• Our top 5 British Open moments

    Posted in golf on July 18, 2012

    It’s that time of year, the evenings are long and balmy(!) and the British Open is here. 2012 sees the world’s golfing elite descend on Royal Lytham near Blackpool and they are in for quite a test, particularly if the wind picks up over the Irish sea! To mark the start of this great sporting event we’ve picked our top 5 open moments:

    ‘The duel in the Sun’, 1977

    35 years ago Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus were at the top of their game and were way out in front on their own at the Turnberry course. With the weather unusually hot, the two were paired together on the final day and they didn’t disappoint, the scoring was low and the rivalry fierce.

    With the lead changing hands throughout the day, Watson lead going up the last. Nicklaus then found thick rough from the tee while Watson was able to get to within 18 inches of the hole and just needed that to lift the Claret jug for the first time. Cue a miraculous shot out of the rough from Nicklaus to within 35 feet and then a wonderful putt leading to an unlikely par forcing all of the pressure onto Watson for his short putt. He held his nerve and sank the putt for the win, in a great show of sportsmanship after the winning putt Nicklaus was the first to put his arm round Watson.

    Jean Van Der Velde, 1999

    With that brilliant battle in the mind we go to the other extreme with Jean Van de Velde’s nightmare at Carnoustie. The unheraded Frenchman had put himself into a brilliant position and only needed to card a double bogey 6 on the 18th to claim France’s first open in nearly 100 years. What happened next will go down in folklore and the video below is perhaps all that can do it justice. It should always serve as a warning to any golfers who have thought “can it really be that hard to hit the ball out of the water?”.

    Rocca vs Daly, 1995

    From the ridiculous to the sublime with another great duel, this time between the Italian Constantine Rocca and America’s ‘big’ John Daly. Then in his pomp, Daly was the comfortable clubhouse leader with Rocca needing two strong holes at the difficult 17th and 18th. A brilliant bump and run from the infamous road at 17 lead to a 6 ft putt being sunk for par. Rocca then needed to find the cup from 60 feet to force a playoff after a woeful approach shot at the 18th. He somehow managed to hole it and with it he sank to his knees (great reaction on the youtube clip below). Daly eventually won in the playoff but Rocca’s epic scrambling will live long in the memory!

    Darren Clark, 2011

    A thunderous wind had depleted a strong field at Royal St. Georges and the time had come for the 42 year old Ryder Cup hero to step up and win his first major. Having long been one of the most popular members of the tour, Clark received a rapturous reaction when he holed his final putt.

    The win was made all the more emotional with Clarke dedicating his win to his wife who he had lost 5 years earlier. All this was done with his usual dignity and humility as well as a customary pint of Guinness.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eRmWWpcM90

    Tom Watson, 2010

    A second appearance for Tom Watson and perhaps an even more incredible performance than his taming of the Jack Nicklaus all those years ago in 1977. Some 33 years after that win Watson was, incredibly, on the verge of doing it again at the age of 59.

    Leading the field going into the 18th Watson only needed a par to claim his 6th open win. Unfortunately Watson hit his approach at the last over the back of the green and could only card a bogey to tie with Stewart Cink, who he eventually lost to in a playoff. Despite losing this is a perfect reminder of why the British Open is so great, you never know what will happen. All that is certain is that there will be great moments!

    We hope these 5 great Open memories have got you excited for tomorrow’s Open and have motivated you to get out on the course and get better at golf!

  • First round of the season? Here are some tips…

    Posted in golf on May 18, 2012

    After an awful couple of months, the weather looks like might possibly brighten up over the next couple of weeks (touch wood). A perfect time then to dust off the golf clubs and head out for your first round of the season. We asked one of our great golf pros James Irons (upmysport profile) to give us some key points to look for while you’re getting back into the swing (sorry!) of things.

    First up we have a look at setting you up for your first driver tee shot. The height of the tee may seem like a trivial point but James thinks it’s important for giving you the best chance of a good ball strike, particularly if you haven’t played for a while:

    "Tee the ball high enough, so half of it sits above the club head"

    The next tip is slightly more advanced and is something for that first iron strike onto the green. After a long period of not playing you may have lost some yardage, so James advocates creating some lag on the downswing to rediscover that lost power:

    "By maintaining the wrist hinge for longer in the downswing you can then release the club with much more power, the later the better!"

    One of the most obvious things you will notice on your first round back is the loss of touch and feel around the greens. This can lead to thinning through the back of the green or landing very short on your approach (we’ve all been there!). James advises that with a few simple pointers this can be avoided!

    The first point is that your stance and grip should slightly change, with your grip moving down the shaft. Your stance should be narrower with the weight on your front foot, and the ball should rest slightly back in the stance (all encouraging a downward strike on the ball). Lean so that the shaft is ahead of the ball, until you create a straight line from the club head to your shoulder

    "Don't use the wrists too much by scooping the ball, trust the angle of the clubface to get the elevation you need"

    Finally try to keep a symmetrical length of downswing and follow through, while at all times accelerating through the ball. This can be quite difficult to do as it feels like you are striking the ball too hard, but that’s why it is so important that you trust the angle of the clubface.

    Finally we come to putting, where, in the early months of the season things can often go catastrophically wrong! There are obviously lots of things to look for but James says it is important to keep things simple:

     

    "At address, I am looking for my forearms to be parallel to each other, aiming towards the target. Next up is making sure my eyeline is directly above the ball. I am now looking for the putter face to stay on line and the stroke to remain on my intended target line throughout."

    Hopefully that has given you some good areas to work on for when you embark on that first round in the coming weeks. If you’re looking for some excellent face-to-face tuition, James teaches lessons at the Dukes Meadows golf course near Chiswick (10 minute walk from Barnes Bridge station & on the 190 bus route) and has a range of booking options that you can find here.

  • Being a lefty…

    Posted in golf on May 3, 2012

    In recent weeks Barack Obama’s left handedness, Bubba and a large scientific study on the use of the left hand have thrown the issue back in to the spotlight (featured in Gizmodo and The Week) so we asked our resident left handed golfer, Alex, to give us his thoughts…

    A left-handed golfer is a surprisingly rare beast. Surprising because while over 10% of the world’s population are lefties, out on the course there is nothing like this proportion. There are a number of obvious reasons for this; most equipment, tuition and golfing imagery is dominated by right-handed players. Some left handed writers also feel more comfortable playing right handed because they feel more comfortable with the ball leaving them from the left hand side of their body (stay with me!).

    The main one though according to a recent survey is that in sports where there is no discernible advantage for people to be different (i.e. being left handed) there is always a disproportionately low amount of lefties. Whereas, in sports where being the ‘opposite’ way round could be an advantage, left handers are far more prevalent (see boxing, fencing and cricket among others).  The study also suggested that the reason for there being only 10% percent of the total population that are left handed because humans are cooperative species and it’s beneficial for sharing tools etc – but we will spare you the full anthropological lesson!

    The lesser-spotted left handed club

    I’m right handed and right footed in everything but golf and cricket and while being left handed at cricket was never a problem (it was actually a benefit), being a lefty at golf was always troublesome. During my first week at secondary school I had my first proper tuition. It being my first week I didn’t want to rock the boat by asking for the ‘rare’ left handed clubs so I just tried to grin and bear it with right handed clubs. I thought that maybe I could convert myself and it would be a lot easier for everyone! It didn’t go well… after a term of  some woeful right handed golf  I eventually spoke up and managed to get some old left handed clubs out of the back room. The sense of relief was palpable! I was reminded why I had got into golf in the first place.

    As I have continued my golf development being a lefty has continued to be fraught with annoyances. I could never borrow someone’s clubs or easily hire a set. Once I got a car it forced me to carry my clubs with me wherever I went so I wouldn’t miss out on a spontaneous round. Walking into most pro shops should be a real treat but there is still a noticeable lack of provision for us lefties. Maybe it’s a conspiracy to keep us left handers down?! It is perhaps telling that only 4 left handed players have won a major in the history of the game. To end on more a positive note 3 of the 4 lefties  to be major champions have been active in the last decade, so maybe the tide is turning..? Mssrs. Weir, Mickelson and Watson you are my heroes!

    Bubba's unorthodoxy adds to the left handed golfer's mystique

    Any other left handers out there had similar problems? We’d love to hear your experiences…

  • Our favourite bits of golf coaching advice

    Posted in golf on April 13, 2012

    We really enjoyed watching Bubba Watson’s brilliant masters win last weekend, which was made all the more impressive by the fact that he has never had a golf lesson or analysed his swing on video.

    While this is incredible, sadly we can’t all be self-taught major winners! So this got us thinking at upmysport hq about the best bits of coaching advice we had received during our many hours of golf lessons, here goes….

    Steve, Handicap: 15 on a good day

    “Check where you’re aiming: after playing a shot lay your club across your feet, take a step back, and prepare to be amazed!” J.Cundy (golf pro), c.1997

    I used to have the classic hockey players ‘banana’ slice. I couldn’t understand why my ball started off left and then took on a life of its own, usually landing in deep rough somewhere on the right! I confidently thought I was aiming straight, and refused to believe it when my instructor insisted my feet were directing me way off to the right. He’d clearly dealt with stubborn clients before. By getting me to simply lay down my club and look where I was aiming, he actually turned me into a golfer with a handicap and gave me a really good self-coaching tip I still use today (though my game hasn’t improved much)!

    Steve honing his skills at the range

    Alex, Handicap: 20 in fine weather, 34 with wind

    “Make sure you keep you arms straight, like levers”  M.Pengelly, c.2003

    While this may not be an earth-shattering piece of advice or especially technical it really turned my game around. After playing a lot of cricket during the summer of 2003 my iron play had resembled a leg glance with the ball tending to head for a long hook right. My arms were bending and I wasn’t completing my swing and I was really not enjoying myself out on the course. These few words during a group golf lesson at school gave a focal point to my swing and genuinely went a long way to remind me that golf can be an enjoyable game!

    A picture of Alex not listening to his best bit of coaching advice...

    Nicola, Handicap: in post

    “Keep your eye on the ball”  R. Stanning, c. 2005

    As a total beginner golfer, I’d be swaying around and missing the ball on half the swings I took – and end up looking out in the general direction of where I thought I’d made the shot wondering where on earth it had gone.

    Then a good friend, and much better golfer, made me focus intensely on the ball and keep watching it until the precise moment the club makes contact. It’s a simple and well known tip, but it really helped me to focus and make more direct hits than misses.

    Nicola seemingly more at home on the mini golf course

    Are there any other tips that have really helped you over the years? Coming soon…the upmysport golf instructors giving their own best bits of coaching advice. In the meantime why not check out our awesome golf pros here.