My week in golf: Is it April yet?
They say you can peak too soon and the pessimist in me (always there bubbling in my subconscious) is starting to get anxious.
I’ve spent the last three months striving to make improvements to my game and, worryingly, they seem to be working.
Why would I worry? Because it’s not April.
The season’s still the best part of three months away and there’s plenty of time for my fragile psyche to destroy this new found confidence.
A therapist once told me I’ve got a destructive imagination.
I can take an ordinary scenario and bend it round in my mind over and over again until I’ve turned it into an apocalypse.
I then convince myself that my twisted version of events is reality.
This is not ideal in golf, where you spend about 95 seconds hitting shots and the rest of the next three and a half hours mulling over what just happened and what is to come.
So I sleep with Dr Steve Peters’ book as a constant bedside companion and remind myself that I’m here to have fun.
At the end of October, I approached my club professional in desperation. He’s Steve Robinson, the current England Golf coach of the year, so I was pretty confident he might be able to impart some important wisdom.
I’ve got one big aim for 2017. Get down to single figures. I’m off 11 now so it is tantalisingly close but I was also acutely aware that without some extra distance off the tee it’s probably never going to happen.
On the course (I always bash it a bit longer in a driving range), I was managing that only on a special Weetabix day. I was hovering around the 200 mark.
If you’re wondering what kind of difference that will make to your game, imagine your playing partners are hitting 5-irons into a green and you’re hitting a 20 degree hybrid.
Try hitting 50 per cent of dancefloors from 200 yards away.
So I went to see Steve. We spent most of the lesson talking. He explained some technical principals, played around with my stance and then put a driver in my hands.
Three months on and players I was routinely 10 yards behind, I’m now landing 20 yards past.
I’m not Dustin Johnson by any stretch, but I’m suddenly hitting irons into greens.
They’re a different story too. As some of you will know, I dumped my heavily offset former loves for a set of TaylorMade Psi.
Why didn’t I do this earlier? My distance is now consistent. There’s a lovely sound when they flush off the face and, crucially, I’m hitting it straighter.
On Sunday, I shot 77. Yes it was a short course, yes there were some temporary greens. But this is now the third time I’ve managed it in a month.
I’m starting to expect to shoot under 80 and that’s a massive change in my mindset.
The day before, I’d parred the last 6 holes. Then, on this special day, I struck 10 consecutive fours. It’s a consistency that I’ve never experienced before.
I feel confident off the tee. I know it’s going to go down the middle and I’m sure I’m going to stripe an iron. Only my putting remains a cause of concern.
Just recently, even they’ve been dropping. A 20-footer for a point on a par 3, a weaving 10-footer for a par on the 17th.
Even when I’d had a wobble and double bogeyed the 14th, my focus was different.
I’d read Lee Crombleholme’s advice about finishing off a good round and, as someone who obsessively wants to win all the time, I’d found his image of focusing on the process of hitting a good shot very helpful.
So I parred the final four holes and came home with 41 points – enough to bag £26 from the weekly roll-up and rocket up the winter league standings at Sandburn Hall.
All good right? But why am I wishing my life away?
Because I know I am in good form and I’m also very aware that it doesn’t always last. It’s fine nicking the roll up cash in January and it does my golfing ego no end of good.
But it doesn’t really matter. That only comes when the white tees are out and there’s a board comp riding on it.
Can I do it then, or will I slide back towards mediocrity? I hope it will be fun finding out. In the meantime, April can’t come fast enough.