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.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Putt Putt at Paxon Hollow

Paxon Hollow Country Club
Marple Township, Pa.
Yards: 2593/2824 - 5417
Par: 35/36 - 71
Rating: 66.2, Slope: 121
Score: 49/46 = 95
Date: June 6, 2011

On the 67th Anniversary of D-Day, I stormed the fairways and greens of Paxon Hollow Country Club, a wonderful municipal golf course in Delaware County. This hilly, 5400-yard, Par 71 track has gotten the best of me the previous two times I've played it; particularly the 519-yard Par 5 Eighteenth Hole, which is one of my "Nightmare Nine" holes. I've failed to break 100 in those previous attempts. But my game is brimming with confidence after my first three rounds of the season, so I looked forward to this challenge.

 Paxon Hollow Scorecard

My round started off with a topped drive, but I recovered for a bogey 5 at the opening hole, followed by a par at the short Par 3 Second Hole. The Third Hole is a Par 5 that doglegs right around a hill and plays uphill to the green. A bad drive and an overcooked layup with my hybrid put me in early trouble, But I manged to get on the green in five, however a four-putt left me with a quadruple-bogey 9. That normally would have been the beginning of the end for me at Paxon Hollow in the past, but I shook it off a made a bogey at the Par 3 Fourth Hole. Another bogey followed at the the Fifth Hole, then at the short 261-yard Par 4 Sixth Hole--after a beautiful tee shot left me no more than 60 yards to the green--I thinned a lob wedge well over the green for a triple bogey 7. I followed that with a double bogey 7 at the Par 5 Seventh Hole, a 441-yard dogleg left. But bogeys at the Par 3 Eighth and Par 4 Ninth Holes left me with a 49 for the Front Nine. Not bad considering that I left many putts well short and couldn't lag it close if I tried. This led to numerous three-putts on the day.

The Par 5 Third Hole

The Back Nine started off with a nice par at the short, 250-yard Tenth Hole, but again, a Par 5 caused me trouble as I double-bogeyed the Eleventh, which plays uphill. The Twelfth was a problem from the tee shot which hit a tree about 75 yards off the green and landed in the rough. I hacked it up the fairway and two-putted for a triple-bogey 8. It looked at that point like my round was about to spin out-of-control and triple digits loomed on the scorecard. But from there on in, I managed my game nicely. I bogeyed the Thirteenth and Fourteenth, escaping a deep bunker on the left of the Fourteenth Green that I found with my approach shot. Another par at the 150-yard Fifteenth was followed by a 6 at the Sixteenth after I miss-read the slope of my first putt and three-putted the green. Another par at the downhill, 115-yard Seventeenth Hole came when I was short of the green, chipped on, then made my par putt. This brought me to my nemesis, the closing Par 5 Eighteenth.

 158-yard Eighth Hole

The Eighteenth tee shot at Paxon Hollow 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 severely 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. Yesterday,  my tee shot found the light rough just to the left of the fairway, where I was able to hit my hybrid up the hill. It rolled just into the right round about 120 yards from the green. I hit an 8-iron approach that two-hopped onto the green about 20 feet below the hole. I then two-putted for a par! This gave me a 46 on the Back Nine and a 95 for my round. I had finally broken 100 at Paxon Hollow!

 Seventeenth Hole--A downhill Par 3

I was truly pleased with the way I played my round round at Paxon Hollow. I stayed mentally tough and didn't let a few big holes snowball into a very bad nine holes. Although I didn't play the three Par 5s very well--except for the Par at the Eighteenth--I balanced that out by taking advantage of the five Par 3s--three pars and two bogeys. My two main problems during the round was hitting my driver and 4-Wood off the tee and my putting. I couldn't seem to hit the ball anywhere near the hole on long putts, which led to numerous three-putts during the round. I did, however, continue to hit my new Wilson Staff Ci7s very well. I feel a great deal of confidence standing over the ball, whether on the tee, in the fairway or in the rough.

The Par 5 Eighteenth from the fairway

As for the course itself, except for gnats which seemed to be everywhere on the course, Paxon Hollow is in tremendous condition despite the very wet spring. The tee boxes, fairways, greens and bunkers were all in very good shape. If you have yet to play Paxon Hollow, I highly recommend you schedule a tee time in the very near future.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Back Where I Belong

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2805/2185 - 4990
Par: 34/31 - 65
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 41/45 = 86
Date: June 4, 2011

I returned to Juniata Golf Club, my home course, on Saturday for the  first round there since last October. I thought the familiar surroundings would give my game a good vibe as I look to get my game in shape after a late start to the season. Juniata, despite its location and reputation as being a "city course," continues to improve into a true hidden gem. The work of the Juniata Golf Foundation and the Juniata staff is to be commended. The playing conditions just keep getting better and better. If you haven't played this course in a while, or your reluctant to play there because of its location, you are missing out on a good golfing experience.

Juniata Golf Club Scorecard 

I met Tim, a fellow solo golfer on the First tee and we teamed to play a round as a twosome. My round got off to a terrific start as I parred three of the first four holes. The only hiccup was a poor drive and missed short putt that led to a double bogey at the Third Hole. One new course this year is a fairway bunker on the Fourth Hole, about 100 yards from the green. This means a either laying up short or playing down the left side of the fairway, which I did. Starting at the Sixth Hole, Tim and I had to begin dodging sprinklers on the tee, fairway or green--sometimes a combination--on at least half of the holes we played. I made two more pars on the front nine--the Seventh and Ninth Holes--for a 41.

New fairway bunker at the Third Hole 

The back nine started out with a bogey, then a double bogey at the Eleventh when I flubbed a chip after flying the green on my third shot. After two more bogeys, I had a momentary lapse of concentration that resulted in back-to-back double bogeys. At the Fourteenth Hole, a topped tee shot left me a blind shot to the green. Instead of punching out in front of the green, I tried to go over the trees with a 9-iron, but hit it into the wood on the left. I punched my fourth shot out, chipped on then two-putted for a 7. At the Fifteenth Hole, I rushed my tee shot to avoid the sprinklers and shanked the ball right. Because I was on the cartpath, I took a drop and hit another shank as I tried to punch low under the trees. A lob wedge short, chip on and two putts left me with a 6. I regrouped at the Sixteenth--where a new elevated tee box has been installed, stretching the hole to 400 yards--with another par after lipping out my 20-foot, downhill birdie putt. A bogey and double-bogey finished a 45 on the back nine and round of 86.

The Sixteenth Hole's new tee box

Overall, I was pretty happy with the way I played. I think my back nine woes could be attributed to the disruption caused by the sprinklers. I made one equipment change for this round, replacing my 17-degree Adams Redline RPM 4-Wood with a 16-degree Sonartec SS-07 4-Wood. I will keep it in the bag for my next round, which will played on Monday at Paxon Hollow Country Club in Broomall, Pa. While I have played a few rounds at Paxon, I have never scored well there, so I am hoping to carry the good play I've experienced so far this season into tomorrow's round.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Green is Gone

As you may know by now, Island Green Country Club in Northeast Philadelphia is no more. The 10-year-old course closed its doors on Feb. 15 of this year. The course opened in 2001 on the site of the old Budd Plant on Red Lion Road. It will now become a warehouse and distribution center for Teva Pharmaceuticals.

The course derived its name from its signature hole, the 300-yard Par 4 Eleventh Hole, which naturally, featured an island green. Although this hole was included in my "Nightmare Nine," which I wrote about last year, I did birdie that hole during a round there on Aug. 16, 2003. In total, I probably played Island Green about a half dozen times, with last being on Oct. 11, 2009.

Below are some pictures of Island Green then:

And Island Green as it is now: