Week 14: Buckpool
Date: 24 January
Weather: Cold with very strong winds, no precipitation
Greens: Summer
Mats: Yes ? but only in a 50-yard strip about 150 to 100 yards from the green.
Preferred Lies: Yes

It?s hard to beat the feeling of elation that?s triggered when you truly think you?ve discovered the secret to your game, the key ingredient you?ve been missing all these years. I?m very lucky because I get to experience this feeling on a regular basis. Unfortunately there?s another sensation strong enough to rival that of joyous breakthrough. It?s the disappointment of realising that your wonderful revelation was just another false dawn. Curiously, I get to experience the disappointment exactly as often as the elation.

At Peterhead I felt I?d made a major U-turn in my erstwhile lacklustre putting. I won?t go into technical details but it was to do with stopping myself from finishing inside the line and pulling a lot of shorter putts. I headed to Buckpool full of confidence and with total belief in my new technique. Six three-stabs provided clear confirmation that the method of correction is ineffective.

Stewart wasn?t able to play yesterday so I made the one hour fifteen minutes drive to Buckpool without a navigator. God knows how I found it. The game seemed dubious for most of the journey because there was snow on the ground the entire way until about a mile short of the course. Amazingly the tropical effects of the Gulf Stream on the Moray Firth meant Buckpool remained green. That?s not to say it was warm. It was bitter with a mighty wind.

Buckpool is a tough and tight links at the best of times but with a 30mph wind it?s highly challenging. Playing into the gusts it was fairly irrelevant what club I chose to hit for an approach. I find that 5 to 9-iron go roughly the same distance straight into the teeth of Hurricane Hildebrandt. It?s just that the 5-iron spends more time in the air coming backwards. The key to success is to try and keep the ball lower than a weasel?s undercarriage at all times but that?s easier said than done without playing the intentional knife ? not good practice.
On three occasions I found myself hitting a full three-wood for my approach to par 4s, two of them were unreachable in regulation. Yes, it was a tough day.

Having said this I actually played really well from tee to green; it made it even more frustrating that my putting was so shabby. I even caught an approach putt fat on the 18th en-route to yet another three jab. I limped in with a 78, seven shots behind the winner. From the highs of last week I was back to feeling like a very mediocre golfer again, oh what a fickle game.