Although my experiment does not officially start until the 1st Jan, I thought that I would listen to my golf self hypnosis track this morning before my game. Today I played in the first round of the Stumpy Clark Winter Foursomes. My playing partner was Neil Bishop, a 16 handicapper who appreciates the finer points of the game and is a joy to play with. His standing in my eyes was cemented by a Jack Nicklaus moment on the 18th a few weeks ago. We were all square on the green and it had been a great match. Neil had an 8 footer for par, which he sunk. I was left with a tricky 3 and half to 4 footer with 2 inches of break, to halve the hole and the match. After collecting his ball from the cup, Neil picked up my marker saying simply, 'You would have made that'. He then shook my hand for the half. What a man... My Uncle Peter would be looking down with a broad Deryshire grin of approval on his face!
Our opponents today were formidable. Tom Long is a 6 handicapper who drives big and does everything well. His partner was Steve Lay an 18 handicapper and a very tidy player with a very wide and very hot putter. The format was matchplay foursomes. Each team plays one ball and players take it in turns. Neil and I decided our order by tossing a coin and I had the honour of teeing off on the holes with odd numbers. Tom was my 'tee' opponent.
As I have already mentioned Tom Long is long and he sent his opening tee shot on a tiger line over the trees to a spot just in front of the 8th tee. I touched my finger and thumb together. This is my trigger to connect with my inner golfing genius (the best player that I can be) and hit a decent drive to the right half of the fairway. The climax to the first was a four footer left for yours truly, for the half, which Neil was relieved to see disappear into the hole. MATCH ALL SQUARE.
Purest shot I have ever hit
The second is a long Par 4 and Neil hit his drive the best part of 250 yards into the right half of the fairway. Position A. I was left with 183 yards to the pin and after summoning my inner golfer and visualising my shot, I flushed my Ping hybrid. I looked up to see the ball flying arrow straight, just as I had imagined. It landed in the middle of the green and stopped within inches of its pitchmark. This was my shot of the day and quite possibly the purest shot I have ever hit. It felt easy and effortless and flew like a tracer bullet. It should be noted that the 2nd at Downes Crediton, with trees on the left and out of bounds on the right, is one of my, all to many, nemisis holes. Neil's long putt was conceded for a par and the hole. 1 UP.
The 3rd is a 180 yard par 3. Tom and I both hit good shots to the heart of the green. Neil lagged his 20 footer for a conceeded par and Steve drained his 15 footer for a great birdie. ALL SQUARE.
The 4th was halved courtesy of our handicap shot and Tom nonchantly sinking a 10 footer for par on Downes Crediton's stroke index 1. ALL SQUARE.
The 5th is a Par 5. Tom and I both drove okay but a little right. Neil advanced our ball to 7 iron range for me (140 yards) and Steve did something similar, but up the adjacent 4th fairway. Tom played first and hit a delightful iron, which sailed over the trees, landing pin high and some 15 foot from the flag. No pressure then. I triggered my inner golfer and hit a decent 7 iron to the front portion of the green. Neil lagged his 30 footer up close enough to be conceeded and then Steve drained another 15 footer for birdie. 1 DOWN.
The 6th was one of very few untidy holes today, which we won with a bogey 5 courtesy of a classic matchplay pressure putt of around 5 feet by Neil. ALL SQUARE.
Neil and I won 7 and 8 with pars, whilst our opponents won the 9th to leave us 1 up at the turn.
All 4 Players on their Game
The game ebbed and flowed beautifully, with all four players on form, until we reached the 17th. A tough Par 4 in which we get the last of our 4 shots. Tom spanks his drive down the right. It's in the bank but very playable and long. I trigger my inner golfer, picture my shot, settle myself over the ball,make a smooth swing and then cream my drive straight into the trees! Disaster! Schoolboy error when you have a shot. Neil can do little more than chop the ball onwards. Eventually Neil has a 20 footer with 6 inches of break for a half. It looks in all the way, but cruelly settles on the edge of the cup. 1 DOWN 1 to play.
And on to the 18th at Downes Crediton, a truly great finishing hole. It's a 190 yard Par 3. Slightly uphill, raised green, water on the left, bunker to the right and clubhouse behind. Steve has the honour. Neil and I watch his drive and both initially think it is heading to the water, but suddely it begins fading back and lands, like the proverbial butterfly, in the middle of the green. It's a fabulous shot, we are gutted.
Steve turns to us and says that he never makes the green, with an apologetic smile. Neil then hits his drive, which flies low and fast into the front bunker. I'm thinking I need to hole it to square the match. Once again I trigger my inner golfer, settle over the ball and make a terrible swing. The ball catches the lip and remains in the sand. GAME OVER, despite Neil playing one more shot, a beautiful flop out of the sand to 5 feet.
We congratulated Tom and Steve, who had simply played better than us on the day. We are not too disappointed though, as we shot a gross 83 on the Par 70 course. For us this is a net 67, which is a more than tidy score in amateur foursomes golf.
365 Days in a Row
As far as my mental golfing experiment goes, I consider the day a success. The trigger of touching my finger and thumb together to summon my inner golfer (the best golfer I can be) definitely helps with focus and confidence. My hybrid on the 2nd today, produced a shot and a feeling of control that I am not sure if I have ever felt before. And as I say to all my clients, change does not happen over night. To effect real and lasting change, the subconscious mind needs to be bombarded with positive images, which is exactly what I intend to do... for 365 days in a row in 2017.
You can follow my progress here and on FACEBOOK and TWITTER
Day 1 - A Mental Golfing Experiment
They completed the hole and then turned and waved to us. Uncle Peter looked at me and said in his broad Derbyshire accent, "That's your first lesson Gerrard, ETIQUETTE." He did not expand on this and I remember feeling decidedly uncertain as to how this first lesson related to golf, as he parked the car. I don't remember too much about our game that day, but I do know that it was the start of a life long passion for this frustrating, humbling, cruel and addictive game that I love.
This tiny improvement is particularly disappointing due to the fact that I worked hard on my game in 2016. I played an average of 2 to 3 rounds per week in the spring and summer, competed in 27 competitions at my club and practised regularly at home in a net in my garden. I also took a 'life changing' bunker clinic with our pro Barry Austin and studied various teaching apps to improve my game.
My blog, however, starts today, the 10th December 2016. I have just finished recording my golf smart relaxation track and will have my first listen and perfect mental game today. Over the next 12 and a bit months, I will keep an online diary of my golfing adventures and best of all... now when I'm loading my clubs into the boot of my car, I can cheerfully tell my wife that I am off to work!
My next game will be on Wednesday 14th December and is the first round of the Stumpy Clark Winter Foursomes at Downes Crediton...
You can follow my progress here and on FACEBOOK and TWITTER