Thursday, 30 November 2017

That Winning Feeling

Welcome back. As you will recall from my last blog, things had taken a turn for the better and I had just had my best ever round at Royal Ascot Golf Club, shooting a gross 78 (+8) which was comprised of two book ended nines of 39 shots each.

I had the opportunity to get nine holes in two days later on Monday 20th November and decided to take the camera along and do an on course vlog to chart my progress. It's been a while since I put one of the on my Three Off The Tee Channel (check it out here Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) and after all, confidence was high and I was hoping for good things.

You can check the nine holes out here (Better and Wetter Nine Hole Vlog). I won't spoil it for you but I do urge you to watch all the way through, give it a thumbs up and if you have any comments to leave them at the bottom of the video. I'm not giving anything away by saying that I was not fully prepared for the conditions from the seventh hole onwards!

As I have written before, this winter will see me embark on a huge swing change to try and find something shorter, more compact and more functional to set me on the road towards single figures. I had hoped this would be fully underway, but I've been struggling with back problems and so playing and range time has been severely curtailed. That is why I was so excited and enthused by my best ever eighteen hole score at my home club as it had come from nowhere.

The swing I had for that round and the one you'll see in the video are very much the current incarnation, and bears no resemblance to the one I envisage starting the 2018 season with. However as you can see, I am managing to play some functional golf with it. That does then beg the question why make wholesale changes? Having pursued this "Quest For Single Figures" for a good few seasons now it would appear pretty clear cut (at least in my own mind) that while we had a brief flirtation with this nirvana a good while ago now, in general terms what  have is pretty flawed technically and is reliant on a lot of timing, co-ordination, planetary alignment and a roll of the dice. Of course, as I work hard to improve areas like pitching then hopefully my scrambling statistics will improve and this will impact scores in a positive fashion, even on poor ball striking days.

You may have seen me doing a pitching scramble test on my Youtube channel already. If not check it out here (40 Yard Pitching Challenge). I plan to do a few more of these over the winter and also add in a chipping scramble test as well. I need to really grind the short game. It's an area that seems to have been overlooked of late as my focus has been on the long game following my lesson courtesy of Golf Monthly at the London Club in Kent with Paul Foston, who is one of their top 25 coaches.

It was presentation night recently at Royal Ascot Golf Club. You may recall I won the Centenary Medal in June. Usually, medal winners only get a small medal (obviously) to record the win but apparently as I won the division and had the best net score, there was a trophy is presented for this one medal of the year. As you can see below, it's always good to get my hands on a piece of silverware.

The Centenary Medal Trophy
It's rekindle that winning feeling and served to simply work harder over the winter. These back issues, which feel muscular and means I'm simply not giving the injury time to fully heal, have really restricted what I can do in all areas of the game and is becoming a real source of frustration. It isn't helped by the current cold snap in the UK and standing on a freezing range is not going to help rehabilitation. However I'm torn between trying to hit some balls and be in a position to play weekends with a semblance of confidence or having a few weeks of complete rest. Watching my friends on Youtube and on other social media platforms, I feel as though time is passing me by and I'm already playing catch up which is why I feel compelled to push. Of course I'm aware that doing too much may cause more damage and an even longer lay-off. It's a real conundrum for me

I also managed to get my hand on the Jubilee Cup. No you didn't miss the announcement of another storming win, especially as this is one of the club's majors and is an honours board event. I actually won it with my partner back in 2008 but wasn't able to attend the presentation event that year. Again, it felt good to get my hands on that particular trophy (below) even if it was a few years after the event.

Better late than never. Finally got my hands on the Jubilee Cup I won in 2008
I have to be honest dear reader, and say that the last round and my best score and what transpired in the nine holes has got me thinking more and more. There is clearly a golfer in there desperately fighting to get out and every now and then it makes an appearance. I have always been a somewhat streaky player, even as far back as my junior days and so transient form is nothing new to me. What I do want to acquire is a better mental attitude and I'm still looking at doing some NLP (neuro linguistic programming) to help quieten the brain down on the course, get better focus, visualise better and deal with bad shots in a less damaging way. As I've mentioned, the swing does need work to get me towards single figures and more importantly keep me there. At 50+ years of age, this does represent last chance saloon and so the information I've had from Paul Foston will form the foundation on which to base these changes.

I have spoken before of a desire not to use another swing coach and over complicate or conflict with the work I want to do but I have to confess I'm beginning to wonder if that was a little short sighted. I won't be having regular access to Paul Foston as he's based miles away down in Kent and have only planned one follow up session before the season starts to recap the work I've done and see what needs working on going forward. That then relies on me working alone and I'm not comfortable with that. I'm thinking of getting one or two lessons booked with the guy I was using before the London Club opportunity. If you haven't seen what it was all about check these two videos here, including some behind the scenes footage on how a golf magazine gets those shots you see in each issue (xxxx)

I feel I may be better off going through what I've been given to work on with my teaching professional, valuate the work I've done to date, and get professional input on how I'm progressing and the issues remaining. I can then work on what will be a huge change, especially the cupped wrist and over swing, ingrained now in over thirty years of playing, confident I'm on the right path technically.

As always then, in this world of the obsessive golfer, there is so much going on. Stick around and see how the winter work goes and please make sure you subscribe to my Youtube channel. There's a lot of great content coming and the more I can grow it and the more interactive we can become (so give those videos a thumbs up and please comment) the more I can offer back in terms of giveaways and opportunities. I have some more product reviews coming as well which I don't think you'll want to miss.

I hope you enjoy the video footage, especially the nine hole vlog, and I'll be back soon with more news on "The Quest" and hopefully with ongoing good news about the swing and the way I'm playing. Hopefully all that hard work will lead to a great 2018 and that winning feeling.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

A Small Step

It's been a month or so since my last post. It's been a stop/start sort of time with some really miserable weather meaning that golf on the course has been intermittent. I've done some range work, and tried to work on the beginning of the swing changes I've been mentioning on here and my Three Off The Tee Youtube channel (https://tinyurl.com/jxd9dxy)

I managed to play in a competition at my home course, Royal Ascot back on 4th November. To say conditions weren't ideal would be an understatement. A cliche even. Persistent heavy drizzle and a wind that had a telling effect on club selection. I have to say, the competition came way too soon into the beginning of the swing change for me to feel comfortable with my game. Add in the conditions and I wasn't in a good place.

In the end, I shot 29 points so another 0.1 on the handicap put onto the handicap. Never mind. just another small hurdle to get over on my way to single figures. It's no big deal. In the end, I even finished in the top ten of division two and only five points off the winning score.

It had started reasonably and I left the fourth green with seven points. The opening quartet at Royal Ascot off the whites, especially in a competitive round, and if I can walk off the fourth, level two's with a par five to come then I feel it's been a good start. However I made a real mess off the fifth from nowhere and after that, any faith I had in the work invested evaporated in a poor front nine. A paltry thirteen points. I did manage to find a way of playing ugly on the back nine and scored sixteen points. Was I disappointed with 29? Yes and no. I wasn't expecting to play well given the state of my game and the conditions and so had low expectations. Even so, I wasn't happy with what I produced and didn't swing as I had in practice. While I had been working well on the range, the swing is nowhere near where it's suppose to be or where I'm aiming for from my London Club lessons (check the Youtube footage here (London Club - Part One and London Club - Part Two). That was annoying

So where am I now? Very good question and one I'm glad you asked. If I'm being honest I feel a little lost. I seem to have lost my way in practice. The ball striking is reasonable but I seem to have strayed from the original plan, to reduce the length of the back swing, flatten the downswing and reduce the follow through. My practice has been disjointed. Too many swing thoughts, too many "what if I try this." I need to strip it back to basics. Regroup, refocus and stick to the plan. I've sat through the two videos again myself (go on, they aren't that bad) and have got my mind straight again.

Having said all that and not played for a couple of weeks, I was out in the roll up (Saturday 18th). It was a small turn out and cold, breezy and with range forecast. I've not been feeling 100% health wise recently, and very fatigued. Warm up was rushed and I was going out merely to play with some friends. Score was going to be irrelevant to me. I had no swing thoughts, indeed I didn't really know what swing I had.

What happened is a small step. A wake up call? A slice of luck? Perhaps justification that I am on the right path? The course was playing long, even with the white tees a little further forward than normal and the temperature was cold, and the grass wet. The semi-rough and longer grass definitely areas to be avoided.

So what happened? I shot my lowest gross score at Royal Ascot off the white tees. A gross 78 (+8) and an even 39 on both sides. My points tally of 42 was enough to win the money with ease. I'm annoyed that it wasn't a competitive card or I'll be sitting here off 12. Still, given where I feel my game has been, where my practice has been it was a bolt from the blue. A birdie set me up on the second and it should have been back to back, as I hit a sensational five iron to 6 feet at the third only to see the putt take a horrid bobble when tracking the hole.

Managed to take the kitty in the Saturday roll up. best ever gross score and yet I don't feel the swing is right
I worked hard on my pitching last weekend and was really happy in strong winds and sodden ground with the contact and control. In the warm up yesterday I couldn't find it at all. Everything was a thin bullet. Of course, golf seems to have a psychic ability to sense a weakness in your game and ask some questions of that facet. The first of these came at the sixth where I missed the par three left and had a twenty five yard pitch over a slope to a tight pin. It needed a lofted shot and off a reasonable lie should have been one I could perform. Instead a thinned shot through the green and it needed a good up and down to rescue a bogey. Similarly at the next, when left 52 yards, off a fairway lie, there was fear in the shot and it came up on the fringe. A thinned pitch at the ninth and a pattern was emerging and again a delicate chip and six foot putt salvaged a bogey. In all this there was a topped tee shot at the par three eighth and so while I was making a score, the game was not firing on all cylinders.

You can tell when your luck is in. On the 178 yard eleventh I thinned, almost topped a hybrid which ran the length of the hole and onto the green. On any other day that would have found the cabbage or stopped miles away.

I may be putting myself down.

Check out the statistics, especially the scrambling November roll up statistics

The back nine was tough and I did make some great up and downs, especially from the short side at the 12th and from wide of the 13th to make great pars. I holed a great par putt from eight feet at the fifteenth and hit the longest drive of the day down the hardest driving hole, the 425 yard par four. I only had 189 yards in and went to hit hybrid. I had been working hard all round on a solid pre-shot routine and a good focus. On this particular shot, I had no image, and negative thoughts and should have backed off. As the rain was a heavy drizzle all I wanted to do was protect the score and get in. I hit a horror low and left into a copse. I found it but could only move it a few yards.

On the back nine I had reverted to the linear method. If you haven't heard of this, type "linear" in the search box as I've written about this before and the blogs contain footage of it in action. I had a smelly pitch but put it to six feet and sunk it for a bogey. Up and down for par at the penultimate hole and a bombed drive down the last. The rain was getting heavier. The second was pulled left and took the green out of the equation but brought the water short and right into play. I opted to lay up but then hit a duffed pitch. A better one followed but I made a nasty double bogey to finish.

All in all though lots to be pleased about. My best score ever, some fantastic short game and putting and for the most part some good focus on each shot. It was pleasing as it was unexpected. I'm not sure where that leaves me and whether my game is actually in a better place than I think. Maybe the changes don't need to be as dramatic as I think and maybe I can play with a steep shaft. Somehow I fear not and it'll just be the same old, same old if I do so while I can enjoy a small step forward I fear it's masking the bigger picture.

With this in mind it's back to work on the swing, and more focus needed to the short game. I have said this before so apologies for the repetition but I still hanker after the linear method despite my continual attempts at a conventional pitching method. It just doesn't sit as comfortably as the linear version and despite not working on it I could still use it to decent effect on the course. Another conundrum to throw into the mix.

So then, yet more to ponder and I hope you're enjoying the challenge I'm on as much as I am. There's a lot to work on and there's a lot coming to my Youtube channel so if you don't subscribe go over and do so. I'll be back soon with an update on my progress but until then thanks for your continuing support.