Sunday, 26 August 2018

Oops I Did It Again!

Welcome to you all and another blog. As always loads to for me to fill you in on with regards my golf, The Quest For Single Figures (which seems more like a holy grail than golfing target - more on that to come) and a couple of new video offerings from my youtube channel. If you haven't subscribed to that yet, go to it here Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel and do so.

Talking of that, let's start with product reviews. As you'll see I've done two recent golf ball reviews on the Vice Drive two piece offering see the video here Vice Drive and the Taylormade Project (S) which is a three piece model. Again see what I made of it here (Project (S). As always I'll be doing a more in depth review on both in the near future and go into more detail on how I felt each performed. For now though enjoy the video, subscribe to the channel, give the video a thumbs up and if you want to know more or have any questions leave them in the comments section of the video and I'll respond

One thing I wrote about a while back was reducing the amount of tuition I am taking. It got to the point where I felt I was almost always working on some change or another from a piece of coaching and that my game and my swing never really had a chance to settle down and for myself to give me a chance to play with what I have. For the most part I've stuck to my word. However, having struggled in the last month or so, I went back to Andy Piper at Lavender Golf Centre in Ascot for a thirty minute MOT. The good news was, for the most part what I have is functional. However I'd become way too active with the hands and wrists on the takeaway and it was too "snatchy" which meant I took it too far inside while lifting it. The simple solution was to work on a one piece takeaway and work on one very, very old but effective drill. Put a club (short iron) in the belly button, assume the address position and and turn, keeping the club in the navel. Then repeat that with the actual swing. Very simple and something that I can return to as an initial starting point.

Now the astute amongst you will have seen the title. No, it's not me doing my best Britney Spears impression (and you should be very thankful for that, trust me).

I'm referring to my handicap. It's clicked back over to 14.5. It makes that "Quest For Single Figures" seem forever way. However what I feel I need to remind everyone of is that I started 2018 at 14.2 and so in the grand scheme of things my handicap has moved 0.3 all season. Hardly a disaster. Granted it's not where I want to be, and definitely not where "The Quest" was planned to be by this stage of 2018.

That brings me to my main point of this post and one I hope will produce some debate. Should the handicap be regarded as the sole indicator of how a player is performing. According to some research conducted by HowdidIdo, in strokeplay, from some 3,601,169 rounds entered into their system, only 26% of these were inside the buffer zone. In stableford, from a total of 3,818,527 rounds that spiked but only to 31%. They then broke that down into handicap category to show how often each section achieved buffer,

Category 1 - (5 handicap or less) = 36%
Category 2 - (6-12 handicap) = 32%
Category 3 - (13-20 handicap) = 29%
Category 4 - (21-28 handicap) = 26%
Category 5 - (29 handicap and above) - 19%

That means for my level of play I'm expected to hit buffer zone no more than 29% as an average. That means I could be three over handicap (net 73 in medal events at my golf club) without a handicap cut. I would suggest if HowdidIdo drilled further, the average per category, of times players play and get a cut would significantly reduce further.

This brings me to the crux. Based even on this very basic breakdown, is the handicap a true reflection of how a player is given at any given time? I've written many times on here of how I feel I am striking the ball really nicely but managing to chuck one or two bad holes in that means I may miss buffer, even by a single shot. I totally accept we have to have the system to manage the handicaps and allow each and every one of us to play on an even playing field (we won't even mention bandits, that's a whole separate blog).

Of course we have days when it doesn't go well. If it's going to go wrong it will. I'm talking about those nearly days where it was so good for so long. What happens, if like me you work on the game, and perhaps have tuition. This all takes time to bleed in from a change in the lesson to something that feels comfortable and works on the course. If you look at a string of 0.1 increases on the handicap, the casual observer would be forgiven for thinking this player is in a rut. In fact, the opposite may be true. That player could have had a lesson, been making the changes and getting better but not quite had the breaks or found a way to hold it together under the pressure of card and pencil in hand.

For me, it's about the ability to combine everything on one day I find difficult. I've written about the mental side of golf and the work I've been doing courtesy of Golfhacker magazine (Golfhacker website) with James Lambdon to improve my thinking and resilience. It's very early days into a long process but so far the results are proving very encouraging and it is definitely making me stronger. I am getting into the mix more in roll up games (and have taken a few quid recently), had a win and a second in 2018. That said I am still chucking a car crash hole into the equation. That is where the focus of my next session with James will be centred.

If you factor in things like golf tuition and the player making swing changes, I'd argue the handicap simply doesn't provide the full picture. Now there isn't (or shouldn't) be anything other than the handicap system but there will be people seeing my handicap has reached 15 and think I won't see 12 again let along single figures. They may, in the fullness of time be proved right. However for everyone working so hard on their games, it is reaching their own personal goals and objectives that drives them on. This means handicaps will increase as they work on their own changes. Hopefully though, when the good times come, the handicap cuts will be significant and there will be some successes in there.

We (well me as a Category 3 player) will only hit buffer just 3/10 times on average and as I surmised, get a cut less often than that. Does it really mean all category three (and factor in for your own standard) players are really playing that badly for the other 7/10 times they don't hit buffer? Let's assume that amongst those seven games I don;'t make the buffer I chuck in two really bad games and disregard those that's five games where I don't make the zone and the handicap goes up. In medal play in particular, that could be down to one hole. I played yesterday. fresh from my lesson on Thursday changing the takeaway into a medal yesterday and shot net 77 (+7). I had an 8 (+3) on a par 5, a 5(+2) on a par three and a 6 (+2, and caused by chipping from the fairway into a bunker but let's not go there). That means for the other fifteen holes I was a competent player despite the new swing change and played to handicap. This where I struggle when people look at 0.1's. We are NOT consistent enough.

When we improve, so in my case getting to category 2 is my first objective, then that level of consistency should begin to improve. However as the figures show, even then buffer is only a fairly meagre 32%. Granted the buffer figures are a fraction higher for stableford play but even then for the most part we don't play to our handicaps. That doesn't stop each and everyone of us going out week in, week out, in all types of weather to try again believing this game in "THE ONE" where it clicks. Perhaps that's why when we do get this rare handicap cuts we wear them as badges of honour. Maybe you've got a cut this weekend (and if so well done) but logic (and the figures) will say it may be a while until the next one. Even when we hit those ever so rare purple patches, I think many will agree the trough we hit at the end of it comes as a sudden and painful hit and seems to last even longer before the next sign of progress.

So there you go, a slightly different post for you to contemplate. Do handicaps provide an accurate and honest assessment of where a player is with their game? Please let me know what you think.

Don't forget to look at the reviews for the Vice Drive and Taylormade Project (S) and subscribe to my channel while you are there. As always my game gives me joy and frustration in equal measures. Handicap wise it's a step back but there is some good in there. I've a few big events left in 2018 to make and impression and compete as well as getting the cuts I desire. Stick around for full product reviews on the two golf balls and more updates on where my game is. Thanks for reading, and play well. 

Sunday, 12 August 2018

The British Par 3 Championship

No, I'd never really heard of the British Par 3 Championship either (British Par 3 website). I think I'd seen glimpses of it on Sky Sports but it looked like another celebrity golf event. Having now experienced it for the first time, I realise that I have been missing out on what in essence is a rather well kept secret.

As you will know by now if you are a regular follower (and thanks as always for the continued support, and if you don't subscribe here and to my Three Off The Tee youtube channel, which is a click away here Three Off The Tee Channel please do so now and make a middle aged golf hacker very happy) that I am doing some collaborations with Golfhacker magazine, which is a fantastic online magazine that is going from strength to strength. It is aimed at people like you and I, the average golfer. Check out their website here to see what the latest issue has to offer - Golfhacker website

Thanks to Nick Kevern, the Golfhacker editor and the nice people at Champions (UK) plc. Check out what they are all about here - (The Champions (UK) plc website). I managed to get a media pass for the Friday, celebrity finals day. My brief was to simply try and get some simple two minute vignettes from a few of the celebrities, while not intruding on their time or golf too much. So not much to ask a media novice. How did I get on? Check out my efforts on this video - British Par 3 - The Interviews

For those that aren't sure, The British Par 3 Championship is set in a stunning location in the Midlands at Nailcote Hall, not far from the main Warwick University campus. Not only is this a fantastic hotel in its own right, but the course on which everyone plays is stunning. It's short as a par 3 course would indicate, but the holes are fiendishly difficult with tiny greens that were running so fast despite the odd rain show on them. Accuracy is everything.

The great thing about this event is there really is something for everybody. Aside from a tented village and activities to try, It attracts a host of professional golfers, including ex major winners like 2005 US Open Michael Campbell, Masters winner Ian Woosnam OBE and the events host each year Tony Jacklin CBE. It also has a number of LET members such as the fabulous Carly Booth and the up and coming Inchi Mehmet. On top of that are a host of TV and sporting stars that give up their time for free to come and play and raise huge amounts for charity, and the public are actively encourage here to come up and interact with them. To a person, each and every one was so generous to all requests for autographs and photos and it sends such a positive message. In my own mind, if golf wants to attract new people into the great game of golf, they should simply use this event as a template

I managed to get a photo with golf legend Tony Jacklin. A man that has done everything in the game but also a true gent and wonderful host to the British Par 3 Championship

As I alluded to, it's set in a small space, so you do have to keep your wits about you on certain holes but for the most part, there is plenty of room to wander around, enjoy the course in its full glory and see players tackle the challenge laid out before them. Some managed it better than others.

As someone once said (far better than I'm doing) pictures paint a thousand words. Let me show you this, a video I made of my own experience, outside of my media duties. I hope it does some justice to the fun that my wife, a golf widow and someone who had never been to a golf event of any description, and I had. Check it here The Flavour of the British Par 3 Championships

I had a fantastic day. It was a privilege to have a media pass (access all areas and with a glorious lunch thrown in), it's not necessary for people to come along and have a good time. I couldn't believe how many children, especially young children who were there, and were having a great time seeing some of their heroes in action. It's an easy location to get to from most parts of England, although I did speak to some from Wales and Scotland that had come down. The weather had been glorious until I turned up and brought heavy rain showers and the odd clap of thunder with me.

My only regret was not being able to actually have a go and test my golfing skills around the course. Nick Kevern and his partner in crime for the week William Murfitt (check his videos of the week on his own youtube channel here which will show far more of the activities during the week - (William Murfitt Youtube Channel) did get on one evening. It really found them out and re-emphasised just how hard it is for professional and amateur alike.

I hope you enjoyed this blog. Please take the time to click on the links provided as there really is some good stuff to enjoy. More importantly though, if you want to go to somewhere different to get you golf fix, mingle with a few famous names and have a great day out, make sure you book up for the 2019 event. I'll be there for sure.