Thursday, 31 August 2017

A Vast Improvement - Second Attempt At The 40 Yard Pitching Challenge

Welcome back. As a regular follower I know you'll be aware I'm working hard on my short game (what do you mean you've never stumbled upon this madness before) and a while back I took part in a 40 yard pitching challenge. The aim is to get up and down from that distance over nine holes. I filmed it and you can watch the original attempt here (The First Challenge). As you'll see it wasn't great and I was inconsistent, dabbled in several methods and couldn't buy a putt.

Since then I've worked hard on my pitching and trying to keep the club more in front of my hands and not going too far inside which has been an old and established fault. By doing this the theory is that I have time to hit down, ball then turf, impact spin, and as long as I rotate and keep the arms and body turning, the bounce interacts and all is good.

On the course there is still a distinct lack of trust, especially on very short ten to fifteen yard pitches, especially over a hazard or off a tight lie. I've worked on it on the practice ground but you have to do it on the course. As a result I decided to revisit the 40 yard pitching challenge.

Check out the latest video here (The Second Attempt). You will notice if you watch it to the conclusion that there is a real improvement. If the putts had dropped (and I made better strokes on a couple of holes) then it would have been a score I could only dream of. The quality of the strike and the proximity to the hole is much better. Testament to the work I've done but much room for improvement still and it's time to now expand the challenge, not only to the fiddly 30 yard distance, but out to longer distances at 50 and 60 yards. I need to get better at my short game so that on the course I can make up and downs. These will mask a host of misdemeanours in respect to the rest of the game if other facets are of. If I can have a good driving day and make good pitch shots then I can score low.

Don't forget to check out my youtube channel (The Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) and see what else I've been up to. Make sure you subscribe, thumbs up the videos and leave any comments you have.

I'll be doing another video on the short game soon, and there is a fantastic product review on a putting training aid I really think will help your short putting coming. Subscribe and you can see it as soon as it drops.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

A Time To Reflect

Well it's nearly the end of August, and already the nights are beginning to draw in. It doesn't really feel like we've had a summer again here in Berkshire, aside from those two weeks of scorching sunshine and soaring temperatures. Sitting here typing this update, it feels distinctly chilly and very autumnal.

It's been a funny few months and I thought it apt to try and get some thoughts down on screen to update you with everything that's been going on. The question is finding a sensible place to start. I guess my job situation is as good a place as any. The last time I wrote about this, I had just entered my 90 days notice period and been placed in the re-deployment pool to try and find alternative employment inside the hospital I work at.

It's near the end of month one and I've been out in the business, working in maternity of all areas. It's definitely been an eye opener to see what goes on and what all those people I recruited in the last few years do on a daily basis. Is it where I see myself? Definitely not and it isn't for me. I've got a review meeting with HR to discuss my options going forward and I think (hope) there may be an opportunity in that area which will use my skills more. So what I hear you sigh wearily? This is meant to be a golf blog. It's a good point well made but it's important to remember we work to live, not live to work and so being happy in what we do (or indeed have a job at all) makes a huge difference and I definitely found that all the indecision during the consultation process and since finding out I hadn't made it to the other side of that has had a negative effect on my game. Concentration and indeed enthusiasm has waned and it has impacted on my score and my enjoyment. While there is still an air of uncertainty, at least I have options on the table and feel more calm about things.And the result? A win in the Centenary Medal and a second place in a recent monthly medal. You can't keep a good man down.

Amidst all of this, I've been trying to produce content for the Three Off The Tee Youtube channel that now runs in conjunction with this blog (The Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel). Click on the link to see where I am with it now if you've not seen it before and don't forget to subscribe while you are there. Once I hit 100 subscribers, Youtube opens up more opportunities to create bigger and better content, which I hope you'll enjoy going forward. If you have seen the channel, it's not too late to subscribe. Come on those Royal Ascot members!! I know you've been watching so get subscribing. It's free for everyone to subscribe so go on, press that button.

On the subject of it not being too late, and getting to 100 subscribers, there is still time to enter the competition I am running to win two dozen golf balls of your choice. Simply subscribe, and tell me how many points you think I scored in my recent rounds on Sunningdale Old and New in the Golf Monthly Forum day (Sunningdale and New Zealand Course vlog) and how many points I scored in Captain's Day at Royal Ascot on the 19th August. Give me the points tally for the three rounds, tell me how many putts I had (as a tie-breaker) and in the comments section of either the Sunningdale vlog, or the competition video here (Competition) put these down and what balls you'd like if you win. Once the channel hits 100 subscribers I'll be announcing the winner.

Going forward, there will be a lot more video content coming. I hope you like what I've done to date. If not, tell me what you'd like to see and how I can improve things. I am trying to do things a little differently and not just do vlogs, but do some reviews from a mid-handicapper perspective, and not getting bogged down in any any technical aspects, but just giving a simple opinion on how I feel the product performed in my (inconsistent) hand. Of course there have been, and will continue to be updates on "The Quest For Single Figures" via the new "Martin's Mouthpiece" segment (The First Martin's Mouthpiece Video). I am working hard on my game and done some work on pitching including the 40 yard pitching challenge (Pitching Challenge) and there is an update on that coming soon. I've some more balls to review and a rather interesting putting training aid that I've used for years and I think you'll find interesting.

What about the golf? It is still an obsession.

A chance to reflect and yes despite everything 2017 has had in store it is still an obsession
Well it's been another season of ups and downs like so many others and perhaps more so than recent years, I've felt this one has been particularly frustrating. Granted 2016 didn't start well and I was hospitalised and lost a lot of momentum from a great winter of work I'd put in, and wasn't expecting to be hit by an infection in February of this year that laid me low for several months and involved another stay in hospital. The handicap started 2017 on 14.0 and hasn't really moved too far. I hit a low point on 29th May when I rolled over to a 15 handicap (14.5) but since then it has begun to head in the right direction and I had got it down to 13.3. Sadly my performances on Captain's Day (perhaps a clue if you want to enter the competition) and the monthly stableford means I have clicked back to 14 (13.5) but there is still time to get that moving forward again.

Some have said on here, the youtube channel and on the Golf Monthly Forum (The Golf Monthly Forum) that I will never get to single figures, have stagnated, have too much tuition and too much in my head when I'm playing. Do you know what? They could be right. I disagree totally and still think I have it in me. We'll see but rest assured I'm going to continue to try my guts out and do whatever I think helps to get there. I've had a rocky time of it one way and another in the last two years but I'm a survivor and what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger (so they say). I am just hoping for a period of stability so I can focus on this blog more often. I'm aware I've neglected it. I want to do more on youtube and of course I want to be out playing and working on my game.

If this all reads as a woe is me and doom and gloom I apologise. I'm aware (more so working in a hospital) that I'm luckier than many. I just had such high hopes for 2017 in terms of my golf. Perhaps I'm being overly critical. Let's look at the positives:
  • I won the Centenary Medal at Royal Ascot Golf Club
  • Winning this qualified me for the end of season "Masters" a 36 hole medal even only open to competition winners over the qualifying period. It's the first time in four seasons I've qualified
  • I have played some wonderful courses already including Sunningdale and New Zealand and have another top 100 UK rated course in Hankley Common still to play. There have been some less famous courses too which I've really enjoyed including Sutton Green (Course Review), Tylney Park and Kingswood. 
  • I have been able to try and review some nice products
  • I have played with some fantastic people, including old friends and new faces and really enjoyed my time on the course with all of them
  • The handicap is moving forward. Granted it's like an asthmatic snail at the moment but it's down by half a shot and one cut is back to 13 again and we can kick on again.
  • I have had some wonderful and informative coaching. I've enjoyed the process and some of it has even stuck. I've enjoyed the practice afterwards bleeding the changes into my game and testing it out on the course.
  • I've been able to carry on with this blog and the youtube channel and received some positive and encouraging comments. If you took the time to respond to a blog or video or even just to read/watch then a big thank you. I enjoy doing it and if some of it resonates with what other golfers are doing then so much the better.
So there really have been reasons to be cheerful. I've always been a glass half empty type of guy. That's just the way I am. Sometimes I need to sit down and type these thoughts out to realise that in fact there has been a lot of good stuff too. As long as I continue to enjoy my golf, the company and doing the blog/videos then I haven't got it too bad. Of course getting "The Quest For Single Figures" to it's conclusion would be the cherry on top but for now we'll plod on and keep trying.

So where does that leave me? Work wise, still in flux but hopefully with something positive about to happen. Golfing wise, there are still a number of months, including my favourite time of the year to be on a course, when the leaves start to change colour and the place looks its best.

There are still a lot of competitions to enjoy, including of course the "Masters" at Royal Ascot. I've got a Golf Monthly Forum day in aid for the Help For Heroes charity. This is an annual event, played on some great courses and this year as I've mentioned we're off to Hankley Common for what promises to be another great day raising money for a fantastic cause. I've got more lessons coming to try and get better and the handicap moving downwards before winter raises an icy grip on proceedings. There is also a plan to get in place for work over the winter period to get the swing into a better place and ready to hit the 2018 season hard and fast. I am not planning to make it a hat-trick or pre-season hospital trips!!!!! I have mentioned in other posts about doing some NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) to improve my mind set on the course, for better thinking, LESS technical thoughts and to be a calmer golfer. This hasn't really happened as I hoped but again it's something I want to work on and re-visit over the winter.

The last few months have given me a lot of time to think. I've played a number of solo rounds in the evening and just hit the ball while considering career options, my golfing aspirations and life the universe and everything. Funnily enough, care free, about my swing and focusing on stuff other than golf was conducive to some good play. Must be a lesson in there somewhere!

So what about everyone else? How has your season gone to date. Are you burning it up and hitting all the targets you set? Are you happy just playing a for a bit of cash with your mates at the weekend? Are you struggling. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Stick your comments in the box under this blog and let me know how it's going. Am I ploughing a lone furrow with my take on golf or does it strike a chord with some?

It has definitely been a manic time of it (It's Been Manic blog) and still is but we're moving forward. 2017 definitely isn't the season I'd road mapped for myself but it's not over yet. I've had some good stuff including a win and runners up spot, done well in club matches (bar losing on the last green in the last match against Tylney Park) alongside some total dross including a miserable 24 points in the stableford immediately after the Centenary Medal win. Gloriously, consistently inconsistent. How often do I say that? What I would give to churn out a month of buffer zones.

On reflection then perhaps not as bad a year as I may have painted it in my own mind and more positives than negatives. It's easy to reflect on the negative aspects at time and forget the good stuff I can produce. I am having a successful season, having had a win and a second, a couple of handicap cuts and generally the swing is beginning to feel in a good place following my lessons in 2017. There is a long way to go, short game in particular, and lots more I want to achieve not just in 2017 but in my golfing career. Single figures remains my paramount goal, but I'd love a hole in one. Never had one in over thirty years of playing. I'd like the youtube channel to grow and get bigger and better (you subscribing will definitely help that) and I want to feel I can go out and play competitively on a regular basis. Above all I want to carry on enjoying my golf and the company, whether I play good bad or indifferent.

I'll take some time out again at the end of the year to reflect again (don't groan) and see where the latter half of the season took me and how 2017 treated me as a golfer on the whole. For now, thanks as always for taking the time to read my humble offering (and thanks for watching the videos if you clicked on the links). I hope your own 2017 golfing season has been good for you and if not, that you can rally and have a big push in the last throes of the season. Happy golfing.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Golf Monthly Forum Day - Sunningdale and New Zealand Golf Clubs

Welcome. If you've been following me on here and on my youtube channel (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) you will know I've been talking about a Golf Monthly Forum Day (Golf Monthly Forum) at the world famous Sunningdale and New Zealand golf courses. I put a sneak preview up on my channel (A Sneak Preview) and hope the video I am going to showcase here does justice to the unique atmosphere of both venues.

It was a pleasure to play both courses which regularly feature in any top 100 UK courses. Both courses were in tip top condition and with the heather in full bloom every hole was a photographic opportunity. Both clubs were reticent to allow me to film on the course which is why I was restricted to filming some groups off the tee and my own playing partners for both the Old and New courses at Sunningdale and at New Zealand. I don't think it takes anything away from the splendour.

I hope you enjoy the full video here Golf Monthly Forum Day Video

While you are watching, please be aware that it isn't too late to enter my competition to win two dozen golf balls of your choice. All you have to do is guess how many stableford points I scored on the Old and New courses at Sunningdale and at Captain's Day at Royal Ascot on 19th August and as a tie break add how many putts you think I'll take. Full details can be found at my video on the subject here (Competition Video). You must subscribe to the channel to enter. Please put your guess in the comments box, total points, number of putts and the balls of your choice. Good luck

I really hope the video captures what a great two days this was. A big thanks to everyone on the forum who was involved in organising the day, to both clubs for their generous hospitality. Enjoy the video and don't forget to subscribe to the channel and thumbs up the video

Sunday, 13 August 2017

It's Been Manic

Welcome back to an update. I have to start with an humble apology. It's been far too long since my last blog post update. I've been working hard with my youtube channel (Three Off The Tee Channel). If you haven't already, go and check it out and don't forget to subscribe while you are there. It's also been a busy time personally. At work, we have been through a consultation process and I am on a ninety day notice period of redundancy. As you can understand a lot of my focus and spare time has gone into sourcing alternative roles both inside the organisation and out in the big wide world. After ten years in the role it definitely came as a shock!

However, it hasn't completed stopped my golf completely. In a recent video (Martin's Mouthpiece) I announced that the "Quest For Single Figures" was taken a necessary sabbatical following my job news. As I left it my handicap was back to 13.9 which had increased a little from my win in the Centenary Medal at Royal Ascot back in June. However as you'll discover later in this blog, there have been further developments.

If you are a regular follower to my blog, you'll have seen a post I put up last weekend regarding a competition I am running to give away two dozen golf balls of your choice. It doesn't matter where in the world you are, if you subscribe to the youtube channel, enter, give me details of what balls you'd like and are the winner, I'll make sure they get shipped out to you. If you missed it, the blog is here (Competition Time Blog) and there is also a video (naturally) that goes into a bit more detail (Competition Video). There is still time to enter. The final qualifying competition I'm playing is Captain's Day at my club on the 19th and I won't be announcing the winner until my youtube channel reaches 100 subscribers. This is crucial as once this milestone is reached Youtube offers more facilities to bring bigger and better content to you.

I was lucky enough to take part in the Golf Monthly Forum golf days to Sunningdale and New Zealand golf clubs. These are world famous and regularly feature in top 100 UK courses. They really are a different world and the New Zealand in particular is a throwback to a very different era and is a place that really does things their way and in their own time. I've done a taster video that I strongly encourage you to watch (A Sneak Preview - Sunningdale and New Zealand). This forum is a wonderful melting pot of golf related discussion and well worth a look in itself (The Golf Monthly Forum)

I have a full video capturing as much footage as I could obtain coming out soon on my youtube channel which I hope will capture just how magnificent these courses (we played both the Old and New at Sunningdale as well as two rounds at New Zealand) were, the feel of the place and in particular the splendour of both with the heather in full bloom. Each hole really was a photographic opportunity.

The magnificent Sunningdale clubhouse

If you have already watched the competition video (see above link) you'll know by now that things at the New Zealand Golf Club didn't quite go according to plan and I fell a painful victim to the deep and ferocious heather lining every hole. I managed to injure my arm to the point of being unable to swing a club and had to retire. However, I've managed to source a return visit and so I'm desperate to get back there and sample everything it has to offer and hopefully get round all eighteen holes without mishap.

A long time ago at the start of June, (is it really that long?) I was talking about a change in teaching professionals and going back to a guy I'd used a few years back who had got me from 14 to within touching sight of single figures (End Of The Road Blog). We've worked on a new wrist position which was working well while I worked on it in practice. With the job situation, practice has been limited and I have been aware of slipping back into old habits. I had a recent lesson where we worked more on club path, especially after impact and tried to eradicate a flip with the hands that had come into my swing and make sure the path exited better. Again with limited practice, this has been hard to repeat consistently but when it works it has made a big change to strike. I need to go back to Rhys ap Iolo at Downshire Golf Centre and follow this up further as I'm not convinced I've necessarily taken everything on board correctly. The issue I have is he's now booked up working on summer camps for the school holiday and his availability is severely limited.

I also received notification that I had outstanding lessons with the former teaching professional, Andy Piper at Lavender Park Golf Centre. As form has been patchy of late and distance and direction severely compromised in the last few rounds, especially throughout July, I decided to use one of the two remaining lessons. There were old issues with posture (too slumped), stance (too wide) that old chestnut we call tempo (too quick) and not managing to complete the back swing fully. It really is amazing what a quick thirty minute lesson can reveal and fix and it's a huge reason I'm a big advocate of getting regular tuition with a good PGA pro. It's so hard to see these errors for yourself, even at the range and the fixes are usually very simple and gets me hitting better again very quickly.

Are you still with me? Way back in the beginning of this hefty tome, I mentioned the "Martin's Mouthpiece" video and the fact that my "Quest For Single Figures" was being put temporarily out to grass pending my work situation.

Well guess what. There have been changes to that. I am currently enjoying a work trial in another post at the hospital I work at. It's a million miles from recruitment and HR and is more patient focused (in maternity of all areas). There are potentially several other options in the pipeline to consider after this trial concludes at the end of the month. This has meant there has been an air of stability (if short term) and I got back out in recent weeks to work on my game.

Focus has been on the work from my lessons and my strike and dispersion and it had been going well on the practice ground. However the old issue of transferring this to the course remained and July had been sketchy in terms of form. It seemed the decision to put "The Quest" on hold had been a sane one. I have been trying to get out on the course more often rather than ball bashing at a range or on the practice ground. This has really helped in terms of pitching and the work I invested (40 Yard Pitching Challenge) and with bunker play and putting. However getting it off the tee and hitting target when I found fairways has highlighted issues and room for improvement. I've been struggling a little with the injury I sustained in the heather at the New Zealand club and so have been careful not to play or practice too much and give my elbow time to heal properly.

Since my Centenary Medal in June, I had a horror in the June monthly stableford and only got 24 points. My club championship was one to forget with a net 81 only just surviving the halfway cut and the subsequent net 79 in the second round nothing to brighten the soul. As mentioned, I've had a lesson with Andy Piper since then.

Last weekend was the August monthly medal. With form patchy, practice limited and a niggly elbow injury the prognosis wasn't good. I'd played a few holes the night before and it was grim. Old issues meant ball striking and distance were woeful and accuracy, especially off the tee, was poor. Indeed my opening tee shot in the medal was a snap hook that did well to miss the pond, eight yards short and left on the opening par three. I did hit a decent pitch to fifteen feet and was then amazed to see the right to left putt from fifteen feet drop for a par.

Par was salvaged on the next, the par five and I managed to hit a decent drive down the third onto the fairway. In fairness, I felt comfortable and able to work within the limitations of recent form, striking and fitness. Although I put my approach at the third into a bunker right of the green, a bogey seemed the worse scenario. So how come I walked off with an eight? Easy. thin a bunker shot into deep rough, pitch through the green from a horror lie, chip on and take the obligatory three putt.

I may have felt comfortable but I was riding my luck like a frantic gambler on the last table in Vegas. My nemesis hole, the 6th threatened to bite me again big style and having hit two left off the tee, one definitely out of bounds and the first effort potentially suffering the same fate I was five off the tee. Imagine the relief when I walked up to the first one a foot or so inside the course. A decent pitch to ten feet and two putts for a bogey (net par) but it definitely felt like a birdie.

Top be honest the rest of the front nine was played reasonably well, certainly in terms of the scores on the card and a very respectable outward half of 42 saw me bang on handicap despite that eight on the third. I wasn't expecting to start the back nine with a double bogey but my errant drive went right into the deep stuff which is a cardinal error on this hole. I then managed to string some great holes together and played the next four in just two over gross.

I knew it was going better than of late and I did start to feel tight and was struggling not to try and steer the shot. A dropped shot on the par five 15th was a bad mistake and caused by another errant drive, this time hooking low and left. Coming to the penultimate hole, I wanted to just get in without any mistakes. I hit a safe tee shot at this 218 yard par three which finished about ten feet short of the putting surface. I opted to putt but made a woeful attempt and would walk off with a bogey when par was there for the taking.

The last hole is long par five that plays uphill and again I hit a very tight drive going right towards the out of bounds. It stayed in but I was forced to plot my way up the hole. I missed the green with an approach from 121 yards and went left into a bunker some twenty yards short of the green. I think it was a case of avoiding the pond lurking right!. Anyway, I was faced with a long bunker shot and after debating whether to take my 58 degree wedge or go up to the 52 degree, I went for the more lofted club. It came out perfectly, high and straight, pitched a foot beyond the hole and began to spin back. At one point it looked like dropping but left a simple tap in for bogey.

Back in 43 for a total of 85 gross (net 71) and second place in division 2, losing out by a shot. Damn that third hole. With CSS going up to 72 (+2) it was enough to give me a cheeky little 0.6 cut and the handicap is now back to 13 (13.3). The "Quest For Single Figures" is definitely back on. One very happy golfer.

August 2017 medal statistics

Hopefully that brings you fully up to date. Please try and click on the links I've given as I think you'll enjoy the content and I definitely won't leave it as long next time. Going forward, there is a lot of work coming up on my game, a match for the club away to Tylney Park, a Golf Monthly Forum Day in aid of the Help For Heroes charity, Captain's Day and I've qualified for the end of season finale at Royal Ascot, The Masters, a 36 hole medal event and the first time in four years I'll be in the field. Plenty then to be getting on with. Hopefully your own season is going to plan and you're playing well. If not, there is still time before the end of the summer and I'll see you for an update sooner rather than later. Happy golfing

Friday, 11 August 2017

Sunningdale and New Zealand Golf Clubs

I was lucky enough to play in a Golf Monthly Forum golf day (Golf Monthly Forum) and have a video coming out on my Youtube channel. In the meantime, as I get this ready and try and capture the quality and atmosphere of these two iconic courses, I've put together a tiny taster video for you to enjoy here (A Sneak Preview).

Go and have a watch. Heather in full bloom, golf on the Old and New courses at Sunningdale followed by New Zealand Golf Club the following day. The latter is unique and is not only a throwback to a bygone era but is a place use to doing things their own way, and not always following convention. Members don't have handicaps, the lockers have the current incumbent's name on them and the predecessors are merely crossed off when they leave or pass away.

While you on my channel don't forget to check out my competition video (Competition Video) for a chance to win two dozen golf balls of your choice. Simply subscribe to the channel, put your prediction for my scores and total putts in the comments box and don't forget to thumbs up the video.

The full Sunningdale and New Zealand video will dropping soon and there is a blog update on everything I've been up to coming this weekend (hopefully) which is a hefty tome to enjoy. In the meantime enjoy the preview of two great clubs.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Competition Time - Update

If you watched my first "Martin's Mouthpiece on my youtube channel (Martin's Mouthpiece Video) you'll know I ran a competition. I played the world famous Sunningdale and New Zealand Golf Clubs last week and I originally asked you to subscribe to the channel, thumbs up the video and predict my stableford points score for the two rounds on the Old and New courses at Sunningdale and the AM round at the New Zealand Golf Club. As a tie breaker I also asked you to predict the number of putts you thought I'd take for the three rounds.

However with the heather being six inches deep in places, I managed to hurt my arm trying to get my ball out of it and the damage was sufficient to prevent me swinging properly or completing all of the holes.

The good news is, this means I am extending the competition and will now include the Captains Day at Royal Ascot Golf Club as the final qualifying round on 19th August. So what will you win? I'm offering two dozen golf balls of your choice, and it doesn't matter where in the world you're located. If you win I'll DHL the balls to wherever you are based. This means two dozen premium balls of your choice, so the new Pro V, the new Taylormade TP's Srixon Z Stars or any of the other top brands. Don't worry if you don't use a premium ball. I'm happy to offer two dozen balls of your choice.

Check out my new Competition Update video (Competition Video ) go over to my youtube channel (Three Off the Tee Youtube Channel) and subscribe. Go to the new Competition Update video, give it a thumbs up and in the comments box put down what you think the points total for the Old and New courses at Sunningdale was and what my score on Captains Day will be. Put down the total points total and how many putts I'll take. It's as simple as that. Don't worry if you entered on the original video. As long as you subscribed I'll be adding your original entry. If you want to enter again, feel free to do so.

It is the subscribing that's important. I won't announce the winner until I reach 100+ subscribers so get over and make sure you click on that subscribe button. Once I hit that 100 mark, Youtube opens up the opportunity to bring bigger and better content so it helps me bring you better videos.

Good luck and thanks for your support for my channel