February 2022 Newsletter
I saw from my fortunately sunny base in Portugal last week that we had our first real blast of winter at home. My guess is that there will be more to come, however, March is in view and with BST on 27th March thoughts of Spring and who is going to win The Masters can come to the forefront of our minds.
This time of year is really one for keeping our game ticking over as playing presents challenges of wet lies, restricted movement, due to our extra layers and slower greens. Although I must say the Mid Herts greens have held up really well and are good to putt on. It’s easy to forget that not long ago temporary greens were de rigueur on UK courses, so we need to count our blessings on how this has changed to make our golf more palatable this time of year. We are also fortunate with how well our fairways stand up to the wet, as some of our friends at clay-based courses face much more disruption to their golf.
Carrying, if you can, is good for the course and I would recommend go further and use a pared down set of 7 clubs. My favoured combo is 2 x long, 2 x medium & 2 short plus a putter. I am going to suggest we have a comp or two using this set up and it will be interesting to see the scores. With a few less clubs we have to think perhaps a little more, about our course management and manufacturing a few different shots which is really good for our game.
On the subject of competition, I think we should have more match play golf as it is a terrific winter game and it speeds up play as the holing out is reduced (well depends who you are playing against! 😊 and the quicker we can play, the quicker we can return to the bar for a hot chocolate or the like… If you have a fourball then the game I play with my friends is match play sixes, where we swap partners ever 6 holes and have a better ball match. It is amazing how close the games are and fun to see how allegiances are made and broken in the sequence of a few holes! I also read of a golf club which was encouraging a different slant to have a match play day, once every few weeks. So if say 12 players turn up, they have a 6 a side Ryder Cup format and the losers, in the time honoured tradition, buy the drinks. If there’s an odd number of players then the lowest handicap player plays against a pair who have their handicaps halved to even it up. It’s good to get some match play practice in before the season gets underway, as it sharpens our skill set ready for Summer Knock Outs.
If playing is a bit of a challenge this time of year, clearly practicing with being more stationery is clearly more so. When going down to the range, perhaps go for a smaller bucket of balls and if your professional has given you some swing drills to practice, do say one or two of those to each ball struck as this is a great way of rehearsing the correct movements.
I was listening to an interesting podcast by Hal Sutton, a former PGA and TPC Champion and 4 / 5 time Ryder Cup player and he was being interviewed about his career and thoughts on the game. Interestingly on the subject of practice, Hal estimated he had struck somewhere around a million practice shots in his tour career. He said if he had his time again, he would have hit half the number of balls and used the other half on the drills his coach had suggested. His analysis was that when he had a lesson on his game a drill or some swing rehearsal was suggested to help improve the movement. After doing this he found his swing slotted back into its groove again and of course with-it lower scores and increased confidence. He then reverted in practice after a while to just hitting balls and in time as his game went off, he’d repeat the cycle.
Practice is great, however productive practice is better, so I’ve included a picture of an all-time favourite drill of players and coaches alike, of swinging with our feet together. This really improves our balance which is the first thing to go when we are swinging poorly. As we do the exercise the sensation of good synchronisation of the arms and body will become natural. Do the rehearsals without a ball and then clip a few off a tee. Then do a rehearsal and follow up with a regular shot and immediately you will be struck with the sense of improved balance. The great Bernhard Langer starts each practice session with 20 of these and I note recently he beat his age with a 63, so always worth following what he’s up to!
Speaking of learning from the greats, Tiger and Annika were avid users of the gate drill for their putting so I’ve put a gratuitous picture of me on my recent trip to Portugal (did I mention I’d been?) practicing my putting by using said drill. Pop a couple of tees just wider than your putter head and swing the putter a few times through them to gain the feel, then try a few balls. It focuses the eye and sharpens up your stroke. Hope these ideas help and let me know how you get on.
Finally, thank you for all the kind words so many of you have sent congratulating me on being included in Golf Monthly’s Top 50 Coaches. It was a real honour to be included and it’s nice at my age to be still regarded as relevant! My friend Gary Allis also made the list, so good to know there are two of us in the senior division of the list.
I can honestly say I’m as enthused about coaching as when I first started in 1879. It is such an interesting art form and a real thrill when you can assist a player in their favourite sport. Looking forward to delivering some more sessions this season, which I think may take me over the 50,000 mark, but who’s counting!
Enjoy your golf
Fellow of the PGA