Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Stop Press: Bargain rounds at Carnoustie

Apparently Carnoustie are reducing green fees for visitors by 50% on the Championship course from now until 2nd July as you’ll be playing off mats. Thanks to a member of Golf Monthly Forum for that one. Sounds like a bargain to me. (If only I were closer.)
Must be a worry, though, that they have suspended the course manager a month before the big event!

Photo from macieklew. More great pics in the set on flickr

(Minor grumble: - for a top golfing venue, Carnoustie could smarten up its website. I suppose they have other things to think about right now!)

Thanks, Paul Lawrie

This tip was in a recent issue of Golf Monthly and that it came from the pen (?*) of Paul Lawrie, my countryman, who was there to catch the claret jug when Jean Van de Velde let it slip from his grasp at the infamous Open at Carnoustie in 1999.
The tip is very simple and one I’ve seen or been told about before. It’s also one that’s easily forgotten in the middle of a bad round or (even more likely) when you are playing fabulously well one minute with several pars on the card (birdies? don’t be silly) … and the next minute it all goes wrong. We’ve all been there.
Paul’s tip is to always make a tiny pause at the top of your back swing. This ensures you can start moving your weight forward from the hips and prevents you bringing your arms through too fast, a very common fault in beginners (and a lot of people who should know better). In my case the result is usually a ball that flies way left, or one that fails to fly anywhere. What stuck in my mind about Paul’s solution is the way he put it, ‘Rotate and wait’. Very neat, and memorable, a mnemonic in fact, so it’s easier to remember. I suggest that next time your swing stops working, give it a try. Paul refers to it for fairway woods, but I think it applies to driving and irons too.

Re Carnoustie 99, an article in Greenside magazine reminds me that Paul Lawrie has done a lot more than this in his golfing life, even if his form hasn’t been great of late. I saw him myself at the only pro tour event I have ever attended at Celtic Manor (2004?) where his was the first shot I saw played and it went into the trees. I found it quite comforting that even the great and the good have to play out of bad positions.
Stand by for a deluge of articles about whether or not Paul will come into his own again on the home links this year.

*?Just a thought. Why do top tour pros take the time to write tips for golf mags? I can’t think they really need the money. Maybe the manager puts them out with a batch of photos to keep those shekels rolling in during the off-season, or maybe there’s a secret cabal of second-string pros acting as ghost writers? Feel free to educate me on this point.

Club Competitions

An interesting question on the Golf Monthly Forum . (Is it my imagination, or is there a distinctly men only feeling about the place? Anyway, I left a couple of replies and no-one has quoted any men-only rules at me – yet.)
A member wanted to know if it’s okay to enter club competition as a relative newcomer to the game with a highish handicap and a less than encyclopaedic knowledge of the rules. On the matter of knowing the rules, I’d say it’s good to bone up at least on penalty shots and free drops, and to know the local course rules. But I think playing competitions is a good thing, and clubs should encourage and support new members who aren’t too confident (and some clubs expect you to compete regularly if you have asked for a handicap to be assigned). You could always ask to be put in an experienced group who won't scare you off. The trouble is, that especially the first time, you’re almost certain to feel under pressure, and may well have a round that’s er - well, undistinguished (polite version.) But the more you play competitions, the less it gets to you. I’ve entered some competitions very reluctantly and done okay. On other days I’ve been feeling good and done atrociously. But the main thing is to keep having a go. And if you keep handing in cards and you’re still on 28, at least there’s no way you can be accused of being a bandit!

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Video shelf ( a very small one)

If golf books work for me, golf videos come with a bit of a health warning. Trust me, Nick Faldo’s jumpers do not transfer well to the medium, and David Leadbetter’s accent can really start to grate after a while. There’s one honourable exception. If the putting yips have got to you, take a look at this video by Bob Rotella and Brad Faxon. Brad's not the biggest name on the tour, but he can putt, and he makes it look superlatively easy. There’s a lot to be said for his technique (or lack of) which is something to do with taking a quick look at the putt and just going with your instinct. Funnily enough, that’s a lot harder to do than it sounds. I think I shall now take a break from the bookshelf, or someone out there might accuse me of being some kind of librarian.
Thanks to Librarian Avenger for the photo


No one on the forum has so far mentioned all those 'How to Play Golf' books and videos. It will depend on how you like to learn, but it has to be said that MOH hasn’t had a lesson in years and has reduced his handicap from 24 to 15, mainly from reading golf mags and his growing collection (home extension soon required) of books. Yes, he is dedicated, but it works for him. I’m usually happy to wait for tit-bits of his distilled knowledge to fall my way, but one book that made sense to me was the Swing Factory. You’ve probably heard of those guys who keep their pupils locked up in a basement until the swing is as it should be. Since the book was a Christmas present we decided to give it a whirl (literally) in our very own Swing Factory (i.e. garage) for most of the following January. The book doesn’t say a lot (though the photos are good for celeb-spotting: my eagle eye picked out Hugh Grant straight away) but it does explain everything in minute detail. It’s a painstaking, golf-swing-by-numbers approach that could probably destroy a decent swing, but I do believe it was the first thing that got me taking the club back on the right plane.
As for the rest? Well, maybe I should have just gone for that lesson!

If you like your reading a bit lighter, of all the books out there, each with a wackier title than the next, I urge you to read the wackiest, My Baby Got the Yips by David Russell. Here’s a guy who played off 6 at Sunningdale and was in line for a career in golf, but somehow just didn’t have what it takes to play the game at a high level. Luckily for us, he came back to the game, re-discovered his love for it and recorded his experiences in this book. He includes all kinds of things, mixing personal memoir with bits of history and even golf tips. I read it on holiday in the company of three golfing buddies all with different reading habits. Each of us read it in turn, cover to cover, and annoyed everyone else by laughing out loud. And the author is a bit of a tease. He leaves it until the last chapters to tell us what he believes are the true Secrets of Golf. Pretty good tips they are too. (Me, a tease?)

Taking a Lesson (but not just any lesson)

On Golf Monthly forum there’s an on-going discussion about improving your game and most people come down on the side of taking lessons and getting in plenty of practice. That’s it then: – learn – practice – succeed?
Well, without even mentioning the mental game, I can tell you it’s not that simple. As regards lessons, we all have different ways of learning, and , particularly if you’re a high handicapper (and/or a golf chick) it can be hard to find a teacher who ‘does it for you’, and believe me, if there isn’t a sense of partnership, of both of you working towards a particular goal and finding out how to get there, that lesson will do no good at all. In my time I’ve had a lessons where the teacher clearly thought a woman of a certain age who could hit the ball a hundred yards or so in a straight line should be happy to leave it at that. (I don’t think so, some of us are serious about this!)
At the other extreme, another pro started out by comparing my 30 handicap swing on video to that of Ernie Els. Leaving aside the matter of whose bum was biggest, let’s just say that wasn’t a pretty sight, and I felt defeated before we’d even begun to put my swing right.
So, yes, get yourself lessons, especially if you’re just starting or coming back into the game, but choose wisely and choose well. Take a taster lesson, and if things don’t feel good, don’t be afraid to duck out.
Photo from pocketwiley on flickr

Friday, 15 June 2007

Goddess status - it's official!

Good news: I did post the lowest score in that medal competition (Division 2). MOH is worried he will be blackballed (?) as he set the handicap rules.
Bad news: following my success in the above-mentioned competition, the Handicap Secretary has reduced me by two strokes. No prizes for guessing who the Handicap Secretary is.
Now I’m playing off 25 (ouch!) those clubs had better be good.

Custom fitting not as scary as expected

It’s no good. A true goddess of golf needs decent irons, and those Callaway X20s have been calling to me for too long, so today I took myself to one of the local pro shops for another look. MOH was with me and he had to agree they looked good even in my inexpert hands, but observed that the angle of the head at set-up wasn’t quite right, and, before I knew it, I was in a custom fitting session.
Scary or what? I thought you had to have a low handicap for any of the scientific stuff to make a difference, and I was convinced I’d make a complete fool of myself. In fact I did duff several shots in my ‘warm up period’, and MOH took a diplomatic walk, saving himself the embarrassment of being married to the first ever golfer whose swing/impact/launch speed would fail to even register on those electronic sensors.
Luckily it didn’t go too badly. The first good thing was that the fitting took place in a covered area of the driving range, not in an indoor centre. (It’s easier to get into your swing when you can see where the ball ends up. The technical name for this is feedback.) And before long I was managing some pretty decent shots with only the odd rubbish one. The equipment was also unobtrusive, and until the Pro started explaining the analysis (please don’t ask!) I wasn’t really aware anything was being measured.
What did it prove? Apparently I have a shallow angle of attack, a good launch trajectory, and a reasonable amount of back-spin. Most importantly, the best club for me is a Callaway X20 with some fairly small adjustments. Result!
Since these were the clubs I’ve been fancying anyway, you might think this was a bit of a waste of time, but apart from any difference those small adjustments might make (and every little helps!) I came out thinking I really had made the right choice. I was also greatly cheered to find the price before fitting wasn’t any higher than other local suppliers, and only marginally more than I had found on the wonderful worldwide web. I might have got free fitting elsewhere, but I felt the £25 I paid for the hour was reasonable, and the Pro also gave me a few constructive tips on my swing and made some recommendations about balls (of which more later.)
Conclusion: Custom fitting isn’t scary or expensive and it might actually help.
My gorgeous new clubs will arrive next week. Stand by for a report!

More Golf Chicks and the Perfect Swing

How nice of Patricia the Golf Girl to pay us a visit. From her picture she’s clearly in the chick category and brings a breath of fresh (young) air to this particular blogspot. She’s just off to Paris where I hope she enjoys her golf. She has also alerted me to an interesting survey by Lexus on what people would give in exchange for the perfect golf swing, e.g. ‘Four out of ten golfers (43%) would readily give up sex for a month in order to have the perfect golf swing!’ Umm, okay, but that’s still less than half of the (surveyed) golfing population. Even fewer, I’m happy to say, would prefer a perfect swing to a perfect marriage.
Anyway, what is a perfect swing? Haven’t we all had at least one perfect strike, presumably delivered by a perfect swing? I think what these people mean is a consistently perfect swing, which in view of the make-up of the human body (not to mention that bigger mystery, the human brain) seems unlikely ever to occur to any of us mere mortals. And how much fun would that be? Certainly watching the big boys would be no fun at all if they never made a mistake. Talking of whom, that course at Oakmont looks like making mortals of them all, though at least the Brits are holding on so far. Thanks to Golf in London for recommending this site for live action, and hang on in here, Justin!

And finally … an apology is in order. Despite my previous gripes about EGU and ELGA I’ve just read that 50% more clubs are offering free taster sessions than a year ago. Good. The clubs in question are listed on Get into golf.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Golf Gorse

Possibly my last words on the subject of golf on Anglesey (at least until our next visit!)
This time we played not only the pleasantly parkland Henllys Hall but also Baron Hill and Bull Bay Golf clubs, where, as you can see from the picture, heathland is the name of the game. Baron Hill (Beaumaris) is only 9 holes and looks innocuous until you realise how close that gorse is to the fairway. The greens were also devilishly quick with some nasty turns. Bull Bay is the full monty and has some pretty challenging holes, especially in the middle section with cliff-like escarpments that need a considerable degree of self-belief. The energy expended was such that we went straight for a substantial sandwich in the club-house and progressed swiftly to a cream tea in the pretty sea-side village of Moelfre. (Calories? It was worth it!)
All in all that Anglesey Golf Pass was well worth the money – we still have two of our five vouchers left to use later in the season. More news later this week after a trip to the dreaming spires of gorse-free Oxford.
Meanwhile check out the Golf Observer. Good round-up of news with links to features by well-known golf writers whom I'll obviously be joining soon at Oakmont (in my dreams).

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Goddess or what?

Yes, I’d like to call myself a golf chick, but to my mind the female of the species falls into two classes:
a) the golf chick, identifiable by long brown legs and a pony tail tucked through the back of her cap.
b) the grande dame of golf, characterised by long brown shorts and a noticeably big bottom.
In the past it has struck me that the pony tail and the big bottom may each contribute in some way to the balance of a good swing, and that as someone who possesses neither I may be forever debarred from any golf hall of fame. However, yesterday changed all that. 93 is not my best ever round, but it’s definitely one of my better ones. Not only that, I was playing in a club medal where through lack of a ladies section I competed with men and received an extra 3 shots on my handicap to compensate for the difference in SSI. I won’t bore you with the maths, but I ended up with a net score of 63. My male partners were looking pretty sick, and if my handicap is cut I shall take the pain like a man (?)
The moral of the story is …. if you have neither a pony tail nor a big bum, never fear, you can still be a goddess of golf.
The picture shows the goddess on another good day. (Sorry about the shoes, they have long since been consigned to the dustbin of bad golf decisions!)

Ladies! (Or should I say chicks?)

If you’re still fretting over whether to cal yourself a lady or a woman golfer, why not cast caution to the wind and go for golf chick? The original golf chick is Kristen Williams, a US golf writer and blogger. She’s clearly a golf addict and her blog is worth a look. She also tells us that this is women’s golf week in the States, a promotional event with special offers and activities for women. Sounds like a good idea to me, and a quick visit to the English Golf Union site reveals that in this country ‘85% of golf clubs have membership vacancies for female members’ and ‘70% of golf clubs are actively seeking …adult female members.’

So what are the EGU doing to address this? Frankly, not a lot that I can see. There’s a leaflet for clubs to download and they are urged to make an action plan. As a result one club offers special introductory packages for women - costing £100. Great, what if they don’t like it? At that price I doubt they’ll bother to find out.
I took up golf as the direct result of a free trial lesson a few years ago after which we immediately signed up for six more lessons. (Golf is that addictive!) The free trial may even have been sponsored by the EGU. What I’m saying is that these things obviously do get more people into the game, so let’s ditch the action plan and have some action.

Golf and the Weatherman

Spare a thought for Richard Angwin who is worked too hard by the BBC to come blogging here, but has kindly allowed me to use pictures from his site. Thanks, Richard and since (unless I’m sadly mistaken) this one is not of Weston-super-Mare, I’m glad to see you get away from time to time. I’m still hoping you might contribute to the world of golf by doing some research into the exact definition of a one, two or three club wind and have posted the idea to your weather forum.
For this weekend Richard predicts a scorcher. A brave man indeed.!

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