First Published December 10, 2014
It’s been some time since I updated my blog, mainly because I’ve spent most of my spare time either at the range or on the course, so a progress report is long overdue. When I find time, I’ll write some more specific posts but here are my highlights and frustrations (inevitably) from 2014.
The local driving range closed suddenly. I don’t know why, but as I was spending about £5 every other day there to hit 100 balls a time, I had to find a replacement. So I visited my local golf club and signed up as a Social Plus member to gain access to the range. It cost me £50 for a year, then I had to buy cards at £5 for 150 balls. After a few weeks of this, I found out that I could buy a ticket for unlimited balls for 12 months for £85. I know a bargain when I see one, so that’s what I did.
I go to the range and practice most days and I probably hit an average of 200 balls each time. I’m well aware that jut hitting balls offers no guarantee of improvement. I try to be a little more targeted though and either work on something from a lesson, or from my last round. So ultimately, I’ll probably hit around 50,000 range balls this year.
Well practically everyone I play golf with has much more experience than I do and consequently, they shoot lower scores than me. I find that irritating, so I’m playing catchup, as quick as I can. What sticks in my mind is a quote from Lee Trevino about how to learn to play golf. “You put your left hand about here, and your right hand about there, now go hit 2 million golf balls.”
It’s different on grass obviously and as I was struggling with topping iron shots on the course, I took a lesson playing off grass. The pro couldn’t help me sort it out.
I’m sure you’ve felt the same thing; a decent drive, leaving you maybe 130 – 155 yards from the pin. In your mind you can see the shot that you need to play and you select the appropriate club. Whatever your routine, the outcome is a topped shot finishing about 30 yards in front of you and the possiblity that you’ll do it again. Meanwhile, your golfing buddies, try not to laugh, or worse still, offer advice, and you hack your way to a 9 instead of the par or bogey you’d visualised only moments previously.
It’s something that’s dogged me all year, and it’s why I’ve spent so much time at the range.
I took some lessons indoor, and made some progress, usually temporary with the pro at Barrow Golf Club. There’s something missing though, when you effectively hit a ball into a wall/net and look at a screen to see what happened. A huge element of feedback is missing.
So lately, I’ve been taking lessons with Alyn Cousins, the new Pro at Ulverston Golf Club. The tuition area is like a very large garage with a door that lifts to reveal the practice range. Video analysis revealed that my previous lessons had enabled me to learn to keep my posture correct and head still on my backswing, but that my head bobbed down then up on the downswing = topped shots or big divots. Inconsistancy, whichever way you look at it. I’m working on that.
During the year I’ve had periods where I’ve left the driver out of my bag, because I was guaranteed to slice it wildly off the tee or duff it 20 yards and 30 degrees left. Once or twice, the ball actually ended up behind my tee. So for a time I just 7 Ironed my way around and became reasonably confident and competent with that club. Legend has it that Seve learned to play golf with a 7 iron and a putter, so I thought it might be beneficial. Then I started topping, slicing and pulling those shots too. Lessons didn’t help and I was struggling and thinking, maybe golf isn’t for me.
Mainly I’ve played Windermere. On reflection, it’s quite a brutal course to learn on. The fairways are often narrow and the rough is an Aladins Cave. 5 off the tee wasn’t uncommon, and once when playing alone, I had to give up after 9 holes because I’d run out of balls. I’m fairly certain I went out with at least 15. Miss the fairway off the tee at Windermere and most of the time, the ball is lost. But I’ve played there most weeks, alone or with a wide variety of others, but never in competitions. I don’t have an official handicap. In one glorious week in July ish, I had three conseutive rounds of 92, 95 and 98. I remember that I was driving well at the time. The next time I went out I hit 121 and my game, and my confidence went backwards.
I’ve also played Barrow Golf course a few times with Andrew Turner, scoring around 110; and Furness Golf course on windy walney with Pete Trelore. I don’t remember the score, somewhere above 110 and below 120, I think.
A few months ago, a bloke I met playing in the local tennis ladder (yep, I’m an all round ageing sportsman) invited me to play on his usual 8.30am Tuesday morning slot at Ulverston Golf Club. It’s Ladies morning so it has to be 8.30 to get ahead of them. Improves the view immensly though.
So I’m duffing my way around in 116 or 108 or so whilst Johannes goes round in the mid 80’s. I take some more lessons and hit a 102. One of the par 3’s I take 9 on and one of the par 5’s takes me 11, or 12, or 13. I don’t really remember because my brain had turned to mush.
I decide to join the club. I’m now playing there every week and paying for it, so it makes sense.
In the meantime, I meet up with an old school friend, recently retired. We play a few rounds at Windermere whilst his wife waits in the clubhouse knitting or stitching monkeys made of socks. I took 17 on the 4th one day (this is about 2 months ago) and, despite telling Martin that I’ve parred this SI 1, 340 yard uphill par 4 to a blind green a few times, I can still see the look of pity, or sympathy in his eye. Golf, I hate it, fucking stupid game.
When I was having a lesson at Ulverston golf Club with the interim pro, Ernie Foster, we work working on my inability to use a driver. Ernie looked at the club and told me that the flexible shaft was only suitable for women or old people. I think he meant people with a slow swing. I understood, so I bought a Cobra Bafffler Driver and a Cobra Baffler 4 Hybrid (I’d watched Aki using a hybrid at Windermere one day and it seemed to work). I also traded in the sand wedge that I’d bought in a charity shop for £2 against a Cleveland 56 degree wedge.
I couldn’t use the driver.
In 2 weeks I was heading for Portugal again for another golf trip and here I was, struggling to get off the tee. So I spent 2 weeks solid practicing with the Hybrid. All 5 rounds in Portugal I played off the tee with it. When it works, it works well. I had 4 consecutive 9’s of 53 in Portugal and one round of 106. About 9 shots better than my scores out there 4 months earlier. I did implode on the final 9 though.
And so to today
I’ve never broken 100 at Ulverston in the dozen or so times I’played there. Today I went out in 42 but came back in 56 for 98. It should have been 93, but after a perfect drive at the 18th, leaving a 135 yardshot to the pin, a shot I’d executed perfectly a week ago; I somehow managed to find not one but two bunkers instead and thrash my way to a 10.
I broke 100 for the first time though and birdied a par 3 that I’d previously taken 9 on.
I fucking love golf
Sam Adams says
December 11, 2014 at 4:45 pm
Hate to see you struggle like that. If you would send me a video of you swing I promise I can help you. No charge. If you work that hard you should get better faster. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Promise you have nothing to lose.
Hitting The Golf Ball says
May 6, 2016 at 4:22 pm
Congratulations on breaking 100. That was more than 1 year ago. How are you doing now? Breaking 80?
November 22, 2016 at 3:24 pm
Around 90 on average
June 1, 2016 at 8:21 am
Hi Sam, it’s been some time. Thanks for your kind offer.
I’ve continued to practice hard and play around 3 times a week, so I can now get somewhere near my 18 handicap on a good day. In last weeks medal I hit 93. I’m now using the Cobra driver and getting around 220 yards carry on a flat hole with no wind. Dispersion is generally ok, with the occasional unintended fade or slight pull. Knowing the course well and where the bail outs are helps. The 4 hybrid goes 180 -200 yards and I’m beginning to be able to shape it both ways. I’m working on more consistancy with my irons – I don’t use anything lower than a 6. Now concentrating on my short game – anything from 90 yards in.
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