Golf Monthly Editor's Letter January 2014 Issue

Editor’s Letter January 2014 Issue

As someone who likes chatting about all things golf, sifting through the Golf Monthly mailbag is one of my most interesting duties.

From perennial hot topics like slow play and dress codes, to rules queries and musings on tour golf, reading the letters pages is like sitting in the 19th hole chewing the fat… all afternoon.

This issue is no exception with a broad collection of passionate views, but a handwritten epistle from Mr Gordon Sinclair stood out for me personally (page 8).

He’d been following the regular updates on my home-course golfing woes – 13 consecutive 0.1s and a two-shot increase for those who have nodded off at the back – and urged me to keep my chin up, quoting an inspirational story of how he had turned his game around and hoped I could follow suit.

I was pleased to learn not only that someone other than my wife and the GM sub-editors read my ramblings, but also that, touchingly, Mr Sinclair had felt compelled to write such words of encouragement.

Next day I teed it up in a club competition and am delighted to say Mr Sinclair’s pep talk did the trick – my first sub-80 of the year and a 0.8 cut with CSS going up in awful weather. As you can imagine I’ve been feeling pretty chipper ever since.

Relieved though I was to finally card a score and see my handicap come down, it wasn’t my most enjoyable round this year.

That came two weeks before, in the company of GM’s contributing editor, Rob Smith, with whom I share a deep love of golf courses, real ale and music.

No surprise the round was a lot of fun, then, but if I told you I’d lost you might raise an eyebrow, for rarely does any golfer delight in being beaten.

But I was overjoyed to lose to Rob, who has been struggling even more than I have. His piece in our Open issue about his trials and tribulations revealed just how bad his game had got.

A few years ago he was on the brink of single figures; last year he couldn’t get near his 17 handicap.

To help get Rob back on track we arranged for new custom-fitted clubs and lessons from one of our Top 25 coaches, and those who have followed his blog will know he has been swinging it better, though rarely converting it into good scores, as aptly demonstrated on our recent visit to Royal Porthcawl to celebrate GM colleague Jezz Ellwood’s 50th birthday.

Wine was taken, songs were sung and bedtimes missed, so we were all a little fuzzy-headed next day. Rob was mixing good shots with bad early on, but his low point came on the par-3 14th where he found a deep bunker.

Taking a big swing, the ball cannoned into the revetted face… and back into his crotch! By the time Neil Tappin and I had wiped the tears from our eyes, Rob had added a penalty shot to his tally, skinned one across the green, then chipped back into an adjacent bunker. It would be fair to say he looked quite downbeat.

When we met five days later at the fabulous Harry Colt-designed Tandridge in Surrey where Rob plays, I’m sure neither of us thought I wouldn’t triumph.

Rob played tidily going out, with a lovely birdie on the short 4th, but I was very steady and three-up at the turn. But Rob then moved up a gear, using his strokes wisely to claw his way back.

His string of pars, followed by a superb birdie at 16 and textbook par on the tough 17th, brought us to 18 all-square.

I made the green in three after visiting the rough; Rob was pin-high in two but plugged high up the face of a bunker, prompting a stance more suited to a mountain goat than a golfer. I sensed another Porthcawl moment! But Rob swung with purpose, and the ball popped out to six feet.

As soon as my par putt ran past, Rob was only ever going to hole his! So I hope anyone struggling with their game will take encouragement from both our upturns in form. If we can do it, you most certainly can too!

Twitter: @MikeHarrisGolf