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Crombleholme

Lee Crombleholme has one of the most fascinating jobs in the game. He works as the psychologist on the European Tour where, on a daily basis, he gets to hear the intimate mental workings of some of the best in best in the business – his current stable comprises Andy Sullivan, Ross Fisher, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, James Morrison, Danny Willett, Lee Slattery, Richard Bland, Justin Walters, Paul Waring, Graeme Storm and Alejandro Canizares.

So, as you might expect, his working week is as varied as it is busy. Given how players put enormous store, quite rightly, on trying to save a quarter of a shot a round the ability to think clearly and logically every week is pretty much priceless.

 

You got together with Danny Willett at Firestone this year. What would you do on your first sit down with a player?

When I start with a new player I will introduce the model that I work around and explain that. They will give some insight into targeting some specific areas that have worked well in the past and when, before or after a round, to work together. A lot of them will have set routines and it is all down to what they want to do.

When I started with Kiradech he wanted to see me after a round and just see Pete Cowen and Mike Walker beforehand which was fine.

We’ll work through the template, I’ll never tell people what to do as that doesn’t work. I will ask really good questions and try and get them to come up with the answers – I’m of the belief that they know the answers and it’s more about drawing them out and getting rid of the rubbish in their heads.

They are all different which is great as it’s never boring.

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How would your working week start?

All days are different and all tournaments are different. On a practice day I’ll get to the course between 6 and 8am depending on the light. In Qatar it might be 5am.

With certain players we will sit down and I’ll ask what was good and not so good about last week and filter it down to a handful of key points that they can write down in their book.

I’ll ask things like what their acceptance level was like and we can discuss that and it might become a key point.

But it always comes from them; I won’t tell them to sort their body language out for example. I am more of a sounding board, they are the ones who are living it.

I don’t keep the notes, they have them, when you write something it helps to re-affirm things.

I have a good memory for what has worked in the past. It is a challenge but it is only 10 players. In the NHS you might have hundreds of different clients and we do get to spend a lot of time with each other.

 

What about the on-course work?

If it’s the pro-am I will walk a few holes with each player, if there are only two players I will maybe try and do nine holes. I like to get out on the course when possible.

I’ll be looking at routines, focus points or feels and seeing if we can dial into something as simple as possible. Players are good at complicating things so I will try to simplify things wherever possible.

I’ll also be checking on their mental routines, making sure they are doing the same thing on course as they do on the range.

And see how they feel about the course and its conditions; they might have played it for 10 years or might be the first time.

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And on tournament days?

I’ll be on the range or putting green and will just be on call. I’ll see if the players are OK or if there are any issues.

If they’ve had a bad first round they might splurge out their concerns and we will then turn it around and find some key points to think about, maybe just for the first few holes to try and get some momentum.

 

What has been a good example of turning something around this season?

Kiradech was a top-40 player in the world a few years ago and then lost his chipping a bit. It was world class but he would really trap down on the ball and not use the bounce, he then lost his feel and that filtered through to his game.

On the Tuesday in Dubai this year Kiradech had a bit of a lack of confidence around the greens so we just came up with a little mental pre-shot routine to stop the negative thoughts popping in. He ended up finishing in a tie for 2nd place.

I always say they are only thoughts and they don’t have any power unless you give them emotion. I will encourage the players to let those thoughts wash through them, maybe laugh at them and replace them with a simple, controllable focal point like hitting an imaginary ball, think about the bounce scraping the grass or not even look at the ball. It is just about shifting the focus.

Kiradech

 

And an example of how your players can differ?

James Morrison might like to tap into a technical feeling, Graeme Storm might have a couple of swing thoughts that really work for him and then you get someone like Ross Fisher and he wouldn’t dream of that.

After a good week some players are fine with the expectation, others try and avoid any score goals.

If I was to say to Stormy that we were looking at the top 30 on the Race to Dubai and that would get us in next year’s Open and, to do that, we’ll need a top 10 this week then it would be game over.

He has done so well this year as he has had no goals like this, he has just enjoyed playing the game and appreciated its nuances which I call the mastery side.

 

How involved do you get with the rest of the team?

Very. I’ll talk to the caddie, coach or manager and have a sit down with them and, if a player has given me their consent, then I will discuss what we’ve been working on. It is very rare that the player might say it’s OK to talk with the caddie but not the manager but it has happened.

When we first get together I will tell them that I just want honesty and motivation to learn and open their mind and, in return, I will work as hard as I can and anything that we discuss will not go any further, I am bound by a code of ethics, unless they are happy for me to divulge any information.

In Turkey, Kiradech was hitting it right to left and he despises that with a passion but he accepted and went with it for that week and finished in 6th.

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Without giving your secrets away what are you working on when a player seems to be just hitting one chip after the other to a practice green?

A few years ago Tiger was asked at Augusta after a long time off how could he expect to compete when all he had done is practise?

He then looked him in the eye and said it depends how important you make your practice.

I repeat that a lot to the players. Once they have done the technical stuff we want to make sure that the practice drills have a consequence. Every ball counts. I might set them a goal of three balls and give them a total footage of 12 feet or less for those three shots.

If they are outside that then they will do it again and we’ll do that on a Tuesday, Wednesday or even a Thursday morning to get the mind switched on.

Amateurs generally warm up so poorly and there’s no excuse for that. Amateurs have less time so they need to make the most of their 10 minutes practice before a round. Players at club level can really benefit from getting their practice organised.

When you put some challenges in place and then achieve something then that can really lift the confidence.

Lee is the founder of Winning Golf Mind. Visit their website for more information on how to get in touch. You can also follow them on Twitter, @WinningGolfMind.

Posted by & filed under Blog, Competitions.

In last month’s newsletter, we asked you to tell us what your most useful piece of equipment was, to be in with the chance of winning a luxury Mizuno bobble hat.

We had a lot of great responses and, while selecting a group of winners was no easy task, we’ve managed to narrow it down to five.

Here are the winning answers below. Thank you to everyone who took part and congratulations to these lucky winners! We hope these hats keep your head nice and warm when you’re on the golf course this winter!

Stewart Holdsworth: “My electric golf trolley. It enables me to walk for a full round to ensure that I get much needed exercise without tiring myself out and allows me to carry excess equipment in all weathers – whether it’s clothing, towels, balls or food and drink.”

golf trolley

Credit: Stewart Golf

 

Chris Pritchard: “My Galvin Green waterproof trousers and jacket – they keep me dry when it’s wet, warm when it’s cold, and they keep the wind out! Snug as a bug!”

 

Credit: Golf Monthly

Credit: Golf Monthly

 

Dennis O’Neill: “Because of the number of ditches on our course I find my ball retriever (which I call my fishing rod) a very useful piece of equipment.”

 

foremost golf

Credit: Foremost Golf

 

Ian Brannan: “My golf mitts, because there’s nothing worse than trying to hit the ball with cold hands!”

 

original green

 

Credit: Original Green

 

Ben Jagger: “My golf bag rain cover. This keeps all my equipment dry throughout the round and is a simple, cheap piece of kit that helps in tough conditions”

golf town

 

Credit: Golf Town

Posted by & filed under Miscellaneous.

Steve Watton has racked up more than 100 competitions a year since 2011. He tells Steve Carroll why he lives to post another tournament score.

Steve Watton

Credit: Getty Images

Steve Watton plays so much golf he could give Donald Trump a run for his money.

Prolific is a word that defines the Enville member’s desire to get out in amateur competitions – he’s played more than 800 of them since 2011.

From midweek medals to multi-day scratch tournaments, Watton’s diary is always full as he travels the country following his passion to tee it up.

But social golf is not on the Stourbridge native’s agenda. He loves the cut and thrust of events and the constant test of trying to beat his handicap.

We sat down with Watton, a panellist on NCG’s England top 100 list, to ask…

 

803 competition rounds in seven years – just how do you do that?

It’s mostly made up of scratch opens, which are 36 holes in a day. I might play two of those a week, on average, from the start of April until the middle of October. That makes up the bulk of the rounds.

I don’t have too many nights away from home and my home club has a midweek medal every Wednesday, which helps.

Believe it or not, I probably only play two or three days a month on a weekend so it’s mostly weekday golf.

I live in Stourbridge, in the West Midlands, so I have a rule for myself which is that I will drive up to two-and-a-half hours, play 36 holes, and then drive home.

I can get to almost anywhere in England and most of Wales, just chopping off the corners. It would be quite difficult to do, if you didn’t live where I live, without having 100 nights away in a hotel a year.

 

I can’t believe you don’t play that many weekends…

I’ve got three kids, Molly, Maisy, Thomas, and a wife, Rachel, that I have to keep happy as well! She’s very understanding and supports me in my passion.

I’m pretty sure if you took into account holidays, I probably only play a couple of weekend days a month.

 

How do you balance family life and all this golf?

I would like to think, although my wife may agree to differ a little bit, it’s not my family that suffers because of it but work. I’m fortunate in that regard in that I have worked hard, have an interest in a few different businesses, which allows me quite a lot of time out in the week as I choose.

 

Do you ever get time to practise?

A little bit. My office is just down the road from where I live, which just happens to be half a mile from Enville and we have fantastic practice facilities there. I do go down and do a bit of chipping and putting but I am not a big practiser of the long game.

I get bored very quickly unless I am working on something specific. I’ll very often leave the range feeling worse than when I got there. Obviously, short game practice is essential for any level of golfer.

golf scorecard

Credit: Getty Images

What’s the best thing about playing hundreds of rounds a year?
I just love the buzz of having a card in my hand and that little extra adrenaline rush you get. I’m kind of addicted to the competing. If I didn’t play golf I’d probably do something else to satisfy that need.

It’s come to the point now that, on the odd occasion when I do play social golf, I just feel flat and I don’t get the same level of excitement at all.

The norm for me is to have a card in my hand.

 

How do you cope during the winter when it’s non-qualifiers? Are you searching around looking for winter opens?
Three or four years ago, I suddenly started playing 20, 30 and 40 more rounds a year and that’s basically because I discovered winter qualifying golf.

In the West Midlands, we’ve probably got four or five clubs that do a monthly winter series so, this winter, I am playing every month at Forest of Arden, The Leicestershire, Sutton Coldfield and Brampton Heath. I will get four a month in like that.

The Finch Tour has also started to run qualifying events through the winter.

 

It takes a certain dedication to try and find qualifiers during the winter months…

It takes a commitment in terms of driving to go anywhere but, as long as its not frosty and it’s not raining, then I’ve come to enjoy winter golf. Before I started this crusade I was probably like a lot of other golfers where I would put my clubs away.

 

How many balls would you go through in a week, or a season?

God knows. I probably use one a round, unless I lose it, and through the winter I won’t buy any. I’ll just use the ones I’ve got left over from the summer.

 

How does your season pan out?

The Mid-Am Tour is really what my season is based around. Next year, from the start of April until October, we’ve got a tournament every week. That will either be a 36-hole in one day or 54-holes over two days.

Straight away, there are probably 50 qualifying rounds I can play in.

 

Form is an important thing when you play as many competitions as you do. How do you stay positive when that run of .1s comes along?

I think I’m different to most golfers. I just don’t think I get ‘golfed out’ in the same way other people do. Obviously, if I’ve driven two-and-a-half hours, played 36 holes, shot two rounds in the 80s and then drove home I’m pretty fed up.

But by the time I’ve woken up the next day, I’m mulling over in my brain what it was – I’ve got a bank of about 500 different swing thoughts – convinced myself I know what it was and then I’ll want to get out again the next day and prove myself right or wrong.

I need a day off physically, sometimes, because my back can’t take it but I don’t ever get completely fed up with it. Even this year, where I think I had nine or 10 rounds in a row where I missed the buffer by one shot, which was utterly depressing, I woke up the next day and wanted to try again.

Just recently, I have discovered my form again.

watton

Credit: Getty Images

What’s been the highlight of the last 803 rounds?

When I started my golf crusade, it was to play in Open qualifying, which was at Enville. I missed out but, finally getting down to scratch, I was able to play it at Little Aston. That was my goal from the outset and the most gratifying moment.

I played with Scott Drummond, who won what is now the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth some years back, and that gave me a good sense of achievement.

In golf, as we all know, there’s always the next step or the next shot off the handicap.

By the numbers: Steve Watton

Handicap:

Lowest: 0.0
Highest: 3.7

Competitions by year:

2017: 122 (100 away, 22 at home)
2016: 142 (123 away, 19 at home)
2015: 140 (120 away, 20 at home)
2014: 110 (92 away, 18 at home)
2013: 100 (77 away, 23 at home)
2012: 98 (56 away, 42 at home)
2011: 91 (61 away, 30 at home)

Total: 803 (629 away, 174 at home)

Do you know someone who plays more golf than Steve? Let us know in the comments below, or you can get involved in the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Posted by & filed under Blog, Feature Articles.

In Talking Point, Danny Willett’s physio Paul Farquharson tells Mark Townsend why we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves about Tiger Woods.

tiger woods 1

Credit: Getty Images

All everyone wanted was for Tiger Woods to get through 72 holes unscathed; to walk relatively fluently, to swing without a grimace while the odd birdie would be nice.

What we got was something else – a driving exhibition, smiles, TWO front nines of 31, topping the leaderboard and some explosive long iron and fairway wood approaches from around 260 yards.

Now the question is when will we get to see him again? Tiger himself was giving little away, though to be fair he had probably surprised himself with how good large chunks of his game had been and this latest comeback has always been all about baby steps.

“We’re going to sit down, we’ll figure it out, where I’m going to start, how much I’m going to play, rest periods, training cycles, the whole nine yards,” Woods said after his closing 68, a round that could have been something very impressive.

The clever money is that he will play Torrey Pines on January 25, then Riviera three weeks later, maybe the Honda Classic the week after and Bay Hill in the middle of March. Then on to Augusta.

In between there will be some money games at home with the likes of Justin Thomas.

Danny Willett is another major champion who has battled back problems through the years, having to miss half a dozen tournaments a year through injury. Willett began working with physio Paul Farquharson four years ago and, in April 2016, the Yorkshireman burst through to win the Masters.

tiger woods 2

Credit: Getty Images

Farquharson was a PE instructor with the RAF before qualifying at as a physio at Bristol University in 1997. He joined the army and worked as a major responsible for a rehabilitation unit at Catterick.

So who better to pick the brains of as to what Tiger has been through and what the near future holds for someone who has had four back operations, the most recent, in April, involving spinal fusion surgery?

“With most players, like Rory, I will know people who work with them and what is going on but I don’t know any of his team so I don’t know exactly what he’s doing,” Farquharson told NCG.

“But basically they have stopped the two vertebrae moving against each other, bone on bone. The vertebrae sit on top of each other with a disc between them like a jam doughnut. This prolapsed a long time ago and that causes nerve pain and sciatica. Spinal fusion is pretty much a drastic operation and would be a last resort.

“I have got a patient at the moment who is a runner with a history of lower back problems and he has been round the houses with physios and consultants and a fusion was suggested.

“He’s doing alright, he’s got no back pain but then you are sometimes left with tight muscles around the back and quite often nerve-type pain where the nerve is still chronically irritated by the poor movement from when you had the back pain.”

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Credit: Getty Images

So what will Woods have been doing pre- and post-round to get himself ready for his first rounds in 301 days?

“The good thing was that he pretty much had a year off and came back a lot slower than before. He will have had lots of physio to strengthen his core, pelvis and glutes and those muscles can now fire properly as he isn’t getting the pain.

“Before the round there will be lots of stretching with a good hour of physio and core stability and then some muscle activation. After he will likely have had some corrective work so that everything is in the right place and he isn’t getting pulled in the wrong directions after playing 18 holes.

“I thought he looked really good, it was great to see him hit a variety of different shots and shapes and with different speeds and it was also great just to see him being able to pick up the tee and just walk off rather than struggle. He could flex fully and effectively touch his toes.”

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Credit: Getty Images

The one small negative over Woods’ return was his greenside chipping. Part of the problem might have been the tightly-cut, grainy and slopey surrounds. Other players commented on similar concerns, or it might just have been a bit of ring rust.

One other possibility is how his body is still recovering. The general cliché is that Woods will have been able to practise his chipping and putting well before hitting full shots but the opposite might be the case.

“When you have these muscle inhibitions the short game struggles. You are more aware of the pain when making a slow controlled movement rather than anything at speed.”

As for the coming months? While most of us can’t wait for the next episode of Tiger: The Final Chapter, the likelihood is that he will continue to take it step-by-step.

“I think it will be a slow watchful process. With sportsmen, once they do something well, they get over confident and start to do more than their body will allow them to do and golf is one of the worst sports out there for the back. You can’t just keep loading it up, we’re not machines.

“Somewhere along the line he might have developed a poor movement pattern which might have come about as he got bigger and stronger and then made some swing changes. You then get some pain and treat it with physio and paper over the cracks – play-treat, play-treat, play-treat and then it all falls apart. I really hope that he’s now got a movement pattern that suits his body and that he doesn’t overdo it.”

Posted by & filed under Blog, Debates.

Rory McIlroy’s 2017 was one to forget with no wins. But he has already planned a fast and furious start to next year with one eye, as ever, on Augusta.

Rory-1320x743

Credit: Getty Images

It won’t be too long before we can all start talking about our favourite subject in the game: Rory McIlroy and the Masters.

While we might not yet be in the realms of Phil Mickelson and his annual quest to win the US Open, and complete his career Grand Slam, this will be McIlroy’s 10th trip to Augusta National and he still hasn’t contested well into the back nine on Sunday.

In 2011, of course, he actually led when standing on the 10th tee but a triple bogey there and four putts at 12 meant he was done for, scorewise and moreover mentally.

“The second shot to the 1st hole on Sunday was the first time I felt defensive all week. I said to myself, ‘Don’t go left.’ From the 10th green to 14th tee it was all was a bit of a blur, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The whole situation got to me.

“I got on the phone to my mum the next morning and that’s when it hit me – and I actually cried.”

rory

Credit: Getty Images

Less than two months later he won the US Open, and his first major, by eight shots.

In 2014 he added the Open Championship – and a second PGA – to leave him just hanging, in terms of the Grand Slam, on the Masters.

Who would have thought Augusta would be the only blank on McIlroy’s major CV? All those high, towering tee shots and approaches. The four par 5s to get his teeth into. The knowledge that he was four clear going into that Sunday six years ago and without even putting that well. Surely it’s made for him?

But here we are in the middle of one of sport’s great anomalies, like Tony McCoy not winning the Grand National until his 15th attempt or Jimmy White not winning the World Championship at all.

The usual cod psychology will be upon us before we know it – does he putt well enough, they’ll all be saying, if things aren’t going his way? Is he putting too much pressure on himself? Does he want it too much? Is he over-thinking it? Is he over-preparing? Last year he played over 100 holes in preparation in a bid to make it feel like his home course and was then 3-over after just eight holes.

He’s said it’s the only opening tee shot on a Thursday that makes him nervous – why is he getting so spooked by the whole thing?

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Credit: Getty Images

This year at least things will be a bit different. It will be his first Masters as a married man and it will also be his first with his best man Harry Diamond by his side.

It seems Diamond has got the gig for the foreseeable future on maybe the hottest bag in the game. The pair got together for seven events following the split with JP Fitzgerald and, while they missed out on the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour, there was enough to suggest that it might work. A fifth place at the Bridgestone, a second at Close House – maybe McIlroy was now in a better place, maybe he was feeling in less pain.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

“I was just getting increasingly frustrated and frustrated for the wrong reasons,” McIlroy said at TPC Boston. “I think having Harry on the bag, I’ve been happier and more jovial out there and not getting as hard on myself. It can only help, if I hit a bad shot, forget about it and talk about something else. Just try and keep going.”

Which, you might think, would be the perfect outlook for Augusta. Or anywhere for that matter.

The pal-on-the-bag route has worked wonders for Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton while Jason Day and Phil Mickelson will be hoping for some of the same success.

Which is just as well because McIlroy, who missed chunks of a winless 2017 with a rib injury, will be leaving no stones unturned in terms of tournament starts early next year.

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Credit: Getty Images

Having not been fit enough to tee it up at the Tour Championship in Dubai, the four-time major winner has already pencilled in seven starts before Augusta.

First up will be Abu Dhabi, as usual, followed by Dubai the week after which, given Omega sponsor the event and McIlroy, was also a banker. Two weeks later he will make his Pebble Beach debut before making his way to Riviera and then the Honda Classic, scene of a previous win in 2012, a play-off loss two years later and that spot of ‘toothache’ in between, to make it three weeks on the trot.

In March there are two guaranteed stops at the Valspar at Copperhead and then Bay Hill the week after. What have yet to be added to the diary, and which may depend on his fitness and form or they might not be part of his plans at all, are the two WGCs, in Mexico and the Match Play, that bookend the March tournaments.

McIlroy began 2017 as the World No. 2, he is projected to finish it outside the top 10 for the first time since 2008.

He has stated that he wants to use this enforced break to get the second part of his career going. And, as we all know, that means getting his major numbers up – nobody could have predicted after winning two big ones in three weeks in 2014 that would be it for now.

“I’m not getting any younger. These three months off could give me the foundation to have the next 10 years be even better than the 10 years I’ve just had. Hopefully, that turns a great career into one of the greatest careers.”

Posted by & filed under Miscellaneous.

As winter approaches and the weather turns colder, our minds invariably turn back to review the year. Most of all though, what sticks in the brain during the long winter months are the best golf courses you visited. So, we asked you which were your biggest highlights – and you didn’t disappoint!

Our three best answers will be receiving a dozen Srixon balls in the post.

 

*Nigel* – Star Answer

Los Moriscos, near Motril in southern Spain.

Why? Because it is almost universally sunny, located under the Sierra Nevada mountains which are snow-capped for 8 months a year, and the clubhouse is on the beach! What more could you want?

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Image credit: Club de Golf Los Moriscos

 

The Los Moriscos website describes it as a course ‘with more than 300 days of sunshine a year’ – which certainly sounds like paradise to us! We recently asked you all to recommend the best places to play golf abroad, and we can imagine this course could have easily popped up on that list as well!

By all accounts very flat to play, there’s 63 bunkers to avoid and plenty of water hazards to keep an eye on. Well, you wouldn’t want it to be too easy…

 

*Neil* – Star Answer

Lincoln Golf Club, Torksey, Lincolnshire.

Couldn’t wait to try out the clubs I received as a present last Christmas, so I played this course in January & February. It was perfect – drained well, proper greens and a good price at that time of the year.

best course

Image credit: Lincoln Golf Club

 

From the Tropical Coast of Granada to a small village in the depths of Lincolnshire – there’s amazing courses to be found all over the world!

As Neil says, one of the best maintained courses around, with greens you could iron on! With the River Trent running past the course, you can be sure it’ll be well irrigated all times of the year– meaning even in January and February when he played, it’s still in excellent nick. With very affordable tee times, it’s well worth a round if you’re passing…

 

*Tony* – Star Answer

I recently went on holiday to Dorset and was able to play Bridport Golf Course. I’d heard it was a great course and was not disappointed!

The fairways were like carpets and the greens were expertly manicured. Although I did need some lead in my shoes to keep me from being blown off the cliff on the 5th hole!

As for my greatest course highlight of 2017 – it has to be the 6th hole there. A 90ft drop from the tee to the green, absolutely stunning – can’t wait to play it again.

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Image credit: Bridport Golf Club

 

The 6th at Bridport is well known for being one of the UK’s most stunning holes of golf, and while we haven’t played it ourselves, we have to say – the pictures look amazing!

The whole course itself also comes highly recommended, and thankfully the cliff landslide back in June doesn’t seem to have done any lasting damage – despite 2,000 tonnes of rocks suddenly disappearing from the side of the 15th hole. That’s the price to pay for a cliff-edge course, after all!

 

Which golf course was your highlight of 2017? Share with us @TheGolfersClub and on Facebook!