Saturday, December 15, 2007

16th Month at Green Caye Completed...

Where the Rubber Meets the Road…

Another progress report - that’s what I do here.

If some of the stuff here has been said somewhere else in this blog it’s only because it’s heavily on my mind. I think about this stuff ten times before I make a blog entry and I’m not likely to look back to see if I had addressed those thoughts in the past. I generally review what I had been doing one year ago, not necessarily a month or two ago.

I competed in the tournament on the 30th at Green Caye. There were fourteen competitors and everyone had a bad day. I shot 35 (+8) for T4. Two players shot 33 (+6) for T1 and a playoff decided the winner. It was won with a bogey on the first playoff hole. I was expecting 29 or 30 to be the number to win. Leading up to the event I was carrying a 32 (+5) average and I shot a 30 (+3) in a practice round a couple hours prior to the tournament.

As I said in a recent entry, golf is mental. It is the mental victories that are the most rewarding for me in golf. It is the mental discipline learned in golf that can be put to use in other aspects of our lives. As my tournament performance suggests, I have a lot to learn.

Green Caye tournaments have non-standard formats and this one was no exception. It was individual stroke play with moving tees. Everyone started on the center tees (the whites). Anyone making par or better moves to the back tees (the yellows) for the next hole, and anyone making double bogey or worse moves to the front tees (the greens) for the next hole. Bogeys move (or remain) at the center tees. I almost always play the back tees (the yellows) because I play at night and these tees offer the best lighting conditions. My lack of play from the more forward tees may or may not have contributed to my poor performance; however, I have started a new routine where the first loop I play is from the whites.

Sometimes I get in a hurry. Often I’m hurrying so that I can complete my 18 holes before they shut the lights off. Other times I’m hurrying to distance myself from a group that has let me play through. Martin pointed out to me that I always play poorly when I’m in a hurry. Upon hearing this, I realized how true it is. Much of the enjoyment I get from golf comes in tracking and reviewing my progress (can ya tell??). Sometimes, when I’m in a hurry, it’s because I want to complete nine holes so that I can record it. The result is that my mind is not on the shot, it’s on the pace of play. Most of the enjoyment I get from golf is experiencing a good shot. I need to refocus my mind when making a shot. I need to slow down enough to enjoy each and every shot. Then, quickly move on to the next one. Again, the hard part will mental.

This time of year is my favorite time to play. The conditions are generally a bit soggy, but I love playing in cold and wind. Also this time of year, some nights can get extremely foggy. I mean so foggy that you can’t see a pin 100 yards away. My best memories of last year are of playing in the fog. I love hitting a shot and watching it disappear into the fog, turning my head and listening for the distinctive sound of the ball hitting the green, and finally walking up expectantly searching the green for the result. Another great benefit of winter golf at night in Texas is that most folks feel it’s too cold to play.

The Stats...

I have nearly completed another month at Green Caye. My last day to play will be the 19th, but I don’t expect I be playing any more until after the Holidays. I took a couple weeks off to play some regulation courses but the rain and schedule constraints kept that to a minimum. Looking back on the previous month, I wanted to work on lag putting. I expected that if I could minimize three-putts I could lower my scoring average. So, how did I do…

Logging 29 loops in 12 visits, I got a good bang for the buck (since I figure fuel in cost per loop). One visit I played 45 holes and another time I played 36. The day I played 45 holes it was cold and windy following a cold front and heavy rains. I was the only one on the course.

My scoring average did indeed go down, down to an all time low of 32 (+5). I have managed to briefly hold a 32 average, but often one or two bad rounds spoil it. This month I’ve managed to keep my worst rounds semi-respectable with a lone 36 followed by three rounds of 35 (one of those was the tournament). As amateurs, we tend to think we are as good as our best game. Even our handicaps represent our potential, and not what our average truly is. As an example, consider a scratch golfer and a pro. A scratch golfer does not have a scoring average of par; a pro does. So, I’m very pleased with my scoring average for the month.

Average Pars is also a new record this month at 4.8 pars per nine-hole loop. The previous few months show a plateau that I was a bit worried about. This month my ball striking has been very solid. I have moved the ball back just a bit in my stance and it made a world of difference. I’m hitting the shots I intend and my misses are acceptable (for the moment). Solid ball striking promotes confidence and each amplifies the other. While I normally try to work the ball one way or the other, this month I played quite a few straight shots. I’m starting to be more expectant with my iron shots.

Average birdies fell off a bit this month. This is a stat that I expected to start taking off and I was off to a great start with three birdies in the first three loops of the month. Then things slowed and finally dried up completely. As I said before, I’m really, really realizing the huge importance that putting plays in becoming a good golfer.

Both my greens and up-and-down stats have been somewhat misleading. Both are the number per nine-hole loop and not a percentage as they should be. A couple of months ago, I added the actual percentage calculation. I’ll probably update the chart to reflect these percentages one of these days as well.

Having hit 95 greens (of 348 holes played or 36%) I’d think I could come up with more than 7 birdies. I had a slightly better GIR percentage last month (37%) and both are a good jump from previous months. The prior two months were 28% and 29% so a nearly 10% improvement. I just have to keep it up - keep playing smart (center of the green on sucker pin locations), and keep giving myself birdie opportunities.

The real improvement this month has been up and downs. This month I made par on 33.7% of the shots that failed to find the green. Previous months were 23.0%, 27.2%, and 17.2% so again, a solid 10% improvement. The big difference here has been that I used my 60-degree wedge for nearly all of my chipping. Some months I try to use a variety of clubs and sometimes that can yield good results. This month I decided I would stick to one club and it seems to have paid off and surprisingly so as well because the green complexes have been kept very soggy to ensure that the winter rye germinated.

Average putts went back down to 16 and I had to work hard at that again due to the soggy conditions and the winter rye coming in on these bermuda greens. My worst putting loop had 20 putts and my best had only 13.

Three putting was a focus for improvement this month and I did okay. Could have been better, but I’ll cite the conditions again. In 29 loops I crapped out 22 three putts, mostly in the middle off the month when the greens were super slow and furry. After a great stretch where I didn’t make a single three putt, I let my guard down some and I didn’t give some putts the respect that I should have (mid-line look). I did notice a trend that I am most likely to three putt when lagging down hill. My putting from within six feet was a little off this month as well.

So overall I had a good month. I don’t expect to sign up again till after Christmas, and when I do, I’m going to focus on putting. When I finish my 18 I’m going to putt till the lights go out.

UPDATE - I played two loops yesterday. I was a little apprehensive, thinking that I could go down there and shoot a couple of 38s to kill my average, but I managed a pair of 33s.

Here's a shot of the updated spreadsheet:

Whew, what a long post…


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