Becta Closure

I don’t often comment on political matters, but this needed saying.

Closing Becta will potentially be a retrograde step for thousands of schools, and thus hundreds of thousands of children.

If the very good work that Becta currently undertakes is not replaced by something equally capable and focussed on the benefit of schools and colleges, then we will have lost a very great deal of expertise and will leave schools and colleges wide open to problems. This means children may suffer as a result… and learning will certainly suffer. We have come so very far in the world of education in the last ten years, and to send us back in time would be immensely upsetting.

If the work of Becta is to be taken back to the Department and then continued under a different guise so be it, but I’m not sure what effective savings there are in doing this. If £80M can be recovered by closing Becta, then less can be recovered by moving it elsewhere and continuing what it is doing.

There are other equally hard messages from the Treasury today, and whilst I agree with the need to make savings on some of the ridiculous stuff (like travel and expenses), I’m not entirely clear what positive impact there will be on a £156Bn deficit by making a £6Bn recovery in the current financial year… it seems like a small amount overall. I guess savings need to start somewhere, and every journey starts with the first step.

Nike Slingshot Irons on Test

It’s been quite a while since I last played golf with anything like regularity. In my last post I wrote about the new Nike Slingshot irons I was given as a gift, and the Taylor Made Burner driver that went with them.

For the last week or so I’ve been going to the driving range (the rather excellent Elsenham sports and leisure centre in Hertfordshire) and spending an hour at a time smacking golf balls up the range. So what’s the verdict?

The Nike irons are a joy to hit. Simple.

In the time since I last played regularly and now, I have lost some flexibility and probably picked up some bad habits. However, I was delighted to see the ball generally flying straight and largely to the place I intended it to go! As a guide, the seven iron was landing at roughly 150 yards and rolling on well past that. I don’t consider myself a long hitter by any means, so seeing a seven iron go past 150 was quite pleasing. I’m sure that in more experienced hands it would go even further, but I’ll settle for all I can get.

The five iron shot to about 170 and rolled on from there, and the hybrid irons were simply awesome. A hybrid 4 was reaching nearly 200, and the hybrid 3 was just a touch longer as far as I could see. It is actually quite difficult to assess the actual distance that far away – and I am only talking about where the ball landed first, not where it subsequently rolled to.

The Tour Burner Driver was frequently breaking 220, and at times I could have sworn it landed nearer 260 (but was probably 230).

My biggest issue was that I enjoyed hitting the balls so much I got through them at a rate of knots. The other slightly annoying niggle is that I normally have a very slight draw, but was pushing a lot of shots wide to the right (as a right handed player). The driver was prone to slice. I adjusted my grip, slowed down the swing (lost some yardage) and got some very straight and true shots. I don’t know about you but I’d rather use a 3/4 swing and lose 20 yards than be forever digging a ball out of the right hand side of a fairway.

I then took the pitching wedge out onto a pitch and put area, and was very glad I did. This wedge is superbly forgiving and I found I was more accurate with it than any other I had used before! Working from ranges of just a few yards to approximately 70 or 80 yards I was dropping the ball right on the apron of the green with apparent ease. If I knew how to apply back spin I’d be very happy to drop the ball right near the pin. I can say that boldly because I believe this pitching wedge allows me to be far more accurate. I can’t imagine I have somehow managed to get more accuracy through not playing the game for ten years…

All in all these irons seem to suit me very well indeed. They hit longer than I expected and they seem to be very forgiving. Having worked on my grip a little and stopped pushing everything wide, I am confident these irons will help me take quite a few shots off my game. A very, very minor issue is that the grip on the irons doesn’t have those very useful lines that help you form your grip consistently. This means I have to stop and think about the grip every single time, which itself is no bad thing. I still have much to learn about golf, and am in no way a ‘good’ player with a low handicap, but I would say if you are looking for some new irons, and think you’d benefit from some forgiveness, go and try out the Nike Slingshots. American Golf have them in stock, and should allow you to test them in store, too. I am very pleased I got them.

Nike Slingshot Irons, golf clubs for returners, game improving irons

Let me say from the outset that I am not a real golfer. I enjoy a game here and there, and have been known to win a few times, but I don’t get much of a chance to play these days. Even when I did play during the nineties I was not that good, a real beginner, but I did manage to learn how to swing the club and got quite in to the game.

And then life intervened. About ten years or more of an intervention, before I was once more thinking about having a regular game of golf.

I started to look for clubs in earnest, thinking I ought to be able to find a half decent set for not much money, but actually it is very hard to do. I read review after review, I read technical specifications and advertising. I read until my eyes were sore, and finally settled on some TaylorMade Tour Burner irons. Heck, American Golf were selling them for less than £300, and I had to get a set! I was very fortunate that this coincided with my birthday and I was offered new clubs for a present. Well, it would have been rude to refuse…

When I visited American Golf in Braintree, Essex (Freeport) I found the staff to be very good indeed – much better than I had anticipated. I explained that as a former golfer I didn’t really class myself as a beginner and didn’t want irons that a beginner would use. I had my heart set on TaylorMade Tour Burners, and that was that. The salesman (Mark) was excellent. He listened patiently, nodded knowingly and selected a range of clubs for me to try out on the electronic analyser at the back of the store. I had some Taylormade irons, some Callaways, and two types of Nike, including the Slingshots.

So onto the machine I stepped and swung the clubs as best I could. The machine plotted the trajectory, speed, flight direction – everything! It turned out that I was getting a 7 iron about 160 yards on a good swing, which isn’t too bad at all in my opinion. The thing is, I got consistently good readings from the Nike Slingshot irons and only sometimes good from the Callaways. I was rubbish with the TaylorMade clubs!

I was pleasantly surprised at the way I could tell the difference between the clubs after all these years, and with the way I was able to swing them… I thought I’d be pretty poor at both, actually. I know the machine environment is not a golf course, it doesn’t have wind, sun, rain, slopes or the mocking laughter of your comrades trying to put you off… so it wasn’t a real test. The thing is, it was a consistent test, and I really enjoyed the work out it gave me.

So much so, that I left the store with the Slingshots – a good weight, consistent distance and direction, forgiving in those awkward moments and pretty good value for money. They are not top flight clubs, but I am not a top flight golfer. They are not necessarily for beginners, but they would be a very good first club. They seemed to suit me as a returning golfer, and I think they’ll actually help improve my game faster than others would, and that’s what I am after achieving!

I did also try a TaylorMade Burner driver, and loved that – much better than the Nike equivalent or the Ping G15 that was there to test too. So I added that to the set and finished it off with a putter.

Now, for putting I am an old fashioned sort, and I like the ordinary looking putters. I went for a Rife ‘Aussie’ – it felt excellent in my hand and on the carpet putting green, I was having a lot of fun watching my ten foot puts drop in the pot. If only it was like that on a green…

I’ll be testing the set out on a course as soon as I can, and will report back on how they were (and how I was). I am expecting good things.