Monday, 1 January 2018

Product Review - Puttout Training Aid & Putting Mat

Welcome to the first blog of 2018. Happy new year to one and all and I wish you and your family a fantastic year and may all your golfing ambitions come to fruition. I'm starting with a product review (the clue is in the title!) and this looks at the Puttout training aid and the accompanying mat.

I was lucky enough to receive one of the training aids to review by Puttout and a big thank you to Patrick and Charlotte for sending this and giving me the opportunity. As always, there is a video review of the products and you can see both in operation and you can check out my Youtube review here (Puttout Review).

There is also a chance to enter the competition to win a Puttout training aid. Not a bad way to start the year and it's open to anyone, so even if you're not in the UK, please feel free to enter and I'll make sure you get it wherever you are in the world.

Lets start then with the training aid. There are a myriad of putting aids out there. However, I firmly feel this is one of the most innovative, and more importantly one of the few that actually match expectations and improve the putting stroke, particularly in terms of feel.

It is a compact design and folds up nice and small and fits inside any golf bag and could be used at the golf club, at home or in an office. On the base are a number of sharp plastic spikes that ensure the Puttout will sit on any carpet or on the putting green and stay in place.

The Puttout Training Aid - small enough to be taken anywhere
So what is it? Well in simple terms, it consists of a hole sized rubber base and a parabolic ramp. This ramp will only accept a ball struck on line and at a reasonable speed and will throw off any that are not quite on line or hit too hard. It works in a simple but effective manner too. The ball will travel up the ramp and the distance it returns towards you represents the distance past the hole the ball would have gone.

I've added a link to a video from Puttout which will show in more detail (and far better than I can) how it came to be and what it's all about. It's well worth a view - Puttout Video

Now if you are like me and struggle at times from six feet and beyond to control the pace of putts and can often run the ball a troublesome distance beyond the cup and leave a tester coming back (three putt hell) then this device is perfect for learning and ingraining distance control. Depending on who you listen to, the optimum distance to get the ball past the hole to give it the best chance of going in is 12-18 inches and so by using the Puttout regularly you can train a stroke that gets the ball returning down the ramp that ideal distance. You can see that in the video.

However the Puttout is more than a one trick device. There is a plastic insert in the ramp that can be pushed down to leave a circular gap. This allows you to challenge yourself and your friends to make the perfect putt, which is one at the correct speed and line at which the ball will run up the ramp and nestle in the hole and stay there. Trust me, this is not as simple as it sounds. The video below shows you exactly what I mean


So there you go, two training devices within one aid. Let me do what I always do and give it marks out of ten in a number of categories

Looks
The Puttout has very sleek looks. It's compact and clean in its design. There is nothing superfluous or unnecessary. The hole in the ramp that can be used for the perfect putt or slotted back if you are simply using the slope to work on pace, slots back and forth and nestles in the base securely and out of sight. 9/10

Construction
The Puttout is light but is robust. The plastic in the ramp is strong enough to take being in the golf bag and the hole sized rubber at the end is firmly attached. There are very few components and it's designed simply but effectively. 8/10

Cost & Availability
The Puttout come is at under £20 and is widely available at American Golf, a host of other outlets and is widely available online. The cost isn't prohibitive and there are far more expensive and less effective aid out there. 8/10

Effectiveness
As I said very early on, this is one of the best indoor practice aids for putting I have used. I don't say that easily, nor have I any endorsement or association with Puttout and as always, these reviews are an independent mid-handicappers viewpoint. It is excellent, and is intuitive and simple to use and gives instant feedback on the pace (and line of the putt). With regular use, its easy to develop improved distance control. When you fold the insert down and aim for the perfect putt, this feedback is enhanced as it really is only the ideally hit putt that will roll up and stay in the hole. 10/10

Longevity
As I've hinted, there are many putting aids out there (many of which I have probably dabbled with) but a lot are short lived and are used diligently in the first few weeks and then consigned to a dusty corner. With the Puttout being so compact and easy to set up, and so easy to use, it makes it very simple to get out and work on the stroke for a while each evening. I take mine to the bedroom while the wife watches the soaps on TV and do thirty minutes while the programme is on. A little and often really will work wonders and it's something I can see myself going back to again and again. 9/10

Overall
The Puttout has hit the market to rave reviews and has been immensely popular. If you use social media you'll see many posts with happy golfers (and often their families) using it. As training aids go, this is one that has made a big impact very quickly and if you haven't seen one yet, or better still tried one, then you are missing out. It is small, well priced and more importantly works. That's a rare combination. 10/10

I haven't finished yet. As well as the Puttout training aid, thy have now released a putting mat to sit alongside. Now let me be perfectly honest and upfront, I am not a huge fan of mats. I find many, crease up and make it hard to make a decent putt, many are either way too slow or run at an Augusta pace that is unrealistic. Many are poorly made and fray or fall apart.

I was given the Puttout mat as a Christmas present and was a little wary based on my previous experiences. It comes in two colours, a traditional green version and a stylish slate grey colour. It's not small, and gives you a chance to putt up to six feet and so with an additional area behind this, it comes in at around eight feet in length and so it is something you may need to bear in mind. Indeed, the only two places I can really use it comfortably are the hallway or the bedroom.

The mat itself comes inside a robust cardboard tube and that sits inside an handy carry case. Puttout say the tube and design of the mat means it is a case of simply rolling it out and start putting. I've found that while it does roll neatly out from its rolled up form, it does need a quick walk over to flatten it down properly

The Puttout mat comes neatly packed. Ideal for simple storage
The tube and bag does make it very simple to store and sit out of the way. Again, this has been a bugbear of other mats and they've often not rolled or folded away compactly and always seem in the way. This takes very little time to roll out and then simply rolls up again, sits inside the cardboard tube and inside the bag. The base is made of sturdy rubber and I've had the mat on a tiled floor and carpet and it has sat in place on both.

The mat can be used in either direction. There is a mark in the centre where the Puttout training device can be situated, but if used the other way, there is an end section, box shaped where you can simply work at stroking the ball into to work on feel.

It is however when putting towards the training aid that the mat is at its best. There are alignment lines to the side where you can set up and work on the basics and ensure the club, body and shoulders are all in the correct place.

The Puttout mat - it offers a chance to make putts up to six feet in length
Puttout are saying that the mat runs at the equivalent of 10 on the stimpmeter and to my mind that is fairly representative of a good speed of the greens at the majority of members clubs around the country. Of course there will be those that have greens that are quicker and slower but as an average I think it's pretty good. I happen to think their judgement is also fairly accurate having used it over the festive period and tried it on the practice green at my own club.

There are clearly defined distances laid out on the mat at intervals from a foot up to six feet away so it is perfect for developing a perfect stroke and more importantly the perfect feel from a variety of distances. I have done a review on another product, the No 3 Putt (No 3 Putt Review) which is a device I use on the practice green at my club and has been in my bag for many years now, and I have said that repetition breeds confidence and I feel when using the No 3 Putt and now the Puttout that I can play on the course and have great belief in my stroke and feel and can stand over a putt reliant on the work I've put in and simply focus on a good line and trust my stroke. Putting with such freedom, and devoid from too many thoughts makes a big difference.

Let me finish by giving you my thought on the Puttout putting mat.

Construction
This mat bucks the trend of many and is well constructed. It has an excellent rubber base that really works well on most floor surfaces. The material on top seems well made and the markings on it are clear and well laid out. 7/10

Size
This is both a benefit and a hindrance for the Puttout mat. It is excellent in offering the golfer a chance to work on putts up to six feet in length which is something many other mats on the market don't do, and given that there are increments every foot, it offers a chance to work on many different putts. However, being so long, and with the rest of the mat at either end, it does come in at around eight feet in length. This could be restrictive for many. I would have liked to use it in the comfort of my front room but without moving the coffee table each time I can't. Pedantic? Maybe but it's definitely a consideration that needs thinking about. 7/10

Effectiveness
As I said at the outset, putting mats and I haven't always got on. However this one really does feel different and when used in conjunction with the Puttout training aid comes together to present a really a potent practice combination. The mat runs at a good and realistic speed. The mat doesn't seem to crease or fold in use. There is a number of training modes over and above using the aid that the lines present. It's one of the better mats out there. 8/10

Cost
Let's be upfront, this mat isn't cheap. It comes in at about £70 (ok £69.99) and while there are some models out there that are even more expensive, there are also cheaper offerings. Whether that cheaper price comes with compromised quality is a different discussion. I feel that the price of the Puttout is realistic for what you get for the money and is fairly priced. 6/10

Storage & Set Up
The Puttout mat comes in a handy carry bag and is stored within a sturdy cardboard tube and it really does make it easy to store out of the way when not in use. It does simply roll out into place and doesn't need a lot of effort (or a host of books or weights) to ensure it is flat and ready to go. 9/10

Longevity
The mat is sturdy enough and I think you'll need to have a putting regime similar to Jordan Spieth to wear it out quickly. It is well made and designed to last. With the Puttout training aid being fiendishly addictive in its own right, when used with the mat it's a potent combination and one I have been using on a daily basis. It has a good speed and allows me to work on a variety of distances. Whisper it quietly but I may finally have found a putting mat that I can and will use on a regular basis and not lose interest in a few weeks. 8/10

Overall
I make no bones of not being a huge putting mat fan based on previous experience. This Puttout mat is different. As a stand alone mat it would be a reasonable practice aid but add the Puttout aid and the mat really comes into its own. Price and length could be two negatives and so you'll need to decide if you have the budget and room to use this. However as it can be used on most surfaces there should be somewhere you can roll it out and get to work on your stroke. The mat is easy to roll out and put away, and is easy to store. I have found it functional and effective in the short time I've had it and can see no reason why I won't continue to keep doing so. 8/10

Sorry it's a long one to start the year but as always with these independent, mid-handicap reviews I want to give you comprehensive and honest opinions on each product to help you decide if it is something you would consider buying and using. I make no apologies for that. I hope you find this one (and all the others) useful. If I am being honest, the Puttout training aid is a great product and as a stand alone is a worthwhile purchase, but, I do feel the Puttout mat is a decent product and together provide a very pleasing duo.

Thank you for your support in 2017 and especially to those that took the trouble to watch the video links I've included. I am keen to make my Youtube channel (please take a look here - Three Off The Tee Youtube) a really interactive place, and hopefully provide some content you enjoy, and more importantly want to you to respond to. I want to be grow it and as I do be able to offer some great opportunities and giveaways. If you have watched the video review already don't forget to thumbs up the video and comment to enter the free draw to win a Puttout training aid.

Please help to make it a bigger and better place in 2018. Many thanks for your support.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

That's All Folks For 2017

I hope you and your family have had a great Christmas and I wish you all a peaceful, healthy 2018 and hope it's the year you achieve your golfing ambitions. It's that time of the year to look back and reflect on 2017.

As far as my golf went, let's start on the not so good. I refuse to call them negatives. From a handicap perspective I started the year on 14.0 and sit here after my last competition of the year on 14.2 and while I don't see a 0.2 increase over the course of a season as that bad a return, the "Quest For Single Figures" remains as far away as it did in 2017.

I had a lot of bad events, where for whatever reason my head or technique wasn't there. I had others where I'd have a reasonable start and fade away with a poor hole leading to other mistakes and before I knew it I'd played myself out of contention. Add in the fact, health and fitness has again been a factor and I was hospitalised in February and out of action for a number of weeks afterwards. I've recently struggled with a back injury and this has also curtailed my practice and playing time.

It may be churlish, but I've also included my youtube channel (which you can find here The Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) as I had hoped it would have gotten a bigger response in terms of subscribers from here. However if you have subscribed, watched any of the videos, shared or commented then I thank you. I have some big plans for the channel in 2018 and would love you to be involved so it's not to late to go over, click the subscribe button and be ready to join me going forward.

Technically, my swing has continued to be a conundrum. When it's on I'm a match for anyone but as you'll know if you've seen any of my video footage on here or the youtube channel, there are so many flaws and moving parts that it's hard to always get that to work in perfect synchronicity. If you've read my previous blogs about a lesson I had courtesy of Golf Monthly with one of their top 25 coaches, at London Club, you'll know Paul Foston has given me a lot to be working on (Lesson Part One and Lesson Part Two). I've not really had much chance to work on it and the work I've done hasn't produced the results I want yet. If I'm honest, as I type this my swing feels a mess and I'm struggling. Let's hoe that will change in 2018 once and for all and I can make inroads into that handicap and get "The Quest" well and truly on track.

So what have been the highlights? Well undoubtedly winning the Centenary Medal at Royal Ascot Golf Club in June. The fact that I scored a net 68 (-2) and won was a surprise in itself but to then find out the even was a trophy event and to receive that from the Club Captain on presentation night was doubly pleasing

To the winner the spoils - The Centenary Cup
Aside from that as I do every year, I got to play with so many new and old golfing friends and on some new and wonderful courses. I've been very lucky and through Golf Monthly Forum, my own club and some contacts I've made from the Three Off The Tee youtube channel, I've had a number of great opportunities. Arguably the best of these is the annual Help For Heroes Charity Event which this year was played on a the top 100 course Hankley Common. My golf on the day was poor but as always it was secondary to the cause. Of course, playing both the old and new courses at Sunningdale and at the unique New Zealand Club were two other days to stay in the memory for a long time.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at The London Club getting some superb tuition from Paul Foston (check the videos here Live Lesson Part One and Live Lesson Part Two) and will be working hard on the changes again in 2018.

Talking of 2018, what is going to be going on? I'm going to be doing some great work as part of the team for Golf Hacker magazine (online and going into print soon). It's going to be a massive year for Golf Hacker (check them out here http://www.golfhacker.org/ and more importantly on their twitter site at @Golfhacker_mag) and get involved. You'll be glad you did. I'm also doing some collaboration with another great online magazine called Inside Golf. Again, go to their twitter page (at @InsideGolf_mag) as they are another that will be going from strength to strength and I'm honoured to have been asked to help.

I have a lot of great content coming to the youtube channel including some great prize giveaways, some fantastic reviews, and a lot of exciting on course collaborations with a number of other great youtube channels. I'm also hoping to do some fantastic stuff with a number of people to grow the game for lady golfers and juniors.

As for my golf, well as I've touched upon I've already got some stuff to work on to make the swing simpler and more repetitive. I've been given some lesson vouchers as a Christmas present but feel the main focus of attention has to be the short game. This is still an area that causes me issues. As for The Quest For Single Figures, I plan to take a more organic approach in my approach. I don't want to put any pressures on myself, something I'm far too aware I've done in the past. There is a single figure golfer waiting to break out and he just needs the room to be allowed to do so. I will be making some golfing plans shortly, which I'll share with you on here and the youtube channel. A lot of those will developing the short game stuff I worked on especially the pitching challenges (see here for an example of a pitching challenge - 40 Yard Pitching Challenge) and expanding that to include chipping and bunker tests too. I found doing on course challenges far more helpful and it definitely made a difference so I'm hoping this will continue

As always, thank you so much for your continued support, not only in reading my random thoughts here but watching the youtube videos, and leaving comments and suggestions. It really means a lot and I thank you for doing so. Please support the youtube channel (and subscribe) and if you want to be involved in some of the great stuff going on in 2018 then contact me here or on youtube. It just remains for me to hope you have a great 2018 and whatever your ambitions, dreams and hopes, golfing or otherwise, they come to fruition.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

That Winning Feeling

Welcome back. As you will recall from my last blog, things had taken a turn for the better and I had just had my best ever round at Royal Ascot Golf Club, shooting a gross 78 (+8) which was comprised of two book ended nines of 39 shots each.

I had the opportunity to get nine holes in two days later on Monday 20th November and decided to take the camera along and do an on course vlog to chart my progress. It's been a while since I put one of the on my Three Off The Tee Channel (check it out here Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) and after all, confidence was high and I was hoping for good things.

You can check the nine holes out here (Better and Wetter Nine Hole Vlog). I won't spoil it for you but I do urge you to watch all the way through, give it a thumbs up and if you have any comments to leave them at the bottom of the video. I'm not giving anything away by saying that I was not fully prepared for the conditions from the seventh hole onwards!

As I have written before, this winter will see me embark on a huge swing change to try and find something shorter, more compact and more functional to set me on the road towards single figures. I had hoped this would be fully underway, but I've been struggling with back problems and so playing and range time has been severely curtailed. That is why I was so excited and enthused by my best ever eighteen hole score at my home club as it had come from nowhere.

The swing I had for that round and the one you'll see in the video are very much the current incarnation, and bears no resemblance to the one I envisage starting the 2018 season with. However as you can see, I am managing to play some functional golf with it. That does then beg the question why make wholesale changes? Having pursued this "Quest For Single Figures" for a good few seasons now it would appear pretty clear cut (at least in my own mind) that while we had a brief flirtation with this nirvana a good while ago now, in general terms what  have is pretty flawed technically and is reliant on a lot of timing, co-ordination, planetary alignment and a roll of the dice. Of course, as I work hard to improve areas like pitching then hopefully my scrambling statistics will improve and this will impact scores in a positive fashion, even on poor ball striking days.

You may have seen me doing a pitching scramble test on my Youtube channel already. If not check it out here (40 Yard Pitching Challenge). I plan to do a few more of these over the winter and also add in a chipping scramble test as well. I need to really grind the short game. It's an area that seems to have been overlooked of late as my focus has been on the long game following my lesson courtesy of Golf Monthly at the London Club in Kent with Paul Foston, who is one of their top 25 coaches.

It was presentation night recently at Royal Ascot Golf Club. You may recall I won the Centenary Medal in June. Usually, medal winners only get a small medal (obviously) to record the win but apparently as I won the division and had the best net score, there was a trophy is presented for this one medal of the year. As you can see below, it's always good to get my hands on a piece of silverware.

The Centenary Medal Trophy
It's rekindle that winning feeling and served to simply work harder over the winter. These back issues, which feel muscular and means I'm simply not giving the injury time to fully heal, have really restricted what I can do in all areas of the game and is becoming a real source of frustration. It isn't helped by the current cold snap in the UK and standing on a freezing range is not going to help rehabilitation. However I'm torn between trying to hit some balls and be in a position to play weekends with a semblance of confidence or having a few weeks of complete rest. Watching my friends on Youtube and on other social media platforms, I feel as though time is passing me by and I'm already playing catch up which is why I feel compelled to push. Of course I'm aware that doing too much may cause more damage and an even longer lay-off. It's a real conundrum for me

I also managed to get my hand on the Jubilee Cup. No you didn't miss the announcement of another storming win, especially as this is one of the club's majors and is an honours board event. I actually won it with my partner back in 2008 but wasn't able to attend the presentation event that year. Again, it felt good to get my hands on that particular trophy (below) even if it was a few years after the event.

Better late than never. Finally got my hands on the Jubilee Cup I won in 2008
I have to be honest dear reader, and say that the last round and my best score and what transpired in the nine holes has got me thinking more and more. There is clearly a golfer in there desperately fighting to get out and every now and then it makes an appearance. I have always been a somewhat streaky player, even as far back as my junior days and so transient form is nothing new to me. What I do want to acquire is a better mental attitude and I'm still looking at doing some NLP (neuro linguistic programming) to help quieten the brain down on the course, get better focus, visualise better and deal with bad shots in a less damaging way. As I've mentioned, the swing does need work to get me towards single figures and more importantly keep me there. At 50+ years of age, this does represent last chance saloon and so the information I've had from Paul Foston will form the foundation on which to base these changes.

I have spoken before of a desire not to use another swing coach and over complicate or conflict with the work I want to do but I have to confess I'm beginning to wonder if that was a little short sighted. I won't be having regular access to Paul Foston as he's based miles away down in Kent and have only planned one follow up session before the season starts to recap the work I've done and see what needs working on going forward. That then relies on me working alone and I'm not comfortable with that. I'm thinking of getting one or two lessons booked with the guy I was using before the London Club opportunity. If you haven't seen what it was all about check these two videos here, including some behind the scenes footage on how a golf magazine gets those shots you see in each issue (xxxx)

I feel I may be better off going through what I've been given to work on with my teaching professional, valuate the work I've done to date, and get professional input on how I'm progressing and the issues remaining. I can then work on what will be a huge change, especially the cupped wrist and over swing, ingrained now in over thirty years of playing, confident I'm on the right path technically.

As always then, in this world of the obsessive golfer, there is so much going on. Stick around and see how the winter work goes and please make sure you subscribe to my Youtube channel. There's a lot of great content coming and the more I can grow it and the more interactive we can become (so give those videos a thumbs up and please comment) the more I can offer back in terms of giveaways and opportunities. I have some more product reviews coming as well which I don't think you'll want to miss.

I hope you enjoy the video footage, especially the nine hole vlog, and I'll be back soon with more news on "The Quest" and hopefully with ongoing good news about the swing and the way I'm playing. Hopefully all that hard work will lead to a great 2018 and that winning feeling.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

A Small Step

It's been a month or so since my last post. It's been a stop/start sort of time with some really miserable weather meaning that golf on the course has been intermittent. I've done some range work, and tried to work on the beginning of the swing changes I've been mentioning on here and my Three Off The Tee Youtube channel (https://tinyurl.com/jxd9dxy)

I managed to play in a competition at my home course, Royal Ascot back on 4th November. To say conditions weren't ideal would be an understatement. A cliche even. Persistent heavy drizzle and a wind that had a telling effect on club selection. I have to say, the competition came way too soon into the beginning of the swing change for me to feel comfortable with my game. Add in the conditions and I wasn't in a good place.

In the end, I shot 29 points so another 0.1 on the handicap put onto the handicap. Never mind. just another small hurdle to get over on my way to single figures. It's no big deal. In the end, I even finished in the top ten of division two and only five points off the winning score.

It had started reasonably and I left the fourth green with seven points. The opening quartet at Royal Ascot off the whites, especially in a competitive round, and if I can walk off the fourth, level two's with a par five to come then I feel it's been a good start. However I made a real mess off the fifth from nowhere and after that, any faith I had in the work invested evaporated in a poor front nine. A paltry thirteen points. I did manage to find a way of playing ugly on the back nine and scored sixteen points. Was I disappointed with 29? Yes and no. I wasn't expecting to play well given the state of my game and the conditions and so had low expectations. Even so, I wasn't happy with what I produced and didn't swing as I had in practice. While I had been working well on the range, the swing is nowhere near where it's suppose to be or where I'm aiming for from my London Club lessons (check the Youtube footage here (London Club - Part One and London Club - Part Two). That was annoying

So where am I now? Very good question and one I'm glad you asked. If I'm being honest I feel a little lost. I seem to have lost my way in practice. The ball striking is reasonable but I seem to have strayed from the original plan, to reduce the length of the back swing, flatten the downswing and reduce the follow through. My practice has been disjointed. Too many swing thoughts, too many "what if I try this." I need to strip it back to basics. Regroup, refocus and stick to the plan. I've sat through the two videos again myself (go on, they aren't that bad) and have got my mind straight again.

Having said all that and not played for a couple of weeks, I was out in the roll up (Saturday 18th). It was a small turn out and cold, breezy and with range forecast. I've not been feeling 100% health wise recently, and very fatigued. Warm up was rushed and I was going out merely to play with some friends. Score was going to be irrelevant to me. I had no swing thoughts, indeed I didn't really know what swing I had.

What happened is a small step. A wake up call? A slice of luck? Perhaps justification that I am on the right path? The course was playing long, even with the white tees a little further forward than normal and the temperature was cold, and the grass wet. The semi-rough and longer grass definitely areas to be avoided.

So what happened? I shot my lowest gross score at Royal Ascot off the white tees. A gross 78 (+8) and an even 39 on both sides. My points tally of 42 was enough to win the money with ease. I'm annoyed that it wasn't a competitive card or I'll be sitting here off 12. Still, given where I feel my game has been, where my practice has been it was a bolt from the blue. A birdie set me up on the second and it should have been back to back, as I hit a sensational five iron to 6 feet at the third only to see the putt take a horrid bobble when tracking the hole.

Managed to take the kitty in the Saturday roll up. best ever gross score and yet I don't feel the swing is right
I worked hard on my pitching last weekend and was really happy in strong winds and sodden ground with the contact and control. In the warm up yesterday I couldn't find it at all. Everything was a thin bullet. Of course, golf seems to have a psychic ability to sense a weakness in your game and ask some questions of that facet. The first of these came at the sixth where I missed the par three left and had a twenty five yard pitch over a slope to a tight pin. It needed a lofted shot and off a reasonable lie should have been one I could perform. Instead a thinned shot through the green and it needed a good up and down to rescue a bogey. Similarly at the next, when left 52 yards, off a fairway lie, there was fear in the shot and it came up on the fringe. A thinned pitch at the ninth and a pattern was emerging and again a delicate chip and six foot putt salvaged a bogey. In all this there was a topped tee shot at the par three eighth and so while I was making a score, the game was not firing on all cylinders.

You can tell when your luck is in. On the 178 yard eleventh I thinned, almost topped a hybrid which ran the length of the hole and onto the green. On any other day that would have found the cabbage or stopped miles away.

I may be putting myself down.

Check out the statistics, especially the scrambling November roll up statistics

The back nine was tough and I did make some great up and downs, especially from the short side at the 12th and from wide of the 13th to make great pars. I holed a great par putt from eight feet at the fifteenth and hit the longest drive of the day down the hardest driving hole, the 425 yard par four. I only had 189 yards in and went to hit hybrid. I had been working hard all round on a solid pre-shot routine and a good focus. On this particular shot, I had no image, and negative thoughts and should have backed off. As the rain was a heavy drizzle all I wanted to do was protect the score and get in. I hit a horror low and left into a copse. I found it but could only move it a few yards.

On the back nine I had reverted to the linear method. If you haven't heard of this, type "linear" in the search box as I've written about this before and the blogs contain footage of it in action. I had a smelly pitch but put it to six feet and sunk it for a bogey. Up and down for par at the penultimate hole and a bombed drive down the last. The rain was getting heavier. The second was pulled left and took the green out of the equation but brought the water short and right into play. I opted to lay up but then hit a duffed pitch. A better one followed but I made a nasty double bogey to finish.

All in all though lots to be pleased about. My best score ever, some fantastic short game and putting and for the most part some good focus on each shot. It was pleasing as it was unexpected. I'm not sure where that leaves me and whether my game is actually in a better place than I think. Maybe the changes don't need to be as dramatic as I think and maybe I can play with a steep shaft. Somehow I fear not and it'll just be the same old, same old if I do so while I can enjoy a small step forward I fear it's masking the bigger picture.

With this in mind it's back to work on the swing, and more focus needed to the short game. I have said this before so apologies for the repetition but I still hanker after the linear method despite my continual attempts at a conventional pitching method. It just doesn't sit as comfortably as the linear version and despite not working on it I could still use it to decent effect on the course. Another conundrum to throw into the mix.

So then, yet more to ponder and I hope you're enjoying the challenge I'm on as much as I am. There's a lot to work on and there's a lot coming to my Youtube channel so if you don't subscribe go over and do so. I'll be back soon with an update on my progress but until then thanks for your continuing support.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Quest For Single Figures 2018 - Part One - Line In The Sand

Welcome back. If you've been following recent events you'll know that I recently had an hours lesson at the London Club in Kent, with one of Golf Monthly's top 25 coaches, Paul Foston. Firstly a big thanks to both Paul for his expertise and input and to Golf Monthly for putting this on and the London Club for being such generous hosts.

I put two videos up of the lesson on my youtube channel. If you haven't checked these out, you can click on the links below. While you are there, don't forget to subscribe if you haven't already done so, thumbs up both videos (youtube loves a good thumbs up) and if you have any comments. please put them in the comments section and I'll respond.

Golf Lesson With Paul Foston - Part One (Live Lesson Part One)
Golf Lesson With Paul Foston - Part Two (Live Lesson Part Two

It has been a hugely frustrating time since the lesson as my back has been playing up and playing and practice has been severely restricted. However I've been hugely enthused and engaged again with my golf since coming back from the London Club and it has renewed my belief that there is a single figure golfer lying within and that I'm capable of releasing him. Also, if you've watched my youtube videos or seen previous blogs on here you'll know that my job was in danger and I was in danger of redundancy. I'm pleased to say that situation has been resolved, I am still in gainful employment and can get back to working on my game.

As the title says, this is the start of "The Quest For Single Figures 2018" and I took some footage at the practice ground at Royal Ascot on Sunday 15th October. In fact, the ball striking was pretty good, something Paul Foston commented on in the lesson, and dispersion was a little better than it has been. I recorded some shots and put it on the youtube channel and you can switch over to see it by simply clicking the link below.

The Quest Update #1

As you'll see, technically there are still a number of glaring issues including a cupped wrist, swinging back too far, standing the shaft up in the downswing and flipping the hands at impact. Apart from that it is quite functional!

I am now beginning the massive task of unpicking a swing built over the last thirty plus years, sort out the major issues, and replace those with the stuff Paul showed me at the London Club. For me, this really marks a line in the sand. A mark of passage and the end of my swing in it's current incarnation.



In fact there is an air of synchronicity with it all. I started my 2017 golf season with a handicap of 14.0 and as I draw this line under everything, the handicap is.....14.0 so for all my bad days and the odd good ones (I did have a win and a second this season) there has been no change at all in the handicap. I am under no illusion that this will increase over the winter, partly because the course will be playing its full length in the damp, cold conditions but also because these changes will take time to bed in, especially in a competitive round with the handicap on the line.

I have a series of things I need to achieve to make my swing robust, compact and functional as Paul demonstrates on film. The first of these has two distinct stages, shortening the swing, losing that additional six inches of swing I put on each one that takes it too far and causes me to lift up, and then getting rid of a cupped wrist and getting the wrist flatter or even bowed. Let's be perfectly clear about this, it represents a major change, almost going back to the very beginning and trying to rebuild a swing from scratch and it's not going to be easy. Losing the extra six inches and the wrist position is going to take many hours, loads of balls, work at home and patience.

Until I have these components fixed, I can't move onto stopping the shaft standing up, although I am hoping a better back swing position will allow a better transition and turn. The club seems to move down and out and I need to be getting the shaft becoming more shallow and the butt of the club moving out towards the ball. Again this is massive and will be a huge undertaking.

I have a game plan to see how far I get by late January/early February and take that down to Paul's state of the art studio in Kent (Paul Foston Academy). Hopefully I'll have made good progress and Paul can tidy up the remaining issues and get me ready for a fast start in the 2018.

Of course, I appreciate that working solely on the long game and the swing changes isn't going to be great in terms of a) boredom, b) developing new faults and c) hindering the other facets including chipping, pitching and putting. I am formulating some plans to develop my short game. Again if you have watched the youtube channel you'll see some pitching challenges. I plan to develop these further and add some chipping challenges too. Here are the links to my original pitching challenge and my second attempt which shows how far the technique had come on. Had I putted better in the second one I could have had a career day out.

Original pitching challenge
Second pitch challenge

Of course I can't forget putting and I will be working hard on my stroke. I'm not overly fussed by the number of putts holes especially on bobbly winter greens. I will work hard on those important two and three foot putts. I did a recent blog on a great training aid I use regularly, the No 3 Putt. Check out what I said here and a link to see it in action (No 3 Putt blog). It's something that really helps and I plan to work with it all winter and once the greens get back to normal come next Spring.

One thing I will be doing is keeping statistics. I did start this last year in good faith but I have to be honest and say compiling it by hand and doing it on a spreadsheet was laborious. I'm going to look at some of the apps and software out on the market and see if there is anything that meets my needs.

I'm a firm believer in keeping statistics as a way of improving. It has to be better to set challenges and goals rather than bashing balls aimlessly at a range target without any correlation of whether your accuracy, distance control and technique has improved. As I've stated, I've already started on pitching and done two from 40 yards. I need to get out over the winter and get some more from different distances. Add in some skills tests to work on the chipping and bunker play and that area of the game will have quantifiable data to chart progress. Again before we really hit the 2018 season in March I'll invest in a few short game refresher lessons just to hone the technique further. If of course I struggle over the winter then I'll look at this area and some tuition earlier.

I hope the renewed air of optimism an positivity I'm feeling since coming back from the London Club is permeating through. Alas my back has been knackered but I did play in the Pro's Day at my club, Royal Ascot, last Saturday to show my support and because it was off the yellows so a shorter course. I struggled to turn with my back in the first few holes but ended up with a respectable 34 points. As this was the first time trying to put Paul's ideas into practice I thought, given the injury, it was a better than expected return. Certainly there were enough good shots to give me encouragement.



All in all then an end of an era and a start of a new chapter and "The Quest For Single Figures" starts today. Check out the video link of the swings and see where the base line technique is. I think over the months you'll see that shift and improve. Add in the grind on my short game and come next March I'm going to be in a very happy place and ready to hit the season fast. Of course I'll keep you abreast of progress so keep your eye out for new footage on the youtube channel (subscribe and you won't miss anything, especially those of you Stateside) and for more posts on here.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Lesson With Golf Monthly Top 25 Coach (Part Two)

Welcome to the second part of my lesson with Paul Foston at the London Club, courtesy of Golf Monthly. If you read the previous blog, this was a prize on the Golf Monthly Forum (http://forums.golf-monthly.co.uk/).

In the second part here, Golf Lesson With Paul Foston (Part Two) we've just taken a break for a heavy rain shower, but we're back out, and I'm still desperately struggling to implement the changes Paul wants to make to my game. There's an element of frustration creeping in as I can't seem shorten my swing on the way back and on the way through.

As I said in the last blog, the changes are significant and a major inherent flaw I have of always adding six inches to the length of the back swing, which is making the change to a shorter swing very hard. Real and feel are proving two difficult things to align. I'll get there. As you'll see, when the ball isn't there I can get into a great position back and through but put that stupid ball in the way, the brain and body refuse to talk to each other.

It was a frustrating situation for me. Paul was trying to impart some valuable information in a limited time frame. It's not how I usually have my tuition as I tend to block book lessons, so the teaching professional and I have more time to make a change, for me to take these away and work on it, and then present the revised swing back for the next lesson. There was a lot of information Paul was giving me and I understand, trust and respect his input but with the over swing a major barrier, incorporating these so quickly was proving hard, with the pressure of Golf Monthly covering the event, the windy damp conditions, and the glare of the other golfers using the range and wondering who the heck this rubbish golfer was and why he's getting so much attention.

Let me reiterate what I said in my last blog. I wasn't trying to ignore what Paul was doing. It was my own technical inability preventing the change. I've made a conscious decision not to take any tuition for the moment and get conflicting input and advice from my current teaching professional. That isn't taking anything away from what my current tutor is doing, but the advice Paul gave me has made a lot of sense and on the rare occasion I got it right in the video the difference was clear. I simply don't want to many swing ideas and thoughts in my head,

My plan going forward is take the changes and drills from the London Club and work as hard and diligently as I can. The season is drawing to an end and there aren't too many competitions to worry about. I can simply focus on taking the club back on a better path and not outside the line as I currently do and then focus on that troublesome short back swing and flat (or bowed) wrist position. I can't really move onto rotating into impact and then onto the shorter swing until these first two parts are ground in. Don't forget to check part one of the video here Golf Lesson With Paul Foston - Part One to get the full picture of the lesson and what Paul is wanting me to do.

In the last part of the second video, you'll see how Golf Monthly (and other magazines) get the pictures for this instruction articles that appear in the magazine and on their social media content. Again this was something out of my comfort zone and was getting a huge amount of attention from everyone else on the range.

I'd like to repeat my thanks to Jake from Golf Monthly, Paul Foston, Dan the photographer and the London Club for their hospitality. It was a different sort of lesson, but one I really enjoyed. I have a lot to work on but the thing that really excites me is seeing that what Paul wants me to do will make a difference. As a golfer over fifty years of age, this will be a last chance to make the big changes I need to incorporate into my swing if my "Quest For Single Figures" is ever to come to fruition. As ever I'm driven. If you have ever seen any of the short introductions all of my video on my youtube channel (Three Off The Tee Channel) you'll see they all contain one message "A Golfing Obsession".

I am obsessed by the game and trying to be the best player I can. I've often heard the "you try too hard" or you practice too much" or the classic "you're thinking too much" comments. You know what? They may be right but I've always ploughed my own furrow in this journey to single figures and enjoyed the successes and the knock backs have only strengthened the resolve.

What I'll do now is go away with the stuff Paul showed me and grind it away over the winter. I plan to go back down to Kent and to Paul Foston's state of the art studio (Paul Foston Golf Academy) at some point between the new year and the start of the 2018 season to show him where my swing has got to and ask him to cast a keen eye on where I am and suggest how I go forward ready for the next (perhaps final) assault on single figures.

Stay tuned to this blog and the youtube channel for details of my progress. There will also be other interesting video content on the youtube site. While you are there don't forget to subscribe, thumb up the videos and leave any comments you have and I'll make sure I respond,

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Lesson With Golf Monthly Top 25 Coach

Welcome back to the Three Off The Tee blog. As you may be aware, I am an active member of the Golf Monthly Forum (The Golf Monthly Forum Link) and it's a great melting pot to discuss all things golf related (and non-golf subjects). Games are arranged on a local level regularly, and there is an annual Help For Heroes charity day, held at a course always rated in the UK top 100.

Forum members are very lucky that Golf Monthly take a keen interest on the goings on and we are indebted to the editor Mike Harris and his team. We are also fortunate that they provide a number of opportunities for forum members to enter competitions to win places at product tests and many other prizes. They recently ran a competition to give eight lucky winners a chance to have a 90 minute lesson at the London Club in Kent with one of their panel of top 25 coaches (The Golf Monthly Top 25 Teaching Panel).  I was fortunate enough to be selected for a ball striking lesson, having suffered in the last month or so with a big pull left.

On Friday September 29th, I braved the M25 and arrived bright and early to a London Club being battered by strong winds and peppered by squally showers. I enjoyed a lovely breakfast and headed to the range to warm up and await the arrival Jake O'Reilly, the Golf Monthly Technical Writer, a photographer to record the day for a future copy of the magazine and their social media, and my teacher.

I was being taught by Paul Foston, a GM coach with an impressive CV (Paul Foston). I had my wife on hand to film the day for my youtube channel. I've managed to condense 90 minutes of tuition into two videos. The first one, featuring the early shots and Paul's initial prognosis is already up on the channel and I strongly recommend you watch it here to understand what faults Paul saw and how we began to tackle these and move my game forward - London Club Tuition - Part One

As you will see from this first instalment and part two which is going to drop on my channel in a few days time, there's a lot of issues in my game. Perhaps the biggest, and the one that will be the hardest to break is the over swing. As you'll see, feel and real are two different things for me and while I think I've made a short swing, the club continues to travel at least six inches further than I think. This has blighted my game for years and is going to take a lot of work to get the club anywhere remotely in the positions Paul is asking for. Add on the need to stop cupping the wrists, again something I've had since I learnt the game in the late 70's and making the wrist flatter and bowed is going to be difficult.

Until I can make these first two elements into something more in line with what I'm showed in the video I can't move on to address the other issues. This is going to be forming the basis of all my range work in the coming weeks as well as some practice at home, just taking the club away in a less jerky manner, more inside and then stopping correctly with the wrist in the correct position. Slow motion work, rehearsals and repetition is all required.

At the end of the second video I've added a little bonus. If you've ever wondered how a golf magazine gets the pictures that feature in technical and tuition pieces and on their internet content, you'll be able to see what happens.

I hope you enjoy this first video and the subsequent second part coming. It's something very different. Despite the difficult conditions with the wind gusting into our faces, showers (including one that enforced a short break) and cool temperatures, it was a great lesson. I found it hard to take in all the changes Paul wanted to make and while it may seem on film I'm ignoring what I'm being told, the reality is my inability as a golfer to control the club very well and certainly reduce my swing length. As you can imagine, being filmed and coached on a busy range at a top club brought a lot of attention and it was hard, certainly early on, to focus on the job in hand without feeling very self conscious and a host of eyes looking at me and wondering what was going on.

I have a plan to work hard on what I've been shown in the next few months. I've taken the decision not to take tuition from any other local professionals. I have the information and drills from the day to work on and feel any outside input will muddy the waters. The idea is to work on the shorter swing over the winter and then book an hour lesson with Paul at his state of the art studio in the new year, certainly prior to the start of the 2018 season for him to cast an expert eye on progress and refine what I bring to him.

I'd like to thank Paul for all his help, Jake from Golf Monthly, Dan the photographer and my lovely wife for recording it all on film in the wet and windy conditions. A big thanks to the London Club for their hospitality and for Mike Harris for making the forum possible.

I hope you enjoy both parts of these tuition videos. It was a unique opportunity and I hope its some content you'll enjoy. Please subscribe to the youtube channel while you are there, thumbs up the video (youtube loves the thumbs up) and if you have any comments please feel free to put them in the comments box and I'll respond.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Product Review - Vice Pro Plus Golf Ball

Thank you for joining me for another product review. As always, it's an honest, no frills opinion, without any technology and gadgets or affiliation to any of the products being looked at. So what is it all about? Who are Vice and what is the Pro Plus golf ball.

Vice are a German company, founded in 2012, and were designed to bring premium golf balls at a cheaper price, and do so by only selling over the internet and directly to the consumer. They offer some fantastic price breaks for buying in bulk. Don't be fooled, cheap doesn't mean poor quality and Vice claim they perform equally if not better than other comparable balls already on the market.

Vice have five balls in their range:
Drive - 2 piece
Tour - 3 piece
Pro Soft - 3 piece
Pro - 3 piece
Pro Plus - 4 piece

They offer a selection pack (£15.95) which offers a two ball sleeve of each make of ball so golfers can try them all and find one that works best for their own game before committing and placing an order.

I tested their four piece ball the Pro Plus. Now let me make a small confession, I've not been playing a premium ball (four or five piece) for a while now and have preferred a three piece version (AD333 tour or Titleist NXT).

As always, there is a video on my Three Off The Tee Youtube channel and if you want to see how the ball performed on the course, click here (Vice Pro Plus Review - On The Course). As with all my ball reviews, it's my mid-handicap swing, three holes ( par 3, 4 and a par 5) and my verdict. No launch monitor, no technical data. Hit it, find it and hit it again until it goes in the hole.

So what do I think? I had a go at the Pro Plus in lime and white. This is what Vice say about the lime version:
The day glow Neon Lime colour ensures maximum visibility for both the long and the short game. The optimised visibility arises by transformation of the dark or invisible spectral daylight by fluorescence into very bright, long-wavelength visible light. The micro molecular structure of cast urethane is extremely soft but also very resistant. The very thin coating and special adhesion to the green offers the player superbly smooth and on-demand feel of the ball and controllable, high degree of backspin thanks to the S2TG technology.

I have to be honest, I thought the finish looked a little dull, almost a matte finish in both the lime and white version. Not a huge problem and in that manner it reminded me of the Volvik Vivid which I reviewed (Volvik Vivid - 1st review and Volvik Vivid - Follow Up Review). 

Vice say these golf balls are suppose to perform equally as well as the other, more well known equivalent brands, but are a fraction of the cost. As you'll see in the video, my ball striking wasn't the best, but captures accurately the vagaries of being a 14 handicap golfer and the way my swing can change on a daily basis. That is why I feel these reviews offer a unique and unbiased verdict without needing to look at swing data, which for many golfers is of little interest. 

A cut away of the Vice Pro Plus ball showing the four layers
Did they live up to the claim. Well yes, they did. Even though I didn't hit the driver particularly well, the ball still flew a decent distance. It didn't seem to spin overly and so from the tee I was happy. I enjoyed the feel off the irons on my approach into greens. Again, the strike wasn't perfect but the ball performed well and distance wasn't compromised. However, it's around the green I thought this ball really came into it's own. I've been working hard at my short game so was optimistic my pitching and chipping would hold up but I was really surprised and pleased with the amount of control and in particular the spin I could impart. It really did everything I'd expect from a premium ball and more. 

Feel of a putter is perhaps the most subjective and why the selection pack is a great idea, but the Pro Plus golf ball was very soft feeling off the putter face but without coming off the face like a pudding. It gave a pleasant feedback through the face and I was able to control distance easily as I'd expect with other top end balls

As I've done with other ball reviews I'll finish the review by breaking the Vice Pro Plus into various categories and giving a final verdict

Looks
The lime ball in particular wasn't quite as I expected and I thought it was a little dull in the finish. That said it performed well and was easy to see in flight and stood out well against the grass and in the semi-rough. The white was also less translucent than a conventional premium ball but again stood out well enough. 6/10

Distance
As I said earlier, I've stopped using a four piece ball regularly and prefer the distance I can get from a three piece version even if that perhaps compromises control around the green. I felt the Vice Pro Plus was no longer or shorter of other top end balls I've played. Distance is important to me as I'm a fairly short hitter, although I try not to compromise dispersion looking for yards. As a result, I was pleased with the lack of driver spin. 7/10

Flight
I didn't hit too many good shots in the review (my tee shot on the par 3, the 11th at Royal Ascot probably the best) and so it's perhaps hard to be totally objective but I felt the Pro Plus launched low off the driver and was at best a medium trajectory off the irons. While I can see that being an advantage in windy conditions, I, and I'm sure others would prefer to see my irons coming off higher. That all said, the flight wasn't offensive and its mid-flight angle wouldn't put me off buying this ball if I was in the market for this type of ball. 7/10

Control
Around and on the green, this ball excelled expectations. It checked and spun on command and came off the club face with a buttery soft feel. In fact I felt the Pro Plus was softer and more responsive than most of the other four piece balls I've tried. The only ball that was comparable was the Taylormade five piece TP5 offering. The Vice ball performed well on the green as well and my distance control was on point straight away. 9/10

Durability
I only played three holes with these balls and used both the green and white version and I was a little disappointed that there were a couple of scuff marks on both after the test. Granted I hit out of a bunker which adds friction but I've tested other balls and they've kept their looks slightly better. Maybe it was the matte looking finish of the green version. Maybe it was the quality of my strike. It certainly didn't affect performance and was cosmetic. 7/10

Feel
As always this is the most emotive category but one that most golfers seem fixated on. Ask on any forum what ball a person uses and they will give you a make and model and ask why they prefer this ball and most will say "feel".

I liked the Pro Plus off all the clubs and thought it had a pleasant sound, and a soft satisfying feel off the face, even if the strike was away from the centre. It was most satisfying around the green and I liked the way it responded. 8/10

Overall
Aside from a minor gripe about durability and marking up, everything else about the Vice Pro Plus pleased me. I thought it did exactly what Vice wanted to achieve and was every bit as good as the competition. I'll put the link to the Vice website and you can go on for yourself and see the prices for each ball in the range and compare, dependant on the quantity being ordered, the price of these balls and get a feel for how that stacks up



Overall, on a bad ball striking day, the ball did everything I'd expect from a four piece ball and as I keep stressing was exemplary around the green and in that facet of the game is perhaps the best ball I've tried. Vice are rightly proud of their products, their online only business model and their production values (Vice Production). I'd like to try the Pro Plus again on a better ball striking day to see what else I could squeeze out of it in terms of a few more yards off the tee and see if a better strike leads to a better flight. Again it's a small quibble and even given the performance on the day, this was a solid performing golf ball, with arguably a robust price structure to entice customers to buy in bulk. I was very pleased with it and would happily give it a very solid 8/10

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Winter Approaches - An Update

Well it's getting the that time again. The leaves are changing colour, we've had some Autumnal showers and gale force winds and the odd day that suggests Summer hasn't quite left the building. My golf season has busy in the last few weeks both at my club, Royal Ascot and out and about.

So where to start? Well this weekend, I had a monthly stableford. Full of man flu, or a cold as women call it, I struggled. Weak, feverish I struggled but scoring throughout the day was surprisingly poor but my 26 points did nothing but add 0.1 to the handicap. Speaking of which, I started 2017 on 14.0 and as I type this, surprise surprise, I'm exactly 14.0. So what does that say? Well in my own mind, my game is progressing even if the handicap refuses to recognise this. Pitching and short game has come on leaps and bounds (see my last pitching challenge video here A Vast Improvement).  My putting continues to be a bedrock. I do work hard at it. I have a great putting aid (which I reviewed here - No 3 Putt Review)

The car crash holes remain and mentally I remain poor and make too many poor decisions, have poor pre-shot routines and don't seem to have any resilience. Technically, I had a lesson recently and worked hard on turning, not sliding the hips, which is beginning to get the shaft flatter and I am making some good strikes. It's a work in progress and something I'll be taking into the winter.

Last Sunday (24th) I played in a club match at home to Caversham Heath. The club had played the away game earlier in the season and were 4-2 down. I was partnered with a six handicapper, Shaun Franklin who is a great ball striker and always competitive. We were up against a 20 and 17 handicapper and if I tell you Shaun was +2 gross after nine and I was only one over my handicap and yet we were three down you can see what a fickle game match play can be.

To our credit, Shaun and I battled hard. He won the tenth and I won the eleventh and made birdie at the par three thirteenth and suddenly it was all square. We had chances to take a lead but squandered them and went one down at the seventeenth. With both the opponents getting a shot at the last a par was a minimal requirement. Neither of us hit good tee shots but we were helped when one of the Caversham pair lost a ball. Shaun had to lay up and pitched to twelve feet for his fourth. The other Caversham player had also come up short and was faced with a tough pitch over a pond, in front of a packed patio with both sides looking on. To his credit he got it over but had a twenty five foot putt. He'd not had great distance control all day and with the putt downhill and left to right we were still alive. I had managed to hit my second forward and left 184 yards. Normally I wouldn't take it on but I had too and hit an ugly five wood pin high and had putted down to two feet.

I was hoping for an opening from our opponents but sadly he managed to finally find a putt of note and hit it cosily to a foot. We conceded and we lost one down. I have to thank my partner who played well throughout but gave too many shots to two golfers playing well. It happens but he kept plugging away and I tried my hardest to stay in each hole and give him support. Fortunately Royal Ascot had secured a 4-2 win on the day which meant after the home and away games, it was tied 6-6 and so Royal Ascot retained the trophy.

Other than that, I played in a Golf Monthly Forum Help For Heroes charity day at the wonderful Hanckley Common Golf Club and will be doing a full course review very soon. As you will know if you're a regular reader I qualified for the end of season "Masters" having won the Centenary Medal earlier in the season. Two rounds of medal play that didn't go to plan. Still, it was the first time in a few seasons I'd qualified and my 24th place wasn't a total disgrace.

Elsewhere I've enjoyed the normal fun associated with being a golf club member and playing in regular roll up events. My form is still patchy both in social games and in competitive rounds. As I've mentioned the handicap is back to where I started. Where does that leave "The Quest For Single Figures"?

I wrote a while back about my precarious job position and that situation remains. Hopefully by mid-October I'll know where I stand, and whether that ends up being a positive or negative outcome, it'll let me decided how I take this forward. Let me reiterate, and I make no bones for harking back to it, I firmly believe there is a single figure golfer in there. It's been yet another funny old year, a bit like my 2016. Both have involved being hospitalised which has put back any progress and momentum built up over the winter with my practice and lessons. The "Quest For Single Figures" is unfinished business and is something I'll be going back to

I feel my 2017 has actually been half decent. I won a competition, had a second place and have managed to play some new courses. I've managed to get my Youtube channel up and running and have enjoyed producing some content, particularly the product reviews which have been getting some great comments and views. If you've missed the channel (and I've not been subtle pushing it) you can look at it here (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel).

Sadly, it's come to that time of the year when I can't get to the club and get nine holes in and there's only about an hour and a quarter, ninety minutes at most, to work on my game. Autumn is here and the chance to get out after work and use the club facilities in the week is diminishing. That means it'll be the range again for me and everyone else. However at least the course remains in fantastic condition and so weekend rounds are still something to look forward to. We'll soon have laves lying on the ground to contend with, and no doubt the odd ball or two will disappear without trace. Such are the joys of golf in the UK in the Autumn. Mind you from there we go to winter and sodden or frozen courses, temporary greens and the chance of closure through flooding and snow. Let's enjoy what we have now.

I have some ideas on what I want to do over the winter to improve my game and get "The Quest" up and running again. I've spoke about NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and basically finding a way to think better on the course and make better choices. It's an area I've wanted to work on for a while but its something that's drifted onto a back burner. I've been give the name of the Head of Academy at Windlesham Golf Club, Lee Mucklow who specialises in NLP (Lee Mucklow Profile). I am actually very happy with the teacher I've been using and don't really want to confuse matters getting swing tuition from different sources so I need to discuss my needs with Lee and see what he has to offer.

Lee Mucklow - Head of Windlesham Golf Club's Academy and an NLP guru - Can he get my game and mind working?
Going forward I want to work on my Youtube channel and get some great content up. I've a lot of ideas and plans but things really open up once I hit 100 subscribers and I'm tantalisingly close and in the mid 90's. If you haven't subscribed, please go ahead and do so. It's free. Once I hit 100 subscribers not only can I give away the prize from my videos (Martin's Mouthpiece and Competition Time). It's not too late to enter so watch the video's to find out what you need to do. Once I hit the magic 100, Youtube grants more tools for me to make better content. I will definitely be doing some more stuff on the short game, and the pitching challenges and add in some chipping challenges as well.

I feel my swing needs one big fix, to flatten the shaft on the down swing and get it coming in at a better, more rotational angle. Get that right and I feel swing is going to be solid and repeatable.. After that, it's all things NLP and short game.

So there you are, bang up to date again. I hope your own season has given you everything you wanted and if not that you've plans formulating to improve over the winter. Put a comment at the bottom of this blog and let me know how well you've done (or not) and what you're working on. I'd love to know if I'm alone in my never ending drive towards single figures and getting better. There is more to come on here and of course on the Youtube channel so stick around. Winter is definitely on the horizon. Where did that golfing season go?

Friday, 15 September 2017

Product Review - No 3 Putt Hole Reducer

Welcome to another product review. If you've been following my youtube channel, you'll see I posted a video showcasing a fantastic training aid that has been in my bag for a number of years. If you missed it, you can watch the video here - The No 3 Putt Hole Reducer - A Product Review

I've not neglected this blog and it's been a busy time on here. Although I'm trying to grow the youtube channel I still think this blog can stand alone as it has done for a number of years. In my last blog, I asked all the readers to a call to arms to support the channel and tell me what you'd like to see. Please, please read it. It's one of the most important blogs I've posted on here (A Call To Arms). In that blog I promised a detailed review of the No 3 Putt and as a man of my word, here it is.

So first things first, what is it? The No 3 Putt fits snugly inside the hole, without causing any damage, to make the diameter much smaller. The benefit it gives is allowing a player to actually hole putts into a reduced target. It consists of two rings. The outer ring reduces the hole to a 3.25" diameter and with the inner ring it makes the hole much smaller at a 2.50" diameter. This relates to a reduction of 17.25% and 41.20%. This is smaller than the figures I quote in the video. Apologies for the discrepancy. 

The No 3 Putt Hole Reducer - a great training aid I've been using for many years
By using the No 3 Putt it gives the psychological effect of making a standard size hole seem bigger than it actually is. This effect can be very powerful confidence builder on those crucial short putts. Your confidence on the course will improve and in theory will be more likely to make a good putting stroke. 

One of the very first videos I put up on the youtube channel was a "What's In The Bag" which I'll put up again here as I'm sure many of you missed it - My What's In The Bag Video
I did it with a slight twist and it shows some of the practice aids I use regularly when I work on my game on the practice ground and driving range. The No 3 Putt featured in that and as I said in the video, which was definitely no HD and I think filmed on my camera, it had been in my bag for many years.

So how does it work? The name and my description gives it away and you put it in the hole and try and get the ball in the smaller sized cup. Depending on which ring you have in, either the outer or with the inner inserted as well, will dictate to a degree what sort of distance you can work on. From personal experience, I find with both rings in, I can't go much further than three feet, and use it effectively. It really is a small target and it naturally becomes harder the further away you go and anything over that three foot mark ceases to be constructive practice for me. 

I would also advocate finding a relative flat area, especially if you are using both rings as slope will naturally reduce the entry point. In the video I putted from two sides and both had a fractional break and so weren't perfectly flat and that worked well enough. The flatter the better, especially initially works best and will get you using it properly and confidently.

By taking the inner ring out, you are then able to extend your practice range to around the five foot mark. I find the No 3 Putt doesn't tend to work as well over that sort of mark as you're getting the ball running at a degree of pace and it can have an effect on actually getting the ball to drop at speed into that reduced target. However I find five feet more than a challenge. I do find though that with the outer ring, you can introduce more of an element of slop to the practice as well as there is still room to allow the ball to drop. However you do still have to be accurate. Lets be honest, it is a fiendishly tricky aid, and there will be times, especially if the stroke is off or rusty, where it will refuse to drop and anything other than in the centre of the hole will not go in. With both rings it can be soul destroying. Stick with it. Practice is supposed to be difficult, in order to improve technique and I am certain you will find your confidence and technique on the short putts gets better. On the course you'll stand over a short one, especially an important one, and can focus back on your practice and remember how small the hole was, look at this standard sized hole an feel confident you can dispatch it.

As always, I end by rating each product I review in a number of categories and this is no different. 

Looks
The No 3 Putt is very simplistic in design and is simply two rings of white plastic that sit in the hole. However the white edge does definitely help and it does stand out when inserted on the putting green. Even from the five foot area the reduced hole stands out and it is very easy to focus on the smaller target because of the clarity in the white plastic

Durability
This product has been in my practice bag for years and is still in perfect order with no cracks or damage. Its made of strong plastic and tucked away in the side pocket of the bag, it sits there until I need it. There has been no sign of any sort of bend or deviation in the design and it still sits snugly in the hole and offers a flush fit.

Cost
In the video I said I got mine from Amazon but if you search online the No 3 Putt is widely available and will retail in the £12-£15 area. I think for something that can be used a lot over the years, it's little money for a great training aid and is fantastic value for money. 

Effectiveness
The No 3 Putt works on improving confidence and has a positive psychological effect when you step on the course after using it. The hole does look bigger after use and it does give you the belief to go in and make the shorter putts. I've found, almost by accident, that I am forced to make a better stroke on these short putts to ensure I am taking the club back and through on a good line, finding the centre of the putter and starting it on a good line. With the inner ring in particular, there is minimal margin for error and an errant stroke will be found out. 

Patience
I've added this but it's very subjective to each person. The No 3 Putt is a great practice aid but it's one that needs to be used regularly and I feel for at least 20-30 minutes at a time to be effective. It does take patience, especially with both rings in. You can feel you've made a good putt and it'll catch the edge of the reduced hole and won't go in. You have to be very accurate and it can be soul destroying to make putt after putt and not see it drop. What you are doing though is improving, gradually, the ability to find the absolute centre of the hole when you are on the course. 

Even with just the outer ring in, the same applies and while the distances involved may increase, you will see a proportion of well struck putts not dropping. You do have to stick with it and to a large degree, it becomes a bit of a mindset that you need to adopt. You have to accept that you won't see balls dropping, but realise that isn't the sole intent of the No 3 Putt. It's about improving accuracy and installing confidence.

Overall
Like all of the best practice aids, this is very simplistic. It is easy to use and just needs a putting green. Durable, cheap and effective, if you are keen to improve your short putting from that crucial 2-5 foot range then this is a perfect device to assist you. The fact it's been in my bag for years shows the longevity and effectiveness. It works and it works well. As a result I'd give it 9/10 

I hope you enjoyed the review. As always, its an honest view from a mid-handicap golfer trying his hardest to get to single figures and I'm not endorsed by any of the manufacturers making any of the products I review so you get an unbiased opinion. 

To end, I implore you once more (but make no apologies for doing so) to read my "Call To Arms" blog (link here - A Call To Arms) and more importantly, would ask you to make the effort to visit my Youtube channel (again, the link is here - The Three Off The Tee Youtube channel) and subscribe. I think my video product reviews sit perfectly with the written reviews on the blog to give a really rounded review on each product.

Friday, 8 September 2017

A Call To Arms - I Need Your Help

Thank you for reading another blog. This one is very straightforward and as per the title this is a call to arms to support my Three Off The Tee youtube channel which you can find by simply clicking on the link here - The Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel

I am tantalisingly close to breaking through the 100 subscriber barrier and once this happens it opens a host of opportunities to bring bigger and better content for you to enjoy. I know that some of the videos, particularly the product reviews are hugely popular and the one I did on Aimpoint putting, given a very basic over view as a mid handicapper has over 15,000 views (Aimpoint - A Quick Guide). All the other reviews have well over a thousand view each so there has been interest.

If you haven't subscribed already I am urging you to do so as soon as possible. I ran a competition to give away to dozen golf balls of your choice (anywhere in the word). All you have to do is guess my stableford point totals for the rounds I played at Sunningdale on the Golf Monthly Forum Day (The Golf Monthly Forum Day video) and at Captain's Day at Royal Ascot on August 19th.

There are two videos you can register your guess on (listed below). Simply subscribe to the channel (you must be a subscriber to be eligible), give me the cumulative points total for those three rounds and as a tie breaker in case of two winning guesses, how many putts did I take? Put this information in the comments section, along with which make of balls you'd like and once I hit the 100 subscriber mark I'll film the draw and announce the winner. You can go to:

Martin's Mouthpiece - Martin's Mouthpiece Video
Competition Time - Competition Time Video

I have also just added another video for the No 3 Putt training aid (available from Amazon) which is a fantastic aid for working on the short putts and really makes a difference out on the course when you need to make one of those pesky two or three foot putts. As with all my product reviews I'll do a full blog on it in the next few days so you can get a more in depth report. For now though enjoy the video here - The No 3 Putt Training Aid

As part of this call to arms I'd also love to hear your views on the channel, positive or negative and you can leave these on my channel. Looking at my analytics, it appears the product reviews are a firm favourite and you seem to enjoy some of the on course practice vlogs (pitching challenge). The on course vlogs themselves aren't as popular and nor are my "Quest For Single Figure" updates. I understand this and it's one mid-handicappers battle to try and get to his single figure goal and I can see how listening to that story isn't going to be that engaging and nor is watching him chop it around the course.

As loyal readers over the many years this blog has been going (and I thank you so much for the support over this time) you've read about the highs and lows. There have been some fine wins and rounds where it seemed like I've never played before and I've been truly awful. The blog will continue but I do want to focus my attention to the youtube channel. I am confident both can live both separately and together drive Three Off the Tee as a blog/channel

As you'll know if you've watched any of them, all of my product reviews are done without any launch monitors or data, and are solely independent and I try to be representative of a normal mid-handicap golfer. I try and keep them fairly simple and hopefully entertaining and simply tell it as I find it based on my golfing ability on the day of filming. I feel that by doing ball reviews in particular on the course lets me try and show how they perform, even with my wonky swing, it gives a fair an unbiased point of view.

I am looking to shake up my youtube channel and do more content that is going to get the views and the subscribers. This is where you come in, and my call for arms wants you to help me. As mentioned, what would you like to see coming up. I have the following videos about to filmed and released.

Martin's Mouthpiece  - including an interview with an incoming club captain to get an insight into what holding such an esteemed position entails. I'm also trying to arrange an interview with an assistant club pro to see what that job involves. It's perhaps not as easy as many think

Vice Pro Neon golf balls

Volvik SR4 golf balls

As an ordinary golfer, like most of you, I don't always get access to the latest clubs to try (although I am working on this) so I look to review products many may not have considered that I feel are useful and give unbiased views. Is there anything you'd like to see. Tell me where you'd like to see the channel going.

Thanks again for reading this blog and hopefully you'll go over to the youtube channel, subscribe and get involved with the competition. If you can spend a few moments giving your views as well I'd be grateful (and will reply). Your support is greatly appreciated and has inspired me to continue on the "Quest". Single figures will be mine and hopefully it'll arrive in conjunction with a growing and popular youtube channel. Thanks once again. Enjoy the content and I'll be back with that in depth No 3 Putt review soon