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Jon Symons – Diary of a 15 handicapper

Dear Diary,

It has been a few weeks since my last entry, mostly due to the weather and because last weekend I was playing up at Boat of Garten on a Stag Do.

Firstly, let me start by saying that playing golf whilst being force fed vodka and tonic did not improve my ability to play golf. Boat of Garten is an amazing little course though, tight as they come and extremely tricky in places. I was absolutely delighted with my 30 stableford points if I am honest, I actually hit the ball pretty well throughout the day and really enjoyed it.

Secondly, after Saturday I have come to realise two things. I actually like playing in the rain and I have become a complete bottler! It was always going to happen with my mental strength, I was just hoping I could maintain my ability to close out good rounds for a little longer in my golfing career. Saturday was a classic Jon Symons round, out in 8 over after having a massive ‘head off’ on the 6th green and completely ruining the 9th hole, I sttod on the 11th tee 9 over par. Then something happended that has never happened to me before, I actually started playing consecutive good shots, so good that by the time I got to the 17th tee, I was still 9 over par. Now I only needed to finish 5-4 to break 80 for the first time in my medal playing career.

Things started well with a drive that split the 17th fairway followed by a 6 iron onto the green about 10 feet short of the hole. Now, a birdie on the 17th is a rare thing for me and to get one now would put me back to 8 over par. I got greedy. Fired my putt past the hole and missed the putt back from about 5 foot. A 3 jab! I was not pleased. Still, I now only needed a par 4 up the last for a very respectable score of 10 over and 2 over for the back nine. Once again I got off the tee well, driving back down the 17th for safety and leaving about 150 yards in to the green. Once again, my ego decided to play a shot that my golfing talent could not match, the pin was tucked in front right behind the bunker, I went looking for a birdie when a par was all  needed. Boom, in the sand! I hate the sand! I managed to scramble my ball out the bunker in one and two putted for a net 66. In many ways I was pleased with how I played but could not help feeling that the 2 double bogeys on the front 9 and the bogey-bogey finish could have been avoided. It is coming though.

So, once again I am down another shot and in to the 12s, I am going to amend my yearend target to 11, I would have certainly taken that at the start of the year and if I continue to play like I did for sections of Saturday I should achieve my goal.

Until next week…………………

Official Handicap: 12.9

Season Target: 11.4

Bridgieness Level: 3/10

J Symons

13 Handicapper.

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Dear Diary,

This week is going to be more of a confession than a diary, this is because on Saturday I did something that is wholly wrong and morally incorrect, I N/R’d in the medal.

I have decided that I am going to share with you the Pros and Cons of signing your card and writing N/R at the bottom;

Pros

  1.  It saves you having to post a horrendous score and being the laughing stock of the entire club house
  2.  If, like me, you N/R at the ninth it allows you to enjoy the back nine not worrying about score
  3.  It only costs you 0.1 onto your handicap
  4.  Once you have conceded to the fact you are about to N/R it feels like a huge weight has been taken off your shoulders, what a relief!

Cons

  1. You are still the laughing stock of the clubhouse because you are a wimp and have absolutely no moral fibre
  2. It does nothing to improve your game, if you don’t have the ability to battle back from a few bad holes there is no point in playing in the first place
  3. It may only add 0.1 onto your handicap but it sticks out like a sore thumb on ‘How Did I Do’ as a constant reminder of your failure
  4. The relief that you feel when you pick up your ball and decide enough is enough is only temporary, knowing that I do not have another medal until Saturday means I am in a week long prison of guilt and regret.

In all honesty, I know a N/R is worse than GBH or armed robbery and should really come with some sort of jail time, but on Saturday I really really needed to pick my ball up and call it a day. I have never experienced such anguish on the golf course, I could have cried about 6 times and that was just the first hole (I took a seven) absolutely nothing was working for me and standing on the 9th tee 13 over par was like standing on the edge of a cliff…… and I jumped!

I am going to go to the driving range every night this week, not only to iron out the obvious problems with my swing but also as punishment to myself for doing the unthinkable.

In other news I am back down to 14 after the mid week medal last Wednesday, but after Saturday I think that might be a temporary situation and we finally managed to get our first round doubles match played on Friday night, after being 3 up at the turn and flying winning on the 18th for victory was not exactly ideal! Still, we are through and that is all that matters.

Until next week, I am bridgie and have taken the executive decision to change my target handicap.

Official Handicap: 14.3

Season Target: 12.4

Bridgieness Level: 9/10

J Symons

14 Handicapper.

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.

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.

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

Dear Diary,

For the first time in my golfing career I can honestly say I was proud of how I played on Saturday. No, it was not my best performance ever and, yes, once again there were a few stupid holes and bad shots. But, to be standing on the 14th tee 14 over par knowing that I only had one shot to ‘play with’ over the closing 5 holes and then being able to get home 15 over par was an achievement. It is honestly the first time I can say that I have gritted my teeth, pulled my socks up, showed a bit of testicular fortitude and finished the round well, knowing I had to make pars. Usually being 14 over through 13 would result in my having a temper tantrum, through a Pro V down the Dee and refusing to speak to my playing partners. This could be the start of a new chapter in my golfing career; I am now a man who has bottle…………possibly!

As I write this I have just received an e-mail from ‘How Did I Do’ to my amazement I have been chopped by 0.6 for my efforts on Saturday! Got to love it when quads and triples get rounded down to double bogies and getting chopped 0.3 for each shot under my handicap! I am now the lowest handicap I have ever been, and the start to the season has taken a dramatic turn for the better after last week’s opening shambles.

Now, on Sunday I was meant to be representing the Banchory Deeside League Team in a friendly match against Banchory’s Junior Pennant Team. As I mentioned last week, the thought of getting beaten by a junior was playing on my mind slightly and could have ruined any confidence I had. Thankfully two of the youngsters had been snogging too many girls and drinking too much White Lightning down the Dee the night before and had to pull out, I was only too happy to offer to pull out of the competition and play a bounce match with my partner Granty and Derek, who is the Junior Convenor. Although it was snowing and freezing I enjoyed the 15 holes we played and was happy to see a couple of the guys getting horsed by the juniors, 6 and 4 in the match in front of us! The tie ended 3-3 which was a fair result, seeing those young boys playing so well off low handicaps made me wish I had taken up the sport when I was younger, I would certainly not be battling around the course playing off 15 as I am now.

All that remains to be said is that I am heading to Turkey on Wednesday with 5 of the boys for a week of golf, all inclusive booze and sun. We are playing four courses whilst we are over there including the National which is meant to be extremely difficult. It should be an excellent week away and a great chance to play some golf on immaculate courses in lovely weather; hopefully it will help me scrub some more of the rust away from my swing for the remainder of the season. Full report to follow in 2 weeks time, if I remember anything after the afternoon beers.

Until then, I am the lowest I have ever been and no longer on bridge watch. It could be a good season!

Official Handicap: 14.2

Season Target: 10.4

Bridgieness Level: 0/10

J Symons

14 Handicapper.