Wednesday, 2 January 2019

A Nod Backwards And Looking Forward

Happy new year. I'm back after a longer sabbatical than I'd planned but hopefully here to make up for lost time. As far as golf goes, there has been, very, very little to report as I simply haven't played. My last competitive round was on the 3rd November where I managed a pleasing second place in division two of the monthly stableford. Since then I've managed to find a decent bit of form. I took the money in a roll up over the Christmas break and had a couple of second places and all in all have managed to play some decent golf despite not feeling I'm swinging the club very well. Granted the majority of these have come off the yellow tees but with no roll and muddy lies around the greens, scoring still hasn't been easy so I'm hoping to take this late surge of form into 2019.

Is it just me or has the last few months of 2018 seemed to have flown past? It doesn't seem too long ago we were playing on baked courses under an azure blue sky, and then autumn seemed to come and go, the clocks changed and we were in winter. For me that period between the clocks changing and the end of January is always a source of frustration. I can't get to the club to work on my game and any meaningful practice is either a range session or means giving up a playing opportunity to give a part of my game some work. I have been trying to resist this as I wanted to play far more and practice less and only when the game absolutely required it. As you will have already read, even that simple plan hasn't quite gone as expected.

It has become a sort of blog tradition of mine to recap on my golfing year, perhaps pick out a few highlights and look ahead to 2019 and my hopes for a new golfing year. I have to be honest, 2018 was an eventful year golfing wise. I got to play some lovely courses, had some fantastic opportunities come up and of course there was the epic "Quest For Single Figures".

Let me start with the "Quest". As one of the resident wags at my home club refers to it (yes Mick Mills I mean you) the search continues. If you have stumbled across this blog and a) are still with me (thank you and well done) and b) have no idea what I'm talking about, The Quest For Single Figures is as it sounds and my attempt to get a single figure golfing handicap. It is something I was close to and did manage to get down to 10 a few years ago. Since then, a number of serious illnesses involving hospital stays, lack of form,  and taking my game down some blind alleys trying to improve has seen the handicap gradually go up and up.

There have been the odd oasis of hope and success in a desert of frustration and 2018 is another case in point. I started the year on a handicap of 14.2 and as I write this it's now 14.5 (so playing off 15). In reality I've gone up a shot even though the handicap has only moved 0.3 shots. I would actually argue that such little movement shows a far greater level of consistency than in preceding years which were blighted by a string of 0.1 rises. There has been success and a win in a monthly stableford as well as several second places. I had a definite summer slump and did return ten consecutive 0.1 returns from 21st July until 22nd September where I had a second place (and 0.6 cut). Since then, it has been far more consistent and I feel I am managing to make better scores even when I'm not playing that well which is something all the better players (and lower handicappers) at my club manage to do.

It's annoying as I've been much happier with my game this year. I've played more golf and practiced less and perhaps that has shown in my performances. I am frustrated that there were a few times when I've let potential wins and handicap cuts slip and either ended up in the buffer or got an increase but all things considered I do feel my game is on an upward curve. I have an action plan in place for the winter months, including a couple of lessons and a lot of work on my putting and short game. Will next year be the year? I really hope so but if I'm honest I'll take moving from 15-12 as a successful starting point.

So what about the rest of my 2018? Well I've been extremely lucky to have done some media work for Golfhacker (Golfhacker's Website) and so a huge thanks to Nick Kevern for his support and assistance. I managed to interview a few of the celebs at this years British Par 3 Championship and had a great day watching some of the play. If you didn't see the videos on my youtube channel you can check them here.

Par 3 Championship - Celebrity Interviews

The flavour of the par 3 championship

I also got to go to the Farmfoods European Senior Masters at the Forest of Arden and for me, perhaps the biggest highlight was getting unique access to a round table conversation about the Ryder Cup in Paris with some former Ryder Cup players including winning captain Ian Woosnam. Listening to Woosie, along with Jean Van De Velde, Thomas Levet and Peter Baker was a joy. We were only scheduled to have ten minutes but as you'll see from the video below they were still talking forty minutes later. It's a long watch but I make no apology. This is the interview in full and as you'll see, they cover not only Europe's great win but the tricky subject of future captains. Well worth a watch over this festive period!

Ryder cup round table interview

I've also been lucky enough to product test some equipment. These have mainly been different makes of golf balls and as always I've given my unbiased opinion as a mid-handicapper. My reviews have no gadgets, no gizmos and no bull. Just me and the product out on the course playing a few holes and coming back with a point of view. These have proved a huge success on my youtube channel and it's an area I'll be looking to expand in 2019. Talking of the channel, I really want to grow this in 2019 and I need your help. If you haven't subscribed, click here and hit the subscribe button (it's free to do). As I get more subscribers I can bring bigger and better content and also try and get some subscribers involved as well.

I've also been lucky enough to play some great courses and meet some great people. We had a great day at Chigwell Golf Club with Team Golfhacker on a charity day raising money for Avril's Dream, a great charity granting wishes to children with long term and life threatening illnesses. I even managed an interview with the King of The Jungle, Harry Redknapp. Check that here

Chigwell charity golf day

Perhaps the best course  played was Liphook which currently sits at number 66 in the new Golf Monthly top 100 UK course listing. It was part of a great day and the annual Golf Monthly Forum Help For Heroes Charity Day. I've already covered the day itself in a previous blog (Help For Heroes Day) but the course was superb as was the welcome we received from Liphook. In fact, the ladies section kindly gave up their usual Tuesday day to give us access to play. A superb gesture and much appreciated. The greens were the best I played on all year by a distance. They were so fast, almost tour speed and far too good for most of the field. I think if I was a member there I'd either be a brilliant putter or a gibbering wreck. There's no middle ground and even a two foot putt was a nerve jangler and it was easy to have four feet back the other way especially if you left yourself on the wrong side of the hole. That said. it's easy to see how it has risen in the Golf Monthly listings and it's a superb venue to play. It's not overly long by modern standards but just asks so many questions about all aspects of the game.

As you can see in this snapshot, there has been some really interesting times in 2018. Where do we go next year? I'm hoping that Nick and I can catch up again at the British Par 3 at Nailcote Hall in Warwickshire. I really enjoyed my debut and would love to get more involved over the whole week. Similarly with the 2019 Ladies British Open at Woburn it would be fantastic to get involved in some coverage for that. Add in the Senior Masters at the Forest of Arden and it could be an interesting few months.

I want to grow the youtube channel and really want to do some collaborations with some other content providers and perhaps do some more work with golf companies reviewing their products. I've a few irons in fires and hopefully will get some positive news in the new year.

As for my game, the aim is simple. Start getting that handicap moving downwards. As I mentioned I have an action plan in mind (weather and health permitting) to put some work in to improve my weak areas. It is no secret if you regularly read my blogs that the short game needs the most work. It is an area I spent a lot of 2018 working on especially my pitching. I feel it has really started to show some positive improvement but my chipping is definitely a negative and holding me back. That is where I aim to spend 80% of any practice in 2019, around the greens working on getting up and down from any lie. I'll also look to work on my bunker play (which I think is better than my handicap level) and
work really hard on my putting. I feel that area in the last few months has fallen away drastically. I need to pick a putter (I've been chopping and changing with alarming regularity) and stick with it. I need to get back to working on holing out well from 2-5 feet but I also want to do a lot more work on starting longer putts on a better line. I'm not convinced I'm finding the centre of the putter face and I'm not sure I start the ball accurately enough.

I'm definitely going to continue with this years plan and play more, practice less. I can see the dividend in that. I am going to do some more work with James Lambdon to improve my thinking process on the course. I wrote about some initial work (The Golf Psych) and it has really made a difference. Way back at the beginning of this blog (when you felt like you still had a life!) I mentioned making better scores when not playing well. In the second half of the year having worked with James, I simply felt much calmer every time I played. Bad shots didn't fry the mind as often as they did, leading to more errors and run of car crash holes. There are still bad holes in there and moments of madness but generally its improving. When I am playing the shot I am visualising much better, going through a clear process and accepting the outcome and moving on. There is a lot more stuff I want to do to improve this side of things and empty my head of any technical thoughts.

James is launching his new website early in 2019 and I urge you to bookmark the page and email to subscribe. It promises to bring a lot of information and help golfers everywhere (Think Clearly Golf Website)

And with that, 2018 gallops into history. I hope your own golfing season has been as busy varied and exciting as mine. Please feel free to let me know in the comments section what you've been up to. I hope you've some great plans for the 2019 season and that in the meantime you and your families have a happy and a healthy new year. Thank you for reading my words of madness in 2018 and hope you'll join me for more blogs this year. In the meantime I hope 2019 gives you everything you want, especially from a golfing perspective.

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