Have you got what it takes to get through winter unscathed?
It’s that time of year where the white tees have been put out to pasture and we begin to scratch our heads at what went wrong this year and how we plan to put things right. We’ve been here before and we’ll be here again in a year’s time, hopefully with some different answers.
I’m joined in this week’s Fourball by Steve Carroll, James Savage and Alex Perry…
What exciting winter plans do you have in place to make 2019 a huge year for your golf?
Steve: I’m mulling over a sizeable winter reconstruction. I’m pretty sure my handicap won’t get any lower unless I fix a couple of big swing flaws, the worst of which is a large forward press. Of course, after about two weeks, I’ll almost certainly abandon all of these grandiose plans and will vow instead to work on my short game. Which I also probably won’t do.
James: I’m definitely going to have a few lessons this year. I generally spend a lot of time at the driving range over winter working on nothing in particular so will be looking for a bit more purpose to my practice. My main focus will be iron play.
Alex: For me it’s about finding ways to get motivated. I’ve started running (!) recently, so if I have the willpower to convince myself to do something as boring as running then working on getting my shoulders in the right position should be a breeze.
My verdict: Excellent, this is like New Year bingo. It will be Zumba next. I have reached an all-time low fitness wise. Only this week my wife pointed out that I now have moobs and it recently took me three days to recover from two frames of 10-pin bowling. My golf is sort of OK, my body isn’t. I’m a bit like Tiger, if I can play healthy then I can be competitive again. I’d also like to have lessons as, more often than not, I’m in the adjacent bay to James working on very little.
What was your favourite round this year and why?
James: A September knock at Alwoodley. It was a sensational morning, the course was in perfect condition. I think every member of the fourball had the feeling that this could be the best morning for golf until next spring. I played reasonably well (didn’t lose any balls), enjoyed the company and I was home in time for lunch.
Alex: I’ve been lucky enough to play two future Ryder Cup courses this year: Le Golf National, shortly before Europe’s triumph, and the infamous Black course at Bethpage State Park. Both were a fascinating insight into how golf courses are set up for the world’s very best and adds a whole new level to watching the actual event live.
Steve: A lovely day at Formby Ladies in March. It snowed the week before and the week after but, on this weekend, it was bright, warm, sunshine. It was my captain’s weekend. I had 23 of my mates with me and the course was outstanding – quirky and loads of fun. Given the vibe, it probably won’t surprise you that it was my best scoring round of the year.
My verdict: Our annual trip was to the Highlands in June and we had two games at Royal Dornoch in bright skies and low winds. It might have been the most perfect two rounds of golf that I can remember and I managed to play to my handicap over the two days, despite getting spooked by an opening tee shot that required a drop from the 1st green. Seems weather, mates and a nice setting is a good recipe. Who would have thought?
You can have a Mulligan for one shot in 2018, where would you take it?
Alex: I was playing with a good friend on a visit back home and he pumped his tee shot into the water on Okehampton’s par-3 12th. He then holed his reload for a par-slash-half a hole-in-one. Can I give my Mulligan to him please?
James: A three-footer for birdie on the par-3 7th at Moor Allerton. It was basically a gimme but I needed to hole it for a stupid eclectic competition we play in the office. I somehow three-putted it and it basically derailed my whole season.
Steve: Can I have a few? The 17th at Sandburn Hall has trees all down the left side and, like Groundhog Day, I kept wrecking competition cards by hooking my tee shot straight into them. I must have done it four or five times in a row in the summer. I resorted in desperation to hitting it onto the 11th for a while just to break the cycle.
My verdict: Having built up a five-point lead at Dornoch I then hit a tee shot at the 3rd on The Struie that very nearly went over my left shoulder towards a caravan park that I hadn’t even spotted in my pre-shot routine. This then had me in tatters and I didn’t really recover for about six weeks. I self-diagnosed myself with the driving yips and hit a 3-wood whenever possible.
Mark yourself out of 10 for your golfing exploits in 2018?
Steve: Rather than trade my driver in when it didn’t immediately start finding the middle of the fairway, I stuck at it and actually learned how to hit it – eBay, and a host of golfing retail outlets, have lost a lot of business this year. For that alone, I’m going to give myself 8 out of 10.
James: I was quite disciplined this year when it came to chopping and changing equipment and I think that worked quite well. I even used the same golf ball which I can highly recommend. There’s a lot to be said for taking away excuses when it comes to golf. I think ‘well, I’m testing this new 5-wood you see’ was probably starting to wear a bit thin anyway. I’ll give myself 6 out of 10 because my handicap came down but not by as much as it should have.
Alex: Down the middle with 5 out of 10. I gain marks because I’ve largely played to my handicap all year, with only a handful of blips. I lose marks because I promised myself I’d have lessons this year and, well, I didn’t. I’ve never had a lesson in my life because I’m scared I’ll get too good at golf and become one of those people that strives to get better rather than just enjoying this beautiful game.
My verdict: Aside from the driving yips I think I’ve enjoyed playing more this year and have been less uptight than previous years, I put this down to the Nappy Factor which seems to have kicked in four years too late. Other than a lack of a time, money, and a back that creaks when I get out of a chair I don’t know what’s stopping me from having lessons so that remains a negative but there have been more highs than lows and I have rarely concluded that.
Therefore, and this has nothing to do with Steve’s rating of himself, I’ll award myself 8.1.