Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Behind the Scenes at Bethpage Black

I just finished reading Open: Inside the Ropes at Bethpage Black, John Feinstein's chronicling of the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in New York. The Open at Bethpage Black marked the first time the U.S. Open was held at a truly public course. If you might not be familiar with Bethpage Black, it is one of five courses that comprise Bethpage State Park on Long Island. The Black Course was designed by the famous golf architect A.W. Tillinghast. The course is so famous and desirable to play, even though it is suggested for only low handicapped golfers, that people literally sleep in their cars overnight for the opportunity to gain one of the coveted daily tee times.

In his book, Feinstein takes us from David Fay first developing the idea in 1995 to play the Open at Bethpage, the logistics and difficulties behind making that idea a reality--including the fallout from 9/11, the actual tournament that was won by Tiger Woods, to the USGA's agreement with the State of New York to have The Black again host the Open in 2009. In this book, Feinstein gives us an in-depth look at people who run the United States Golf Association, as well what it takes to stage one of the largest and most prestigious golf championships in the world. It is both fascinating and entertaining, and I highly recommend it for any true golfer's reading list.

By reading Open, I have now completed the John Feinstein "Grand Slam" of golf books, which also includes A Good Walk Spoiled, The Majors, and Tales from Q School. Tonight at Borders I picked up my next read: One Magical Sunday: (But Winning Isn't Everything). Co-authored by Phil Mickelson, it is his firsthand account of his life leading up to his winning his first major, The Masters, in 2004.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fast Greens But Slow Play at Bensalem C.C.

Bensalem Township Country Club
Bensalem, Pa
Yards: 5808, Par: 70
Rating: 66.6, Slope 114
Score: 47/53 = 100
Date: October 20, 2007

The unseasonably warm October temperatures is making for great golfing conditions and today I found myself at Bensalem Township Country Club. I had tried two other courses, but tournaments drove me to play a round at Bensalem, a course I have played twice before. The course had previously been privately owned, but Bensalem Township recently purchased the facility. And what a great job the Township has done. The course in as good a shape, or even better, than most of the courses I have played this year. The fairways were superb; the rough thick, but not penal; and the greens were smooth, true and lightning fast. And at 2 p.m., it only cost me $25 to walk 18 holes. Besides the fast greens--I can't count how many 3-putts I had--the only problem I incurred was very slow play. We had to wait on the tee on almost every hole during the round. This meant we finished in almost total darkness as we played the 18th hole. Gusty winds were also a factor during the round, but was easier to endure than the slow play. Perhaps it was just the unusually warm weather bringing out more golfers than you would find this time of year, but I have always heard that slow play is a hallmark of Bensalem. But I definitely look forward to going back to Bensalem, and if the weather continues to cooperate, I'm certain I will find myself teeing it up there in the not too distant future.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Wind Blew and Birds Flew at FDR

Franklin D. Roosevelt Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 5720, Par 69
Rating: 63.9, Slope: 105
Score: 46/47 = 93
Date: October 14, 2007

The sun was shining, but the wind was blowing this afternoon at Franklin D. Roosevelt Golf Club in South Philadelphia. With the Eagles playing the Jets in New York, I expecting the course to be fairly deserted. That was far from the case. I was paired with three other golfers by the starter on the first tee, something I like about FDR. Because the course is fairly wide open, wind can be a big factor at FDR when it is blowing and today was no exception. If the wind was into us, or across, it made club selection extremely difficult. A good short game was definitely a must to score well today. The tee boxes at FDR were pretty well chewed up and the fairways were a little on the thin side, but the the greens were in very good shape and putts rolled pretty true.

My front nine was fairly undramatic, but consistent. The back nine was another story:

* A 6 at the long 418-yard Par 4 10th was followed by a really bad 7 at downhill 317-yard Par 4 11th when I pushed my tee shot way right and then hit a poor chip that didn't make it back to the fairway.

* I made a decent 5 at the 384-yard Par 4 12th hole, but then I hit my tee shot to 12 feet at the 129-yard Par 3 13th. My putt was dead center for a Birdie!

* I just missed hooking my 3-Wood around the dogleg at the 376-yard Par 14th, but still managed to get up-and-down at the raised green for a 5. Then came my worst stretch of golf.

* The 15th is a 370-yard Par 4 that doglegs right, then plays uphill, with bunkers and trees guarding the right side of green. After chunking my 3-Wood off the tee, I hot the ball everywhere but in the hole, finally settling for 9!

* The 362-yard Par 4 16th is the hole that gives me the most problems at FDR. It is a severe dogleg right that does not set up well for my draw. I tried to fade a driver off the tee and overcooked it into the woods. After my drop and punch to the fairway, I hit a 9-iron onto the green and two-putted for a 6.

* The 192-yard Par 3 17th plays downhill, but was playing into a strong crosswind from the left today. I hit by 2-Hybrid that got knocked down short of the green. Two chips and two putts and I had a very disappointing 5. But the disappointment didn't last long.

* The 18th is a straightaway 283-yard Par 4 that is wide, but tree-lined and plays even shorter. I hit my best drive of the day, which hit and rolled well down the right side of the fairway before ending up just in the rough off the fairway, 27 yards short of the green. Hole was 45-feet back in the left portion of the green. After initially pulling my 59-degree lob wedge, I decided to bump a 9-iron, which hit into the front of green then rolled like a putt straight at the hole. It hit the flagstick and disappeared into the cup for an Eagle 2...the third Eagle of my career.

What a way to end a round of golf. It is the second time I have ended a round with an Eagle, the other time being in July 2000 when I holed an 8-iron on my third shot at the Par 5 18th at Marsh Island Golf Club in Angola, Del.

Oh yes, by the way, Philadelphia's Birds, the Eagles, beat the Jets 16-9 at the Meadowlands.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Hot Golfing at Juniata

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 4805, Par: 66
Score: 50/43 = 93
Date: October 7, 2007

The calendar says October, but the temperature made it feel like July as I played a round at Juniata Golf Club this afternoon. Sunshine, temperatures in the upper 80s and high humidity tested my stamina. We are definitely having an Indian Summer, which will hopefully extend the golf season well into the winter months. I played better than my last time at Juniata two weeks ago. My focus and concentration were much better, as was my ball-striking. Even my putting was better, as I focused on a tip I heard from Greg Norman about thinking of hitting the front of the ball which makes you swing the putter through the stroke. My short game was definitely rusty, but it is hard to have the proper touch and feel when you are only playing every other week. I feel like I played well, I just didn't score well. On the equipment front, I had an Adams Idea a2 Hybrid in the bag for the first time today and it has certainly earned a chance to remain for another round. I also put an old set of TaylorMade RAC OS2 irons in my bag, but I think I am going to go back to the TaylorMade LCGs. The fall is a good time to experiment with different clubs as I try to set my bag for the 2008 season.