My Jean Van der Velde moment

Ok I didn’t lose the Open Championship yesterday but I threw away winning the St Andrews Thistle Club’s Bruce Trophy in rather spectacular fashion, on a windy day over the Jubilee Course.

We all remember how Jean van Der Velde made a complete and utter Horlicks of the last hole at Carnoustie, when he took out a two-iron to try and hit the green, knowing that he only needed a bogey to win the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. He ended up hitting a finely struck shot which was heading towards the green and his manifest glory, but it just caught the side of the grandstand and rebounded into the burn from where he famously tried to play it out. Needless to say he lost The Open, gifting it to Paul Lawrie.

Well my story is slightly different but parallel. I had played very well in the conditions and after six holes was in fact one-under par (not too shabby off my playing handicap of ten). I did make a slight mess of the next couple of holes but got it back nicely. So, when standing on the fifteenth tee I knew that I only had to finish with four bogeys to win the competition. After 20 rounds of the Bruce Trophy I was in a massively strong position. As a betting man I would say that I was in fact a very heavy odds-on favourite. In fact to be definitive, I would say that my in-running odds (for I was surely running) would have been somewhere between Man City winning the Premier and Ergumene pulling off the Arkle Chase.

Now, the fifteenth on the Jubilee is not that hard a hole. In fact after the event I realise I could easily have taken my putter off the tee and got a five. But I didn’t. And what I did do you will not necessarily believe (well apart from those people who really know me well that is). First, I took out my five iron and hit a terrible shot straight out of bounds on the right. Next, I made a move to grab my driver in utter fury, but prevailed upon myself to hit another five iron which unfortunately just caught the bunker up the left. Then, I probably did the most crazy thing of all. I forewent the sensible route of taking my medicine and playing out safely. Instead, I took out my 8 iron and attempted to hit the small green from a hundred or so yards out, into a strong cross-wind and a steepish bunker face in my direct line to the green. To avoid this I tried to aim right of the green and draw it back (bear in mind that right of the green is out of bounds!). I did in fact make seriously good contact, but neither me nor my playing partner saw the ball. And alas, I never saw that ball again. Game over. I got a nine. What a complete numpty!

That is probably my worst ever experience on a golf course. And in one way I can kind of really sympathize with Monsieur Van der Velde. However, I also feel most stupid and annoyed with myself at my actions. What was I playing at? Indeed what was going through Jean’s mind too? We had done all the really hard work.

All he had to do was take out an 8 iron and play to the safety of the open fairway and leave himself another easy 8 iron into the green. Ok not overly sexy, but it would have got the job done and bagged him The Open. And as I said, I just really had to take my putter out or hit a little half-punch iron-shot a hundred yards or so up the fairway. Ok not exactly playing to the gallery, but there wasn’t one.

And I suppose Jean may have been able to lean on that ‘playing to the gallery’ aspect as some sort of excuse, given that he has all that Gallic stuff going on?

However we both failed. And we both failed badly.

This brings to mind my pal, Scotty, who works on the mindset and mental performance aspect of the game. Indeed he has a business doing so, ‘Quiet Mind Golf’, and is a brilliant golfer into the bargain. He always chastises me for spending so much time tinkering with my swing and technique. He believes that most of golf is between the ears.

So now, lets say, I’m buying much more into his school of thought. He indeed has a formidable point.

So fare forward I say!

But didn’t I say that in last week’s post?

Yes I did! But I will say it again as I’m a stubborn old oaf.

Fare forward.





A certain lack of course management

I played in the Bruce Trophy over the Jubilee on Thursday and got off to a solid start and although I three putted the second, I was level par after five, which is ok off my present handicap of eight.

But then I did something very stupid indeed. I took my driver out of the bag on the 6th tee, pulled it a tad and ended up in thick rough and a seven. I was livid as a four iron off that tee would not have brought any danger into play and I still could have got the green with my second. However, now riled, I then did something even more stupid on the narrow par 4 seventh and went for the green with my driver. I ended up with a nine! I carried on with this incensed madness on the next hole when I again selected driver and lost another ball. This was crazy behaviour over this part of the course, especially as I was building a score.

Course management is probably the most underrated aspect of the game. At least in the world of amateur golf that is. It’s all very fine being able to strike a golf ball well, but if you’ve got no brain and no strategy of how to play a golf course, then that and a quarter won’t get you onto the proverbial bus.

So, I’ve told myself that I’m going to learn from this. Fare forward. It’s just the ‘if you’ve got no brain’ part of the equation that I’m concerned about. And some of my friends would readily agree.

Unfortunately in life I’ve rather tended to jump headlong into things and then mostly sink swiftly. My last venture, the restaurant in Edinburgh was quite a good example. I was totally romanticized up about it, but soon had to get to grips with the chilling realities of the whole thing, the toilet cleaning at midnight, the seventeen hour days, the people stealing your wine, the abusive phone calls, the fickle customers demanding the earth, the damage of misunderstandings, the lies, the malicious gossip, the nasty sidings, the back stabbings.

It’s a tough school.

At least in golf I’ve only got myself to blame.

Now where is my driver?



Progress Report- the take-away issue

Things are still going well on the goff front. I’m still feeling much more confident over the ball and amĀ  continuing to analyse stuff.

I do think I’ve been getting to hung up on the takeaway front. Not on the Greggs front, of course, but on the first and perhaps the most critical part of the golf swing.

However, I looked at a Dustin Johnson video yesterday and thought wow! Look at how that guy takes the club back? His hands are well away from his body and it’s real square. I’ve been getting hung-up on trying to take it away more inside the line, and I’m not sure that’s doing me any real favours. So I’m now going to forget that. I will concentrate on width from a balanced and relaxed set-up and then try my Garcia thing at the top.

I never really think about the swing thereafter to be honest, apart from sometimes going for a high and balanced follow-through.

So that’s it this week. I have a comp on Thursday on the Jubilee. Handicap still lingering at 7.7. But it’s very early days.

Must dash as I’m playing on the New at 9.44 am. Pretty cool, the Old yesterday and the Jube tomorrow.

Someone has to do it.




My golf mission

I’m on a mission with respect to my golf. Covid inspired albeit. But I’ve now got the bit firmly between my teeth and am to be honest, feeling rather buoyant.

You see I’ve been struggling for an awfully long time with the golf swing dynamic. Forty five years to be exact.

No golf teacher has ever really been able to help me. So now I’ve been forced to do it myself and analyze my own swing. Video is an invaluable tool indeed for this. But so is looking at You tube videos. I’ve found them incredibly helpful.

Dare I say it, but I do feel I’ve made huge progress over the past couple of weeks. Of course, I hear you say that we’ve been here before. And yes we have. But this is the nature of this devilish beast.

However, I went out last week and tried something after watching a video on Sergio. The transformative effect on my game was instant and striking. Of course, I can’t at the moment reveal what I changed. But I can tell you that I went out on the Old and shot my best ever score of 75, off back tees and followed this up a few days ago when I was one over for eleven of the first twelve holes.

Now my handicap is presently 8 and I’m giving myself a year to see what I can accomplish. I’m incredibly bullish of course but I’m an incredibly bullish kind of guy.

Of course, this may be yet another false dawn to add to the hundreds of previous ones. But I feel differently this time and my swing is finally looking like a real golf swing as opposed to the Jim Furyk/Eamon D’Arcy, loopy, octopus falling out of a tree having an epileptic fit thing, that I’ve been struggling with for decades. Torturing myself and numerous golf instructors along the way.

Of course time will tell.

Please keep reading and I’ll keep you posted.