Sunday, 28 February 2016

Royal St George's (Day 2)

Well after a tough but great day on Royal Cinque Ports (RCP) yesterday and sitting up late supping a few jars, it was off to Royal St George's Golf Club (RSG), a course I had heard so much about and was quite excited and yet equally anxious to play.

I left my hotel on the seafront at Deal and was suitably informed to drive through RCP and I'd come to RSG, so how did I end up at the Prince's Golf Club then! A quick u-turn and a drive through a private housing estate where I noticed a security hut just before the golf club, with no barrier down I just drove straight past without stopping, only to notice a man waving at me in my rear view mirror, which I found out afterwards wanted £4 for a toll, sorry chap, no time to stop and no camera's, so no £4 tax off me was going to be gleaned.    

Now slightly on the back foot I got my golf gear together and met everyone in the bar area for a quick coffee, apparently there were bacon butties but I didn't see any so missed out on those.  A quick return to the car as I wanted my thermals and suddenly couldn't find my car keys! I backtracked to the bar, the locker room, back to the car, they were nowhere to be found, I then went over to my golf bag near the clubhouse and found them sitting on the carpark floor, no time now to change anymore into my warmer thermals so it was shoes on and get to the practice putting green with my heart pumping and feeling a little flustered, time to settle down before going to the 1st tee.

There was some minor banter being had on the 1st tee, as should be expected at these meets, we all want to play well individually but were all there to enjoy ourselves and have the craic as well, talk of baby draws, power fades and duck hooks seemed to be the current hot topic, so I duly obliged with a duck hook of sorts, and although I was over on the far left on my own but still just on the edge of the fairway, I had actually drove mine further than those hitting it straighter with better looking shaped shots!

I hit a decent 2nd shot with my trusty 4w but it hugged the left hand side and took a little while to find on the high bank overlooking the green, but that was only because I hit it 30 yards further than I'd thought! Anyway, my chip onto the green released to the other side, a 2-putt ensued and I was off and running with a bogey start and 2 points on the card.

For some reason 5 seemed to become a favorite number, as that was what I scored on the first 5 holes for level handicap and 10 points, so not all bad playing bogey golf on an amazing grown up course with huge undulating fairways and greens to match, couple that with not knowing where I was driving to or knowing what was in front of me most of the time, I was more than hanging on in there.  I picked up a nice par on the 8th in regulation and I was still level handicap and even more surprising, I still had the same ball, so things were going well, but then it was the dreaded 9th!

What is it with me and the 9th holes, so many times I have a good score going and then mess up and don't return a score on the 9th, I think I must be thinking too much and getting ahead of myself before actually getting to the turn, but whatever it is, I've got to cut it out as once again the 9th cost me.  I actually hit a great drive and was in perfect position, I could see a couple of fairways bunkers on the steep incline up to a raised green and after a very nice par on the 8th, overconfidence got a grip of me and instead of laying up over the bunkers but short of the green with an easy iron, I  tried to force my 4w and went for it and found a pot bunker with my scuffed shot, and although I got out first time but with no distance achieved, a short iron to the green and then a 3-putt recorded a Nil Pois and stayed on 16 points at the turn.

Came out the traps well again on the 10th with another great regulation par and I just lipped out for the same on the 11th, the 12th took its toll but I scrambled a point but then I had a huge wobble on the 13th!  I didn't know where to drive to, the course planner said the right of the lodge in the distance with a draw but I just didn't feel comfortable lining up to that and the duck hook returned as I tried to force my drive over the grassy mounds to an unseen fairway in the distance,  all body and no arms it was as ugly as sin and felt awful and I deserved to lose my first and only ball of the round, the 13th was definitely an unlucky hole and number for me as I suitably blobbed the hole.

I battled with the 14th even though I hit a great drive in anger right down the left side of the fairway well away from the OOB which hugged the full length of the right hand side of the hole and then I followed that up with another great 4w over the ditch leaving me only 120 yards to the pin, so how on earth did I come off with 1 point on this great par 5?  I chunked my wedge then chunked my sand wedge and eventually got on the green for 5 leaving a 2-putt for a scabby point, that's how!

It was everything to keep my head from dropping, especially as I hit my next drive into the cabbage on the index 1 par 4 15th, digging it out with only an 8 or 9 iron but then I blitzed my 4w and thought it was going to make it to the green, unfortunately I didn't see the long slit bunker protecting it and as I walked up to it I found my ball was pretty close to the deep faced front lip, a bit of encouragement was offered from a playing partner and I not only got out, but I got it up and well onto the green 30 yards ahead, a great scramble after a very poor tee shot and finding a bunker and I came out of it unscathed.

That felt so good I then found the green with a lovely iron shot just missing the birdie putt on the nice par 3 16th hole, another good drive and regulation par followed on the 17th and suddenly I was back in the hunt, the 18th now beckoned and unusual for me I cut my drive to the far right, it was sat a little bit scruffy in the cut down stubbly straw but I managed to get my 4w on it just short of the bunkers leaving it 90 yards from the pin, a nice gap wedge up and over the deep faced bunker in front of me to 3ft of the pin and I was suddenly putting for my 3rd straight par run-in, unfortunately as the adrenalin was pumping I just lipped out but it was still a great finish to what is an amazing course and I can't wait to go back next year with a little bit more knowledge to what I had on this visit. I finished the back 9 with 17 points giving me 33 points for my round, 1 lost ball and 2 blobs, a huge improvement on the day before at RCP but on a much tougher and demanding course, well chuffed.

Back into the clubhouse for a shower in the best facilities (showers) I've ever been in and that followed the best seafood starter and then carvery I've also had at any golf club, although The Berkshire runs it's close.

With the food over it was time for the winners and sinners to be announced, and I only went and won, I honestly thought some of the lads who are quite steady and have played the course before would have put a good score together, so I was really surprised to have won, but it was a battle at times but a battle I thoroughly enjoyed.

Thanks everyone, it was, emotional :D

The #YOTF is up and running ;-)

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Royal Cinque Ports, Day 1

Two days of links golf was booked on the Kent coast some time ago with the guys off the Golf Monthly forum and I had been looking forward to it for some time, especially with so many courses being closed all over the winter, including my own, due obviously to the adverse wet weather conditions, so what better way to blow the cobwebs away than 2-days of links golf on 2 prestigious south coast golf courses, Royal Cinque Ports being the first port of call.

Up at 5am on a Monday morning for a 6am start leaving what I thought was going to be plenty of time for the 3-3.5hr drive where a full English breakfast was waiting for me at 11am followed by a 12.20 tee time so lots of time to relax, but oh no, our great motorway systems were racked & stacked down the M40, M25 and then the M20, the driving rain and spray made the journey extremely stressful and added a further hour meaning I arrived some 4.5hrs later and a little ruffled around the edges.

The forecast was never favourable, I was monitoring it for some time and at times it looked like it could have been quite scary, but although it was raining for the first 7 holes, the wind wasn't up that much and it was strangely mild, so not overly uncomfortable, although I was sporting my Galvin Green snood to match all my other GG layering system.  I must say I find the snoods an excellent bit of kit, I don't like my jackets or tops buttoned or zipped up under my chin, they rub and irritate me, so the snood is an excellent accessory with it's super soft insula material, although it seems it can be frowned upon by some (Nick) ;-)

I didn't get off the 1st tee brilliantly, although I still made the green in regulation, the greens caught me out initially being so fast even in the wet & driving rain, so I started with a 3-putt!  I then picked up a nice par and a birdie and found myself 10 points to the good in the first 4 holes and thought to myself, I could have a good day here, but then I had a minor wobble on the par 5 5th hole picking my ball up too quickly in disappointment of missing a short putt only to realise afterwards I still had a shot!  I let this get to me a little which is something I need to address and as such 2 daft bogeys followed, this wasn't all bad with shots in the bag but then I had a horror show on the par 3 8th, I got totally caught up with indecision as the flag was clearly between clubs for me and I tried to force my tee shots putting both my first and provisional balls into the cabbage never to be seen again, a lonely walk to the next tee followed and I took the time to remove some of my layers as the rain started to slow down and stop.

For those that have played RCP I just didn't get the 9th, I had the impression from the blocks I had to drive over the large bunker which looked quite close but was a decent carry in the conditions we were in, I thought the fairway was immediately behind it but it turned out there was acres of fairway to the right of it, as such with the disappointment of the previous hole firmly in my mind, I attacked my drive far too much and hooked it slightly left of the bunker into the clag, my provisional didn't fair too much better but at least I found it but it was going to be a tough ask to score after 3 off the tee and having to dig my 4th shot out the cabbage and still a long slog to go, so back to back blobs wasn't the way to finish what was a decent start to the front 9 and a miserly 13 points recorded :(

The back 9 started well much like the front with a nice par on the 10th but then I blobbed the 12th, again just getting my drive completely wrong and then forcing my usually dependable 4w off the deck into the deep folding grass slightly off the right side of the fairway for another donation to the course.  I then had a steady run in recording 16 points on the back but only the 1 blob compared to the 3 on the front, I finished with a disappointing 29 points but some of the other guys didn't fair that well, but like always, it could have been so much better.

The course was excellent, but very penal if you missed any fairways with deep folding grass either side, there were some huge undulations both on the fairways and greens, you could be happy with your drive knowing it's down the middle only to walk up to it and find it's on a steep downward lie with still 180 yards plus to go, the bunkers will always cost you a shot, deep faced pot hole style and littered everywhere, it's a great test of golf, tough but fair and certainly you need to play it a few times to know your way around it as there are quite a few blind drives and blind approaches and it's not always obvious the direction to drive your ball or which side of the fairway is then best to be on as there are no markers, get it wrong and it's not just 1 shot lost, but a lost ball also, I know, I lost 4 :(

A quick drink followed in the clubhouse along with the announcement of the winners and sinners and then it was off to book into the hotel (Kings Head) on the seafront in Deal.  A quick shower & change, a couple of pints down in the bar and then a very nice curry (Lamb Shank) followed, it was then back to the hotel and I sat up until midnight chatting and chewing the fat with a few of the guys off the forum I'd not met before which is what makes these meets around the country all the worthwhile.

Off to bed and looking forward to playing Royal St Georges the next day........

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

A short summary first.....

Following my last post I visited Hayling Island Golf Club, I had heard very good things about the course and it didn't disappoint, but the wind was brutal.  I was watching from the clubhouse everyone taking drivers and 3 woods off the par 3 start which I had at only 172 yards, but once I got down to the tee I understood why as I took out my 12 degree mini-driver and gave it a good full swing, as the spin stopped my ball caught the left to right wind and started to sail towards the gorse, luckily it sat between 2 very large bright yellow gorse bushes, I chipped on, 2-putts for bogey and so the round began and pretty much followed suit all the way around, I really struggled with the wind but I loved the course, although I saw a little more of it than I would have liked!

A return trip in better conditions is a must, especially with so many blind drives and approach shots, I now know a little bit more about the course so it's not so much a case of where you'd ideally want to be, it's more a case of where you definitely don't want to be!

The weather then changed for the worse and my course was closed again for a week but then last Saturday (20th) I popped down to get some practice in prior to 2-days golf down on the Kent coast playing Royal Cinque Ports & Royal St George's which I will write about next seperately, but, once I arrived at my club I found we were having a 3-Club Challenge and our 5 new greens were now open, so no temps.

I quickly selected my 4 wood, 8 iron & putter as my chosen 3 clubs, I thought this would be best as I can get a decent length off the tee and off the fairway with my 4w, I could bump & run with my 8i when needed, I also thought I could end up with quite a few 130-150yd approach shots after a decent drive, so I was pretty happy with my overall selection.

A spare place became available in a 2-ball with my Club Captain which I quickly slotted in with to make up a 3-ball and off we went...

Not a great start returning no score on the first 2 holes but then I started to get some nice par's and a decent score started to form, I was getting off the tee really well with the 4w and with using the 8 iron all the time I was starting to get the measure of it for some stronger shots and then some 3/4 shots into the greens, so much so I only went and won the first competition of the year and after looking at the results, I was the only person to record an under nett par score winning by a clear 4 points :-)  

The #YOTF is well underway and I'm heading to the Kent coast for some links golf at 2 very prestigious courses, being Royal Cinque Ports & Royal St George's, so stay tuned ;-)