Golf quotes

In absolutely no order whatsoever, here are a load of golf related quotes. Only chosen as they amuse me or make an interesting point. Can you spot where they are from or who said them? Answers in the comments!

“Golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being good at them.”

“The most important shot in golf is the next one.”

“I started watching golf for the first time yesterday. I’m really worried about myself. I was actually enjoying it.”

“If you watch a game, it’s fun. If you play at it, it’s recreation. If you work at it, it’s golf.”

“Golf is a puzzle without an answer. I’ve played the game for 50 years and I still haven’t the slightest idea of how to play.”

“Golf appeals to the idiot in us and the child. Just how childlike golf players become is proven by their frequent inability to count past five.”

“We learn so many things from golf—how to suffer, for instance.”

“Golf is the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off.”

“The difference between golf and government is that in golf you can’t improve your lie.”

Know any more good ones? Post in the comments!

Posted in Miscellaneous, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Brandhall Golf Course

I’ve already talked about a couple of courses in the West Midlands I played in the summer of 2014 before leaving the area and this is another one in the same part of the world.

Brandhall Golf Course is to be found quite central in Birmingham far closer in that Lickey Hills that I also played in the city. In fact, it is quite close to the M5 and there is quite a lot of traffic noise on quite a  few holes of the course.

In keeping with the other courses in the area I have talked about, it is too a parkland course with a number of trees giving you a very good reason to keep your drives as straight as possible.

Like Lickey Hills, Brandhall is also a municipal course, although it falls within the jurisdiction of Sandwell Council rather than Birmingham City Council. Also like Lickey Hills I booked it on Tee Off Times but I don’t think it really made much difference in price, the main advantage (for me) was being able to book online when the club wasn’t actually open.

So, it is cheap and in a pretty handy location for the urban population – these are definite plus points. From my experience there were few other pluses I’m afraid to say…

The biggest issue I had with the course which, while not necessarily entirely their fault, definitely detracted from my enjoyment. The problem was how busy it was. I played there twice last June and the second time was a beautifully sunny Friday afternoon, and it was hoaching! (Come to think of it the two plus points I have cited are probably responsible for this.)

I had a tee off time which I had booked but there was little order around the first tee. I’m pretty sure a 4 ball jumped in front of me but I didn’t feel comfortable challenging them – they sounded like locals and I was the visiting single ball.

The view from the 1st:

So, I eventually got going a good 10 mins after my booked slot. Then it was *hit shot*, *wait*, *repeat*. Then after finishing the 3rd hole and making my way to the 4th I found a young, single male golfer hanging around the teebox. Funny considering I was playing behind a middle aged 2 ball (and as noted I was right behind them). “On you go mate” he says then after I play and make my way to my ball he tees off and is as close to me as possible without actually smashing my head with his iron shots.

This continued for two holes until I let the guy play through – I was very much a beginner and wanted to take my time (as far as possible on a packed course) and this young guy was pretty useful and breathing down my neck which didn’t help my concentration one bit.

It did definitely grate though – he had clearly “jumped on” the course whereas I had parted with my hard earned cash to play. After I let him go through I only saw him again once or twice so I suspect he just played the nine holes or so furthest from the clubhouse.

So, maybe I can’t hold the course responsible for being popular and busy and having rogue players (well they could have someone on a cart checking tickets on the course as I have seen in Scotland) but they could certainly have organised tee off better – despite how busy the course was that day there was no staff near the 1st tee. A quick look over at Golf Shake shows plenty of other similar complaints.

When I played there was some renovation going on, putting in a water feature at the 18th. To keep 18 holes in play, the 7th was split into two holes which worked OK. Fair play to them to keep a proper round on offer during construction but it did dampen the experience a wee bit.

I’m fairly sure this is the view from the 7th tee (I didn’t take any of my own photos when I played so I am at Google Images’ mercy). The temporary green was at the top of the hill and the temp tee just behind it, playing back down the hill. I think this would be a pretty cool hole in its original state – a par 5 playing over blind hill down to the green nestled at the bottom of the slope. It is one of those holes where you have to bang a gong type thing when you are done to let the next group play.

Apparently the water hazard is now complete and from what I could see, it should make a nice par 3 to finish the round; hitting over a small pond to reach the green.

I can see why they would want to put in a new water hazard, the course is lacking somewhat in character. While not a poor course in the slightest, in my mind the holes all kind of blend together with not many defining features. (Having reviewed the course on Google Maps shows one pond in front a green on the back 9 but as far as I remember it didn’t really come into play.)

The course itself was reasonably good. It is a decent parkland style par 71 which was quite fun to play when I wasn’t standing waiting for the group in front.

I think that if I were to play the course again now the renovations are finished and when it is not crowded I would enjoy it a lot more. From my experience though, I would have to rate it as “worth a round if are in the area and don’t want to spend too much to get 18 holes”. I do hope I have the chance someday to revisit and get a better impression.

Posted in Courses | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Seafield Golf Course (winter)

I played my first round of golf of 2015 this afternoon. Despite a fairly dodgy forecast, I got quite lucky with the weather and only had one heavyish shower and at 6°, with my thermals on, it was quite comfortable for playing.

I am going to put this in with the course reviews but I won’t be treating it as a proper review – winter greens and tees were in play all the way round today which shortens the course quite considerably and alters the nature of quite a few holes.

That said, it was still a very enjoyable round of golf – even more so as it had been almost four weeks since I had played and I was getting some severe withdrawal symptoms!

I played at Seafield Golf Course in Ayr, often considered to be Belleisles‘s “little brother”. Both Belleisle and Seafield are located in the Belleisle estate in Ayr which also offers country parkland, play areas and picnic spots (although maybe not in January). Belleisle offers a classic parkland course and a longer challenge, whereas Seafield gives the golfer a mixture of parkland and links.

The first five and last five holes of Seafield occupy the corner of the Belleisle Estate that the Belleisle course doesn’t use and the 14th and 15th holes run next to Belleisle fairways. The 6th through to 13th are “through the wall”, in the grassland area of Ayr known as the Old Racecourse (for obvious reasons). This part of the course plays very much coastal links style and the sandy soil offers better drainage.

Walking from the 5th green to the 6th tee:

Over on the Old Racecourse side, the character of the course changes very noticeably, this is the view from the 7th tee:

Gone are the flat fairways and now we have the rolling mounds of classic Scottish links golf. Some of the shots can be quite challenging as you are literally hitting blind over slopes. And with all the undulations around, some random bounces are sure to happen!

As I mentioned, the winter greens and tees did change this course quite a lot and an obvious example was the 10th. The winter green is on the fairway, in front of the mound where you would usually be shooting past:

The view from the tee:

And a little closer to the “green”:

The real green is probably another 100 yards further on, behind the hillock you can see behind the flag.

On this side of course you really do get a feel of being near the coast, from the sea breeze rolling in, to views of the Heads of Ayr (somewhat hidden in this shot but it’s the only one I have of that direction):

My best shot of the round today was on the 11th, a 336 yard (usually) par 4. I hit an OKish drive, sliced a bit so went less than 200 yards. I then shanked my approach shot so needed a third to get on to the “green”. My full swing 9 iron landed here though so I was reasonably happy with it:

The toughest hole on the course, the 13th, is to be found on the links section and it is also the longest. At 427 it is not the longest par 4 in the world but I have yet to reach it in 2, so for me it is the hardest hole on the course. The Stroke Index would concur.

After the 13th it is back through the wall to five more parkland holes to finish the round. The 14th is a lovely elevated tee, shooting slightly to the left with trees blocking a direct line of site to the green. I have never done so but at 252 yards it is a driveable par 4. In fact, last summer I was playing by myself and ended up joining the 2 ball in front of me. When we got to the 14th, one of the guys drove through the green!

Again, the winter green shortens the hole a fair bit so I would imagine the better golfers could reach the green with a 3 iron or hybrid or some similar club. I fell short today but had a wee pitch on to the green and got my par.

The 15th hole is not dissimilar in nature to the 6th at Dalmilling in that it is a short par 3 to a green guarded by a burn – that is with the summer greens. Today I shot at a spot short and to the left of the real green, on the same side of the burn as the tee. This is the usual green:

This is where I played today:

It was still a fun wee hole, just not as fun.

The 16th is probably my favourite hole of the course. It is a realtively short par 4, played from an elevated tee across the burn previously negotiated, over a valley and up the same hill that we just teed off for the 14th. That it, as long as you catch your drive right. Today I did, fading round the back of a stand of trees on the LHS of the fairway and finishing up on the plateau of the hill with just a wee pitch to go.

The 17th to me epitomises a description of Seafield that a friend once used: not that long but accuracy is important in order to score well. It is also another where the winter green totally changes the character of the hole. Teeing off from the same hill we did so for the 14th and then hit back up for the 16th, we play down a blind drop, laying up before we again reach the burn. (Longer hitters will take a long iron, I drive from the tee.)

This is the view from quite far back looking over the burn at the winter green:

In the summer it is a far more difficult shot to get on the green; it is further back tucked into the trees so your approach shot really needs to be on the money. (In the photo above, the summer green is right at the far left of the picture, behind the little path you can seeing running across the gap in the trees.)

To finish is another gem of a hole which, once again, is just not quite as nice on winter greens. You can’t see the green from the tee which is tucked back into the trees but it is a gentle left > right dogleg. This works for me as when I can control my slice, my drive tends to be a fade – so I aim straight up the fairway from the tee and generally go in the right direction for the green. Staying fairly central on the fairway also helps with the approach shot as the sides of the green are guarded by a couple of bunkers. (Which again were not in play today.)

***DOGWALKERS RANT KLAXON!

I have mentioned previously how having dog walkers wander all over a course really does piss me off. I had the same experience today. Seafield seems to be extremely popular with dog walkers. I guess being adjacent to the Belleiesle estate which homes woodland walks, these people seem to think it is cool to continue their trekking over the green golfy bits too.

Well, it is NOT. For some very good reasons:

  • It is GOLF COURSE! Not a park or a woodland walk or a beach, a fucking GOLF COURSE! You wouldn’t walk across a football pitch when two teams were having a game, why do they think it is OK to wander across my fairway as I am trying to play a game of golf?!
  • It is GOLF COURSE! It may be publicly owned land but it used for a purpose. It costs money to tend the grounds – money that I and other golfers pay for! Municipal golf course does not mean free golf course (I wish)! If golfers weren’t paying for it, it would probably be an estate of suburban 3 bed semis laid out in cul-de-sacs.

I thought I had seen it all but today I saw a guy, about the same age as me, with his mutt, saunter across a pair of adjacent greens, tossing his ball for the dog to scamper across the GREENS to fetch… These are the greens that I am not currently allowed to play on so as to protect them, allow them to regrow for the upcoming season, and some arsehole thinks it’s cool to exercise his fucking dog on them?!

RANT OVER***

Considering the winter weather, the course was in rather nice condition today. I was getting caught out a wee bit with the putting as the links side of the course played quicker than the parkland side but all things considered it was a very enjoyable way to spend a January afternoon. I did score myself but considering the state of the course I don’t think it would be appropriate to add it to my “unofficial” handicap tracker.

I will play again in the coming months and write again about how the “full” experience compares to the winter state.

Posted in Courses | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Lickey Hills Golf Course

When I picked up the clubs again last (2014) summer, I was living in the West Midlands of England. There are quite a few nice courses in that part of the world but obviously I didn’t decide to get into the golf until a few weeks before we were due to leave the area…

One of the few courses I did get the chance to play before we left for good was Lickey Hills. In fact, I managed to get round it twice in June. It is a municipal course which is run by My Time Active on behalf of Birmingham City Council. As you might expect from the name, it is nestled in the Lickey Hills which are south west of central Birmingham, in the corner formed by the M5 and M42 motorways:

Lickey Hills is in quite a nice location for a golf course, offering views of the surrounding vicinity and some ones of Birmingham city itself (not the most picturesque city in the world but still).

Despite the course being a municipal one, I still managed to find slightly cheaper deals on Teeoff Times (if you haven’t checked it out, it’s a good site to find deals on playing a variety of different courses all over the UK and Scotland). Having said that, when I was talking to the course pro after my round and mentioned this, he informed me that if I had phoned the course directly, they would have matched the price.

Anyway, like many courses in that neck of the woods, it is a tree lined parkland course. The fairways for the most part are not super tight. I found the first couple of holes quite challenging to stay out of the trees but for the majority of the course, the fairways were wide enough that it would take a really wild shot to put you in trouble.

The 3rd is quite a tricky hole for a different reason – there is a huge left to right slope; you tee off from half way down a hill and play across it. Even if you aim way up to the left your ball is going to roll way down rightwards. And, then you are left with an almighty chip up to the elevated (from the RHS of fairway) green. Both times I played, I tried to hit my tee shot high up left and ended up low down right. Maybe after a lot of rain the fairway would hold the ball up better?

The 4th is then a lovely little par 3 from a highly elevated teebox down to a green guarded by a couple of bunkers and a tree. I managed to hit a par the second time I played – like all par 3s, the secret is in hitting a good tee shot.

From around the 4th, 5th and 6th holes there are some nice views looking back towards Birmingham. It is easy to forget you are relatively close to such a densely populated urban area when on the course because it does have a nice countryside feel to it. You can just see the skyline of the city centre in the background here:

For me the most challenging hole on the course was the 215 yard par 3 15th. There was no way I was getting on in 1 so it was lay up and chip on.

My biggest complaint about this course has got to be the dog walkers and ramblers. They just seem to freely roam across the course as though it were some kind of common land. It is as noted a municipal golf so in theory it is public land but it is a serious bugbear of mine when they act like they own the place. On one of my rounds, on the 2nd fairway, I had to wait to play my shot (as I was not sure it would be straight) until a group of rambling pensioners, about twenty strong, trooped on down past my position!

It is a common issue on public courses of course but I have never experienced the complete nonchalance with which the public seem to treat walking across Lickey Hills Golf Course.

If you can stand the public intrusions and can hit your driver reasonably straight then you will really enjoy this course. There is a fair bit of going up and down hills (naturally) so it is also quite decent exercise. It does have a lovely feel to it and if you don’t see any dog walkers you could easily imagine you were playing on a much more prestigious establishment, given the quality of many of the holes.

Posted in Courses | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Stourbridge Golf Club

I used to live in Stourbridge, in fact we lived there just short of four years. It’s a nice enough town, right on the edge of the West Midlands conurbation. One of its benefits is that it is right on the edge of Worcestershire, and indeed Staffordshire, and the countryside is easily accessed.

I have spoken about one golf club there where I took a short course of lessons but I never had the opportunity to actually play a round on the course, although it looked pretty nice.  There is one course in the town I did however get out for 18 on – the eponymous Stourbridge Golf Club.

When we lived in Stourbridge I was working in Birmingham and the further Midlands region and getting around by car. As you do, once I had lived in the town for a while I got to know wee back street routes to avoid rush hour bottlenecks. One such back road took me along the edges of the town and past the golf club. Way before I picked up the clubs again I often thought that it looked quite a nice course from the glimpses I caught as I drove past along Racecourse Lane.

When I started playing again in June 2014 I first of all looked to local municipal courses – bieng from Ayrshire I remembered my brother having a really good season ticket deal which allowed him to play multiple different courses so I hoped I might find something similar. It didn’t turn out to be the case but at a tip from a mate I discovered the website teeofftimes.co.uk which allowed me to book local courses at reasonable prices. I kept hoping to find Stourbridge on there but it never seemed to turn up and I generally played at other, slightly further afield, courses – which I will also write about in time.

Then one day in July, about a week before we were due to move back to Scotland, something popped up:

£17? I’ll go for that!

So, I booked it and the next day went along to play. It was nearly 30° and blazing sunshine. Perfect weather for golf, as long as I could keep myself dehydrated. The staff who greeted me and sorted me out was super friendly – he told me that another single player was just about to start and rushed off to see if I could join them. He came back a minute or two later to inform me that the other player had already teed off and I would need to play by myself. He was almost apologetic! I assured him that was absolutely fine as I was still very much a beginner and quite happy to play alone so that I could take my time without any pressure. He took me out to the tee off and explained the lay of the course.

According to their website, the club had recently changed the layout of the course but of course it made no difference to me as this would be my first (and to date only) round there.

It is a nice parkland course (as are all the courses I have played in the area) with fairly tight tree lined fairways and a fair bit of undulations. The most interesting aspect for me was the fact that a few fairways crossed over each other. On one approach shot another golfer came wandering across my fairway and the ball wasn’t far off him! It was his fault he didn’t look…

This was the view from the 2nd, a longish (402 yards) par 4:

Luckily my slice didn’t kick in on that hole and my tee shot didn’t find either of the bunkers on the right!

In addition to overlapping fairways there are a number of shared tee boxes! On the 3rd I think it was I was looking a bit lost trying to figure out which fairway to play and a kind local pointed me to the right one. In fact, that was a theme of my visit – friendly locals who all welcomed me to the club.

If you like parkland courses then this is a cracker! If we were still living in Stourbridge I would seriously be trying to figure out how to afford to become a member. According to the club’s website it is built on sandy soil and thus has good drainage and is playable all year round. If that is the case then it would definitely be worth joining.

I had given myself a target for the round of 100 (I had yet to to get near this on the rounds I had played in the preceding weeks) and I made the fatal error of checking my score before the par 4 18th and saw that I was on 96. I had just parred the 17th so the thought struck me that if I could repeat that and par the 18th as well I would make my target… The 18th is 353 and I struck a beauty of a drive. As I walked up to the ball sitting in the middle of the fairway I was trying to figure out how far I was from the flag. I needn’t have bothered.

I could do this- it was within my grasp! Of course, I scuffed my approach shot and needed a third to get on the green and then three putted for 6 and a round of 102.

Thumbs down for my performance (although 102 still ranked a season best at that point) but thumbs up for Stourbridge Golf Club. I hope I can play again at some point when I definitely will break 100!

Posted in Courses | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Dalmilling Golf Course

In my first post I mentioned that I learned to play golf at a pitch and putt in Ayr and then took my first tentative steps at the local “proper” course – Dalmilling in Ayr.

It is not a famous course; it is a municipal run by South Ayrshire Council. Apparently a few years ago (I was living in Japan at the time so no first hand experience) SAC tried to close it down in a cost cutting exercise. I will not start on a critique of SAC otherwise I will be here all day but thankfully there was enough of an uproar from local people that sense was seen and the course remains open.

It was built back in the 60s in order to take some of the load from the existing municipal courses in Ayr, Belleisle and Seafield. (I have never played Belleisle as it is in the top tier of South Ayrshire municipal course and my season ticket doesn’t cover it or Lochgreen at Troon. I have played Seafield and it is a lovely wee course which I will write about in due course.)

To many of its detractors, Dalmilling is featureless or lacking in soul – I can see the argument but I don’t feel that way myself. It might be that I am biased due to my emotional attachment – even before I ever played golf I frequently walked along the River Ayr next to the course and it plays a part in a lot of childhood memories.

Whatever it is, I just really like Dalmilling. I won’t go through the whole course hole by hole – if you are interested in that level detail you can see the Strokesaver pictures on the Golf South Ayrshire website I’ve linked to. Instead I will talk about a few highlights and personal favourites. There are more reviews over on Golf Shake as well.

The first hole is one of the longer ones on the course at 437 yards. Having said that, it is a par 5 so quite short for that number of strokes I guess. I know I am not able to reach the green in 2… It is a nice view from the tee, looking down hill to the green which is slightly to the right. As long as you have a reasonably straight drive you are unlikely to have any real problems with this hole- my biggest issues have been my horrible slice with my driver which leaves me in long rough, having to shoot over a hedge at the green. Oh, and one time there were neds on the fairway – I didn’t hit them, probably safest not to anger the natives.

From the first it is a wee walk across a farm track to the best part of the course – holes 2 to 8. These are in an area next to the river Ayr. The 5th runs alongside the river so if you have a hook you might find yourself in trouble (I have never had that problem, what with my slice and all).

For me the undisputed highlight of the course is the par 3 6th. At 113 yards a short one but it is such a fun hole. The tee off is right next to a tributary burn of the River Ayr – the burn winds its way around the green so it almost feels like an island. I have had a birdie on this hole once but equally I have put shots slightly off target just to see them trickle down the bank into the water!

This is the view from the tee:

And this is what the green looks like a wee bit closer:

I haven’t played recently but did walk the dog past it yesterday and winter greens are in play – and on this hole it would completely ruin the whole fun of it – the winter green is a wee patch of grass about 70 yards from the tee on the same side of the water.

After the par 3 fun of the 6th comes (according the Stroke Index) the hardest hole on the course – the massive dog leg of the 7th.

After another (but not quite as fun) par 3 it is back across the farm track to the 9th which tees off from just behind the 1st green.  The 10th, 11th and 12th take you on a long trek alongside the A77 Ayr bypass up to the Thornieflat estate. The 12th is less than 400 yards but to me it always feels a lot longer- it is another hole I can never reach in 2 shots…

The 13th is another par 3 and then we meet the second of the course’s par 5s. It is a nice drive down a fairway that slopes away from and then doglegs to the right back up a hill to the green nestled behind a wee copse of trees.

The 14th is a longish par 3 and quite a tricky one in my opinion. We then have a straight, short par 4 and to finish a pair of 400+ yard par 4s which again, I have never reached in 2 shots. I am hopeful of getting the slice out of my drive this coming season so maybe I will manage it in 2015 though! (In addition to going horribly off to the right when I slice my driver it really saps distance out of the shot – I am lucky to reach 200 yards…)

To summarise, Dalmilling is a parkland course with a bit of interest provided by its riverside location (in some ways it reminds me of Girvan in that aspect). It is quite forgiving as the fairways are not tree lined and if you miss them you generally find yourself in no more trouble than some long rough. The front nine is definitely more interesting but the back is probably the more challenging in terms of distance.

The greens are always (in my experience) in really good condition. The course itself can get a bit wet after (during) some rain but the greens seem to fare well. It definitely does not have the drainage enjoyed by the links at Troon (or the old racecourse side of Seafield) so if it has been raining make sure there are no holes in your shoes (or if you do, wear waterproof socks like me).

This was a bunker on the 1st in November but the green was absolutely fine:

I wouldn’t advocate coming to visit Ayr simply to play Dalmilling but I would absolutely suggest a round if you are not too far away. It is very accessible from the A77 so even worth a burl down from Glasgow perhaps? Unlike Troon it is not really accessible by train but it is only maybe 5 minutes from a major junction on the A77 if you are driving.

Posted in Courses | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Lessons and fingers

In a previous post I mentioned that the real catalyst for my return to golf (or really, the first serious attempt to play after dabbling a couple of times in my life) was a very special deal I saw at my local driving range.

The posters up all around the range clearly stated “Beginners’ lessons- £30 for six weeks”. I was slightly incredulous – everyone knows that golf lessons are expensive, how on earth could they offer such a deal?! I was intrigued so I asked in the pro shop and was duly informed that yes, the posters were absolutely correct. Of course they were group lessons but still, an opportunity not to be missed I thought! Apparently the cost of the course was subsidised by the English Golf Union as part of a drive to attract people (back) to golf.

So, I put my name down, left my phone number and a few days later I had a call to confirm the next course starting date a week or two later.

I have to say at this point that this was without a shadow of a doubt the best return on any money I have ever spent on golf!!!

During my periods of dabbling with the gowf over the years people frequently told me that the best way to improve your game was to have lessons. When I lived in Japan I was not confident that my Japanese was good enough to fully appreciate the details of lessons (this suspicion was borne out last year when I bought a couple of golf magazines in Japan and kept having to ask my wife “what’s this word?” – there’s a fair bit of specific vocabulary needed) so I hadn’t ever had any.

These, an hour once a week, six weeks of lessons were very much intended for people coming to the game with no experience so within the small group I was perhaps the most “accomplished” but I really did learn so much each time.

Rather than go into everything in detail (not that I can recall the lot anyway) I just want to say one thing to anyone starting golf or early in their journey: “if there is anyway that you can take lessons, then do so!” and “take as many lessons as you are able”.

Our coach Gareth was very patient, explained clearly and communicated his passion for golf in the way he approached our lessons. I guess I was lucky and not all coaches out there are as good (and given the deal I was especially lucky) so another point I might make is to research who will be teaching you and try and get the best that your budget can stretch to.

I went to the lessons for six weeks and I can honestly say that when I returned each week I was buzzing and enthused and looking forward to the next week’s lesson!

As just one little illustration, I had an epiphany moment with my grip. I had never really given my grip much thought – I can even remember skipping over parts of books that dealt with the grip thinking “that’s pretty obvious stuff”. However, I was to find, thanks to Gareth, that there were some serious issues with my grip.

I’m not sure if it was just something I did naturally when I was a kid or if someone (my brother??) had maybe shown me but I was holding the golf club in the palms of my hands with my thumbs on the top of the shaft, lined up. As anyone that has played a bit of golf will know, that is not a good way to hold a golf club!

The correct way to hold a golf club is of course in the fingers of your hand, not the palms! This was such a fundamental insight to me – I couldn’t believe I had been getting such a basic thing wrong all these years! In the weeks and months since that beginners’ course I have read many books and watched many videos that I’m sure I would have come to that realisation anyway but it was so motivating to learn such an important issue in the flesh!

So, again, if you can take lessons, do so! I know of at least one club near where I currently live that offers a similar type deal to the one I took last year and I think some councils offer similar “get into golf” courses so get Googling and find one near you.

And, if you are lucky enough to be able to afford one to one pro lessons (that is on my current wishlist), again do a bit of Googling and find the one with the best reputation (usually reflected in the hourly rate) that you can run to.

Posted in Technique | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The gowf

I’ve just posted my first golf related bog article so I thought I should probably just clarify a wee bit about what my intentions are with this blog.

I am very much an average club player. However there are many thousands like me in Scotland so I will just be writing about my everyday experiences related to golf which I hope others like me can relate to.

In no particular order, these are some of the things I plan to discuss:

  • Golf courses– thoughts and opinions
  • My journey to work on that (so far unofficial) handicap
  • Equipment – and I do not mean the latest reviews. Rather, things like “what is your favourite putter style?”
  • The mental game
  • General golf related experiences
  • Some golf movie reviews
  • Maybe some history surrounding the game – I am after all Scottish
  • Reviews of some golf related smartphone apps. I am an Android user but I will see if I can’t get an iPhone friend to help out as well

What it most definitely won’t be is a news site- I do not keep up with who is winning what tournaments anywhere near enough to write about that side of the game.

It will take time to build a reasonable body of work but I will be adding reasonably frequently to the site (a couple of times a week is the plan right now – maybe more in the summer when I am playing more often and have more to talk about).

And of course, I am open to suggestions! Please leave any ideas you have for topics in the comments. Likewise, if you would like to contribute to the site please get in touch, either via one of the comments box or by the contact form on the front page.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Golf Days

When I was a wee boy – around about primary 7 I guess it would have been, my big brother going off to play golf every week inspired me to follow suit. Near where we lived in Ayr there was a council run par 3 course – or “pitch and putt” as we called it. So, I took to the course with a couple of my friends and played a load of rounds.

Those early days are a bit lost in the mists of time but I remember playing at that pitch and putt a lot one summer and really enjoying it. I picked up a second hand half set of clubs from the classified section of the Ayrshire Post – it was a wee old lady getting rid of her late husband’s clubs. Some of my clubs even had wound  tape type grips!

I didn’t keep at the golf for very long for whatever reason – football had a major impact, as well as skateboarding and video games but I did have a couple of rounds on a “proper” course before giving up – Dalmilling in Ayr. It was a bit hard compared to the pitch and putt…

Fast forward nearly twenty years and in 2007 I was living in Japan. I had started a new job and immediately hit it off with my new boss – a German chap called Caspar. After a few months hard, dedicated work when I had “proved myself” he started opening up and discussing more personal stuff as well as work related issues. One day he mentioned he had played golf at the weekend and after I seemed to express some interest he remarked “you’re Scottish, you must play golf?”. To this I replied that I had indeed played a bit as a young boy but it had been a long time. He told me I’d be welcome to join them if I wanted to sometime.

This got me thinking – in Japan perhaps more than a lot of other countries, the golf course is a very good place for forging business relationships. I was relatively new in my company and desperately wanted to do well – I was ambitious and wanted promotion to a more senior role so playing golf with the boss certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing to do.

What’s more, my father in law was quite a keen golfer (primarily for the reason above – business) so I could also play with him I thought. At that time I was living and working in the city of Chiba and every day when I made the short train ride into the city centre I went past a driving range. It would be stupid not to play golf I thought!

So, around 2007/ 2008 I did indeed start playing golf in Japan. Now, the problem with that is that golf in Japan is expensive. When I played with my boss and colleagues we generally did so on a week day (we worked for a service company that operated at the weekends so typically our weekend would be Sunday and Monday) and even then we would still be paying around Y10,000 a round- about £50 at the exchange rate at the time.

In fact, the first round I played was with my father in law at a course in rural Chiba. Kaoru told me that the latest tee off time we could get was (about as far as I remember) 10:00am. I remember wondering to myself why we couldn’t play a bit later (I worked until 10:00pm routinely so my lifestyle/ cycle was a late getting up one). Oh well, can’t be helped I thought and dragged myself out my pit at the ungodly hour of 8 o clock or so to get the train to meet the faither in law to drive to the course.

Well, when we arrived I quickly figure out why – when we checked in we were issued with a second tee off time- for the back nine! We also placed our lunch order – we were to play nine holes, come in for lunch then go back out for the “back” nine! This is how golf works in Japan so of course it would take a full day!

Over the course of the next eighteen months or so I played at a handful of different courses in the Chiba area. I don’t remember them all but one I went to on more than one occasion with colleagues was really handy for me as the pick up for the shuttle bus (again common practice in Japan) was from my local station, giving me over an hour longer in bed than my Tokyo dwelling co-workers!

I even inherited a set of clubs from my father in law – a set of Taylormade irons and a couple of metal woods. The only issue I had was trying to get hold of a bag that was designed to be carried rather than stuck on the back of a buggy! That is a story for another time though.

So, I was golfing – a wee bit anyway. The problem was that, as noted above, it was expensive. This meant that I could only realistically get on to the course about once a month which of course is nowhere near enough to gain any semblance of competency…

My enduring memories of golfing in Japan is frustration and losing balls (the fact that all the courses I played were tight and had tree bound fairways really didn’t help matters). I did get to the practice range I spotted from the train most weekends but without taking any lessons or proper focus it didn’t really help either.

When we left Japan to live in the UK in late 2009 I returned the golf clubs to my father in law and resigned myself to a golfless life for the foreseeable future. I had left my job and had to find a new one so that absolutely took priority. By then as well my wife was pregnant so we were going to be parents soon.

Fast forward to early summer 2014. We were living in Stourbridge in the West Midlands (my work had taken us there). On a whim I had purchased a Sports Direct special a couple of years earlier but had literally only played with them once. I was aware that there were a few driving ranges in the area from driving around and decided to investigate the local one. I went over to hit a few balls one day and I noticed a poster up advertising “Beginners’ lessons, six week course for £30”. That seems remarkably good value I thought. Well, that was it, I was about to be thoroughly bitten once again by the golf bug…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 5 Comments