Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Nightmare Nine

Recently, fellow blogger (My Golf Philly) and former Philadelphia Inquirer golf writer Joe Logan wrote a piece for his former employer on his Dream 18--the 18 perfect holes in the area that are located on daily fee or municipal courses.

After reading his story, and realizing that I played one-third or six of the holes on his list, I decided to come with my version of the Dream 18. However, instead of picking my perfect golf holes, I decided to create my "Nightmare Nine." These are nine holes that consistently give me problems every time I play them. Everybody has some golf holes like that that they face on a regular or semi-annual basis. These are the holes that you begin thinking about in the parking lot while putting on your golf shoes; holes where you will gladly take bogey and run--not walk--to the the next tee.

So here is my nine holes of hell. They play to 3,077 yards and equate to a Par 36, with five Par 4s, two Par 5s and two Par 3s.

#4 Franklin D. Roosevelt Golf Club, 413 Yards, Par 4 -- From a slightly elevated tee, it is about 260 yards to a pond that is surrounded by high marsh reeds. You want to play down the left side in order to even see the flag. This will also give you a shorter shot over the water. The small sloping green sits about 25 yards beyond the water, with trees on the right and behind. Get too far to the left on your tee shot and you are hitting out of gnarly rough. Get too close to the water and you have to get the ball up extremely quickly. Many of my approach shots have met with a watery ending on this hole.

The blind approach at FDR's Fourth Hole

#4 John F. Byrne Golf Club, 293 Yards, Par 4 -- A short Par 4 that requires a precise and accurate tee shot from an elevated tee through a very narrow opening in the tree line along the creek that runs across the fairway about 145 yards off the tee. If you manage to navigate the narrow gap off the tee, the fairway slopes hard from left to right and your approach shot plays uphill to a postage stamp-sized green jutting out of the slide of the hill. Miss long or left and you have almost no chance of keeping the ball on the green with your chip shot.

The narrow gap at John F. Byrne's Fourth Hole

#15 Fox Hollow Golf Club, 560 Yards, Par 5 -- Teeing off on the top of the hill, you cannot see the L-shaped dog leg right at the bottom of the hill. You have to hit your lay-up from a downhill lie to a small landing area which is easy to have your ball run through. You third shot is straight uphill to a small green. In a mid-1990s review of Fox Hollow for The Inquirer, Logan described playing it this way: "It takes two solid, straight shots to get the ball down to a hollow, where the 15th suddenly takes a 90-degree turn right and heads uphill into a bunkered, sloping green. Cutting the corner here is out of the question." Most times I've been happy to reach the green in 5.

#11 Walnut Lane Golf Club, 134 Yards, Par 3 -- This short hole plays in a small ravine and plays straight uphill. Often, the top of the flag is barely visible from the tee box. A small creek crosses about 20 yards in front of the tee box. Miss left, and if you can even find your golf ball, you are hitting straight up off the side of hill. Miss right and trees will slap your golf ball down well short of the green. As someone who hits a draw, I usually miss left because I try to hit the ball too hard to get it up the hill. I must confess, however, that I did birdie this hole in 1998. I think that was the only time I have ever hit the green with my tee shot.

The narrow, uphill Eleventh Hole at Walnut Lane

#11 Island Green Country Club, 305 Yards, Par 4 -- The hole from which the course drives its name. Your tee shot plays slightly downhill and requires nothing more than a long- to mid-iron. You want to keep your tee shot to the right for the best angle to the green, which sits on an island in the middle of a pond. Miss left and you can't see the green and could be hitting off a sidehill lie with the ball below your feet or out of tall, fescue-like grass. The green is medium-sized and slopes from back to front. Miss the green anywhere but in the front and your approach shot is probably wet.

The approach to the Eleventh Hole at Island Green

#18 Bensalem Township Country Club, 379 Yards, Par 4 -- This hole doglegs right about 240 yards off the tee. From there, it goes down to a creek that intersects the fairway about 25 yards in front of the green, which slopes severely from back to front and is well bunkered. Run your tee shot through the fairway and you could be chipping out the woods. There is room to miss your approach shot to the right of the green, but you could be pitching over a bunker to the green. In the summer, you could have a gallery on the clubhouse patio, which hosts numerous weddings and other events. The hole becomes even more difficult if I need a good score to shoot in the 90s. For me, 5 is always a tremendous score on this hole.

#4 The Rookery, 290 Yards, Par 4 -- Unless you are the longest of hitters, this is not the risk/reward hole it appears when you stand on the elevated tee. The fairway runs down to a large pond about 160 yards off the tee. To clear the pond, it will take a drive of over 270 yards, which can be made all the more difficult by the ever-present wind. Usually, the tee shot is nothing more than an 8-iron; and even that can run into the water. Be careful you don't get too close to the water or you could easily top your approach shot into the drink. The green is large and usually fast, so even if you do hit the green in two, a two-putt par isn't always guaranteed.

The Fourth Hole at The Rookery

#15 Horsham Valley Golf Club, 184 Yards, Par 3 -- This hole can ruin more good rounds. The signature hole at Horsham Valley, it is a longer Par 3, with the green guarded by a creek in the front and on the right, while trees cause problems for any shots to the left. Overhanging trees on the right can also knock down tee shots well short of the creek in front, causing a delicate pitch shot over water to the narrow green, which is also guarded by bunkers on the left and in the back.

Horsham Valley's Par 3 Fifteeth Hole

#18 Paxon Hollow Country Club, 519 Yards, Par 5 -- The closing hole at Paxon Hollow closes out my "Nightmare Nine." The tee shot is narrow, with trees protecting the right and a creek running down the left. Your second shot is uphill, over the creek, to a fairway that slopes from left to right, with the right side being protected by a huge tree that can cause problems for your third shot. A large, two-tiered green sits at the top of the hill at the foot of the clubhouse, with bunkers behind and to the left. Miss long or on the wrong tier and you could easily see your chip or putt run off the front of the green.

Paxon Hollow's Eighteenth Hole from the fairway

So there you have my "Nightmare Nine;" nine golf holes that can derail my round no matter how well I'm playing. I would gladly take a 45 for those nine any time I tee it up.
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tiger is Coming!

Sorry it has been two weeks since my last post, but other events have been keeping me away from golf. That being said, some big news was announced this week when Tiger Woods committed to play in the AT&T National at Aronimink Golf Club in July. The event, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, has been played at Congressional Country Club outside Washington, D.C., but will be played at Aronimink this year and next because Congressional is hosting the 2011 U.S. Open.

After Tiger's off-course problems became public back in November, AT&T dropped its sponsorship of Woods and the PGA Tour announced he would not serve as host of this year's AT&T National when Tiger took an indefinite leave from the Tour. It was unclear whether Woods would play in his own tournament until his announcement earlier this week. He is the tournament's defending champion.

This will mark the first time Woods has played in the Philadelphia area as either a professional or an amateur. He did, however, make an national television appearance as a two-year-old on the locally based Mike Douglas Show, hitting golf balls with the legendary Bob Hope.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Friday Night Lights

Burholme Golf Center
401 Cottman Avenue
Philadelphia, Pa

Tonight I moved my practice from my usual spot at Fishers Glen to Burholme Golf Center, a large, lighted facility located in Fox Chase. A dip from our recent record heat spell, plus a gusty wind that sent the temperatures down into the low 50s, meant that Burholme was less crowded than one might expect on a Friday night this early in the season. Because of the lights, Burholme tends to draw a lot of golfers for afterwork and evening practice, as well as couples on date night. I paid $8 for a medium-sized bucket of ball--about 65-70 according to their price guide--and took up a spot on the far left of the range near the batting cages. Burholme has about a dozen covered, heated hitting stalls, but they are usually quite congested.
Under the lights at Burholme Golf Center
After some stretching, I warmed up with 10 sand wedges, then hit 10 pitching wedges, 10 8-irons, 10 6-irons, 10 3-hybrids, 7 4-woods off the mat and finished with 7 Drivers for a total of 64 balls. Because I left the house without my typical alignment sticks, I placed two wedges on the ground as aids. I focused on my alignment as well as my ball striking and tempo. Although my tempo was not as good as it has been in previous sessions, this was probably the most consistant session I've had on teh practice range in terms of ball striking. I hit a few fat or thin shots, but overall, I hit the ball as solidly as I have in any practice in 2010. My only problem how is finding the time to take my game from the practice range to the golf course.
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Thursday, April 1, 2010

This is No April Fool's...

While today may have been April Fool's Day, it was also a day of significance for us golfer's living in the Northeastern part of the United States. Today marked the official start of the active golf season! Our season, which means the dates between which scores of rounds played in the active area can be reported for handicap purposes, runs through October 31.

Peering into the Darkness

Fishers Glen Driving Range
4717 Fishers Lane
Philadelphia, Pa

Last night I made my third pilgrimage to the practice range this season. It was a wonderful, warm evening and I was expecting to find a fair amount of fellow golfers hammering balls off the tees. Imagine my surprise when I arrived shortly before 7 p.m. and found the range completely empty.
Deciding it was time to step-up my practice, I went for a medium bucket of balls. My plan was to use this practice session to hit my middle irons--7-iron, 6-iron, 5-iron, 4-iron--and hybrid, as well as a few fairway woods if I had any golf balls remaining. I took my time, rehearsing my pre-shot routine before hitting a golf ball, and my practice session took about an hour.

I warmed up with some stretching and then hit 10 sand wedges, starting with easy chips and working up to a full swing. My practice session then went as follows:

  • 7-iron -- 15 balls
  • 6-iron -- 15 balls
  • 5-iron -- 15 balls
  • 4-iron -- 10 balls
  • Hybrid -- 10 balls
  • 7-wood -- 4 balls
  • 3-wood -- 2 balls

I tried not to focus on the results of each shot, but concentrated on my tempo--using a 1-2 takeaway and swing, my alignment using my alignment sticks and making solid contact on each shot. I did well with the 7-irons, but hit a lot of fat shots with the 6-iron. The 5-iron saw my tempo improve and my contact was crisper, but I had mixed results with the 4-iron. I'm not certain I will carry the 4-iron this season, but I wanted to work with it as I make my decision. I hit the hybrid really well, with only a few pulled shots. The 7-wood was not pretty. I used my last two balls to hit my 3-wood off the tee, imagining in each instance that I was standing on the tee at the 18th Hole and needed to hit the fairway. Mission accomplished on both swings.
I feel my swing is in much better shape at this point in the season than it was a year ago. My next practice session focus on the short game, which means heading to Juniata Golf Club's practice green for some putting and chipping. Then it may be onto the course after that.