I went to Portugal last month with high hopes of hitting some decent scores. Instead I was rubbish and this week I got a bit philosophical, so I’ve established Guidlines For Golf:
Historically I’m naturally good at sport and enjoy it, a lot, however I’m not naturally great when technique is concerned. This lends itself well for rugby, where my athleticism was the primary consideration, however other sports required at least a degree of technical movement. But what I lacked in natural technique, I always made up for in determination to do well, both practicing and understanding the theory, so I always found a way of succeeding.
A great example is my cricket career. I never got in the team for the first year at school, or the second year for that matter! However I was by far the highest run scorer by my third year and captain thereafter. I think I had 4 shots, which could score me runs and made it difficult to get me out, developed after dedicating hours to watching cricket and practicing in the back garden (I had a sort of swing ball thing) . My technique was solid but a decent swing bowler could have got me out in minutes. I came up with a sort of defence to this, but it wasn’t great. Actually, it was rubbish. Anyway, I didn’t get any coaching, it was just hard work and understanding cricket. I didn’t pick up a bat and hit 100 in my first game. I got out 3rd ball and then I was just left out for 2 years!
We can safely establish that I did not pick up a golf club and break 80. In fact, playing by the actual rules of golf, my first full round at Celtic Manor would have been closer to 150. Fair enough, it was a difficult course, I had no real idea what I was doing and was incredibly nervous – it was inevitable.
But I’ve now played at least 50 rounds and I thought I’d worked it out a bit. I had a drive that was consistent (my best stat on Golfshot, much better than other 24 handicappers in terms of fairways hit), and I was making decent contact with my irons. My short game was appalling, my putting at best very inconsistent. I wasn’t breaking 100 because I had real blowout holes, so after hitting 95 in awful conditions and featuring some truly embarrasing chips, I felt breaking 90 was in my sights. I was hitting about 60-70% of fairways, putting quite well and I even knew how to get out of bunkers. I’m ignoring negatives here and making it sound like I was amazing but I was happy with my game!
So how can it be that I was so, so bad in Portugal? Like, awful. I’ve never sliced the ball so much, ever. Or shanked it. Even when I started. 13 balls vanished at Vale de Lobo. I rarely put 2 good shots together. My iron play was absolutely shocking and was over hitting greens by 30 yards. My decision making was alarming. I decided to try putting from 20 yards and ended up taking 6 shots. Admittedly once you start playing badly you tend to get worse, and I was expecting to be closer to 95 than 105, so scoring between 109 and 123 was not what I was hoping for and left me absolutely raging.
I’ve never tried to develop perfect technique before in sport, so why am I even considering it to with golf? Realistically, the best I will get at this stage is high 80s. I started playing too late and I don’t have the time to get good enough to do any better. That’s fine – I can accept that, but I should be regularly getting in the 90s by now, which doesn’t require much more than making good contact and a decent short game.
I concluded that I need to go back to the drawing board and settle on a swing that works for me, not a vague copy of whichever player I decide looks good. Good club players often have the worst swings. They don’t get obsessed wondering if their hips are moving properly or the swing plane is ok.
So, here are my new Guidelines For Golf:
Go back to teeing the ball low, standing slightly further away again, not trying to hit the ball with the force of 7 men. Aim to the left of fairway, if it goes straight the ball should still hit the fairway. If I hook it then fine, I’ll be in trouble.
Irons and hybrid – keep standing closer to ball but don’t try and hit the ball hard. Go down 2 clubs and see what happens. If you come up short, fine, but over shooting greens by 30 yards is killing me.
Wedges – try not to change anything.
Putting – massively improved – keep going. Don’t take as long as long as my brother to line it up, golf should take less than 5 hours.
Bunkers – ummm, not sure.
Chipping – limit to either 7 iron or SW. DO NOT EVER TRY A FLOP SHOT.
Under trees, deep rough etc: play out to safe place. Don’t try to steal 20 yards. Or hit a low cut with a driver.
Done. My rules of golf. If you see me break any then you officially have permission to mark me down as a 15, even if the result comes out as an eagle.
And finally, throwing clubs is not acceptable. It makes me look like a prick, reducing the enjoyment of everyone. Mark me down as a 15 (though I’ll probably get an 15 anyway so just note it as I owe everyone a beer).