Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Year in Review

As the final hours count down on 2008, it is time to look back at my golf year. This past year, I played 23.5 rounds, which included one-and-a-half practice rounds and one incomplete round. I played on 14 difference courses, including four for the first time: Rock Manor, Center Square, Jonathan's Landing and Talamore. I played 422 holes and averaged 93.1 strokes per 18 holes, excluding the practice rounds and incomplete round. I had a score of par or better on 85 of those holes, or 22 percent of the holes I played. I had at least two holes of par or better in every round this year. The most holes of par or better I had in one round was 6 at FDR on July 19 and Oct. 12 at John F. Byrne. I also made six birdies, all on Par 4s: #1 at Rock Manor, #1 at Horsham Valley, #12 at Jonathan's Landing, #14 at Juniata and two at Juniata's 5th Hole. My lowest round of the year was an 87 at Juniata on September 21 and my highest round was a 101 at Talamore on Oct. 17. I also had an 88 at Horsham Valley (Aug. 16) and at Juniata (Sept. 14), as well as a 90 at Center Square on June 26.

The 1st Hole at Rock Manor
where I made my first birdie of the year

Photos by The Muni Golfer

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Weighty Issue

I went to the doctor's today for my routine checkup. While my cholesterol numbers were slightly elevated--although not at a level that caused big concern for the doctor--the biggest problem was my weight, which is now over 220 pounds. The additional weight is probably a primary cause of my sleep apnea and the slight elevation in my cholesterol count. These two factors, overweight and sleep apnea, were probably the main reasons why I felt some fatigue towards the end of my rounds late in the summer and through the fall. Starting in the new year, I plan to begin dieting and exercising with my wife in an effort to get down to a healthier weight. Watching my carbs and fats, while walking for 40 minutes four times a week, should help be be more physically fit by the time golf season rolls around in March. While I doubt I will ever cut a figure like Carmillo Villegas or Adam Scott, I don't want to look like Craig Stadler or Tim Herron either. It may also help me in dealing with the sleep apnea. While I doubt I will ever cut a figure like Carmillo Villegas or Adam Scott, I don't want to look like Craig Stadler or Tim Herron either. Hopefully, better fitness will mean better golf scores in 2009.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thank you Santa!

Like most everyone, The Muni Golfer woke up this morning to find that Santa had left several packages under the Christmas Tree. Santa must have gotten my Christmas list, because when I opened my gifts, I found two boxes of Wilson Staff Zip golf balls and a DVD of the golf movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance. I can hardly wait for some good weather to try the golf balls on the course. And I'll be watching one of my favorite golf movies as I start thinking about next season and using those golf balls. Thank you Santa...and Mrs. Claus too!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays from The Muni Golfer!

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy and Safe Holiday Season. May you get everything on your holiday wish list and may 2009 be a year of fairways and greens, birdies and pars, and lower handicaps for all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dear Santa...

Like everyone else this time of year, The Muni Golfer has made out his list for jolly Old St. Nick. Among the golf items that I've asked Santa for is a gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods or Golf Galaxy, some Wilson Staff 50/50 or Zip golf balls, a box of Nature Valley Granola Bars (The Muni Golfer's favorite on-course snack) and a DVD of either Legend of Bagger Vance or Tin Cup. The Muni Golfer has been especially good this year--hitting the driving range, counting all my shots, and taking appropriate penalty strokes--so Santa should deliver at least a couple of the things on my list. I can hardly wait until Christmas morning!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Restless Nights: Sleep Apnea

During the summer I found myself to be sleeping, but not really resting. My wife also told me that I was beginning to snore louder and louder; to the point where it was beginning to effect her sleep. It may have also effected my golf game because there were often times when I had very little energy towards the end of a round and my concentration on the course wasn't always the greatest. During a routine checkup with my doctor, who happens to specialize in sleep disorders, I mentioned these symptoms. Subsequently, I was tested for, and diagnosed with, sleep apnea. A person with sleep apnea stops breathing during sleep, often hundreds of times during the night, and often for a minute or longer.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, "Sleep apnea is very common, as common as adult diabetes, and affects more than twelve million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Yet still because of the lack of awareness by the public and healthcare professionals, the vast majority remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated, despite the fact that this serious disorder can have significant consequences. Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated."

Among those who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea are golfers Mark Calcavecchia and Hal Sutton; actors William Shatner, George Kennedy, John Candy, John Belushi and Chris Penn; author Anne Rice; Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia; NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White; and Rosie O'Donnell.

I am now using a a CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine to help me sleep at night. CPAP, which is one of the most common treatments, works by gently blowing pressurized room air through the airway at a pressure high enough to keep the throat open. This pressurized air acts as a "splint." The pressure is set according to the patient's needs at a level that eliminates the apneas and hypopneas that cause awakenings and sleep fragmentation, according to ASAA. I've used it for two nights now and it takes some getting used to, but hopefully, it will help me get better, healthier rest in the long term.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cold Play

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2735/2070 - 4805
Par: 34/32 - 66
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 45 (Front Nine)
Date: November 23, 2008

Although the temperature only climbed to around 40 with a steady breeze, the sun came out so I decided to try out my new Wilson Staff Di7 irons with nine holes at Juniata Golf Club. Wearing my Under Armour Coldgear Compression Mock under a Mizuno Breath Thermo Classic Mock, with an Under Armour Stableford Pullover, I was ready to battle the elements as well as the links. The course was more crowded than I expected given the weather. The ground was soft on top, but frozen underneath and the fairways are becoming very spotty as sections of grass go dormant in the colder climate. This meant that teeing up was a challenge and even the best drive in the fairway sometimes led to unexpected and tricky lies.

I hit the ball decently considering I'm playing more sporadically and with several layers of clothes on. I drove the ball well, especially with my Wilson Staff Spine Driver, hitting four out five fairways that I used it. In the last 27 holes that I've played with the driver in the bag, I've hit 10 out of 16 fairways. The new Wilson Staff Di7 irons played well also, although with the colder weather, the ball didn't travel as far as usual. Still, I managed to hit the golf ball straight and it the air. I had a few miss-hits, but they were more the result of bad lies. Chipping was also good with the new sticks. I hit the ball crisply and it often stopped quicker on the greens than I thought it would. I'm not sure if this was the result of the slower greens or the irons putting a bit more spin on the ball.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hellooooooo Mr. Wilson!

No, it's not Dennis the Menace calling to his next door neighbor, George Wilson. It is a switch in golf equipment. As you may have noticed, I have been partial to TaylorMade/Maxfli/adidas golf equipment over the past 10 years; everything from golf clubs to balls to shoes to gloves to headwear. But I recently decided that a change was in order. I still think TaylorMade makes a very product, but I felt it was time to try something different. After some looking around, I decided to move to Wilson Staff golf equipment.

Wilson doesn't get a lot of attention these days since most of the players on the professional tours are using equipment from the larger companies like TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist and Nike. In fact, Wilson only has three players representing them on the PGA Tour: Padraig Harrington, Jesper Parnevik and D.J. Trahan. Harrington, as you might recall, has won three of the last six majors played-- the 2007 and 2008 British Opens and the 2008 PGA Championship. In fact, Harrington, Wilson Staff member since 1998, just renewed his agreement with company for the third time. What Wilson does have is legacy. It has won 62 majors, more than any other equipment company. Players who have used Wilson equipment during their careers reads like a "who's who" of golf: Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen, Sam Snead, Patty Berg, Arnold Palmer, Hale Irwin, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Curtis Strange, Payne Stewart, Vijay Singh and John Daly, just to name a few.

I started moving toward Wilson about a month ago when I purchased one of their new Spine Drivers. The Spine has a square shaped clubhead, and has a hollowed out crown, ala the Cleveland Hi-Bore Driver. This allows for more perimeter weighting and one of the highest MOI's (moment of inertia) in the game. According to Wilson's Website: "The Spine achieves high MOI and low CG by redistributing weight from the center of the crown to the perimeter. The result is the industry's first truly perimeter weighted driver with a higher MOI and lower CG than traditional 460cc drivers." The Spine comes with a 46-inch UST Proforce V-2 HMOI graphite shaft. So far, I have found the Spine to be a great driver. During the 18 holes I've played with it so far, I've hit 6 out of 11 fairways with it.

I moved further towards Wilson last night when I traded in my TaylorMade r7 irons, along with several old drivers, fairway woods and hybrids at Golf Galaxy for a set of Wilson Staff Di7 irons. I read many reviews of these irons before making up my mind to purchase them. These irons come with Wilson's proprietary Fat Shaft, which was introduced in 1997. According to Wilson's Website, "The most important performance variable in an iron performance shaft is torque – less torque means less twisting, which equals greater accuracy. Fat Shaft technology provides a larger tip diameter (.500” versus typical .370” or 35% wider) providing 40% more torsional stability than skinny shafted irons for greater accuracy." The Website also states about the Di7 irons, "Simply stated, the new Wilson Staff Di7 irons are not like other clubs. A lower profile moves the center ofgravity down for higher ball flight. A wider sole moves the CG back for greater stability and straighter ball flight. A wider tip shaft prevents twisting on off-center hits. If you want to hit it longer and straighter, play Wilson Staff Di7 irons. We're talking 'club longer,' not 1-2 yards." I look forward to working with irons through the winter.

I have also picked by a dozen Wilson Staff Fifty Golf Balls to test. With a compression of 50, "Wilson Staff Fifty now stands as the softest two-piece distance ball on the market today. Its unmatched combination of maximum distance and ultra-soft feel appeals to the widest segment of golfers," according to Wilson's Web site. I have also read very good reviews about this ball and look forwrad to playing with it, especially in the colder weather, when the softer compression will make the golf ball feel less like a rock. I also want to try Wilson Staff's new Zip Golf Ball, but it has been extremely hard to find in stores, so I am probably going to have to purchase a couple dozen online.

In addition to the golf clubs and golf balls, I've also picked by a couple of Wilson ProStaff Golf Gloves to try out. I'll keep you informed of how this new equipment rates over the coming months, weather permitting. But I look forward to entering next season with Wilson Staff golf equipment in my bag.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Juniata's Fall Flavor

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2735/2070 - 4805
Par: 34/32 - 66
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 47 (Front Nine)
Date: November 9, 2008

On a brisk, breezy fall Sunday afternoon, I played another nine-hole round at Juniata Golf Club. As I wrote in my previous post, I like playing in the fall, when the temperatures are cooler and the multi-hued leaves cover the fairways and greens. The course was again fairly empty as I teed off with Sam, another older Asian gentleman I met on the first tee. Sam and I managed to play around the front nine in one hour and forty-five minutes.

Juniata Golf Club Scorecard

One of my main goals during the round was to continue evaluating my new Wilson Staff Spine Driver I recently put in my bag. I used it on five holes Sunday and hit 3 fairways. Through the last 18 holes, I have used the driver on 11 holes and hit six fairways, better than 50 percent. So far, I have found that with a slow, smooth swing, it hits the ball long and fairly straight. I am interested in seeing how the driver performs with a softer golf ball like the new Wilson Zip. I'm hoping to pick up a box of these balls in the very near future. I am also liking my Sun Mountain Swift X carry bag more and more with each round I use it. It is so light, yet carries almost the same amount of clubs and accessories I had in my previous bag. Fatigue of my shoulders, back and legs from carrying my golf bag is no longer an issue when I hit the home stretch of holes.

Wilson Staff Spine Driver

Other than continuing to test my new driver, there was very little to distinguish my round. The conditions were pretty soft because of all the rain we had late last week and the fairways have become a little spotty due to the weather getting colder. This caused me to hit a couple of worm burners with my approach shots. The tees have also been moved all the way up in order to allow for seeding of the tee boxes.

Sun Mountain Swift X Carry Bag

Even though the weather is getting colder, the reshaping of Juniata Golf Course goes on. New paved cart paths are being added at strategic locations around the course and some paving and landscaping has also been done around the bridge over the Tookany Creek between the 9th and 17th tees. I'm certain that if course architect Ed Ault were alive today, he would be pleased with the changes taking place to his creation.

Photos by The Muni Golfer

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Playing Cold Weather Golf

The leaves have been falling and so has the temperatures. Most golfers have long put their clubs away for the season. But now is a great time to tee it up. The Sand has a great story on what is to like about playing golf in cold weather.

I personally like teeing it up and challenging myself as the weather turns colder. Usually, the course is a lot less crowded, the prices are cheaper, course conditions are a little tougher. True, there may be a little less grass in the fairway, the greens may be a little bumpy and leaves might make that stray tee shot a little more difficult to find. But, as long as you prepare yourself by dressing in layers and realizing that you are going to get some bad bounces, you can still shoot a reasonable score.

One equipment change you might want to consider if you do tee it up during the months is to switch to a low compression or softer golf ball, which won't feel like a rock when you hit it.

So get those clubs out of the garage or closet and look for me on the first tee. I always welcome the company.
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Nine Hole Test Drive at Juniata

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2735/2070 - 4805
Par: 34/32 - 66
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 45 (Front Nine)
Date: November 2, 2008

Under gray fall skies and cool temperatures, I decided to play nine holes at Juniata Golf Club. With everyone still basking in the afterglow of the Phillies win in the World Series this week, and the Philadelphia Eagles looking to pick up ground in Seattle, the course was fairly empty on this beautiful fall afternoon. I teamed up with Kim, an older Asian gentleman on the first tee. We had an enjoyable round that took less than two hours to complete. It has been over two weeks since I last played and while most of my game was okay, my short game was a bit rusty. I managed to get around the front nine in 45, with a birdie and two pars. My putting was very good today. I made a change in my putting stance playing on the lightning fast greens at Talamore Country Club where I stand with my feet together and shoulders more open and facing the hole. This is similar to Fuzzy Zoeller's stance and I believe it allows me to rock my shoulders better for a more pendulum swing. I stuck with it today and was pleased with how I putted. I knocked in an uphill, 20-foot birdie putt at the 360-yard, Par 4 5th Hole and lipped out several other long putts.

Juniata Golf Club Scorecard

The main reason for my round was to test out the new Wilson Staff Spine Driver I recently purchased from The Spine has a square shaped clubhead, and has a hollowed out crown, ala the Cleveland Hi-Bore Driver. This allows for more perimeter weighting and one of the highest MOI's (moment of inertia) in the game. According to Wilson's Website:

"The Spine achieves high MOI and low CG by redistributing weight from the center of the crown to the perimeter. The result is the industry's first truly perimeter weighted driver with a higher MOI and lower CG than traditional 460cc drivers."

The Spine comes with a 46-inch UST Proforce V-2 HMOI graphite shaft. Without the benefit of first taking it to the practice range, I used the new driver on six Par 4s during my nine holes today. The club felt solid and with an easy swing, delivered great power and accuracy. I hit three drives that put in position to go at the green with short irons on my second shots. The three drives where I wound up in a more difficult position for my second shot, twice I came over the ball hitting a sharp hook and once I hit a fade because I was standing a bit too far from the ball. The club makes more of a dull "thunk" than the high "ping" you hear from most of today's 460cc titanium drivers, but it delivers outstanding results. I was quite pleased and look forward to experimenting more with it through the fall.

The new Philadelphia Police Memorial
at Juniata Golf Club

Juniata continues to transform itself into a really nice course. The 12th Hole, which used to play as a downhill, 300-yard Par 4 and been remade into a 190-yard Par 3 and a sand trap has been added to the left front of the green (look for pictures in a future post). Also very nice memorial honoring Philadelphia Police officers who have given their lives in the line of duty has been created in a circle that has the 9th tee to the left, the 17th tee to the right and the 8th green behind. The memorial, which was created by the Juniata Golf Foundation, was dedicated on October 27.

The Memorial honors Philadelphia Police officers

The Memorial's Plaque
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Wickedly Good Read

The Wicked Game: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and the Story of Modern Golf is a must read for any golf fan. Wonderfully entertaining, author Howard Sounes chronicles the rise of golf through three of modern golf's most prominent players--Palmer Nicklaus and Woods--as well as their impact on the professional game as we know it today. From Palmer's humble beginnings as the son of a course superintendent in Western Pennsylvania, to Nicklaus' Country Club education, to the training of Woods by an overzealous father, the book gives some fascinating behind the scenes views of how these three have impacted the game, as well as their successes and shortcomings.

Palmer, who became the first truly marketed golf superstar by Mark McCormack, and was used Palmer to build International Management Group, perhaps the most influential agency in sports. Nicklaus, who, while surpassing Palmer on the golf course, remained envious of his success off the course and nearly went bankrupt trying to maintain a lifestyle similar to Palmer's. And of course Woods, who has become the most recognized golfer, and perhaps athlete, of all time, yet remains a mystery to most.

The book also looks at how racism has long been a hallmark of golf and how these three leading golfers have done little to open the top echelons of the sport to minorities and women. It also paints a very revealing portrait of Tiger's late father, Earl Woods, who long held that he was a constant victim of racism, abandoned his first wife and children for Tiger's mother and believes he was chosen by God to raise Tiger and nurture his special talent.

Although a short read at 260+ pages, it is well worth it and I highly recommend it if you want a better understanding of the figures who have shaped the game we love.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It's Official: Tiger's Tourney Coming to Philly

At a meeting last Wednesday, the members of Aronimink GolfClub in Newtown Square voted to host the PGA Tour's AT&T National hosted by Tiger Woods in 2010 and 2011. The tournament, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, is currently played at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., but has to temporarily relocate after 2009 because Congressional is hosting the 2011 U.S. Open. AT&T National officials were attracted to Aronimink because it is a Donald Ross designed course and has previously hosted the 1962 PGA Championship and the 2003 Senior PGA Championship. This will mark the first time the PGA Tour has played in the Philadelphia region since the 2000 and 2002 Pennsylvania Classic was held at Waynesborough Country Club in Paoli. It will also be the first time Tiger Woods has teed it up in the area. The 2010 AT&T National will be held June 28-July 4.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tough to Score at Talamore

Talamore Country Club
Ambler, Pa.
Yards: 2760/2790 - 5550
Par: 35/36 - 71
Rating: 66.3, Slope: 125
Score: 54/47 = 101
Date: October 17, 2008

I was invited to be a guest for a round at Talamore Country Club, a private golf club and community located in Ambler, Pa. Ranked among the top 25 in the state of Pennsylvania in 1999, the course was rated the 11th "Best New Private Course" by Golf Digest when the club opened in 1995. Although Talamore is only 13 years old, the property has a rich golf history. Several golf courses have called the parcel of land home, included Talamore's predecessor, Oak Terrace, which once hosted an exhibition match featuring legendary golfer Sam Snead on June 11, 1961. Gene Sarazen was also scheduled to participate in that exhibition, but had to withdraw after injuring his back just a few days before the match.

Talamore Country Club Scorecard

Talamore offers players the full range of amenities -- from locker rooms, to a driving range with grass tees, to carts with a course GPS system. They even have a four-hole practice course. After meeting up with my playing partners, we headed to the driving range to warm up. What a delight to hit off of real grass. After hitting a small bag of balls, it was off to the first tee. Fall had definitely arrived on this day too. After an Indian Summer, temperatures were in the mid-50s to low 60s, with a cool breeze blowing around the course.

The 1st Hole at Talamore

Standing on the first tee, Talamore looks a lot like most modern, well-maintained golf courses. But it was here also that my host issued the warning: Talamore does not play easy. The course has a lot of bunkers and hazards, forced carries from the tees, ponds and wetlands, fairways that slope in such ways that shots often run off into the rough or hazards, and greens that are extremely undulating and lightning quick. I got an early indication that I might be in for an interesting round when, while waiting for my host and other partner to arrive, I used the putting green. I had never before seen a multi-tiered putting green that had so much slope, break and speed. Although the course only a little over 5500 yards from the white tees, its rating and slope of 66.3/125 tells you how difficult the course plays.

The Par 3 4th Hole is well guarded by sand

Starting 6-8-8 on the first three holes, with two lost balls at the Par 4 2nd Hole, didn't get my round off to a very good start. Compounding my problems was a swing that was causing me to pull all my shots extremely left, both off the tee and from the fairway/rough. I was hitting a lot of chip-outs or recovery shots back to the fairway, then finding the greens hard to hold on chips and pitches because of their speed and the fact that most of them run off on all sides. And when I did get it on the green, a three-putt wasn't hard to do. I did manage to make a par at the 8th Hole, a 148 yard Par 3 that plays over wetlands to a green protected by bunkers and a false front. A four-putt at the next hole, after hitting the green in two from a really bad lie, left me a 54 on the front nine.

The 8th Hole, another Par 3

Things didn't get off to a much better start on the back nine, where one of my partners hit my ball from the fairway, causing me to hit a wrong ball and take a two-stroke penalty. We both swear we saw my tee shot roll past his from the tee box! After that, I did settle down and scrambled my way to a 47 on the back nine, including pars at Holes 15 and 16, both Par 4s. My 18 hole total of 101 was the first time I've failed to break 100 this year, but after my horrendous start, the fact that I was able to play a more respectable back nine gave me some comfort. And my host told me to take heart, because after six years of playing the course, he still can't figure out the greens.

The 11th Hole, a downhill Par 4

Talamore is an outstanding golf course and an outstanding experience. But if you do get to play there, be prepared to bring your 'A' game, place a premium on accuracy, accept that bad breaks are going to happen, and don't get frustrated by three-putting.

A deer grazes on the 12th Hole

The toughest hole on the course.
The 13th Hole, a 518 yard Par 5.

Miss to the left on the downhill Par 14th
and you are in the water

The 17th Hole. A short Par 4,
but a treacherous tee shot over water.
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fall-ing Back to Golf at John F. Byrne

John F. Byrne Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2273/2610 - 4883
Par: 33/34 - 67
Rating: 63.9, Slope: 105
Score: 45/46 = 91
Date: October 12, 2008

After taking a few weeks off, mainly to watch the Phillies playoff drive, the Philadelphia Eagles and give my body a chance to refresh, I decided to start my fall season with a round at John F. Byrne Golf Club. Formerly Holmesburg Country Club, Byrne Golf Club was acquired by the City of Philadelphia in the late 1960s. Set in a valley that sees the Torresdale Creek wind its way through the course, the Alex Findley layout is now being managed for the City by Billy Casper Golf. The weather felt more like summer than fall, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s. I also wanted to knock some of the rust off my game as I am scheduled to play a round at Talamore Country Club, a private course in Ambler Pa., this coming Friday. This was the second round I played with my new Sun Mountain Swift golf bag and at a hilly course like Byrne, this bag really earns its reputation. After 18 holes, it still felt extremely light on my shoulders and back, even though I am carrying almost as much as I was in my Sun Mountain 3.5L bag. This bag has been a welcomed relief and if you walk the course like I do, I highly recommend this bag.

John F. Bryne Scorecard

I wasn't sure what to expect out of my swing after the layoff, and it wasn't too bad, but I was really happy with my course management. I posted three pars on both the front and back nines -- at Holes #5, 7, 8, 11, 13 and 15--two Par 4s and four Par 3s. In addition, I managed to play Byrne's two Par 5s, Holes 12 and 16, in a respectable two over par. My putting was also a bright spot, although the greens were exceptionally slow. My only real problems came at the Par 4 4th Hole, a very tight driving hole where I took a 9, and the uphill Par 4 18th Hole, where a tee shot that found the creek led to an 8.

The tight Par 4 4th Hole, which requires a precise tee
through a narrow opening over the creek

Overall, Byrne was in pretty good shape for this time of year. The tee boxes were a little chewed up, but respectable. The fairways were in good shape, with few bad lies, and the greens were slow, but in decent shape. Because I teed off only a few hours before the Eagles kicked off in San Francisco, the course was fairly empty. I played most of the front nine with Chris, a freshman at St. Joseph's Prep High School, who told me he had tried out for the golf team this fall, but failed to make the cut. He had a pretty good swing, but I encouraged him to work on his short game and his course management, and wished him luck when trying again next fall.
Photo by The Muni Golfer

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Philly Becoming Tiger's Town?

Reports in today's Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News indicate that the AT&T National hosted by Tiger Woods may be held at Aronimink Golf Club, just outside Philadelphia, in 2010 and 2011. The tournament, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, is currently played at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., but that course will be undergoing renovations after next year's tournament in preparation for hosting the U.S. Open in 2011. Aronimonk, which was designed by the legendary Donald Ross, has hosted the 1962 PGA Championship, which was won by Gary Player, and the 2003 Senior PGA Championship. The members of Aronimink are scheduled to vote on hosting the AT&T National after an Oct. 15 town hall-style meeting with tournament officials. If the course, located in Newtown Square, accepts hosting the tournament, it will mark the first time the world's number one player will tee it up in the Philadelphia area.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last Round of the Summer at Juniata

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2735/2070 - 4805
Par: 34/32 - 66
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 46/41 = 88
Date: September 21, 2008

With it being the last "official" day of summer, and the Eagles and Phillies have late afternoon starts, I decided on playing a quick 18 holes at Juniata Golf Course. The course was pretty empty despite the beautiful weather, with temperatures in the upper 70s and brilliant sunshine. This was probably due to the Eagles playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. Teeing off at 2 p.m., I managed to get round the course in three hours and thirty minutes; just enough time to see the U.S. win back the Ryder Cup on the big screen TV in the clubhouse, then hustle home to catch the second half of the Eagles game and the late innings of the Phillies game.

Juniata Golf Club Scorecard

I played about the same as I had last week at Juniata, shooting an almost identical score. The only difference was this time, my stamina was much better. The highlight of my round came at the 5th Hole, a 360-yard Par 4, where my drive caught the downslope of the fairway about 200 yards off the tee and rolled down to the the 100-yard marker. I hit a gap wedge from there that came up just short of the green on the left front edge, but at a sprinkler head that's being fixed. After taking my drop, I chipped with a sand wedge and the ball tracked straight to the cup, hitting the flagstick and dropping in for a birdie! I also need to mention that the 12th Hole, which I reported last week had been converted to a Par 3, has been switched back to a Par 4.

Sun Mountain Swift Carry Bag

I used my new Sun Mountain Swift carry bag today and it was fantastic. The bag is so light and can handle 14 clubs fairly easily. Plus, it has plenty of pockets and space and held all the gear from my Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 carry bag with out feeling as weighed down and bulky as the 3.5. By the end of the round, the bag felt the same on my back as it had at the beginning. If you walk, you should definitely look into this bag. One other change I made was my driver. Feeling that I was getting a little stale with my TaylorMade Burner, I opted to replace it with an old TaylorMade R580XD. The head is a little bit smaller, 440cc vs. 460cc for the Burner, but I hit it pretty solidly today and found the fairway more often. Although this may have been my "last" round for the summer, there is still plenty of golf left to be played this fall.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Walking is in the Bag, Part 2

Back in August I purchased a Sun Mountain "Mini" golf bag because I was looking for a lighter replacement for my Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 bag, since I walk nearly 99 percent of the rounds I play. As I noted then, the bag was able to accommodate a full 14 clubs, but it was a very snug fit. Although I had planned to take this bag to Delaware, I ultimately decided to continue using my 3.5 stand bag on the trip. When I returned home, I ordered a Sun Mountain's Swift stand bag from, which is a bit larger at the top. The bag arrived today and I transferred my clubs and gear over this evening. Although the Swift only has a two-way full length divider, it's 7.5 inch diameter--as opposed to 7 inches for the Mini--definitely accommodates 14 clubs much easier. And at a mere three pounds, it was super light once I got everything from my 3.5 into the new bag. I plan to use this bag during my round this weekend and will report back in a future post. I also plan on hanging on to the "Mini" bag, as I feel it will be useful for those rounds when I don't want to carry 14 clubs, when I play at a Par 3 course, or for a trip to the practice range when I only want to bring a handful of clubs.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sweet Home Juniata

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2735/1945 - 4680
Par: 34/31 - 65
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 47/41 = 88
Date: September 14, 2008

After playing four rounds in Delaware and five consecutive rounds at different courses, I decided to give myself a respite and return to the friendly fairways of my home course: Juniata Golf Club. There's nothing like playing 18 very familiar holes after several rounds at courses that you play maybe once every year or two, or are playing for the first time. So I packed my clubs and shoes in the trunk and headed to the rolling terrain of Juniata. As I chronicled repeatedly this year in my posts, Juniata has undergone a wonderful transformation under the guidance of the Juniata Golf Foundation, a non-profit organization that was set up to lease and manage the course from the City of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park Commission.

Juniata Golf Club Scorecard

The temperature was unseasonably high on Sunday; the low-to-mid 90s, with the heat index well over 100. And once again, the hot weather took its toll. I started out playing the back nine because of a backup on the 1st Tee. I made four 3s on the back, with a birdie at the short, 240-yard 14th Hole; and pars at 10, 13 and 18. I had two hiccups on the back; bad drives at 16 and 17--both Par 4s--led to 7s and going out in a respectable, yet disappointing 41. One major course change on the back nine is the now completed conversion of the 12th Hole, formerly a 300-yard, downhill Par 4 into a downhill, roughly 185-yard Par 3.

The new tees at the 12th Hole, making the hole play now as a Par 3

I was gassed after nine holes, and sat on a bench at 1st Hole for about 20 minutes debating with myself on whether to continue the round. But after eating a granola bar and drinking a bottle of water, I decided to continue, coming home in 47 for a score of 88 on my round. On my second nine, I had one par at the 380-yard 4th Hole, and played steady golf considering the weather. My two worst holes came at the 5th, where I came up short on my second shot then skulled my chip over the green for a 7, and the 7th, where I pulled my tee shot left into the trees and made a 6. But I'm happy with my 88 as my putting was much better than it has been in well over a month. I switched back to my Odyssey XG #9 before the round and felt much more comfortable on the greens. I'm also pleased with the way I once again grinded out my round over the second nine holes.

One of the new water dispensers at Juniata

The conditions at Juniata this time around were not quite what they had been earlier this summer, but some of that could probably be attributed to the lack of rain and increased rounds the course is experiencing. Still they are better than I have experienced in the not too distant past. The quarrel I might have is that the new tee box at the 12th Hole needs a lot of work. It was very uneven and needs grass. It seems like this hole has been converted from a Par 4 into a Par 3 before it was truly ready. On a more positive note, the water dispensers on the course are how housed in much nicer wooden structures, as opposed to just being coolers chained to poles as they were in the past. And it seems one or two have been added, particularly at the 10th tee.

Photos by The Muni Golfer