Monday, August 25, 2008

Walking is in the Bag

As you know, The Muni Golfer feels that walking is an integral part of the game of golf and always walks when playing a round, unless forced to take a cart by the course. That's why finding a comfortable, lightweight carry bag is as important a piece of equipment as a driver, wedge, putter or golf ball. Sun Mountain makes some of the lightest, best carry bags and I have been using a Superlight 3.5 model for the past three or four seasons. The bag weighs only 3.5 pounds and has plenty of pockets, including one to carry a water bottle. Last week, I received The Golf Warehouse's catalog in the mail and they were featuring a sale on Sun Mountain's "Mini" carry bag. This bag weighs ONLY 2.65 pounds and the company claims it can carry a full set of clubs. After reading several online reviews, I decided to order one and it arrived today. And boy, it it light! It has ample pockets and space to carry the essentials for a round of golf: golf balls; a couple of golf gloves; a values pouch; a scorecard/yardage book holder; a small notebook; a copy of the Rules of Golf; a zippered case for ball markers, divot tools, Sharpies and pencils, a spike wrench and a couple of spare golf spikes; a bottle of Aleve; a small bag of first aid supplies such as band aids and allergy tablets; and a small bag of granola bars. It even has a water bottle pouch! The top opening of the bag is only 7 inches, but a full set of 14 clubs can fit into the bag, although snuggly. Completely full, the bag feels like it is hardly on your back, which should be a relief after 15 or 16 holes of a round. I will taking this bag with me to Delaware for a test drive and I will report back on how well it works.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No Small Task: Preparing for Delaware Trip

As the days in August wind down, it is time to start getting things ready for my annual getaway to the Delaware Shore with my wife. As we do every Labor Day, we will be heading to Lewes, Del., my wife for two weeks and me for a week. While my wife relaxes with a good book on the beach, I will be hitting the fairways at several local courses. First up will be the usual Labor Day weekend round with my cousins. Last year, we played beautiful Baywood Greens for the first time. I have made a list of potential courses for this year's round that includes Baywood Greens, The Rookery, Marsh Island, Old Landing, Bear Trap Dunes and Jonathan's Landing near Dover. I also will be playing a round over Labor Day weekend with Brian, the husband of my wife's best Noreen. I might take him to Old Landing. I jope to get in at least four rounds during my eight days at the shore in lower Delaware.

I've made my packing list and will be getting everything together over the next week. Among the items I'll taking:

* TaylorMade Burner Driver
* TaylorMade Burner 3-Wood
* Nickent 3DX DC Utility
* TaylorMade r7 Irons
* Solus Wedges
* Never Compromise Putter
* Odyssey XG #9 Putter (Backup)
* TaylorMade r580XD Driver (Backup)
* Callaway X 3 Wood (Backup)
* 2 Dozen Maxfli/TaylorMade Golf Balls
* 4 Golf Gloves
* 2 Pair Golf Shoes
* 3 Collared Golf Shirts
* 2 Mock Polo Golf Shits
* 4 Pair Golf Shorts
* 5 Pair Golf Socks
* Wind/Rain Shirt and Vest
* 3 Golf Visors
* 2 Golf Hats
* Sun Tan Lotion/Bug Repellent
* Granola Bars
* Speed Stik
* Momentus Big Hitter

I'll be making sure the shirts and shorts I want to take have been washed, clean all my clubs, change the spikes in my golf shoes and mark the golf balls. It may seem like a lot, but I believe in being ready and prepared for 4 rounds over eight days. I'll report on the courses I played, and how I played, when I return.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Horsham Valley Golf Club: Short, Challenging and Almost Gone

Horsham Valley Golf Club
Ambler, Pa
Yards: 2536/2579 - 5115
Par: 33/33 - 66
Rating: 62.2, Slope: 101
Score: 41/47 = 88
Date: August 16, 2008

Horsham Valley is a short, but challenging public course located in lower Montgomery County. Designed and built by Jock and Doug Melville, the course opened on July 4th, 1964 and has been serving the local golf community ever since. Although it plays to a Par 66 at just over 5,000 yards, the course is no pushover. As it is described on the course's Web site:

"Horsham Valley Golf Club places a premium on accuracy. With over 1,200 pine trees and small greens, you must be precise with your tee shots and have a solid short game. Water comes into play on holes 13 through 16. Hole #15 is the signature hole. This par 3, playing 170 yards from the middle tees, has ruined many a good round. The green has water front and right and bunkers left and long. Par is great but the average score is 5. If you keep the ball in play and avoid the many hazards, you will have an enjoyable round of golf."

Horsham Valley Scorecard

The course is especially popular with junior golfers, beginners, seniors and high-handicappers. Play can be painfully slow, but the challenge of the course more than makes up for it. But alas, all good things must come to end. Now owned by the Barbin family, who also own Chesapeake Bay Golf Clubs in North East and Rising Sun, MD., Horsham Valley is scheduled to close at the end of the 2009 season.

The narrow tee shot at the 2nd Hole

As I have stated, Horsham is short, but challenging. This becomes clear on the 2nd Hole, where you must thread your tee shot shot through a roughly 10-yard opening in a line of tall pines about 100 yards off the tee. The 4th and 8th Holes are both short Par 3s, 127 and 122 yards respectively, that play slightly uphill, are guarded in the front by bunkers and have greens that slope severely from back-to-front. The 6th Hole is another Par 3 that plays about 170 yards to a green that slopes severely from back-to-front, as well as off the sides.

A large sand waste area guards the Par 3 8th Hole

The back nine is where the real test begins. The 10th Hole is a uphill Par 3 that plays at least a club longer than the listed 171 yards. The 11th is a short, but narrow downhill 296-yard Par 4. The 13th Hole is a dogleg left that has Power Lines crossing in front of an elevated tee and a creek fronting a plateaued green. The 14th Hole features a tee short over that same creek and a large sand trap and trees in the middle of the fairway about 100 yards from the green. The 15th Hole, Horsham Valley's signature hole, is a 186 yard Par 3 that has the creek running in front of and around the right side of the green, while trees and bunkers guard the left and back parts of the green. The 16th Hole, another short Par 4, features a tee shot out of a narrow chute of trees. The 17th Hole is an uphill, 184-yrad Par 3 to a raised green. The 18th, the only Par 5 on the course, features and blind tee shot, with trees blocking the right side and a downhill approach to a slightly raised green.

Power lines cross in front of the tee at the 13th Hole

My round got off to a good start, with an 8-foot birdie at the 1st Hole, and pars at the 2nd and 4th Holes. I didn't drive the ball that well, but I was able to give myself chances and I putted well for a 41 on the front 9. I played steady golf through most of the back, even surviving a wet tee shot at the 15th. But it all feel apart at the 17th. My tee shot was long and chunked my first chip shot. My second ran about 25 feet past the flag and I cozied my putt up to about a foot-and-half left of the hole. That's when the real fun began. I lipped out twice and burned the edge for tapping in for an 8! At the closing 18th, my draw off the tee managed to catch the tree on the right and I was forced to chip out sideways lefthanded from behind the tree. My third shot had to be a lay-up and I missed the green shot and right on my fourth shot. I though I had hit a good chip with my fifth shot, but it just rolled right off the left side of the green. I two-putted from there for a 7 and 47 on the back, for a total of 88.

The Signature Hole at Horsham Valley: The Challenging Par 3 15th Hole

I would recommend trying to play a round at Horsham Valley before it closes. The price is reasonable and the conditions are still pretty good, although the tee boxes were quite chewed up when I played. I have seen the course in better condition in the past, but I have also played more expensive courses recently that were in worse shape than Horsham Valley.

A few more images of Horsham Valley:

The dog-leg 5th Hole, a 387-yard Par 4

The approach over the creek to the 13th Green

The blind tee shot at the 18th Hole

The downhill approach to the 18th Green
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Sunday Washout...

Severe thunderstorms throughout the Delaware Valley today washed out any chance for a round of golf for this weekend. Looks like it will be a trip to the Practice Range this coming week.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Ongoing Search for a Fairway Wood

One of my biggest struggles this year has been finding a fairway wood that I am comfortable with and can hit repeatedly and consistently. That spot in my golf bag has been a revolving door, with no less than seven different clubs occupying that spot at one time or another. They include a TaylorMade V Steel (both 13 and 15 degrees), a TaylorMade r7, an Adams Redline RPM 4-Wood, an original Orlimar TriMetal, a Golfsmith XPC Plus and more recently, a TaylorMade '08 Burner.
Next up for a tryout is a Callaway X 3-Wood. What I am looking for is a fairway wood that I can hit reasonably straight, or with a slight draw, off the tee with some moderate distance and relatively easily from the fairway on really long Par 4s and short Par 5s. Off the tee is essential, especially on tight driving holes or when my Driver is misbehaving. And while I usually lay up on most Par 5s, there are those short ones when a good drive puts me in a position to at least give it a go. I'd like to have confidence in that situation that my fairway wood will at least give me the opportunity.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Big John, Big Jooooooooohn, Big Bad John

John Daly: My Life In and Out of the Rough is attempt by the two-time major champion to give his fans and the golfing public "the truth behind all that bull**** you think you know about me." After reading the short, 203-page book, it became clear to me that John Daly is golf's version of the Jerry Springer Show. While he is noted for the distances he hits a golfs ball and winning the 1991 PGA Championship after getting into the tournament at the last minute as the ninth alternate, he is just as well know for his drinking, his gambling, his (many) failed marriages, walking off the course and not signing his scorecard when he shoots a high number and his sometimes out-of-control anger.

"A lot of stuff has come down on my head in the last five years. My father pulled a gun on me, my mother died, my best friend since first grade walked out on me, and my wife was convicted of a felony and sent to prison. All that in five years. Sometimes I feel like a character in a bad soap opera that's stuck in replay mode. Sometimes I feel like getting in my bus and just driving away from it all. And sometimes I feel like kicking my own fat butt for feeling sorry for myself. Everybody goes through tough times. Everybody has troubles. Everybody has personal problems, family problems, relationship problems."
~ Chapter Twelve~

Daly has had enough problems for several people. And while he always tries in the book to take responsibility for his actions, he always seems to have an excuse. Like the many times he went to rehab, Daly repeatedly insists it was because other people wanted him to go, never because he realized he had a problem and needed help. Or, when he went off the wagon and drank several beers from the mini-bar in his hotel room during a tournament in Sweden. Daly called his agent to his room and told him and rationalized it by saying he was honest and not trying to hide. But he didn't ask his agent to get rid of the remaining beers and get him help.

Please don't get me wrong. I like John Daly. And Daly has a heart bigger than himself, if that's even possible. An example is the scholarship fund he established with part of his winnings from the '91 PGA Championship for the two young daughters of a man who was killed when he was truck by lightning on the first day of the tournament. Or the time he came out of a casino after losing a large sum of money and handed a homeless man $1,000. Or the numerous charity events he has established and plays in throughout the year.

Throughout the book, Daly refers to himself as a "redneck." Sometimes, I think he is trying harder to live up to that than being a professional golfer and two-time major champion. He has undeniable talent, but has squandered that and more money than most of the Third World nations combined. He reminds of a line Kevin Costner's character in Bull Durham, Crash Davis, says to Tim Robbins' charatcer Eppy Calvin 'Nuke' LaLoosh: "C'mon Rook--show me that million dollar arm 'cause I'm gettin a good idea about that five cent head of yours." John Daly has a million swing. Too bad it's guided by a five cent head.

Monday, August 4, 2008

There's No Place Like Home: Back at Juniata

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2735/2070 - 4805
Par: 34/32 - 66
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 46/45 = 91
Date: August 3, 2008

It had been a month-a-half since I last played a round of golf at my home course, so I decided to pay a visit to Juniata Golf Club on Sunday afternoon. I was hoping, based on recent rounds at other courses, that I might shoot a low score. And after missing the 1st green right, then chipping to a foot for par, my optimism began to soar. But it wasn't to be as I topped my drive at the 2nd Hole into the Tacony Creek which fronts the tee box, and after three-putting, took an 8. After that, I had to grind my way around the course, finally shooting a disappointing 91. I consistently put myself into difficult situations off the tee much of the afternoon and my second shots were often pitches back into play. When I did manage to hit a fairway off the tee, my approach shots were not as crisp as they have been recently and my putting was less than stellar. The only part of game that I was relatively pleased with was my short game. I did manage to make four pars, which kept my season average at 20 percent of the holes I've played this year.

The 3rd Hole at Juniata, a 390-Yard Par 4

The playing conditions at Juniata continue to be pretty good. Although the tee boxes are showing some wear, the fairways are in very good shape, as are the greens. A few brown patches can be found in the rough, but even if you do find your ball landing in one of them, you still have a very playable lie. Overall, it felt good to again be playing on these familiar holes of my home course.

The 18th Hole, a short Par 3
guarded by two deep bunkers.

Photos by The Muni Golfer