Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Twisting My Melon

Hello once again. Welcome to this, the latest blog update on “The Quest For Single Figures”. It’s getting to that time again isn’t it, when the nights are drawing in and there’s not enough light to squeeze nine holes in after work. I always find this part of the year a rather curious ying/yang time. I love the majesty of nature and the colourful display as the trees begin to change colour but feel sad that another summer of golf is behind me and we’ve got winter golf ahead and in particular playing in several layers of clothing and in damp conditions underfoot.

All well and I good, but what’s been happening.? As always, there’s a fair bit going on. My Three Off The Tee youtube channel is beginning to grow and I’m tantalisingly close to hitting 250 subscribers. If you are new to these ramblings or resisted the urge to this point, please go and check it out here (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) for a number of reviews and some subjects I hope you’ll find interesting, particularly the linear method of short game, aimpoint and my recent exploits at the British Par 3 Championship. If you haven’t subscribed, please do so, and if you already do, many thanks for that, but please pass the word to your golfing friends. Once I hit 300 subscribers I’ll make sure there is a decent giveaway to mark this.

I am also hoping to be at the Farmfoods European Senior Masters at the Forest of Arden (a course I know well – Fine Margins - Golf Monthly Centenary Final) to help cover the pro-am for Golfhacker magazine and get some content for my youtube channel (Golfhacker Website). I’ll be sure to post a blog at some point as it promises to be a great day.

Golfing wise, there’s been plenty to tell you about. Having gone from brilliant sunshine and crispy hard fairways, last week saw gale force winds and biblical rain. On Sunday our planned match at home to Caversham Heath was postponed much to my annoyance. I got turned over in the away game and was keen to make amends. The club has taken a very sensible decision and brought winter rules in early as the green staff are faced with a big task to try and get the fairways back from the damage the heat caused over the summer.  They have already started their remedial work hence the early requirement for pick and place on the fairways.

As I am sure I have mentioned in previous posts, “The Quest” has taken a bit of a hammering in 2018 and despite a win and a second place earlier in the season, the handicap has been mostly stuck in reverse and I’ve collected 0.1 increased with alarming regularity. Before I started in the monthly stableford last weekend (22nd September) the handicap had climbed to 14.8 (15) and had risen a disappointing 0.8 in 2018. I can’t protest it isn’t a fair representation as I’ve not managed to do it often enough in competitive play. I feel I’ve put the hard work in, especially from 100 yards and in and in general terms my game is half decent. I simply can’t string eighteen holes together.

As a result of my competition win (and cut) I qualified for the Royal Ascot “Masters” which is a 36 hole medal event over one day. Conditions weren’t easy and I was a little disappointed with my opening 75 (+5) which was largely a result of two triple bogey sevens on the front nine. However the biggest problem on the day was slow play and a round not far short of five hours and a gap of three holes between one group and the ones ahead wasn’t acceptable. It wasn’t much better in the afternoon. The issue has been discussed and noted within the club and I don’t want to dwell on the subject further, suffice to say it did take some of the gloss of having qualified and spoilt a day I was looking forward to. I shot a net 79 (+9) in the afternoon again largely assisted by two treble bogey holes. To be honest the afternoon round was a snapshot of my glorious inconsistency all season.

I have actually been playing some decent golf in recent weeks and have had some strong showings in the roll up’s on a Saturday and Sunday, never quite good enough to take any cash, and still subject to a momentary lapse of reason and a bad hole or two, but much better than it has been.

As mentioned, last weekend was the monthly stableford. It was much cooler and there was a constant annoying drizzle throughout although the predicted strong winds didn’t show until after I finished. For once I started rather well and had three straight pars from the second, to get through the opening quartet of holes two under my handicap. The fifth at Royal Ascot is a par five and is usually viewed by many as a good hole to pick a shot up on to handicap. That was certainly my intention. The tiger line is down the left of the fairway as it’s the shortest route and the ball invariably runs on and on once it hits the fairway. In my defence your honour, this wasn’t what I was trying. I was looking to hit a draw starting centrally and moving the ball to the left. Instead I started it about five feet too far left of hitting the optimum line and it flew straight into the trees never to be found again (at least by me) and I was forced to hit three off the tee. That’s a great name for a blog and youtube channel if ever I heard it. In the end I walked off with a nasty eight and all that hard work at the start blown away in one hole.

My golf is like Russian roulette. I know there’s a disaster in there, but never sure which hole its coming on. In the end I went out in 43 which was one over handicap. A strong start to the back nine with pars at the tenth and eleventh got me into red numbers again and under handicap. A streaky net par at the next, followed by a battling bogey at the thirteenth when I had to hole from twelve feet for the bogey tempered progress but I was still level par.

I suppose one of the benefits of the handicap heading upwards is getting an extra shot. In my case this has now come at the par five sixteenth which I played in textbook fashion to make a gross par and slip once more under handicap. I was unlucky at the next when a good drive and well struck second saw the ball run just through the back on the very difficult 425 yard par four. I hit a good chip to six feet and felt more than a little aggrieved to see the put hit the right half of the hole but remain above ground.

I am trying to be more patient on the course and this was rewarded with a par at the penultimate hole. I hit a terrible drive, way right into the heavy rough, managed to find it and pitched on to fifteen feet. I’d have been happy with a four (net par) but was chuffed to see the putt drop. That put me two under handicap. With the last to play, in my head I was thinking I needed a gross par to be in contention.
I did part one of the equation and hit the best drive of the day. However once over my ball, I felt very tight over the shot. Perhaps it was nerves, and definitely something I’ve been working hard on the mental side to overcome, but I was more aware of the poorest scenarios rather than simply hitting it up the fairway and leaving a simple iron to the green. It was definitely not a good mind set and not I’ve been working on.

In the end it was a damp squib, much like the weather and I only made a net par. It was good enough though for 38 points in total. I was surprised to see I’d come back in 21 points which I knew put me in pole position for any count back to determine the outcome but the back nine hadn’t felt that good as I played it. There is maybe a lot to be said for keeping the focus and playing one hole at a time and not getting too far ahead of myself.

As soon as I got into the sanctuary of the 19th there was a better score of 39 points in. Damn that messy fifth hole. Damn that missed put on the sixteenth. Damn that tame finish and damn the chap that beat me. Actually the guy that won division 2 with that score is a good golfer and great playing partner and I always enjoy his company when we play. He’s been a bit up and down in recent weeks form wise so nice to see him get back on it. Shame he couldn’t have waited a few more days though!

In the end my score was good enough for second place in my division so I should pick up a few quid in the competition pot and also from the group bet we have. However, far better than that, I managed a 0.6 cut and so I am back down to 14 and my official handicap has returned to 14.2. This was where I started 2018 and so I’m pleased for now at least there has been no difference to the handicap this year. The battle as we enter the last hurrah of the season is to get it down further before we move into a new year.

I have said many times, I’m not convinced handicap is always a true barometer of progress and I’ve played many good rounds this year (and previous years) but as the fifth hole showed, I still chuck too many unforced and unnecessary mistakes it too often. It’s a tiresome trait and one I’ve battled for ages. My thinking on the course is clearer and there are far less technical thoughts littering my golfing brain over the ball so why do I keep boring you with the same story. I spoke in my last blog about “Changing The Tune” and in lots of ways I’m doing so, but what do I need to do to put a consistent round together for the full eighteen holes? To quote a song from my youth, “It’s twisting my melons” Happy Mondays - Step On

Happy Mondays - Step On - the single that "twisting my melons comes from
I’m going to take the positives from the last few weeks. I am playing reasonably and very happy to have got cut again. Much overdue of course but where does “The Quest” go from here?  As I alluded to, we’re fast approaching winter golf again but that doesn’t have to be the end of my ambitions to end 2018 lower than I started. My course is in very good nick throughout the year and usually manages to run a qualifying competition each month, subject to conditions (frost, snow etc.).

What I do want to do is sit down with the teaching professional I use, Andy Piper at Lavender Golf Centre, and discuss the highs and the lows and get a series of lessons booked in. I have mentioned before the fact I am trying to reduce the tuition I have, bar the odd emergency fix when things go totally amiss. To my mind, winter is always the ideal time to make any significant technical changes and use the time to work these in on the range and the course. I don’t think there is actually too much to change and it’s more a case of refining and polishing what I have. I plan to use some weekends to work specifically on my short game and really hone the linear method of playing these shots and try and get a short game from 100 yards and in that’s really robust.

Thank you for your enduring patience reading another diatribe and while I’ve found it cathartic to get the angst of slow play and another near miss off my chest, I feel sure it hasn’t been such an experience for you. You’re nearly there and your patience deserves rewarding, so go pour yourself a large drink. Heaven knows reading this rubbish you deserve one.

Yet again I’ve flattered to deceive or as I heard a radio commentator once say when describing French footballing legend Eric Cantona in one game, “dabbled with the palette without painting the full picture”. A brilliant comment and a superb epitaph to my 2018 season to date I feel. I am going to use the near miss last weekend as a catalyst and try and kick on again. I know there is a consistent eighteen holes in me and that when it clicks and I get it all out and for the whole round there is a very low score and big cut fighting to come out. I hope it’s soon! I will continue to do some golf psychology work with James Lambdon (aka The Golf Psych) and work on the mental side of the game. It’s an area I can improve and as my last hole in the competition showed still have inclinations to get tight and nervous when I am in contention.

It’s onwards and hopefully downwards in terms of my handicap. There is plenty to be getting on with and still a lot of competitions to play in. I have some fixed ideas on what I need to be working on and a dogmatic, stubborn self-belief that I can make single figures. As far as I’m concerned to date this year my handicap has simply been marking time. Now is the time to start kicking on again. Thanks once more for reading and I’ll be back to regale you with my progression on “The Quest” and everything else golf related that I’ve been up to in the near future. For now, play well wherever you are and I hope your season has gone well to date and you can find a way to cap it off in style.