Updated: Aug 23, 2021
Salutations and welcome to another blog. As always I hope you are all well and enjoying your golf. I don't know where you are playing but it still feels decidedly chilly in Berkshire and the wind has been howling across the field of dreams or Royal Ascot Golf Club as it's more commonly known. Summer has yet to arrive.
If you took the trouble to read my last blog (which you can catch here) you'll know that I had a golf lesson, made a few tweaks and had worked out a practice plan to work on all aspects of my golf. I also mentioned I was playing the first round of the clubs singles knockout (otherwise known as the Weatherill Cup). Lets start with that as it encapsulates the title of this blog perfectly.
My opponent was one of those guys you see around the place regularly but we'd never played together. I had to give him four shots on a sunny but very windy Sunday (April 25th). I was feeling confident in my own game after the lesson and had seen some marked improvement in the social round I'd played the day before. I was also relaxed as there was no scorecard in hand and to some degree scores didn't matter as long as I completed the hole in one shot fewer more often.
Suffice to say I was given a sharp dose of reality when my opponent hit the green on the first (playing around 215 yards into the wind) to set up an easy par. I didn't and although I made four (net par) I was already one down. I gave him the fourth hole when I tugged my approach out of bounds and gave away a win on the 178 yard par three sixth hole when I hit the centre of the green and three putted. At the turn I found myself two down but was already full of regret for being far too charitable with my mistakes.
What followed for the next five holes at the start of the back nine was a vindication of having had the lesson. I was level par through that stretch including playing our twelfth, a 409 par four (stroke index 1) with a good drive and a three wood (into the wind.....have I mentioned it has been windy of late?) hit with everything I had and the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure. I made a sublime up and down on the next which was pleasing given the time I'd dedicated to the short game in the week before the game. Suddenly I was two up.
I lost the sixteenth to a net par (and again it was a driver - well struck, and a three wood into the wind and I couldn't get near the green) but was one up with two to play. My opponent had the honour and hit his tee shot on the very long, 218 yard seventeenth right into the semi-rough. I had driver in hand but thinking a four would be good enough to be dormie, or an up and down would get the job done, switched to a three wood. I didn't think I could get there but thought, play short, pitch up the length of the green and make my opponent do something spectacular. All sound thinking I am sure you'd agree. It was until I hit a huge duck hook out of bounds. All square going up the last.
It was more a case of not losing it rather than trying to win and we were both somewhat cautious in the way we played the hole. In the end a bogey each took it to extra holes. My opponent didn't quite repeat the trick of hitting the green again but was only a matter of feet short. I chose that moment to hit my poorest shot of the day way right into heavy rough and blocked out by trees. I made a mess of my attempt to get it onto the green and my partner made a simple four to win at the first extra hole.
That match summed up perfectly the title I chose. There was some really good stuff in there, especially that stretch through the first holes of the back nine but there is also a nagging sense of frustration that not only did I give chances and holes away on the front nine but that I lacked any sort of killer instinct on the back nine when I had got myself back into the match and gone ahead. That said my opponent played steadily enough and took full advantage of my mistakes and in fairness didn't give too much away and anything I did get, he made me work for it.
Of course that leaves my record in this particular event as shambolic as ever and I think I have only been past the first round once (maybe twice) in all of the years I've been a member (and that is quite a few). I don't know what it is about singles knockout but I can never find a way to kill a game off. In better ball matchplay with a partner to ease the burden I have a far better record in club matches and have won far more than I've lost. Why should that be?
The forward momentum has continued and I put in some more dedicated and structured practice on all aspects of my game ahead of the bank holiday weekend. On Sunday (May 2nd) my long term partner, long time mate and drinking buddy Dave Hurn (known in the club as "The Hound" for reasons I can't divulge on here...although I am open to offers!!) took part the Jubilee Cup, one of the honours board events at the club. We were defending champions although with covid there had been no presentation night last year so we never had a chance to get the cup in our hands (although I had won it in 2010 so at least knew what it looked like).
Again, I have played a social fourball on the Saturday and had knocked it around in reasonable fashion. A few mistakes, some good stuff and all in all a solid round. I had warmed up well for the Jubilee Cup, stretching, hitting some balls and hit the first tee feeling loose and ready to go. My short game practice came to the fore in the opening holes and I scrambled opening pars with up and downs. The Hound and I were progressing well. We were a little behind the pace but putts weren't dropping. What a difference a year makes when we were making them all, The Hound in particular. This year we simply couldn't buy a putt. However all was good until the seventh.
I had played the hole well although my approach from 201 yards had drifted into the left hand bunker. Not a problem thought I. The bunker shot was pretty good to about ten feet or so and I extricated myself from the sand without issue but as I went to putt and bent over my back rocketed in pain. I have no idea what had happened but I was in agony. I two putted but when I tried to swing at the eighth, the shortest hole on the course I couldn't turn properly.
I took some pain killers but was forced to play "pat pat" golf and try and trundle it about 150 yards off the tee, another 150 yards and then try and get it on the green and hope to hole a putt or two. Suffice to say with "The Hound" playing for two we struggled. In the end we finished 17th (out of 60 pairs) with 38 points so we didn't disgrace ourselves in the defence of our title. More regret of course as had I stayed fully fit we could have got close to a top three finish.
Beware the injured golfer the saying goes. Having struggled to help "The Hound" much, I was due to play a competition on bank holiday Monday (May 3rd). It was the PGA National Pro-Am qualifier, a singles stableford event. I had gone home from the Jubilee Cup, soaked in the bath, taken Ibuprofen, applied a couple of doses of Deep Heat and had an early night. I woke up with the back still feeling a little sore and painful but I was vaguely optimistic it might free up some more with stretching, warmth and hitting a few gentle shots. I duly dug out a set of physio exercises my occupational health department had given me the last time the back went (a perk of working in the NHS!) and set about doing them to give me the best chance of at least being able to swing a club on the practice ground.
In the end I got it round. It wasn't pretty and not helped by a chilly wind blowing incessantly. There is definitely a trend with my competitive golf and strong winds and it isn't good. It was a mixed bag of a slow start, some more scrambling, some poor shots and a terrible finish. All in all it came to 31 points and 23rd place (out of 81) so not a disaster.
Despite the set-back of the bad back (which has scuppered my practice regime this week as I need to rest it) the last couple of weeks have seen some definite moves forward. My short game has definitely come on, although a couple of duffed chips/pitches yesterday took some of the gloss off my improvement. I putted well and simply had a cold putter this weekend when nothing dropped. The iron shots, especially approaches into the green, leave a little to be desired and so I've already flagged an area to work on. I think with a 7 iron down to the wedges, you need to be hitting greens from 140 yards and in and dispersion needs to be tighter as you go down in distance. I am simply not sticking it close enough, often enough.
I am usually a glass half-empty sort of guy but I have taken great stock from the clear and tangible improvements to my game. However this has been tempered by a sense of regret about my lack of ability to win a singles match, especially when gifting several holes to the opponent. If you peruse my previous blog (creatively entitled Three Off The Tee - read it here) you will see it has been a recurring theme. How do I change this and develop a killer streak? (if you have any ideas comment at the bottom of the blog or via any of my social media channels).
There is improvement and I am going to book another lesson soon to keep the forward momentum going. I am going to learn from the regrets, take them as learning opportunities and push on again. Competitions are coming thick and fast now, and hopefully the warm weather won't be far behind. It has been really hard in the high winds and being a slight chap, strong buffeting winds plays havoc with my tempo. All in all then more positives than negatives (bad back now the biggest negative) and we go again in "The Quest" (aka The Quest For Single Figures).
Thank you for reading the latest blog. How are you all faring in competitions? If you've done well, or indeed if are struggling, leave me a comment and let me know why you've done so well (lessons, practice, a career day on the course etc.) or if you are struggling how are you going to change things.
I'll see you again for another blog soon when I finally hope to have an exciting announcement and a product review to share with you. Until then, stay safe, enjoy your golf and do me a favour and simply pass the link to this blog or the website itself (the link to it is here if it makes it easier to share) to as many of your golfing friends as you can. Many thanks as always.