First published on the Golf Monthly website on Friday 14th January 2011
I was feeling quite nervous as I stood on the first tee at Peterhead on Wednesday because last week at Newburgh, I posted my worst ever Alliance score (92) playing some curiously horrendous golf.
Nothing had happened in the interim to give me cause to expect anything better this time out. I had managed one visit to the driving range on Monday but that had been fairly un-enlightening, mainly because it was dark and I couldn’t see where the ball was going.
The driving range is a terrible place for the deluded golfer. It’s so easy to lull yourself into a false sense of security. If you pick no particular target, you can happily assume that any shot where you make half-decent contact is, “pretty bloody good.” The rock-solid balls will turn far less in the air than the ball you’d use on course. That means a raging slice at the range is made to look more like a “power fade” and a raking hook a “strong draw.” On the range, you can catch the mat inches behind the ball and still produce a reasonable ball flight when, if you’d done the same on turf, you’d have progressed it about 20 yards.
The key difference at the driving range, however, is the lack of pressure. With 50 or 100 chances to produce a decent shot and no threat of hazards or out-of-bounds, you can swing away with relaxed freedom. Your mindset will be totally different to when you’re facing a drive over a pond with trees on one side and a line of white stakes on the other.
Anyway, I was pretty relieved to see my opening tee shot at Peterhead end on the fairway. OK, it had started about 40 yards right and semi-snap-hooked its way back to the short stuff, but I wasn’t in any position to be picky.
For the first six or seven holes I feared a similar result to the week before. I couldn’t find the middle of the clubface and was producing some extremely strange shots. Pick of the bunch came on the seventh tee after I’d just made a (rather flukey) birdie two at the previous hole.
I was feeling buoyant so decided to give it a real lash with the driver. I came as close as it’s possible to missing the ball without actually doing so. I caught the very inside of my Titleist with the edge of the toe of the club and it flew off very high and very right. It’s a bad sign when your playing partner’s reaction is “Oh my god!”
The shot was so bad, however, that it was ok and it ended on the adjacent fairway. After chapping it back towards the hole I was playing, I contemplated the problem as I trudged, forlornly, back through the rough. “How can I miss it to such an extent?” I wondered. “Maybe I’m not watching the ball?”
On the next tee I kept my eye fixed firmly on the little white sphere until it had been spanked from the top of its perch. I then looked up to see it flying handsomely down the centre of the fairway. “It can’t be that simple,” I thought.
But it was that simple, I just wasn’t watching the ball. It’s amazing how often in golf the solution is so obvious that it takes an amazingly complicated and convoluted path to find it.
From that point, I played some pretty tidy golf and came back in one-under-par for a three-over 73 – 19 shots better than last week. If I can continue that trend of improvement next week at Buckpool, my 54 will be tough to beat.