Here Cometh the TSI

In almost 20 years of golf, I have been an absolute miser when it comes to equipments. My first set was a hand-me down Maruman set from my brother. After hacking around with that, I decided to splurge on an iron set – the Taylormade RAC LT. I honestly don’t remember how I purchased it – I think it was either second hand or it was on a fairly cheap sale. From there on, all my clubs were second hand, purchased from E-Bay or elsewhere.

I really don’t remember any club I purchase brand new. Even my Mizunos I am gaming now – the MP54 was a set sold to me second hand from a friend. My MP-57s were purchased second hand from a shop. All my drivers were second hand or on cheap sale – my first real driver (the first few years I was using those that came with the set) was the R510 I bought in Bangsar cheap sale. Then I got the R5 Dual from E-bay which I gamed for many years, before making the jump to the Hi-Bore Cleveland and Hi-Bore XL. Gamed that for a bit, then moved back to Taylormade – the whitewolf we call it – the R11. Because it’s white. And because we like wolves.

I gamed the R11 for the longest – I think close to 4 years before switching to a second hand Cobra Flyz+ (which I am using right now), for about a year + and went to buy on sale the Titleist 917 D2 which took a while to bed in but after getting used to it, was really smashing it. The Titleist by far, was the one driver that looked best, even if it was gray. But the shape was just perfect.

So I sold it off.

I sold it and a Titleist hybrid, a mizuno wedge, a Titleist 915 5-wood, a golf mat, a golf trolley, a Ping 60 degree wedge and I think a few more things that I can’t remember to prepare to purchase a nice Christmas Present for myself – a new driver. As in a really new driver.

However, in November, I decided to institute this swing change to move to stack and tilt, just as I sold off the Titleist. So, without a proper driver, I just gamed the Cobra for a few more rounds, at least until I groove this new swing in and have a more consistent way to whack the ball.

So, now, all ready to go, I headed to MST Superstore at the Federal highway for a fitting session and to try this:

A year plus ago I went for a session with these guys as well, as described here

Lesson Learnt: Don’t Binge Buy

Back then, my results were around

BallSpeed: 137.9

Total Spin: 2475

Carry: 212m

Total: 230m

Club Head Speed: 96.2mph

That was with my Titleist 917D.

Fitting into this TSi3 10 degrees with a Tensei AV White Stiff Shaft. My results were…meeh…

You would think it’s a lot of difference.

BallSpeed: 138.1

Total Spin: 2663

Carry: 215m

Total: 233m

Club Head Speed: 98.3mph

It’s slightly faster. But the spin is much higher and of course, things vary.  My longest drive was around 248m while my shortest were the hooks into the forest. Am still grooving this swing in so it’s not easy.

And honestly, trying out the TSi2 and the SIM MAX from Taylormade, I was able to hit these two slightly better.

But have you seen how the TSi3 look from the top? Take my money.

So against better judgement, and opting for the better looks instead of better performance, I told the fitter OK, I know I don’t deserve her, but I need to have her, so since the TSi2 is going for the same price as the 3 – why not the 3? It’s like you know that the vegetable burger that cost 20 bucks is good for you but when you see a same priced burger with double stuffing and wagyu beef next to it – why wouldn’t you go for it, even if it gives you a heart attack?

So there you have it. It takes 6 – 8 weeks for them to deliver – as the TSi3 is out of stock and the tensei shaft is also unavailable. But hey, since we are heading into another lockdown, I guess waiting won’t hurt anyone.

Swing Overhaul Part 9: The Plan Comes Together

So. I am writing this on the final day of an eventful 2020. This year has literally FLEW by. It seemed yesterday that on March 18, 2020 the lockdown was announced by our government. What proceeded after that was beyond mine or anyone’s imagination as this COVID pandemic wreaked havoc to our business and personal plans. I witnessed customers shuttering their businesses. I witnessed close friends losing their jobs. Even for the first time in our 10 year history, we had to let people go in our company. It was an unprecedented, global disaster that seem to be continuing well into 2021.

To all affected in some ways, whether its a job loss, business loss, personal and health loss, I can only provide the scarce comfort that we have the largest brains in the world all working together to get us out of this and we pray that humanity will show its merit for survival by surviving this.

Back to golf though – I had the chance to cram in a few games since the previous 9 hole.

a) Another 9 hole round following it (my 4th round with new swing) – continuous improvement was evident and finally began to get my winnings back again.

b) Another 18 hole at Palm Garden – and shot an impressive 90 on the back of 6 pars . This is my 5th round – I gave myself 10 rounds to shoot under 90, which I hope I will be able to do soon, with this new swing.  My dropped shots in this game was more of my irons – short changing myself on numerous occasions and landing into hazards. My drive was working out reasonably well except for one hole where I OB’ed.

c) Another 9 hole – and once more ingraining the swing more and more.

The plus I am getting on this new swing was that there is less (much less) movement and swaying. I feel more ‘on top’ of the ball and more confident in hitting the ball consistently at the same spot. The other plus is that when I feel I should crank it up on strength, I can do it with just ‘stepping down’ on my left side. And likewise, if I want to control, I can not ‘step down’ so much. Stepping down here is described as literally, pushing down on my left leg, as if I am hitting a throttle. To boom the drive, I step it down, but I tend to pull this if I hit it too quick. Otherwise, I don’t and the shot seems to be ok but I tend to fall back a bit as if I just reverse-pivoted. I don’t really know how to reconcile these movements properly but the results are OK. I also find myself able to conjure up a baby fade as well if required, by ensuring my takeway is not so ’rounded’ but rather straight back, and my finish has that Patrick Reed-ish kind of twirl. I have never been able to do something like that before with the old swing, but with this stacked swing, since my body isn’t swaying so much anymore, I feel that I can get more control over the swing.

Overall, I think I made the correct decision to change my swing. It feels less stressful and I am not over swinging or over-bashing the ball but with the stacked feeling, I feel I can pummel the ball equally long with less moving parts. This hopefully ensure my swing can last me for the next 30-40 years. I love this game too much to give it up when I hit 60 due to a bad swing mechanics.

So – have a happy new year and here is looking at a better 2021 – not just in golf, but in everything else happening on our beautiful planet Earth!

Swing Overhaul Part 8: Part by Part

Keeping last game’s takeaway in mind, I decided not to worry too much about positions and focus on basically one thing only – keeping my weight on the left (and also my head not moving much). The swing thought now is broken down into easier bits. Address the ball in a slightly closed position, keep weight on the left and shift my hips to the left a little. From that address position, I just take a way as how I would usually do. I don’t think about dipping my shoulder, or tilting my spine or even keeping my elbows close to my body. I just use whatever swing I had from there on while keeping my weight shifted to the left.

So another 9 hole, and finally, something began to click. I gave myself 10 games to embed the swing mechanics in. I am into my third game – 2 X9 holes and one 18 holes.

The first 9 and 18 holes were disastrous. But now, this time it was different. With the simplified swing thought in my head, I proceeded to rip the first drive down the fairway – a welcome sight, after 27 holes of train wreck.

My iron approach was pushed way right but at least there was contact, and I knew this was probably how I will proceed on from here on.

Throughout the entire 9, swing thought was simple – weight left, head still. All the other thoughts, on whether my shoulder was at a tilt angle, my right knee straight, my elbows connected to my body and all those – out of my head.

Without those thoughts, swing began to free up. And the concern just became distance and alignment. What a difference.

Sure, I still lost my 9 hole bet again, but I know for sure, I am on the right road to improve.

Swing Overhaul Part 7: 18 hole Tryout

The great Tiger Woods once said: “Achieving trust is always the final step with a change. That’s the hardest thing, taking Ranger Rick to the course.”

While my golf game is currently probably around 0.04% of hit level, this ranger rick quote still applies. We all can hit it on the range, but what the hell happens on the course?

Since my previous nine hole outing, I’ve gone to the range to sort out a few things and am getting more and more used to this Stack and Tilt. To an extent I felt fairly confident in accepting an invite to tee it up at Amverton for my first 18 hole with a new swing.

WHAT. A. MESS.

I really, really do not understand why the flaming heck I can be hitting great shots on the range but end up like an epileptic baboon when I am on the course.

Its strange, because while I am fairly comfortable with the changes, when I hit the course, I struggle to even hit the most basic shots. When I pulled my driver far left to begin, I knew I was in for a long day.

It was a game that was as unmemorable as anything. When you are playing badly, all holes sort of converge into a single messy experience and you don’t really remember anything except hacking the ball over and over. Therefore, I don’t recall anything much except for a chip in birdie and some good chip shots here and there. Otherwise, except for one good drive on the 10th hole (or was it the 10th?) – all my drives were either missing , topped or yanked. I probably shot close to 110 on total scores.

Would it be back to the drawing board?

Again, I don’t know what more can be done except to try to ingrain the whole feel more and more into the game and go out and play. The proof is there that I am hitting the ball better than before when I am on the range. I just need to ingrain it.

As I told my partners – it’s very easy to tell what’s happening but very difficult to actually fix it. I would address the ball – ok. I would do a takeaway, into the ‘slot’ – ok. It’s right at the top of the swing that everything breaks. My right elbow disconnects from my body, and then its an all arms swing –  my swing drops without connecting to the body so I have no idea where the clubhead is because the arms and body are no longer working together. I can feel the disconnect, but by then, it’s too late. The swing is already on its downswing and the transition is completely off.

One of my playing partners did make an interesting note: “When making changes, don’t try to change everything at once, but make it incremental. Small changes first and slowly move into it.”

I think it makes sense. I may be trying to tear down and build everything up too quickly. Maybe what I need isn’t a house tear down but a home renovation room by room.

That’s food for thought.

Swing Overhaul Part 6: The course

You always hear: I can hit it well on the range, but I cant do it on the course.

It’s very true and real hackers (and even Pros) will admit to this. You can hit it well when there is a level ground, and consistency on the driving range, but once you go out into the battlefield, everything changes. It applies to everything I think – from flying a plane, driving a car, riding a bike. I recalled when I had to drive in America for the first time. I downloaded a driving simulator a few weeks before I went to the states to get used to driving on the left hand side. My God, when I was in that American made Pontiac on the San Diego freeway, everything changes. It was the most stressful drive of my life.

And same here for golf.

I’ve been hitting it reasonably well (not great) on the range. I knew to translate this to the course would take a long time and I would struggle very badly for the first few games.

Was I every right. It was an early 9 hole tee off in my home course.

My first tee off (I used driver), I completely missed the ball and it just tottered over 10 feet. This is in front of a whole gallery of people watching. My second shot (simple 9 iron), I topped it again and it went around 15 feet or so. The next shot, I thought I was ok to use my hybrid since I was hammering it on the range. Another top, another 5 feet. Thank you, pick up the ball, move on.

Next tee, my driver at least contacted the ball but duck hook so badly it went out of bounds. Second shot, hybrid – topped 15 feet. Third shot, topped again the hybird to 10 feet. At this point, I sort of said, Shit, lets go with irons. So for that par 5, I used my 9 iron and for the first time, hit a flushed shot. Second 9 iron, with this new stack and tilt, hit it well but into the bunker. Bunker back and forth, pick it up, thank you.

Third hole, again, at least my driver hit the ball, but it was hooked. My eight iron was topped and then just chip on and 2 putted for bogey. Not too bad.

The next hole, par 3, I topped my hybrid again!! From there, 9 iron was hit well.

Finally on the fifth hole, was the first time I hit my driver the way I wanted. Boom. It was hot off the surface, unfortunately into the trees. From there, back and forth again, topping to the green.

Sixth hole, a so-so driver with a hook, but my next shot was the first time I pounded it with a hybrid and man, it flew. A perfect 9 iron then saw me hit green in regulation for the first time, and missed my birdie by an inch. This was a perfect hole for me and made me believe again I am on the right track.

Next hole, pounded right (so my driver seems to be sorting out) but after that, another back and forth sort of recovery.

The next hole my 3 wood tee off was topped , but my 2 iron shots were actually not too bad. And finally, the final par 3, I flushed my hybrid so well, it flew past the green 180 meters away. Great way to end it.

Conclusion: It was expected. I knew I would find it very difficult to hit the ball, because on the course, the expanse of it makes it very different. You feel different. You aren’t compartmentalised like you are on the range – everything feels very wide. Your body tends to revert back to what its comfortable with and for many many instances, I sensed even when I forced my weight forward, my swing invariably went back to my old way. I know this because I felt my elbows disconnected and my body stopped turning. Yet, I am firing my hips but without a body turn, my hands have no where to go but to come down, and began topping every single ball.

I know the issue – the body isn’t moving as a unit. It’s all dis-synchornised. I don’t feel any connection to my left at all and I have no clue where my hands and clubface is. Its all very disconcerting – as if I am learning golf for the first time.

My playing partners were curious, since my last time out with them, I was shooting in low 80s. I explained that this was a process I need to commit to, because my old swing had an expiry date. I had that since I was in my 20s. I just needed a swing for my 40s, 50, 60s and hopefully 70s.  If it’s going to take time, then I will take time.

But overall, even though I scored almost all tripe/quadruple except for a lone par and 2 bogeys and lost half a dozen balls – I felt positive about it. There were enough good shots in there that makes me believe the method works – I just need to get the execution correct!

Swing Overhaul Part 5: Knee Problems

So one of the conclusion of my previous range session where I was twacking the bejeezus out of the ball with the new Stack and Tilt swing, was that I began to feel my left knee a little sore the next day. OK – a lot more sore. I didn’t think SnT would cause knee problems, but the problem was the stand up motion and the straightening (or jerking up) of the left knee would be naturally stressful for someone who has never had that part of the body worked out before. While I liked the results of the swing on the golf ball, I didn’t really enjoy the results of the swing on my knee, which isn’t strong to begin with.

So again, back to reading and researching, and one of the ways I learn on how to alleviate knee problems was to flare out the left knee and feet. This is also advocated by Hogan, but I always thought this opens up the body somewhat for an outside-in swing path. But because I’m using a few concepts from Venetos where I pre-set my body in a closed position, the flaring of my feet generally doesn’t change my swing patch much. But what it theoretically should be doing is to relieve the stress of the knee, since my knee isn’t rotating as much. It’s like I am also pre-setting my knee post-swing.

Additionally, I found that the right knee straightening up too much lends too much weight on my already weak left side, which made it all the more uncomfortable, so for this round, I had to experiment with these concepts of flaring out the feet and ensuring I maintain a bit of flex on my right knee and not do the Hogan stance at the top of my swing.

The results was mixed, I am still getting used to my shoulder turn, but I did find that flaring out my feet did alleviate my pain a fair bit. I didn’t feel so stressed on the knee after a session of 200 balls (as opposed to 100 balls previous). I also tried working on the flex on the right knee and not have such an extreme amount of weight on my left, but maintain a bit more like 60-40 favoring my left. Again, these are tweaks.

But the driver swing is coming along. Although my stance now, with my flare feet makes me look like a clown, I don’t care because I was now blasting the ball the way I’ve never done before.

The other issue I find now is that because my right elbow is ‘connected’ to my body, I don’t get the super arch I try to get on my driver. When I do try to do it, my left arm ends up bending like below and this usually results in the club dropping without speed on impact.

 

This is why the advice of ‘Relax’ on golf swing is quite stupid. The golf swing is never relaxed. Sleeping on a hammock is relaxed. The golf swing is like a loaded gun. It has a tension associated to the body especially on the back swing, where it’s coiled with stored energy about to be released on the ball with the Wrath of God.

So to keep the left hand straight is a key thought and if it starts ‘breaking’ then you know you are overswinging. It doesn’t really matter, because even with a bit of a half or three quarter swing, I still can whack the ball further than I ever did with a ‘big arch’ swing.

I think the swing, after around 600 balls and four session on the range is shaping up ok. There is a drill I even do where I consciously just do a half swing with my right elbow tucked close to the body on my long irons. My five iron is still slightly problematic, as my 3 wood, but these are problems I already had in my previous swing, so it’s no big loss that I still can’t hit them properly. I would say, my driver right now is further than my previous, it’s more hot off the face, but the dispersion is a little worse – sometimes, the ball can go straight, sometimes left and sometimes right – a bit more than my previous swing.

But again, these are attributable to an overhaul of swing after 16 years. It’s not going to happen overnight. It will get worse before it gets better. I think with this mantra, I can try to get a balance of this SnT swing that fits the limitation of my body and see if I can play golf better, and more importantly – longer.

Swing Overhaul Part 4: Sorting out the Driver

With renewed vigour, I couldn’t wait for the new week to hit, so I can get some time to go to the range. I tried going over the weekend but the driving range during CMCO period in the weekend is like attending a rock concert and I saw people actually queuing up to go in. I think a lot of people get stressed out over CMCO and they take to the range to whack balls.

The best time on the range is weekday – over lunch period or sometime around 2. Anything after 3.30pm, you get a crowd all the way until 5 pm or 6pm.

So I’ve been visiting Nick Taylor YouTube channel a bit and he gave us some tips on how to get the driver working on a Stack and Tilt swing. The key point is to ensure you have the correct knee flex, and what they call the stand-up motion in Stack and Tilt, where you straighten your left knee to ‘shallow’ out the swing  and making sure you hit up on the ball.

This is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1omWUJtTow

The summary is as below:

So there were a few things I really didn’t do much which meant I was attacking my driver too steeply in the last practice. For the hybrid and shorter irons, this is fine, as these clubs are designed to work with a steeper angle but when it comes to long irons, driver and woods, this wouldn’t be great, so we need to try to implement this to ensure we hit the ball on an upward angle.

So to the range again and once more, I am getting a lot better at the irons and hybrid as I learn to trust the shoulder turn more. There are moments where I revert back to my old level shoulder swing but that’s expected. 16 years of a swing is difficult to change overnight. But for this round, my longer irons are better but the focus was really to see if I can get the driver to work better.

I shortened by driver swing considerably and consciously tried to keep my right elbow tucked in and left arm straight and start the backswing with my chest. I find this a lot flatter approach much easier to control than a flying elbow where I end up chopping down on the ball from the top.

Another thing about this Stack and Tilt is because the weight is very much on the left side, on the top swing you have a distinct straightening of the right leg, like Hogan below.

This is very different from how I used to swing, as I would sway far right and break my left knee inwards as below:

So with all these in mind, was the 3rd session on range better?

By far, yes. Generally using the tips from the Nick Taylor video, I am now able to hit my driver with this new swing, and like the trajectory from my hybrid, I could see it was HOT. As in off the face, it was going much hotter than I ever whacked the ball before. I had to really consciously stand up, though, as if I was chopping a block of wood, and while I am completely loaded on my left, I still feel that I had to work out some sort of timing on this stand up motion.

But by and large, I am seeing some dividends on this new swing on the range at least. I was hammering my old Cobra Fly-Z+ with ball flights I have never encountered before. It’s too bad I sold off my Titleist 917D2, which I feel would be more suitable, but I’ll see if I can get another one for Christmas.

So 3rd Range session – very good!

There is a ball of a difference

So before the lockdown, I managed to squeeze in a few games of golf in Mines, Palm, Glenmarie and Kota Permai. It was good to be back out on the course again for sure – and while this second CMCO isn’t half as bad – the fact that we have the kids home with us makes it more difficult to take the whole morning/afternoon off for a game. Plus golf courses now seem to be a hotspot in itself, with Tropicana having a number of COVID cases.

It was during my round in Palm garden where I scored an 84 that I realised my game has somewhat reached a level where playing the shitty golf ball that I picked up from the bushes may have a difference in how I play. I was gaming the Inesis 500 Soft 2 piece ball that day and for some reason or another, my drives were just hopelessly short. It would be carrying a huge amount of spin and dropped off the sky like a rock and land very short from where I know I should be hitting. I game the Inesis mainly because it’s a cheap ball (I think like RM50 for a dozen) and I like the matte finish. And also because I was using this when I scored 80 on Mines about a year back.

But after researching a bit, I took it out from my bag and started gaming the Srixon Z Star and the Z Star XV from a very reasonably priced second hand seller – the new ones were just a bit too expensive for now – and I took it to Kota Permai.

Wow.

Yes, I did score 92 instead and mainly because Kota Permai greens were so crazy fast and I was tweaking my 917 Titliest 4 different times, to adjust the loft, the weight etc. And I was horrible from my bunkers, which isn’t usually the case, so I easily lost 3 strokes on bunkers, and 3 strokes from putting like an idiot.

But the ball was a huge difference. The time it stayed in the air, the trajectory of it – boring through and landing and rolling for miles – it 100% confirms to me that I will not be gaming any more Inesis moving forward (although the 900 Inesis had very good reviews, so I may use that). For now, it’s Srixon Z Star (XV) for me.

Just as I was getting used to it, the game ended and two days later, the CMCO was announced, slamming shut another golf window for a few weeks. Hope to get back on track at least in November, or the very least in December.

Till then – stay safe everyone!

My biggest Bottle Job: Mines and the Sub-80 round

What are the biggest choke jobs we know in sports?

Greg Norman, as great a golfer as he is, is best remembered for the epic bottle job he did in the 1996 US Masters. Discounting the time when in ’86 and ’87 in major tournaments, his opponents holed out their shots to beat him (it wasn’t his fault), the 1996 bottle job was the bottle job of all time.  Leading by six going into the final round, he ended up losing it by his own stupidity.

Jean Van De Velde – bottler on the 1999 British Open. We all knew what happened at Carnoustie. Last hole, up by 3, and bottled it due to his own stupidity.

Arnold Palmer – 7 stroke lead in 1966 US Open on the last day – bottled it and lost. Adam Scott – 2012, played +4  in the last 4 holes and lost to Ernie Els. Rory in 2011 Masters, Dustin Johnso – God knows how many times he bottled. Jordan Spieth – 2016 Masters. Bottled.

Even away from golf, 1988 FA Cup comes to mind, with Liverpool expected to eviscerate  Wimbledon. They bottled and lost.  They did make up for it in 2005 Champions League Finals in Instanbul, where they turned a 3-0 deficit to win it against AC Milan. Ironically, they bottled it again with Crystal Palace in 2013 and lost the title race for good – 3-0 with 11 minutes to go and they couldn’t win. Idiots. Brazil losing 1 – 7 to Germany in 2014. At home, in Brazil. WTF was that.

Of recent memories – PSG bottling it with Barcelona last year and this year with Manchester United, makes them officially the biggest bottling football team in history. Barcelona choking this year to Liverpool – ironically again a 3-0 deficit being erased. Liverpool loves and hates these 3-0 scorelines somehow. Ajax bottling it with Tottenham, and Arsenal doing their own series of bottling and choking this year to somehow miss Champions League and lost 1-4 to Chelsea in the Europa Finals. In Baku.  Where-ever that is.

Why am I going on with this?

Because I am a bottler. I am officially now a Choke-artist.

My golfing goals in life is simple: Hole In One (luck) and breaking 80 (skill and not being a bottler).

I have mentioned previously, the best chance I have for breaking 80 is always in Mines Golf Course – not just because it plays to a 71, but because I like this course. It’s my go-to course for great scores. My 81 last year and my other scores of 80s are all there. I don’t remember the last time I scored 90 and above in Mines, which is saying a lot.

So I had a competition round this week in Mines and we started off shotgun on the tough Hole 3 Index hole.

Hole 3: Bogey. It’s the first hole. It’s the toughest. A bogey with a 7 footer to start? I’ll take it.

Hole 4: Missed a 4 footer birdie putt. In a tournament with system 36 where Birdies means you play under. How choking is that? Par.

Hole 5: Bogeyed which is fine for a tough par 3.

Hole 6: Par, good putt from the fringe.

Hole 7: Great shot to the tough par 3, 2 putt par.

Hole 8: Almost bottled this as my 3 wood was topped and I ended up in the rough. I managed to coax this with a 4 on, and amazingly two putted from the top of a super difficult green. Bogey.

Hole 9: Almost lost ball, but instead regulation on, and two putted from VERY far away for Par.

Hole 10: Bogey. This is the one with a big tree in the middle.

Hole 11: Pretty amazing par as I chipped from very far away and had to hole an 8 footer.

Hole 12: Again, almost bottled this par 5 when I topped my hybrid the same way as the other par 5. I landed in the deep bunker but conjured an amazing bunker shot to land in front of green and navigated for a bogey.

Hole 13: Tough par 4, my first double bogey, but it’s pretty expected on this hole.

Hole 14: Par, putted from fringe.

Hole 15: Par, putted from fringe.

Hole 16: Pulled my shot but also recovered with a putt from off the green and holing par with an 8 footer.

Hole 17: Tun’s hole – par from a very long two putt.

Hole 18: Again, pulled left, and again, like Hole 7, recovered and managed to hole my par from 6 feet.

So let’s recap. At this point, after 16 holes, my scores were +1, +1,  +2, +2, +2, +3, +3, +4, +4, +5, +7, +7, +7, +7, +7, +7.

I was +7 with 2 to play. It dawned on me that I could break bloody 80 for the first time.

Going back to hole 1, I popped my drive but recovered by playing it safe. I landed near the hole and barely missed my birdie putt. Settled for another par.

I was +7 going into the final hole = the long par 5 hole 2. I knew I just needed to navigate and avoid the water on the left. I could bogey the hole and still break 80.

Amazing drive. Best I hit all day and I hit some pretty amazing drives all day. Best second shot with my six iron to land me around 120m from the green. Mission accomplished, I avoided the water on left, and had a pitching wedge in my hand to the enticing green and all I had to do was to put it on or near and I could play par and bogey and ride off into the sunset.

I had two clubs in my hand.

The 52 Gap was never going to reach the green but it would be short, and I was playing to a red pin. I would be comfortable putting slightly off the green for a par. The 52 was my go-to club. I can hit this baby with my eyes closed and with my left leg chopped off.

My pitching wedge was not so confident, but it would put me pin high. I was chasing a birdie to put my round under for the tournament.

My God, I should have selected the damn 52.

My pitching wedge dug too deep into the ground and because of it being soggy, the whole ball duffed. Not only duffed, it duffed into a fairway BUNKER. So my fourth ball was hit out of the bunker (I was already extremely shocked) and I managed to chip on for 5 – on , reasonable but it would be a snaky 10 footer downhill for my coveted prize of sub-80.

HOW THE FLAMING F*** did it even come to this??

Going for 3 bloody on with a pitching wedge and now I had to sink a 10 footer to avoid double bogey and to avoid bottling my sub 80 opportunity??

I had so many looks at this damn putt, but inevitably, fatefully, the putt slithered offline midway through and ended up low and shit – just as how my soul ended up.

9 over.

80.

Still the best round but it was the way I played to final hole that really killed me. I bottled it. I choked.

So the next time I call someone or some team a bottler – I am reminded – I bottled it in Mines, and choked my sub 80 round.

The mission in life to break 80 continues.

How to Play Mines – The Hacker Version

Horses for Courses.

That saying rings ever true especially in golf. I have a friend who plays to a rather high handicap most of the time, but everytime he steps onto Tropicana, he beats the crap out of us. Another guy I play with plays his homecourse blindfolded and probably can beat me with just a driver, wedge and putter; but when he steps into other courses, he ends up like a wet towel on a walrus’ head. Which absolutely does not make sense, but it sounds like a nice saying for being crap.

And the same for me. There are just some courses that suck the life out of you even before you step on the first tee box (I am looking straight at you, Seri Selangor), but there are also some courses, that you simply cannot explain how the hell you cannot score there. The course is good, the maintenance is good but everytime you step on that course you play like a tapir who just stepped into a pile of horse dung filled with rusted nails. Palm Garden is one such course. Tropicana, for me, is another ridiculously looking easy course that I just cannot score on.

Mines?

Ah, Mines. Mines is like a warm chicken soup cooked by my mother waiting for me on a cold, rainy evening. Mines is like the wondrous smell of my favourite noodles cooked by my mother’s loving hands whenever I come home from a long day at college. Mines is like the delicious taste of my mother’s version of french toast, with eggs and butter, the way that Elvis Presley loved it – and the way my mother does it – on a Saturday morning, where I would eat the entire loaf in one go.

Ah, Mines.

Playing there after struggling a lot with my new weight loss and my complete loss of distance in my irons, I managed an 11 over 82. It was GOOD. I had a very good game with 2 near birdie misses and 2 par saves that did not happen due to me burning the hole. The last time I stepped into mines was before my game went south, it was almost a year back where I shot 81.

This time, I’ve come to accept my fate as a normal distance golfer after my weight loss. Do not tell me it’s my swing. When I was 81 KG, I was hitting my pitching wedges into 130m and my 9 iron into 150 meters. It was delightful. Now, I am using 7 irons to 150 and 8 irons to 130. So while losing weight does have its benefit, now that I am a manageable 73kg, hitting distance with my irons ain’t one of it.

So seeing I am sort of averaging a low 80s for Mines, here’s a writeup on how to navigate it if your skillset is more or less as limited as mine.

Let’s start with Hole 1.

You are standing at Hole 1, trying to loosen up on your first tee. Hole 1 is a nice broad fairway, so go ahead with a driver. Don’t aim too far right because you might end up in the first bunker, but if you play a draw like I do, then aiming at the second bunker will do. You will never reach it. Once teed off, you should be about an 8 iron or 7 iron away into an uphill green. Aim right. It’s ok. Left is disaster and anything long is disaster, so make sure you don’t end up going long. Short and right of green is fine. One chip, one putt for par or two putt to escape with bogey.

Hole 2.

This is a dastardly par 5 that curves almost like a horseshoe. The tee off is easy, you won’t screw it up. Just don’t go left. Right is fine but you may end up in the rough. The key is your second shot. Always play to the right. I don’t care if you are up on a slope, but stay away from the left like it’s a gigantic pile of cat shit. It’s all water there. Third shot, depending on where you are, I would opine to play short again. If you overhook it you are in the water. So take away the problem, play short and one chip and putt or two putt – par or bogey.

Hole 3.

Very tough hole. It’s the index. Hardly anyone will reach in 2 here, so you can take a 3 wood or a driver, but the key is to stay away from left. Right rough is also fine. For the second, you may want to lay up to a distance you are comfortable with, or like me, I usually just take a 3 wood and try to hit as far as I can. To escape again with bogey here is a big deal.

Hole 4.

Don’t go right. There is deceivingly big area to bailout on the left, so go left and go long. Even if you are in the trees, it’s sparse enough to hit out from. From there, an 8 iron or 9 iron should see you in front of the green or you can even go a bit long. This should be a par hole or even a bogey is OK.

Hole 5

This is a difficult par 3. I used to go in here with an 8 iron or 7 iron, but nowadays I need a 5 iron in there. You probably want to aim a bit right and see if you can tease it back in. In any case, a bogey is absolutely fine for this hole.

Hole 6

This is a very short par 4 and if you avoid water on the right, you should definitely try to score here. A smart play is to just hit your irons and with a wedge put it on the green. We usually go for the driver, leaving us with a very awkward flop shot which I won’t recommend. You should par this or better.

Hole 7

This is a very intimidating par 3 but actually, if you aim left at the flowerbeds with the “MINES” word, you will find yourself reasonably safe for a bogey at the least. Don’t mess with the right, bail out if necessary.

Hole 8

Very very nice par 5 and definitely scoreable. Your job is just to hit a reasonable drive that doesn’t go right, then place it to around 100m from the green. DO NOT GO RIGHT. There is a valley of death down there. With a wedge you should be able to put it on. Careful of this green, it’s devilish tricky because of the severe slope, so even you do not par, a bogey is a good score here.

Hole 9

The final hole isn’t easy because if you go right on the drive, you are pretty much dead, and the fairway is narrow. You can opt for a 3 wood to stay on fairway, then a hybrid to get near the green – one chip, two putt for bogey.

So you have completed the first 9 with hopefully 8 bogeys and 1 Par. Not bad at 44.

Hole 10

This is a tough hole to tackle because if you go too far right, you have to contend with the giant tree in the middle of the fairway. Too far left you end up in the hazard. You are better just taking a wood and steering it slightly left. You will be with a 6 iron or 5 iron and you can punch it to the green if possible. Bogey is a good score here.

Hole 11

Tough par 3. Don’t go right, that’s it. Bail out on the left, and focus on chipping on the green, two putt for bogey.

Hole 12

Scoreable par 5 for sure. It’s short. If you can avoid the bunker on the right on your tee, this hole opens up a lot. A hybrid second should set you within wedge distance to a generous green. You should par this or better!

Hole 13

Index hole, you need your driver to work here. Stay right and then try to not be aggressive on your second. Too much trouble right and left. So avoid the temptation for a hybrid but instead play to a chipping distance to the green. Chip for 3 on and if you escape with a bogey, I guarantee there will be your playing partners (fellow hackers) who will blow this hole.

Hole 14

Don’t mess with the right. Take a 3 wood and pop it to the middle of the fairway. Too far left and you are also dead. From there, either a long iron and a hybrid into the green should set you up for par or bogey.

Hole 15

You should be able to score. A 3 wood on this very short par 4 should leave you with a wedge to a downhill green. Take a club shorter, because anything long here is dead. You should par this or better.

Hole 16

Take advantage of the easiest par 3. A 9 iron or 8 iron should get you on the green – two putt for PAR!

Hole 17

We call this Tun’s hole, because you can see our Prime Minister’s house next to the green. It’s also a tough par 4. You absolutely need a good drive to the left, as right is dead. From there, a long iron or a hybrid should get you on the green…you might opt to play short to avoid the bunkers, but go for conservativism here. Bogey is a very good score.

Hole 18

The Top Glove hole because we always aim for the Top Glove sign. NEVER challenge the left! You think you can cut the dogleg but it’s hard because the OB eats into the hole on the left which we cannot see. We always think we make it but we never make it. So aim right and whack it. You probably want to set yourself up for a 3 on here and two putt for bogey.

So on the back 9, you should hopefully get 6 bogeys and 3 pars for a fairly good score of 41 because this nine is a par 35. A score of 41-44 is 85 which is a very good score for a hacker!