18 Holes at Stoneleigh Deer Park

Stoneleigh Deer Park Golf Club

Well that was a strange round of golf.

I was so disappointed with the way I played that I didn’t add up my score until I got home.

I shot 106.

106 is a pretty good score for me. It’s (from memory) the joint second best score I’ve shot all year. Now I’m sure that Stoneleigh is a fairly friendly course, but 106 did not match the way I felt I played, which I think is a good thing.

I expected to have shot more like 115, so something wasn’t quite right. I double and triple checked the score and there didn’t seem to be a miscalculation, so I started looking at the numbers more closely.

It turns out that I putted well for me, at 1.94 putts per hole. I don’t think I’ve managed under two putts per hole many times before (if ever), so that made a difference. I actually missed a couple of putts between 2-3 feet, but I also remember sinking a healthy handful of longer putts, at 5-6 feet and longer.

The other thing to consider was that my perception of my performance was poor because I didn’t really have many good holes (barring the last two holes, which I managed to par as if it’s a habit). However, I didn’t have any massive shockers either. I shot just one quadruple bogie, six triples, four doubles and five bogies. In previous rounds I’ve shot five and even six over on holes.

I would have had an even better round if my head hadn’t dropped after about 13 holes. I was pretty tired, and a culmination of poor shots got the better of me in terms of morale. I reckon a poor attitude for the next three holes probably cost me three or four shots.

In a sense, not adding my score up as I went along worked against me. Had I known that I was pretty close to breaking 100, I probably wouldn’t have let my head drop and given it more of a go.

The last two holes were really pleasing. Since I felt the round had got so bad, I decided just to play with a gentle half swing. That led to some dead straight shots an a birdie chance on the 18th that I only missed by an inch or so (I don’t think I’ve had a birdie in about two years).

The fact that I was able to shoot two pars with ‘gentle’ golf really should give me food for thought. Although I have tried gentle swings this year, they have been gentle full swings. Using a gentle half swing on the final two holes seems to really help my consistency and accuracy (if not my distance). Something to consider for the next round!

18 Holes at Stonebridge Golf Club

Stonebridge Golf Club

As golfing goes, today was a good day for me.

I got closer to breaking a hundred than I have in a long time, and if it weren’t for a healthy handful of truly awful shots, I would have been well into the nineties.

As it was, my 102 represents a marked improvement in my golf and also gives me a lot to reflect upon – both good and bad.

Putting

I turned up at Stonebridge about 40 minutes before our tee off time and spent a good amount of time on the practice greens.

After a good ten minutes of pretty aimless putting, I decided to set myself a target: sink ten two putts in a row. For each attempt I placed the ball within around 10-15 feet of the hole.

I managed to hit my target at the first time of asking; I even sank a couple of one putts in the process. So, I was feeling pretty good about my putting as I walked up to the first hole.

And for the most part, my confidence was rewarded. My putting was far from flawless, but a total of 40 putts for a 2.2 per hole average was a new best for me (since I started recording my rounds at least). I one-putted three holes, of which two were a good 10-15 feet from the hole.

However, I also managed to miss two putts from within less than three feet. As far as I am concerned, crazy slopes excepted, those kinds of misses are inexcusable.

I was pretty pleased with my putting overall, and I liked the two putting drill. It’s definitely practice that matches real-game conditions (i.e. a longer putt followed by a shorter putt), so I think I’ll be doing plenty more of it.

There was however a dark side to my putting (aside from the two easy missed putts): my length control on the longer putts.

When I started with a longer putt, I often didn’t make the second putt as easy as it should have been. This lack of distance control (and to a lesser extent, direction control and/or accurate reading of the green) cost me I’d say about three putts that I’d like to think I should have sunk (had they been a little closer).

The above issue gives me yet another reason to practice my two putting drill; not only from 10-15 feet, but further out too.

Iron Issues

In terms of irons, for the most part I played with my five, nine, pitching wedge and sand wedge. (In case you’re wondering, I don’t use anything longer than a five iron at the moment.)

My accuracy and distance with the five iron was as mediocre as ever; I hit very few solid shots off the tee or from 150+ yards out. I was pretty happy with my chipping from around 100 yards and less, so in terms of practice, I’d say that I need to work on hitting my five iron straight.

Either that, or I switch to my seven iron and work on hitting that straight…I should probably give that some thought.

The worst hole for my five iron was the 16th: a short par five. I hit four out of five iron shots (including the tee shot) probably no further than 70 yards on average. At that point I was on for a sub-100 round, but that hole pretty much put an end to my hopes. It’s fair to say that I was a little disappointed with my performance on that hole.

I think it’s relevant to note that I had a bizarre notion to try a new grip on the tee shot at the 16th. That was a silly mistake, and one I will endeavour not to repeat in the future!

My Biggest Lesson

Although most golfers – in my experience – seem to say that beginners should focus primarily on their putting and short game to improve, I think I would get a lot of value out of figuring out how to hit a really good seven, six or five iron. I think doing that alone would get me under 100 with relative ease, so I think I’ll make it my main focus for now.

I will still practice putting (perhaps entirely my new two putt drill) and a little bit of chipping, but I think creating a solid mid-to-long iron swing will do me a world of good.

Oh, and one last thing: I managed to keep my ball throughout the round, just like I did yesterday! I feel that this Srixon and I are becoming fast friends; I’ll be sad to see it go (when it inevitably does).

18 Holes at Brandon Wood Golf Club

Brandon Wood Golf CourseYesterday’s round at Brandon Wood Golf Course was, to say the least, a mixed bag.

Some pretty decent holes were mixed in with a fair bit of crap and several absolute horrors, which highlights just how inconsistent my game currently is.

On the plus side, my putting was pretty decent, and 116 wasn’t a horrendous score for me, given the fact that Brandon Wood is a challenging 6,319 yard-long course.

As with Friday at Stoneleigh, I started off very nicely indeed. I bogied the 1st (a pretty mean par five) and followed that up with a nice par.

I then ran into a little trouble. I hit a quadruple bogie on the 3rd, which in fairness was a little unlucky (I managed to hit three trees in two shots while I was hacking away in the woods).

I then recovered with a bogie on the 4th, wobbled a little on the par five 5th, then managed another par on the 7th.

At that point it was all going rather well, but the rest of the round is largely best forgotten.

I won’t go into the gory details, but I suppose the highlight was taking ten shots to tackle the 324 yard par four 15th. I managed a quintuple bogie and two quadruple bogies on the last 11 holes, with only a couple of bogies to rescue a score that was climbing at an alarming rate.

Golf is often seen as a game of ‘three halves'; many people argue that you should play a round as if it were three six hole rounds. If I had done that I would have been looking pretty healthy after six holes: I was on for 27 over, which would have blown any of my previous scores recorded here on the blog out of the water.

Alas, golf isn’t a game of three halves; it’s just one whole (made up of 18 holes). If you are to shoot low scores, a good start must be followed up by a solid middle and a strong finish. That’s not what happened for me at Brandon yesterday.

My Heart, Health and Fitness (The Saga Continues)

A couple of weeks ago I told you that I had joined the Fighting Fit City Gym in Birmingham (UK) with the general intention of getting fit and strong for golf (and life).

In that same post I told you that I passed out in my first personal training session. Not a great start.

I went to see my doctor to ask her whether it was something to worry about – it seemed like a good idea since I have a heart condition – and she told me to stop doing any strenuous exercise for the time being.

I went to see her again last Tuesday, and she didn’t have much in the way of good news for me.

My blood tests had come back and were largely okay, with exception to a couple of numbers that were a little low. She wants me to have another test in a month to check that those numbers are on the way up (rather than down further).

My ECG didn’t show that I was have palpitations at the time it was taken (I could have told her that), but it did show some unusual activity in the lower two chambers of the heart. More specifically, there appears to be an issue with the electrical system. This is old news to me; I’m pretty sure that’s what my heart condition has been about since day one.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, she wasn’t happy with what she saw. She has referred me to a cardiologist so that I can have an ultrasound, but I am not likely to see him (or her) for 6/7 weeks minimum. In the meantime, I am on strict instructions not to do any kind of strenuous activity.

So I’m pretty much limited to walking for the next several weeks. On the plus side, my gym have been kind enough to freeze my membership for the time being so that I am not paying for something I can’t use; but apart from that, it’s not especially good news.

Of course, part of me is secretly pleased that I don’t have to work out, but that part of me doesn’t really have long term goals in mind!

On a separate note, my physiotherapist never got back to me to organise a second sessions after my first a couple of weeks ago.

I don’t think I’m going to bother calling her for the time being; not only is each session a not-inexpensive £45, but I think my shoulder and back problems will be fixed more by strengthening the muscles than going through physiotherapy.

Here’s hoping I can do just that sooner rather than later!