Saturday, 8 July 2017

Short Game Practice - 40 Yard Pitching Challenge

I've posted a new video on my youtube channel (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) which is the start of some serious short game work in a bid to kick start the Quest For Single Figures in 2017. This is focusing on pitch shots from 40 yards. It's a real problem area for me. Not a full swing, all feel based and I find it hard to commit to the shot and find a swing speed an length of swing to work effectively on a regular basis

Please feel free to subscribe the channel. It's free to do and once I hit 100 subscribers there will be a great giveaway. While you're there thumbs up the video and please leave some comments under the video on what you think. Is it an area you struggle with? How do you play these shots?

You'll notice a change in technique part way through back to the linear method. I've done loads on this blog about this technique but let me give you a couple of links to click on and take you to these to refresh your memory

I plan to repeat the 40 yard challenge again and again until I hit a target. On the youtube video I said 2/9 holes but I'm wondering if 3/9 (or 33%) is not more aggressive and as a mid-handicapper off 14 would be a pretty tidy number and would smart a few score cards up. 

Once I hit my 40 yard target I'll move around, to 30 yard, an area I find even harder, and then back to the 50, 60 and 70 yard area. I'll also be doing a nine hole bunker challenge too. That should be interesting! Lots of hard work to do and I hope it starts to really make a mark on my game.

Enjoy the video. Hit the subscribe button, the thumbs up button and leave a comment. I'll be back on here soon with more content from the youtube channel, and more product reviews and updates on The Quest For Single Figures

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Take Two - Volvik Vivid Golf Ball Review (Again)

Welcome back to the blog. I've done another video review on the Three Off The Tee Youtube channel on the Volvik Vivid Golf ball which can you can watch here (Volvik Vivid Second Review). Please check it out and don't be afraid to subscribe to the channel. It's free to do and there's plenty on there including video updates on "The Quest For Single Figures" some great product reviews, a video giving a mid handicapper view on the Aimpoint green reading system and there's a lot more coming including what I hope will be an enjoyable and regular feature called "Mouthpiece".

The channel can be found here for your delight (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel).

The reason I've done the second review is because the first one I did (and you can check that video here - The first Volvik Vivid review) was done during a recent heatwave in the UK and the course was bone dry and the greens were firm and not receptive. In hindsight I might have been a little unfair in my initial summary. I did put a full and honest review on the blog as well and in case you missed it please feel free to check it out here (Volvik Vivid Blog Review). As a result I decided to repeat the test once we had some rain and the course had calmed down a bit and the greens were able to take a full shot in. As per the original test, I did it at my home course, Royal Ascot in Berkshire, England, and as per the first review, it was done on a par three, par four and a par five.

On the day, I rushed to the course after hectic day at work and so while the golf may not have been of the highest order, it's representative of a mid handicap golfer who is capable of some good golf and can then chuck some weird and wonderful swings in for good measure as well.

I'll let you enjoy the video and the initial review in your own time. As I said, please subscribe. Once I hit 100 Youtube followers there will be a competition coming so it's well worth doing. If you've played the Volvik Vivid golf ball, please comment at the bottom of this blog or at the bottom of the video and let me know if you agree with my view on how it performed or whether you think my comments are out of kilter with your own findings. Enjoy and I'll see you on here for more stuff coming soon. Play well!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Product Review - Volvik Vivid Golf Ball

Welcome to another product review. As always these are the thoughts of a mid-handicap golfer and are unbiased by any access to launch monitor data and are my opinions derived entirely from playing the ball.

There is also an accompanying video on the sister youtube channel to this blog, also imaginatively called Three Off The Tee (The Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel). Please go over to that to see some footage (and a rocking good tune as the soundtrack to the on course coverage. Check out their Facebook here (Forget The Whale - from three holes at Royal Ascot Golf Club shot in tropical heatwave conditions last Sunday (18th June). I played a par five (the second on the course), par three (the eighth) and a longish par four of 400 yards (the ninth).

You can check out the video review here (Volvik Vivid Ball Review - includes on course testing). As always I'd be immensely grateful if you can subscribe to the channel, thumbs up the video and if you've tried these balls leave a comment about how you found them.

The Volvik Vivid Golf Ball
Now I know these balls have been available in the US for a while now and that Bubba Watson has been using a Volvik on tour (the S4 aimed at higher swing speeds). However they are now only slowly becoming more and more available in driving ranges, club shops and high street retailers over here in England.

So what's the story with these Vivid golf balls. Well the Vivid is just one in a range of Volvik golf balls. They are a Korean based manufacturer and this is their foray into an already crammed golf ball market. There are seven colours in the Vivid range and Volvik are saying they are the world's first matte finished ball. They are a three piece ball and aimed at golfers with slower swing speeds in the 70-90mph category. They claim these balls will give more control in the short game and longer distances off the tee although if I'm being cynical that seems to be the same marketing blurb attached to any new ball released these days.

So what do I think? Well as you'll see in the video I tried the yellow and green incarnations and the first impression is that they live up the name and are certainly vivid even in the matte finish. What I did sense was that the dimples seemed less pronounced than other golf balls and in fact the green one seemed to resemble a table tennis ball at first glance. The yellow one in particular stood out very well and was easy to track in the air and even in the longer grass of the semi-rough. If you're a golfer with eyesight problems it may be that there is a ball in this range that will let you see it better in the air and on the ground. Whether that's a happy by-product of what Volvik are doing or was the intent I'm not sure but they certainly stand out

Of course looks aren't everything as we know with this game. How do they perform I hear you cry. Well to be honest my initial impressions weren't great having utilised the short game area and putting green before going out. Now as you'll be aware, the UK and the south of England has been basking in a heatwave and so the greens were firm. Add in my notoriously consistently inconsistent short game (even utilising the linear method) and I may be doing these balls an initial disservice. There didn't seem to be too much spin imparted and they tended to run out further than I'd anticipated. Add in the variables I mentioned and it was hard to form an objective opinion prior to play

However when putting with them, prior to playing on the course, using the Odyssey O-Works V Line Fang I reviewed recently (O-Works video review) or (O-Work blog review) I found them very dull off the face and very hard to control distance especially on anything in the 10-20 foot range.

You'll see from the video clip (Youtube clip) that my third into the green was a decent enough shot from the semi rough. It was from 154 and even allowing for the hot conditions, the 7 iron I hit seemed to go further. Indeed, the ball landed ten feet short of the green (around the 140 yard mark I usually get for that club) and then ran twenty yards through the green into the back bunker. Had the sand not been there I think there was about another ten yards of roll left so that shot went approximately 165 yards.

Now I know from historic launch monitor data that I have a swing far quicker than the 70-90mph target area Volvik suggest for these Vivid balls (and so often on the cusp of R/S flex in my irons and indeed the I25 I have have been hard stepped as a result) but that is a good distance for a mid handicap 7 iron. Add in to the mix that like the putts before going out, it felt dull (or dead as I say in the video) then it's hard to see where the distance came from. That said, the drives at the first and last of the three holes were both more of a cut than I wanted but both, particularly the last one got good distance off the driver. Now of course there will be added run out from the baked conditions but I was surprised at how well a ball not hit that great (certainly in terms of club path etc) ended up. The only detriment was the dullness off the face

You can't help but notice in the clip that they do seem attracted to sand and I found bunkers on each hole. I played reasonable shots at each but there was little evidence of any spin and they all ran out. That mirrors what I was seeing with pitches and chips on the practice area so I can't say that the Volvik claim of giving more control with these balls held up.

I'm not convinced by the ball at all and definitely in two minds about it. I'm going to keep it in the bag for when we get some softer conditions and see when the greens are more receptive whether I can get any more control over approach shots and the short game and to see whether another putter (my Ping Sigma Wolverine) makes a difference with the firmer insert.

As always with these reviews I'll end by breaking the product into various categories and give a final score.

These balls are definitely strong in the looks department. Vivid by name and very much vivid by nature. Even with a matte finish they are bright. Now as I've already mentioned the dimples don't seem overly pronounced and whether that comes from the finish or is a deliberate manufacturing move by Volvik I don't know. From a short distance away, the green one in particular looked like a small stress ball or table tennis ball and the dimples weren't evident. Even in the picture above taken from the Volvik website itself the dimples are far less discernible. Have a look at comparable coloured Srixon ball and you can see what I mean

Dimples are far more pronounced in this comparison picture of a similar ball. I'm not sure how much the matte finish in the Volvik makes a difference but there is a definitely less pronounced dimple pattern on the Vivid
I like the way the green and yellow versions I tried stood out and if anything preferred the yellow in terms of easiness to follow in flight in bright conditions and certainly against the grass. On the green they seem to stand out against the putter face and I can see how this could inspire confidence over the ball. 7/10

These are clearly designed for golfers with a slower swing speed of mine and Volvik say that it's optimum range is 70-90mph, I am definitely quicker than that. As I've spoken about already though, the distance achieved was noticeable. I do need to either capture some launch monitor data or better still actually pay these in more favourable and receptive conditions and report back. 7/10

Again, Volvik are looking for a medium trajectory from golfers swinging in the optimum speed range. I don't but I did find the ball flying on a rather penetrating and pleasing trajectory. While I prefer a higher flying (and therefore in theory softer stopping) ball this wasn't a bad trajectory at all. Tying this in to the distance and waiting for the inevitable rain in the UK and the course being softened back up a tad I'll be interested to see what results I can get, especially in the crucial scoring zone from 120 yards and in 7/10

Another area in which Volvik make the usual claims that most ball manufacturers make and one that I found hard to reconcile the reality I found on the course, and practice before hand with the claims they made. Certainly in the short game area and on the green where I demand the most from whatever ball I play, I didn't see any check out of sand or around the greens and as I have to keep repeating it's an area that begs repeating in more conducive conditions. However at this time I can only comment on what I felt and observed and this was an area I found the ball lacking in 5/10

Now we come to the most variable and personal of all the characteristics of this ball and I'm aware how subjective this is and so please ensure these comments are my own based on the testing I did and may not correspond to your own experiences.

I didn't enjoy the feel of this ball across any area of the game. I've described the feel as dull or dead and that's exactly how it felt of all of the club faces. The sound even sounded dull and so whether that reinforces this view point is open to argument. It's simply a ball that when it boiled down to it I didn't enjoy hitting and this is something that you can't put down to the dry and warm playing conditions and is something I don't see changing irrespective of how the course may change in different weather. It's an area I find important in picking a ball and never want anything that feels rock hard and pebble like or sounds strong off the face. Even around the short game, I want a ball to give me response through the club face and encourage me that it'll respond as I planned on landing. I didn't get that in any shape with the Vivid 4/10

On the limited testing I did the simple conclusion is that this isn't the ball for me. I liked the colour and to a degree the matte finish and while I didn't pay the ball enough to test durability to any degree there was no significant marking even on the bunker shots. The Volvik Vivid just didn't match what I look for in a ball. I am prepared to repeat the process again in softer conditions but think in most categories the results and overall outcome will stay the same. 6/10

So there you have it. Not a glowing review but I do try and be honest and subjective and have no affiliation to any brand or maker and tailor these reviews as very much an average club golfer with all the limitations my 14 handicap brings.

These balls haven't been in the UK for that long but I know have been out in the US for a while now. I'm interested on hearing your own feedback. Does it correspond to my own or do you think they are a better ball than this review suggests. Please put your comments in the box below or if you watch the youtube video leave a comment there and I'll respond to you.

I hope you enjoyed this and the video version and stick around to the blog and the youtube channel as there is plenty more content coming including some course vlogs and reviews and of course the ongoing "Quest For Single Figures"

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Course Review - Sutton Green Golf Club

Welcome along to another post and another course review. I played at Sutton Green Golf Club in Guildford, Surrey last Saturday (June 10th) in sunny but extremely windy conditions with gusts touching 30mph at times making playing, and playing well a tricky prospect.

If you're a regular reader (and I thank you for your loyalty) you may recall I visited Sutton Green last year to have a short game lesson, using the linear technique, with Gary Smith, a top UK coach and the driving force behind this method of short game play. If you missed the original write up (or need reminding) then this is the review of that lesson (Gary Smith - Linear Lesson). I was mightily impressed with the feel and set up of the place on my fleeting visit and looking out over the course it was somewhere I had been keen to play for a while now.

One of my playing partners actually made the booking, using the TeeOffTimes website (Tee Off Times) and booking in at the professional shop on arrival was a simple and efficient process, brightened by Gary Smith sitting in there enjoying a coffee. He remembered our meeting (not sure that's necessarily a good thing after this length of time) and we had a nice chat about all things linear method. I'd arrived very early for our 1.30 tee time and it was a good job as the A3 was heavily congested in both directions but it did give me time to wander into a well presented clubhouse and enjoy a bite to eat. The menu is fairly standard golf club fare with all the usual favourites. I opted for the sausage sandwich on toasted ciabatta. It was nice although could have been lifted with some fried onions. Never the less, it filled a hole and set me up for the afternoon on the course.

When my playing partners arrived, it transpired he had got the tee time for £28 a head. Now I don't know about anyone else, but that price for a prime time, early afternoon slot in June is very competitive. All it needed now was for the course to be as good as the opening impressions.

We were a three ball and following a rather large society so were resigned to the pace of play being slow. Not a big deal as the sun was out and it was pleasantly warm despite the strong and gusty wind. We were met on the first tee by the club starter, who was very friendly in his approach and gave us an overview of the course, the expected pace of play and a few pointers for the first few holes.

The pleasant clubhouse from the 18th green
The club is still relatively young, having been founded in 1994. The course was designed by David Walker and co-designed by Dame Laura Davies, the top lady professional who has enjoyed worldwide success in her career. It's a par 71 measuring 6,327 off the whites but still provides a mean challenge of the blue tees (tee of the day) at 5,916 yards. It boasts four very long par fives, including the first and last holes, five interesting par threes ranging from over two hundred yards, to a very pretty 125 yard hole perched at the top of the course, The rest are par fours offering a variety of challenges from those being potentially in range off the tee to some that are long, real two shot (or more) holes.

The opening hole was 523 yards off the blue tee and a par 5 but played directly into the strong wind and was going to be a real three shot hole. Taken from the club website:

"The opening hole is along par five designed to allow play to flow freely. Care must be taken with the first two shots to avoid the large trees which protrude into the left had side of the fairway. Two fairway bunkers guard the right side of the fairway. A generous sized green and fairly level putting surface should ensure a satisfactory start to the round"

There is also a video flyover of the hole Sutton Green 1st hole flyover

I hit a decent drive and a well struck hybrid but in the strong wind was only level with the tree in the fairway and some 170 yards short. I hit another good hybrid, slightly left between the path and the left hand bunker, pitched on and made a two putt bogey (net par) for a safe, if unspectacular start.

Water comes into play on a number of holes and first makes an appearance on the second, with a pond short and right of the tee box. The course meanders on and while it gradually climbs uphill, it is not a hard walk. The fourth is a quirky dog leg left, at forty five degrees and the tee shot is played forward towards a large tree in the fairway that needs to be avoided and then it's a simple shot with a mid-short iron in.

After a pleasant par three, the sixth from the high point of the course is a real scenic hole sweeping downhill and from left to right and a good drive with a fade leaves a very short approach in. It plays rather short but is perhaps a lull before the exam to come. The next is a very long hole, in fact the longest on the course and even off the blue markers comes in at 540 yard. The drive is very tricky with thick trees and rough right of the hole and the left hand side of the hole is protected throughout by out of bounds. Off the tee there is a little more room than it appears when standing there looking out on the hole. It then requires another lusty blow uphill and another into the green. Again, this played into the gusty wind and I hit one of my best drives of the day, a decent five wood and still had a five iron left. The right of the hole is protected by fir trees which my approach found and I had to work hard for my bogey (net par). The next offers little respite and is a par four to a sloping fairway and an equally undulating green.

Sutton Green Golf Club scorecard
The ninth is the signature hole with water in play off the tee on the right and again to the right of the green. It is no pushover at 378 yards to another green that slopes front to back. I hit a drive and seven iron to ten feet and was happy to walk off with my par. Adjacent to the green is a halfway hut for those needing a pick me up after the opening half.

The back nine also starts with a par five that plays over five hundred yards. It has a large lake to the right of the fairway and trees down the left and from an elevated tee there isn't much landing area to aim at. With the wind blowing directly towards the water, it was perhaps no real surprise all three of us fed the fish and deposited our tee shot to a watery grave. I struggled my way along the hole to the green. This is a real elephant graveyard of a putting surface. Very undulating and in contrast to the greens on the front nine that had appeared much flatter in comparison. The hard work continues with a long par three measuring 213 yards off the tee of the day to a green protected by trees and needing a very accurate wood or long iron to thread the ball onto the green.

There is a chance to attack at the next and is in range for some. I took driver but carved my tee shot way left towards the tee box on the next leaving a totally blind shot of 119 yards over trees and thick rough. I managed to find the green and make par but definitely didn't play it the way the designers envisaged. After another long, uphill par three the fourteenth is another visually pleasing hole. Again there is water in play off the right and comes into play again by the green, cutting into the putting surface and making it essential to play to the heart of the putting surface.

The 16th is another visually spectacular hole. A mid length par three, there is water the entire left hand side of the green and behind. I have to be honest I hit a really scabby 6 iron and thinned it, with it going no more than head high but it was straight and so to the consternation of my playing partners found the putting surface and nestled ten feet from the hole. Their well being was diminished even further when I holed my putt for a nice birdie.

The view of the 16th green where danger lurks left and long
The course closes with the last of the par fives. Again there is water lurking for a tee shot wandering right and there is a bunker protecting the left hand side. From there the holes sweeps down to a green situated in front of the clubhouse patio ensuring the golfer will usually have an audience watching their final acts. I missed the green in regulation but hit a decent chip to six feet under the scrutiny of the masses of the society that had played in front of us. I missed the par putt but a six (net par) was a nice way to close the round.

All in all my two partners and I had a pleasant day out bu how would I rate it? As always with these reviews, they are strictly impartial and based solely on my own findings

Course Layout and Condition
As I said at the very beginning this is a course I'd wanted to play for a while. While it's long in places, especially the par fives, it is a reasonably easy walk with no real inclines to endure. I liked the layout and the feel of the holes. There were a couple of holes that will split opinion, especially the sharply dog legging 6th, but in general terms what you see is what you get from each tee.

The back nine definitely felt as though it played much harder than the front and the greens in particular were far more undulating and difficult to putt on. I found the pace of the greens very slow, and many putts came up 4-6 feet short. Given the time of year I thought these would have been quicker but the actual condition of the putting surface is very good (but need to be faster). Sutton Green does have a lot of society golf on it which may explain the need for them to be a little longer. There is a distinct difference in the contouring of the greens and those on the front nine are flatter than those on the back nine.

The quality of the tee boxes was reasonable. They were all relatively flat and grassy. It's a real bugbear of mine standing on a tee that has dips, hollows and slopes on it but these were all well presented. There was nothing hidden from view off the tee and so what you see in front of you is what you get. No nasty surprises.

It's a pleasant parkland course with many mature trees, some of which definitely come into play on fairways or protecting greens. In the main, the rough is a reasonable length meaning that an errant shot should be found although making clean contact isn't a given. There are a few areas where it's much thicker and harder to find the ball but that's the same on most courses. The playing conditions were hard with a very strong breeze so it definitely played harder than the card. That said, it never felt like a slog.

The pace of play was very slow and it took around 4 1/2 hours to get around. The card reckons it should be a four hour round but given the size of the society in front, and the ability (or not ) of some of them, the pace was always going to be pedestrian. Pace may have benefited from an on course marshal moving things along but I think had we not had the society to deal with we'd have been very close to the four hour mark.

Score - 7/10. I only marked it down because of the speed of the greens which I thought was an issue. They could only have been 7 on the stimp meter at most and everyone in our group struggled to get the ball to the hole. Had they been quicker this would definitely have been an 8/10

Value For Money
As mentioned this was booked via a third party website and only cost £28 for a weekend round and would be cheaper still in the week. It is possible to book online via the club website. Whether this offers a cheaper rate or not I'm not sure but either way I thought it offered very good value for money. With the conditioning (green speed not withstanding) of the course it was very well priced.

Score - 9/10. Top value

Sutton Green has a large putting green outside the clubhouse, adjacent to the first tee and has a short range facility measuring about 120 yards (from where Gary Smith does his short game tuition) and there are two warm up nets. The professional shop is an open plan facility as you enter the clubhouse. There is a separate visitor changing room and it offers a limited number of lockers for hire on the day. The bar area is well appointed with a number of lagers and real ales on tap as long as a reasonably priced food menu. The food I had was well cooked and very nice (needed some onions!!!). The seats are comfortable and with a large patio as well the golfer has a nice environment to enjoy a post match drink and discuss the proceedings. There is also a large dining room for society and function use

Score 7.5/10. It would be nice if there was a range or longer warm up area to stretch the muscles before playing but that's a minor gripe from myself and not the fault of the club as I could see that space for such a facility is severely limited. The visitor locker room was small but well appointed and I am always happy when a club offers a locker service to visitors.

This is always a very important aspect. I'm sad to say even in this day and age, so many clubs seem to want to take your money but don't make you feel welcome. I'm pleased to say this is far from the case at Sutton Green. Everybody my partners and I met were very welcoming and helpful. In particular, the starter was very good. With a large (30+) society going off in front of us, he did a magnificent job of not only making everyone feel welcome on the first tee but ensured everyone got away and moving as quickly as possible.

The welcome in the pro shop was also positive. From a personal perspective it was nice to see Gary Smith again but the professional behind the counter was helpful and co-operative. Post round, the welcome we got in the bar after was very warm and the bar staff were quick and attentive and served with a smile on their face. All in all there is a real warm feeling at Sutton Green and they clearly work hard at making a visitor experience as positive as they can.

Score - 9/10. A fantastic visitor experience and we were made to feel very welcome

OVERALL - 8/10. Perhaps a tad harsh and only marked down on the speed of the greens. When I return, and I certainly will be, if these were to be better and faster, I'd have no hesitation in raising my overall score to an impressive 9/10

Sutton Green Golf Club doesn't have any pretence and isn't trying to compete with other, older and more famous clubs in the Guildford or Surrey vicinity. It knows what it is and what it is trying to do and is a members club, offering visitors the chance to come and play that has found it's niche and is very comfortable there. The course has clearly matured in the years since opening and is a fair test for all abilities.

All in all then a very, very nice place to spend an afternoon playing. I wish the wind hadn't been such a factor but having spoken to my playing partners I would think we'll be returning again very soon and hopefully will enjoy a fine summer day on the course. If you are in the Surrey area and the Woking/Guildford area and fancy a game then you could do a lot worse than try this place out.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

End Of The Road - Or The Start Of The Journey

"Always make a total effort even when the odds are against you" - Arnold Palmer

So why the inspirational start? I had this blog already written and it wasn't going to be a good one. There has been a lot going on personally away from the "Quest For Single Figures" and it was going to begin to have an impact on the amount of golf I could play and certainly the amount of practice I could do.

While this was never going to be the end of "The Quest" it did mean flipping everything on it's head especially in terms of the golf swing and a requirement to change everything to compensate for a condition that had worsened since I was hospitalised last year and which has begun to have a negative impact on my balance and therefore making a consistent and in particular a stable swing difficult. It's not every shot but it's like a ticking bomb waiting for the swing where the balance goes as I hit it. Looking back since speaking with the consultant, it has made sense and looking deeper into some of my statistics and especially my errant and most destructive shots, with the driver and the longer clubs, balance was definitely an underlying factor and I can definitely remember coming "out" of shots or struggling to turn through it and hold a decent finish.

I'd spoken in the recent blogs about changing to a teaching professional I'd used previously, a guy called Rhys ap Iolo at a local driving range. He had got my handicap from 14 down to tantalisingly close to the single figure target and I'm hoping for a second dose of success.

In my last video on the sister Youtube channel to this blog, the latest "Quest" update (May "Quest For Single Figures" update) and in a recent blog here (May "Quest" update) I spoke about a fundamental change to my wrist position from a cupped position I'd used since I began golfing back in the 1970's to something far flatter. Indeed in the blog on here I illustrated the position with pictures of Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson as role models of where I want to get the wrist position. The logic behind this as I discussed was to get me turning better and more importantly getting the club coming in much shallower which will in part compensate for some of the issues that have blighted my golf.

I had resigned myself to the handicap increasing before Rhys and I got things totally under control and indeed after playing two rounds over the recent Bank Holiday in the Stone Cup (a stableford competition at Royal Ascot Golf Club) the scores of 30 and 28 points respectively ensured the handicap rose by another 0.2 from 14.3 to 14.5 and finally toppled over to 15 and a shot further away from where I need to be

It isn't for want of trying and I've really adopted Mr Palmer's mantra and have really been making a real effort to encompass the change to the wrist position and in practice have really seen and felt improvement in the way the body reacts in the swing. I've tried hard not to let the balance issues become a convenient excuse and I am bigger than the problem. So what? It's a valid question as I've not managed to take anything onto the course on a regular basis as my Stone Cup results show.

Of course, if you've followed my many years of rambling on here (and I am eternally grateful for your continued support) that last predicament is a recurring theme and taking changes to a course and playing well on a regular basis has been an issue. I've often strung a number of good holes per round together only to undo all the good work with a number of real car crash holes. Never the same hole (well perhaps our par three sixth, one that is a real nemesis) and never the same shot (drive, approach shot or pitch).

What is the point to all this? Well as the title hints, was this the end of the road? As I've already said, not a chance. The stubborn golfer in me refuses to let this or any set back prevent me believing in my ability to get to single figures, if not this season then at some point in the future. Is it the start of the journey? Well not really. I actually feel this has begun already, from the news the balance may continue to worsen to the change to the wrist position and the benefit this is having on the position on the down swing and quality of ball striking. Hardly a new dawn or a phoenix like rise but definitely a punctuation mark in proceedings and perhaps a time to pause, draw a breath and reflect.

Yes, there is the potential that my balance issue will worsen further but I'll find a way of making the swing work. Look at the very best, not just on tour, where there are many different swings, but particularly at your own club. Look around those off single figures wherever you play and you'll see there are some very good swings, but also some that look like a golfer fighting an octopus as they swing but they find a way to not only hit the ball consistently, but to make a score. There lies the difference. On my good days I can play well but on the ones where timing and strike is off I don't have the armoury to make a score.

Indeed it has come to a head and I spoke before of actually walking off the course when I was having a particularly bad day. Something I wasn't proud of and hoped it would be a one off. Sadly last Saturday (3rd June) it happened again and after a string of holes where I lost a ball off the tee enough was enough. I wasn't having fun and by the time I got home I'd hit real rock bottom and really didn't want to continue with golf, let alone "The Quest" and was about to pull out of the competition on the Sunday (4th). Sorry Mr Palmer but sometimes making a total effort seems way too hard and giving up is by far the easier option.

Sometimes, fate takes a turn and planets align. I had a text from a couple of members at the club asking if I wanted to play on the Saturday afternoon. Going back to the club and back on the course was perhaps the last thing I wanted to do but they stressed it was about hitting a silly white ball around a field. No pressure. Just hit the bloody thing and have some fun.

"That's what we've been saying for ages you idiot". I can hear you all saying it already and I'm way ahead of you. I took a punt, putting a lot of very grubby old balls into the bag. There were some issues and bad shots (and yes I lost a ball at the bloody sixth hole again) but there were actually some good ones too, especially with the driver. I didn't keep count. Suffice to say I didn't pull out of the competition, the club's Centenary Medal.

When you finally get your golfing rewards!!!!
Are you sitting comfortably? I've some uplifting (perhaps even shocking) news. In tricky conditions, with a strengthening wind, I somehow cobbled a round of 83 (net 68 off my new 15 handicap) and won division two of the medal. Let me say that again. I won division two of the competition.

June 2017 Medal Statistics

Of course when you carve your first ball way left of the ninth green never to be seen again and start with a treble bogey you assume it's another one of "those days". While I played my way back into the round gently, another snap hook at the bloody 6th (AGAIN) and another lost ball for a double bogey, and it looked as though I'd be fighting for a buffer zone at best. However the putter was behaving. I'd switched to the Odyssey O-Works V-Line Fang I reviewed a while back (O-Works Youtube Video Review) or if you prefer a written version (O-Works V-Line Fang Blog Review) and as we know a good putting round can hide a host of misdemeanours.

Luck was to play a part, in particular on the 14th where I pulled a tee shot towards a copse of trees and thick grass. It wasn't readily available on first inspection and we dutifully called the group behind through. As they walked up, there was a ball sitting innocently on the fairway. As they passed on, it was still there and as I was running out of my allotted search time I rushed over. Lo! There it was, in the middle of the fairway (and good for the fairway in regulation stats). Too far to go for the green but considering where I'd hit my provisional (also left and in deep grass and not looking too inviting) this was massive. Add in a rare birdie on our 218 yard penultimate hole thanks to a snaking right to left fifteen footer after hitting the green and you have to wonder what the golfing gods are doing. Up the last I couldn't take on the green on the 511 yard hole in regulation so laid up well wide of the pond to the right of the green. As the wind was blustery, a sixty yard chip and run was the order of the day. As it happens, conditions were hard and CSS (competition standard scratch) went up to 71 and so my net 68 (-2) was good for a 0.9 cut and I'm back down to 13.6.

However do you know what, I wasn't happy. Two lost balls, including that damn sixth which is becoming a real problem hole and on another day with a colder putter that would have been well over the buffer zone. I didn't hit the ball well and 42% of fairways and just 11% of greens in regulation, tell a story. Still from walking off twenty four hours earlier to a win it's Zero to Hero. I hit the ball far better in the roll up game on the Saturday afternoon especially off the tee but a win is long overdue for the work I've put in and the cut gets "The Quest" moving in the right direction again.

If you're still with me (and a big thumbs up if you have made it this far) then I hope it was worth it for the good news and the win. It also qualifies me for the "Masters" an invitation only 36 hole medal event for competition winners in the qualifying period. It's been at least three (maybe even four) years since I last qualified and so it's good to be back. I need to get a lesson with Rhys booked in to continue our work and get the swing and in particular the balance issues working even more effectively. It's definitely coming. I can see it. I can feel it. The daft thing is once the car crash holes (and yes that's the 6th in particular amongst others) are history then there's a regular good score in there and some low ones. to come.

That brings me to my last (honestly) piece of news which is I'm going back to the IGolfApps site and the NLP Golf downloads which is designed to seep deep into the sub-conscious and improve my thinking. It's an area that has been on my radar for a while but other things have got in the way. Now I can see the need and don't need to be working "so" hard on the swing so can find the time. Whether this will make any difference or not I'm not convinced but nothing ventured and all that.

And that dear reader is the latest, somewhat good news from my "Quest For Single Figures". I still need to follow the words of Mr Palmer but I think I'm getting there and the win last weekend (that sound so good) validates my belief in my ability.

Be sure to stick around for more stuff coming soon including course reviews from New Zealand Golf Club and both the Old and New courses at Sunningdale Golf Club. If you haven't already, please check out the Youtube channel (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) and watch the content and more importantly subscribe to get regular updates, thumbs up the videos you like and leave any comments. I will respond. Until the next update, happy golfing.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Quest For Single Figures - May Update

Welcome along to another blog and an update on the "Quest For Single Figures".  This is the May Update (yes I know May is nearly over!) and as usual there is a video on my Youtube channel to accompany it which you can also view here ("The Quest For Single Figures" - May Update)

You may remember from the last video update I did on "The Quest" (April Video Quest For Single Figures) there was some good news to end with and the handicap had taken a small cut from 14.4 (dangerously close to going over to a 15 handicap) back to 14.1 (and breathing space). Good times.

Since then there have only been two qualifying competitions I've played in and to be brutally frank with you dear reader neither were very good. This has led to a major change (more of which later) and the outcome of which contributed to the performance in the second of these qualifiers (are you still with me?).

The first of these qualifiers was the monthly stableford. This was a dire affair and I accumulated a paltry 29 points. That could have been a lot worse after struggling to a meagre 12 points going out before finding a modicum of form on the way back with 17 points despite an annoying double bogey and no points at the thirteenth. All I got from my day was a 0.1 increase and a feeling of frustration when looking at the chalk and cheese front and back nines.

May 2017 Stableford Statistics

This brings me to the monthly medal (The English Golf Qualifier) and it was approached with more than a normal level of trepidation. There was good cause for this as I explained at the beginning of my recent video (Royal Ascot Vlog) on the accompanying Three Off The Tee Youtube channel to this blog (My Youtube Channel). If you haven't already, please go over to it, subscribe, thumbs up the video(s) and make any comments you may have.

Coming off the back of a lesson (again more of which later) and a solitary bucket of balls at the range, I needed the nine holes on the vlog to try and make the change feeling natural before the medal where there would be no hiding place. Alas as the footage reveals the change was there in practice but went missing in action in the actual swing. More work and more frustration.

And so dear reader, my first tee nerves I felt as I pegged the ball up (and of course I'd be drawn first to play in the three ball and had to lead off) were perhaps rightly justified. I got the first shot away, and almost hit the green on the 229 yard opener. I didn't. For those of you that follow these ramblings regularly there is an ongoing issue with chipping. On this occasion I wanted to hit a seven iron chip and run, landing on the front foot or so of the green and running up to the flag at the back. I executed well. Too well and it rocketed off the face and over the back. Despite a valiant first effort to two feet it was a double bogey to start and a pattern set early of unforced errors.

On the plus side, I was working really hard on the mental side, and really focusing on the practice swing to feel the move I'd worked on and then picturing the shot from behind the ball and picking my target (and yes all done quickly so pace of play wasn't affected!!). It seemed to be working and while I couldn't see the swing in action, at least I was hitting fairways regularly and in fact set a personal best on the front nine of hitting 6/6. However this alone wasn't enough to guarantee a good score and solitary 1/6 greens in regulation perhaps offers a more telling reason why I went out in 45 (+10) or three over my handicap for the front nine.

A par, par start on the back nine (including a sand save on the par three eleventh) had me right back in it and the swing seemed to be holding up under a degree of pressure. I hit an iffy drive at the twelfth which led to a momentum stopping double and lost another shot to handicap at the thirteenth (186 yard par three - stroke index 17). Still only three over handicap and in good shape to threaten the buffer zone.

May 2017 Medal Statistics

From there though the game imploded in instant and dramatic fashion. I hooked a drive left on the thirteenth into deep, deep rough. I played a provisional and repeated the shot with aplomb. I found the second, in an unplayable lie and after a penalty drive, several swings of the club, I walked off the hole with a nine on the card. A carved second at the next, a par five looked to be heading to even more deep rough but I managed to just send it far enough to reach the semi rough on the sixteenth and cobbled an unlikely par. A double at the next from the middle of the fairway, a triple at the seventeenth courtesy of a lost ball off the tee on the 218 yard par three. I found the fairway at the last (and would eventually hit a 10/12 in total) but still managed to put myself out of position to finish with a closing bogey. When all added up I'd shot a net 80 (+10) and managed another 0.1 to push the handicap back to 14.3

So where does this leave "The Quest"? A very good question and I'm glad you asked. It brings me to my first bit of news and the first major change. I have decided to change teaching professionals and have gone back to Rhys ap Iolo at Downshire Golf Centre. If you trawl through the blog archives you'll know I use to have lessons with him and he actually got my handicap down from 14-10 over a two year period and I'm hoping he can repeat the feat.

I'd like to start by thanking Andy Piper for all his help and patience to date. I'm still using him for a little while longer, essentially to work on the short game as I've already paid for some lessons and want to use these up. I have been happy with the work we've done, blighted as it was this winter and last by some serious health issues on my behalf, and really feel there have been some positive and long lasting changes, especially in terms of set up and address. However, I also felt that as the handicap had stagnated and not improved (and again the underlying and on going health problems haven't helped) and it was time to freshen it up. I trust Rhys and only went to Andy Piper for the same reason, a fresh view (and off the back of good word of mouth feedback).

I've had two lessons so far. One was to stop a case of the socket rockets and was urgently needed before the next scheduled game (which wasn't great but certainly no road crash and not a hosel rocket in sight). The second, which I've alluded to already has brought about a major swing change and is the second piece of big news I mentioned (and you thought this was simply tossed together!!!)

One of the issues I've had since starting my golf as a ten year old kid is a cupped wrist. Over the years this has led to a number of issues and since working with Andy Piper is something I wanted to work on. Unfortunately with what I presented to him, it was necessary (at least in his opinion) to sort other stuff first but we'd just started to work towards it. My point is, Rhys thinks it's actually a root cause of a lot of my swing woes, especially in terms of getting too steep, over the top and cramped for space and would be happier with the odd address and posture issue to get this wrist situation sorted first.

In our second lesson, we've really worked on getting a flat (a la Sergio Garcia), nay bowed left wrist (a la Dustin Johnson).

Sergio and his textbook flat left wrist
We had the launch monitor on and I was struggling to get a seven iron out around 130 yards and the the ball was initially going both left and right. As we began work on going from a cupped position to a straight/bowed one, the results were instant. Distance went out towards 145-150 yards and dispersion improved. It is designed to get me into a tighter position at the top (and will in time reduce an over swing I have) and more importantly allows me to sequence and execute the downswing better without starting with a huge move outside and over the top. I am working on a feeling of getting to the top and then letting the arms simply drop (and fall naturally from an inside position) as I simply rotate the body. Sounds so easy doesn't it?

Dustin Johnson and his bowed wrist position highlighted
This is really a work in progress and while the DJ position isn't textbook and perhaps unique to him it (and Sergio's) are the benchmark I am trying to achieve. As said, sadly it hasn't fed into the real swing yet and as the medal showed, the swing is still capable of malfunctioning. I have a very long way to go, and while I don't envisage Rhys and I trying to re-invent my swing totally this is something big and hard to change after 35 years of playing but which will form a bedrock of what we want to do going forward. Having had a solitary practice session post medal round, the change is having an affect. It's still alien, especially with a driver or longer irons but the more I get more Dustin like the better the quality of strike I seem to have. There is still issues, especially in path and presenting the face to the ball and so huge hooks are evident, and I still try to default of some swings to my old cupped position usually hitting a weak shot right.

And there you have it. The May update for the "Quest For Single Figures" done and dusted and while the playing side of things would seem to be a case of the same old, same old, the other changes have left me very excited going forward. I have a pitching lesson with Andy Piper booked for the 26th (as part of the outstanding, pre-paid lessons) and so that will start to fix the short game woes that still blight the game.

As always, there seems a lot going on. The cynical amongst you will no doubt argue I'm changing too much in my swing again. Maybe, but as always I have a rock steady belief of a single figure golfer waiting to be unearthed inside me and this is my way of doing this. Certainly the over the top move and cupped wrists were doing my game no favours, certainly in terms of consistency and so this big change of wrist position is the first part of the latest chapter. If Rhys can get me to 10 once he can do it again.

I'm really engaged with my game again and as you'll see from the May video while there's a lot of work still to do, the early signs are good and the strike is far better. I'm taking the right side of the course out of play more often (although not totally) and while the bad ones are now massively left, contact is better. Dispersion is tighter (no really!) and the ball flight is much higher (and so lands softer). I am getting there. It's taking a damn sight longer than I ever envisaged but I'm getting there.

As we're into the heart of the golfing season I hope you are all playing well and if you're on a similar journey to my own, or your own golfing odyssey, please comment and let me know how you are getting on. Whatever you're doing golf wise I hope you are playing well and enjoying it. I@ll see you soon for another blog.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

On Course Video Log - Royal Ascot Golf Club

Welcome back. I have uploaded a new course vlog for you to enjoy filmed last Friday (12th May) at my home club, Royal Ascot Golf Club. This was filmed two days after a lesson with Rhys ap Iolo at Downshire Golf Centre. I use to have lessons with him a few years back and he got my handicap down from 14 to 11 and I hope he can repeat the trick again.

We are already making significant changes including getting rid of a cupped wrist after thirty plus years of playing for something with much firmer and ideally a little bowed. However this is a hard habit to crack and as you'll see after the lesson, just one basket at the range and then out onto the course, it hasn't fed into my swing yet and is a work in progress, I was in the monthly medal on the Saturday and wanted to make sure I had taken the swing (such as it was) onto a course first.

I hope you enjoy it here in all it's glory (Royal Ascot Golf Club vlog) and keep an eye out for a furry visitor to proceedings. If you like what you see, click on the subscribe button, please thumbs up the video and if you have any comments please leave them on here or on the youtube channel and watch out for a more great content to come on the Three Off The Tee youtube channel (Three Of The Tee Youtube Channel) that runs in conjunction with this blog.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Aimpoint Express - A Video Guide

I've just added a video to my Three Off The Tee youtube channel which shows a basic Aimpoint green reading technique (Aimpoint Express video). This is in response to a number of queries I've had, not only from members at my club at Royal Ascot, forum members on the Golf Monthly Forum (Golf Monthly Forum), Let me make one thing clear. It is not an instructional video. I am a fourteen handicap golfer but it is my interpretation of a simple green read to show you the process, and hopefully dispel one myth, that it's much slower than a conventional method of green reading. It isn't and is proven to be more accurate when done properly.

I've written about Aimpoint before on here and you can check this out here:
Aimpoint Express blog

If the video interests you enough to consider looking at it further I've attached a link below to find a clinic in the US and there is also a link to Jamie Donaldson's website so UK based readers can contact him (or via his social media) to find out where and when he's holding classes. I know he uses both Woburn and Brocket Hall but I also know he does travel to other clubs too.

Find a clinic in the US

Jamie Donaldson's UK website

I hope you find the video interesting and it gives you an idea of how it works and how effective it can be. Please subscribe to the youtube channel, give the video a thumbs up and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to put them in the comment segment and I'll read them and make sure I respond to you

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Product Review - Odyssey O-Works V-Line Fang CH Putter

Odyssey have been producing tour quality putters for many years and there latest release, the O-Works continues that legacy but also in their own words, introduces "a new way to roll" with micro hinge technology.

In the UK there are numerous models split between bladed and mallet models. In the blades there is their #1, #1 Tank, #1 Wide, #2 and #9. In the mallet section they have #7, #7 Tank, R-Line, R-Line CS, V-Line Fang CH, and the famous 2 ball.

So what is this micro hinge technology? In essence they are tiny hinges on an insert moulded onto an elastomer face that Odyssey claim spring back when they make contact with the ball to impart top spin which they claim leads to the ball rolling better on the green with less skidding. Apparently the handicap golfer tends to impart too much back spin on their putts whereas the top players are able to get their putts running with more top spin. This is a link to what Odyssey have to say and why they are so excited about micro hinge technology (Odyssey Micro Hinge Technology)

If you saw my last review on the Ping Sigma Wolverine putter (Ping Wolverine Putter Review) you'll know I prefer a larger mallet type putter so I was excited to be able to test their V-Line Fang CH. Now the Fang style of putter has been around for many years now and this latest version has the Odyssey Versa colour scheme and a distinctive red line on the top to really ensure the putter is correctly lined up.

I've done a video to show the putter in action on my Youtube channel running in conjunction with this blog. I've attached a link to it here (Youtube Review). While you'll there, make sure you subscribe to the channel to get ongoing reviews, updates on "The Quest For Single Figures" and on course video logs. Don't forget to thumbs up the video as well. If you have any thoughts on this video please feel free to leave them in the comments box and I'll read each one and respond.

The Odyssey O-Works V-Line Fang CH Putter featuring Odyssey's Versa Alignment

As a mid-handicap golfer, and without access to technology like SAM Lab to measure the quality of my strike and more importantly the spin characteristics I impart, it's difficult to give a definitive tell for certain how much the micro hinge technology actually helped. What I do know is that there was no discernible difference between the premium ball I used (Srixon Z Star XV) and the firmer model, the Srixon AD333 Tour and both felt equally soft off the face.

As I said in the video, as a mid-handicapper I am not overly convinced micro hinge isn't a little gimmicky. I've been a fan of Odyssey putters for many years and have had both milled and insert faces. Odyssey have always produced decent inserts, although some have felt firmer than others, but in my mind, why change a winning formula?

All of the O-Works putters come with their new Superstroke Counter Core Grips (featuring a weight in the grip) and my putter came with their Pistol GT Tour model that has a lovely flat front and is rear stitched. It's lovely to hold and sits beautifully in the hand.

I putted from two feet, five feet and fifteen feet and it did perform really well. I really enjoyed it and although not overly sold on the new micro hinges, there is no doubt it produces a really soft feel off the face and I did find distance control easy to manage. Since the video, it has been out on the course with me for several rounds and I recorded 33 and 30 putts and holed a number of decent length putts. On the shorter ones, the Versa colour scheme really did make it easy to line up and it certainly inspired confidence.

The face of the O-Works V-Line Fang CH Putter and one of the most funky head covers I've seen
As per my last putter review, let me break the Odyssey O-Works V-Line Fang CH Putter (note to Odyssey, it's not a catchy title) into a number of sections.

Looks - It's not as big as some mallet putters, but it's not a shrinking violet either. The Versa colour scheme is subtle but the red line on the top stands out perfectly and really promotes confidence behind the ball 9/10

Grip - As mentioned I had the Pistol GT Tour grip. Despite it having a weight inserted (and which isn't removable) it doesn't make the grip feel heavy or uncomfortable and didn't really seem to influence my stroke or made a difference. I have to say that the Superstoke grip really does sit in the hands well and it's easy to make a solid, firm and meaningful grip without ever feeling like you need to grip it tightly 8/10

Alignment This is one of the O-Works strongest suits throughout the range. In the Fang CH I had the colour scheme worked exceptionally well and the ball was easy to aim correctly at the hole. This is the first Odyssey putter I've had with the Versa colouring and I really like it. I have an old White Ice #9 in an old back and it's rather plain metallic finish and white insert look rather plain in comparison to the bold Versa colouring. That said it's distinctive without being intrusive 9/10

Feel - As mentioned while not sold on the micro hinge technology completely it undoubtedly provide a soft feel but never pudding like or overly so and there was never any fear that the ball coming off the face would lack sufficient pace (subject to my strike). It was impossible for me to distinguish between the premium and firmer ball but neither felt they would fly off the putter 8/10

Stability - Although not a massive head in the world of mallet putters it's still a very, very stable putter. Whether there is any correlation between the weight in the grip and those on the sole, I can't say but I'm sure that has to have been in Odyssey's design plans. On long or short putts, it felt very solid and my relatively back and through stroke seemed at home with the design and there was no feeling of twisting 8/10

Price - The V-Line Fang I tried appears to come in around the £169 mark for most of the models in the range although the two-ball versions are retailing for an additional £20 and come out at £189 (in the UK). These are still relatively new to the market and while there will no doubt be the odd bargain to be had here and there, this RRP is not dissimilar to many of Odyssey's competitors for similar putters 7/10

Overall - Lets put this to be once and for all, the micro hinge technology should be exactly what I need to improve the quality of my putting. However without being able to prove this technology works and how well it does compared to something like the "Tru Roll" insert on the Ping putter I featured in my last review, I still remain unconvinced. If somebody reading this in the South East of England or even from Odyssey themselves has access to the SAM Lab technology and wants to show my the data compared to the Ping Sigma Wolverine I reviewed, and even my Protype Tour milled #9 I am more than happy to be educated and proved wrong

Leaving aside my feelings on this, it should not in any way take away from what is an exceptionally good putter and the O-Works range certainly continues Odyssey's proud tradition of producing innovative and well constructed putters. I am very happy with how this performed both on the putting green in the review video, but also since I've taken it onto the course. In fact dear reader, I am so happy I am pleased to say it now has residence in my bag and has become my putter of choice 9/10

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Product Review - Ping Sigma G Wolverine

Welcome to another product review and this one looks at the Ping Sigma Wolverine putter. This is one of the new Sigma range of sixteen putters (in the UK) and has been available in the shops for the last few months. Unlike the previous release, "Vault" which had a milled face, with the Sigma G range Ping has gone back to an insert.

However, both the milled face and the insert on the Sigma range still has their "Tru Roll" face pattern which varies in depth and dispersion. This is less deep and wider at the sweet spot and then becomes deeper and spaced tighter for off centre hits which Ping claim speeds up off centre strikes and leads to less three putts. Now as a fourteen handicapper, the chances of me finding the sweet spot every time is unlikely so it's interesting to see how this plays out

Ping Sigma putter overview

Another new feature, much overdue in my personal opinion is the introduction of a new pistol type grip. I had one of the Cadence Anser's from a few year back and these came with a blue midsize grip (on the standard weighted putters) which I didn't feel comfortable with and I found became very slippery in the wet. This new Sigma G Wolverine comes with a PP60 midsize pistol grip which has a tacky but ribbed feel and sits nicely in the hand.

Ping Sigma G Wolverine
The Wolverine is designed for a straight back and through type of stroke. It's a large mallet type putter and on first sight, there are definite comparisons with the Odyssey Fang putter (below) or the Taylormade Spider (also below)

Odyssey Versa 2 Ball Fang Putter

Taylormade Spider
I've done a video to show the putter in action on my Youtube channel running in conjunction with this blog. I've attached a link to it here (Ping Sigma G Wolverine review). While you'll over there make sure you subscribe to the channel to get ongoing reviews, updates and on course logs and don't forget to thumbs up the video as well. If you have any comments please feel free to leave them under the video and I'll read each one and respond.

In action, it's very stable as you'll see and visually the big head and the distinctive white line makes it very to line the ball up, especially on the crucial short putts. One this you may not be able to pick up from the video sound is that it has a distinctive "ping" off the face. In the test I used both a premium ball (Srixon Z Star xv) and a firmer all (Srixon AD333 tour) and the noise was noticeable /with both balls. While I didn't mind this, clearly this may not be to every players taste.

The putts were from around two feet, five feet and out towards fifteen feet. As I've already mentioned, the putter has this "Tru Roll" polymer insert and while I was happy with the quality of the strike I made on each putt, I can't verify how many came off the centre as I don't have access to SAM Lab technology or similar. I can only describe it as I feel and see it.

Since the video was filmed it's been in my bag and I was pleased with the way it performed (31 putts with a distinctly flaky short game which meant there were very few tap i/n putts for up and down scrambles). Speed control was consistent which I guess you could argue vindicates Ping's claims about this insert and "Tru Roll". Of course I'd argue it was my smooth putting stroke but the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle somewhere/.

As I've done with all my other recent reviews I've broken it down into a couple of key sections

Looks - Visually it's definitely big, but I don't feel it's "in your face" big and no different to most other mallets on the market of similar design. It's clear, single white sight line is very simple but works well. The grey finish works well in the sun and glare is minimised 8/10

Grip - The mid size PP60 pistol grip definitely enhances a soft and light grip pressure and sits nicely in the hand which should promote a smooth action. It fits nicely in the contour of the hand 9/10

Alignment - As well as the vivid white line, the top of the putter does also contain other lines in the grey head which are of varying length. To be honest, I tended to focus solely on the white line and didn't really notice these other alignment aids. That said, the shape and the white line made it very easy to line up. I felt confident the putter was aligned correctly especially on the 2-3 footers on the course and it did provide an element of confidence boosting 7/10

Feel - The insert (and "Tru Roll" design) does give a pleasant, and perhaps more importantly a consistent feel off the face with both a soft and harder ball. As said, I can't vouch for the validity of the "Tru Roll" design but distance control was good. There is a distinct sound off the face that some golfers will find annoying 8/10

Stability - As with most mallets, it's very, very stable. Designed for a golfer with a distinct back and through, straight putting style, it has a large MOI for added accuracy. The shape definitely maximises the perimeter weighting Ping have put on the extremes of the Wolverine

Down behind the ball it sat very nicely and squarely. I've had putters before that will feel as though they are sitting distinctly open or closed and I've always had an inclination to then try and manipulate the face to sit squarer. With the Wolverine, it sits solidly behind the ball and begs to stroke the ball to the hole 9/10

Price - This (and I believe most of the other Sigma range) retail in the region (in the UK) of £169 although I'm sure as the range is now a few months old, deals will start to appear online and in shops. It's comparable in price to some of the similar putters from Ping's main competitors in the putter market and certainly much cheaper than the predecessor, the milled Vault range. 7/10

Overall - The Ping Sigma G Wolverine is a no frills putter. It's decor is plain but efficient and relies on the technology and consistent quality of build that Ping are synonymous for and is a reputation garnished from over 50 years of building top class putters used not only on tours around the world but which have been in the bags of the weekend golfer too.

That said, I couldn't verify the claims of "Tru Roll" as I didn't have a SAM Putting unit (GASP - Sam System to dissect my stroke and show where I struck the ball, However it was a stable, functional putter with a distinct sound, and from a variety of distances performed well. It's definitely one I like and I've a feeling it could be finding it's way into my bag and usurping the current incumbent soon. If you like a bigger mallet style putter then this one is definitely worth trying out 8/10

Friday, 21 April 2017

A Quest For Single Figures Video Update

Welcome back to the Three Off The Tee blog and there's a new video blog for you to enjoy on the Youtube channel running parallel to the blog The "Quest" April update). It's here to update you on "The Quest For Single Figures" and discusses my progress and has some updates over and above my last post on here with details of the first honours board event at Royal Ascot Golf Club played over the Easter weekend.

This was a bogey event. a tough format that's essentially match play against the course. Keep tuned as there's some good news in there. On top of that it'll update you on some other videos that are coming to the channel soon. I hope you enjoy the update, and don't forget to click on the subscribe button. If you have any comments or ideas on how to progress "The Quest" please put them in the comments box below the video. I'll look at them all and reply.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Quest For Single Figures - Update (5th April 2017)

Welcome back to my slightly revamped blog site. I hope you like it and have had a chance to check out the Three Off The Tee youtube channel that now runs in conjunction with the blog. There's now a link on the front page or you can go to it here (My youtube channel). Please check it out, subscribe and thumbs up the videos. There's a lot to come soon including a couple of putter reviews (Ping Sigma vs Odyssey "O" works) and an Aimpoint video

With all of that out of the way, it's time to update you on my "Quest For Single Figures". Once again, there have been issues, primarily on the health front and so tuition, practice and playing time have been impacted and I've not moved forward as quickly as I'd hoped. That said, I'm now back out and playing regularly again and now the clocks have changed will begin to work on my game, especially the short game with renewed vigour. That's the one area, perhaps bunkers aside, that's still woeful and is causing issues. I had hoped the linear method for pitching and chipping would have resolved this but having not invested any time into this method or indeed what you may consider a more conventional method, both are failing on the course and testing patience and resolve.

Since my last update, there has only been one competitive round, a medal (Royal Ascot Cup qualifier) played in breezy, damp conditions. I have to say, in my defence, I had come back from the latest illness with no time to work on the changes I was still bleeding in from the last lesson I'd had (Live Lesson). I actually started reasonably well and then hit the buffers at our 5th, having been in a green side bunker for three on the par five and walked off with an eight. Don't ask!

I frittered a few more shots away on the front nine to go out in 45 (+10 gross or three over handicap) and was back in a familiar scenario of not trusting what I'd worked on in the lesson, over thinking as a consequence, and getting myself into a world of hurt.

My back nine started with an ugly double bogey which led to a mental meltdown and a string of car crash holes, going double, triple, double from the 12th to the 14th. I managed a couple of pars over the closing few holes, chucked another almost obligatory double bogey in on the 16th for good measure and walked away dazed and confused with a net 79 (+9) which was still good enough for a mid-table 13th place finish in division 2 but of course led to an inevitable 0.1 handicap increase. My statistics for the round (such as they were) are here to peruse.

March 2017 Medal Statistics

Since this medal on the 18th March, I've had another lesson. I spoke in depth with my teaching professional about the video from the previous lesson and in particular how steep the shaft appears to be on the down swing and how trapped it seemed to make me. I had tinkered, as is my way, at the range at trying to lay the club flatter behind me at the start of the transition and down swing to come on a flatter plane and pass more in front of me at impact with a degree of success. My professional looked at the footage and could see the issues (cupped left wrist, high right elbow, and taking the club away outside the line) and we had a productive time sorting this out. Unfortunately, despite having the camera set up and working, the file corrupted and I wasn't able to download it to review at a later date and compare this lesson alongside the previous one as I hoped.

The positive note was the quality of strike which was better. Tempo was, and no doubt will remain an issue, but when I was in a decent rhythm I had so much more time to make a compact swing with the right elbow in particular in a far better position and not "flying". So of course I diligently worked on it on the range and rocked up for the usual Sunday morning roll up, feeling good and seeing some positive returns in practice and ready to compete. What transpired was my lowest point to date on this rocky road to single figures. I walked off after eleven holes. I was crap. Not even that good in all honesty and despite trying to have fun, swing slower and all the things you're suppose to do on an off day, everything went to pot. I was getting more and more wound up to the point where I was aware it was impacting on my playing partners. I didn't want to be there and as the tag line on all the betting adverts on TV says, "When the fun stops, STOP" so I did. I wasn't proud walking off but my head was a mess and I would rather have been anywhere else than enduring another two hours on the course and another seven holes of abject misery.

You would think that after 0.1 back in the medal and then this disaster the "Quest" would be over and I'd come to my senses and admit it's never going to happen. Not on your life dear reader. This stubborn old goat is made of sterner stuff and still has a deep ingrained desire to get to single figures and enjoy proving so many naysayers wrong. It's going to happen.

Of course you have to get back on the horse. I did so with a solo practice round the following week and some structured practice. The solo round was patchy at best, but I then took advantage of playing the back nine last week after work as soon as the clocks changed and that was far more like it. It felt like the old me. I was fortunate to have been invited back to Kingswood (where the Jolly Boys "Play Golf trio of videos on the youtube channel were shot) last Friday and it was a chance for a relaxed social round with no pressures on the swing. I was looking forward to it.

I then made the cardinal golfing error. I only went and boomed a drive down the first, only a foot into the semi rough, hit a pitch from 106 yards to three feet and holed the putt for birdie. It's well known that a round starting in such fine fashion can only go one way and that's down. To be honest I actually held it together reasonably well going out and had 21 points at the turn. That in itself was amazing but add in the condition of the greens, which frankly were a disgrace and it's even more amazing. They were like a ploughed field having been hollow tined but the holes hadn't been filled in properly and some of the grass was allowed to grow in patches. It was a lottery and if I hadn't been on a freebie would have been asking for a refund.

I let things slide on the back nine although these holes run across the top of a valley and played into a stiffening wind. A lost ball didn't help the cause but my last six holes were disappointing and my 33 points could have been so much better. There was some good stuff in there especially off the tee (bar two very wild drives) but the irons again felt off point and out of kilter. The greens were a nightmare and it was a job to two putt, let alone thinking of holing anything of meaning but all in all it did what I wanted from the day and got my game back on something of an even keel

And so to the weekend just gone. I was selected to play in a club match away at Maidenhead Golf Club. This isn't a course I have particularly fond memories of and have always struggled to play well there. The format was pairs, better ball and so I had a wing man in Gordon Barr, a Scotsman off 7 who I've inflicted my recent form on several times in recent months in both roll ups and competitions. I'm not sure what he'd done to deserve another dose but he accepted his fate with a stoic resignation. Maidenhead is one of those course that I simply can't find a way to score on and it somehow doesn't suit my eye and there are very few holes I stand on the tee and feel comfortable.

In the end, my form although again patchy, was enough with Gordon's rugged play, to ensure we got a half having been one down with three to go. I came in a few times with the odd win or a solid putt for a half although I left the course with a slightly bitter taste having saved my best drive until the last and was left with a simple eight iron into the green. With the match all square and the opposition not on the green in two, a decent approach would have given us a good chance to nick a win. As with the round the day before at Kingswood, it was the iron play that had been lacking and my approach came up short into the right hand bunker. I escaped well to about twelve feet and had a putt to win, but it missed left. To be honest the match had been played in good spirits on both sides and a half was perhaps the correct outcome. In the end, it wasn't pivotal as Royal Ascot came out 4-2 winners.

That dear reader brings you fully up to date (are you still with me?). As you can tell, the "Quest" is still stuck in first gear and my game shows no real sign of catching fire soon. I'm taking a more relaxed approach to it all and not forcing it. I'm going to scale down my long game practice, and that will focus on iron play. The remainder is going to be all about putting and the short game which is the real problem areas. With a medal to come this weekend, I'm wholly convinced it will bring anything but another 0.1 (and getting dangerously close to 15) but I live in hope and remain optimistic in my own ability. It's somewhat annoying that the work and time I've invested in my practice and lessons has failed to reap any reward yet but there have been signs over the last two rounds of some good stuff loitering somewhere near the surface. I just have to find a way, much as I did when I filmed the Jolly Boys "Play Golf" (Jolly Boys Round) and simply find a way to get it round. That was my first game after my stay in hospital and while the golf wasn't pretty I got it round enough to score close to handicap. That has to be the focus going forward. If I have to score ugly then I'll do that.

Despite it all, I remain in a golfing happy place. I'm still enjoying the process of trying to get better, enjoying the challenge of playing with card and pencil in hand and enjoying the robust banter of the social games. There is a vast amount of room to improve but I'm taking a far more chilled approach to it all. Meltdowns will be avoided and we'll take the good with the bad. The season is only just starting and so I've a whole summer and many, many more competitions to get the "Quest" back on track and get the handicap heading south back to where it should be. Hopefully by the time I post the next update, everything will be far rosier and I'll have good news to report. Keep your eyes out on here and my youtube channel for the next instalments.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Vistas And Incidents - The Jolly Boys "Play Golf"- The Conclusion

Welcome to the new look Three Off The Tee blog. I hope you like the new design (if you do, or even if you don't please comment at the bottom of this post). I've uploaded the final part of The Jolly Boys "Play Golf" to my youtube channel (Three Off The Tee Youtube Channel) that runs in conjunction with the blog. I've also included the link here (The Jolly Boys Conclusion Upload). Please subscribe to the channel (PLEASE!!) and don't forget to thumbs up the video and post any comments you may have.

Please feel free to visit the channel and look at the other content. I've got a lot more coming soon including an honest review of the Ping Sigma Wolverine Putter and one with an Odyssey O works putter including the micro hinges on the face. As a mid-handicapper I'll give you a totally unbiased opinion of the goo points, any negatives and there will be some footage of me with it to show how it performs in a (very) average golfers hands. Similarly once the Odyssey arrives I'll give you feedback on whether I think it works or their advertising blurb about this "being a new way to roll" doesn't apply to my level of golf.

There will also be an in depth report similar to my other reviews (check out the Suaoki Range finder review here to see what I mean - Suaoki Range Finder) and there are more on course vlogs coming soon. I also want to give a big thumbs up to a guy called Liam Harrison and his youtube channel. A very funny guy from the North of England and a decent player, his channel is here (Golf VlogsUK) and we are hoping to get it on later in the year for a match for £5 a man and it'll be captured on our channels for you to enjoy. There will also be footage from Sunningdale (Old and New courses) and a few others.

Anyway, that's all to come. Back to the final part of The Jolly Boys "Play Golf" at Kingswood Golf Club in Surrey. We have some stunning views over the Surrey countryside and several "incidents" for which you'll need to watch the video to see. As in parts one and two (Part One and Part Two) there are some fantastic shots, some mediocrity and the odd horror shot in there as well. It's my first eighteen holes after illness which is my excuse for my inconsistencies and I need to ensure going forward that my "Quest For Single Figures" golf is much better to start getting those handicap cuts. Again, the "Quest" is for for a further blog and video. Check the channel, check the videos and I hope you enjoy them,