Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Cold Turkey

First and foremost, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my followers who are reading my blog, I've had a very mixed 2015 both in my golfing exploits and personal scenarios, so, I'm quite happy to see the back of it to be honest, 2016 can only be more positive and hopefully bare more fruit, after all, it's The YOTF.

Well I know after Christmas Day it can seem that every snack and meal for days on end afterwards can include cold turkey, what I didn't think or ever bank on was that I could actually be experiencing it due to all the wet and horrendous weather we have experienced which has led to my golf course here in Coventry being closed for days during the holiday period!

With a few new golfing presents in hand to add to my bag, when was I going to get back out swinging?

So, for a few days immediately after Christmas I have been reading Ken Brown's "One Putt" book which was a present, my first impressions of it, is, that it will and should help me in my quest to drop some serious shots in 2016, because if there's one place where we all drop silly shots, it's on the putting green!  After discussing this book with a few other people and informing them of my targets for next season, I was encouraged to look at 2 other books called "Every Shot Counts" and "Golf Tough", so I went ahead and purchased them both, so I now have all 3 to read and absorb!

As you can see, I'm really serious about my 2016 golfing season and my targets, it's not just a hopeful whim without putting in the work, this is why I am very focussed already and preparing myself as best I can through the winter but without putting too much or any unnecessary pressure on myself, it's very important to me that I still enjoy myself out on the golf course, which I did yesterday when my course opened for the first time since before Christmas.

I managed to join up with 3 other members to form a 4-ball and play my first 18 holes in over 9 days, which felt more like 99 days, hence the title, Cold Turkey.

I joined up with our celebrity member Andrew Carman who's now off 1, my newly elected Vice Captain (Russ) and another long standing member, Bill, the balls went in the air, I was partnered with my VC who's off 8 and off we set.  I got off to a great start, even though I was first to drive and in such company and not having played with them before, I was so pleased to see my drive sail down the righthand side of the fairway, a deliberate easy 6 iron followed so I was short of the bunkers leaving me 110 yards to the pin, it was wet, damp and with a slight head wind so I gripped down on my 8 iron and stiffed it to 2 feet leaving me an uphill putt for par, 1-up. 

Overall I was having a very steady round, although I did knock 1 OOB (out of bounds) on our 4th (si2) the second time around with my 2nd shot, however, I was still 2 under handicap on the turn but unfortunately we found ourselves 2-down after 9 losing those holes to birdies! I didn't finish our 8th on the second loop of the front 9, I could have only got a 6/5 at best but another birdie killed us off and the hands were firmly shook.

As I've previously written, I just need to get off the tee with a better degree of consistency and stop trying to take the big dog out all the time, I also need to stop trying to make adjustments whilst in a match when it's not performing, especially as when I use my 12 degree Mini-driver it's just as long at times but far more accurate and controllable. 

So, it was great to get out on the course, although our back 9 was still closed, I'm also feeling a few aches this morning with not playing for nearly 2-weeks and piling on the Christmas pounds, and with it being quite soft underfoot, which I think takes a bit more out of you, a day's rest today will be enjoyed reading my books, but, I'm then off playing at the fantastic The Centurion Golf Club on Wednesday, which no doubt you'll read about soon.

No more Cold Turkey for me... 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Practice does pay dividends..

Well it nearly didn't happen, I read and looked at the many weather forecasts available to us all online nowadays to see if any of that unwelcomed wet stuff we have been receiving and which has closed my golf course for 2 (two) days during the week and only just about kept my front 9 (nine) holes open yesterday (Friday), was going to make an appearance.  All the forecasts were positive and they all stated no rain would show its ugly face until 11am onwards, so, I got ready early to hit the course at 8am, only then to come out my front door at 7.30m to face a wall of rain!  It was evident that it had been raining quite a lot in the night and was still falling, but hey, I was up and ready so I still drove the short distance to Coventry Golf Club.

On arrival, the Pro was just coming off the course and one of the greenkeepers was still doing a further inspection, however, the heavier rain I experienced just up the road north of the club hadn't fell on my course but it had rained through the night and with water tables so high any rain that falls at the moment just adds to that which hasn't had the opportunity to drain away, but then the news came through, were open, but still only on the front 9, but that's better than nothing.

So a few of the 8.30 rollup crew were now in attendance, a few 4-balls were quickly put together and the balls thrown in the air to decide what the pairs would be and off we went, time to put my 2 winter practice sessions to date into play.

Although were slightly forward on our yellow tee blocks, our 1st, a long 457 yard par 4 is almost impossible to reach in 2, especially with no run on the ball, but it also doesn't help when you've left the driver on the naughty step and have decided to use the ever dependable 12 degree mini-driver and then draw it a little too much into the left tree line at around 200yds, luckily I get a shot (index 6) so it's an angled chip out, a sensible short iron just short of the green staying away from the bunkers looking then to chip close enough to secure a single putt for a bogey, but it was not to be, a double bogey (6/5) start and the loss of the first hole!

This unfortunately continued for most of the first 9 holes and we returned to the 1st for our second lap 3-down.  I was really struggling off the tee, you constantly hear the saying "drive for show, putt for dough", well I don't agree, if you don't get off the tee with any degree of consistency it doesn't matter how good your short game is, your on the back foot, and when the opposition has a fist full of shots each and they're both playing off my partner, the pressure was on me to step up and use my shots in reply, but chipping out from treelines doesn't help!

But then, on our 2nd which was effectively our 11th for the round, a small adjustment was made, I relaxed, I committed more and Boom, it was back, a huge drive with a controlled baby draw around the dogleg leaving me a clear view and short iron into the green, back to 2-down, and so the fightback began as I started to drive the ball well and although not always getting to the green in regulation, my short game practice with my wedges really came into their own setting me up for a few easy gimmies.

Unfortunately just as my partner and I could smell blood to turn this match completely around and on it's head one of the other guys in the opposition pairing slipped and jarred his knee halfway up our 6th (15th hole), which we won also, he didn't take part on the par 3 7th which the 3 of us all parred for a half as he was struggling to walk, so we all decided to come in even though we felt we could have won the last 2 holes, it was the honourable thing to do.

So, in conclusion, my wedges and short game just about kept me in the game for the front 9, the amount of scrambling for a half here and there to keep us in touch felt exhausting at times as my driving was very poor, but then when the drives returned and I started to find the fairways, those drives coupled with my dependable short game brought me back into the match, and there was nothing to say we couldn't have gone on and won it, in fact, we both felt comfortable in that thought if it hadn't been for an injury.

So my practice with my new wedges and time on the putting green paid dividends, and my practice for the coming weeks will now be at the range with my driver and mini-driver, if I don't drive for show, I won't win any dough, let's see how a few range sessions work out, if they don't, it might mean I need a lesson to highlight what's happening as my driving has been pretty good of late, so something has changed and I need to identify it, quickly.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Winter practice begins....

In association with my declared, 2016, The Year of the Fish announcement and although I clearly stated in my, Put up or shut up blog post that I didn't like practicing, I actually went out and did some on Monday afternoon, and even more bizarrely, I really enjoyed it! although I wasn't overly impressed with the critique I received by some on the Golf Monthly forum when I posted up a video of me chipping, banter they say, hmm, I beg to differ!

Anyway, irrelevant of how my style looks to the curtain twitchers and purists, it is very effective and as the saying goes, "if it ain't broke....." and anyway, how many handicap club golfers have textbook swings, not many me thinks!

So, I spent just under an hour on the putting green, I have to be honest and say that this was the hardest of the practice exercises I did that afternoon to hold my concentration, I need to research a little more and find some various, but interesting and different drills to help me keep focussed I think!

I'm generally satisfied with my putting, although I did notice that I was far more confident and successful with much longer putts with various breaks in them than those straight forward  3-4 footers that are a must sink, the overthinking that can go into those are frightening and it's here where I need to improve and put the work and practice in, I think I will try a 4ft clock method that I've seen Peter Finch do in a video.

I then moved to the chipping area with a 2 pin green, although again this is an area in my game that I am very comfortable and confident with, I can't afford to take the foot off the pedal with what I believe is a critical part of my game, that's because I don't hit as many greens in regulation (GIR) as I'd like, so I really rely on my chipping to get me close enough to single putt saving pars, well that's the idea anyway.

However, I've just taken delivery of some new wedges, I stayed with Mizuno and upgraded from my MP-T4's to the new Blue S5's.


 I started chipping initially from 25 yards with my sand wedge which is 56/10 (56 degrees with 10 degree of bounce), I'm very comfortable with this wedge but in the current soft conditions I found that when they landed slightly short due to not having much green to work with and a forward pin position, my ball would check and stop too quickly, so, I then started to chip with my 52/09 with much better results, so mission accomplished.  I then moved to the longer chipping practice area we have at Coventry Golf Club and increased my chipping distances slowly out to 50 yards and again, I came away very happy.

With my course closed today I'm going to take advantage of hopefully a very quiet practice area and work on my short game irons, mainly my 7, 8 & 9, these are critical I think for me to not only find the green from anywhere inside 140 yards, but hopefully also find the area of the green to help me secure more single putts, if I can improve this side of my short game over the winter to match my current chipping and putting stats, I'll be in very good shape for my 2016 quest of The year of the Fish.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

SkyCaddie mappers do it in all weathers.....

For those that don't know me through the various golf forums or social media sites I frequent, I also work for SkyCaddie as a course mapper and I look after the Midlands & Central England area, covering the B, CV, DY, LE, NN, ST, WS & WV postcodes, and believe me, there's a lot of golf courses within those areas!

A glamorous job I hear you say, well not exactly, yes I get to walk around some great golf courses in my area and see some real hidden gems tucked away, but unfortunately you don't get the time to play them as you need to update the changes they've made and move on to the next golf course in that area, but you do get to take note of those courses and hopefully arrange to return and play them, and to be honest, there's been a good few just lately and some right on my doorstep that I hadn't really come across before.

Being a SkyCaddie Ambassador isn't a full time position, although throughout the year I keep in touch with all the golf clubs throughout my area by following them through social media sites, reading their own club websites along with email subscriptions and around this time of the year I will telephone my contacts for course updates as I'm always on the lookout for changes that clubs are making or proposing to make to their course, and dependent on when they make and complete those changes will depend on how quickly I can update them by walking their course, as only we do!

Most golf clubs will have a winter programme of changes for their course, so my busiest time as a ground mapper will be between January & April, this is where the glamour side of being a SkyCaddie mapper is found wanting, I will be out in all weathers during this period, I will be walking and mapping changes in pouring rain, freezing cold icy conditions and even snow, as long as it's not too deep!

Personally I like to have all the updates that I am aware of for my area completed by the end of March so every player using a SkyCaddie GPS will hopefully have a fully updated device with all the changes not only for their own course, but all the courses across the country updated which we have been made aware of, these could be courses they are visiting as a club team player, a local society outing or even golfing holiday, either way, our team of UK mappers will endeavour to have all golf course changes completed by May so you can all enjoy your golfing season with a GPS device that we keep upto date ourselves without the reliance or dependency of any third party which will only use aerial imagery!

As a golfer (loose term), when I'm walking and mapping a golf course and I come to a new hazard, lets say a bunker that now has a fairway run-off of 6 yards into it and a large mound immediately after it, I will mark the hazard where a ball can come to rest before rolling into the bunker and I will also mark the carry distance so the ball cannot roll back into the hazard, this is something aerial imagery cannot define from the sky, it will only see and measure, as best it can, the actual outline of the bunker, this in my opinion is where SkyCaddie and it's team of mappers really sets itself apart from all the other providers, what's the use of knowing that a stream is 175 yards away if the banks of it and fairway rolls into it at 160 yards and needs a carry of 195 yards even though it's only 10 yards wide!

Ground mapping is essential if you want and demand accuracy, that is something only a SkyCaddie mapper like myself can deliver for SkyCaddie members, no other GPS brand can boast the same!

Anyway, I don't want this to turn into a sales pitch, that's not my objective or position, but I will say I get a great deal of satisfaction from knowing whatever measurement I see on my device on any course I'm playing, and I play all over the country in opens and forum meets, I know it will be accurate and up to date and I can take my next shot with total confidence, I'll probably duff it 50 yards but that's another story for later.

I will announce in a few months all the golf courses I have already updated (walked) for 2016 and I will highlight any that I think are standout courses and worth a look at, this time last year I updated Longcliffe Golf Course in Leicestershire and I promised myself I would go back and play it in the summer, unfortunately due to injury and missing most of the golfing season I didn't get to do that, but I must say I was very impressed with the course, it had some lovely holes and was very well presented, so that course will be added to any more I come across this term to play later in the year.

So, when you see a lonely figure walking around your course with a satellite protruding from his backpack in horrendous weather or in the remote chance it's a nice sunny day, don't panic, we're not looking to build houses, although it does get a few members biting when we say that, it will just be me or one of my fellow SkyCaddie ground mappers updating your course, please pop over and say hello, or better still, a nice hot drink when I get in is always well received.

If your club has made or is planning on any changes to it's course, then please let me know, thank you.

Edit: 5th February 2016, unfortunately I have now resigned my position at SkyCaddie for personal reasons.


Sunday, 13 December 2015

Put up or shut up....

It's becoming very difficult to look forward to the weekends, I suppose it's the consequence of the winter and living on this island with the ever unfriendly and challenging wet weather we experience for what seems an eternity at times, it's certainly making my golfing season feel much shorter than normal and thus I am not swinging my new golf clubs anywhere near enough as I would like.

Competitions are being postponed due to the extensive wet weather we are all enduring across the country and unfortunately unlike a fellow blogger, Martin Bedborough, whom I am gunning for and targeting as a benchmark for some friendly rivalry, I am unfortunately not someone who enjoys going to the range, unless it's a grass bank like they have at the nearby Warwickshire Golf Club so I can emulate my shots and strikes as I would on the course, scabby mats with rubber tee's are not for me, no thanks!

If I have a slight weakness in my game at present it's getting off the tee with a degree of consistency, although others around me say I'm OK and my stats off Pin Seekerz from my most recent competitions over the last couple of months have me at 69% for fairways hit and 33% greens in regulation, however, I know it's the cause for me to have to do as much scrambling as I have to, which I have become very good at, but for all the wrong reasons!

As Tigger has mentioned, numbers and stats on a blog don't really tell the whole golfing story, well they can't because my stats dwarf and outperform those of that pesky big cat and yet were quite a way apart as far as handicaps go, so, I'm going to reinvest in a Game Golf track and display kit to monitor my performance whilst playing so it highlights more where I'm throwing these shots away when I have decent basic stats, only problem is, it's going to cost me a new laptop also as my PC is, let's say, a little outdated and isn't compatible!

So, I'm going to have to knuckle down and get a bit more serious and committed if I want to achieve my goals for 2016 and put aside my dislikes of the range over the winter months and adopt an attitude that I have to put up with things I don't like or want to do if I truly want 2016 to be The Year of the Fish, I can't go pulling anyone else's tails and then not put the work in myself.

 So it's time for me to put up or shut up, get out there as much as I can whether it's in terms of the practice ground at my Coventry Golf Club which will be irons only, a traditional driving range, a roll-up or taking a few clubs out on the course on my own, which in these conditions I would have all to myself!

So they'll be a few posts over the winter regarding my practice sessions, what I worked on and what I think I got from them and more importantly, did I transfer them to the course in my next rounds, so stay tuned folks....

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Xmas Texas Scramble

This Saturday see's me entering our Christmas Texas Scramble, a 3-man/lady & mixed teams will battle it out, for hopefully anything but a Turkey!

Unlike my previous post and dislike of Greensomes I really like a good Texas Scramble as you don't essentially only play half a round and you should go through your bag and clubs no different to a normal round, although here at Coventry Golf Club the format is slightly different to how we played it at a previous club!

Everyone tees off on each hole and you simply select the best drive, however, each team member must have 5 drives each of which 1 of them must be on a par 3, that then leaves 3 wild (free) drives for whoever may be driving well that day to take some pressure off those of us who may not be!

Once the drive is selected the others collect and pick up their balls, the person whose drive is chosen marks to the side of his ball and proceeds to take their next shot, the other players then place their ball near to the mark and subsequently take their shots also, and so it continues like this until the ball is in the hole and so this is a strokeplay competition.

This format is slightly different to how I used to play before at a previous club, whereas whoevers ball was chosen whether it be the drive, 2nd, 3rd shot or even a putt, that person did not take their next shot, they simply marked where their ball came to rest and picked it up, this meant that immediately after a drive or any decent shot nobody could dominate a hole with a strong drive followed by a strong approach, which I think is a good format personally.

Anyway, tune in on Sunday to read how I fared, will I have contributed well to my team and its fillet steak and a nice vintage port afterwards, or will I be still at the club plucking the Turkeys!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Greensomes & Marmite

I think I've come to the conclusion that both of these fall into the same criteria, you either love them or loathe them, there is no inbetween and nothing to separate them, what's my verdict, I'm sorry but I don't like either!

I've given Greensomes a good go now, and my last outing on Sunday I played just as poorly as I've ever played before in all the previous Greensomes I've entered, I just can't get synced into the format however good the company is with me, it's simply not my game.

OK I didn't get off to a great start on Sunday in the unannounced and very unwelcome pouring rain as we tee'd off at lunchtime which doesn't help matters, and I can at times be a little cold out the traps, especially if I don't get a few good swings in the nets prior to warm and loosen up, but I do have it in my locker to come back stronger on the back 9 or sometimes the other way around, but in Greensomes I just can't get into the mindset at all!

I started on the 17th on Sunday with my partner and the first time I used any of my 4 wedges was on the 12th, I'm sorry but that's just plain daft, all of a sudden it's a big shot and I've not had a wedge of any description in my hand for a feel shot for 13 holes! I also don't think I had a proper putt until our 3rd or the 4th hole in the competition, and that was for a birdie, I subsequently left it a good 3 foot short as every green before I either didn't have to get my putter out as my partner sunk them or I tapped them in from 2 inches, I'm sorry but how on earth can you get into your game when you might be either just hitting all the approaches into the green and never putting or chipping for hours or not getting any mid irons out because of taking your own drives!  

So, in conclusion, we finished with a miserly 32 points, the winners who were our playing partners amassed an excellent 43 points, and a stat which was worked out over dinner afterwards was, they only took 26 putts!!  I had 7 drives chosen and what was surprising from that stat was that 4 of those were all our par 3's!

Anyway, no more, I'm sorry but Greensomes goes into room 101 or at the back of the cupboard just like that dusty jar of Marmite, it's hard enough finding new playing partners without burning them in a format I just can't associate with so I'm not risking burning any more.

Greensomes R.I.P

Friday, 4 December 2015

Galvin Green Test Pilot

Whilst following Golfposer on Twitter an opportunity came about to test some Galvin Green clothing through a competition, which I duly entered and won.

Although I mention it in the review which I will link to shortly, I have to state that since becoming that test pilot and wearing the Galvin Green merchandise I was sent to wear and test, I have purchased around £700 worth of Galvin Green clothing covering items such as polo shirts, trousers, insula top, thermal jacket, insula hat and a full waterproof jacket!  I would have never considered spending the kind of money associated to Galvin Green prior to becoming the test pilot, but I have to say, or you can simply read my review, you most definitely get what you pay for, and that's quality and comfort on the golf course.

Read my review HERE  

The weekend cometh

There isn't usually a lot to get excited about over the winter months, the weather is very unpredictable, the course will be wet, muddy in places, the odd winter green in operation and leaves, oh no, please no more leaves! So, normally on a Friday afternoon prior to ordering my traditional Chinese at 5pm, I would usually have 1 (one) eye on the weekend and give my clubs a quick clean, my shoes a polish and go through the pockets in my bag ensuring I have no last minute panics (or old bananas) as I'm a little OCD in my preparations, however, with new clubs and new shoes in hand there's not a lot for me to do, so, I thought I'd write you all a few lines.

I'll be going to my golf club for a practice session tomorrow (Saturday), mainly concentrating on my gaps with the new clubs between 50 & 130 yards, so that's my 2 (two) new Mizuno S5 wedges along with my 9 & 8 RSi Tour Preferred irons, I'm really looking to home in on these yardages to give myself more par opportunities when I don't hit the greens in regulation, but when I do, also be able to go pin hunting for the birdie opportunities, so a little time will be spent on the putting green.

Then, after a few hours on the practice area and putting green I'll retire to the clubhouse for a nice pint, or 2, of Bombardier and watch the football scores come in, this, I hope will set me up nicely for Sunday.

Sunday Festive Greensomes followed by Christmas Dinner and I've got a partner (woohoo), I'm playing with the A-team captain who is also our newly appointed Competitions Chairman, the other 2-ball accompanying us is the past A-team captain who's off scratch along with his wife, so I'd better behave, note to self, no potty mouth!   Really looking forward to Sunday, although Greensomes isn't everyone's cup of tea, it's a knock and hopefully any work from the Saturday session will bare fruit, if it does, you'll all be the first to know ;-)

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Billy No Mates

I think one of the hardest things and decisions to make is to move and change golf clubs, although I've not found that decision alone very hard myself as in a very short amount of time since taking up the game I've got an astonishing 5 under my belt!  OK a couple of them were very short lived, 1 being a matter of months and another a matter of weeks, but it's still a big move, mainly because although you might like and enjoy the new club's course, you will never know how you will fit into the social side of the club and how quickly you'll find playing partners if you have moved on your own!

I've now been at Coventry Golf Club since February 2015 and I couldn't be happier, the course is excellent and everyone is extremely friendly and approachable.

 I threw myself at many of the various roll-ups on weekdays and the weekends when I joined to meet as many members as possible of all ages and abilities, the Pro and his assistants have found me partners to play with in competitions and I now play in a regular 3-ball in all monthly medals and team events, but, I still don't have a regular pairs partner and so I end up with a different playing partner in every pairs betterball, greensomes & foursomes competition, these tend to be members whose usual partner can't make it for various reasons so I'm passed around like a substitute, this is the only negative when moving and joining a new club on your own, it's very frustrating as everyone is obviously settled with playing partners so you just find yourself waiting for someone to become free!

I'm constantly informed that I punch well above my weight as far as my handicap is concerned, so I can become very popular at times, but, they only want me for my shots and to stick a few 4 pointers and 3 pointers on the scorecard, so, I wonder what will happen when my handicap starts to tumble next season, which it's going to do, and with no regular partner and less shots to offer, will it become a serious case of Billy No Mates

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

What's in the bag?

Its nearly a complete bag change for me but I felt the time was right.

I had been playing with Mizuno MP-52's for nearly 3 years and got on very well with them, but an offer to have new irons as a gift was too good to turn down, so, I now have the new RSi Tour Preferred irons from 4-P/W by Taylormade. I chose these as I wanted to stay with a muscleback forged iron similar to my previous MP-52's and believed that a change to CB's would be a step backwards.

I also had a Daddy Long Legs putter which again I was very comfortable with, but only on smaller greens, when it came to much larger greens I never felt in control of it so I have reverted back to an Odyssey Works Versa bladed putter with a fat Superstroke grip, and I am extremely happy with it.

I have just taken delivery of the new Mizuno Blue S5 wedges, I have stayed with Mizuno as I had the MP-T4's before so this is simply an upgrade, I have opted for the 52/09, 56/10 & 60/06 so I have good range of bounce options.

Whilst writing this I am still awaiting delivery of my gap wedge but here are the 2 other new additions.

The top of my bag has only slightly changed, in that, I still have my custom fit SLDR with a Matrix Black Tie shaft (stiff) and this is now supported by the SLDR 12 degree Mini-driver and then my trusty Cleveland 17 degree (4w) Launcher.

I am very happy with my bag now and see little to change or swap anything out over the coming season.

2016, The Year of the Fish

I was really looking forward to the 2015 golfing season, I had recently moved club to my city's prestigious Coventry Golf Club and was getting quickly used to the course and playing very well around it, so well in fact that I immediately joined the B-team and although I played with a couple of different partners in the two months of March and April, I was unbeaten both at home and away right up until I injured myself!  I had also qualified through the early monthly competitions into the knockout stages of a number of the club's board competitions, but again I had to withdraw myself due to the hand surgery I had to have in early April.

So, it's time to work on my game over the winter period after missing over 20 qualifying competitions in 2015 and look forward to 2016, and with new clubs in hand, along with a new putter, and already showing signs of a decent game in me, I am going to make great inroads in reducing my handicap, which has been a monkey on my back since starting to play this great, but very frustrating game at times, in 2011.

So, if you come across me on your travels, you were warned, 2016 will be, The year of the Fish! (#YOTF)