Entries Tagged as 'Practice'

Turning it around – 1.

From July to October my handicap moved from 5.5 to 8.2

At the start of the year my aim was to reduce my handicap from 5 to 2.  A couple of lessons to establish a solid foundation, and regular practice, seemed to have little positive impact on my scores.

Over the last eleven months I have hit more golf balls, and played more regularly, than at any other time over the last 40 years – but there have only been glimmers of hope. My scores were consistently between 8 and 13 over. Under the new handicapping system the low scores from late last year dropped out of calculation, and my handicap suffered.
The problems were many.
  • Erratic driving. Fairways in regulation were regularly less that 30%. As a result Greens in Regulation rarely reached 50%.
  • Inconsistent putting. 31-34 putts were the norm, with at least one three-putt most  rounds.
  • Between tee and green my iron play was not up to the task of scrambling pars or bogeys from behind trees or under bushes.
In the last three months things have turned around…..

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Eighteen holes is TWO nines!

Weather: mild and slightly overcast, with a gentle but cool breeze.  Course condition: good, with greens a little slower than usual but no frost. Company: three good golfers that I had played with previously.  All set for a good round of golf!

Forty minutes on the practice fairway the previous night allowed me to experiment with a slight adjustment to my swing. The new swing thought brought a little more consistency to my ball striking, and a better swing path. Twenty minutes warming up on the practice range confirmed the change and confidence was high as tee time approached.

Nine holes later, 5 of seven fairways had been nailed. Two poor tee shots caused some difficulty but six of nine greens were reached in regulation, and one birdie had resulted. At one over the card things were going well.

Just why the wheels fell off I am not sure, but 21 points on the front doesn’t compensate for a struggling 11 points on the back.  Zero of seven fairways hit, six bunkers explored, and seventeen putts contributed to ten dropped shots in nine holes.   My concentration was thrown over a minor issue, a few shots were poorly executed, and my thinking was poor on a number of occasions. It added up to a poor nine.

Even so, one over on the front nine reminds me that my present handicap is a temporary aberration, and things are soon to turn around.

Shots to remember:

  • Three wood off the tee at 14.  The hardest hole on the course requires a good straight drive. With a poor history off the tee on this particular hole only one image was entertained – a good swing and the ball flying towards my chosen target. A good strike resulted in the ball finishing in the middle of the fairway two hundred and thirty metres from the tee and leaving a comfortable six iron to the green.
  • Gap wedge from 75 metres on 17. After splitting the fairway off the tee a good shot was required to the pin in the back third of the green. Rhythm was good as I concentrated on my two key swing thoughts. The ball started on my aiming line just left of the pin and finished two metres beyond the pin to set up a birdie opportunity.
  • Four iron on eight. At 175 metres into a gentle breeze it was at the  limit of the iron. Good rhythm, the left foot planted and the right arm coming through on the inside and the ball flew straight at the pin, finishing on line about 7 metres short of the hole.

Statistics:

FIR: 5 of 14    GIR: 8 of 18    Putts: 33   Points: 32

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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.

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Five iron and putter

After consecutive three putts from under five feet left its mark on my psyche. Errant drives with at least five “chip-outs” was actually more costly.  With these two things in mind two clubs were taken to the course – a five iron and putter.

A hundred balls on the practice fairway with the five iron was a step towards embedding my swing changes.  Playing four or five holes (including the tragic 7th) was a way of dealing with the putting demons.

On the practice fairway the use of my right hand began to sink in. For years the left side has been dominant. Hitting twenty shots in a row along my aim line suggests that the changes are settling in. This consistency is something that has not been part of my previous experience.

On the course the tragic 7th was revisited. Saturday this 339 metre par 4 included a hooked drive, a pitch for position, a 70 meter pitch to within 1.5 meters and 3 putts. Monday night a five iron of the tee, a five iron to the green, and then out came the putter. Two balls were on in regulation – followed by a 3 putt bogey from 18 metres and a birdie from 2 metres.

The lesson: Keeping the ball in play (on or close to the fairway) is more important than distance.

The challenge: Leave the driver in the bag on this short dogleg.

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State of Play

My first competition round in three weeks was OK.  The handicap remains at 4.6 after a 78. 

The Club

%th GreenThe decision to join Royal Hobart was fairly clear. Tasmania is a more spectacular course, and there was some attraction to that club. While the costs are comparable the major factor in my choice was the differnece in practice facilities. The range at Tasmania is a “pro balls only” range. There is a  similar area at the Royal, but they also offer alternative areas including a short game range, and a chipping green.   Currently Royal Hobart is ranked in the top 50 public access courses in Australia, while Tasmania makes the next 50. Reports on the condition of the course confirm that ranking.  

The  Round

My first round was OK, marred by one three putt at 18, a bunker to bunker double bogey on 14, and some bad thinking  on my final hole, the 9th.   Aspects that I continue to work on are Driving (too many drives just off the fairway), approaches between 120 and 50 metres, and putting.  34 putts is at least 4 too many!

Subtle slopes on the greens continue to confuse, and increased familiarity with the course can only help in the green reading process. Then I will need to get the putts on line!    

Practice

Practice this week….not really. A few one hand swings indoors,  nine holes Friday night, and nine holes at Richmond Valley Course on the previous weekend.  More intentional practice and a chat to the pro are on the agenda for this week.

Focus your practise

Steve Stricker topped the USGA putting leader board with an average of 1.726 putts per hole, just over 31 putts per round. His scoring average was 69.5. Almost half his shots were on the green, and if the 14 drives are added 45 of his 70 shots are with driver of putter. The USPGA website records his driving accuaracy at 66.8% and Greens in regulation at 66.7% (as at 4/12/2009). That means that for about 6 holes each round he was pitching, chipping, or playing from sand bunkers.

A little time analysing our own rounds will pay dividends and point us to the areas that need practice. For the average golfer at least 45 shots will be with driver or putter. Add the par 5’s and there are probably four long irons or fairway woods to be played. Rest of the shots will be played to or around the greens.

So… if you want to shoot lower scores consistently practice putting, chipping and pitching, and then your driving.  All those hours spent hitting full shots with your long or mid-irons on the range may be fun, but practising your short game and putting will really improve your game.