Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: My handicap has gone up.

I began the most important phase of this project hovering around the 10 mark and, five competitive rounds in, I’m now firmly in the 11 camp.

Three .1s and two buffer rounds mean I’m sitting at 10.9 – yet to make the progress my pre-season form suggested I might.

With a qualifier at Ganton in the offing, a monster of a golf course off the whites with cavernous bunkers, things might get worse before they get better.

The last round was the most disappointing. Twice – once on the front and again on the back – I got myself to three under my mark only to give it away on both occasions.

In the end, I had to hole a solid seven-footer for par at the last to ensure I didn’t leak any more digits.

6-6-6 is the mark of the devil and, I can assure you, it doesn’t look very pretty on a scorecard either.

In the past, I would have berated myself for choking but, given I’m all about self-analysis these days, I’m inclined to think I just over-reached.

I don’t have the warm embrace of a shot on any of the final three holes at Sandburn Hall and instead of taking each swish on its merit I was guilty of chasing a little bit. Let’s hope I have learned my lesson.

So what does this mean for the Titleist custom fitting experiment? Am I seeing any progress with my dialled-in clubs?

This is where taking a handicap mark as an absolute measure of success can be misleading.

Having weighed you all down with woe at the start, let’s see if I can cheer myself up a bit.

Five rounds is hardly a definitive sample size but, compared with last year’s stats, there is some measurable improvement even at this early stage.

I’ve been tracking my meaningful rounds with Shotscope and it tells me I’m driving the ball 10 yards further than last season.

I was averaging 206 yards in 2017 and I’m 216 so far this term. It’s hardly massive hitting but, given I’m yet to fully iron out the technical issues that have blighted me for years with that club, it’s encouraging and there’s plenty more to come.

Like this one, at Close House, shows.

I hit 33 per cent of fairways with the driver last season. I’m up to 40 per cent at the moment.

I’m not sure why I’m beating myself up over distance either. Driving statistics released last year showed that the average 10-19 handicapper drove it 215.65 yards.

I’m actually marginally above average.

Shotscope revealed I hit only 24% of greens in regulation last year. I’m currently running at 29 per cent and my proximity to the hole – when I find the fairway – has improve by nearly 50 feet (95 feet against 144 feet).

I’m much more accurate with the Titleist AP3s in general. My average proximity to the hole has been reduced from 16 feet to 11 and, in the short game, I’m hitting 48% of shots inside 6 feet (compared with 38 per cent last season).

I’m getting up and down 46 per cent of the time, compared with 44 per cent in 2017.

The clubs are doing their job.

Turn the page to find out why Steve’s scores aren’t better and check out the work he’s doing with Ignite Sports’ Duncan McCarthy to fix it…