Mapping My Progress

Golf Australia keeps my official GA handicap which sits at 14.2 as of today. In 2010, the old handicapping system was replaced by the new which is basically the same as the USGA. The old system was complex where if I played under my handicap for the day then I would “lose strokes” according to which category of handicap I belonged to – if I had an 18 handicap and managed 40 stableford points, I would have 0.3 of a stroke subtracted from my handicap for each stroke I had shaved off my expected score. So, I needed 36 points to play to my handicap I would lose 1.2 strokes and the very next round would play off a 16.8 handicap rounded to 17. Every time I failed to break or equal my handicap, 0.1 would be added on, provided it wasn’t in a buffer zone of + or -1 strokes, meaning that it would then take me 12 bad rounds to get back to my handicap of 18. Makes sense, right? I did say it was complicated but this document from Golf Australia outlines how it all was meant to work. I did the job of handicapper way back in my dual role as Treasurer of the Wirrulla Golf Club back in my early years of teaching, so it was a matter of keeping all of the club members and their results in a graph book for the year.

My very first handicap was 36 back in 1987 when I joined the Port Broughton Golf Club. I managed to lower it to 33 before I moved over to the West Coast of South Australia where I got down to 31 in my year at Wirrulla Golf Club. The following year when teaching at Ceduna, I joined the Smoky Bay Golf Club and managed to lower myself to 24. In 1990, I gained a permanent job at Port Augusta and joined the club there which was one nine grass greens and one nine sand greens, but the whole course was fully greened within the first eighteen months of my membership. I went from 24 down to 19 in the four years before heading to Adelaide after getting married.

I joined Flagstaff Hill Golf Club in 1995 just around the corner from my place of work, Flagstaff Hill Primary School and I managed to get down to a new low of 13 for a few weeks in 1998. Most of the time I hovered around the 14 or 15 mark. In 2004, I joined Grange and the combination of two much more difficult courses and two young kids at home meant that my handicap drifted back out to 19. The good thing was with the new system, everything went online onto a system called GolfLink.

GolfLink keeps my golf records for the last 4 years. So it is not hard to retrieve some key stats and see if I am improving or not. Taking the handicap at the end of each 3 month period gives me a graph like this:

GAhandicap progress

Not too bad considering I only play once a week and almost never practice. I have taken up the option of heading off after work on Fridays and hitting a bucket of ball on the range on my way home, and that seems to be helping. But as one of my recent golf partners said to me, “Graham, you need to go and work on your short game even if it is only for an hour a week. That is where you will see the most improvement.” Now that I can easily see a downward trend, it would be good to work towards that goal of getting into A grade. Really, I would love to sport a single figure handicap so maybe this blog might help to keep me honest in pursuit of that dream.


Mapping My Progress

The Ultimate Shot

It was a summer’s day in January, 2001. I had just completed eight holes in the Saturday comp with my partner for the day, Barry, and I stood on the tee of the ninth hole at Flagstaff Hill. I had a six iron in my hand; the distance was 135 metres uphill to the cup. I settled over the ball, swung through and watched the ball soar towards the green. That looks pretty good, I thought; it ought to be pretty close. From the tee block, the green has an upside down saucer look to it and the pin was back left. “That might even be through the green”, I remarked to Barry as we started to pull our buggies towards the ninth pin.

As I got close to the green, I scanned the back looking for the ball but couldn’t see anything. It was in the hole! The junior apprentice pro was standing on the verandah of the pro shop just twenty or so metres from the green and he said that he saw the ball bounce twice on the green before jamming into the gap between the front edge of the hole and the pin sticking up. It was pretty exciting and I remembered the advice of my brother-in-law when he got his hole in one – put the golf ball in a safe place so that you don’t lose it! He said that someone who he had played with scored a hole in one and then drowned that same ball on the next hole in a water hazard. My piece of personal golfing memorabilia is safely wedged in the appropriate gap on the six dollar trophy the club gave me for my achievement.

Once upon a time, SA Golfer magazine had a scotch whiskey company as the sponsor of its Hole In One Club. If a registered member of SAGA had a hole in one during an official club competition then details would be forwarded to the magazine and the recipients would get a certificate, a mention in the magazine and a nice bottle of the company’s finest as their prize. By the time I achieved that honour, Precept were the new sponsors and I got a Precept golf cap instead. Still not a bad deal, and certainly better than some other people’s hole in one stories.


A deputy who I worked with had two holes in one, but both were during practice rounds with no witnesses and on temporary holes that were in play during course renovations. Not only was there no prizes or official recognition, he got ribbed about wasting his once (or in his case, twice) in a lifetime achievement on shots that didn’t really count! Another story I heard from a teacher friend of mine who worked at Port Broughton who said he had seen the world’s worst hole in one – a 36 handicapper who scrubbed his 3 wood shot along the ground that bounced, bounced and finally rolled into the cup.

I saw a hole in one another time at Flagstaff Hill on the long par 3 on the back nine. We were on the green, marked our balls and called the group up behind us. One the guys there bladed his tee shot, turned his back on the green and slammed his club into the ground in disgust. Meanwhile the ball hit the front surrounds of the green taking the bulk of the pace off the ball and it then arced its way into the hole. He didn’t turn around until he heard us cheering and yelling out to him. He had missed the whole thing! Another story I heard was from a guy called Peter who I played with regularly who had what he called a Clayton’s hole in one. He was on the seventh at Flagstaff Hill which calls for a tee shot across the corner of a large dam. This tee shot can make a golfer feel a bit anxious and many, many golf balls have been drowned in that watery grave. Peter did the same with his tee shot but then holed out with his third shot off the tee – the hole in one you have when you aren’t having a hole in one.

But my favourite hole in one story with direct involvement involved a group member when we were playing a money game. The game involves pairing up within a foursome and playing best score for fifty cents a hole, but with handicap playing into account. We were playing the 18th which was a shortish par 3 back then (it has since been converted to being the final part of a long par 5) and he holed out for a hole in one. I had put my ball within four feet and drained the birdie putt, and because of my handicap had managed to halve the hole with him! I remember apologising to him for spoiling his moment of glory – I mean a hole in one should win the hole for your team every single time – but he said no problems, it just adds to the story.

The Ultimate Shot

Getting Fitted Really Works

I’ve always been a work-things-out-for-myself type of golfer. I’ve only had one lesson ever from a professional which was an interesting exercise in itself as the pro had a sprained wrist at the time. In the end the main thing I got out of that thirty minutes was the whole idea of actually aiming at something very specific rather than something vague (like the entire fairway or the whole green) and even the pro pointed out that someone with a little bit of intelligence like a teacher should have been able to work that out for myself.

I’ve always been that way with golf equipment, choosing what I want based on a compromise between quality and price, which meant buying off the shelf or straight out of the bargain bin. This brings me to my latest purchase which bucks that trend – my new driver which I had fitted by the pro at my club.

I’ve owned a few drivers over the years starting back in 1989 when I bought a Taylor Made Burner Plus  to replace the actual (made of wood) 1-wood that came with my first full set of Carnegie Clarks from the pro based at the Ceduna Open weekend. That was replaced by an updated Burner out of a bin at Grange Golf Club in the late eighties during a Country Golf Week visit. That served me well for quite a while until I bought a set of Tommy Armour Silver Scot 845s in the early nineties so I switched to the one metal that came with that set with a head smaller than a average three metal today.

I was introduced to the marvels of graphite shafts when I bought a second hand Callaway Big Bertha upon my return to Adelaide in the mid-90s, from the Pete’s Golf Factory shop at Darlington, which was eventually upgraded to a Cobra Ti, the ones with the dual dimples in the crown that Greg Norman promoted for quite a while. That lasted me for a while until I tried a demo Cobra 400 SZ one day on a whim. I liked it and bought it. About five years ago, I bought another demo, returning to my TaylorMade roots, this time a R9 that I thought served me quite well.

When I was swinging well, I was able to work the driver either way with a draw or a fade. Problem is that I have never been that consistent as a golfer but I was happy with it and it brought me good results. It sparked a bit of a trend with my Sunday foursome where two other guys in that group also followed suit and bought R9s to their preferred specifications as well.

Then one of the guys bought a new driver this year from eBay and I developed a strong case of club envy. His new weapon was a white R15 (which has since snapped in the handle but that’s another story for another post) and it made me wonder if I was actually using a driver that was best suited to my swing. I went on the web to check out the various golf  forums to see what the average enthusiast was recommending for the mid-handicapper. One club kept coming up – the Ping G30. So I starting trying the demo one from the Pro Shop and I was beginning to see this as my potential new purchase. But I thought that this time, for the very first time, I would get fitted properly for the club.

I thought I actually got fitted for my irons a few years ago but in retrospect it was more a case of being told that my stance, swing etc suited an off the shelf set of clubs. I didn’t buy these from my club pro so I am definitely wiser for the future. So while I was developing an affinity for the Ping, I suspected that maybe there might be a more suitable driver in the marketplace for me.

I booked in with Warren the pro, and he used the camera and software system that is all part of the modern fitting process, and got me hitting my R9 in the nets. He then pulled out a couple of clubs, clicked in shafts that he deemed appropriate and got me hitting them. Turns out that I needed a club that flexes closer to the head and my R9 flexes closer to my hands. That would work well if I was close to a professional level golfer but sadly, I am not. He had me hit the Ping and offered the opinion that it offered nothing better in terms of consistency or extra length and got me hitting with his identified choice, the new Great Big Bertha. This offered tighter dispersion and according to the computer analyser, an average of 17 metres extra in drive distance! He tweaked the 9 degrees down to 8 degrees to produce a lower ball flight.

Thirty minutes later, I walked out with my new weapon, and allowing for the fact that a new driver still can’t mask fundamental errors in bad swings, it is certainly producing much greater consistency, the promised extra length and can be sneaky long on what feels like a mishit push that doesn’t slice. I would definitely recommend fitting, and know that when I want some new irons, fitting will be the way to go with my club pro and nowhere else.

driver history


Getting Fitted Really Works