Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Achieving Your Goals in Golf

For ages I have strived to play to single figures and for the first time in 2008 (and for only the 4th time ever) I managed it last weekend. Playing the golf course for the first time and dropping my SkyCaddie (a brilliant shot saving aid) in the car park did not deter me from at last succeeding in what I have been working towards all year. Now I know one swallow doesn’t make a summer; but it’s a good start to a year long programme in which I hope to play my best golf yet.

I put my recent improvement in form down to a couple of things:

1. Last month I started working 1-2-1 with a performance coach for golf. She has worked with Michael Campbell as well as other top golfers and athletes, so she really knows her stuff! Just talking through with a coach what my goals were, why they were important and making a plan made me much more confident of my ability to easily achieve my goals. We have since gone through a number of questions and answer sessions, a few exercises and visualisation techniques and my confidence, and attitude to achieving my aims has changed beyond all recognition. I am well on my way to becoming a better golfer – now it’s just a question of how low can I go! I certainly feel I have every chance of playing to single figures each time I play. If you are serious about improving your golf (especially if you want to turn professional) then I recommend you call Frances Goodman at Imagine Success.

2. I have continued my regular lessons at Knightsbridge Golf School with Dave Wilkinson – he has transformed my swing and ball striking and although it’s still work in progress (and there’s lots more to do), I am more consistent than ever – and my bad shots are not nearly as destructive as they used to be. If you are in London, near Harrods, then drop in for half and hour, you will be pleased you did!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Credit Crunch Beating Christmas Golf Gifts

Credit Crunch beating Christmas Gifts - Just thought all you keen golfers out there would want to take advantage of some special christmas offers on great golf presents for him or her!

Dizzy Heights are offering a special christmas discount on the cost of their excellent Pete Cowen DVDs. Pete Cowen is Europe's No1 Coach and he continues to coach some of the best players in Europe. I have used both of his DVDs extensively and they have made a significant contribution to my recent improvement and have got me ever closer to playing single figures golf.

Golf DVDs and GiftsThe Pyramid of Learning is a golf swing lesson that takes you through the whole golf swing in Pete's straightforward down-to-earth style. He uses great analogies to make it easy for you to relate to the technical principles without you getting lost in technical swing speak! It covers the basics, balance, body action (his Spiral Staircase drill is innovative and so useful in developing the correct body action) and how to create a powerful and dynamic golf swing. It also has interviews with some of his top players and his views on their golf swings.

The normal cost is £14.99 + p&p - but if you enter "CREDITCRUNCH1" when you checkout you will get a 20% discount off the nett price and 3 FREE POCKETSHOTS GOLF LESSONS worth £12.

The Ripple Effect is Pete's bunker lesson. Lee Westwood describes Pete Cowen as the best bunker coach in the world - watch the DVD and you will see why. I played golf with a top European Tour coach the other day and got up and down out of green-side bunkers twice (100% sand saves) thanks to this technique! It has eradicated my irrational fear of bunkers - and now when I am in a bunker I'm not thinking, "How do I get this out?", but "How close will it finish!". This DVD will dramatcially improve your bunker technique!! It is simple to learn and it corrects the common bunker technique taught by coaches all over the world (but not used by the very top players) which sees you open the club face, with an open stance and swing across the ball - the result typically being a left to right ball flight - it is difficult to control the trajectory and the reaction of the ball on landing. With Pete Cowen's Ripple Effect technique you will learn to build control of the ball from sand and to get the ball releasing like a putt towards the hole. The DVD costs £12.99 + p&p - but if you enter promotional discount code "CREDITCRUNCH1" then you will get a 20% discount off the nett price and 3 FREE POCKETSHOTS GOLF LESSONS worth £12.

golf gifts for him and herThe last special offer is on this gift pack of 6 lessons from 6 top coaches. It covers all aspects of the game and really is an ideal gift for someone taking up the game for the first time or looking to improve all aspects of their game. If you buy a golf gift pack before Christmas then Dizzy Heights are offering you a credit crunch boosting bonus of 3 extra Pocketshots lessons which will make really useful stocking fillers for Xmas - just enter "FreePS" in the voucher code section when you checkout and you will get all 9 golf lessons in the range for the price of 6.

I hope these tips help you save a few shots and a few pounds this Christmas.
Happy Golfing and Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Add A Computer to Your Golf Glove and Save Shots!

Senso glove golf swing training aid golf swing grip tips

When I first picked this up I thought this might be an expensive gimmick. But boy was I wrong! This has proved to be one of the most useful training aids I have tried and for £49.95 + p&p it’s good value too.

SensoGlove is simply a normal cabretta leather glove with a built-in computer that continuously reads your grip pressure. You can use it with any club and receive audio and visual feedback about the exact grip pressure on the club at address and during your swing.

Working on the “tight muscles are slow muscles” theory, I have been using this in my pre-round warm-ups and I have been hitting the ball further than ever before. By pinpointing areas of tension in my fingers at address and during my swing, I have managed to improve my rhythm and tempo resulting in more consistent ball striking. It’s even proved useful for chipping, pitching and putting.

What I like about this most is that it’s one of only a few golf training aids that you can use on the practice range and during a practice round. Replacement gloves are available for £11.20 + p&p from http://www.sensoglove.com/ .

Trueplane – Putting Training Aid

trueplane putting training aid improved my putting

I am getting used to hearing “nice putt” much more often during my rounds these days due to a few minutes regular practice with one of the simplest game improvement products around.

TruePlane could not be easier to use, simply slide the putter along the guide following the black line for the ideal inside-to-inside stroke. There is also a handy guide rod which attaches to your putter to aid correct putter alignment during the stroke.
It’s light and portable so it can be used indoors or outside and it is definitely something I will be using over the coming winter months, in combination with my 2Thumb grip and Scotty Cameron putter, to improve my putting at home. Trueplane can be ordered via http://www.trueplane.com/ for just £39.99 plus £5.99 P&P.

Monday, 22 September 2008

How the Ryder Cup Was Won

Well the Ryder Cup is over for another 2 years and I'm already counting the days to Celtic Manor in 2010. I cannot believe the drama and the excitement - it was even better than the K Club....apart from the result obviously!

Well here's what I've taken out from my weekend in front of the TV watching the best players in the world (bar Tiger Woods) play unbelievable golf. Hopefully, learning some of these lessons will help me get to single figures, lower my scores and my handicap.

Lesson 1 - When Captaining a side that is behind going into the last day singles put your form players out first. Faldo should have led the side with Karlsson, Poulter and McDowell who were all playing brilliant golf and who were all clearly in the right frame of mind to succeed.

Lesson 2 - Don't let your opponent get 'in your head' in matchplay - Anthony Kim clearly got to Sergio Garcia and it affected his game. The game was won well before the 8th when Sergio missed that short birdie putt to get a hole back.

Lesson 3 - Work on your wedge play - the quality of the approach shots was outstanding all week. These players clearly can make the ball dance with a short iron in their hands. This ability to make birdies or to recover from a poor shot to make par is the key to keeping your round on track. I am going to devote a much greater proportion of my practice time to 8 iron to lob wedge from now on.

Lesson 4 - You've got to putt well. Casey didn't make nearly as many putts as McDowell, Karlsson, Poulter and Harrington (who seemed to hole everything from within 20 feet in the last 4 balls match). Work on your putting. And when you think you're getting good, do some more work on it.

Overall, it was an enthralling weekend of sporting achievement - disappointing for the Europeans and momentous for the Americans - but at the same time a glowing tribute to the fascination of matchplay golf; and hopefully millions of youngsters watching this weekend will have been inspired to take up the game as a result of the spectacle they saw this weekend.

Fingers crossed for 2010; if I can just work on lessons 2, 3 and 4 who knows I might even make the team.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Golf Practice - Dr Karl Morris Golf Tips Have Helped Me

I've been trying something really simple for my last couple of rounds and it seems to be working as my scores are slowly falling (I shot 10 over last week, which is my season's best). Following the advice of Dr Karl Morris one of Europe's leading sports psychologists I've been trying this simple 3 tasks approach.

Basically from the first tee to the last green for every shot just focus on the same 3 things only. In my case it has been;

1. Visualise the shot all the way, including its trajectory and reaction on landing.

2. Take 1 practice swing only standing behind the ball (only once I have a clear picture of the shot from point 1).

3. Make and slowly release a full deep breath before each shot and then approach the ball.

It's been working for me. You can see some of Dr.Karl Morris' golf video lessons on http://www.saveamillionshots.com/ or on http://www.golf-brain.com/.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Why SkyCaddie Will Help Your Course Management and Save You Shots

It’s like SatNav for the golf course, but it’s much easier to use than the one in my car, and it doesn’t have that monotone voiced woman telling me I’ve ‘driven’ in the wrong direction. I love this gadget; it is proving itself to be a really useful course management aid. By giving you targets to aim for and to avoid, it helps you make better decisions off the tee. Using the Driver less often, I have been finding more fairways and greens in regulation, which has got to be a good route to saving shots.

At £299.95 it’s not cheap. After all you could have your choice of drivers for this kind of money. But I would lay a £10 bet that you would save more shots on your next round with SkyCaddie in your hand, than a new driver in your bag! http://www.skygolfgps.com/.

The only potential drawback is that your playing partners will start asking you for distances from around the 2nd hole until the end of the round – Tell them to get their own!

Products I have Been Trying This Month

Always looking to save shots I recently fitted a 2Thumb putter grip to my putter. 10 minutes to fit it, 15 minutes practice with it and off I went onto the golf course. 3 rounds later my putting stats have improved by just over 1 stroke a round and I feel as if I cannot miss from 8 foot. If I could save a stroke for every £17.99 I spent on golf equipment it would cost me just £233.87 to get to scratch!

There are at least 7 different ways to grip it and it certainly feels different when you first pick it up. It stops you breaking your wrists and reduces putter face rotation and I’ve found it has helped me achieve a better roll on the ball.

http://www.2thumbgrip.com/ – 3 different styles, 7 different colours, prices from £14.99 to £17.99 per grip. As a bonus it will soon be shipping with a putting lesson DVD from PGA Master Professional Denis Pugh.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Golf Blog From Sandy Jamieson (Robert Allenby's Coach)

I came across this golf blog recently from Sandy Jamieson, one of the world's leading golf coaches and currently coach to Australian star Robert Allenby. On his blog he periodically talks about his trips around the world (not always in private jets) and the odd golf tip or too. The one tip I found particularly useful was the one about using an alignment aid when practising. It's so simple and it helps you form and keep good habits and you will see the benefits on the golf course. He's also uploaded a video of Robert Allenby's swing on his profile page on this new golf instruction website.

Friday, 27 June 2008

New Golf Video Website Launched

Hi, if you've dropped by and looked around then you will probably know that I am focusing on trying anything and everything to improve my golf. In fact over the past few weeks and months I have been busy working with a team of classy golfers and world famous coaches to create a new website aimed at improving standards and lowering handicaps worldwide. It's currently in beta testing and we'd love your feedback so why not take a look. It features:

Hundreds of free golf video tips from famous golf coaches
The ability to upload your own swing and ask questions of experts in golf forums
A UK golf club directory with great course descriptions, reviews, maps, photos and videos
A Golf Day Wizard making it easy to organise your golf day

Give it a try and let me know your comments!

Monday, 26 May 2008

2Thumb Putter Grip

The 2 Thumb Putter Grip - A video by Denis Pugh. I've just started using this 2Thumb putting grip and so far I have been very impressed. Only 30 putts at the weekend is definitely a step in the right direction.

The 2 Thumb Grip has been specially designed to help you putt better. In this video you will see some of the reasons why it's being used by top tour professionals and thousands of amateurs worldwide.

The 2 Thumb Grip - Simple, Natural, Logical

Thursday, 22 May 2008

New Prototype Golf Swing Training Aid Testing

Every now and then you read about a remarkable individual who has miraculously gone from 28 handicap to scratch in a matter of months. Much as I’d love to think that could happen to me, or better, that I could actually invest the emotional and physical effort to make it happen. It’s as unrealistic for me as it is for the majority of amateur golfers who have; a) a job; b) a family; c) a life.

For me, just a minor miracle will do. If I can improve from a playing handicap of 24 to single figures in less than 2 years then I will be happy. If along my journey I can share some of my experiences with other golfers who want to embark on a similar journey, then so much the better. I will leave no stone unturned, no gizmo untried, no DVD unwatched in my quest over the coming months.

Since the PGA Show I have waded through my shiny new pile of ‘paraphenalia for lost and desperate souls’ and carefully selected a range of products for experimentation.

First up, was the peculiarly named “Tour Impact”, or TI for short. It is a strange name to give to a training aid that is so full of delicate electronics that you cannot actually hit a ball with it!

The idea behind the TI, is that it is a practice club that helps you swing with the rhythm, tempo and timing of a tour pro. A bold claim - and one the manufacturer claims is achievable by blending recorded swings of 10 top tour professionals (they don’t tell you who they are) into a realistic feeling golf club.

The idea is simple enough, you select the speed that you feel is the most desirable for you; then you swing the club in time to the different sounds that the club emits. From a nice address position, as soon as you start your backswing you hear a loud audible tone; this tone then changes in pitch during the downswing, with a distinctive ‘swoosh’ sound through impact. The idea is simple enough; make enough practice swings keeping time with the sounds you are hearing and you will ingrain a consistent rhythm into your swing.

In theory, and to be fair with some practice, you should start to be able to mimic the timing and rhythm of your chosen tour professional. I have used this throughout every practice session for over a month, and although I cannot quite get over the fact that I cannot hit the ball with it, I have found it to be really quite useful and entertaining.

There are 10 speed settings (0 – slowest to 9 – ridiculously fast) and after 10 minutes of great fun trying to swing so fast I nearly pulled a muscle I finally settled for using it at 0, its slowest setting. With the setting at 9, I could barely finish the backswing before hearing the ‘swoosh’ of impact – I am not sure it’s physically possible to swing that fast!

After a few weeks I noticed that I was striking the ball more consistently out of the sweetspot and hitting fewer poor shots. How much of this was down to the TI is difficult to say. Certainly it deserves some credit if only for nuturing my interest in what working on my tempo could do for my game. In all my years of playing golf (20+) I had never ‘worked on my tempo’ and I was genuinely excited and enthusiastic about doing so.

After a few sessions I started to look for other instruction articles and videos about tempo and surprisingly found it hard to come by. Eventually, I found an excellent piece on the importance of tempo in one of my favourite golf books, “The Swing Factory” by Steve Gould and D J Wilkinson of the famous Knightsbridge Golf School in London. They describe tempo as, “the ultimate refinement that concentrates power at exactly the right place every time you swing”.

They go on to say, “most golfers swing much too fast to retain control over the delivery, so their point of release and shape of their swings are subject to constant variation. You cannot standardise the shape of your swing and point of delivery until you have a constant tempo”.

This advice has proved to be invaluable. The TI has served as a useful aide-memoire to stop swinging like a lunatic and to start swinging within myself. I’d often heard TV commentators talking about top pros swinging at 80%; now I know what they mean, and even better I can do the same myself. This has started to produce better scores in the low 80’s already this year, and I have even played to single figures once!

I have certainly benefited from considering, and experimenting with, my tempo more often in practice and giving it some thought during play. For too many years I have been a victim of hitting rather than swinging. I have been concentrating so much on getting the backswing right, by the time I got to the top I was always in so much of a hurry to hit the ball, I would not swing back down and round through impact, but make an aggressive hurried swipe at the ball. Hitting from the top usually ended in disaster; I would lose my height and spine angle, lurch with my upper body and head, and generally make a pig’s ear out of a promising backswing. I have suddenly realised how important it is to give myself enough time to make a coordinated movement of my body through the ball and the results speak for themselves.

I’m still itching to give the ball a good whack with the TI, or should I say a rhythmic and smooth strike, with the TI. That’s perhaps the major drawback with an otherwise likeable and useful product. If it wasn’t a prototype they’d like back in one piece, I might have succumbed to that desire and given it one almighty swing just to see what happens.

The TI is not available in the UK yet, but if you can find out more about it at Tour Impact's website. Over the coming weeks and months you will also be able to see a few of the other game improvement aids I have been testing. If they work I’ll be letting you know here soon.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Hampton Court Palace Golf Club

Just thought I'd share with you all the beautiful course where I play. It's called Hampton Court Palace Golf Club and it's just outside London near Kingston-upon-Thames.

It's well worth a visit for a golf society day:

Great course - challenging 6,513 yard parkland/inland links golf course
Good practice facilities - driving range and short game area
Great Facilities - conferences, weddings and fantastic food
Nice friendly team and members!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

GPS Golf RangeFinders Can Save You Shots

Recently I met Jackie Hitchcock, Managing Director of Sky Caddie at the glorious Oxfordshire Golf Club. I interviewed her about her range of golf GPS rangefinders. Here's a little clip of that interview. It took less than 10 minutes for Jackie to convince me of the merits of using a SkyCaddie; and only 2 minutes to convince the cameraman to get one too!

I've got my eyes on the SkyCaddie SG5 - with its large colour screen it's easy to read and straightforward to operate. You can download your course from the SkyCaddie website - they have over 17,000 professionally mapped courses worldwide and if yours is not listed they can survey it for you (with the club's permission). Yes, unlike every other GPS device supplier, SkyCaddie actually sends out surveyors to map each and every course! Thinking as a caddy would do for his or her player, they plot all the distances to the hazards and target areas so you can manage your way around the course effectively. It really works and because it uses commercial grade GPS engines (if you are considering a cheaper GPS then ask them about the quality of their engine) it is very, very accurate! Certainly more accurate than the 100 and 150 yard markers on your average golf course!

I would love to hear feedback if you are using a GPS unit and it is saving you shots?

I can see 3 easy ways SkyCaddie is is going to save everyone shots; 1) by avoiding errors in shot strategy off the tee or for your approach; 2) perfect club selection to get the exact distance to the pin and the front and back of the green (check out Sky Caddie's Intelligreen feature at the end of the video); 3) knowing how far you actually hit the ball (SkyCaddie can tell you!) - Yes let's face it we all overestimate how far we actually hit the ball on average.

Check out the video and let me know what you think. I think this is definitely going to help me in my quest to get to single figures!

Monday, 18 February 2008

The Latest Gadgets for Lost and Desperate Golfing Souls

I will go to almost any lengths to improve my game…

There’s an old saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. I don’t subscribe to that view. Even after I played the best round of my life (which happened last year) I started tinkering with my swing because I knew it could have been even better. In many ways my pursuit of excellence is similar to Tiger Woods; leave no stone unturned, plan meticulously, seek the best advice, get the best team around you (my wife is very supportive), but unfortunately that’s where the similarities with Tiger Woods end.

My game is broken. Sometimes I can mend it and play half decent golf for a while, but more often than not it’s in a state of disrepair. I often describe my game as being between swings, it’s a bit like ‘being between jobs’, a euphemism for being unemployed or in the case of my swing, out of working order.

Even when things are going well, I cannot curtail the irresistible urge to give the next new swing aid a try in the hope they might go even better. So strong is this urge that I recently got on a plane to visit the world’s biggest golf show, The PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, in the hope of finding the next miracle cure for my golfing ills.

I was not disappointed. The show was awash with gadgets and gizmos, and even boasted a 10 minute, 100 U$ dollar teeth whitening while-u-wait booth. Apparently you’ll play much better with a ‘winning smile!’

Some of the best golf coaches in the United States were in attendance; David Leadbetter, Butch Harmon, Dr.Gary Wiren, Rick Smith, Jim McClean, Roger Fredericks and Dr. Joseph Parent to name a few. What I love about these fellas, is that you only have to ask them a question or make a practice swing and they will stop signing autographs and start instructing. They are as addicted to teaching as I am to learning this great game.

Rick Smith (until recently Phil Mickleson’s coach) was demonstrating a particularly novel training aid called the GyroSwing™ which has a gyroscope in the club head. As the club head moves, the gyroscope always tries to return it to ‘square’, forcing you to swing on plane. They are not out in the UK yet, but I’ll be getting my hands on one as soon as I can to see if it will save me shots. If it does you’ll be hearing about it here soon.

Another device that promised to save shots was the Eez-Read.

It is designed to help you read the perfect line for your putt every time. Instructions advise you to take 2 readings, one halfway to the hole and the other at the hole. Great, but there’s no graph paper and pen, and it doesn’t take into account the other variables you might want to consider. How long is the grass? Are you putting with or against the grain? Can you remember how to read a spirit level? What time does it get dark? How likely are you to line-up correctly and hit the ball with a smooth upstroke from the centre of the club face on the correct initial direction with the correct pace? If their next model could do that I for one would buy one like a shot!

Its clever designers made it flourescent so you can line up your final 6 footer for double bogey on the 18th whilst your playing partners are getting last orders in at the 19th.

At $14.95 + p&p (www.eez-read.com) it makes a nice, if expensive (and illegal) ball marker, but at the end of the day it’s just a spirit level. And if you want one of those then at least buy one that you can pretend is for putting up those shelves you’ve been promising your wife about for ages.

Sorry Eez-Read guys, I found this spirit level at www.maplin.co.uk for the princely sum of £2.49.

When all is said and done, it was voted Winner of the 2008 PGA Merchandise Show New Product Center Competition. In a show of a thousand exhibitors this came as a surprise to me. But what do I know? After all, I’m not even single figures yet!

Over the coming months I will be trying all manner of things in his quest to reduce my handicap to single figures (it’s gone from 24 to 13 in just over a year). If you have a training aid, an idea or an invention, or if you really think you can help save golfers shots then I want to hear from you. If it works it might even get a mention here. NearlySingleFigures can be contacted at his blog on
http://golf-nearlysinglefigures.blogspot.com/ or by email via http://www.dizzyheights.com.

Podcasts - Pocketshots video free golf lesson downloads to iPod, iTunes, mobile phones

Pocketshots - Free Golf Video Lessons from famous European Tour golf coaches