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Par just doesn’t cut it!

Aaron Baddeley burst on the Australian golf scene with back to back wins in the Australian Open in 1999 as an amateur and 2000 as a professional.  He seemed destined for big things, and progressed up the ranking to number 18 at the end of 2007.  Today Badds ranks 143 and seems poised to head further south after missing the cut at the Farmers Open with an even par 144 after two rounds. Par just doesn’t cut it!

What has gone wrong?

In 2007 his scoring average was 70.96  In 2009 it had ‘blow out’ to 71.31. Hardly world shattering stuff, yet it meant 5 fewer cuts made and only a quarter of the prize money.

Some other comparisons:

2007: FIR  60%  (Stat leader 75.47%)  GIR 60.35%   ( 70%) PPR 28.26 (27.88)

2009: FIR  56.48%   (74.09%) GIR 59.57% (70.89%)  PPR 28.09 (26.6)  * Only in putting was he better than the tour average.

Badds made the news with the “stack and tilt” method before reportedly abandoning it in the first half of 2009. Was it tinkering with his swing that made the difference? Possibly, but I suspect it is not all the answer.   He was married in 2005 and their first child was born in the last months of 2008.

While 2007 was stellar year for Badds it seems that other aspects of life became more important. While he can still make a good living from playing the game, and from various sponsorships, until he can regain his hunger to win  maintaining his golf ranking will become increasingly difficult.

Par doesn’t cut it where the top professionals are concerned – but then again some things are more important than golf.

Aussie leads Putts per Round stats.

After two tournaments in 2010  Australian professional Matt Jones leads the PGA Tour stats for putts per round. It sounds like a great feat, but statistics can be misleading. Matt has only played one tournament, and failed to make the cut. We can only hope the his PPR stat remains low, and his Cuts Made numbers increase.

In two rounds he did not miss from under 5 feet, but with driving accuracy in at 28.7% and GIR at 41%  we can be confident that he would probably be happier to have a higher putts per round ranking,  and a lower average score.

State of play

Another 0.1 has been added to my handicap.

On a new course driving accuracy is important, and 26.5% doesn’t cut it.  Driving accuracy doesn’t tell the whole story, as it deals with drives on the fairway. A drive in  short rough one metre from the fairway doesn’t count as accurate, and is factored in the stats exactly the same as a ball on the next fairway or under a bush somewhere.  Similarly a ball scrubbed a hundred meters to the short grass may still be accurate.   I had them all in my 26%!

Peter Sanders (Niblicks of Truth) has come up with another stat that may be more reliable – Long Game Efficiency Index.  He says  “the Fairways Hit stat is by far the weakest performance barometer of all traditional golf statistics for two reasons. First, it ignores driving distance. But most importantly, it ignores the differences between the relative severity of the fairways missed.” The LGEI is calculated by Long shots (all over 50 yards) divided by Green in regulation. The perfect par round then becomes 36/18 = 2.    A good round is around 2.5-2.8.  My round on Saturday rated a 5.

When two penalties and at least four wasted short shots are added I did well to be just 9 over the card.  A CCR of 1 under par showed just how far off the mark I was.

Areas to work on continue to be my short game and driving accuracy. Thirty putts (1.67  per hole) was passable but the average first putt length was only 8.5 feet.  More to be done here as well.

BTW – Driving distance (as calculated by the PGA) would have been 256 metres.

Claremont GC

Claremont 10th GreenLocated on a point jutting out into the Derwent River Claremont Golf Course is a pleasant and interesting layout.   The views are great and the terrain is challenging at times, but there is nowhere for the club to expand or extend.  They have used every metre of their land to get to a par 71,  5700 metre layout.

The course was well maintained, and the fairways in generally good condition.  A dam between the 8th and 13th fairways has increased the challenge of these holes even though it is not aesthetically pleasing. This is one of the unavoidable costs of course maintenance in drought years.

The course:

A lack of length was offset by the the number of doglegs, and at time the significant slope of the fairways. Water comes into play on four holes, and another eight are close enough to the Derwent for it to be a factor in the mind of a competent golfer.  The highest point of the course is also a focus with two holes (10 &13) having steep uphill approaches, while the 9th requires a tee shot over the old quarry/dam down to the green.   The par 5’s are short, and mostly reachable in two (with a good drive and gentle breezes).   While generally a satisfying course to play purists will find the blind tee shot on 3 and the location of the 12th tee somewhat quirky.

The practice facilities:

When space is an issue practice facilities are not a priority. A short (150 metre) area is available for warm ups,   and the putting green is surrounded by enough area for a little bit of chipping and putting practice – more putting than chipping.

Cost and accessibility:

Claremont 1st green

Claremont 1st

This is the nearest and cheapest 18 hole course to my home. It is just ten kilometres away (15 minutes maximum travel time), and is the only eighteen hole suburband course north of the city.

Additional Benefits:

A friendly and helpful group of locals welcomed me to the course and offered some basic indications of the shape of the  blind holes.  They were also open to discussing the alternatives.

With reasonable green fees and close proximity to my home it may not become my home course but could get a visit or two when golfing guests come from the mainland.

Overall: A good experience that sits favourably with courses of comparable cost around Melbourne.

Search for a golf club

A few days in Hobart has been enough to guage the lie of the land – hilly. The next question to be answered is where to play golf.

There are four 18 hole courses in Hobart  and they are all within 20-25 minutes. Claremont Golf Club is the closest and tomorrow morning I tee off on my first round at the course as part of my initial assessment process.  The alternatives are a little further away and a little more expensive, although not exorbitant in their fees. I will come to them in due course.

And so to the challenge of choosing a new golf club.  The factors involved are:

  • cost
  • accessibility
  • quality of course
  • practice facilities
  • additional benefits of membership

Stay tuned for an update…

Back to back

Geoff Ogilvy went back-to-back at Kapalua on Sunday. Last year he won the Sony Open, this year it was the SBS Championship.  To go back-to-back in the Sony Open he will have to win two weeks in a row on the tour.  So it is back-to-back for the opening event of the  USPGA tour.  Stuart Appleby won the Mercedes Open in 2004, 2005 and 2006 .  For the record Appleby is behind Jack Nicklaus (5) as a multiple winner, and is a three time winner with Arnold Palmer (4). Nicklaus won $45,000 in 1977, Ogilvy won $1,120,000 in 2010.

Why did Ogilvy win? His  statistics are telling:

  • Driving Accuracy:86.67%
  • Greens in Regulation: 94.44%
  • Putts per hole = 1.706

At 290 yards his driving distance wasn’t too bad either!

Another statistic: Rory Sabbatini was runner-up for the third time (2006, 2008, 2010) in the Sony Open.

Close but not close enough

A stroke round Saturday added 0.1 to my handicap.  Against par  the score was one over my handicap but the CCR was 2 under par.

Statistically the round was as follows:

  • Fairways Hit: 56%
  • Greens in Regulation: 55%
  • Putts: 31
  • Up & Down: 33%
  • Putts 4-9 feet: 17%

Whittlesea Golf Course 12th Green

The first two figures are just passable, and were not costly. There are two obvious areas for attention.  Putts were a little high, and the other stats indicate why.  Up and Down was just 33%. It suggests that I did not get the ball close enough with chips or short pitches. That was the reality. Putts 4-9 feet was only 17%.  The majority of these putts were at the outer extremity of this range, and a 9 foot putt is harder to hole than a three foot putt.

Once again the statistics reflect the importance of practicing my short game, and time spent on the putting green is time well spent.

This must be my work area this week.

Freeway Golf

Played at a well used public course yesterday afternoon – Freeway Golf.  While the course is in very good condition after some major renovations in recent years it was a frustrating afternoon. I was reminded of the benefits of  membership many times during the afternoon.

The course is centrally located just off the Eastern Freeway and about 15 minutes from the centre of the city. It is a short par 69 with one par 5, the first. Fairways are fairly tight and most greens are well bunkered and putted quite truly.  While some renovations are still in progress the sooner they can eliminate a couple of the older upturned saucer greens the better, and the contrast between old and new is quite significant.  As a course it is well worth the $15 it cost to play. As an experience try to tee off first thing in the morning.

Why does the idea of membership appeal? A four and a half hour round, waiting on almost every tee is not my idea of a pleasant round of golf.  Add the problem of waiting for stray players to move off your fairway, a group on carts including a long hitter in a hurry, and many occasional golfers or newbies and some of the joy goes from the game. Patience is called for on public courses.

The player problems aside it was a pleasant mid-week walk with good company.  Afterwards the pro said it was the busiest day he has known on the course, which has also experienced a great increase in traffic since early December 2009.

I came across this video. I wonder if some of those in the groups around me had actually tried to take this on board. It certainly looked like it from some of the swings I saw.

Achieving Goals

Statistically it doesn’t sound hard to reduce a handicap by two strokes, or to drop an average score from 77 to 75.  On the other hand  reducing  my handicap by 50% seems a little more difficult.  Added into that mix are a few extra hurdles – moving house and finding a new golf club are one part of that hurdle, going back to full time work is another.

My plan for 2010 is as follows:

  • play golf once a week, hopefully be in a competition
  • analyze my scores to monitor weaknesses and note areas of work
  • practice golf once a week – at a driving range or practice fairway
  • practice at home using appropriate drills .

As John “Hannibal” Smith (the A-team) was fond of saying “I love it when a plan comes together.”

We will wait and see.

Goal for 2010

In previous years I have set some goals for my golf , mainly relating to my handicap.  This year is no different.

In previous years I have been content to be conservative, knowing that time is limited and my own skills somewhat lacking.

This year I  have raised my sights. In 2010 I  aim to halve my handicap.

A little history. At the start of 2009 my playing handicap was 5.   Travel, playing spasmodically on a variety of courses, and doing little practice saw that move out  6.  Over the last month my golf has been much more frequent, and has included time on the practice fairway. Added to this has been some careful thought about my swing and my game.   Three good competition rounds have seen my handicap reduced to 4.4 – and a new playing handicap of 4. The lowest handicap I have ever had is 3.9 – a mark set in 2008. Considering that I played off a handicap of 5 in 1987  it is time for a step up.

In 2010 my aim is to reduce my handicap to 2.

Stay tuned for weekly updates of the state of play.