent finish.

I'd spoken in the recent blogs about changing to a teaching professional I'd used previously, a guy called Rhys ap Iolo at a local driving range. He had got my handicap from 14 down to tantalisingly close to the single figure target and I'm hoping for a second dose of success.

In my last video on the sister Youtube channel to this blog, the latest "Quest" update (May "Quest For Single Figures" update) and in a recent blog here (May "Quest" update) I spoke about a fundamental change to my wrist position from a cupped position I'd used since I began golfing back in the 1970's to something far flatter. Indeed in the blog on here I illustrated the position with pictures of Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson as role models of where I want to get the wrist position. The logic behind this as I discussed was to get me turning better and more importantly getting the club coming in much shallower which will in part compensate for some of the issues that have blighted my golf.

I had resigned myself to the handicap increasing before Rhys and I got things totally under control and indeed after playing two rounds over the recent Bank Holiday in the Stone Cup (a stableford competition at Royal Ascot Golf Club) the scores of 30 and 28 points respectively ensured the handicap rose by another 0.2 from 14.3 to 14.5 and finally toppled over to 15 and a shot further away from where I need to be

It isn't for want of trying and I've really adopted Mr Palmer's mantra and have really been making a real effort to encompass the change to the wrist position and in practice have really seen and felt improvement in the way the body reacts in the swing. I've tried hard not to let the balance issues become a convenient excuse and I am bigger than the problem. So what? It's a valid question as I've not managed to take anything onto the course on a regular basis as my Stone Cup results show.

Of course, if you've followed my many years of rambling on here (and I am eternally grateful for your continued support) that last predicament is a recurring theme and taking changes to a course and playing well on a regular basis has been an issue. I've often strung a number of good holes per round together only to undo all the good work with a number of real car crash holes. Never the same hole (well perhaps our par three sixth, one that is a real nemesis) and never the same shot (drive, approach shot or pitch).

What is the point to all this? Well as the title hints, was this the end of the road? As I've already said, not a chance. The stubborn golfer in me refuses to let this or any set back prevent me believing in my ability to get to single figures, if not this season then at some point in the future. Is it the start of the journey? Well not really. I actually feel this has begun already, from the news the balance may continue to worsen to the change to the wrist position and the benefit this is having on the position on the down swing and quality of ball striking. Hardly a new dawn or a phoenix like rise but definitely a punctuation mark in proceedings and perhaps a time to pause, draw a breath and reflect.

Yes, there is the potential that my balance issue will worsen further but I'll find a way of making the swing work. Look at the very best, not just on tour, where there are many different swings, but particularly at your own club. Look around those off single figures wherever you play and you'll see there are some very good swings, but also some that look like a golfer fighting an octopus as they swing but they find a way to not only hit the ball consistently, but to make a score. There lies the difference. On my good days I can play well but on the ones where timing and strike is off I don't have the armoury to make a score.

Indeed it has come to a head and I spoke before of actually walking off the course when I was having a particularly bad day. Something I wasn't proud of and hoped it would be a one off. Sadly last Saturday (3rd June) it happened again and after a string of holes where I lost a ball off the tee enough was enough. I wasn't having fun and by the time I got home I'd hit real rock bottom and really didn't want to continue with golf, let alone "The Quest" and was about to pull out of the competition on the Sunday (4th). Sorry Mr Palmer but sometimes making a total effort seems way too hard and giving up is by far the easier option.

Sometimes, fate takes a turn and planets align. I had a text from a couple of members at the club asking if I wanted to play on the Saturday afternoon. Going back to the club and back on the course was perhaps the last thing I wanted to do but they stressed it was about hitting a silly white ball around a field. No pressure. Just hit the bloody thing and have some fun.

"That's what we've been saying for ages you idiot". I can hear you all saying it already and I'm way ahead of you. I took a punt, putting a lot of very grubby old balls into the bag. There were some issues and bad shots (and yes I lost a ball at the bloody sixth hole again) but there were actually some good ones too, especially with the driver. I didn't keep count. Suffice to say I didn't pull out of the competition, the club's Centenary Medal.

When you finally get your golfing rewards!!!!
Are you sitting comfortably? I've some uplifting (perhaps even shocking) news. In tricky conditions, with a strengthening wind, I somehow cobbled a round of 83 (net 68 off my new 15 handicap) and won division two of the medal. Let me say that again. I won division two of the competition.

June 2017 Medal Statistics

Of course when you carve your first ball way left of the ninth green never to be seen again and start with a treble bogey you assume it's another one of "those days". While I played my way back into the round gently, another snap hook at the bloody 6th (AGAIN) and another lost ball for a double bogey, and it looked as though I'd be fighting for a buffer zone at best. However the putter was behaving. I'd switched to the Odyssey O-Works V-Line Fang I reviewed a while back (O-Works Youtube Video Review) or if you prefer a written version (O-Works V-Line Fang Blog Review) and as we know a good putting round can hide a host of misdemeanours.

Luck was to play a part, in particular on the 14th where I pulled a tee shot towards a copse of trees and thick grass. It wasn't readily available on first inspection and we dutifully called the group behind through. As they walked up, there was a ball sitting innocently on the fairway. As they passed on, it was still there and as I was running out of my allotted search time I rushed over. Lo! There it was, in the middle of the fairway (and good for the fairway in regulation stats). Too far to go for the green but considering where I'd hit my provisional (also left and in deep grass and not looking too inviting) this was massive. Add in a rare birdie on our 218 yard penultimate hole thanks to a snaking right to left fifteen footer after hitting the green and you have to wonder what the golfing gods are doing. Up the last I couldn't take on the green on the 511 yard hole in regulation so laid up well wide of the pond to the right of the green. As the wind was blustery, a sixty yard chip and run was the order of the day. As it happens, conditions were hard and CSS (competition standard scratch) went up to 71 and so my net 68 (-2) was good for a 0.9 cut and I'm back down to 13.6.

However do you know what, I wasn't happy. Two lost balls, including that damn sixth which is becoming a real problem hole and on another day with a colder putter that would have been well over the buffer zone. I didn't hit the ball well and 42% of fairways and just 11% of greens in regulation, tell a story. Still from walking off twenty four hours earlier to a win it's Zero to Hero. I hit the ball far better in the roll up game on the Saturday afternoon especially off the tee but a win is long overdue for the work I've put in and the cut gets "The Quest" moving in the right direction again.

If you're still with me (and a big thumbs up if you have made it this far) then I hope it was worth it for the good news and the win. It also qualifies me for the "Masters" an invitation only 36 hole medal event for competition winners in the qualifying period. It's been at least three (maybe even four) years since I last qualified and so it's good to be back. I need to get a lesson with Rhys booked in to continue our work and get the swing and in particular the balance issues working even more effectively. It's definitely coming. I can see it. I can feel it. The daft thing is once the car crash holes (and yes that's the 6th in particular amongst others) are history then there's a regular good score in there and some low ones. to come.

That brings me to my last (honestly) piece of news which is I'm going back to the IGolfApps site and the NLP Golf downloads which is designed to seep deep into the sub-conscious and improve my thinking. It's an area that has been on my radar for a while but other things have got in the way. Now I can see the need and don't need to be working "so" hard on the swing so can find the time. Whether this will make any difference or not I'm not convinced but nothing ventured and all that.

And that dear reader is the latest, somewhat good news from my "Quest For Single Figures". I still need to follow the words of Mr Palmer but I think I'm getting there and the win last weekend (that sound so good) validates my belief in my ability.

Be sure to stick around for more stuff coming soon including course reviews from New Zealand Golf Club and both the Old and New courses at Sunningdale Golf Club. If you haven't already, please check out the Youtube channel (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) and watch the content and more importantly subscribe to get regular updates, thumbs up the videos you like and leave any comments. I will respond. Until the next update, happy golfing.

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