Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reaching a Peak in the Valley

Neshaminy Valley Golf Club
Jamison, Pa.
Yards: 3338/2676 - 6014
Par: 36/34 - 70
Rating: 68.7, Slope: 118
Score: 43/44 = 87
Date: August 13, 2011

Saturday I returned to Neshaminy Valley Golf Club for late afternoon round of golf. I had originally hoped to play Bensalem Township Country Club, but an outing forced me to change my plans and head north to Neshaminy. I had played this course earlier this summer with my cousin and had shot a respectable 94. I was hoping to match that success when I teed off around 4 p.m. under very cloudy skies. Little did I know when I striped a driver down the middle of the fairway on the First Hole that I would not only duplicate my earlier success, I would exceed it by breaking 90 on a Par 70 or better golf course for the first time ever!

 Neshaminy Valley Scorecard

The front nine was all 3s, 4s and 5s on the scorecard, except for the 529-yard Par 5 Second Hole, where I chunked my lay-up second shot into a ditch and made a 7. I made pars at the Third and Fifth Holes, and capped off the front nine with a birdie at the 537-yard Par 5 Ninth Hole. I hit driver down the right side of the fairway, a 5-wood just left of the green, but hole high. I chipped over a bunker to three feet and made the putt for my fifth birdie of the year. I shot 43 for the first nine and was eager to play the second nine. I was crushing my Wilson Staff Smooth Driver off the tee, hitting farther and straighter than any driver I have ever played. It was the best driving round I could ever remember.

The Sixth Hole, a 219-yard Par 3

The weather was making things tricky as dark skies where visible in the distance along the sporadic flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder, but all we endured was few sprinkles. The back nine started off with a bogey, double bogey, triple bogey and double bogey at holes Ten through Thirteen, but I made a par at the 473-yard Par 5 Fourteenth, followed by four consecutive fours, including pars at the Sixteenth and Eighteenth. I was still hitting the driver long on the Par 4s and 5s and it was setting me up for short irons into the greens. My putting was also very consistent for one of the few times this year. My back nine 44 left me with an 87 for the round and my first time breaking 90 on a Par 70 or better golf course. I had one birdie and five pars during my round. I played Neshaminy Valley's three Par 5s in one over par.

 The Thirteenth Green

When the round ended in the fading light of evening, I celebrated my historic round with a cheeseburger and french fries from Five Guys, which I washed down with some Turkey Hill Lemonade Tea, otherwise known as an Arnold Palmer.

 The Par 3 Seventeenth Hole

As I had mentioned in an earlier post, I am testing a couple of prototype golf balls from a major equipment manufacturer. I have now played three rounds with one of the prototypes and the only thing I can say is it is long. I have hit some of my longest shots with this ball. If this is any indication of how the other ball plays, I am really looking forward to putting it in play.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Back in The Fairways Again

The Fairways Golf & Country Club
Warrington, Pa
Yards: 2255/2248 - 4503
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 45/44 = 89
Date: August 7, 2011

My intention on Sunday was to test my game at Bensalem Township Country Club, but a change in plans with Mrs Muni Golfer had me teeing it up again at The Fairways Golf & Country Club. It was hot and very muggy when we teed off and it wasn't long before sweat was dripping from the bill of my golf cap. Since it had been three weeks since I last played, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I was hoping to at lease duplicate my last round, which also happened to be at The Fairways.

 The Fairways Scorecard

The two new Adams Fast 10 fairway woods were in the bag and I was anxious to see how they did on the course. I struggled at first with the 3-Wood off the tee, but the 5-Wood did just fine. On the front nine, I had a tendency to top the ball which caused me some problems, but I made pars at the Second and Ninth holes for a 45.

 The Fifth Hole

The back nine started off really well, with a 5-Wood off the tee which found the bunker on the right side of the Tenth Hole, about 25 yards from the green. I wedged out to eight feet and made the putt for my fourth birdie of the year. But I quickly crashed back to earth by hitting two tree and four-putting for an 8 at the Eleventh. I recovered with a par at the Par 3 Twelfth, but at the Par 3 Fourteenth I found the bunker on the right of the green, took two shots to get out, chipped on and two-putted for a triple bogey. I made par at the next two holes, but made double bogeys at the Seventeenth and Eighteenth holes after hitting two of my best drives of the day.

 The Eighteenth Hole from the tee

Given the three week layoff, my game wasn't as bad as I feared in might be. Generally I hit good shot, except for the occasional topped of heavy shot. I was a bit tentative with my chipping and pitching, but my putting continues to improve.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shafted: Hybrid Gets a Makeover

Driving Range
Bensalem Township Country Club
200 Brown Ave.
Bensalem, Pa

Earlier this week I picked up my TaylorMade Raylor 4-hybrid from Golfsmith, where I had them re-shaft it with a UST i-Rod  hybrid shaft. I also had the length increased to 40-inches so it would play between a 3- and -iron in my bag. The Raylor was created by TaylorMade for some of its staffers to use at the 2009 U.S.Open at Bethpage Black. It has a "V-shaped" sole which makes it easier to hit the ball out of rough and to get the ball airborne from the fairway.
 TM Raylor (above) and UST i-Rod shaft (below)
I had planned to have it in my bag today when I went to the course, but because of the high humidity, I decided to skip playing a round and instead went to the driving range at Bensalem Township Country Club. I purchased a large bucket, which gave me 80 balls to hit. I warmed up with some stretching and 10 sand wedges, then hit 10 9-irons and 7-irons. I varied my targets, hitting to the left and right, as well as down the center. After five 5-irons, I hit 10 hybrids, 10 5-woods and 12 3-woods, before finishing off my time on the range with 13 drivers. Overall, I hot good shots, but there were some fat and thin shots mixed in. I continued to work on my pre-shot move of rehearsing my takeaway to get the feel of the club moving back.

 Bensalem CC Driving Range

After the range, I moved over to the putting green and practiced for about 20 minutes, hitting both short and long putts. On the long putts, I was trying to get a feel for speed and distance control, while I tried working on accuracy on the shorter putts. I also used a yardstick, anchored by two tees, to try and keep my putter moving in a straight line. I have neglected my short game practice this year and it has hurt my scoring as I have been inconsistent on my short putts all year. This has led to way too many three-putts. I hope this practice time on the putting green will payoff the next round I play.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

No Beating the Heat

With the East Coast in the grips of a killer heat wave, I decided to rest my game this weekend. The thoughts of last weekend's final few holes at The Fairways and how I felt afterwards from the 90+ temperatures were enough to confirm that skipping golf this weekend wasn't such a bad thing. I did, however, pick up two new pieces for my arsenal--an Adams Golf Speedline Fast 10 3- and 5-Wood. They will replace the TaylorMade Burners that I had been previously carrying. I picked them up on sale at a Dicks Sporting Goods near Easton, Pa., while visiting family this weekend.
 The 3-Wood has an 15-degrees of loft and an Aldila Wasabi graphite shaft, while the 5-Wood is 18-degrees with a Grafalloy High Launch graphite shaft. As you may know, Adams Golf first made its name with its Tight Lies Fairway woods in the 1990s, which revolutionized fairways woods through its low center of gravity and upside-down head design. Adams has gone on to become a leader in hybrids and is very popular among players on the Champions Tour, including Tom Watson. I've ready really good reviews of the Speedline Fast 10 and I can't wait to get them on the practice range to get better acquainted

Monday, July 18, 2011

Recovery Continues at The Fairways

The Fairways Golf & Country Club
Warrington, Pa
Yards: 2255/2248 - 4503
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 47/41 = 88
Date: July 17, 2011

I continued to work on the recovery of my game with a round on Sunday at The Fairways Golf & Country Club in Warrington, Pa. I was hoping to build on some of the momentum I established last week at Juniata Golf Club. Under sunny, skies, it was hot and humid as I teed off on the Tenth Hole with Jim and Jim, a father and son that the starter paired with me. My goal for this round was to continue to build consistency in my swing and my putting. I was also playing my first round with the new prototype golf ball that had been sent to me for testing by a major equipment company.

The Fairways Scorecard - Front Nine

Typically at The Fairways, I play better on the front nine than I do on the back.For this round, I chose a 5-wood off the tee at the short, 248-yard Par 4 Tenth Hole and crushed a drive that left me about 30 shorts of the green. I pitched long, then three-putted for a bogey 5. The Eleventh Hole at The Fairways has a local rule that only allows an iron off the tee at the 291-yard Par 4 Hole which doglegs right. This hole typically gives me problems as I always hit my second shot well right of the green, often out-of-bounds, and usually a triple-bogey or worse.. Yesterday I had no such problem as I wedged on for my third shot and two-putted for another bogey. A missed short putt at the Par 3 Twelfth led to my third straight bogey, but another 5-wood, wedge and two putts gave me a par at 292-yard Par 4 Thirteenth. A two-putt par at the 134-yard Par 3 Fourteenth was followed by a bogey when I missed the 113-yard Fifteenth Hole left off the tee. At teh Sixteenth, a 323-rad Par 4, I missed the fairway left, punched down the fairway, wedged on and two-putted from distance for another bogey. At the 374-yard Par 4 Seventeenth, I hit driver for the first time and crushed a nice draw that landed in the center of the fairway, 134 yards from the green. But with the fairway sloping from left-to-right, the ball was slightly below my feet and I skulled my approached over the green. I pulled my pitch left and again missed the green, which led to a double-bogey 6. The Eighteenth is a 334-yard Par 4 which doglegs right, which two bunkers on the right at the dogleg. I aimed my 3-wood at the bunkers and hit a nice draw which found the left side of the fairway, about 100 yards from the green. But my approach found the right greenside bunker and I made a bogey 5 after pitching out and two-putting. This left me with a respectable 41 for my first nine holes.

 The Fairways Scorecard - Back Nine

My playing partners decided to tackle the back nine again, so at the First Hole, I was paired with two young men, Chris and Adam. I hit driver off the tee and crushed another drive that ran through the end of the fairway. I hit a sand wedge to clear the pond fronting the green but went long and made a double bogey 6 after I failed to pitch back on the putting surface. At the 322 Second Hole, which plays slightly downhill, I hung a 3-wood out to the right, but had a good angle from the rough with a 9-iron. I cam up short of the two bunkers that guard the front of the green, chipped on and made another par. I made bogey at the short, 109-yard Par 3 Third Hole when I hit my tee shot fat and into the left bunker. I found the left bunker again at the 161-yard Par Fourth Hole when I three-putted after blasting out of the sand. The tee at the 372-yard Par Fifth Hole has been reopened, and I hit my 5-wood left into the treeline, then punched out into a creek on the right side of the fairway short of the green. Because of the dry conditions we have been having, the creek bed was only mud, so I blasted out--covering the front of me with mud--to the left side of the fairway, about 25 yards short of the green. My bump-and-run with a 9-iron just skirted the hole, but I missed the comeback putt for another double bogey. The Sixth Hole is a 284-yard Par 4 that plays downhill and has a creek running across about 85 yards from the green. My 5-iron off the tee ran through the fairway and my approach from the rough with a 53-degree wedge bounced over the back of the green. It took me three to chip on then I three-putted for a triple-bogey 7. At this point, despite constantly drinking water throughout the round, I was starting to run out of gas from the heat. My tee shot at the 168-yard Par 3 Seventh found the very back of the green, with the hole cut at the green's false front. My putt went long and rolled off the front of the green, but I nailed the second putt for my fourth par of the round. At the Par 4 Eighth Hole, I missed the green left on my approach, but missed an easy chip and had to putt from the fringe. I missed a short bogey putt for another 6, and with my legs feeling like rubber, I missed the green left at the Par 3 Ninth and made a poor triple bogey to close with a second nine 47 and a total of 88.

The Par 3 Seventh Hole

The Fairways was looking a bit brown due to the dry, hot weather and lack of rain we've experienced in the region. The fairways and areas around the putting surfaces were green, and the rough was playable. Overall, the course was in very good shape.  Overall, I hit the ball very well during my round. I only hit one or two shot that were not as crisp as I would liked. I got a bit careless with some of my chips on the second nine which led to higher scores that I should have posted, but I think some of that had to do with my legs starting to leave in te latter third of my round. My first experience with the prototype ball was very interesting. It seemed very hot coming off the club and my distances yesterday seemed longer than usual. I don't know if this was a result of the ball, the hot and humid conditions or combination of both. But I will say that my initial reaction to the first prototype was very favorable. I'll keep you posted as I play with it more.
Photo by The Muni Golfer

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Being Tested

I have recently been selected to test two new models of a prototype golf ball for a major golf equipment company. They have sent a 3-ball sleeve of each to test. As part of the testing, they ask that you hit drives, hybrid/long iron approach shots, mid-iron approach shots, short iron/full wedge shots and short game shots. Once we have tested each model, we are asked to complete an on-line survey of our on-course evaluations of each. I will playing with these new prototypes in my next few rounds to gather my on course data.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Recovery Round at Juniata

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2805/2185 - 4990
Par: 34/31 - 65
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 43/49 = 92
Date: July 10, 2011

After my poor play in the Poconos, I decided I would try to get my game back on track with a round on the familiar fairways of Juniata Golf Club. So Sunday afternoon I teed it up trying to find the consistent swing that had carried through the first half dozen rounds of this season. As I had posted earlier, I made some changes to my arsenal, replacing my 4-Wood, 3-hybrid,, 4-iron and putter. In their place were a 3- and 5-Wood, 4-hybrid and a more traditional blade putter. I also wanted to try out a move move that I have added to my pre-shot routine  in which after addressing the ball, I rehearse my club takeaway to get a feel for the club moving back away from the ball. I had noticed Kevin Streelman doing this on the practice and during his round at the recent AT&T National range at Aronimink Golf Club. I had worked on this move during my time at the practice range last week.

 Juniata Scorecard

 I met up with Tim and Darnell on the First Tee to form a threesome for the round. My round started outwell with a 7-iron onto the green, and although I three-putter, I felt very good about my stroke. Tim gave me a small putting tip on the first green and it seemed to help me throughout the round. I went back to a more normal stance and ball positioning for my putting, which also seemed to help. After my bogey at the First, I made pars at the Second and Third Holes, and just missed a third consecutive par at the Fourth Hole after I missed the green to the right with my approach shot from the left rough. An overhooked tee shot at the Fifth Hole led to a double bogey when I lipped out my bogey putt, and I bogeyed the Sixth Hole after finding the left rough with my tee shot. A good drive combined with a good up-and-down from the right fringe gave me another Par at the Seventh Hole, but I closed with back-to-back double bogeys for a 43 on the front nine.  I felt my swing was much better than it had been the two previous rounds and I was making my short putts for a change. With this confidence I headed to Juniata's second nine.

 The Fourth Hole's new fairway bunker

After missing the green right at the Par 3 Tenth Hole, I made a bogey, followed by two more at the Eleventh and Twelfth Holes. At the Par 3 Thirteenth, I again just missed the green to the right, but got up-and-down for my fourth par of the round. I followed that with a hybrid off the Fourteenth tee to just in front of the green, chipped on and two-putted for my fifth par of the day. Then the fun began. The Fifteenth Hole has become something of a mental block for me. Afraid of overcooking my draw out on to Wyoming Avenue, I instead push the ball way right, making it almost impossible to salvage bogey, let alone par. This round was no exception as I hit it into a sand pile and took a triple bogey. The Sixteenth Hole now features a new tee box, which sits back high and above the old one, stretching the hole to 400 yards. It has also eliminated the right side, and for someone like me who draws the ball, has left a tiny window through which to hit your tee shot. I pushed my first two shots off the tee into the woods on the right. I then took drops on the women's tee below and proceeded to dump three more balls into a natural area that has been grown in front of the tee. As I heard chants of "Tin Cup, Tin Cup, Tin Cup" in my head, I finally hit my eleventh shot--a 6-iron--to about 90 yards, wedged on and two-putted for a 14! Although disappointed that the score had ruined my round, I quickly regrouped and made bogeys at the final two holes, including a decent up-and-down from the left bunker at the Par 3 Eighteenth Hole. I back nine 49--which included 20 strokes on the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Holes alone--left me with a 92 for the round.

 The new tee at the Sixteenth Hole

Overall, I played 16 holes really well and two holes really bad. My swing was as close to the best as it has been all season. I got off the tee well, hit my irons crisply, made mist of my chips and pitches, and putted about as well as I have so far this year. I now believe that the two poor rounds I played in the Poconos were just a hiccup as opposed to a decline in my game. The new tee at the Sixteenth Hole will require me to adopt a new strategy of hitting a mid-iron off the tee, with a longer approach shot to the green.  I think a visit to the practice green this week will be beneficial in helping me build on the improved putting from this latest round.
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Saturday, July 9, 2011

For Practice, Just Watch the Pros

Last Saturday I attended the 3rd Round of the AT&T National, the PGA Tour stop that was making the last of its two-year visit to the Philadelphia area. My ticket was a birthday present from Mrs Muni Golfer. I had also attended last year's event. Like last year, I spent a bit of my time at the Practice Range watching the pros prepare for their round or work on some aspect of their game post-round. Here are a few observations of one player who finished T15:

One of the players I had targeted to follow this season was Kevin Streelman, a member of the Wilson Staff tour contingent. He was playing in the AT&T National and was scheduled to tee off at 11:11 a.m. in the 3rd Round. I had arrived at Aronimink Golf Club around 9:30 and went straight to the range. Streelman's wife Courtney, who would caddy for him that day, was already on the range with Kevin's bag, going over the yardage book.
Streelman arrived on the range at 10:17, almost an hour before his scheduled tee time. He went into his bag and pulled out a tube of lip balm, which he applied, then grabbed a handful of tees from the bag and put them in his pocket. He then pulled a wedge from his Wilson Staff bag and began to hit soft pitch shots. After a dozen or so, during which he worked up to a full swing, Streelman then switched to a short iron and began hitting balls at a target green on the right side of the range. After about a dozen balls he switched to a mid-iron and repated the same process before moving to a long iron. After his irons, Streelman took out his hybrid and proceeded to hit about a half dozen balls off the turf, before changing to his 3-Wood and hitting about 4-5 shots off a tee. He then switched to hit driver, which looked like an old Cleveland XLS and hit 4-5 tee shots. He finished off with six more pitch shots with a wedge, before leaving the range.
After the range, Streelman stopped at the short game practice area. He hit about 15 chips and pitches from different locations to the near and far pins positioned on the practice green. He hit them all with the same wedge. He then went into the practice bunker and hit about 8 shots out of the sand to the two pin locations. He finished off with 3-4 more chips before moving to the first putting green just outside the entrance to the Aronimink Clubhouse.
On the putting green, Streelman marked two sleeves of brand new Titleist golf balls, then pulled our a small accessory bag, from which he retrieved a putting clip, which he placed on the face of his Odyssey Dart Putter. He proceeded to hit some long and short putts using two of the balls. After about five minutes, he removed the putting clip and continued to practice his putts. After putting, he pulled a wedge and dropped a few balls into some gnarly rough around the putting green and hit about four chips aiming at a hole. Streelman then moved to a second putting green just across from the First Tee. At this second putting green, Streelman stopped and again pulled a wedge to hit several chips at various holes around the green.
 At 11:05, Streelman and his caddy/wife walked to the First Tee, where he received his scorecard and a sheet indicating the location of that day's hole locations. He also took the time to spray himself with bug repellent, greet his playing partner, Hunter Haas and his caddy, before being introduced and officially teeing off at 11:11 a.m.  I didn't follow Streelman after he teed off, but picked him up again at the Eighth Hole. Despite being one-over on the front nine, he carded three birdies on the back nine and shot a two-under 68 for the round.
While on TV you usually only get to see the players hitting shots on the course, it was fun, and very instructive, to watch how they go about preparing for a competitive round and then actually see then put that preparation to use on the course

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back to the Range

Driving Range
Bensalem Township Country Club
200 Brown Ave.
Bensalem, Pa

After my awful play in the Poconos, I decided I needed to hit the driving range and see if I couldn't find what was wrong with my swing. So last evening, despite overcast skies and some earlier rain, I hit the range at Bensalem Township Country Club. I only hit a small bucket of balls, which equates to about 40. I warmed up with 10 sand wedges, followed by 10 7-irons. I felt pretty good so I hit my last 20 balls with the driver. I had brought two drivers to the range--a TaylorMade R9 and a TaylorMade Tour Burner--and 10 balls with each. I didn't hit either one that consistently, so I think the Wilson Staff Smooth Driver will stay in the bag for now.
Looking to shake things up a bit, I have also made some other changes to my club set. I have replaced the 4-wood and 3-hybrid with a TaylorMade 3- and 5-wood, my Wilson Staff Ci7 4-iron has been swapped with a TaylorMade r7 CGB 4-iron and my putter is now a Snake Eyes MCS2. Hopefully, these changes will get my game back on track.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Muni Golfer Wins the FedEx Cup!

What an incredible Cinderella story, this Muni Golfer comes outta no where to lead the pack, at the FedEx Cup. He's on his final hole, he's about 455 yards away - he's gonna hit about a two-iron I think. Oh he got all of that one! The crowd is standing on its feet here, the normally reserved crowd - going wild - for this Cinderella, this Muni Golfer, he's come outta no where, he's got about 350 yards left, he's gonna hit about a five-iron, don't you think? He's got a beautiful backswing - that's - Oh he got all of that one! He's gotta be pleased with that, the crowd is just on its feet here, uh - He's the Cinderella boy, uh - tears in his eyes I guess as he lines up this last shot, he's got about 195 yards left, he's got about a - its looks like he's got about an eight-iron. This crowd has gone deathly silent, the Cinderella story, outta no where, a Muni Golfer - now about to become the FedEx Cup champion. It looks like a mirac - It's in the Hole! It's in the Hole....


Huh? Wha...what was I...was I dreaming? Oh well, one can always dream....

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Pocono Mountain High

Earlier this year, Mrs Muni Golfer won the use of a Pocono Mountain vacation home during an auction at a charity fundraiser. So last week, we traveled up to Hawley, Pa., at the northern tip of Lake Wallenpaupack, for a five-day getaway. This provided me with the opportunity to play a couple of courses in the Poconos and to test my game amongst the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Cricket Hill Golf Club
Hawley, Pa
Yards: 2819/2451 - 5270
Par: 36/35 - 71
Rating: 66.1, Slope: 111
Score: 51/55 = 106
Date: June 28, 2011

For my first round, I played at Cricket Hill Golf Club, a public course located between Hawley and Honesdale, Pa. It was a real bargain, as green fees were only $18 to walk. Check out the Cricket Hill scorecard here. It was overcast and humid when I teed off at teh short, 305-yard First Hole and I promptly hit my tee shot dead right and out-of-bounds. It was an omen of things to come for the next 17 holes. The first four holes at Cricket Hill run parallel up and back, with three short Par 4s and a Par 5. A light rain began to fall as I holed out for an 8 at the First, but I settled down to play bogey over the next five holes. I seemed to have a problem with club selection at the higher altitudes and I was under-clubbing, leaving many of my approach shots short of the green. The rain had stopped by the time I played the Fifth Hole, but the humidity hung on as the sun finally appeared.

The Par 5 Fourth Hole

The signature hole at Cricket Hill is the Sixth, a 150-yard, Par 3 that plays downhill and offers a beautiful vista of the mountains from the tee box. After missing the green right, I chipped on and two-putted for another bogey, before moving to the 325-yard, Par 4 Seventh Hole, which plays back up the hill and doglegs right. I pulled my tee shot well right and had an awkward stance with the ball well below my feet. I managed to knock it back to the fairway, but with the ball again below my feet, I overcompensated and hit my next shot into the woods. I took a drop, hit my fifth shot to the fringe, then two-putted for a 7. That was the second of eight golf balls I would lose during my round. I made bogey at the Par 3 Eighth Hole, before hitting my tee shot way right into a pond at the Ninth, which led to another 7 and a 51 on the front nine.

 The Sixth Hole

At this point, standing on the Tenth tee after a quick stop at the clubhouse, I found myself behind two foursomes of women, neither of which would allow me to play through. The glaciers that moved these mountains thousands of years ago probably moved faster than my round on the back nine. And the second nine at Cricket Hill is completely different than the first. Where the front is fairly open and the holes play straight (except for the dogleg Seventh Hole), the back is shorter, tighter and features six doglegs. Many of these doglegs you can go over with no more than a middle iron, but you then run the risk of leaving yourself with a short pitch from a very awkward distance to a very small, sloping green.

 The Twelfth Hole, dogleg Par 5

My back nine crashed at the Tenth Hole, a 477-yard Par 5 that doglegs left. I hit one ball out of bounds and another was lost when it hit a tree. When I finally tapped in, I had an 11. I managed to hit good tee shots through most of the holes on the back nine, but I could never take advantage, and after a string of 4s and 5s on my card, I came to the very short, 243-yard Par 4 Eighteenth Hole, which doglegs right and has a pond in the middle of the fairway just around the dogleg. I hit three balls into the woods and bookended my back nine with another 11 for a 55 and total of 106. This was the first round this season that I had failed to break 100. I started the round with 12 balls in bag and ended with 4.

 The tight tee shot at the Par 3 Fourteenth

Cricket Hill can be a fun course to play, but you really need to be familiar with the layout. For instance, on the back nine, I would not cut the dogleg on several holes, leaving me with a full short iron shot to the green. I chalked up my bad round to poor course management.  If you ever get up to Wayne County, I definitely recommend you try a round at Cricket Hill. It will be one of the best bargains during your trip.

 The short Eighteenth Hole

Buck Hill Falls Golf Club
Buck Hill Falls, Pa
Yards: (Blue/White Course) 3029/3239 - 6268
Par: 36/36 - 72
Rating: 70.3, Slope: 127
Score: 57/53 = 110
Date: June 30, 2011

My second round in the Poconos was played at Buck Hill Falls Golf Club, which opened in 1901. I have long wanted to play at this historic 27-hole course which was designed by the legendary Donald Ross. Even though it was a 45-minute drive from where we were staying, I didn't to pass up this opportunity. I was especially ready to shake off my bad round at Cricket Hill and get my game back in the groove. My round started off on the Blue Nine, where I teamed up on the First tee with a young woman named Laura. The first two holes of the Blue play straight uphill, then the course winds its way around for the next five holes, before playing back down the mountain towards the clubhouse. Check out the Buck Hill Falls Scorecard here.

 Approach to the Fourth Green--Blue

My round started out OK, with a bogey and double bogey at the first two holes, when again, my poor putting reared its ugly head. The Third and Fourth Holes on the Blue are back-to-back Par 5s, and I played them with a double bogey and bogey. I was not hitting it that well off the tee, my ball striking was not that good, and I was again missing easy putts. At the 143-yard Par 3 Fifth Hole, my Pocono experience was summed up: I missed the green short right, chipped about 10 feet past the hole, then three-putted for a 5. Things only got worse from there as I made 8s on three of the next four holes.

 The Sixth Hole--Blue

Laura only played nine holes, so I was playing solo on my second nine, this time on the White Nine. The White starts out like the Blue, with an uphill Par 4, but is followed by a 523-yard Par 5, with a stream running down the right side and crossing the fairway. I lost two more golf balls on this hole--bringing my total up to four on the round and 12 in 29 holes--for a 10 on the hole. After a double bogey at the Third Hole on the White, I decided to try to forget about everything else and try to concentrate on course management and just getting back to the basics with my swing. I then made a nice bogey at the 554-yard Par 5 Fourth Hole--my twelfth hole of the round. From the Third through Eighth Hole on the White, the course winds through vacation homes set along the fairways. I played a little better the rest of the way in, finishing my round with my only par at the Par 3 Ninth on the White. This 199-yard hole features an elevated tee and plays straight downhill.

 The Eighth Hole--Blue

Even though I shot a 110, Buck Hill Falls is a beautiful, well-maintained course with scenic vistas. In the Donald Ross tradition, it features sloping fairways and devilish greens with many falloffs. I can see why Golf Digest calls it the "best course in the Poconos." It is a course I definitely have on my "must play again" list.

The Par 5 Second Hole--White

In returning from the Poconos, with scores as high as some of the mountain tops, I realize that my game needs some work. My swing is a mess right now, and only some time at the practice range is going to fix it. I also need to work on my putting, which has been brutal all year, as well as my course management. Until I get my game headed in the right direction, I need to take a more conservative approach on the course. Hopefully, some time at the practice range this week will get me headed on the right track.

Houses on the White Nine

The Par 3 Ninth--White

Photos by The Muni Golfer

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Byrned on the Back 9

John F. Byrne Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2273/2610 - 4883
Par: 33/34 - 67
Rating: 63.9, Slope: 116
Score: 44/49 = 93
Date: June 20, 2011

Coming off the good round I played last Friday at Neshaminy Valley, I went to John F. Byrne Golf Club in Northeast Philadelphia yesterday for another early test of just where my game is at right now. This would be my sixth round of the season, so I should have a good indication of what is and is not working in my game. Byrne is one Philadelphia's five municipal courses, and one of three under the management of Billy Casper Golf. Formerly Holmesburg Country Club and designed by Alex Findlay, Byrne sits in a valley formed by the Torresdale Creek. The creek comes into play on no less than eight holes as it meanders through the course. Byrne also sits across Grant Avenue from its more famous neighbor, Torresdale-Frankford Country Club, which was designed by the legendary Donald Ross.

 John F. Byrne Scorecard

My round got off to a horrible start, as a topped opening shot traveled no more than 10 yards off the the first tee. I hacked it down towards the creek, then up the other side and when my ball finally found the bottom of the cup on the first green, I had an opening 7. I followed that up with a double bogey at the 193-yard Second Hole, which plays downhill. After hooking my tee shot at the Third Hole, I was able to wedge on, but three-putted for a bogey 5. The fourth Hole is on my dreaded "Nightmare Nine." Off an elevated tee, the 293-yard Par 4 plays down and over the creek through a narrow opening in the tree line, then uphill from a fairway that slopes left-to-right. The green juts out of the side of the hill and missing right can leave a difficult chip or pitch. My tee shot caught a tree of the left, but made it over the creek. From there I hit an 8-iron short that bounded right below the green. I played it like a bunker shot and blasted on then made my putt for a par. A long three-putt bogey at the equally short Fifth Hole brought me to the Sixth, a 142-yard downhill Par 3, with the green just beyond the creek that crosses in front. After missing to the right, I chipped on and two-putted for a 4. My tee shot at the 240-yard Par 4 Seventh Hole, which doglegs slightly to the right found the trees as I tried to cut the dogleg. This led to another bogey 5. At the 168-yard Par 3 Eighth Hole, which plays longer because its slightly uphill, I hit a 4-iron short left, pitched on, then made a 20-foot putt for my second par of the round. The 376-yard Par 4 Ninth Hole plays over the creek and then straight uphill to a well protected green. After just making it over the creek with my tee shot, I made a sloppy double bogey 6 to finish off a front nine 44. Although I wasn't hitting the ball all that well, especially off the tee, I was still pleased with my score as I walked to the Tenth tee.

 The Par 4 Fourth Hole

The back nine at Byrne starts with a tee shot across the valley and over the creek. My tee shot found the creek and my third shot out of the rough scooted up the right tree line. I then hit a wedge well left of the green, pitched on, but left myself well above the hole and my first putt ran a good 15 feet past the cup. I missed the comebacker to start with an. There have been a few course changes on the back nine, beginning with the Par Eleventh Hole, in which the tee box has been moved further to the right and back a bit. As someone who hits a draw, this has created a more difficult angle to the pin and I missed badly to the left of the green and wound up with a double bogey 5. Things didn't get any better at the 516-yard Par 5 Twelfth Hole, where I hooked my drive into the trees on the left, pitched out, then hit my 4-wood left. This led to another 8. I rebounded just a bit with bogeys at the next two holes--Par 3s of 89 yards and 219 yards respectively. At the 156-yard Par 3 Fifteenth Hole, I hit a 6-iron which drew nicely into the middle of the green and two-putted for my third par of the day. The Sixteenth Hole, a 465-yard Par 5, features another change, with the tee box being moved to the right, closed to the Twelfth tee. This has taken the slight dogleg left out of the hole and made it play much straighter. Here I hit my best drive of the day, just finding the left rough. I then hit my 3-hybrid to lay up about 30 yards short of the green, pitched on and made a 15-foot putt for birdie, my third of the season. The tee box at the Seventeenth Hole--a hole that has caused me a great deal of problems the last couple of years--has been moved up about 25 yards. This round would be no different. I hit my hybrid off the tee and hooked it into the old part of the Sixteenth fairway, up against some fescue-type grasses. Although I had a clear look at the green from about 50 yards, I had a bad lie and completely missed the ball on my swing. I then punched forward, chipped on above the hole and three-putted for a 7. The Eighteenth again plays across the valley, over the creek and up the hill. I hit the middle of the fairway, left my approach shot short, chipped short, chipped on and two-putted for a disappointing double bogey 6 and an equally disappointing 49.

 The new tee box at the Eleventh Hole

Two 8s, a 7 and a 6 on the back nine was not what I was expecting after my front nine. I need to get a bit more consistent off the tee, especially with my 4-wood and hybrid. I seemed to be playing my second shots out of the rough too often. And my putting needs to get better. I am still missing too many short putts. I switched to an Odyssey White Hot Rossie for this round and felt a bit better with my putting, so I think I'll keep it in the back for at least another round or two. My irons, chipping and pitching have been the one constant in my game so far this season. A few more rounds and sessions at the practice range, as well as the practice green, should help me work out those problems.

 The Eighteenth Green

Overall, I can't be too unhappy with my score. It was my sixth consecutive round in the 90s or better this season after getting off to a very late start. I feel my scores can only get better from here with a little more practice and playing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Golfing Gem in the Valley

Neshaminy Valley Golf Club
Jamison, Pa.
Yards: 3338/2676 - 6014
Par: 36/34 - 70
Rating: 68.7, Slope: 118
Score: 47/47 = 94
Date: June 17, 2011

Yesterday I played Neshaminy Valley Golf Club, a nice family-owned public golf course on Almshouse Road in Bucks County. The course is built along the Neshaminy Creek, which runs along the Fourteenth Hole, a 473-yard Par 5. I had previously played at Neshaminy Valley about 15 years ago, but the course has undergone a complete renovation since. While the course is fairly open, its has some decent length from the white tees, playing just over 6,000 yards. Sloping fairways, doglegs and well-placed bunkers can make for a challenging round. The course is also well marked for distance, with blue, white and red poles signifying 200/150/100 yards respectively. And at only $26 to walk, Neshaminy Valley is a good value for your golfing dollar. I played this round with my cousin, and we were teamed up on the First Hole with a future father-in-law/son-in-law who were practicing for a family golf trip this weekend.

 Neshaminy Valley Scorecard

I came to the first tee on Friday still brimming with confidence over my play thus far this season. Despite a late start, I have been hitting the ball pretty well and my scoring has been better than I could have possibly hoped with so little rounds played. I started off with double bogey at the First and Seconds Holes--the Second being a 529-yard Par 5 in which a I hooked my tee shot under some hanging branches and it was all I could do to punch out. I regrouped with bogeys at the Third and Fourth Holes, then made my first par of the day at the 390-yard Fifth Hole. Another bogey at the long, 219-yard Par 3 Sixth Hole was followed by a very bad double bogey at the 398-yard Par Seventh Hole after my tee shot found the left rough and all I could was hit a poor punch shot about 15 yards. a bogey at the short 317-yard Par 4 Eighth Hole, where I found the right bunker with my approach shot, was followed by a par at the 537-yard Par 5 Ninth Hole. This sent me out in 47.

 The Par 5 Third Hole

The back nine at Neshaminy Valley starts with two Par 4s in which the fairways severely slope left-to-right (Tenth) and right-to-left (Eleventh). I made double bogey at each, then followed that with another double at the Twelfth, a 304-yard Par that doglegs right, in which you hit downhill to a fairway that has a creek crossing it at about 260 yards. Your second shot is slightly uphill to a two-tiered green that slopes back to front. The Thirteenth is a very short, 128-yard downhill Par 3 that I played with a 53-degree wedge off the tee. My birdie putt hit the cup too hard and bounced about four feet past. I missed the par putt for a bogey 4. I then parred the 473-yard Par 5 Fourteenth after my chip from the left of the green stopped about a foot from the hole. The fifteenth is another short Par 3 (149 yards), but with the tees up, I hit a 9-iron over the green, then failed to chip on. After chipping on, I three-putted for a triple bogey 6. I redeemed my self with a par 4 at the 344-yard Sixteenth Hole, but a fat tee shot at the 173-yard Par 3 Seventeenth led to another double bogey. The closing hole is a 367-yard Par 4 that plays slightly uphill and doglegs left. My tee shot left me on teh left side of the fairway, 152 yards to the hole, but I nuked a 7-iron over the green and closed out my round with a bogey and another 47 for a total of 94 on my round.

 The Twelfth Hole

Overall, I continue to be happy with my play. I hit it well off the tee, especially with my Wilson Staff Smooth Driver and my iron play continues to be pretty good. I also hit some really good chips and pitches to help my score. My putting, however, has not been that good over the past three rounds. I have left way too many putts woefully short and I missed the second putts. This has led to an acceptable number of three-putts the past three rounds. I am thinking that maybe I need to change putters to try and get my stroke back to where it needs to be.

 The tee shot at the Eighteenth Hole

As for Neshaminy Valley, it is a course I will definitely look forward to returning to play in the future. If you get the opportunity, try a round at this hidden little gem. I didn't think you will be disappointed. On a quick side note, my camera gave me some problems early in the round, so the pictures here are taken from Neshaminy Valley's Web-site.