The Dechambeau Top

I was rather fascinated to see Bryson Dechambeau, the miracle man with the 198 mph Ferrari golf swing, top his ball a hundred yards into the drink at the Players Championship. As well as this, that chap Brendon Todd managed to pull-off a complete shank. But for Dechambeau, that was surely a seriously expensive top, given the first prize of 2.7 million dollars, as it cost him a double-bogey and he eventually finished two behind. Ouch!

Now I don’t want to glee too much over this, but isn’t it good for us amateurs to know that these golfing gods can hit some howlers too? In fact, I’m surprised that we don’t see more shots like these at this level of the game, given the major championship pressure that these guys are under. Because as everyone knows, there is a very small margin for error in the hitting of a golf ball. It’s a huge feat of coordination and timing to correctly connect with that tiny thing. So much can go wrong. As poor Bryson Dechambeau found out yesterday.

However I’m sorry, but it’s good to see that these guys can do what we amateurs habitually do. It’s just that Bryson old boy, please don’t do it when I’ve got money on you.

In my first St Andrews Club medal of the year, I ceremoniously topped my drive off the first tee of the New, the ball travelling just fifty yards and settling a few feet short of the gorse. My ‘playing to the gallery’ shot. Miraculously I saved the day though, with a chop-out recovery and a pretty good wedge to two feet. A par four! Not pretty. But I’m not pretty.

Also, as I said, I had a complete shank plus a few impressive thins and one completely fluffed chip. All part of the amateur’s arsenal of course. And to this end I love Jack Nicklaus’s revelation that he reckoned he only hit one shot per round as he absolutely intended. So I suppose golf then is all just about the degree of the mishit.

In the end, I actually got it round in 80, which wasn’t too bad on a fresh and windy March morn over the New. In fact, I managed to scoop first position in my handicap division and secure a place in the medal finals over the Old.

The journey continues. Shanks, Dechambeau tops and all.

Fare forward passengers.


‘Oochaa’ is pretty widely acknowledged in the lexicon of caddie phraseology and can be used in a number of situations when the wish to express oneself verbally may be inappropriate or impossible. As with the Asian tongue it can mean many things, depending on the user’s intonation and as you may have guessed, we’re mostly not in positive territory here.

I first came across this at the Dunhill, when I arrived on the practice area, with David Walsh, wearing very loud and garish bright blue saltire trousers, kindly given to me by Royal and Awesome. The reaction from an old timer caddie on seeing me was an immediate exclamation of ‘oochaa’ in a most negative tone. It was as if I’d kind of just winded him or something like that.

Now I am introducing you to this term as it would be the best way to describe my golf last Thursday over the Old Course in my first St Andrews Club medal of the year. Let’s say, that if Peter Alliss had been observing my play, then golf’s most eloquent and articulate commentator would probably have been reduced to an ‘oocha!’

Now, my playing handicap has taken a turn for the worse and I am presently off ten. Yes ten. That’s going the wrong direction folks.

But first, let me tell you how I navigated the first two holes of the Old Course. A driver off the tee was not the wisest choice of clubs as we were slightly down-wind and off a well-forward black tee. I went down the shaft and down the left and somehow lucked out by hopping over the burn, but leaving myself a tricky second into a forward positioned pin and wind. So I took plenty of club to make sure I got over the burn and indeed did, but got over the green too. A straightforward chip from the back of the green I over-hit into the burn, dropped it out, missed a short putt and got a seven.

The next hole was an utter Horlicks. A poor drive left towards the hotel, left me a 3 iron into the green. I shanked it and just avoided the gorse, leaving a very tricky shot to the green over that tree up the right, which I thinned into the tree. I found it and dropped. I hit it again into the tree but this time lost it. Another drop and after a few more feeble attempts, I walked off with a nine. Two three-putt bogeys on the ensuing two holes, left me reeling at ten-over par after four holes.

So at this point I’m again reflecting that this old game of golf may really not be for me. But then something inside urged me on and made me want to stand up and do battle with the old lady. She’d got me and she’d got me bad, but I was going to give it my best shot.

And indeed I did. I somehow managed to play the next fourteen holes in level-par and that may I say, included three 3 putts on a back nine where I somehow hit the greens in two-under regulation. I drove onto the upper level of the 12th green for the first time and then I hit the best drive and five iron of my life into the fourteenth, but unfortunately missed my 8 foot eagle putt. But this was more like it. The dream is still alive.

So, as I’ve said, I’m on a mission with my golf this year. It’s proving to be an interesting journey though, as my handicap continues to go in the wrong direction as I said. Up from eight to ten this year is not that impressive. However, I do feel I’ve got my swing technique kind of sorted. And it’s changed fundamentally over this week to be honest. A better set-up, a much better take-away, and crucially a far more solid position at the top. And it’s really all come from concentrating on one simple aspect of the swing, to which I will come to later.

Now I’m just wondering why some golf teacher hadn’t got me anywhere near this after nigh-on fifty years in the game? And I can name biggish names as teachers here; notably Jim Farmer, Ian Young, David Thomson, Sandy Stephen, Colin Brooks, John Boath, Douglas Horne, Stevie Craig, Ian Butcher, Tom Ainslie, Malcolm Leighton…(there are many more!)

And so I’ve certainly had a few! But either I wasn’t getting it or they weren’t. One thing for sure, it’s an extremely hard game to teach.

I would also add the legendary Jimmy Hume at Gullane back in the very old days, but I do remember him taking one look at my swing and saying ‘don’t think about taking it back son, just take it back’ Not exactly textbook PGA. But who really wants all that?

So, I’ve been through the mill let’s say and over an awfully long time. It’s been rather tortuous to be honest, but I do genuinely now feel that I’m getting there. However I’m doing DIY now. Ok, with the help of a few golf buddies, you tube, my smart phone and a whole lot of time on my side, gifted as a result of me being a pretty shocking businessman and altogether, pretty unemployable.

Fare forward folks.

As a wee aside, you may be amused to learn that the kilted caddie did try his hand at golf teaching for Club Med at the back-end of last century (indeed at ski teaching too!)

In Spain and in french! To beginners obviously.

But ooh la la! I got sacked.

From both alas!

And some people may not be surprised at that.