Friday, 28 September 2007

Perfect length update

Interesting response to my question to Golf Monthly Forum on how many holes would be perfect for golf if eighteen weren't the norm. Although there were a few eighteen-or-bust die-hards, the majority were happy to curtail the round in favour of getting home earlier. More than one made the additional observation that some modern courses cram in more holes than they have space for. The result is holes that are not just less than satisfying, but often less than safe, with tees much too close for comfort, sometimes inviting nasty accidents.
There seems to be a lesson here somewhere. Golf is golf. Let's go for a fair challenge over the space available.
After all, that's how the game began.

Match Play Magic

Up to now my experience of match play has been strictly limited, but I'm starting to come round to the idea. Playing yesterday in a doubles competition, it struck me as quite refreshing to focus on the competition (in every sense) rather than individual achievement. Okay, as said before, the individual thing is what makes golf what it is, but playing hole by hole means you can write off those lost holes a lot more easily than when the score (painful as it may be) goes down on the card.
BTW - we won - and on the 16th - this may have helped!

A quick PS: Although my round was less than spectacular, I do seem to be shaping up a lot better for those pressure putts. Thanks to everyone who helped with the yips problem!

Well done Tim!

No apologies for going momentarily 'off topic' but have to comment on my long-time hero Tim Henman's retirement. Not only has Tim had the longest and most impressive career in British tennis but he also knows when to give up. He still has his life ahead of him - and that means he can now spend more time on the course! A wise man indeed.

Tim already plays off 3 and according to one writer 'could easily make scratch.'
I foresee many stints as a pro-am - or will he turn pro?
What a day that would be, when the nation could once more take up its favourite cry of

Come on Tim!

(Picture by David Wilmot on Flickr)

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Westwood wins British Masters (despite lack of dress sense!)

Lee Westwood played superlative golf earlier today to win the Quinn Masters finishing a stupendous 15 under par, 4 shots away from Ian Poulter who played as well as Westwood tee to green but failed to clinch a number of birdie putts. Westwood showed real class in all aspects of his play, but I’m still wondering who chooses his wardrobe.
The nasty yellow trousers on Saturday (clearly visible on the European tour video clip) were the worst I have seen in many a televised tournament, and today some close camera shots showed us that today’s trews, although a more conservative plum colour, were clearly the same hideous material and cut.
Poulter may have come second, but his dress sense, (which seems to have settled down a bit since he started his own design brand, complete with Poulteresque logo) was snappy as ever. So well done Lee, but before the next big tournament, please find something to wear that reminds us less of a dralon sofa.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Love is in the air

Next week Ian Poulter takes time off for a wedding, and next spring Colin Montgomerie is also tying the knot. I remember when Monty split with his first wife (which came surprisingly not long after a TV documentary their life together) and since then Monty has had a run of girl-friends. Seems he’s a guy who needs a woman in tow, so hope this one works out for him, and if his website's anything to go by, he's convinced Gaynor is going to get his game back in shape. Colin came to professional golf comparatively late, and it seems like he’s been around for a while, so I was surprised to read he’s only 42. Let’s hope his new partner will bring back the bloom of youth! By contrast Ian Poulter certainly looks no more than his 31 years. Despite his glamorous image it seems he’s no play-boy. He’s been with his girl-friend for 10 years and they already have two kids. He’s also having a pretty good season, so it looks like a stable home background can only be good for golf.

Why eighteen holes?

After playing Shiskine (on the Isle of Arran), Andrew Grieg decides that twelve holes is a much more sensible length for a golf course than eighteen. At the risk of being cast as a complete golf heretic, I think he has a point. An eighteen-hole round, as we who play on crowded English courses know only too well, can take a hell of a long time, but playing nine only ever feels like a cup half empty (hence nine-hole courses are usually played around twice). Last year we had a tour of the Old Course at St. Andrews where our guide explained that eighteen holes was an arbitrary length and before 1858 courses could be of any length.
So in our time-poor society, who's for a rethink? A course I know returns to the club-house at the fifteenth, and that always feels a pretty good time to stop. I reckon to have 14 or 15 holes would knock an hour off most rounds. Result? time for more rounds, and maybe room for more courses.

Preferred Reading

I play golf, I read books, but I rarely read golf books, relying on MOH to read them for me and pass on nuggets of useful information and the occasional timely tip. But my latest read, Preferred Lies: A Journey to the Heart of Golf, by Andrew Greig, is not a conventional golf book, but more of a memoir in which golf happens to play a central part. Greig, a poet and novelist, wrote the book while recuperating from a life-saving brain operation, and this lends it an intensity that reflects his own state of mind but I think is ideal for conveying the essentially solitary nature of the game itself. The book reflects the inner dialogue we have with ourselves as we go round, although he also drops in observations on the history and development of the game as well as its addictive powers. Golfers won’t necessarily like this book, but he’s done us a favour in trying to elucidate what keeps us hooked, while reminding us of the pointlessness of anger in a game where your only opponent is the course, or (more likely) your own lack of patience. This is the only book I can imagine giving to a non-golfer, in the hope that the sheer quality of the writing might persuade them that golf is a life-affirming activity rather than a waste of time. In a week of poor rounds, it has also been therapy for me!

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Solheim stays in USA

Feel pretty miffed at not having Sky this weekend to follow at least some of the Solheim Cup, though it looks as if my personal support wouldn't have been enough to make any difference in the last day's singles matches. Going in with a small lead, the Europeans, with the honourable exception of Catriona Matthew, failed to make any further gains and the final score is 16-12 to USA who must be mighty pleased, especially with such a young side. The commentator who was under fire yesterday for criticising the US team for choking will doubtless enjoy eating her words, or maybe she can take credit for spurring her team on to better things!

Funny how we have the edge in the Ryder Cup but struggle in the Walker and Solheim. Can't think why that should be, unless the weakness is with the US tour Professionals. The amateurs and ladies seem perfectly comfortable in the team situation.

And finally, I have completed my purchase of new kit with a Powakaddy Twinline 3 trolley, a more compact version of the Twinline 1. I tried it out today with my smart new bag and was very satisfied. It's a manual trolley but for pushing rather than pulling.The trolley felt well-balanced and I found the hills less tiring. Best of all, the bag didn't move and inch. It's pretty easy to put up and down, but I have one small quibble over the trolley design; the footbrake prevents the trolley folding completely flat. For now we've disabled the brake and I'm parking carefully! Will certainly keep it well away from this lake, where a pair of swans decided to act as tee markers last week.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Solheim Cup

I'm getting to like the Golf for Women blog. They have someone at the Solheim cup giving us detailed low-down on the teams and the course set-up without skimping on the girly gossip like Annika Sorenstam's engagement ring. The beauty editor also tells us the best coloured nail polish to wear this season - or do I sense some not very covert advertsing there? Personally I've never had nail polish that stays on for more than a round, but then I confess to not very often having nail polish on at all, clearly something I'll have to consider if ever turning Pro (!)
As regards the competition itself, Laura Davies is described as 'den mother.' Without being quite sure what that means, I have a feeling it's about right for our grande dame who is said to be encouraging the cubs in the pack while indulging in a bit of back-biting at the other team. (Well, hey, this is a competition after all!)
More info on the Solheim here and also an interview with Laura by Lewine Mair in the Telegraph. Let's hope the weather is less dire than expected and that Laura's play matches her confidence.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Bag problem solved

My search for a new trolley bag took me to the local range shop last week where I was eying up a Callaway Weekender. I also quite fancied the Taylormade MAG F1 on offer at Great Value Golf. both of then had all the features I wanted and looked very robust, if a bit bulky for me to lug in and out of the boot. Another complaint was that they were in very sober colours and I had an uncharacteristic yearning for something prettier, if not exactly girly (which I felt was not too much to ask for the best part of £100). Then, as we mooched around the Pro-shop at Orchardleigh, MOH spotted a Benross Zephyr that looked pretty smart and a bit less bulky. We couldn't find a price tag, but further investigations revealed not only a good range of storage but also, mysteriously, a single winter glove, a book of the Rules of Golf (well-thumbed) and what appeared to be the remains of a cereal bar. It didn't take Hercule Poirot to deduce the bag was second-hand, but despite the added extras in pretty good nick. We did a very satisfactory deal with the pro-shop staff, and now as you can see, it's mine! Having Googled the bag in question, and come up with prices from £60 to £75, I’m pretty pleased with myself.
So it was a case of thanks to the previous owner for the book, and out with the vacuum cleaner to dispose of the crumbs. (We returned the glove!) Here's the new baby posing in the garden, kitted out and ready to go.

Somerset, in sunshine and in shadow

Praise be to whoever first thought of the County Card system that entitles members of golf clubs to reduced rates on neighbouring courses on payment of a small annual fee. Now many county golf unions have teamed up to provide inter-county cards, and our Gloucestershire card (costing £10) is now valid at 450 courses over 13 counties. Admittedly the offer is usually limited to off-peak hours, but it’s still a great deal and today we treated ourselves to a day out at Orchardleigh in Somerset where we played for half the usual green fees (12th hole pictured here).
For me it was a first visit and I was instantly impressed. It’s an appealing course set in mature parkland with plenty of interest and some lovely views. Look very closely just above the treeline on the photo (right of centre) and you might just make out the famous Westbury White Horse in the distance. Sadly the chalk horse brought me no luck, because after an excellent front nine I went swiftly down hill. Still, it's a lovely course where we were given a warm welcome, not to mention a cracking bacon roll.
Who can ask for more? I may well go back some time and have another go at that back nine!

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Yikes, is it the yips?

Yesterday’s disaster was compounded by an attack of putting nerves. I’m not sure if this is true ‘yips’ but it’s bad enough. I can do long putts, but if there’s anything at all at stake, short putts defeat me. I don’t think I’ll abandon my White Hot Odyssey putter, but replies on the Golf Monthly Forum have reminded me of a number of things to try, including changing my grip. A lot of people find that putting with the left hand lower lessens interference from the wrists, though in my case I think the interference may be from the brain! Still, the effort of concentrating on a new stroke might be enough to drive out the demons.
Whatever I decide, the main thing is to practise more, especially before a round. Of course I’m not alone with putting problems. Monty is notorious for losing things on the green. I know how he feels, but can’t help feeling he has less excuse than me for not practising!
Picture credits here

(Double) Bogey Hole

You know what I mean by a ‘bogey’ hole. It’s the one that you used to play with very little trouble and suddenly it’s defeating you round after round.
My current problem is a par 4 that doglegs right around two large lakes and has a ditch to the left of the fairway. This used to be the third hole and had a stroke index of five. That gave me six shots to get down in, which I could usually do and often managed to better.
But since the course was remodelled, this hole has become the 18th with a stroke index of eleven - an entirely different story! Whether suffering from fatigue or caffeine deprivation, I’m now incapable of doing it in five. Even six is a bit of a rarity, and it's taking the shine off every round.
I’ve tried everything, from playing safe (four to the green and hope for a good putt) to throwing caution to the winds, all to no avail. Yesterday is a case in point. I hooked my drive into the ditch, dropped out for a penalty and hit the next into the lake. After another drop, I played safe up the fairway but my next missed the green. You can see how this is going. Let’s just say that today my drive reached the ditch again, but getting down in six felt like a real achievement – even if it was actually a double bogey! As a friend of mine says, there's nothing like a good finish, and that was nothing like one.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Ernie Els, fashion victim?

Ernie Els has quite a website. I now know he grows wine and does all kinds of saintly things as well as swinging a club, though even that’s only when family commitments don’t get in the way. Speaking from the distaff side, I should be pleased that Ernise (whom I recently mistyped - sorry Ernie) is upholding family values and not leaving it all to Mummy Els. I suppose personal websites are inevitably self-congratulatory, and I’m sure Ernie is as nice a guy as he makes himself out to be, but I feel distinctly less convinced about it now than before I visited his site.
One thing you can do there is vote on which colour shirt you think Ernie should wear, which brings us to Golf Girl’s fave topic of fashion, and in particular the colour pink. I actually thought that men had been allowed to wear pink since the 1970s, but I suppose I may have missed a few fashion trends in between. Dan Bernstein found his day got a lot more interesting when he wore a pink golf shirt, and apparently only men ‘comfortable with their sexuality’ can do the colour justice.

IMHO it’s about what suits you. Dark skinned types can wear ‘hot’ pinks with aplomb. Blonds are better in pastels. This applies across the sexes, so Tiger and Laurena look great in raspberry, but Ian Poulter looks better in pale pink. I don’t think it would work the other way around, and a lot of golfers could do worse than go in for colour analysis as offered by companies like Colour Me Beautiful. Just think how great it would be if Sergio Garcia gave up those limes and oranges! Right, I have now cast my vote for Ernie in pink, though I think maybe this coral tone suits him quite well. (Thanks to MCHart for the picture as posted on fickr.)

Fashion is sadly not a priority on my home course. Last week there was a guy behind us whose very big beer belly was encased in a pink striped polo shirt worn with red shorts. Not a good look. Be grateful I didn’t have my camera.

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