'The Challenge' has gripped me......

Cookie

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The last week of this scratch challenge has been a real case of 'two halves'. What progress I had made seemed short lived after a terrible performance over 10 holes against my friend, Simmo, who I play against regularly who plays to a similar standard. I should add, to make things worse, that this friend was recently out of an ankle ligament operation and was still in an ankle support boot. Not only that, but for the last month he has had to listen to me talking about some great progress made on the range and in lessons and on the course. I guess this sums up the mental side of the game as I really didn't play well, and virtually every tee shot went right, with some OK irons, nice pitching, and average putting. To add insult to injury, my friend probably played better than I had seen him play for a while, which lives up to the popular belief that people play better after a few weeks / months out.

The first few holes were double bogeys, then a few par saves steadied the ship, then a few bogies, and then I can't even remember after that. To be honest, all I was thinking was that this challenge may be too much and that I had taken on too much. I also remembered the wise words of a lot of Golf Monthly forum guys who said that the challenge can add too much pressure, just play to reasonable expectations and take the weight off my shoulders....and I have to admit that it was a tough point in the challenge, a mental low.

I then had a weekend interlude of a 'business networking event' which took place on a P&O cruise liner in the channel islands from Wednesday to Saturday. This involved 50 back to back meetings over the course of 3 days, from breakfast through to dinner, then into the casino until 2am, then back up at 7am to do the same again. I was conscious that I was not able to swing a club for the three days, which was made even worse given the fact that the ship had a golf centre with practise nets and a golf simulator but I just hadn't got a spare slot to go up there. I was also given some time to reflect on the challenge in between meetings and in my cabin last thing at night / first thing in the morning at the start of the trip, and the last round I played was still haunting me. Why was I pushing it out right? How could I score so badly given the time I had put in? What happened to the first two 9 holes performance I hit which I was happy with? Had they been a fluke? As I looked out into the ocean I kind of thought how bleak it looked, would I ever reach my challenge's goal.....

During the rest of the trip I decided that the only way to keep on track was to stay positive. I remembered a few of the chapters in the John Richardson book, Dream On, where he had faced similar doubts and had forced himself to believe and not accept defeat before it happened. I also remembered some of the doubters on Golf Monthly forums who had rubbished the idea and said loads of people try this and fail, and I was determined to prove them wrong - not for the sake of proving someone wrong but to prove that I could do this. Armed with some positivity I decided to mention my challenge to a few clients over dinner on the Thursday and Friday night. I should add that I work in financial services, which is still largely made up predominantly of (middle aged - I am 33 so am a bit younger than most) blokes, and most of those play golf. I had a positive reaction and some good conversations with a few guys who were playing between 5-10 handicap, some of whom had spent a lot of time when they were younger and got down to low single figures. One guy said he thought that I seemed determined and passionate when I talked about it, and this gave me a much needed kick up the backside to get on and forget the doubts.

So, back on dry land, I had my first lesson with the pro with who I played the last 9 holes the previous week. Whilst he had mentioned that I was playing around an 18 handicap, he really hadn't said much more. So, given my weak round against Simmo that week, I was hoping that he would say that the fundamentals were OK but that we had a couple of exercises to tweak things. But no, he didn't, he said that the grip was strong, I stood open to the ball across both feet and shoulders. Also my feet were too narrow and I was blocking the ball as I wasn't releasing my hands, leaving the club head open at address, hence pushing everything out right. So for half an hour we went through some exercises to correct the grip, it felt horrible, and the line up at address, which now felt like I was standing totally closed to the ball......the doubts started to come back again. During the 30 minutes I hit out 50 balls and started to hit them straighter half way through, and for the rest of the lesson started to achieve some nice shots with a ball flight and distance I hadn't ever achieved before. My pro started to make some positive comments and sent me a congratulatory text in the evening to say I had done well. Was he just being nice, or was I making progress. The saying ' you have to go backwards to move forwards as you improve' really was sticking in my mind.

That evening I swang a 4 iron in the garden with the new stance and grip and really started to feel at ease with the grip. I also read the Five Lessons by Ben Hogan which had a huge section on the grip. It started to make sense, and I actually started to feel more comfortable every time I picked up the club. I started to feel optimistic again and couldn't wait to try it on the range the next day. So, last night I hit the range and hit 250 balls. the first 100 were not consistent but it started to feel better. What was encouraging was a reliable direction on the ball, and that 30-40% started to penetrate the air with a nice ball flight. After another 100 I was feeling more comfortable and the last 50 felt controlled, long, and straight. I was hitting out a 7 iron between 160 - 190 yards, most of the time around the target line. I appreciate the distance variable is quite large there and will take work, but this new grip and stance were now 'my swing' and the follow through, timing, rhythm and balance I had been reading so much about started to also come together. In all, it was an excellent two days and restored optimism. Once this swing translates to my driver and woods, and with some improvement on the short game and putting, it will start to come together to a point where I can start to consistently break 90 and then work at getting the handicap down in focused areas.

The second part of this challenge has been to raise money for charity and the first event is now in the diary. Playing 100 holes in a day, which is around 50km of walking, for a charity to raise money for Guatamalan children's education. The sponsorship only started yesterday but it is a promising start and I will put some pictures on the website from the day and an update of how much was raised. I am not holding out great expectations for the standard of golf over that length of time, but it will be a life experience I am sure.

Thanks for anyone who read to the end, I have my first medal competition this weekend and will put a few words together after that......

www.scratchchallenge.com
 

Mongoose

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I think you need to keep all your posts in one place - the blog, or a single GM thread. Loads of individual threads, and ones like this that are far too long, wont endear you to those interested to see your progression.
 

brendy

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What happened after
The last week of this scratch challenge has been a real case of 'two halves'
?? I stopped reading. please leave epics like that on your blog and dont copy paste them fella, noone will read that glancing through the pages.
 

0

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What happened after
The last week of this scratch challenge has been a real case of 'two halves'
?? I stopped reading. please leave epics like that on your blog and dont copy paste them fella, noone will read that glancing through the pages.

+1, started to read it as I am interested as it's a much bigger challenge than I think you realise, the gap in standard isn't huge from 15-5, it's huge between 5-2 and humungous from 2-0, then it's a different dimension from 0 to + figures.
You'll realise pretty quickly whether you have the X factor to get to scratch and it's not all about technique, the mind game is ridiculous at this level also.

Good luck!
 

HomerJSimpson

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Take it from one that has been told (succinctly by some - bluntly by others) that once you've got the fact you're doing a blog out on here, let the forum members make up their own mind about reading it. Post a link to it in your forum but then leave it at that. If people are interested, they'll slide by. Also, try and keep it short (my biggest weakness) and break it up with some pictures, graphics etc.

Stick with it though. I'm keen to see how the challenge pans out
 
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