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

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Goodbye Joe

Some sad news for Delaware Valley golfers; Philadelphia Inquirer golfer writer Joe Logan has taken a buyout and left the paper. Logan, who has served as the Inquirer's golf writer for the past 13 years, kept local golfers well informed about the pro tours, as well as the local golfing scene. One of my particular favorite features was Logan's golf course reviews, which I have linked on this site. Logan also had a golf blog, golf.inq, where he announced his farewell on Thursday. The Muni Golfer wants to wish Logan well and hopes "the plot" he claims to be hatching on his final blog post refers to some way in which he will continue to keep us local golfers well informed.

A Round at Jonathan's Landing

Jonathan's Landing
Magnolia, Del
Yards: 3062/2575 - 5637
Par: 36/35 - 71
Rating: 65.8, Slope: 106
Score: 48/47 = 95
Date: September 4, 2008

I had always wanted to play Jonathan's Landing, a links-style golf course located just a few miles south of Dover, Delaware. The course is visible as you dive along Delaware Route 1 heading to or from the Delaware beaches. In fact, the course probably sits less than a mile from the runway at Dover Air Force Base, a fact that you are constantly reminded of as huge cargo planes rumble low overhead. I became even more determined to make the course one of my destinations this year after visiting their booth at the Victory Golf Show back in March. So I made the 45-minute drive up from the Rehoboth Beach area for the final round during my week-long vacation at the Delaware beach.

Jonathan's Landing Scorecard

The front nine at Jonathan's Landing is very open, with water and/or wetlands coming into play on eight of the nine holes, while most of the back nine winds through a housing development and water/wetlands being a factor on only three holes. Because the course is so open, wind is often a factor, making club selection difficult and crucial. The clubhouse at Jonathan's Landing, which opened in July of 2001 is quite a site; a replica of the Port Mahon Lighthouse. The staff was very friendly and accommodating. The course also features a driving range, a pitching and chipping practice green and a 12,000 square foot short game area.

The 16th, a 454-yard Par 5 with the Clubhouse in the distance

The course was in excellent condition for so late in the summer season. Because of the lack of rain however, carts were permitted to driven in the fairway, but not in the rough on the day I played. The greens had been aerated, but were still pretty smooth and medium fast.

The 13th Hole, a Par 3 where trouble looms short left and to the right

My round started on the back nine. Because this was my fourth round in seven days, and considering what happened at The Rookery, I took a cart for this round. As I was teeing off, a threesome drove up to the hole that included Bill, Bill, and his brother Dave; three retired locals who are regulars at Jonathan's Landing. I asked them if they cared to make it a foursome and they gladly accepted my invitation. And boy, am I glad they did. Besides being three great guys, their knowledge of the course proved invaluable, as there are many blind shots and hidden dangers on the course. An example was the 12th Hole (our third), a short 241-yard Par 4 in which the green is visible from the tee, but two long bunkers to the right of the fairway and green are not. After pointing this out to me, I teed off with my hybrid to about 15 yards short of the green, then chipped to four feet, which I made for a birdie. Or at the 13th, a Par 3 where they told me don't miss to the right and I, of course, hit it right, which slopes severely away from the green and down into wetlands.

The 3rd Hole, a short, tight Par 4 with a persistent wind and wetlands all around

I started out playing well at Jonathan's Landing, with a bogey, par and birdie on my first three holes. After that, I made the game more challenging that it need to be by repeatedly having difficulty off the tee. The wind was definitely causing me problems. And when I did play well from tee to green, I almost always managed to throw in an extra putt or two. But after playing, or struggling, through the first 14 holes, once again I managed to dig deep and pull my game together over the last four holes, going 4-5-3-5. The two pars and two bogeys helped me salvage a 95 for my round.

The 7th Hole, a Par 4 that doglegs right over water

I think over the final few holes, I finally realized what my problems have been with my swing. It has become too around my body as opposed to more upright, which is how I swing when I am playing at my best. It certainly gave me something to think about, as well as reflect on Jonathan's Landing as I drove the 45-minutes back to the Rehoboth Beach area to have dinner and enjoy the finals few days of my Delaware vacation.

Some more photos of Jonathan's Landing:

My playing partners: Bill, his brother Dave, and Bill

The pride of the U.S. Air Force streaks overhead

The 2nd Green. Behind runs the road back to Del. Rte. 1

The 5th Hole. Approach shots play over wetlands fronting the green.

The 10th Hole, with houses lining the fairway

The 15th Hole, a 138-yard Par 3 that played into the wind

The 18th Hole and the magnificent Clubhouse
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cooked at The Rookery

The Rookery
Milton, Del
Yards: 2886/3253 - 6139
Par: 35/36 - 71
Rating: 68.8, Slope: 116
Score: 44/52 = 96
Date: September 2, 2008

My Delaware adventures continued on the day after Labor Day with a round at The Rookery, a beautiful course located just off Route 1 eight miles north of Rehoboth Beach. The course, which is pretty open, was designed and is co-owned by Pete Oakley, the 2004 British Senior Open Champion. I had the good fortune of watching Oakley at the 2000 U.S. Senior Open at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa. The course is named for a Blue Heron nesting area -- a rookery -- located in a grove of trees located in the southeast portion of the course (see course layout photo below). Conditions are always very good at The Rookery, and this visit was no exception. The fairways were lush, the greens smooth and the tee boxes in excellent shape. There were, however, some dry patches in the rough off the fairways, the result of the lack of rainfall. The Rookery also features a very nice practice area, although I have never taken advantage of it during the many times I've played at the course.

The Rookery Scorecard

The front nine at The Rookery is the shorter and easier of the two, with only one Par 5 and two Par 4s playing 300 yards or less. The oddest holes on the course can be found on the front nine: the 4th and 5th. The 4th is a 290-yard Par 4 which features a large pond in the middle of the fairway and requires a drive of about 265 yards off the tee to carry the water. From a slightly elevated tee, to a fairway that slopes toward the water, and 8- or 9-iron is all that is usually required for average hitters. The 5th is a 385-yard dogleg right which has a row of tall pine trees across the fairway from the left blocking approach shots that don't get far enough into the dogleg.

The opening Par 4 at The Rookery

The back nine features three Par 5s of 575, 566 and 466 yards: the 10th, 14th and 18th Holes, respectively. The 10th has a row of four bunkers running across the fairway about 160 yards from the green, just ready and waiting to snare any poorly placed lay-up shot. The 12th and 13th have water running all the way down the right and left sides of the fairways, respectively. The 14th is a 200-yard Par 3 that runs along Route 1, and is followed by the 15th, a 140-yard Par 3 that features an island green. The long closing hole features numerous strategically placed bunkers along the edges of the fairway and one in front of and behind the the left side of the green.

The 8th Green looking back towards the tee

I teed off at The Rookery in the early afternoon, my third round in five days. Temperatures were in the mid-80s, but the humidity was high and there is virtually no respite from the sun on this course. I played very steady golf, with pars at the 3rd, 7th and 9th Holes. My putting was still a bit shaky, but the only real slip-up came at the 6th, a 491-yard Par 5 that doglegs right and has water in front of the green. After hitting my drive to the left side of the dogleg, I laid up to about 150 yards. With the trouble in front of the green, I should have taken the extra club (6-iron), but I tried hitting a 7-iron which landed just short in water, leading to a double-bogey 7. But I regrouped and parred two of the next three holes to go out in 44 and visions of a very good round danced prematurely in my head.

The tee shot on the 575-Yard 10th Hole

The back nine started with an acceptable bogey on the longest hole on the course, but after hitting the green in regulation at the 11th, a 425-yard Par 4, I four-putted and began to feel the energy gauge dropping to zero, a 6, 7 and 8 at the next three holes followed quickly, and I'm not sure how I even finished the 14th Hole. My legs were gone and my energy was zapped. I found a small patch of shade under a little tree between the 14th green and 15th tee and sat down in the grass for about 15-20 minutes, drinking all the water that was in my bottle. Somehow, I manged to play in the last four holes, gutting out a 4-4-4-7: a par, two bogeys and a double at the last when I shanked a bad lie in the rough into a pond over by the 10th tee. Even though I stumbled home in 52, I managed to grind out a round of 96, which made me feel good that I never quit on the round.

The bunkers across the 10th fairway

The Rookery is another Rehoboth Beach-area course that I would recommend be put on your itinerary if your are going to Ocean City, Maryland for a golf getaway. It is easily accessible either traveling to or from Ocean City from the Delaware Valley.

More photos of The Rookery:

The course layout

The 3rd Hole, a 300-yard Par 4

The view from the tee at the 4th Hole

The 9th Hole, a short Par 3 over wetlands

The approach to the 10th Green from the fairway bunkers

The 13th, the second of three Par 5s on the back nine

The practice range at The Rookery
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Monday, September 8, 2008

Another Holiday, Another 93 at Old Landing

Old Landing Golf Course
Rehoboth Beach, Del
Yards: 2858/2972 - 5830
Par: 35/36 - 71
Rating: 67.6, Slope: 111
Score: 46/47 = 93
Date: August 31, 2008

The day before Labor Day, I decided on another round at Old Landing Golf Course, a public course along the Rehoboth Bay. I had played their on July 4 for the first time in a few years. I stopped played at Old Landing, which opened in 1965, because during my previous two rounds there conditions were some of the worst I had seem. As I had reported back in July, conditions have improved dramatically, to the point where it is worth playing the course again. The course tree-lined and narrow in spots, and water does come into play on at least six holes.

Old Landing Golf Course Scorecard

On this Sunday, I played with my cousin Judy's husband Steve, and Brian, the husband of Noreen, one of my wife's oldest friend's. Noreen, Brian and their two children had come up to spend the day with us at the Delaware shore from Ocean City, Maryland, where they were vacationing over the holiday weekend. Steve is a pretty good golfer who playing with a used set of Titleist blades he had purchased locally at Ruddo's Golf the day before. Brian is a golfer who, unfortunately, only gets to play maybe once or twice a year.

The opening Par 4 at Old Landing

The conditions at Old Landing were still pretty good this late in the season, considering the amount of play the course gets being located in a resort area. There were a few burned out areas because of the lack of rain, but the fairways had grass, as did the greens. This was not the case in the past, when many of the fairways and greens were more dirt than grass. The places that really showed wear were the tee boxes.

The narrow fairway at the long 416-Yard 2nd Hole

Surprisingly, the course was not very crowded for a holiday weekend and we didn't even need to make a tee time, considering that we went off about 1:30 in the afternoon. The pace was good, although Brian felt he was holding Steve and I back because he was struggling with rust on the front nine.

The green at the Par 5 7th Hole looking back towards the dogleg

I played much better at Old Landing than I had two days earlier at Baywood Greens. I was hitting the ball more consistently, although my putting was still the one part of my game holding me back. Despite this, I managed to make four pars during my round and amazingly, I shot the exact same score I did back in July -- 46 on the front and 47 on the back for a total of 93. What I was happiest about was I managed my game well enough to score, even though I wasn't playing my very best.

The approach shot over water to the green at the Par 5 12th Hole

The straightaway 16th Hole, a 339-Yard Par 4

The 18th green as viewed from the Clubhouse.
Rehoboth Bay runs along the right side and is visible in the upper left.

Photos by The Muni Golfer

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Unfinished Business at Baywood Greens

Baywood Greens
Long Neck, Del.
Yards: 3132/2956 - 6088
Par: 36/36 - 72
Rating: 69.0, Slope: 125
Score: Round Incomplete Due to Darkness
Date: August 29, 2008

My annual Labor Day weekend outing with my cousins was held again this year on the Friday before the holiday at Baywood Greens, a spectacular course located a few miles west of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Unlike last year, we booked a tee time to get the course's twilight rate of $45, but a 4:10 p.m. tee time this time of year makes it almost impossible to complete 18 holes. We were lucky to not have anyone in front of us slowing up our play until the back nine, but we still played holes 16 and 17 in just about complete darkness, and the ranger forced my cousins to pick up their tee shots on the 18th. It was just as well as I had one of those rounds in which I could do very little right. I three-putted the first green, then hit two balls in the water to the right of the second fairway. Two 9s, an 8, a 7 and a 6 through the first seven holes just about sums up how I played. I did manage to hit my tee shot to about four feet at the 131-yard, Par 3 8th Hole, but naturally I missed the birdie putt on the recently aerated green. The par there did settle me down a bit and I played much more consistent golf on the back nine, making three least until nightfall came around the 15th Hole.

Baywood Greens Scorecard

Baywood Greens is a truly beautiful course. Billing itself as "the Augusta of the Northeast," the course was in great condition, except for the aerated greens. Upon arrival, your bags are placed upon a cart and after playing for your greens fees, you are instructed to go to the practice range where you can hit unlimited balls until you are called to go to the first tee. There is also a putting green and a chipping green with bunker. The landscaping around the course is breathtaking. Nine new holes are currently under construction just to the west along Route 24. If you are ever taking a golf trip to Ocean City, Maryland from the Northeast, I would highly recommend making a round at Baywood part of your itinerary.

Fore at the Shore in Delaware

Labor Day has come and gone, which means my annual trek to the Delaware shore is over for another year. This year, I was able to get in four rounds of golf -- well actually one round was only 17 holes and the finished in complete darkness. I played at Baywood Greens, Old Landing, The Rookery and Jonathan's Landing. I'll be detailing each over the next few posts. I also did some shopping, adding a club to my arsenal, picking up a new putter cover, buying a new golf book to read and adding some clothes to my golf wardrobe. It was a fun eight days, but also a sign that the fall golf season is now here.