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Dan Barlow

Handicap: 15

Home Club: Mellor and Townscliffe

Mizuno #YourGame2016 goal: To make it down to single figures.

Back in April, GM reader Dan Barlow, applied successfully to be part of our Mizuno #YourGame2016 project as he sought to get down to single figures for the first time. Kitted out with a full set of new Mizuno clubs as a result of the initial fitting session at Celtic Manor’s Mizuno Performance Centre, Dan had successfully made it down to 13 by the time of the next element of our Mizuno #YourGame2016 project – a coaching session with the LET’s Amy Boulden followed by a round of golf on the famous King’s Course at Gleneagles.

Catch up with Dan’s earlier progress updates and his original Mizuno fitting here, before finding out how he got on with Amy, and how his game has been since then…

20th October 2016: progress update – Final Perspective

Well I have had a fantastic year and it was a genuine pleasure reading that Liam Frean and Peter Jones – my fellow Mizuno #YourGame2016 campaigners – managed to achieve their aims of moving up to the St Andrews B team and getting down to single figures respectively. They have been wonderful companions on this journey.

I feel very fortunate: to have had this opportunity; to have played with fully fitted Mizuno clubs, to have worn all the Mizuno gear; to have met the people I have met; and to have played the courses we have played. Unfortunately I can no longer put off admitting that I have not achieved my objective of getting down to single figures. I finished the year on 12.9 having reached 12.5 in August. Nine, 10, 11 or 12 sound so much better than 13!

Our latest trip was to the Grove near Watford to watch the final day’s play of the British Masters and enjoy some wonderful corporate hospitality courtesy of Mizuno. Although I have gone to golf tournaments before, I have never had been lucky enough to enjoy this side of a tournament. It was a bit strange having everything on tap and being brought to you whenever you wanted. I did somehow manage to get the hang of it and enjoyed the final round from the Donald Pavilion balcony.

However much I enjoyed the hospitality, the real treat was playing the Grove on the Monday after the event from the same tees and flag locations as Noren, Wood, Westwood and co had done just 24 hours earlier. If you get a chance to do this take it, and put it down to experience. The only thing I will add is that, European Tour… These Guys Are Good!

Dan in action on the 13th tee at The Grove the day after The British Masters

Dan in action on the 13th tee at The Grove the day after The British Masters

A few highlights from the year:

My Golf shot of the year Award: Tee shot 18th Kings Course Gleneagles – For someone who struggles off the tee, a huge drive 326 yards down breeze, down a slope and down the middle!

Tour Pro of the Year Award: Amy Boulden – Ladies European Tour player – For being so very patient, genuinely nice and generous with her time during the lessons she gave in Scotland.

Venues Award: The Grove – Playing The Grove as the Pros play it was fantastic, although very difficult when you have a 465 yard par 4 into the breeze. It was however wonderful when you get the odd par when some pros made the odd bogey. Celtic Manor for the Ryder Cup memories and Gleneagles for being a stunning place to play golf.

Unsung Hero Award: Jezz Ellwood Although the name makes you think of the Blues Brothers, Jezz has looked after Liam, Peter and myself in such a calm, relaxed and friendly manner, especially when we are making diva requests!

I am delighted with the whole experience and I can’t thank Golf Monthly and Mizuno enough. I have always been made to feel very comfortable on every occasion and nothing has ever been too much trouble. I also have a fantastic set of clubs for the coming years to help me achieve my objective of attaining single figures… eventually. Better late than never!

Target (end of month) – July 12.9, August 11.5, September 10.1 and October 8.7!!!

Handicap from 12.8 to 12.9 (18th October)

19th September 2016: progress update – The Driving Range Pro!

Since my last update, I have gone up 0.3 in three competitions. I am, however, playing really well. This is mainly at the driving range but also in part, sparkling golf on the course has been witnessed. Just not for 18 consecutive holes.

I am hitting my Mizuno MP-5 and MP-25 irons so nicely with a towering hint of a draw flight that two lads (okay, they may have only been 13 and just coming to terms with the joys of understanding which end of the club to hold) asked me if I was a pro. It may also have been down to me being dressed from head to toe in Mizuno gear (yes, at the range!). As tempted as I was to say yes and pass on a few tales from the tour to the little whippersnappers and maybe sign an autograph, my golfing partner’s fit of giggles gave my hacking status away.

My driving with the Mizuno JPX EZ woods has been fantastic in parts and allowed me to consistently turn the par 5s at my course into long par 4s over the last few months. Despite the still damp conditions underfoot, I seem to be getting the best from the driver when my swing decides to show up.

The course (they should all be flat and made from driving range mats by the way) has given a few glimmers of hope of reaching single figures by mid-October. Despite my handicap being 2.8 higher than it needs to be at this point, I still irrationally feel that I could reach the Promised Land of single figures. A three-over back nine on Saturday with one tee shot going OOB and two three-putts, has resulted in continued faith and a return to the next competition with the usual excitement and optimism.

A lot of luck and hard work will be needed over the next four weeks to say the least. Breaking of a couple of personal records will also be required… such as breaking 80 for only the fourth, fifth and sixth times ever! I have calculated that rounds of 75, 75 and 75 in my next three competitions will just get me to a handicap of 9.4. Taking into account that I have not managed this feat once in the last nine years, the bookies would not be on my side. I do, however, always like to cheer on the underdog.

If my next update is entitled the ‘Mizuno Miracle at Marvellous Mellor’ you will know the result!

Target (end of month) – July 12.9, August 11.5, September 10.1 and October 8.7!

Handicap from 12.5 to 12.8 (19th September) Oops 🙂

18th August 2016: progress update – The difficult second album

Between now and my last update, I have only come down 0.2 so I don’t have a great deal of sparkling golf to report.

I did however manage to play in the Mizuno Golf Pairs Tour event at Celtic Manor’s Twenty Ten course with Jezz Ellwood, Peter Jones and Liam Frean – my fellow Mizuno #YourGame2016 campaigners. Following Liam and I going one round up at Gleneagles a few weeks ago, Jezz and Peter managed to draw level at Celtic Manor with some sparkling golf from Peter who will be single figures sooner rather than later. Roll on The Grove in October for the decider.

Dan tees off on the 1st at Celtic Manor in the Mizuno Golf Pairs Tour event under glorious blue skies

Dan tees off on the 1st at Celtic Manor in the Mizuno Golf Pairs Tour event under glorious blue skies

The holiday season has kicked in and given me a mini mid-season break and time to reflect. So, having been using my Mizuno woods, irons and wedges since just after The Masters, and with Justin Rose having just won Olympic Gold, the four Majors have come and gone and with only the Ryder Cup and the Mizuno-sponsored British Masters (I’m going!) to look forward to, it’s time to see how my Mizuno clubs are performing.

Being a bit of a stats person I’d like to see if and how the Mizuno clubs have improved my game. I played 42 rounds of 9 or more holes in 2015 and to date 22 rounds of 9 or more holes in 2016 with my Mizuno gear. I have split the below in to Tee Shots and Approach Shots.

Tee Shots

In 2015 my average Driver went 219 yards hitting 27% of fairways. My Mizuno JPX Driver has gone 218 yards on average and hit 24% of fairways.

In 2015 my 3 Wood went 198 yards on average and hit 36% of fairways. My Mizuno JPX 3-wood has gone 191 yards on average and hit 42% of fairways.

So getting up towards 50% fairways hit with my Mizuno JPX 3-wood. Could this be my solution to hitting more fairways?

Approach Shots

From inside 100 yards I achieved 75% of shots finishing inside 15 yards of the flag in 2015 and with my Mizuno wedges I have achieved 75%.

From between 100 and 125 yards I achieved 60% of shots finishing inside 15 yards of the flag in 2015 and with my Mizuno irons I have achieved 71%.

From between 125 and 150 yards I achieved 52% of shots finishing inside 15 yards of the flag in 2015 and with my Mizuno irons I have achieved 62%.

So a 10% to 11% improvement when going for greens from 100 and 150 yards is impressive and means that I could have nearly two extra birdie putts every round!

Obviously, you have to take the variable that is me out of the equation, but you can see why I love my Mizuno clubs so much that I use iron covers to keep them shiny. One personal observation when using the Mizuno MP-5 and MP-25 irons is the beautifully uniform and thinner divots I now take. I think this, along with Mizuno’s iron forging processes, gives such an improved feel and strike that they really are a joy to hit.

I have a lot of work to do to keep on track and knock a full shot off my handicap before the end of August in the comps on the 20th and 27th. I will have to break 80 for only the fourt time ever and the first time in nine years! Fingers crossed.

Target (end of month) – July 12.9, August 11.5, September 10.1 and October 8.7!!!

Handicap from 12.7 to 12.5 (18th August)

Monday 25th July 2016: progress update… inspiration and consolidation

Mizuno and Golf Monthly provided inspiration and ensured a bright and breezy start to July by putting on a tour of the Mizuno Tour Truck, a lesson with Mizuno LET player Amy Boulden and a round on the King’s Course at Gleneagles. The Mizuno guys were great again, looking after us wonderfully and introducing us to everyone.

The Tour Truck was really interesting and was beyond doubt the garage I wish I had. It was fully of technology and fully stocked up, ready for the Scottish Open and The Open Championship, with loads of gear from which to make up anything and everything Mizuno. The tech guys were welcoming and happy to spend their time explaining what all the machines were for and what the Mizuno pros use. It was also a lot tidier than my garage!

After warming up on the range at Gleneagles, which has the most wonderful backdrop of the Scottish Ochil Hills, I hit a few drivers under Amy Boulden’s watchful gaze. I think I was a bit nervous and swinging a bit too fast as Amy politely asked if she could video my swing on her phone, (obviously to refer back to… “How not to hit a driver.”)


Amy Boulden spots that Dan Barlow's swing is a little flat at the top

Amy Boulden spots that Dan Barlow’s swing is a little flat at the top

Amy was actually very complimentary about my swing which boosted my confidence. She broke down my issue, explained why I occasionally hit the low left hook and gave a simple fix to feel that my hands were higher at the top of the backswing and more in front of me. A few baby fades later and my confidence continued to increase nicely.

Amy shows the video evidence to Dan and suggests a remedy

Amy shows the video evidence to Dan and suggests a remedy

Following lunch, the King’s course provided a great setting and it was a pleasure to play with the rest of the Mizuno #YourGame2016 team –  Liam Frean, Peter Jones and GM’s Jezz Ellwood. It is fair to say that Liam’s and Jezz’s low handicap skills were on show in the high winds with their pars, birdies and eagles! I was just happy to play some okay shots and finish with the longest and straightest drive down 18 – 325 yards… downwind, downhill! Thank you to Amy Boulden, Mizuno, Golf Monthly and Gleneagles for a wonderful day.

My Mizuno MP-25 and MP-5 irons are still a joy to hit and two chip-in birdies with my MP T5 (51 degree) wedge have smartened up my recent scores. The JPX Driver and 3-wood continue to perform impressively in terms of distance and following my trip to Scotland are getting straighter.

I have played in two comps over the last four weeks and shot a net 67 and 35 points so I’m still going in the right direction. I do, however, need to break 80 relatively consistently to achieve my goal of a single-figure handicap. Having only broken 80 on three occasions, with the last time some nine years ago, I am beginning to wonder how achievable this goal is?

In positive news, my 10-year-old son entered his first competition at Mellor and Townscliffe where he managed to get his first birdie with a two on the 3rd. Dad had better get breaking 80 soon.

End-of-month targets – July 12.9, August 11.5, September 10.1 and October 8.7!

Handicap from 13.3 to 12.7 (as at July 21)