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Getting it all together

After one good round it is easy to expect that the next ones will be good as well. That is not always the case.
So many different things have to come together for the amateur golfer to score well and consistently.
Driving, approaches, chipping and putting all have to be right for the score to be low, and a little bit of luck doesn’t hurt either.

Checking some statistics may not always reveal the difference, but some further reflection may shed light on the why one round is good and another ordinary. Two recent rounds reflect the difference.

Fairways in regulation were around the same – less than 30%.  Some of the drives that  missed the fairway were in the short rough, but during one round there were three occasions when a chip out was needed. In the other it was always possible to advance the ball much closer to the green.

Greens in regulation were about the same. As expected the number of putts is a good indicator of a score, and 26 putts was very good number.  Seven fewer putts usually means a much better score, and it did on this occasion.  It did not take much to work out why.  Even when a fairway was missed it was possible to get the ball close to the green. A chip and one putt meant an easy par, and one chip in also made a difference.

Raw statistics  do not always explain the difference between a good round and an ordinary one. There are times when it is necessary to look behind the numbers.

Tight lies

The idea of golf is to keep your ball on the fairway. The lies are always better there, and usually there are fewer obstructions between you and the green.  It doesn’t always work like that!Tocumwal challenging lieThere was only one option…play the ball as it lies.

Blayney Golf Course

Travelling in unfamiliar territory opens the opportunity to explore new golf courses and uncover hidden gems.

Flat green but challenging lines

Flat green but challenging lines

Blayney Golf Course is a 9 hole course in the Central West of NSW 180 kilometres from Sydney. It is 32 kms west of Bathurst and about 34 kms south and east of Orange. Maintained by volunteers the course uses the natural terrain to offer an interesting challenge. Two short par 3’s are guarded by trees and a creek, while other holes have used the trees and slope to lift the degree of difficulty of the shorter par 5 and par 4 holes.

A well placed tee shot is needed on most holes, and in the early days of summer even a well directed drive can roll down the hill into the trees. The ability to shape the ball from tight lies pays dividends on the score card.

The greens held well and were well grassed. As we played the course on a Tuesday the greens were a little slow, but the ball rolled truly.

So…if you are travelling between Orange and Cowra take a detour to Blayney and enjoy a quick nine hole on a delightful country course.

Dry fairways but good greens

Dry fairways but good greens

A good round gone bad

Striking the ball well and on track to play to handicap and ONE bad hole wreaks havoc with your score. What do you do?

It was just five holes into the round when an overhit pitch carried the green and rolled into a deep water hazard. I had already played one bad shot and the pitch was supposed to get the ball onto the green. Attempting to minimize the damage didn’t work, and a quadruple bogey resulted.  Late in the round a three putt bogey was followed by a double bogey on a par 3 and the game was over.

Does it matter? Not really. While it was frustrating,  the net result was the addition of .1 to my handicap. A score of  two over handicap, or ten over handicap, and the long term effect would be the same. It is small bickies in the grand scheme of things.  One good score and the handicap will be restored.

So during the round one bad hole is just that – ONE bad hole out of 18. The trick is to minimize the damage. Put the bad shot or bad hole out of your mind. Focus on hitting the next shot well.  Let the score take care of itself,  and the number that ends up on the score sheet is just a number.

Double bogeys and bad drives

Two rounds in the last few days have come unstuck – too many double bogeys!

At Forbes a double bogey-bogey finish damaged an otherwise good round, while three double bogeys at Duntryleague Orange were painful.  My Forbes double bogey was simply a case of being too agressive with my chip, and lazy with my second putt (an Adam Scott miss). The Duntryleague disaster was different.

Driving accuracy is one key to a good score.  At 50% (7/14) the pressure was on, and with five drives finishing under trees the pressure was intense at times.  My final result was 5  over my handicap – which equates to five drives finishing under trees. While the two statistics match the reality was a little different, with a couple of recovery shots allowing me to scramble pars with a good chip/pitch and one putt. The double bogeys at 2, 10 and 15 were all the result of poor drives.

In analysing my driving it seems that some extra tension in the hands prompts further tension in the body. The result, for me, is a pull hook.  The solution: relax my hands and swing through the ball. In my thought life it is easy. On the tee, with club in hand, it doesn’t always come together!

Water – or the lack of it!

A stop at Tocumwal allowed me to play the two courses at my present home club.  Both courses are in excellent condition with lush fairways and firm fast greens. Even as I was playing during the week the ground staff were out dethatching the fairways, such is the depth and quality of the couch fairways.  The club has an ample supply of recycled water, and this is the key to this oasis on the Murray.

Some 400 kms north is Forbes Golf Club. The greens were also lush, but a little long. The tees were grassed, but showing signs of wear. The fairways were dry, with even the kikuyu struggling to survive on hard parched fairways.  While it is flat course there are some interesting holes  – among them the 8th being a 350metres par 4 dogleg left. It  turns sharply at about the 300 metre mark. With trees on the left, and right a well placed tee shot, or a lot of luck, is required on this  hole.

The contrast between the two clubs was stark. Forbes has no access to recylced water. Such is the quality of the processes that this is returned to the river system. The wetlands nearby are fed by this water, but the golf club pays top dollar for their water. After ten years of drought the fairways are struggling to survive, and watering the greens may be all the club can afford in the future.

Golf clubs are a community resource in places like Forbes.  Local governments need to take into account thier contribution to the locality and do what they can to support the facilities in their areas. Forbes Golf Club needs the active support of their local councillors if the course is to survive these difficult times.

Allenby wins PGA – again!

Well done  Robert Allenby.

After a trip back from South Africa, Allenby made a mockery of jet lag and switching continents to win at Coollum.  A bogey free final round allowed him to be a clear winner. His game plan was simple – fairways, greens and make a few putts if possible. It worked. But isn’t that what we all try to do? Just that some of us have trouble with hitting the fairway, which makes it harder to hit the greens and sometimes leaves us with too many long putts.

Adam Scott finished his round more like the average golfer, and must have been disappointed with a triple bogey finish. Like the others he wasn’t really in the hunt coming down the 18th, but blew a few thousands bucks because he couldn’t keep out of the water.

One of golf’s predecessors?

Chole was the game played in Belgium.

Teams would use iron clubs to smite an egg-shaped ball across country to hit a designated target. The target could be a church door, a tree, a town monument or marker.

No prior preparation was needed, no fairway to be mown, no bunkers to be raked or greens  prepared.  Just pick the target and go for it.   How did it work?  Apparently the team would bid a number of shots to reach the target, and the lowest bidding team would then try to hit the target in that number of shots. But it wasn’t as easy as the game of golf as we know it.  Apart from the terrain they also had to deal with the opposition. After each three strokes the bidding team made the opposition got one shot at hitting the ball. They would try to put the ball in the worst trouble they could find.  The contest continued until the bid was won or lost.

Sounds like a bit of fun… and it would be interesting to try on a normal golf course.

For an interesting and informative read on the history of the game Steve Newell’s “A History of Golf” is a well presented look at the game and its different facets.

A good weekend for Aussies – and more statistics lessons.

Adam Scott hit form at the Australian Open, Allenby won the Netbank Challenge at Sun City in South Africa and Michael Simwas named Nationwide  Player of the Year. It was a good weekend for the Aussies.

The performance of Adam Scott at La Perouse was remarkable for the best and worst of reasons.

He finally returned to the ball striking that had carried him into the top echelon of world golfers over previous years – that’s the best. He missed two putts of under 60 cms – that’s the worst.  With a lead of four shots or more Scott had a margin to play with. In other circumstances those two missed putts could have consigned him to the also rans.  With such elementary mistakes in a local tournament one wonders whether Scott can live up to his earlier promise and grab a major.  On the evidence of the last weekend he still has some more work to do yet.

At the other end of the scale Michael Sim is the first Aussie to be voted Nationwide Player of the Year.  iseekgolf identifies the list of his accomplishments for the year.  Nationwide Tour Statistics have Sim ranked No. 1 in Scrambling (71%) , Putting (28.18), No. 5  in Driving Accuracy (78%),  No 5. in Greens in Regulation (74%),    and No. 25 in Driving Distance (297 yards).  Those statistics show that the work on and around the green is more important than how far you hit the ball. Woon Joon Lee is the longest driver on the tour at 312.7 yards,  but greens in regulation and scrambling are less than 60% and he averages 1.2 more putts per round than Sim (that’s 5 shots a tournament!).

So which part of the game do you think the average golfer should practice most?

Another interesting aspect is the comparison with PGA tour stats – where the best driving accuracy was 74% and Greens In Regulation leader (Aussie John Senden) was at 71%.  It probably means that the PGA courses are set up tougher than the Nationwide Tour – and Michael Sim still has work to do to really make his mark at the next level.

As Nationwide Tour leader he is in good company and we wish him well as he jons the PGA Tour full time in 2010.

And Robert Allenby?

His win in South Africa came with top ten statistics in all categories except eagles, double bogeys and other scores. He was No.1 in sand saves, 3 in GiR and 5 in putting. Watching the TV news it was also clear that Stenson lost in the play off because of a poor approach and a worse chip out of the rough.

On Home Ground

Whittlesea Golf Course 12th Green

Whittlesea Golf Course 12th Green

Twelve months of golf around Australia and the handicap crept out slowly.  Even when I was playing well there were occasions when playing holes never seen before meant a well struck shot ended in a difficult spot.

On Saturday I was back on familiar turf at Whittlesea Golf Club. 2009 has not been a good one for the club. Black Sunday fires came up to the edge of the course, and for two months the course was closed. Mid-May the club hosue was torched, and they are now in the process of negotiating with insurers and planning to rebuild.  On course things are not too bad. The greens were in fairly good condition and holding, and the fairways passable. Despite six or more years of drought grass coverage on fairways continues to improve slowly.

Now to the golf…

It was my best competition round for over twelve months, but ended with a double bogey 5 on the par 3 18th. The results was still 5 under my handciap against par, and three under the CCR (Competition Course Rating).

Three poor tee shots probably cost me three shots.  They all went left. The cause  – tension. On each of those shots I was thinking about the importance of a good tee shot to set up a good scoring opportunity rather than just putting the ball in a good position. The hands and arms tightened, and the ball was pulled or hooked left.

Even after a good round there are things to be learned.  There is more work to be done on the mental game and my pre-shot routine.

So am I frustrated with a double bogey finish? You bet I am – but winning the A Grade and dropping my handicap by .6 means that it hurts very little.