Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review: The Scorecard Always Lies

I recently finished reading The Scorecard Always Lies, A Year Behind the Scenes on the PGA Tour. Written by Chris Lewis, who covers golf for Sports Illustrated, the book follows the players and events that shaped the 2006 PGA Tour season. From Phil Mickelson's triumph at The Masters to his collapse at the U.S. Open, the death of Tiger Wood's father Earl, Tiger's victories at the British Open and PGA Championship, John Daly's ongoing troubles both on and off the course, the emergence of long-hitting J.B. Holmes, and the European's crushing defeat of the U.S. at the Ryder Cup in Ireland, the year is vividly captured the compelling behind-the-scenes access of someone who regularly covers the tournaments and the people who play play them. The book is good read, entertaining read, although you will occasionally notice a few factual errors. Still, I would recommend this book to anyone who is a golf fan.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Mountain High at Sawmill Golf Course

Sawmill Golf Course
Easton, Pa.
Yards: 2869/2411 - 5280
Par: 35/35 = 70
Rating: 64.2, Slope: 105
Score: 45/46 = 91
Date: September 26, 2009

While visiting family in the Lehigh Valley this past Saturday, I had the opportunity to again play a round of golf at Sawmill Golf Course in Easton. I had previously played Sawmill in 2007 and enjoyed the experience. Sawmill was built on an old farm over 35 years by Dick Field, who still owns the course today. Sawmill does not take tee times and although it has carts for golfers who want to use them, walking is welcomed and encouraged. The course is a medium length track that plays just over 5,000 yards; but what Sawmill lacks in length it makes up for in its unique layout. Most of the holes are straight away, with not a sand trap to be found. But since Sawmill is located in the Lehigh Valley, many of the holes play either severely uphill or downhill. Some holes do feature blind tee shots with fairways that slope left to right.

Sawmill Golf Course Scorecard

The front nine at Sawmill looks pretty tame, and it is, except for maybe the Par 3 7th Hole, which plays out of a chute of trees, slightly downhill to a large green that slopes hard from left to right. If you miss to the right, it runs down into the 8th fairway and there are a few small trees to contend with on your pitch shot.

The First Hole (above), The tight tee shot at the Seventh (below)

I played well on the first nine, shooting 45 with two pars. I was hitting the ball well off the tee and was giving myself opportunities. Witness the fact that I had par putts on five of the first nine holes. Even better, my putting was more consistent than it has been recently.

Sawmill's panoramic view (above), the Ninth Hole (below)

The back nine at Sawmill is where the golf gets really interesting. After straightway, short Par 4s at 10 and 11, the 12th Hole is a 112-yard Par 3 that drops about 150 feet from the tee to the green, which has a road running in front and a creek behind. Then comes the the unusual 13th, a 372-yard Par 5. Yes, a Par 5! A short tee shot is required to an elevated, narrow fairway framed by two overheard powerline towers on the left and telephone poles and an out-of-bounds creek on the right. You'll have about 185- to 200+ yards for a second shot, with a small spring running across the front of the green, so a lay-up short is advised. Hole 14 is a 236-yard Par 4, that plays straight uphill the last 100 yards or so. Driving this green would be almost impossible since the green sits at least 50 yards above the fairway! Hole 15 in a 321-yard Par 4 that continues the journey onward and upward, playing straight uphill to a two-tiered green. But, as they say, whatever goes up, must come down and Holes 16 and 17 both play sharply downhill, with the 16th playing out of a chute off the tee and the fairway being well-guarded by trees all the way down the left side. The round finishes at Hole 18 with with a short, flat, 135-yard Par 3, whose only difficulty is its undulating green.

The Twelfth Hole is 112 yards downhill

My back nine score of 46 wasn't bad considering I made 7s at the 13th and 15th holes when I hit my approach shot and my tee shot out-of-bounds on the two holes respectively. Other than those two holes, I kept the ball in play off the tee and was generally around the green with my approach shots. My chipping was subpar this day, but my putting again bailed me out on the back nine. I had par putts on four of the nine holes.

The tee shot at the Thirteenth Hole, a 372-yard Par 5!

The best part of Sawmill Golf Course was its price. $25 to walk on the weekends and includes as much golf as you can play, whether its 18, 27 or 36 holes. The staff was friendly and they had a nice snack bar where you can relax and relive your round. If you're ever in the Lehigh Valley and looking for an inexpensive, but fun round of golf, I highly recommend Sawmill Golf Course.

More photos of Sawmill:

The Fourteenth Hole is 236 yards, but plays uphill

The narrow, demanding tee shot at the Sixteenth Hole
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The People's Choice: Baywood Greens

Golfworld magazine has issued its 2010 "Reader's Choice Ranking" in the Sept. 28th edition. Among them is the "Top 50 Public Courses." Coming in at a surprising 18th is Baywood Greens in Long Neck, Del., which has been called the "Augusta of the Northeast." I say suprisingly because Baywood Greens topped other public courses on the list such as Bulle Rock and Bethpage Black which have hosted majors as the U.S. Men's Open and the LPGA Championship. Located just a couple miles west of Rehoboth Beach, Del., I have had the opportunity to play Baywood Greens twice. While an expensive course to play, it is well worth the experience as the course is beautifully landscaped everywhere you look. The fairways are green and lush and the greens are fast and true. Other nearby courses that made the top 50 included Blue Herron Pines (34) and Scotland Run (44), both located in South Jersey.
Baywood Greens Scorecard

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Return to the Range

Fishers Glen Driving Range
4717 Fishers Lane
Philadelphia, Pa

Since I have been on-and-off with my Driver this year, I cut cut its length down to 44.5-inches in an effort to get more control and accuracy off the tee. Unfortunately, I was only able to hit Driver three times last Saturday at Walnut Lane, so tonight I headed over to Fishers Glen Driving Range to hit a small bucket of balls. I wasn't really looking for an organized practice session, just a chance to hit balls with the Driver. I took up my customary position on the lower level of the range and alternated between two Drivers tonight: my TaylorMade Tour Burner and an old Tommy Armour 845 Stripe, which has a smaller 350cc head and a Bi-Matrix shaft. I did try to work a little on rhythm and ball position. I found that when I played the ball more my front foot instead of just inside my left heel, I hit it much better. I might try keeping the Tommy Armour Driver in my bag for my next round, which will hopefully be this weekend. I finished up my brief practice by hitting 10 balls with my TaylorMade 300 Series 7-Wood, which I shortened by 3/4-inches. I hit five off the tee and five off the turf.

Photo by The Muni Golfer

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Continued Woes at Walnut Lane

Walnut Lane Golf Club
, Pal

Yards: 2173/2098 – 4271
Par: 31/31 = 62
Rating: 59, Slope: 91
Score: 50/48 = 98
Date: September 19, 2009

Hoping to get my game turned around after some awful golf at the Delaware Shore, I ventured back to my familiar surroundings at Juniata Golf Club. However, because of a golf outing, I was forced to go play at Walnut Lane Golf Club in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. Designed by legendary architect Alex Findlay, the course opened in 1940 and is set among the Wissahickon Valley Park, which is part of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. Although it is short at just over 4200 yards and only a par 62, Walnut Lane overs a good test with elevation changes, tight driving holes and long difficult Par 3s. I felt this would be a good change to really test my new TaylorMade Tour Burner irons.

Walnut Lane Scorecard

I was paired up with Charles and Tyrell on the First Tee, and Gregory later joined us on the Second Hole. My problems began from the start. On the first four holes, I pushed my tee shots straight right, although I was always in a position to stay in the hole. My short game wasn't too bad and I chipped pretty well. I worked on my swing and finally started to draw the ball at the Sixth Hole. My biggest problem, as it has been all season, was with my putting. Two-putting was a triumph. It got so bad on the back nine that I actually began putting cross-handed in an effort to find anything that resembled a good putting stroke. It seemed to help a bit and after a few holes, I went back to conventional and putted a bit better. Still, a 50-48 for the two nines was very disappointing.

The Fourth Hole, a 218-yard downhill Par 3

The blind tee shot at the Par 4 Seventh Hole

Walnut Lane was in pretty good shape. It, like Juniata, has gone on its own when Billy Casper Golf did not take over its management as part of their deal with the Fairmount Park Commission, which still owns the course. One of the big problems that Walnut Lane has long suffered is many golfers only play the first seven holes, which are on the clubhouse side of Walnut Lane, the Philadelphia street from which the course derives its name. Because of this, the other 11 holes can sometimes suffer vandalism by people riding motorbikes or ATVs through the Wissahickon Valley Park. Many trails pass on the very edge of the course, and it is not usual to be on a green and have several mountain bikers come speeding past. We witnessed such vandalism yesterday as tires prints ran in circles across the Twelfth and Thirteenth Greens.

The tight tee shot at the Ninth Hole

Damage on the Twelfth Green

As for my irons, I am very happy with them so far. They hit the ball with a very crisp feel, almost like a blade iron. The distance is loooong and the feel is soft and easy to control around the greens. Although you don't need to hit Driver often at Walnut Lane, I hit it three times yesterday and found the fairway each time. Last week, I cut an inch off my Driver shaft, making its length 44.5-inches, as opposed to the 45.5 that I purchased it as. I was hoping that the shorter shaft would help with control and accuracy and it seemed to make quite the difference yesterday. I am hoping that it will also help eliminate the slice that has crept into my drives from time-to-time this year.

More photos of Walnut Lane:

The 186-yard Par 3 Second Hole

The approach to the Third Hole

The Eleventh Hole, a narrow, uphill Par 3

Two large bunkers guard the short Thirteenth Hole

The Sixteenth Hole, a 152-yard Par 3
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Delaware Debacle

A nor'easter, poor play--especially putting--and even gunshots highlighted, or lowlighted, my annual Labor Day golfing vacation to the Delaware Shore. Cold, cloudy and windy weather, along with some heavy rains, cut my projected four rounds down to two, while gunshots interrupted a practice round after seven holes. Here then, is Fore at the Delaware Shore '09:

Crash Landing at Old Landing
Old Landing Golf Course
Rehoboth Beach
, Del

Yards: 2858/2872 – 5830
Par: 35/36 = 71
Rating: 67.6, Slope: 111
Score: 47/55 = 102
Date: September 4, 2009
My Delaware golf vacation began with a round at Old Landing Golf Course in Rehoboth Beach. Since the annual Labor Day family golf outing had been scheduled for Sunday, I felt this was a good opportunity to work with my new TaylorMade Tour Burner irons. I played with my cousin’s husband Steve, and Mike and Bud, who we met on the first tee. I felt good about playing at Old Landing since it was a course I have played many, many times. In recent years, the course had fallen into pretty bad shape, with both fairways and greens often having more dirt than grass. But they discovered that salt water for the adjacent bay had been getting into the irrigation system causing the problems. With that matter corrected, Old Landing had rebounded into a decent course once again. I played there twice last year, shooting in the low 90s.

Old Landing Scorecard

My round got off to a mediocre start, with a 7 and 6 at the first two holes, the second being a long 416-yard par four. But I then settled down and played bogey-golf over the next four holes. I wasn’t hitting the ball great, but I was scrambling well. I was still feeling my way with the new irons. At the Seventh Hole, a 472-yard par five that doglegs right, I made the type of mental mistakes that I have allowed to plague my game all year. After hitting a duck-hook just into the rough on the left, I had a slightly downhill lie. Instead of taking a 7-iron and hitting it up the fairway, I tried to muscle a 4-hybrid. I hit a worm-burner across the fairway into the right rough. Thinking I had a better lie than I did, I pulled out my 3-wood, which I promptly topped. Finally, I pulled out my 7-iron and hit a hard draw onto the left edge of the green. From there I managed to two-putt for a six. The Eighth Hole is a straight-away, 292-yard par four. After hitting a low 2-hybrid, I had less than 100 yards to a small green that slopes severely from back-to-front, with bunkers on both sides. I tried to play a chip-and-run with a pitching wedge, but the ball ran through the green into the back rough. A very weak chip and three putts left me with a disappointing six. The front nine finishes off with a short, 122-yard par three. I hit pitching wedge to 10-ft above the hole and two-putted for my first par and a front nine 47. Not real good but not real bad either. I felt as if I was starting to get into a bit of a groove as I headed to the back nine.

The 18th Green at Old Landing

The back nine got off to a better start with a five at the 399-yard Tenth Hole. The Eleventh Hole is a 196-yard par three that plays very long, even though it plays from an elevated tee. I managed to hit just short left, chipped on, then two-putted for a four. I was feeling much more confident as play moved along. At the Twelfth Hole, a 505-yard par five, the mental mistakes crept back in. I hooked my drive into the left rough, as did Mike and Bud. As I approached, Mike indicated our two balls were right next to each other. What I was not aware of was that Mike has switched to the same model of Titleist ball I was playing. I looked down and saw the DT So/Lo marking on the side of the ball and played it. I never looked for the three black dots I put on my ball. After discovering the ball had no dots and Mike was now playing the same model of ball, my bogey six became a triple-bogey eight. The back nine momentum was suddenly gone as I began hitting the ball all over the place. And although I did make a par at the 339-yard par four Sixteenth Hole, I countered that with a triple-bogey six at the very short 106-yard par three Fifteenth Hole and a ten at the closing par five Eighteenth Hole. It all added up to a back nine 55 and a round of 102. Not the way I wanted to start the week. I was disappointed most in the amount of mental mistakes I made. I hit the irons okay for the first time and vowed that I would play better the next round.


The Rookery: A Tale of Two Nines
The Rookery
, Del

Yards: 2886/3253 – 6139
Par: 35/36 = 71
Rating: 68.8, Slope: 116
Score: 46/58 = 104
Date: September 6, 2009
With apologies to Charles Dickens, it was the best of nines, it was the worst of nines. So went my round at our annual family Labor Day golf outing. This year, my two cousins and my cousins’ husband, played at The Rookery, just off Route 1 in Milton, Del. The Rookery was co-conceived and is co-owned by Pete Oakley, the 2003 Senior British Open Champion. While the course is fairly wide open, it does have some tricky holes and wind can often be a factor as it was for us. We played in a very strong wind that made club selection extremely difficult and caused havoc with many shots. Hoping to put my first round at Old Landing in the rearview mirror, I made a couple of changes to my bag: a 5-wood replaced the 2-hybrid and a 53-degree wedge replaced the 4-hybrid. I also stressed to myself that I would play smart golf, unlike at Old Landing, and not take unnecessary risks. I planned to use the 3- and 5-woods off of most of the par fours, except for the par fives.

The Rookery Scorecard

My round couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. I found the fairway at the First, and after putting a 5-iron into the greenside bunker, got up-and-down for a par. At the Second Hole, a 168-yard par three, I hit a 4-iron into the wind which found the front right of the green. Two putts and a second par. The Third Hole is a short, 300-yard par four with out-of-bounds on the left and a pond on the right. I hit the 5-wood to about 100 yards, but came up just short on my approach. I chipped on and one-putted for a third consecutive par! The Fourth Hole at The Rookery is one of the quirkiest you will find anywhere. Although it is only 290 yards, a large pond dissects the fairway less than 150 yards from the tee. It takes a drive of about 260 to clear the water. The tees were all the way back, so I hit a 7-iron, which ran through the fairway into the rough short of the water. I then chunked my second shot into the water, hit my fourth over, chipped on and two-putted for an eight. The Fifth Hole is a dogleg left that requires a good tee shot to the very edge of the dogleg because the green is protected on the left by a row of three pine trees more than 100 yards out. I hit the very right of the last tree with my approach and then came up short with my third shot. I chipped long and three-putted for a seven. From there I settled back down and played steadier golf, finishing off my front nine 46 with a to-putt par at the 115-yard Nine Hole.

The 4th Hole requires a short tee shot

The back nine at The Rookery begins with a 575-yard par five—one of three on the back nine—that was playing straight into the wind. The make the hole even more difficult, a row of bunkers stretches across the fairway about 180 yards from the green. I hit a duck hook off the tee and two-putted for a very satisfying seven given the extremely windy conditions. But at the Eleventh Hole, it all began to come apart. We played from the back tees, 447 yards straight into the wind. I hit a hard draw into the left rough and had well over 200 yards to the green. Instead of just playing the hole like a par 5 and hitting a 6- or 7-iron lay-up, I pulled the 5-wood. I topped it, then topped it again into a fairway bunker. After hitting a 7-iron out, I came up short with a wedge, chipped on and two-putted for an eight. Although I managed a bogey at the Twelfth Hole, I took a nine at the 466-yard, par five Thirteenth Hole when I pulled my 3-wood left and out-of-bounds off the tee. At the Fourteenth, a long 200-yard par three, with the wind coming from the right hard, I managed to get on in two, but four-putted from long range for a triple-bogey six. I now felt as if my putting stroke, which has been a problem all season, had completely abandoned me. The Fifteenth Hole, a 140-yard par three with water almost all the way around the green was playing dead into the wind and about 2-3 clubs longer. I kept it under the wind and hit it short into the rough fronting the green, but a poor chip and three more putts left me with a five. I hit a great drive with my 3-wood at the Sixteenth Hole, a 375-yard par four that was finally playing downwind. But I dumped my approach shot short into a bunker on the right, then thinned my bunker shot over the green. Two chips to get on and another three-putt—it getting even painful for me to watch me putt—and another eight. The Seventeenth, a 155-yard par 3, was also playing downwind and I hit my tee shot onto the green about 25 feet past the hole. With no confidence whatsoever in my putting at this point I three-putted yet again. The closing hole is a 566-yard par five. After a very short, dipping tee shot that didn’t reach the fairway, I somehow managed to get the ball on the green in four and actually took only TWO putts for a six and closing 58 on the back nine. That left me with a 104 for the round.

The row of fairway bunkers on the 10th Hole

This round at The Rookery marked the second time in three days that I opened with a respectable front nine, but completely collapsed on the back nine. My putting has been some of the worst it has been this year. The only thing I took away was that I was getting a better feel for my new TaylorMade Tour Burner irons. Hopefully, that will continue and I will be able to turn my game around in the very near future.


Shooting More than Birdies at The Heritage

The Heritage Inn and Golf Course

Midway, Del
Yards: 1946/Nine Holes
Par: 32/Nine Holes
Rating: N/A, Slope: N/A
Score: Practice Round
Date: September 8, 2009
If you ever go to play at The Heritage MAKE SURE YOU WEAR FLOURESCENT ORANGE! I have never, never, EVER experienced what happened while I was playing at The Heritage. The Heritage used to be a nice, nine-hole, par 35 golf course located just off Delaware Route 1 between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. It is owned by The Heritage Inn, a hotel located just across the street. In recent years, they have begun building homes on the back part of the course, shorting up several of the holes to par threes. Today, it costs $10 to play all day. The conditions aren’t that great, but it is inexpensive golf. Because the weather had turned very overcast and windy, and with the threat of heavy afternoon showers, I figured I would go to The Heritage to play some practice holes. You pay at the hotel front desk, which I did, then proceed over to the course. I played the first seven holes—there was one other golfer out on the course—and had discovered that I was not moving into the ball with the top part of my body. I was starting to hit much more solid, crisper shots. Then it happened. I teed off on the Eighth Hole, a short par three, hitting to about 12 feet in front of the hole. As I walked towards the green I heard BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! As I hunched down and looked around I saw a man with a shotgun walking towards the back part of the course. Geese that had been on the course were taking flight and he raised his shotgun and fired—BANG! BANG! BANG! I watched in horror as a goose fell out of the sky and hit the fairway! Another, obviously wounded, tried to run away across the course! I stood frozen, watching what was going on, but also praying the gunman was not coming in my direction. He finally saw me and raised his hand, then went and pulled several dead geese out of a pond. He walked over and grabbed the one that had tried to flee. He yelled over to me that he was sorry, he hadn’t seen me! A woman in the homes behind me came running out to me. She told me she had called the Delaware State Police, but they had told her that it was hunting season! As she stood talking with me, the man collected the 6-8 dead geese and piled them next to the Ninth fairway. The woman then went off to confront the shooter. I numbly putted out on the Eighth, then tried to play the Ninth Hole, but I was too shaken to continue. The man came over to apologize, saying he hadn’t seen me and that he had talked to the owner of The Heritage who had told him NO ONE was on the course! I was pretty upset. I packed up my clubs and headed back to the hotel front desk to ask for my money back. They told me I was far enough away from the shooting and that they didn’t like my attitude! They said it was a pest control thing. I have been on many golf courses that have had problems with geese, but I’ve never seen then send someone onto the course to shoot the geese while golfers were playing! Our confrontation escalated until they eventually physically escorted me out! So if you’re ever in the Lewes/Rehoboth Beach area, and you’re thinking about playing a bargain round at The Heritage, just make such you have your bullet-proof golf vest on!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An Iron Test in Delaware

The Wilson Staff experiment is dead. I will be going to Delaware armed with some new irons. Tonight I traded in some 22 old clubs--including the set of Wilson Staff Di7 irons that I had been playing since the end of last season--at Golf Galaxy for a new set of TaylorMade Tour Burner irons. I really like Golf Galaxy because they give you good value for your trade-ins. Because of the return I got for my trade-ins, I was able to get the Tour Burners over the slightly cheaper TaylorMade r7s. I will be putting these new sticks right into my bag and using them for play during my golf vacation at the Delaware Shore. TaylorMade again becomes the dominant equipment company in my bag with 10 clubs, including the Driver, 3-wood and irons.