Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Product Review - Taylormade Project (s) Golf Ball

As seems the way these days, there’s never enough time to get around to doing everything on here I want. I’ve a new job which is working me far harder than I envisaged but one I’m really enjoying and I’m still trying to drip the last few weeks of getting to the club after work before the light finally closes in and signals the imminent arrival of Winter.

It seems ages (yes it is I hear you cry) since I reviewed the recent golf ball offering from Taylormade, their Project (s) on my Three Off The Tee youtube channel (check the channel as a whole here Three Off The Tee Youtube channel). You should be familiar by now that whenever I do a product review there is a video you can watch here (Project (s) Video Review) As always with my golf ball reviews, there is no fancy data, no launch monitors, just me as a mid-handicapper straight from the car after work to the course, playing a par 3, par 4 and a par 5 and giving an honest an independent review of what I think.

I hope you check the video out and please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll make sure I respond. To start the review, let’s begin with the technical blurb and hype from Taylormade:

The all-new Project (s) offers an even softer feel while continuing the company's focus on low driver spin and significant driver distance. TaylorMade has designed one golf ball that delivers on the two performance attributes amateur players in this category want most: soft feel AND distance combined in a single product.

The Project (s) uses TaylorMade's high lift 342LDP dimple pattern, which, in combination with the lower backspin construction, reduces drag throughout the golf ball's flight for more distance.
In general, lower compression golf balls travel the shortest distance, but with Project (s), TaylorMade's engineers have solved for soft while maintaining impressive distance. The result is a golf ball that delivers on both distance and feel, allowing for golfers to no longer having to choose between one over the other

The Project (s) ball and box
Eric Loper, Director of R&D Golf Balls, said:  "The new multilayer design incorporates a softer yet resilient dual distance core that maximises distance and enables us to utilise a softer ionomer cover for soft feel and great control. We are eliminating the need for a golfer to choose between distance and feel in this category. The new Project (s) provides both softer feel AND distance." 

TaylorMade Project (s) Golf Ball: Key Features
Dual-Distance Core
Similar to the Project (a) the Dual-Distance Core in the Project (s) decreases the overall compression of the ball for soft feel while maintaining rebound and speed. The Project (s)'s compression is 60, 10 less than the Project (a). The dual distance core is a two-layer system that has a large, low compression inner core that reduces unwanted driver spin and creates great feel. The outer core consists of a softer-resilient polymer that also improves feel and maintains high ball velocities.

Aerodynamic Ionomer Cover
Due to the high COR of the Dual-Distance Core, engineers were able to use a soft ionomer cover that improves feel and control around the green. Compared to the competitive set, the Project (s) has the softest cover which provides more greenside spin and soft feel.

TaylorMade's Project (s) golf balls available matt white, matt orange and matt yellow at an RRP of £24.99

So enough of the spiel, what did I think? As I said in the video, I swing the club quickly and definitely fall outside the speed parameters the ball was designed for. That said it did a job. There were elements that surprised, especially off the putter and around the greens where I thought it would struggle but it gave me enough control and there were no issues with the feel off the putter face. When I found the middle of the club face off the tee, I was surprised, if not a little shocked on how far it went.

I have tried other low compression balls and to be fair this was a standout performer compared to others on the market. It’s a growing niche of the ball market and while I don’t think it’s where I’d position myself, there are plenty of golfers out there that would benefit from this sort of ball.

As I’ve mentioned and as I commented on the video, my swing on the day wasn’t as loose and fluid as I’d like but coming straight from work, straight from the car and onto the course is representative of how many of us get a golfing fix in the summer so I think my findings stand up as being representative.

As I've done with other ball reviews I'll finish the review by breaking the Taylormade Project (S) into various categories and giving a final verdict

The matt white left me fairly ambivalent and while it seems to be a growing trend in the golf ball market, I am fairly traditional and prefer my new golf ball to look bright and shiny on the tee, straight out of the box and waiting for the first hit. I’ve seen the other colours on offer and again they are functional but not my cup of tea. 6/10

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in other videos and reviews, I am currently in the three piece sector of the market and my preferred ball of choice is the AD333 Tour. Given the unusually hot conditions in the UK this summer, these have given way to four piece premium balls to get as much control as possible as distance wasn’t an issue on baked fairways. Now autumn is here, I need to maximise distance. I was dubious on how the Project (s) would fare but it did surprise me and I did get it out there. On all shots, including irons and wedges, there wasn’t a huge drop off on where I’d normally be distance wise 8/10

The ball produced a fairly low flight for me. Whether that was the swing I brought to the course on the day or a result of the dimple pattern and aerodynamics Taylormade have put into the design I can’t say. I would suggest it would give a good flight on a blustery Autumnal day and didn’t impact stop and control hitting into greens 7/10

Around and on the green, this ball was far better than my own pre-conceptions on how it would perform and managed to easily exceed my expectations. The ball seemed to stop well coming into greens and when playing chip shots seemed to have a good degree of grab especially my recovery shot on the par five. 8/10

As always in my reviews I only played three holes with this ball. I had no issues with the durability and if you have seen the video review (Project S video review) you can see that my strike wasn’t always the best and I didn’t always put it in position A but there were no significant scratches or marks after I played the three holes. 8/10

That subjective word that is so hard to describe or categorise but is normally the first requirement any club golfer asks about whenever a golf ball is discussed. Taylormade are marketing the Project (s) as a soft ball. I’m not sure I go along with that 100% and on certain shots, especially off with the driver in my case, it felt no different to firmer two piece or some three piece balls I’ve hit. Again, there were some iron shots that it felt “soft” such as my approach into the first hole on the video with a wedge from just over 100 yards and others like my second into the par 5 when I caught it flush where it felt much firmer. The way it felt off the club face definitely didn’t put me off it. Did it tick my “feel” box? In truth no, but it definitely didn’t feel horrible. 7/10

I’ve already been honest and said I came into this review with a few pre-conceived thoughts about this low compression offering and that I didn’t think it was a ball aimed at me. I stand by those. That said, in the growing low compression ball market, this was a standout performer. I managed to get enough out of the ball on the three holes I played to enjoy using it.

As you’ll have seen, it wasn’t a particularly good ball striking round and technically my swing was messy at best. Given that and the fact I perhaps swing too fast to get optimum performance from the Project (s) I got some good distance when I hit it well, didn’t seem to lose too much on the bad ones and was very pleased and surprised with the control on offer around the greens. It performed solidly, and better than I thought and so while my overall mark could be seen as somewhat stingy and unjust, it is brought up on control and durability and let down on overall performance (based on my swing speed) and for me, the looks.

It isn’t a bad ball and I am only giving an honest and unbiased opinion. I strongly urge you to get a sleeve in your local pro shop and give them a go. They are definitely a strong partner for the existing Project (a) ball (which I like very much) and you may find it suits your game far better than it does mine. As a result my overall mark is 7.5/10

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Good Courses, Good Company, Good Cause

Salutations and welcome to another epic blog entry (or not depending on your point of view). Despite the nights drawing in ever quicker now making it impossible to get to the club after work to work on my game and play, I’ve had the opportunity in the last few weeks to play two very enjoyable rounds of golf. on courses rated in the top 100 UK courses.

As many may be aware, I have had a long standing acquaintance with Golf Monthly magazine and especially their internet forum (Golf Monthly Forum). The forum has long been a melting pot and discussion space for all things golf (as well as non-golf) related. Perhaps though, its single greatest triumph though has been its support of the Help For Heroes charity (The Help For Heroes Charity Website).

Before this years event, being held at Liphook Golf Club in Hampshire, the total amount raised was already close to £100,000 and we were certain to break that barrier. A fantastic effort since the initial day held at Luton Hoo in 2010 with a handful of players. Sadly the main driving force, a wonderful man and forum stalwart Rick Garg was tragically taken from us a couple of years ago at no age at all. His presence both on the forum and especially on Help for Heroes day is sorely missed and there is always a hole in proceedings. We do now have the Rick Garg memorial trophy which is awarded annually for services towards the H4H day and the charity. This years winner Robin Hopkins was a close friend of Rick and visibly moved to receive the award.

Golf Monthly editor Mike Harris (left) presents Robin Hopkins with the Rick Garg Memorial Trophy for 2018

Liphook was founded in 1921. Not perhaps the longest course but it places a huge premium on accuracy and thinking as thick heather awaits for any wayward shot. (Liphook Golf Club website) Perhaps the greatest defence though are its greens. Not only is the pace of them some of the quickest around on a regular basis but there are so many subtle breaks and borrows that no putt can be considered truly “in” until the ball actually drops. When you add in undulating fairways and the odd blind tee shot, it really makes for a magical blend. The quality is a real testament to their green keeping staff and the course presented to us on the day was in perfect condition.

As a result, apart from one player in a field of seventy odd, the scoring was challenging for most myself included. I was playing with one of the Battleback guys Rich Cross who Help For Heroes assist to get back into normal life. Rich injured himself in a UK parachute accident, trying to prevent himself crashing into the public crowds when his display went wrong. He’s been virtually rebuilt top to bottom and although there are some ongoing issues he has to deal with for the main he’s able to lead a “normal” life and judging by his early showing including his first drive on the second hole (it was a shotgun start) his golf is coming on.

My group. I'm second left and Rich Cross our Battleback Golfer is on the right
The course was too tough for me on the day along with some very erratic playing but the greens in particular for fiendish and I can imagine playing those on say club championship weekend present the sternest of test. However the day is never about winning. It’s about meeting old friends, new faces and raising as much money for a great cause. We were treated to a great carvery and dessert and then we had returning professional auctioneer Mark Head back yet again to try and prise more money in a charity auction. As always he kindly gave his services free of charge

Golf Monthly editor Mike Harris presented the cheque to Barrie Griffiths, a Beneficiary Ambassador for Help for Heroes. He gave a poignant speech about the charity and how it helped bring him back from a very dark place. It certainly left an impression on everyone in attendance and reinforced just how crucial the work of Help for Heroes is.

 As always it was a marvellous event and on this year has already raised a marvellous £17,500 the current amount raised now stands at well over £110,000 and everyone is eagerly anticipating the announcement of next years event.

The cheque being presented
It’s open to all forum members, so simply register, get involved on the forum regularly and get your name down. That applies to all forum meets that are arranged which brings me neatly onto my other game. The day before Liphook, I travelled the relatively short distance to West Hill Golf Club. As so many travel so far for the H4H day, there is usually a pre-cursor arranged to make it a more viable and enjoyable few days rather than a long drive there and back for one game of golf.

There were around 40 golfers on the day at West Hill. We were blessed with glorious autumn weather and another gorse lined heathland course. It’s another course that has hosted a H4H day (West Hill H4H Day at West Hill - blog report). I was playing with three others, well known activists on the Golf Monthly forum and although we’d enjoyed an online friendship and seen each other at various golf courses up and down the country this was the first time we’d played together. To say it was fun was an understatement. I was partnered with a South African, capable of prodigious length off the tee, but equally capable of hitting the adjoining course or the main rail line into London. Add in his penchant for multi-lingual swearing and the scene was set.

We had a friendly game against the “Scouse Mafia” a Liverpudlian and a staunch Liverpool fan. We lost not helped by my erratic play, my partner unable to always find the course and some more tricky greens that were a perfect rehearsal for those we’d face at Liphook. Again, scoring overall was very mixed and a testament to the challenge West Hill presents. Again it’s not long but needs planning and a steady nerve on the greens.

So, all in all two very enjoyable days of golf in some fantastic company. My own form may have been pretty in and out, but when you are playing great courses in great company, does it really matter? It’s a shame the season is drawing to a close, but with a two day Golf Monthly forum meet already planned for Sunningdale next year, preceded the day before with a round at The Addington (a UK top 100 course) as well as another great H4H day, there’s still loads to look forward to.

Thanks to everyone that played over the two days, but more so to those behind the scenes at Golf Monthly and the forum members who give up huge swathes of their time each year to make sure each years event goes off perfectly and surpasses the previous year. There are far too many to name individually (although the forum members know who they are). We're really lucky to play some great courses so why not join the forum, get involved and maybe I'll see you at an event in 2019

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Weather Wins Out

As golfers we are constantly looking at the weather. Will it rain? Is it going to be windy? For the most part we’re a fairly robust and hardy bunch and will usually venture out in most conditions, especially if it’s a match or competition. Now I don’t know about you, but having said that, it’s one thing to already be on the course and playing and for the conditions to deteriorate, especially rain, but a totally different scenario knowing a few days in advance it’s going to be pouring before you even get to the club and there’s no sign of it stopping until long after you’ve finished. That takes a different mind-set totally.

I think you can guess what’s coming. We were due to play a friendly club match against Tylney Park at my home club, Royal Ascot. It was the return leg following the first game at Tylney Park at which Royal Ascot took away a 4-2 lead. Sadly, I was one of the two that lost although in my defence my partner on the day had one of those rounds we all know so well and for the most part struggled. That said, he did come in in the early stages and definitely kept us in it or it could all have ended far earlier and in a greater deficit. The weather forecast had said heavy rain throughout the day for a few days before. For once the forecasters were spot on.

Having woken to a leaden sky, the rain soon came and it was almost biblical by the time we convened for brunch. We were introduced to our opposition, Chris Mitchell off 21 and John Weatherley off 12 who had more than a passing to resemblance to the wrestling star of the 1970’s Jacky Pallo complete with trademark ponytail

It was with a heavy heart that I put the waterproofs on in the locker room knowing I wouldn’t be taking them off again until I returned at the end of the round. No point warming up and getting everything wet and the fact the putting green already had a puddle on it didn’t bode well. Things didn’t get better when my partner Harvey Woods and I made a farce of the opening hole to go one down immediately. We got it back and then lost another. I scrambled a half in a double bogey seven at the par five 5th having played three off the tee (a great name for a youtube channel, so go check it out here The Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel and PLEASE subscribe while you’re there).

Conditions were horrendous to put it mildly. From the outset every hole had standing water and many greens had puddles. Finding relief from standing water was becoming harder and harder and while scoring wasn’t great, it was a nip and tuck match and played in great spirits. It was a feeling of all in it together and all four of us simply laughed at the absurdity of what faced us, the rubbish we were playing and enjoying the good ones when they came along.

Having got it back to all square at the 7th Harvey made a great half at the eighth for a crucial half and we managed to get our noses in front one up after winning the 9th. I have to be honest I wasn’t relishing another two hours in those conditions. I had wet gloves on both hands and was wringing water out of both before playing each shot. I’d taken the precaution of wearing my waterproof socks (a great idea for Christmas) and these were working overtime but my feet were dry and warm.

As we headed towards the 10th across the car park I was so pleased to see both captains standing at the front door to the club waving us in. Match abandoned as a draw, all scores on the day null and void. I don’t think anyone in our group or across both teams were too distraught at that decision and with the course only going to hold more water a sensible move to protect it, especially the greens. As a result, it was decided the match score from the first game stood and so Royal Ascot got a narrow win.

I’d like to thank my playing partner Harvey, especially for keeping us in it and getting us in front, even in vain, and to both Tylney members Chris and John who were a joy to play with and I’d like the chance of a home and away rematch next year.

Sometimes as our captain Stuart Pearce said in the introductions to the proceedings you have to “man up” but even then, you have to be pragmatic and the decision to call it off was a wise one. It definitely takes a strong mind not to let conditions get the better of you and amongst the rain and the puddles there were some good shots from everyone in our group. There’s definitely a certain madness we golfers have to go out in such conditions to get our golfing fix and represent our clubs. Sometimes the weather may win the battle but as golfers we’ll win the war

Thursday, 11 October 2018

European Senior Masters Pro-Am Day

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the pro-am day at the European Senior Masters at the famous Forest of Arden course in Warwickshire. The Arden Course was designed by Donald Steel and opened in the 1970’s sitting within Lord Aylesford’s vast 10,000 acre estate. It has already played host to seven English Opens and five British Masters and this was the second year of hosting the Senior Masters. I was also fortunate enough to be attending on a media pass courtesy of Golfhacker magazine (Golfhacker Website) and Champions UK plc

As part of that I had managed to get an invite to an exclusive round table interview with former Ryder cup player and winning captain Ian Woosnam, European Senior Masters host and former Ryder Cup hero Peter Baker and two French stars of the European Tour and former Ryder Cup players Jean Van De Velde and Thomas Levet (who was also making his European Seniors debut at this event). Golfhacker was the only magazine invited to what should have been a ten minute series of quick fire questions but which turned into a forty five minute discussion on the recent success in Paris and all things Ryder Cup.

Tournament Logo

I was lucky enough to film it all. It was also filmed by European Tour Productions (who managed to walk through my static camera position several times) and the entire interview is available to watch here. It really is worth a watch, even at forty five minutes long. Check it out here (Ryder Cup GOLD video)

After this unique opportunity drew to a close I wandered to the range and putting green to watch a few of the players warming up before heading to the first tee to watch Woosnam and Baker play (it was a shotgun start) and then wandering around a few holes. I managed to get a few players in action and hope this video captures a little of the flavour of the pro-am day. Watch it here (European Senior Masters - A Flavour Of The Day)

As I wandered around the course, it brought back mixed memories. I’d played the course back in October 2011 in the Golf Monthly Centenary Final which was a national event. I qualified at St Pierre in Chepstow and the final was around the Arden course being played by the professionals this week. I say mixed memories as I really enjoyed the course and the setting, played nice and steady and while I won the handicap section, I came second overall and lost on last six count back. If you never read my round up you can do here (Fine Margins Blog).

My tee shot on the 18th at the Forest of Arden in the Golf Monthly Centenary Final
I had a wonderful day covering the event. The organisers were brilliant, the players approachable and the media pass opened up a few opportunities for forthcoming collaborations on Youtube. If you don’t already subscribe, please go over to my channel now (Three Off The Tee youtube channel). 
Once I hit 300 subscribers I’ve a giveaway coming and as I alluded to, there are some interesting projects coming up which I hope I can get some of the channel subscribers involved in.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay around for the actual event which ran from Friday to Sunday and was eventually won by Santiago Luna of Spain. He was knocking it nicely in the pro-am and maybe I should have read the signs and invested a few pounds on him winning. I followed the progress via the European Seniors twitter thread and despite a few weather issues it was a marvellous event resulting in a narrow win for Luna.

I know Golfhacker are planning a return visit next year and I hope the Forest of Arden host the event again. It’s a majestic setting and provides a stiff test for the players especially in autumnal conditions. This year Golfhacker got behind the scenes and looked at what the scorers do as they follow each group and worked on one of the main scoreboards. I’m hoping for a similar behind the scenes opportunity next year. Golfhacker is designed for the average golfer. That’s the likes of you and me. It tries not to be fixated on the main European and PGA tours but covers a chunk of the ladies game and especially the seniors, as well as travel and product reviews.

As part of their seniors coverage I’m trying to arrange and exclusive interview with Australian former European tour member (and three time winner) and senior tour member Peter O’Malley. Hopefully we can get this organised and filmed early in the 2019 season so another great reason to subscribe to the channel now. I’ve met him informally at my home club Royal Ascot and he’s good fun to be with and has a whole storybook of tales to tell from his time on tour.

Finally a huge thanks once again to everyone involved making my trip to the pro-am such and enjoyable experience. The Forest of Arden holds so many memories for me and it’s definitely a course I’m keen to play again. If any of the European Senior Masters organisers want to save me a pro-am spot for next year I’m more than happy to put my iffy swing on camera and show it to the crowds. Now that would be fun.

There’s plenty of other great stuff coming up here too including a much overdue review of the Taylormade Project (s) and Vice DRIVE golf balls. I’ve already done the video reviews (watch here Project (s) video review and Vice DRIVE ball review) but as with all my product reviews I also provide a more detailed review here. I’ve an update on my own golf and the “Quest For Single Figures”. I’ve played a couple of interesting courses and a favourite annual event so plenty to chat about. There was also a club match against Tylney Park to discuss which had several “incidents”. Thanks as always for your time in reading my ramblings and I’ll see you for another blog soon.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Ryder Cup Gold

When you are in the presence of a Ryder Cup Legend like Ian Woosnan, and European team members that have been there and done it as Peter Baker, Jean Van De Velde and Thomas Levet have, you have to simply sit and listen to what they have to say about everything connected to the Ryder Cup.

I was incredibly privileged to be invited by Nick Kevern, editor of Golfhacker magazine, Champions UK PLC, the European Senior Tour and European Tour productions to a round table event on pro-am day at the European Senior Masters at the Forest of Arden.

Golfhacker (Golfhacker website) were the only magazine invited. It should only have lasted fifteen minutes, but as you'll see, once these Ryder Cup stalwarts started talking it was difficult to stop them. In fact had the pro-am not been a shotgun at midday I feel they'd have kept going. My camera was fixed but this was being filmed by European Tour Productions so there are times when their cameraman walks through shot but it doesn't detract from the Ryder Cup gold coming from the table. Enjoy this rare and unique insight into the Ryder Cup from the European perspective. It may not make comfortable listening for American viewers but it's an honest and open assessment of the Ryder Cup just gone with these European team members (and winning captain) and gives their own views on what the European team did well compared to the US side and provide a rare insight into a team room.

This was a one off opportunity and I hope the video is an interesting window into all things Ryder Cup. https://youtu.be/JzKbA3Kypew

I'd love to hear any comments you may have about what these four fantastic Ryder Cup golfers have to say. If you have any thoughts please leave them in the comments section and I'll respond. I'd love to hear what you have to say and think about their insights. At the same time, please subscribe to my youtube channel. The more subscribers I get the more opportunities to provide unique content like this.