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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Dear Diary,

One thing in life always remains true; there is nothing worse than an OVD and Coke, nae ice! This is the usual punishment or forfeit that is on the line in any competition between me and my friends. I can assure you, many a macaroni and cheese has been lost to the power of OVD. It is a horrible concoction!

So, the annual Sponsors’ Day at Banchory was another occasion where the punishment of possibly losing your lunch was on the line. It was a 3-ball, two best stableford scores on each hole event. I was playing with my good friends Ross and Ali who are both of a very respectable, if flattering to deceive in Ross’s case, 5. The team we were playing against had much lower handicaps; 0, 3 and 4. It was going to be tough and seeing as I had just eaten a tuna sandwich, I was determined not to be consuming OVD and Coke.

The day was absolutely beautiful, a sweltering 25 degrees and after a slow start, apart from a magnificent 2 at the 3rd  from yours truly we reached the turn in 36 points, right on our handicap. At the next hole we found out that the opposing team had turned in 35! This was going to be close! We dug in and apart from having a criminal no score on the 14th played well as a unit. Ross even managed a nett eagle on the impossibly tough 17 and myself and Ali finished with a Birdie and net Birdie up the last, we were unsure of how the other guys had got on, though they seemed to be pretty pleased with themselves.

Now, I don’t know if I would have preferred to absolutely stuff them by 10 points or to win by the 1 that we did, but to watch them scoff down their OVDs will scowls on their faces was worth every second of the round. In truth I really enjoyed the day, the weather was excellent, the banter was good and I actually played some good stuff at times. It is a shame I play so badly when my handicap is on the line though!

Mid week medal this week and I need to do something special as I am missing the medal on Saturday for a Stag Do in Amsterdam. Hopefully they don’t sell OVD over there!

Until next week my handicap remains the same but I am slightly buoyed by some of my shots and general play on Saturday. Bridgieness levels are down!

Official Handicap: 14.5

Season Target: 10.4

Bridgieness Level: 4/10

J Symons

15 Handicapper.

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Also published on the Golf Monthly Website

Even the very best golfers have a weakness, or weaker element, in their games. For Tiger and Phil it’s the erratic driver, for Westwood it’s chipping, for Ernie and Sergio it’s the putter, Luke isn’t quite long enough and Rory isn’t quite old enough. These guys are as near to perfection as damn-it, but as old Dr Bob so rightly put it, “golf is not a game of perfect.”

I’m not quite so close to achieving perfection, but I do have something in common with the top players – I too have a weakness in my game. The problem is, though, that the weakest part of my game is variable. I find it very difficult to work on my weakness because I’m not sure what it’s going to be from one day to the next.

My traditional failing is around the greens. The thought of a delicate pitch from a difficult lie gives me palpitations. If I miss a green, I’m terrified all the way up to the putting surface. My feeble brain will race through every potential nightmare scenario, considering all possible escape routes.

Here’s the typical thought process: From a distance I’ll think, “maybe I’ll still get the putter on it;” then closer in, “perhaps a wee dink with the 3-wood to lift it over the collar of rough;” 40-yards out, “well, ok that bunker might get in the way slightly, perhaps a bump and run over the very edge;” then for the hideous last few yards, “oh my god no, I’m going to have to try and flop it over!”

Cue: heavy breathing, negative thinking that would impress a convention of goths, a tentative reach for the sand-wedge, some mild shaking, a couple of reasonable practice swings, a long pause with the club behind the ball, my inner monologue pleading, “do I really have to do this?”

Then: a long backswing, a very quick transfer to the downswing followed by a deceleration akin to a fighter jet landing on an aircraft carrier, a slow dub into the ground, the divot gently lifting the ball a few feet into the air before it drops softly into the bunker and plugs… Phew, thank goodness that’s over with.

Well yes, that pretty much summarises by usual weakness. But, believe it or not, through much of the winter and the early part of this season my chipping and pitching was quite reasonable. My weakness during that time was my long game – I was losing a lot of drives right and producing the occasional snapper to the left. I was actually salvaging quite a few rounds through having a strangely decent short game.

I’ve been working rather hard on re-finding my long game in recent weeks and, after quite a few investigative trips to the driving range, numerous wrong-turns and dead ends, I’ve got it under control. For the last couple of rounds I’ve been hitting the ball nice and straight. Excellent.

Obviously, my chipping has completely gone again though… Aaarrggghhh!

The problem is nearly 100% mental of course. The brain finds a way to make the body fail so performance remains at a level the brain is comfortable with. It doesn’t want to over-achieve, it wants to stay in the comfort zone of mediocrity. The body doesn’t care, it’s capable of doing great things if given the right direction, but its boss is a fickle so and so.

Don’t worry though, I’ve just read a tip on pitching from Ben Hogan where he suggests keeping your right elbow tucked in towards your right hip. It feels pretty awkward but a few attempts on the carpet produced promising results. This could be it! … Yeah, right.

Dear Diary,

This week I have decided not to mention The Tain Open (104), the Deeside League match played in Ballater (3 and 2 loss), Saturday’s Medal (87) or the results from any other golf competition.

I have come to realise a couple of key facts over the last few weeks that I would like to discuss;

1 – I have the mental strength of a cold bowl of custard; I find it impossible to follow up either a good shot or a bad shot with anything other than a top, slice or fat. I put too much pressure on myself after a good tee shot to find the middle of the green and conversely after a poor shot to recover to the middle of the fairway. Birdie opportunities become bogeys very easily and 5s become 8s with even more ease.

2 – When standing on the tee I have literally no idea where my ball is going to end up, 5 sliced tee shots can easily be followed by 3 duck hooks and a belter down the middle. To say that I am inconsistent would be an understatement.

3 – I spend more time in the sand than David Hasslehoff, I could not put a bunker shot to 5 feet if my life depended on it. I know I need to practice these shots more often but who wants to spend their evenings standing in a bunker at the practice ground? Certainly not me!

4 – Mt attitude stinks! I need to stop blaming the following things for bad shots; a) the course b) the weather c) my playing partners d) some guy walking his dog e) the war on terror f) the ball I am using g) my clubs h) my choice of trousers i) whether I am wearing a hat or not j) the wind k) the Germans. As you can see from this list, I can find many things to blame other than myself. I also give up too easily and have no grit. A jellyfish has greater ‘guts’ than I do.

5 – I swear far too often, this can be a problem when you are playing with the ex club captain and SGU high priest at Tain. I need to control my anger and not have hissy fits that include stamping on my hat and 7 or 8 four letter words shouted at the top of my voice.

6 – And finally; I need to be more confident. If I think I am going to hit a bad shot, a poor chip or miss a putt it 100% of the time happens. I am not that bad a player but with no self belief I am going to be stuck on 15 for the rest of the season or even worse, the rest of my life.

As far as Tain goes, I would like to mention what a great little course it is, the greens were absolutely immaculate and like nothing I have ever putted on. The hospitality was also tremendous. Worth the trip up and something we need to start doing more often.

Oh, forgot to mention, won my match against Tarland in the Deeside League this week, nearly bottled it from dormie 5-up!

Until next week, I am back up to 15 and back on suicide watch!

Official Handicap: 14.5

Season Target: 10.4

Bridgieness Level: 10/10

J Symons

15 Handicapper.

Dear Diary,

This last week proved that I going to be stuck on 14 or worse for a long time and that my season target of 10.4 is going to be an extremely difficult one to reach. The fact of the matter is this: I am rubbish at golf. I have no natural talent, no grit, no determination and no chance of getting out of a bunker in one shot.

Now having 14 shots to play with should make Banchory an easy course and an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday, this is not the case if your second shot of the day (a wedge from 100 yards) is hit fat into a greenside bunker. To say I was lucky to get out after 4 bunker shots is an understatement. It must have looked to my playing partners that I was trying to dig for buried treasure! So standing on the 2nd tee with 10 shots to play with was a bit of disaster, but somehow I managed to get to the turn 8 over, which is not that bad really and if I could come back in 41 like last week I would be getting chopped again.

This did not happen; I had another 8 on the 10th followed by a 7 at the 13th. My handicap was gone and I was furious. Ended up shooting a 19 over par 88. A shambolic effort and an eye opener as to the work that I still need to do to get anywhere near a handicap of 10. Had so many stupid shots and no lucky chip ins to keep my morale up like last week. No place in the last 16 of the Cox Cup for me this year then, next year? I doubt that too.

This weekend we are heading up to Tain to compete in the Tain Men’s Open. This should be a real test of my golfing skills and a nice change from Banchory and its ploughed fairways and pot-holed greens. I highly doubt I will even play to my handicap on an untried away course, so I will have to take the 0.1 on the chin. Should be an excellent day out though and a good excuse to sample the delights of Inverness in the evening. If I play well I might even move up to Invergordon!

Also have a Wednesday medal this week and a trip to Ballater for the Deeside League on Thursday night. The Deeside league is an excellent competition that we were fortunate enough to win last year; my 7-0 record certainly is worth mentioning! So it is all go again. Hopefully I will manage to get my handicap down on Wednesday seeing as we are losing a medal on Saturday. On the other hand an extra shot round Tain could be a life saver.

Special mention this week goes to Grant Kelly, who also shot 88 on Saturday but playing off 25 got a well deserved chop, even if he did try to sabotage his own efforts on the 17th. I am sure this will be the catalyst for more good rounds and reduction of handicap.

Until next week my handicap has gone up and increased my bridgieness level with it. Could be back up to 15 next week with a bad round on Wednesday and at Tain; not worth thinking about at the moment……………………

Official Handicap: 14.3

Season Target: 10.4

Bridgieness Level: 5/10

J Symons

14 Handicapper.

The current state of play

The current state of play

When we moved into this house we inherited a beautiful garden packed with a wonderful array of shrubs, flowers, heathers and firs, all planted in raised beds on a number of different levels. We arrived in early summer when it was a controlled kaleidoscope of colours – no plant too large, nothing overpowering, nothing unsightly. Everything grew beautifully and we enjoyed many evenings sitting outside with a glass of wine simply admiring it.

The first thing we killed was a lovely, miniature variegated tree that stood alone, growing through the gravelled area on the mid-level. It looked like something you’d find in a Japanese ornamental garden.

Well, I guess we pruned it too heavily and, when I used weedkiller to get rid of the grass that had begun to poke through the gravel, some must have got into the poor thing’s roots. It went rather anaemic then the leaves fell out and never grew back. I pulled it up and threw it on our compost heap.

I must confess, we were always rather half-hearted when it came to tending the garden and, with the arrival of children, the time we were prepared to dedicate to hauling out buttercups became even more limited. Gradually the weeds began to take over. Each year another selection of plants would fail to emerge through the jungle of long grasses, sticky willy and other intrusive species.

It was a little depressing to look back at pictures of how it used to be and, occasionally I’d embark on a frantic mission to win back the borders. But it was always in vain. Two hours of maniacal weeding on a Sunday afternoon, once a month simply wasn’t enough. This garden needed half an hour of attention every day to maintain order.

This past winter, Jessie (wife) made a decision that something needed to be done. She suggested we dug up most of the borders and turned a large portion of this section of the garden into lawn. At the time, I remember looking out nervously from our conservatory window.

“Do you have any idea how much work that would be?” I said.

“Yes, I suppose there will be a bit of digging required,” she replied.

A bit of digging! A bit of bloody digging! Nobody has used a spade so extensively since Hercules had that horrible day at the Augean stables way back when.

Firstly I had to get rid of the gravel that covered all the walkways and gaps between the raised beds. I should point out: this part of our garden is highly inaccessible, difficult even to get a wheelbarrow into and out of. So I began to fill a large bucket with the gravel, take it to a point where the wheelbarrow would reach, fill it then wheel it round to the front of the house where I used it to replace the gravel lost from our drive through years of floods and snows.

This first, supposedly (according to Jessie,) straightforward section of the project was quite hard work. I would estimate some 50 barrow-loads of gravel. At first it was ok as the gravel was easy to scoop up. It became more difficult as I came to the harder to reach corners. Plastic sheets had been laid down under the gravel and these tucked under great rocks bounding the edges of the borders. These had, in turn, become embedded in the earth over the years.

Anyway, you’re starting to get the picture. Suffice to say, I have a very sore back and my golf swing has gone to pot as a result. I’ve broken a spade and two garden forks. I’ve dug up the roots of a pretty sizeable tree; I’ve cut down two smaller trees with an axe; I’ve uncovered a wall and dug down two or three feet to level an area of 10 square metres or so; I’ve dug out two huge rockeries and shifted all the rocks, cut through roots and searched through the earth to save the bulbs – no we didn’t want to lose them did we darling? Perhaps we could build a rockery at the other end of the garden? I’ve done more raking than an Olympic long jump official and twice had to turn over the whole lot, as it’s become a swamp after huge downpours of rain.

Now, at last, it’s pretty much finished and ready to sow grass seed on. It better bloody work.

Where next?

More on life – Click here then scroll down for earlier tales of woe. 

Dear Diary,

Let me begin by saying that Turkey was a huge success. The courses over there are truly world class. Over the week I had the pleasure of playing The Faldo at Cornelia, The Nobilis, The Montgomerie and the National. All were fabulous and extremely difficult. My 90 stableford points for the week was not anything to cheer about and the inevitable wooden spoon that accompanied this record low point score was accepted with no complaints.

To be honest I was not worried about the overall result, I was never going to win ‘The Turkish Delight Cup’ shipping at least 9 shots to the 5 guys I was with, but to play such good courses with such great company was a real joy. I won’t go in to details regarding the evening activities at the all inclusive resort; other than to say that the Turkish Delight Champion for 2012 is Craig Lindsay, who will now and forever be referred to as ‘The Beer Monster’. Well done Craig. I would also like to offer my commiserations to Ali Ramage, another brown paper bag performance to add to the list.

If you get the chance to go to Turkey on a golf holiday take it. What a great place!

Back to Banchory on Saturday and the rain, ploughed fairways and terrible greens that goes with it. I had an absolute battle with the course and my mind once again on Saturday, I just can’t seem to play the front nine! I turned 11 over par once again, this included a lucky chip in at the 9th for a 2 (my playing partners were both sick in to their hats). I battled back to 5 over on the back nine. Back in 41 which in truth I would probably take most weeks, if only I could cut out the stupid mistakes on the front nine my handicap would come flying down. Still scrapped buffer though as CSS was 69 again! Such a good chance to get chopped.

I also played my first round match of the handicap knockout on Sunday. The less said about this tie the better. Let me just say that I now know how the guys feel playing me and giving away 11 shots! It is tough to win when pars are not good enough. Next year hopefully I will get a kinder draw and be on form. Just the doubles to look forward to now!

So an eventful couple of weeks come to an end and Turkey seems like a lifetime ago. More golf this weekend to report on with the qualifications for the Cox’s Cup on Saturday. I would love to play well and qualify for this, a great chance of getting some silverware.

Until then, handicap remains the same but bridgieness has taken a slight hit due to my return from 25 degrees, free beer and lovely golf courses. Oh, and being knocked out of the handicap.

Official Handicap: 14.2

Season Target: 10.4

Bridgieness Level: 4/10