It took around four holes for me to realise something special was happening.
It was a Saturday knock-up – £5 in the pot and a winter league card in my hand – and a short course because of the wintry weather.
I’d hit a really lovely short iron into the middle of the 7th green at Sandburn Hall when it suddenly struck me. That was the fourth green in regulation I’d hit on the trot.
Now for anyone reading this armed with a low handicap and a cannon of a drive, this won’t sound anything out of the ordinary.
But if the number after your name is 11 and you’re never quite sure where on the clubface you are going to hit the ball, this is a cause for flags, bunting and a street party.
Since receiving my Titleist clubs – following two thorough custom fit exercises – I’ve been putting the work in.
The staff at the two ranges where I practise have both been pointing at the membership form and giving me a knowing nod.
Weather permitting, I have been playing at least two rounds a week and the kid gloves with which I spent the first month treating my clubs – I do hate to spoil a shiny new club face – are now firmly in the bin.
What has been the overall trend? Well, so far so good. Thanks to hauls of 40, 38 and 38 points I have vaulted myself towards the summit of the winter league and I’ve generally hit the ball with a consistency that has eluded me in the past.
So by the time I’d hit my ninth green in regulation, on a day that I’ll still be boring people about on my death bed, I was in golfing ecstasy.
Today I did something I've never managed before on a golf course. I hit 9 greens in regulation in a row. Short course and all but, with my @TitleistEurope custom-fitted clubs and the expert help of @StevenRobbo45, I really feel I am starting to get somewhere. #howlowcanigo pic.twitter.com/FpZRNIemQF
— Steve Carroll (@SteveCarrollNCG) January 6, 2018
The only surprise was when I missed a fairly regulation shot into our 13th – a short par 3 with quite a large green.
After a month and a half of solid play, and hundreds of shots, let me give you the lowdown on my clubs.
The Titleist AP3 irons are the best I’ve hit. Ever.
I’ve been playing for three decades, I’ve never had confidence in my irons like this. I’m actually surprised when I hit a bad shot. I can strike these completely off the toe and the ball still goes pretty straight – without losing a ton of distance. They are a revelation to my game.
I feel the club is averaging about 185. That’s around 15 yards longer than my 816 of the same loft.
I’m sure there is more technology in the later version but, in essence, I think the difference is I was custom fit for the newer model – with a shaft tailored to my swing.
With the grooves still pretty fresh on my Vokey wedges, I’m spinning the ball. Having proper gapping – PW, 48, 54 and 60 – has allowed me to play a greater variety of shots from 80 yards and in.
What are the issues, I hear you ask?
Well, even in this tale of wonder, there are still a couple of concerns. The gap between my 5-iron and 23 degree hybrid feels quite significant.
It’s great that I am hitting the latter so far but, with my 5-iron going between 150 and 160 in these conditions depending on my consistency of strike, I find myself between clubs a lot on longer approaches into greens.
The harder I try and hit the ball, the more likely it is to go left – the shot that’s my big miss.
And if you’ve ever tried hitting a three-quarter soft hybrid, you’ll also know how difficult a shot that can be.
I also have to report it’s still a work in progress with the driver. I’m fairly convinced this is down to technique as much as anything else.
I’ve a tendency to get quite flat and swing around the body and I’m currently working on both posture and plane to try and correct this.
— Steve Carroll (@SteveCarrollNCG) January 20, 2018
But confidence is also a huge thing with any club and I’m engaged in a futile attempt to avoid tinkering with the settings.
I struck the driver at my fitting with a significant cut and was adjusted accordingly.
With my natural shape the other way, and my bad shot more of a snap, it seems sensible to go back to Titleist for a second opinion.
I’ll also discuss the potential gapping issue I may have when the season gets under way.
I can’t wait, though, for the temperatures to rise and for competition to start once again.
I’ve rarely felt this optimistic ahead of a new campaign and, with a full two months still to bed in both new clubs and technique, I’m positive this might be the year I finally crack single figures.