Updated: Aug 23
Hello once again to another blog. I hope you are all well and enjoying the Spring conditions and hope that your course is looking in great shape and you have been playing well.
If you read my last post, (you can check it out here) you'll know that golf, post-lockdown has not gone as I would have hoped and I have been struggling. Actually that's not true. I have been playing shockingly bad and while there is the odd good shot in there to tantalise me into thinking it is on the way back, a series of bad ones will follow to knock belief and confidence back down again.
I had booked a golf lesson with an excellent teaching professional I have used for the last four years or so called Andrew Piper, based at Lavender Park Golf Centre, situated not too far from my home club in Ascot. Andrew has a fantastic reputation as a teaching professional and he has definitely helped my game and move my handicap from 14 with a very loose swing and too many moving parts down to 11 (sadly up to 11.6 courtesy of the new world handicap system) with a swing that is more compact and repeatable. Well it had been prior to lockdown!! One of the things I like about seeing Andrew is, having had a frank discussion about what I am trying to achieve and my golfing goals, he'll work within that brief but won't re-invent the wheel in each lesson. He'll make changes to the basics if required but otherwise will look to simply improve a pupil from there. Check his biography from the Lavender Park website here
Diligently I arrived early to warm up. Any shred of confidence evaporated with a dose of the socket rockets, perhaps the only erroneous shot I hadn't added to the cacophony of purgatory I'd suffered on the course. After a brief catch up Andrew asked me to hit a few shots and I duly delivered the weak shot with a 7 iron only going 120 yards instead of the 139 average I'd usually expect.
What followed was a pleasant surprise. We made a couple of very basic changes. The ball position had crept so far forward in the stance I was presenting way too much loft at impact (hence a 7 iron being more like a 9 iron and the loss of distance) and I wasn't making a full shoulder turn and coiling effectively. As far as the swing itself was concerned, Andrew was very happy with the position of the club on the way back, where it was at the top and how I brought it back down. That was more than a pleasant surprise as I hadn't really had any idea where the club had been out on the course. We worked with some resistance bands (physio therabands) to get the feeling of how much I could turn the shoulders in the swing and get the feeling of the resistance building up. Fortunately I had some in my golf bag as these form part of my warm-up when I play so I have all I need to keep working on that element of the changes.
Suffice to say by the end of the lesson everything was back in place and I was hitting the ball nicely. However if any of you have had lessons you'll know it always works when the professional is there but the proof of the pudding is always out on the course. I had two social four balls lined up for the weekend and without boring you too much returned 32 on the Saturday and 34 points on Sunday. Both rounds included a hole I didn't score on (tee shots going left and out of bounds in both cases - perhaps over doing the changes?). I made a few errors from bunker shots (I will be working on my sand play this week) and the putter could have been hotter but all in all it was chalk and cheese between this week and what had gone before. Hitting it better led to a rise in confidence levels and as we know with golf, confidence breeds confidence.
I guess this is a roundabout way of saying I am back to playing respectable golf. We'll see how long this carries on for and how it affects "The Quest For Single Figures". Competitive golf is just around the corner again at my club and so it'll be interesting to see if I can play well, get some cuts and get "The Quest" on track.
Now the longer nights are here I can start working on my game in the evening again. I need to be wary of falling into the trap of previous years and hit ball after ball in the belief it was helping. I need to have one (two tops) evening of working on the changes I've made per week and keeping the swing ticking over. The rest I need to focus on all things short game. My pitching and distance control was something I had worked hard on in the winter of 2019 but with stop, start, stop and finally start again, I need to revisit this area and work on shots from 80 yards and in.
I have alluded to the need to work on bunker play and that starts this week. If you ever read the previous blog incarnation of the Three Off The Tee blog (read it here) then you'll know I have struggled with the short game and especially chipping and pitching and have flitted through various methods in search of something that worked on a consistent basis. That needs to stop and I think (hope) I've got a far simpler method in place after re-visiting some lesson notes from a short game lesson I had with Andrew at the start of the 2019 season and which provided some positive feedback over this weekend's golf.
My plan is to work hard on the short game, really work hard on improving my holing out from 3-5 feet and also distance control with my putting and less time hitting balls. The biggest change from the way I've worked on my game historically is to actually spend more time out on the course learning to play shots in real time situations and where obvious weaknesses appear then go back to the practice area and address these. I've spent too long, too often on technique and not enough time on the course. I am hoping a shift of emphasis will provide greater dividends.
I have always been a strong advocate of lessons, especially for recreational golfers like me. Of course I understand the argument about people not having time around work and family life to practice what they are shown, or indeed some even having any inclination to practice, and their desire to simply play. However, for people like me that have never found any sport, including golf, something that comes easily I've always had to work hard on my game to get the most from it. I am hoping that seeing Andrew regularly ongoing throughout the season means we can make more changes to improve my game and catch and flaws re-emerging before they become too damaging. In my golf obsessed mind at least, it seems like a plan. Time will tell, starting on Sunday (24th) when I play the first round of the club's annual knockout. My record in this event is shocking and so getting to the next round would represent a step forward and maybe matchplay as opposed to stableford and trying to make a score will give me the freedom to totally trust the changes and simply go for it.
As always, a big thank you to Andrew for fixing my game again. It is reassuring to have had him see the swing as it is and generally give it the thumbs up bar the small tweaks we made. Hopefully we'll have a full season ahead of us now and I can work hard on the short game, play more golf and kick on with "The Quest".
Thank you for reading my humble offerings. I'd love to hear from you if you've had lessons since we came out of lockdown and what changes you've made to your game and have you seen the benefits yet? Leave a comment here at the bottom of the blog or feel free to contact me on my social media. The links are on the home page. I'll see you for another blog soon (hopefully reporting on a win in my match). Keep visiting as I have some interesting stuff coming including a great product review and hopefully some exciting news regarding a new (well revamped) golf website I am going to be involved in. In the meantime, stay safe and play well.