April 2022 Newsletter
March certainly started off wet, windy and playing golf assuming the course was open, definitely proved a challenge. I must admit to feeling slightly guilty as good fortune and family ties saw me out in the sunshine State of Florida for the first two weeks of the month. Apart from the weather it was just nice to tread on firm fairways and see the ball run, something which was happening here for the last couple of weeks.
Whilst I was there the Arnold Palmer Invitational was played nearby me in Orlando at the beautiful Bay Hill GC. I think the event may well have found a way of silencing "The ball is going too far and the game is too easy" debate, with a subtle tweaking of the course as the event went on. The rough was pretty penal right from the beginning and wasn't trimmed at all during the four days. The greens were then watered minimally for the last couple of days to firm them up and make hitting them in regulation a real precision question. Add in a brisk breeze and you had a demanding golf course. To put it into context the leader after 36 holes was 9 under par, however when Scottie Scheffler holed the winning putt on Sunday he was 5 under par with only 10 players under par for the 72 holes. The scoring average on the final round was in fact 75. I appreciate we may not want to watch that every week but I have to say it made an absorbing spectacle, testing their technique and mental resolve. Scottie made a couple of great scrambling pars on 15 and 18 then had two excellent 2 putts on 17 and 18 to win his second title in a month. To tell you how difficult it was Rory had 76. 76 over the weekend and Paul Casey had 77, 83!
Whether the course is set up hard or easy it is common place for frustration to creep in for all of us. During the Bay Hill event the normally placid Australian Tour Pro, Matt Jones let emotion get the better of him. Perhaps the club that elicits the most ire is the putter as this club (clearly independent of our ability to wield it) can make or break our scores. Matts putter had not been behaving and on the 11th green of the 3rd round he'd finally had enough. Having comprehensively missed an 8ft birdie putt, he calmly tapped in and dispatched his now unbeloved Scotty Cameron into the lake. Have a look here. Hindsight said it might have been better to wait until the 18th before sending the club to Davy Jones' locker as he had another 7 holes to negotiate. Still I suppose he took the decision the when an equipment change is required it is best to be decisive!
I had a wonderful trip and the icing on the cake was my slightly delayed 60th birthday present from my darling wife Jennie, which was a trip to the amazing Streamsong Resort which is 2 hours south of Orlando. It is only 10 years old and already all three courses there are in the top 100 public courses in America. I got to play with my great American friends Kevin Craig and Chris Taylor and we were blessed with great weather.
The Red, Blue and Black courses are built on land which had been used for phosphate mining. The Mosaic Company who own the land embarked on this innovative development post mining which provided economic activity for the area and it has been developed in an environmentally friendly way. Streamsong's landscape reminded me of being at Saunton Sands or Birkdale and was visually really appealing and had putting surfaces that were tip top. The golf was fun and we all had our moments on the courses and off the course the service and food were terrific. Highlight on the food front was tackling a 1lb meatball on National Meatball Day!
Interestingly for the first three months of the year it is walking only either with a push cart or a caddie as they want to protect the fairways as even there it is early season. I know on a recent trip to Portugal some friends were telling me of limited buggy use. I feel in the UK we need to be more patient and understanding on how we look after our courses in the early part of the year as let's face it, it's bonus golf time as really the season in earnest starts now the clocks have gone forward.
We all want to make a good start to our season and I thought I would put in a quick tip on making a good start on the tee. Having played so much of our winter golf in waterproofs and no doubt several layers, one thing I notice quite a bit in lessons is how our posture tends to get out of kilter. I know in my own game when I had a lesson with my good friend and top PGA Professional Mark Arnold my posture had slumped. With the driver it is really important to get our angles right to give us the best chance of launching the ball off into the blue yonder.
In this picture you can see the spine is tilted nicely to the right and the body ready to make a strong coil up.
In this picture, I find this all too common where although the player has the ball in the right spot, you can see the upper body is at the wrong angle and with the hips and spine out of position. Have a check in the mirror or the patio windows and you'll soon realign the body ready to fizz it down the middle.
The Masters is now well into view and with the interesting news that Tiger has just had a practice round and is contemplating playing, interest in the event just went up a notch to fever pitch!
As amazing as he is, I think it unlikely that he would win and those that have had my newsletter over the past few years realise my powers of predicting a winner is a little flaky. However, hope springs eternal and I think Justin Thomas is trending with some great golf recently, plus in Tiger's practice round he was a playing partner, so positive he picked up some tips from the 5 times Masters Champion. On the European front I feel it's the US based ones of John Rahm and Victor Hovland who have the best chance and as a dark horse I fancy Shane Lowry with his super short game.
Enjoy your upcoming golf and with everything that is going on in the world, let's be mindful of how fortunate we are to do what we do.
All the best
Fellow of the PGA