The Greatest Game Ever Played

Harry Vardon was one of the greats of the game.  Most players today use the Vardon grip (also known as the overlapping grip). We know something of his exploits, but most know little of his past.  Vardon was one of the characters who helped populatise the game of golf.

The name Frances Ouimet is pretty much unknown today, apart from golf afficiionados. Frances never turned pro, but was a remarkable amateur golfer who won the US Open, and the US Amateur in 1914 and 1931.  Frances was the first American elected as captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.

In 1913 Harry Vardon and Ted Ray (both British professionals) toured the US. Vardon was the preeminent golfer of the time, and Ray was not far behind.  These three contested the US Open.

Mark Frost’s book “The Greatest Game ever Played” chronicles the contest, providing fasinating background that sets the scene, and fills us in on the aftermath.  Its history but a very readable and enjoyable novel that any golfer would enjoy. If you haven’t read it, chase it down!

Barnbougle Dunes

It was on my list. All that was needed was the opportunity. On the long weekend in July I grabbed my chance. Now I need to find another opportunity. Barnbougle Dunes demands another look.

Stand on the lookout adjacent the club house and the complusion to play is hard to avoid.

Stand on any of the tees and the fairway invites your presence.

Make sure you play down the fairway....

Stand on the fairway and the swales challenge your skills.

112 metres - miss and you lose!

Don't miss this green!

Stand over the putt and technique and confidence are tested.

There are no easy putts

A spectacular course that demands great golf to score well. One visit is not enough – and a second course opens in a few months.

A view at the new course - opening late 2010

The next challenge - coming soon!

In the words of Arnie Schwarzenegger “I’ll be back”.

Target 2…now further away.

Weather forecast 8-15 degrees, with showers in the afternoon.  It’s a little cold early in the morning, but 15 degrees seemed to be OK.  The day started with hope.  Another stableford at Royal Hobart, the course in good  nick and no breeze. 

My first (the tenth) was a wipe with a double bogey. After leaking my first tee shot right and having to hack out square, a poor chip blew away the chance at a point.  At the turn I had gathered my wits and started to play consistent golf. Two more poor chips had not been costly and I had 16 points on the card. 

A little bit of drizzle had come and gone, but the sky was  not looking good.  Drizzle turned to downpour as we ventured down the first hole and the game got harder. Putting through casual water was standard fare for the next four holes. I coped OK for the first two, despite drives just easing right. Then it fell apart. Three points over the next five holes effectively wrote off my round. What went wrong? 

  • Tee shots -three to the right, two to the left. Three shots gone….
  • Chipping – one badly short, one long. Two shots  gone…
  • Putting – a six foot downhill putt (on a dry section) became a nine foot putt back that missed. One shot gone…

At least I finished with three pars (two realistic birdie chances) in the last four holes!

Statistics:

FIR: 28%  GIR: 44%  Putts: 34  Score: 28 points Handicap: 5.5/playing off 6

Related Posts:

  • Three holes
  • So near and yet…
  • Goal for 2010
  • Kew Golf Club
  • Ratho – oldest golf course in Aus
  • Greenacres
  • St Helens – Tasmania
  • Three holes…

    It only took three holes to destroy my round.

    For 11 holes I had battled, and yet has stayed within range of my handicap. After a great opening hole played in regulation it was 11 holes before I managed to drive the ball on the fairway. Even so I was just 6 over the card and a birdie on 12 improved the situation.  From there it was only up…or so I thought. A bit of luck on 13 (my second bounced off a tree into the light rough) was followed by a weak approach into the bunker. Unfortunately the ball just rolled in and rested on the down slope. Two poor bunker shots followed, and the third one left me with a 7 metre putt for a double bogey. I missed!   Down 14 I missed the fairway left (all the other had been on the right) but had an eight metre putt for par. Three putts  followed.  On 15 I was pin high but right, and a soft lob wedge meant another chip was required. Two putts later and the triple, double, double sequence was complete.  To cap off the round another three putt on 18 took my total putts for the day to 36.

    So how did I play? Remarkably I thought I did well to walk off with a net 80. (Par is 72) I finished  mid-field in the monthly stroke. With five putts that lipped out (one is rare, five unheard of…), another that stopped on the lip, and a chip that was 3 centimetres short the score could easily have been seven shots better, even with two wasted bunker shots and a lousy chip. Golf is a game of centimetres, and the final score doesn’t ell all the story.

    Statistics:

    FIR: 21% GIR:33% Putts: 36  Score: 85 Handicap: still 4.9

    The future: 

    The next round to drop off my best ten is a 2 over. It will be replaced with an 8 unless I break 80.  Potentially my handicap could go out to 5.5 with another poor score.  Roll on Saturday!

    So near and yet…

    A little extra bit of work and a serious start to lifting my mental game were part of this week’s preparation. Did it pay off?  Yes…and NO.

    Generally my driving was better.  50% of fairways hit doesn’t sound like a great deal of improvement, but only one of those five required a creative recovery. Even then it was only about five metres from the cut surface.

    My bunker play was good – with two sand saves, and one GIR from a  fairway bunker.

    For over two thirds of the round my thinking and approach was good – and my ‘course plan’ was sound.  At times I was let down by execution that was not quite right.

    So how did I go with this strategy? Answer: after the 15th I was on track to play to my handicap, despite missing a 2 foot par putt on 13. Three holes later another point had been added to my stableford score and five more shots had been taken than my handicap allowed.

    The statistics:

    FIR: 50%  GIR: 50% PPG in Reg: 2.22 Score: 31 points. Handicap: 4.9 for another week.

    Achieving Goals

    After four and a half months my 2010 golfing goal is still unrealised. My handicap is 4.9,  a long way from the 2.4 that will mark achievement.

    What have I been doing to move toward the goal?

    Lessons:

    Two of a three lesson series have been completed, with a third not too far away. My set up has changed signficantly.  I have changed from a left side focus to a right side focus, trying to hit through the ball with my right hand rather than my lef t arm pulling the swing. Slowly my finish is becoming more upright and square to the target.

    Results thus far: the straight hits are straighter and the default error seems to be a fade

    Practice:

    During the summer a weekly after work visit to the course was easy. Daylight saving is fantastic.  With sunrise after 7.00 a.m. and sunset at about 5.30 p.m. that is now much harder. Work pressures don’t help either. Where possible I will spend a little time hitting balls during the week, and ‘in house’ chipping and putting is the norm. 

    Results thus far:Putting with more confidence and constency, but this is not being seen on the score card.

    Thinking

    Tips are not on my agenda, but the mental game has been a focus of my reading.  A sound pre-shot routine before every stroke as well as thinking positively about every shot are a couple of foundational aspects that need to be developed further.  Everything I have read about the mental game encourages me to take the final score out of my thinking, and to concentrate on each shot without mentally keeping score. For someone who is striving to reduce his handicap, and can talk through a round a week after, that is difficult.  I’m working on it.

    Results thus far:  Pre-shot routine is Ok, but not totally consistent. Being totally confident about swing and shot is difficult after letting a couple of drives slide right of the fairway.

    Course Management

    For years I have used a course book, and know where the major markers are on the courses I play regularly. Course management takes this a step further. Planning the way you play the course – including which clubs to use for particular tee shots – is another step that needs to be taken. The aim is to step up to the ball with confidence, using the club you know will give the best chance of success, and put the ball in the best area for the next shot.  This means using a 3 wood or hybrid off a couple of tees, and a change in my approach to the game.

    Results thus far: This is the latest step, and after one week I can see the sense in it, but am yet to hold back at times when it might be the wisest course.

    Summary

    This is my approach to golf improvement, with the aim of getting my handicap down. As yet there has been no major step forward in my score.

    The best advice has come from W. Timothy Gallwey “The Inner Game of Golf”.  He suggests that the PEL triangle is a key. If the score is all that counts golf will be regularly frustrating. Even the best rounds can be better. Perfection is a round of 18 shots! So we need to think about Performance, Enjoyment, and Learning. If performance is not up to our hopes the game can still be enjoyed, and learning can still take place. 

    I am enjoying my golf, and learning.

    Bad bounces and shanks…

    Week by week measuring of progress is humbling, but enlightening.

    Progress might be sensed on the practice range but needs to be realised on the course. The swing might feel more solid, the errors more ‘consistent’ (i.e. the default error is a fade, not a fade or pull), but the true test comes when the scores count.  On Saturday they counted. The strokes came out too high and the stableford points way too low.

    Looking back there are three glaring errors, a.k.a. shanks, which are not normally part of my game. The effect on my score was a needless three shots. What was most surprising was that two of them were ‘chip-outs’ from trouble! That should be an easy fix. The other shot I will discount as an aberration.

    The other aspect of my game that was disappointing was my driving – three shots ended up way right (two in trouble). After completing nine holes with my worst drive two metres from the short cut (sum total about 10 metres off the fairway from seven drives but only one actually on the fairway) I proceed to carve three of my next four drives towards trees on the right. But for a lucky bounce the pain would have been greater.

    Add in what were effectively two three putts (one from just of the putting surface) and the score wasn’t looking great.

    During the round there were two bits of bad luck. Approaching a bunker I was reflecting on the friendly design of the course bunkers and expecting to find my ball on a flat lie at the bottom of the bunker. Nope! I was plugged at the back of the bunker with a downhill lie in heavy and damp sand. I got it out, just. From there another shot was wasted as I took three to get down from the fringe. Two holes later and my 30 metre pitch landed close to the distance I wanted, but was half a metre left of the target area. Instead of bouncing softly off the grass it leapt into the air off a sprinkler head and bounded merrily across the green into a little swale.  The birdie opportunity quickly became a failed attempt to save par.

    With a little bad  luck and too many bad shots the end result was 30 points. Not the 38 I would like, but not the 28 it could have been. With three wipes and two one pointers on the easy par 5’s I walked away frustrated with parts my round, yet knowing that the good round could be the next one.

    The Statistics:

    FIR: 22%  GIR: 55% PPG: in reg 1.9  Putts: 34  Stableford points: 30 Handicap: 4.9 (unchanged).

    The Bad News:

    Under the new handicapping system one of my best scores drops off in three competition rounds. A good round is needed soon.

    Related Posts:

    Kew Golf Club

    A drizzly Melbourne day, greens recently renovated, and I chose to play at Kew Golf Course.  It was just a week since the renovation, and the greens were slow, with a little bit of sand evident on most green. Despite this they putted truly. All the fairways were well grassed and the bunkers were all well maintained. On a fine day it would be a great place to play golf. In the conditions on the day it was still a good place to play golf.

    One view of the approach to the 15th green

    An easy par 5 if you don't go for the green with your second.

    The view from the elevated club house reveals a little bit of water, but most of it does not come into play for well it shots.  Tree lined fairways, well placed bunkers, and well shaped par 4’s and 5’s place a premium on the tee shot.  A trio of interesting holes complete this course – a reachable par 5, the longest par 4, and then a 165 metre par three up the hill towards the club house.

     Without the usual warm up, and using borrowed clubs again, the start was positive – my 3 wood of the tee split the fairway and set up my approach.  An overshot approach, a short chip and missed putt set the tone for the next few holes!  When the driving went off I started to hit the greens. Twelve stableford points for the front nine was not encouraging. With 20 putts, three missed fairways, and only 3 greens in regulation a good score was out of the question.  It looked like this round was not going to be counted for my handicap as I was 8 over at the turn.

    A delightful finishing hole.

    18th green and clubhouse at Kew

    A regulation par on 10 was followed by a shocking tee shot on 11. It was not looking good.  Seven holes later I finished the back nine with 22 points – one under the card – after missing a 1.5 metre birdie putt on 18. What changed?  Just my swing thought – and the result was all six fairways hit and eight greens in regulation. Two one putt greens completed the story.  I signed for 34 points – and was happy to do so.

    I look forward to playing Kew when their greens are running at their normal speed.

    Statistics:

    FIR: 78%  GIR: 61%  Putts: 36  PPGinReg: 1.9

    Related Posts:

    Ratho

    One golfing goal for 2010 has been achieved. Today I played Ratho Golf course, the oldest course in Australia.

    Located just outside Bothwell, Tasmania, the course surrounds a working farm. New holes have been added and the greens and bunkers are not original, but the course has been on the same piece of land since 1822. With six new holes added (with plans for a further three to complete the eighteen) the course well grassed, well cared for, and offers a good variety for a short course, and a number of interesting – perhaps even novel – challenges.

    Too much trouble to go for the green off the tee

    Risk is high, reward is low at the 6th

    The first few holes are relatively flat and straight with a drainage channel crossing the second, fourth and seventh.  The short 260 metre fourth is a dogleg right with a blind landing area. Rough left and right means the wise choice is to lay up and rely on a 120 metre approach. The risk factor is high here, and the reward is low.

    Hole 6 is a shorter  par 4, just 220 metres! The tee shot is over the crest of a hill and a drain/channel snakes across the fairway dividing it neatly into three sections. Again discretion is called for, and I chose an 8 iron for safety. Even though it was a wise choice poor execution on my next two shots left me a 7 metre putt for par. It didn’t drop.

    The six new holes include some remarkable challenges and one excellent par 3, the 180 metres 11th.   Ten starts near the road and requires a tee shot over a mustering yard. The green, some 500 metres from the tee, sits precariously on the edge of the  river. It does not pay to hit a long wedge to this green, but a short wedge means the putt must traverse a small valley to get into the hole.  A few paces from this green is the 11th tee. The river is just metres away for the entire length of this long par 3, a danger for slicers, while too far left will leave the ball in deep rough.

    View from 15th tee at Ratho

    Make sure you clear the hedgerow - and watch the sheep around the green!

    On 13 and 15 a hedgerow stands between tee and green, and a poor tee shot can be disastrous. On the 197 metre 15th sheep provide a further hazard. While local rules allow a replay if the ball hits a sheep it is hard to see the contacat through the hedgerow!

    The Ratho course does not make the top 100 courses in Australia, and never will. As a keen golfer it was good to play on the oldest course in Australia (and the third oldest in the world).  How do I rate the experience? On my scoring, just OK. For enjoyment and interest – Very Good.

    If you are a golfer, and are in Tassie, make sure you visit Bothwell and play the oldest golf course in Australia.  While in Bothwell, take the time to visit the Australian Golf  Museum as well.    For an all up cost of $20 it is great value and affordable golf.

    My statistics:

    FIR: 8/11  = 72% GIR: 10/18 =  55%  Putts: 29 Score: 71  (4 over) 6 birdies, 6 bogeys, 1 triple bogey!

    Progress toward the goal

    A social round at a new course with borrowed clubs was an opportunity to test out my game – technically and strategically.  For most of the day things worked well, but some poor course management and a couple of slight lapses my thinking and concentration hurt on the score card.

    My stats:

    FIR  38%   GIR 41%  PPG  1.61 (29 Putts) Score 79  (8 over)

    A well trapped green.

    The par 5 8th is reachable in two - if you can hold a three iron on a well trapped green!

    The driving stats don’t look good, but most of my drives were close to the fairway when they missed. Only one drive left me with chip out, and that was caused by lack of course knowledge.  GIR isn’t great either. From good fairway position approaches often came up short – and that might be attributed to failing to adjust to the strange clubs.

    Three holes cost badly. Three putts on two of the par 5’s were  major blemishes, and a double bogey on 6 hurt on the scorecard. The double bogey came after missing the green from 70 meters. Without a lob wedge the recovery shot was almost impossible, so I took the soft option and accepted the double.

    My other learning experience for the day came in the sand.  A wide sole on the club is not helpful when there is little depth to the sand. All three bunker shots were long by at least 1o metres! Not good when the pin is six metres from another bunker.

    Overall I was happy with my ball striking and course management  despite it being my first outing on the course and my first use of this particular set of clubs.

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