More focus on training and the handicap this year

Couple of days ago I tidied up the basement and found old golf membership cards. I tend to collect them in one place but apparently I had a bunch of them in a different spot – like always when you are looking for something.

What I realized to my surprise was that my handicap, not that long ago, was much better than the one today. I play tournaments regularly and my handicap is adjusting to that, but it seems that for too long now my handicap only knew one direction: up.

So this is going to change now.

More focus on training, a more reliable swing, intelligent course management and ball striking with the longer woods. That’s my approach for this year.

Needless to say that most of the deficiencies have their origin in suboptimal striking, a non-consistent swing and too little training or play, but the equipment of course plays its role, too. So I’m happy to trust my PING G400 set: driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, 19° hybrid, irons from 4 to 9, then W, U, S and L from the same set, plus my trusty Scotty Cameron California Del Mar putter.

Off to a new handicap in 2018, new personal records and a new small number on the 2019 membership card! #project12 #break80

A good day for golf… and for me!

Yesterday I met a colleague to play a nice and sunny round of golf. Nothing special about it. But two things I’d like to mention here. First, the guy I was playing with hasn’t played a round of golf for 9 years. He played quite regularly as a youngster, then focussed on a tough job and on family later. Golf was never possible these days.

We met over lunch couple of times and chatted after business meetings. We talked business and we talked golf, I don’t really know why. He told me he once played, I told him I’m absolutely crazy about the game and one led to the other. He thought about golf more and more and decided to get his clubs out of the basement. And so we played a great round yesterday. Of course his score wasn’t good but we had fun, he started to feel the golf-bug again and decided to start play golf more regularly now.

Another happy golfer back on the course!

And it showed something: usually I don’t talk about playing golf so much when I’m with others. But when I do see some interest in the topic I praise the sport big time and keep it rolling. He’s not the first I convinced to play more golf, probably to join a local club to play more often in order to fully enjoy this beautiful sport.

Let’s grow the sport again. Play with some you hardly know, meet up and talk about golf and how cool it is. Because it really is! Give those a little guidance, golf hand holding if you will. It doesn’t take much to spark the interest in those who already had contact to golf in the past. As yesterday showed it’s super easy if you are open and willing to help others get access, fun and ability again.

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And there was another reason yesterday was a good golf day, a good golf day for me at least. I shot an 81, a +9, my best round so far and even scored an eagle, my first ever! I was absolutely over the moon. On a par-4 with a 100m pitch onto the green, and it rolled, and it rolled and in it went. For a split second I wanted to do the Jimenez dance but I just threw away my wedge and the cap and screamed out loud. Golf is great! One step closer to #Break80 and #Project12. And you know what, I only hit irons, not a single driver, 3-wood or hybrid shot. I carried a 2- and 3-iron to be fair. 

I obviously played quite well (for my handicap) but could have saved even more shots, there were some nasty 3-putts on my card later and I’ve been in bunkers at least 5 times. Anyway, a good round. It had over 30°C all the time, we both were carrying our bags, the course is quite hilly in parts and the clubs I used yesterday are 15 years old, yes 1-5. Really interesting round… more of those please!

A tough round deserves a new handicap!

Last week I fortunately made a small step into the right direction, handicap-wise. I played the monthly club championship and somehow managed to withstand the windy and rainy conditions and carded down an 87 in the end.

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It’s been a while that I played a +15 round, especially on such tough course like the Nessie at Golfpark Bachgrund. It wasn’t just pouring down in between, the course has loads of water hazards to offer. That was basically the reason I left all my woods in the trunk of my car and played only irons, up to my 2-iron. That turned out to be a very conservative but smart idea. And I prefer smart over pretentious.

It was a Stableford tournament and I ended up 2nd net in my class and 6th gross overall—which is pretty cool I have to admit. I’m sure I never made it that high on the overall tournament leaderboard ever before.

The stretch of holes 5 to 11 I played even par, only one bogey with one birdie. After that I somehow fell back into my bogey habits and lost 7 strokes on the last 7 holes. That was definitely not because of bad putting. The putter was hot that day and for the last 7 holes I only needed 10 putts, 28 in total—which is not bad at all.

With this round I lowered my handicap down to 14.8 and am a bit closer now to the end-of-season goal of 12. Let’s see, I’m pretty confident that there is more to squeeze out, but obviously as well a lot of work to do.

Reading: Breaking 80

I was at my local Waterstones store lately during lunchtime. It was a Friday and I was about to leave London for my weekend break in the evening. And I passed the book shelves that say SPORTS and usually you see lots of Arsenal London, Chealsea or Manchester United books in there, possibly next to books about cricket, horse riding and gardening – oops that was the next section!

Anyway, there were a couple of golf books too, as you could imagine for a nation that claims to be the inventor of this beautiful sport. At least if you take the UK as one nation, which is often not the case in people’s minds. There were many books for golf beginners, that I wasn’t interested in, how to swing, how to stand, how to grip, this kind of stuff; boring. Next to that there were some books that focussed on the mental part of the game, “playing better through thinking better”, something like this. Titles like “The 15th Club”, “Inner Game of Golf”, “Fearless Golf”, “Find the Zone”… No need for that! My brain works perfectly fine and I don’t need physiological advice!

What I am interested in is how people really achieved to get better, about professional play and true stories of golf. I found one great little book and started reading in the tube on my way to the airport. I continued reading it on the plane (no need to switch off the iPad during start and landing!) and finished the last page of the book in Frankfurt at the baggage claim. That was a quick one! But definitely worth a read.

The name of the book is “Breaking 80” by David Godwin and the blurb reads like this: “Forget the Ryder Cup, forget Rory McIlroy, forget keeping your head still and correcting your putting stance. Forget eagles and albatrosses and definitely forget holes-in-one. David Godwin has a dream, the same dream held by millions of amateur golfers. He’s not aiming to break on to the pro circuit, he’s not aiming to break par. David Godwin is going to break 80. Or it’s going to break him.”

I couldn’t resist and bought it. The narrator is a fairly old gentleman who starts playing golf and his obvious wish is to play better and to control the game, breaking 80 (which I never did so far by the way). It’s a nice little story, very personal, very much focussed on golf, so perfect for a little read to stay in the mood.

Need to play more Rounds!

That’s what I learned from my last tournament and from a training session I had last week with my golf teaching pro near Frankfurt, Germany. This year leaves mixed feelings. Yes, I’ve been to two incredible courses around London and yes, it was great fun. And yes, I was playing a tournament lately and yes I scored 39 points… BUT these three rounds were the only rounds I was playing the whole year! Can you imagine that?! For a golf-maniac like I am, nothing is worse than not being on the course, believe me!

And I was playing all right, remember I scored 39 points, playing the third round this year and had a lots of crappy shots throughout the round. Imagine what would have been possible if I had the time to practice or even play regularly…

Yes I miss that! The old golf course accessibility I was used to. With that my handicap would drop, I feel that… But I can’t help it. I have to live with it and to make small steps to my single handicap.

Richard, my teaching pro, has some valuable tips for me. Still playing with too much draw he taught me how to swing a bit more from the inside to the outside, what is – as far as I was believing – the wrong approach since it seems I cut the ball more, but actually it’s the other way around. In my current normal swing, I kinda fall back (leaning too much to the right side) in the follow-through, what leads to left-orientated ball flights. Eliminating that by increasing the downswing to the outside corner, reduces the left cut and produces dead straight balls… finally!

I’m happy… if I just could play a bit more!!…

lessons learned: part 2 – distance to the ball, wrist action, swing speed

after the last couple of rounds i made some additional adjustments to my swing. i had the feeling that there is definitely some improvement possible without any professional help. so i altered here and there and am quite confident that i can reduce some additional strokes on the round.

distance to the ball:
especially  with my woods, i always had the feeling, that i was standing too close. the result was an outside-inside upswing and some negative effect on my downswing, where i had to push the ball. combined with weight shift during the swing and a closed club face, that led to a dirty hook. i hope that i can make some more improvements in this field, since this hook is really annoying me!! but a bit more distance to the ball at address and therefore a more solid swing on the backswing is a good starting point i guess.

wrist action:
next issue i was working on is my wrist action through the downswing and at impact. the reason for that is that i always had the feeling that the club face was perfect at address but more or less closed at impact because of position transfer and weight shift during the downswing. in my opinion that could have led to my pull-hook of the last months. so what i tried is to accelerate the opening of the club face in the upswing and to really delay the closing through the downswing. result should be a more open club face at the center of the body and combined with weight shift a perfect parallel club face at impact. that would lead – in my case – to beautiful dead straight ball flights.

swing path, swing speed:
i see so many newcomers on the range, guys that are playing just for month and they are really hammering the ball instead of swinging through it! these greenhorns have twice the swing speed than mine, with 4 times strain, much less flight control and no fun at all – and only one third of my distance! i tried to reduce the swing speed even more over the last month and – guess what – the balls travel further and much straighter. all that with better swing rhythm, less speed, better path and much less use of force. that’s because exertion of force is contradicting the beauty of the swing and of the whole sport, i do believe! you know what i mean when you see mid-aged men swinging like hell, losing total control of their shots and as well of their own balance. i will never understand these people and their ugly approach to this beautiful and athletic sport!!!

believe me, guys: less upswing, less speed goes hand in hand with more distance, more control, better trajectory and more birdie chances (what equals a lot of fun)! take me as an example: i’m reducing my swing speed constantly and i have next to not one single miss-hit on the round!

birdie, par, birdie, par, par…

well guys, this round last thursday was a quite interesting one! the people that know me and my game are aware of the fact, that i have a decent iron game but a shitty wood play! and i have to confess: i’ve no damn idea why that is…

so during this practice round with 2 other guys i quite often play with, the plan was to use my driver as much as possible and not to get in bad mood when there’s happening some bad shots. a word and a blow, i took my nike sumo SQ 5900 driver out of the bag as often as the holes would fit to such long tee shots and the result was sobering! but, as i expected bad scores in the beginning, i wasn’t getting angry at myself at all. it was anticipated in some way.

what really wasn’t anticipated was the fact that somewhere during the round my drives turned out to really fly as i’d like it. the result was some nice drives of at least 240 meters right down the fairway! and you know what’s coming next if you’d carefully read the title of this post: a nice series of birdie, par, birdie, par, par!

i can’t imagine another round where i shot such good scores in a row and was 2 under after 5 holes! i was quite happy as you might understand and will definitely practice some more tee shots with my driver in the near future. i guess it’s worth the effort – keeping ‘break 80’ in mind which is my next big target i’m aiming at! so continue keeping your fingers crossed for my game and my efforts in order to make my way to a single handicap golfer. your support is highly appreciated!

btw, are you already a golficiency fan at facebook? no?! then hurry up!! see the golficiency facebook page right now!

tournament won, new handicap, good news finally!

good news guys! second tournament this year and finally a sense of achievement, partially at least. real good news is that i won the idstein season opening tournament in my handicap class at idstein golf club. i shot a 86 (+14) and gained not less than 45 stableford points (44 with CSA). in my case that’s leading to a new handicap of -16.6.

that’s put me on the top of the leaderboard in my handicap class and 10th in the overall (male) ranking. i think that’s not too shabby and i’m quite proud of myself to make such good improvements such early this year. my self-defined “project18” (reaching a handicap below 18 in the course of 2011) is hereby fully concluded. which is great but i now have to find another challenging one. “break80” (scoring a 72par course with less than 80 strokes) seems be the next logical one. i had that target in mind already, but only for next year. so we’ll see what’s possible.

the reason why i’m so positive is because i didn’t touch a wood or hybrid at all in the mentioned tournament yesterday!! i just played with my irons and used my 4-iron as a driving club. still, i was able shoot the ball a bit further than my group mates with their drivers! so when i’ll begin to constantly hit the ball straight and far with my driver, woods and hybrids, i think the score could drop some bit more. nevertheless it was quite a good day and i shot some real nice tee shots. the greens however were in terrible condition and i think i lost 3 or 4 stokes through this.

anyway, i’m proud to have my handicap lowered a bit and i’m pretty confident that this year could be my year! the weather was brilliant (up to 28°C), my group mates were fun and all the people in the club, including guests, seemed to be really nice people. i like the course, the training facilities, the sun terrace, the people out there… i really should consider a membership! :)

i think i well deserved the BBQ afterwards with some friends in frankfurt! great day!!