Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rain Halts Play at Heritage Creek

Heritage Creek Golf Club
Warwick, Pa
Yards: 2855/2920 - 5775 (Proposed)
Par: 34/35 - 69
Rating: NA, Slope: NA
Score: 18 (3 Holes)
Date: July 29, 2009

Heritage Creek Golf Club is a Par 71 golf course that is being developed in Central Bucks County. It's architect is Kelly Blake Morgan, whose other area designs include Lederach Golf Club and The Club at Morgan Hill in Easton. The course will be part of the Golf Club Estates at Heritage Creek, an upscale housing community being developed by the Mignatti Companies. So far, only holes 6 through 12 have been built.

Heritage Creek Scorecard

Despite the threats of thunder storms, my cousin and I attempted to play at Heritage Creek this afternoon. Currently, you can pay to play 6, 12 or 18 holes. Each 6 you play, you can play from a different set of tees and each hole has two pin locations--a red and a blue. Because of the impending bad weather, we opted to try for 12. We heard rumblings of thunder as we teed off and managed to get through three holes before the heavens opened up with a heavy rain. We managed to make it back to our cars, but not before we were soaked. We were given rain checks for 9 holes at a future date.

The view from the 6th Tee

While you can tell that Heritage Creek is a work in progress, the fairways and greens are in exceptional shape. These greens were probably the best I have putted on this year. If this is an indication of what is to come, Heritage Creek will be a spectacular addition in the area golfing landscape.

A few more photos of Heritage Creek:

The Red and Blue pins on the 6th Green

The 185-yard Par 3 Seventh Hole

A view of the 3rd Tee from the parking area
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Sunday Afternoon 9 at Juniata

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2805/2185 - 4990
Par: 34/31 - 65
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 48/Front Nine
Date: July 26, 2009

Late this afternoon I headed off to Juniata Golf Club for a quick nine holes, hoping to build on some of the success I had during Friday's round. I played the front nine and got off to a blazing start, with a two-putt par at the 1st Hole and a one-putt par at the 2nd. I made a sloppy 6 at the 3rd Hole after pushing my tee shot right behind one of the few trees between the 3rd and 4th fairways. I lipped out par putts at the 4th and 5th Holes, so I was playing with relative consistency. But at the next two holes, my game came apart rather quickly. I hooked my tee shot badly at the 6th and managed to hit a 7-iron over the trees to right side of the slope leading up to the green. But my ball had come to rest against a small stick, and removing it would have caused the ball to move, thus giving me a penalty stroke. I tried to chip it with a sand wedge, but the ball came up just short of the green. After chipping on past the hole, I had my first three-putt of the day and a 7. At the 8th, I hooked my tee shot wildly into growth along the left side of the fairway. I dropped, then pulled a wedge to the left of the second bunker on the left of the green. I skulled an attempt flop shot way over the green and into the creek, so I re-dropped, pitched over the bunker and two-putted for an 8. At the 8th, my tee shot went left of the green into a marginal lie, which I had to play like a bunker shot. The ball came out much better than I expected and rolled all the way to the back right of the green. From there I three-putted for a 5. My tee shot at the 9th went through the big tree on the left and finished in the left rough about a 130-yards from the green. Playing uphill, I hit a 7-iron to 20-feet behind the hole, which was in the very front left. I three-putted for a 5 and a nine-hole score of 48, three more than I had on the front on Friday. My putting was just a hair off today, but I felt I was still making a better stroke than I had been. Also, my elbow didn't hurt as much as it had been, so the ice treatments are hopefully helping. I iced my elbow twice tonight for about 30 minutes each. One other thing became clear to me during today's round. Although the Gap Wedge that is part of my Wilson Staff Di7 set has a stronger loft, it consistently comes up short from 100 yards, a distance I have been able to routinely hit the Gap Wedges from my previous iron sets. So this evening, I replaced the Wilson Di7 Gap Wedge with a TaylorMade LCG Gap Wedge. This will hopefully help me hit it closer to the pin from around 100 yards.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Putting Practice Pays Off at Juniata

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2805/2185 - 4990
Par: 34/31 - 65
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 88
Date: July 24, 2009

Having worked to strength my putting, which has been the weakest of my game recently, I decided I test myself on the greens of Juniata Golf Club. It has been over a month since I last teed it up on my home course and I was looking forward to playing some familiar holes. I also wanted to test my sore elbow, which I have been icing every evening. I met up on the first tee with Bill and Shane and we formed a threesome, which became a foursome on the 5th Hole when Jack, who had been playing solo behind us, joined our playing group. For this round, I had my Odyssey White Hot XG #9 putter--which I have re-gripped with a new Winn Jumbo putter grip--back in the bag.

Juniata Golf Club Scorecard

My round started off a bit shaky, with a fat tee shot on the 1st Hole, then two blocked tee shots--4-iron off the 2nd tee and a Driver off the 3rd. I was leaking a little oil, but playing OK. I found myself not staying down and through on shots, and worked to correct it over the next several holes. I was also hitting a bunch of my shots off the toe, so I need to pay better attention to my stance and ball position. My putting, however, was showing vast improvement. After two-putting the 1st, a had one-putts on the next three greens. My best putt of the front nine came at the 8th Hole, where I put my tee shot on the back part of the green and faced about a 35-foot putt to a hole that was in the very front of the green. The putt was slightly downhill about the last third and I left it just a half-roll short of a birdie. I managed to keep the number of three-putts to two and had five one-putt holes. Overall, I took 33 putts, which averages less than two putts per hole.

The double green of the 9th and 18th Hole

As for my elbow, it was a bit sore while playing, but not as bad as it had been recently. I iced it when I got home from playing and again later in the evening. I'll continue to ice it each evening and see if that continues to decrease the soreness.

The downhill 12th Hole, a 185-yard Par 3

Scoring wise, this round was the best round I have played at Juniata this season. Hopefully it is a sign that my game is finally rounding into shape for the latter part of the season, especially with my annual golf trip to the Delaware shore only a little over a month away.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Not Just Puttering Around

Last night I went to Juniata Golf Club and spent nearly an hour working on my putting, which has definitely been the weakest part of game recently. I hit about 100 putts, working mainly on my distance control with longer putts and my line on shorter putts. I have been working with my Odyssey White Hot XG #9, which I re-gripped with a Winn Jumbo grip. It seems to be helping me from breaking down my wrists and keeping the ball better online. I'll track my putts when I play this weekend to see if the practice is having an impact. I have also been applying an ice pack to my elbow the past two nights to try and relieve some of the soreness I have been feeling. So far, the elbow has been feeling a bit better, so hopefully the treatment is working.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Only Golf This Weekend Was On TV

Because I needed to get some things done around the house and to give my elbow--which has been sore most of the season--a little rest, I took the weekend off from the links. I did, however, watch the second, third and final rounds of The Open Championship; both online and on TV. I love to watch links-style golf and I was rooting hard for 59-year-old Tom Watson to win his sixth Claret Jug. This would have been one of the all-time greatest stories in the history of sports. But unfortunately, Watson bogeyed the 72nd hole at Turnberry, then lost in a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink. What made it even cooler was on that Saturday, I had read some of Cink's "Tweets" on his Twitter page about preparing for The Open in Ireland last week. This week, I hope to go back to the practice green and work a bit more on putting as I prepare to return to the golf course next weekend.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

An Eternally Good Read

The Eternal Summer
Palmer, Nicklaus, and Hogan in 1960,
Golf's Golden Year

I have recently finished reading The Eternal Summer, an excellent book by Curt Sampson, the bestselling author of Hogan and The Masters. The book chronicles the unique set of circumstances that occurred in golf during the your 1960. Sampson calls it "the golden year" because it was a time when golf was finding its way into our living and consciousness through the magic of that emerging technology: television. It was also a time in which a golfer from Western Pennsylvania, Arnold Palmer, was capturing the hearts and minds of the public via the black and white imagines on the television screens. It was also the year in which a golfing legend, Ben Hogan, was making one final attempt at greatness, while a future legend, Jack Nicklaus, was slowing making a name for himself as an up-and-coming amateur from Ohio.

Sampson takes through the year: from Palmer's heroic wins at The Masters and U.S. Open, to his near miss at The Open Championship at St. Andrew's--which put the British Open back on the map for American golfers--to Nicklaus' near miss at the U.S. Open, to Hogan's last hurrahs at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. Only 233 pages, it is a short, but very entertaining read which I highly recommend for anyone who is interested in the history of golf as well as professional golf.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Seeking Confidence with the Flatstick

One of the biggest problems with my golf game recently has been my inability to make putts, especially short putts. Last Sunday, I missed two three-footers: one for par and one for a birdie. This inability to convert short putts has been added a lot of strokes, and frustration, to my scoring. Tonight I headed over to Juniata Golf Club work on my putting stroke. I switched back to my Odyssey White Hot XG9 putter, which I re-gripped with a Winn Jumbo Pistol putter grip. I concentrated a great deal of my time hitting three- and four-foot putts just to see the ball go in the hole and start to gain back some confidence in my putting.
One new training aid I used tonight was The Big Putt, which, according to their Web site, is "35% larger than a regulation golf ball, but has precisely the same feel as a tournament quality ball. Mis-hits are magnified and provide immediate feedback, and the larger ball promotes a smooth stroke and requires the golfer to accelerate through impact." In addition, according the instructional video on the Web site, the hole will look much larger when you switch back to hitting a regulation golf ball. The pack I purchased came with three practice balls and a carrying pouch. It felt good using it and when I switched back to my normal, the stroke did feel a bit better, so I'll keep experimenting with The Big Putt.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Down in the (Twining) Valley

Twining Valley Golf & Fitness Club
Dresher, Pa
Yards: 2882/2647 - 5529
Par: 37/33 - 70
Rating: 64.7, Slope: 114
Score: 50/49 = 99
Date: July 12, 2009

Twining Valley is as close as you will find to experiencing one of Philly's public courses in the suburbs. TV is a great course if you want to practice your game. It is not overly long. It has some short Par 4s and 5s. Holes play downhill and uphill. Opened in 1931, the public course gets a lot of play as evidenced by the course conditions. Tee boxes are chewed up, fairways we spotty and the greens had numerous ball marks. If you're expecting to find country club conditions, Twining Valley is not the place to play. If you just want a no frills nine or eighteen holes, then give this course a try. Besides the mediocre conditions, club does has some redeeming qualities. It was inexpensive--I paid $20 to walk on a Sunday afternoon, it is good for beginners and high-handicappers, and kids are welcomed at the course.

Twining Valley Scorecard

As for my round at Twining Valley, it is a course where I should score well. But, as has been the case all too often this year, I played horribly. At the 1st Hole, a relatively short Par 5 that doglegs left and plays uphill, I hit my second shot left of the elevated green, lost the ball on my pitch shot and when I holed out, I had a nine. Putting has especially been my Achilles' heel for the past month or more. Once again at Twining Valley, I couldn't hole a putt. At the 3rd Hole, a 441-yard Par 5, I had a three-footer for par and missed. I reached the green in two at the 13th, a 375-yard Par 4 that plays uphill and doglegs left, only to three-putt. The worst was the 14th, a 186-yard Par, where I hit my tee shot to three-feet--then missed the birdie putt! I made one putt all day, and that was a five-foot birdie putt at the 8th Hole, a short 255-yard Par 4. I lost four balls during my round and I was extremely disappointed to shoot a 99 on this course.

Some photos of Twining Valley:

The opening tee shot at Twining Valley

The uphill approach at the 3rd Hole

The 13th Hole plays uphill and doglegs left

The approach to the 15th Green

The 18th Hole in an uphill Par 3
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Golf Digest Editor Recalls Juniata Days

Golf Digest Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde, who grew up in the Juniata section of Northeast Philadelphia, recalls in the the days of his youth learning to play golf on the hard scrabble fairways and greens of Juniata Golf Club in the magazine's August issue.

"Par was 63 with nine 3s, nine 4s and nine bunkers -- no rakes or flagsticks. Dried sunflower stalks with empty beer cans stuck on top were placed in the holes, and there was an art to leaning the 'flagstick' on chip shots. The tees had rubber mats except for the ones that didn't, and those were hard-baked dirt that required some of us to carry an ice pick to pierce the ground so a wooden tee could stand up. The price was right: 50 cents for golf all day. I didn't go home till dark every night, and sometimes we even pulled the car lights to the putting green for another round of quarter skins," writes Tarde in his monthly Editor's Letter.

The August issue salutes municipal -- or muni -- golf, and Tarde has not forgotten his public golf course roots. He praises the renaissance that Juniata has enjoyed in recent years under the care of Bob Wheeler, who Tarde selects as #1 on his "Top 5 Heroes of Modern Public Golf."

Bob Wheeler

Tarde concludes his letter: "Thanks go to Bob Wheeler, a retired cop from the neighborhood, who put together a nonprofit foundation to run the course when a succession of management companies and the city had given up hope. Wheeler got the local unions -- carpenters, bricklayers, steamfitters and heavy-equipment operators -- to work on the course pro bono (or at least for the 10 cases of beer they go through a week). 'Great guys, heavy drinkers,' says Bob. He also talked himself into a $200,000 grant from the state. Every cent has gone into course improvements, he says. And now Juniata is among the cheapest, best golf in Philly. Golf fees for seniors, firefighters and police officers are $20; regular play is $32 weekdays and $37 weekends -- all including carts. High schools play for free. I remember those days."

Read Tarde's entire letter here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Holiday Round at Green Pond CC

Green Pond Country Club
Bethlehem, Pa.
Yards: 3205/2949 - 6154
Par: 36/35 - 71
Rating: 69.4, Slope: 122
Score: 53/51 = 104
Date: July 3, 2009

While once again doing the family thing in Easton, Pa. during the holiday weekend, I finally got a chance to play Green Pond Country Club. Located just a short distance off Route 33 and Easton Road, Green Pond bills itself as "the public's country club." The course, designed by Scottish immigrant Alex Findlay and opened in 1931, is a classic layout with a lot of tree-lined fairways, doglegs, sand traps and medium-sized greens. Unlike many of the area courses, it is relatively flat--a few holes play slightly uphill or downhill, except the Par 17th--and is a very easy walking course.

Green Pond Country Club Scorecard

Conditions are Green Pond were excellent, except for the tee boxes, which could have been a bit more level. Nevertherless, the course was in great shape. It is a course where you definitely want to put the ball in the fairway as the rough was thick. The greens were fast, and I struggled with my speed throughout the round. They also featured just enough break to keep your full attention until the ball was in the hole. The greens are also well protected by numerous bunkers as I found out throughout my round. It is understandable why Green Pond is the host course for the Lehigh Valley Amateur Tournament each September. Green fees are also very reasonable: $32/42 to walk/ride during the week and $55 with a cart mandatory on the weekends. Twilight rates are $22/30 to walk/ride after 2 p.m. during the week and $32/42 to walk/ride after 3 p.m. on weekends.

The 1st Hole at Green Pond, a 342-yard Par 4

Since a lot of people had off Friday in observance of July 4th, the course was crowded when I arrived. The pro shop staff was very friendly, especially considering they were having computer problems. They informed me that there were presently five foursomes waiting to tee off. The young woman went out and spoke with the starter then came back to tell me he indicated he would be able to get me out, but that it might take awhile. I said I was in no rush and would wait. After about 20 minutes, the fourth foursome indicated they only had three golfers, so the starter paired me up with Mike, Rich and Robert. They welcomed me into their foursome and we had a great time throughout the round. Play was semi-slow through the first 7-8 holes, but moved along well after that.

Approach shot to the 9th Green

As for my round, I hit my 3-Wood off the 1st tee into the middle of the fairway and then a 9-iron to the back of the green. A good start, I thought, until I hit my first putt about 15-feet past the hole and three-putted. The 2nd Hole, a 544-yard Par 5, I hit Driver to the right side of the fairway, layed up, then hit a short iron onto the green in regulation...then again three-putted. So instead of starting par-par, a started bogey-bogey. At the 3rd Hole, a slightly downhill Par 4 that doglegs left, I hit my 2-Hybrid into the middle of the fairway, then left a 7-iron out to the right and into a bunker, the first of many I would visit at Green Pond. In fact, I spent more time in the sand at Green Pond than Charlton Heston did filming The Ten Commandments. I did manage to play out of most of the bunkers rather well, but I was never able to get the speed of the greens and three-putted numerous times. In fact, only made one par all day, at the 10th Hole, where I hit my tee shot far enough right that missed the dogleg and hit a 9-iron over some trees to the back of the green, then two-putted. I was happy overall with how I played off the tee and my iron game was pretty good, but my chipping and putting really let me down. It added up to a 104.

A pond fronts the 14th Green

One cool note: on the 16th tee box, a young red fox was playing around with what looked like a field mouse or some other small creature that he had captured. Unbothered by our approach to hit our tee shots, he sat and watched as we played through!

Our wild gallery of one on the 16th Tee

Green Pond adds another golfing option when visiting the Lehigh Valley and I look forward to returning to Green Pond for a round in the not too distant future.

Some additional photos of Green Pond CC:

The 3rd Hole, a 354-yard Par 4 that doglegs left

The 5th Hole

The 10th Hole doglegs right

The blind tee shot at the 13th Hole

The Par 3 15th Hole

The 17th Hole, a Par 3 that plays downhill

The 18th Hole, a straightaway Par 4

My playing partners: Mike, Rich and Robert
Photos by The Muni Golfer