Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rain on My Redemption

The Fairways Golf & Country Club
Warrington, Pa
Yards: 2255/2248 - 4503
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 46/44 = 90
Date: September 30, 2012

After shooting a back nine 55 the previous Sunday at The Fairway Golf and Country Club, I was last Sunday looking for a little redemption. I had opened with a front nine 38, but watched as my game abandoned me completely over the second nine. It was a meltdown of epic proportions and I was determined to redeem myself.

 Front Nine Scorecard at The Fairways

I was a bit surprised that the started allowed me to go off as a single with two people waiting on the first tee. Rounds can sometimes be slow on weekend afternoons at The Fairways and this round was no exception. Even through the threesome in front of me was on the first green when I teed off, I had to wait on the green and in the fairway through the first eleven holes. That made it hard to get into any kind of rhythm with my game. I wasn't hitting the ball badly, I was just having a hard time establishing a good pace of play, which it difficult to focus, which made it difficult to score. Still, after an opening double bogey when I hit my approach into the bunker to the right of the green, I was happy with the way I was hitting the ball. But then, while walking off the fourth green, it began to rain. Since the sun had been shining when I teed off, I didn't have an umbrella or a pullover with me. The rain intensified as I waited under a small tree to tee off at the Fifth Hole and remained steady through the next three holes, which took about 45 minutes to play between the weather and the already slow pace of play. Amazingly, I made my only par during the stretch at the 284-yard Par 4 Sixth Hole. I finished the front nine with a 46, but wasn't too unhappy considering the conditions.

 Back Nine Scorecard at The Fairways

The back nine started off with a wild hook and a triple bogey 7, followed by a double bogey at the Eleventh. For some reason, it seemed like the greens got faster from the rain instead slower as one would expect. I was running putts 7-8 feet past the hole, then missing the comeback. But I managed to play bogey golf through the last six holes and shot a back nine 44. Finally, a back nine lower than the front. It left me with a 90 for the round. Not much redemption over my previous 93, but considering the elements and how unprepared I was for them, I was not too disappointed.

 Despite the rain, I parred the Sixth Hole

Having played the past three weeks, I will probably take this weekend off to give my body, and my elbow specifically, a chance to rest and recooperate. The 18 rounds I've played so far this season is the most I've played in a year since 2009. There is still about a month-and-a-half of good golfing weather left minimum, so I should be able to reach my goal of 20 rounds for the year.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Divine Nine/Nightmare Nine

The Fairways Golf & Country Club
Warrington, Pa
Yards: 2255/2248 - 4503
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 38/55 = 93
Date: September 23, 2012

Stop me if you've heard this one before. During my latest round at The Fairways Golf and Country Club, I shot a really, really good front nine and a really, really bad back nine. It has been the common thread throughout my golf season in 2012. I will shoot a very good or respectable score on the front nine, only to struggle and shoot a higher score--sometimes much higher--score on the back nine. Traditionally, in past seasons, when I have managed to shoot a decent front nine--somewhere in the mid-40s--or even not so good front nine, I have more often than not found a way to turn it into a good or at least decent round on the back nine. Now is it almost the opposite; more often than not, I am finding ways to turn what has the potential to be really great round into a good or fair round. Sometimes I even manage to make it into an unacceptable round.

Sunday's round at The Fairways fall in to the latter category. I opened with my best drive of the year and had a mere pitching wedge for my approach, but I hit it thin and into the water that front the green. A drop, a wedge into the right hand bunker and two putts meant and opening triple bogey. But oh how that changed. I parred the next three holes. Then I made a double bogey at the Fifth Hole, followed by a bogey at the Sixth. Then another par. At the Eight, the number one ranked hole on the course, I again split the fairway. From about 150 yards, I hit a 7-iron to three feet and made birdie. A three-putt and the Ninth left me with an opening 38. Despite two bogeys, a double bogey and a triple bogey, I had set myself up to potentially shoot a round in the 70s or the low 80s at worst.

The back nine started out on the right track, despite a tee shot pushed to the right. I chipped out of trouble, hit a wedge onto the green and lipped a putt for a bogey. Then the Eleventh Hole got me again. I tee shot pulled left behind a tree. I punched a hybrid down the fairway and was in great shape until a poor pitch left me short of the green, followed by a poor chip, followed by a three-putt and a triple bogey. OK, I made triple at the First and still shot 38, no problem. Moving to the Twelfth, a short par 3, I'll get it back. A hooked 8-iron short left, a skulled pitch over the green, a short chip on, a very miss-read put followed by three more putts--another 7. What am I doing? A topped drive at the Thirteenth lead to a double bogey. OK, two short par 3s coming up, I can get this back. No I can't; bogey's at each. Now, swing thoughts--the kiss of death. Eight, seven, seven finished off a back nine 55. Another potentially great round thrown away over the final nine holes. Usually, it is just a hole or two on the back nine that torpedoes me...Sunday it was six.

My next round will again be at The Fairways on Ryder Cup Sunday. Like the USA team, I will be looking for redemption.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fall Golf in the Valley

Neshaminy Valley Golf Club
Jamison, Pa.
Yards: 3338/2676 - 6014
Par: 36/34 - 70
Rating: 68.7, Slope: 118
Score: 45/48 = 93
Date: September 15, 2012

The calendar has passed Labor Day and there's no better time to play golf than in the fall. Granted, the leaves can be a pain, hindering searches for golf balls that land off the fairway  and creating obstacles on the putting surface. And there are the putting surfaces themselves, which are generally recovering from being aerated. But cool weather makes for ideal conditions and the courses tend to be less crowded on the weekends, meaning faster rounds, as the casual golfer turns his attention to football. Saturday I teed it up at Neshaminy Valley Golf Club in Buck County. It was a gorgeous day and stiff breeze blew through the course under blue skies. I haven't played Neshaminy Valley in over year, since posting an 87 last August.

 Neshaminy Valley Front Nine

My round was pretty unusual. I drove the ball on the Par 4s and 5s, but was awful off the tee on the Par 3s. I played the three Par 5s in one-under, making a par at the Second and Ninth Holes, and a birdie at the Fourteenth. I parred two of the Par 4s. But on the Par 3s, the best I could do was a bogey at the long, 219-yard Sixth Hole. The rest of the Par 3s were either double or triple-bogeys. Again, my short game was the main culprit and is definitely an area I need to work on to improve my game. But despite my troubles with the Par 3s, I was only 6 shorts higher than my 87 last year.

Neshaminy Valley Back Nine

This round also continued my year-long trend of shooting higher on the back nine than the front nine. This the 11th time it has happened in 16 rounds this year. At the end of the season, I need to sit down and evaluate the reasons. In past years, I have usually scored better on the back nine than the front. It is either mental, where I begin to think about my final score, or physical where I am tiring over the second nine holes. I am leaning more towards the former than the latter.

 Par 5 Second Hole

On an equipment note, I had a new Cleveland Launcher 17-degree fairway wood in my bag. It replaced the 17-degree Adams 4-wood that had been in my bag. I had received a $20 gift certificate from Dicks Sporting Goods, and the club was already on sale, so it was a deal I couldn't pass up. Although I only used it a few times off the tee at Neshaminy Valley, I hit it pretty well with really good distance. The real test will be hitting it off the fairway.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's Better at Bensalem

Bensalem Township Country Club
Bensalem, Pa
Yards: 2759/3049 - 5808
Par: 35/35 - 70
Rating: 68.1, Slope: 121
Score: 46/49 = 95
Date: September 2, 2012

On the final "official" weekend of summer, I teed it up with a co-worker at Bensalem Township Country Club, located just across the city line. Labor Day weekend is a time I normally playing a round at the Delaware Shore with my cousins, but that outing came back in July this year. I haven't played Bensalem in three years, and coming off my 82 at The Fairways the previous week, I felt pretty good about my game.
 As we waited on the First tee, the starter, Gene, told me Bensalem was in very good shape and that he would put it up against any course in the area. I usually take the starter's course critique with a grain of salt; what do you expect them to tell you, the course is lousy? But in this instance, Gene was pretty accurate in his assessment. Except for a few bumps were the greens are still recovering from aeration, Bensalem was in as good a condition the best courses I've played this season.

 Front 9 at Bensalem

I played well on the front nine, opening with a bogey on the short Par 4 First Hole when my approach with a gap wedge came up a bit short, but I rebounded to par the Second Hole. I made another bogey at the Par 5 Third Hole when I again came up short with a wedge on my third shot. Another par at the Par 3 Fourth Hole had me feeling good, but I ran into some trouble at the Fifth. I hung my tee shot out to the right and under a tree, but then punched an 8-iron left of the green and pitched over. This led to a triple bogey 7. I hung my tee shot out to the right on the next two holes also and made double bogey at each. I hit 4-wood off the tee at the 316-yard Par 4 Eighth Hole and found the fairway, then hit the green with my approach and two-putted for par. But I tried to baby a driver at Ninth, hitting it off the heel and short left, which led to another double bogey and a 46 on the first nine.

 Back 9 at Bensalem

I believe the reason I am hitting the ball right off the tee is on some swing I am dropping my right shoulder just enough to leave the clubface slightly open through the swing. If I can correct that, I feel I will again be able to square the clubface at impact and start hitting the ball straight or with my customary draw on a more consistent basis.

 Par 3 Fourth Hole

It began to rain as we teed off on the back nine. I made a bogey at the Tenth after finding the right side of the fairway, but again pushed my tee shot well right at the Par 3 Eleventh Hole. Hitting from a grove of trees, I punched it into the bunker, then blasted out and two-putted for a double bogey. I hit my tee shot at the Twelfth in a fairway bunker, but my approach from the bunker with a 7-iron was pulled well left and out-of-bounds. I did make a long putt to only make bogey, but at the Thirteenth, a tee shot pushed right led to an 8 after I took a drop, punched back into the fairway, then slipped as I hit a 4-iron right of the green. The 205-yard Par Fourteenth plays over a ravine and I again hit my tee shot right, which led to a bogey. On the last four holes, I hit perfect tee shots, but couldn't capitalize on any of them, going bogey, bogey, double bogey and bogey to semi-limp home with a 49 and a total of 95 for my round.

 Green at the Eighth Hole

Overall, I was pleased with my round at Bensalem. Even though I did hit some tee shots to the right, I am getting off the tee much better now than earlier in the season. What I really need to work on is my short game: chipping, pitching and putting. My putting is satisfactory, but can always improve. It is an area I plan to concentrate on through the fall and early spring in hopes it will be a strength next season.

 Par 4 Thirteenth Hole

As for my going struggle with tendinitis in my left elbow, the Aleve I take before I play and the brace I wear is helping me get through my round. I am icing my elbow occasionally, but I think I need to do it more between rounds. Also, Mrs. Muni Golfer and I just bought a new treadmill, which I will be using to get myself in better shape, not just for golf, but overall. And being in better shape can only help my golf game as I hopefully will build up better stamina for walking the course.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Another Day in the 80s at The Fairways

The Fairways Golf & Country Club
Warrington, Pa
Yards: 2255/2248 - 4503
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 39/43 = 82
Date: August 26, 2012

After playing on such bad course conditions at Walnut Lane Golf Club a week ago, teeing it up Sunday at The Fairways Golf & Country Club seemed like playing Augusta National. The better course conditions allowed my game to take advantage and post my best round of the season. Even though the greens were as fast as I think I have seen this year and the holes were placed in some devilish positions, I used good course management and played with confidence throughout the 18 holes.

Front Nine at The Fairways

My round started off with pars at two of the first three holes, including sand saves at the First and Third. I also parred the Eighth and Ninth holes to shoot a mere seven over par 39 on the front nine. The only blemish was a double bogey at the 372-yard Fifth Hole, where I made a 10 about a month ago.

 Back Nine at The Fairways

My back nine score, as has been the case all season, was again higher than the front nine. But a 10 over par 43 isn't all that bad when you go out in 39. I opened the back nine with two pars at the Tenth and Eleventh--a hole that has given me fits over the years. But I tripled bogeyed the Par 3 Twelfth Hole when I found sand off the tee, then blasted over the green and three-putted. I played bogey golf the rest of the way in, except for the 374-yard Seventeenth, where I made a double bogey.

Made an Up-and-Down from the Bunker at the Third

I have now played five rounds at The Fairways this season, with scores of 90, 90, 83, 98 and 82. My average score for the course in 88.6. I have made 3 birdies and 22 pars in those five rounds. Hopefully, I can take this good play to other courses as I begin to prepare for the end of summer golf and the beginning of golf in the fall.
 I also continued to wear the elbow brace on my left arm, per doctor's orders, to combat the onset of tendinitis. It seems to be working as I haven't felt as much discomfort following my rounds since starting to wear the brace.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Bad Walk at the Lane

Walnut Lane Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2173/2098 – 4271
Par: 31/31 = 62
Rating: 59, Slope: 91
Score: 47/44 = 91
Date: August 18, 2012

After taking a week off from golf, it was time to tee it up again this weekend. One of my goals this year was to play each of the five Philadelphia public courses. Having already played three so far this year--Juniata, John F. Byrne and FDR--I headed to Roxborough for a round at Walnut Lane Golf Club. Designed by the legendary Alex Findlay, who also designed John F. Byrne, Walnut Lane winds up and down through the Wissahickon Valley part of Fairmount Park.

 Walnut Lane Scorecard

A short course at just under 4,300 yards and playing to a par of 62, Walnut Lane is anything from a pushover. Take the 218-yard Par 3 Fourth Hole for example. The hole plays downhill to a small green. Overhanging trees from the left and a drop off to the right of the green makes playing a fade impossible. The next hole, the Fifth, is a 184-yard Par 3 that plays from left to right across a deep valley. And the 134-yard Par 3 Eleventh Hole plays so uphill you cannot see the flagstick from the tee. With trees on the right and a huge slope on the left, a tee shot has a very opening to the green.

 The Fourth Hole

But what also makes Walnut Lane difficult is the conditions. While no one is expecting Augusta National, the boxes are chewed up and uneven. Fairways feature large bare areas devoid of grass, and when there is grass, it is thick and overgrown. The bunkers more like hardpan than sand. When I played on Saturday, the course had been aerated during the week, but they failed to mention it when I paid in the pro shop. Not that it would have stopped me from playing, but it would have been nice to know before I reached the first green. It made putting and chipping all the more difficult as the ball didn't want to roll far on the greens. You had to strike your putts firmer than usual to get them anywhere near the hole. The course was probably the worst I played this year, along with FDR.

As for my round, I played some good holes and some (very) bad holes. I had a quintuple bogey, three triple bogeys and two double bogeys on par 3s. I also had a quadruple bogey on a par 4. But I think a lot of it was more the conditions than my game. I only hit driver three times, but I crushed it in the fairway each time. I also managed to par the Eleventh Hole, which is one of my "Nightmare Nine" holes.

 The Eleventh Hole

As per doctor's orders, I wore a brace on my left arm to guard against the mild tendinitis I have been experiencing. I also made sure to ice my elbow last night and I am not experiencing the discomfort today that I have been after recent past rounds. I will continue with this regiment into the future, until I am pain free.
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Break in the Action

After playing four consecutive Sundays, my body told me that last weekend was a good time to take a weekend off and get some rest. It didn't hurt that the PGA Championship was on TV most of the weekend. While I missed physically being on the course, I still got my golf fix watching the best players in the world in the last major of the season.

One of the things my body was telling me was my left elbow was starting to hurt. Not so much when I was playing, because I always take an Aleve or Advil before my round, but after playing. I particularly noticed it when I would attempt to lift something with my left arm or would just pull out a club and waggle it. I already had a doctor's appointment on Tuesday, so I mentioned it to him during my office visit. After explaining what I was feeling and an examination of my elbow, the doctor diagnosed the problem as mild tendinitis. He prescribed wearing a elbow brace when I play and icing the elbow after a round or whenever it is bothering me. He also suggested taking an anti-inflammatory if needed. I already have an elbow brace, so I will be wearing during all future rounds until the end of the season or the pain goes away.

This weekend off also provided my with an opportunity to compare this season to last. Ironically, at this point in both seasons I had played the same number of rounds: 12. During the those 12 rounds I took three strokes more this year than last, 1124-1127. My scoring round is also .3 strokes higher this year, 93.9 compared to 93.6 last season. Out of the 216 holes I have played, however, I have had two more holes at par or better than last season, 52-50. And I have made six birdies through 12 rounds this season, one more than I had through 12 rounds in 2011. My goal is to play at least 10 more rounds before the end of 2012, lower my scoring average, while making more birdies and pars.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fat Sunday at The Fairways

The Fairways Golf & Country Club
Warrington, Pa
Yards: 2255/2248 - 4503
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 49/49 = 98
Date: August 5, 2012

Sometimes, it's just one of those days. That was the case Sunday when I teed it up at The Fairways Golf & Country Club. Over the first four holes, I put a shot into a green-side bunker. I was in a bunker on six out of the 18 holes during the round. At the Second Hole, I hit my sand shot a little thin and flew the green, landing in the creek behind the green. I hit my iron shots fat and short all day. My chips were tentative and short. I made quadruple bogey, then triple bogey at back-to-back Par 3s. I played the seven Par 3s in 13 over par. And if that wasn't bad enough, I lipped out a four-foot birdie putt at the Par 3 Fourteenth Hole. Yes, it was just one of those days. I made a 49 on both the front and back nines. And this, just two weeks removed from shooting an 83 on the same course. Enough said.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Back 9 Breakdown at Kimberton

Kimberton Golf Club
Phoenixville, Pa
Yards: 2910/3106 - 6016
Par: 34/36 - 70
Rating: 68.3, Slope: 118
Score: 45/50 = 95
Date: July 29, 2012

Sunday I teed it up at Kimberton Golf Club, which was designed in the early 1960s by George Fazio. In 1991 and 1995, the course hosted the Pennsylvania Publinks State Amateur Championship. There is nothing tricky about the course. There are some holes that feature water, but everything is pretty much in front of you when you stand on the tee. However, there seems to be few easy holes. The five Par 3s play at 182, 164, 120, 199 and 136 yards. Three Par 4s measure longer than 400 yards and the shortest of the three Pars 5s plays at 489 yards. The fairways are generous and the greens are in pretty good shape, except for the Eighth Hole, which looks like it was hit by some sort of turf disease. But it looks accommodating to golfers of all skill levels and was an enjoyable course to play.

 Kimberton Scorecard

Buoyed by my last round at The Fairways, I took a great deal of confidence into my round at Kimberton. I pulled my opening tee shot a bit, hitting a tree on the left, but still found the fairway and was able to hit a hybrid on for an opening par. However, I topped my tee shot at the 403-yard Second Hole, missed the green left with my tee shot and made a 7. I made another par at the 374-yard Third Hole, which has water fronting the green. But I missed the green right at the Par 3 Fourth and made a double bogey five, a problem that plagued my round. I double bogeyed every Par 3 except the 120-yard Ninth Hole, where I made a par. I was driving the ball pretty well on the front nine, and when I did miss off the tee, it was usually because of poor alignment on my part. The par at the Ninth Hole left me with a 45 for the front nine and still feeling pretty good as I headed to the back nine.

 Approach to the Third Green

The back nine started just like the front, with a pulled tee shot that hit a tree but found the fairway. A 6-iron from 155 yards found the green and I two-putted for a par. I made a nice bogey at the 445-yard Par 4 Eleventh Hole when I missed the fairway left, but I hit another tree on the left at the Twelfth Hole and made double bogey. After another bogey at the Thirteenth Hole, I started a three-hole stretch that basically doomed my back nine. At the 199-yard Par Fourteenth Hole, I missed the green long and right, then failed to chip on from a double bogey. At the Par Fifteenth Hole, I hit my worst tee shot of the day--a high slice. After needing three shots to get the ball to the front of the green, I chunked a chip and three-putted for a 9. I missed the 136-yard Par 3 Sixteenth green in the bunker right, failed to get my bunker shot on the green and made another double bogey at a Par 3. At the Par 5 Sixteenth, I again pushed my tee shot right, leading to a bogey. At the Eighteenth Hole, I hit my 4-wood off the tee to find the fairway, but left my approach shot right of the green and made a bogey 5 to finish off the back nine in 50. Another back nine meltdown that left me with a round of 95 that could have been in the low 90s or even the high 80s.

 The Eighteenth Hole from the Tee

In analyzing my round at Kimberton, two things stand out: my failure to take advantage of the Par 3s and my poor chipping/pitching. I think the latter is the main reason for the former. I really need to get to the practice range and just spend a session or two working on just chips and pitches. My failure to get the ball onto the putting surface from around the greens is costing me strokes and the only way to remedy that is by practicing. I also need to evaluate my course management. I feel I have become enamored with the driver, when I should be hitting my 4-woods and hybrids off the tee. A middle iron into the green is often much better than hitting a punch shot around trouble.

More Kimberton Photos:

Photos by The Muni Golfer

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Back 9 Breakout at The Fairways

The Fairways Golf & Country Club
Warrington, Pa
Yards: 2255/2248 - 4503
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 44/39 = 83
Date: July 23, 2012

After recently lamenting my plight on the back nine during my rounds this season, I finally managed to get over the mental hurdle and put together a solid round of golf. Sunday I teed it up at The Fairways. Iguess everyone had the same idea as me: watch the final round of The British Open, then head to the golf course and play. The course was unusually crowded for so late on a Sunday afternoon, bu the started teamed me up with Phil and Brown, which turned out to be a very enjoyable pairing. I re-did the makeup of my golf bag, putting the Wilson Staff Smooth Driver, Adams Redline RPM 4-wood, Wilson Staff ci7 irons (4-GW) and Snake Eyes MCS-2 putter back in play.

 The Fairways Scorecard

The new bag set-up immediately paid dividends and gave and early indication of how the round might unfold on the First Hole. I crushed my drive up the right side, leaving me just an 8-iron over the pond into the green. Although I three-putted (missing an easy tap-in for par), I felt really good about the opening hole. I pushed my tee shot right at the Second Hole, but found the green and made the first par of the day. I followed that up with a two-putt par at the Third Hole. I then hit the only real bad patch of the day. I over-cooked my tee shot left of the green at the Par 3 Fourth Hole and failed to get up and down for a double bogey. At the Fifth Hole, I REALY, REALLY messed up. I topped my drive, then pushed my lay-up 6-iron right and off a tree. I tried to punch a 4-iron under the tree and over the creek at the end of the fairway, but shanked it into another tree. Another attempt at a punch shot ended up in the narrow creek, but on a small strip of grass. Pulling a Jean Van de Velde, I tried to hit it out of the creek, but to no avail. After taking a drop behind the creek and hitting over the green, I chipped on and two-putted for a 10! But I bounced right back at the Sixth Hole, with a 4-iron lay-up off the tee and a pitching wedge onto the green, where I made my putt for birdie. I bogeyed the Seventh, Eight and Ninth Holes for a 44 on the front nine. I was extremely happy with my score, especially after the 10 at number Five. But how would I hold up on the back? I had shot a 43 on the front my last round at The Fairways, but recent history has not proved fruitful.

 The Sixth Hole

I opened the back nine with a good 4-wood off the tee that left me in the middle of the fairway, less than 50 yards from the green. But my half wedge came up short on the front of the green and I tree-putted from there. Was this the beginning of the usual? It didn't get any better at the Eleventh, when from the middle of the fairway (a place I rarely find myself on this hole), I chunked an 8-iron that went right and out-of-bounds! I swear there is a ball magnet over there because I always wind up hitting it out-of-bounds right. I took my drop, then hit a poor pitch with my fourth shot, but then chipped to tap-in range for double bogey. But instead of continuing my slide to the back nine abyss, I found my righted myself. I made a two-putt par at the 139-yard Twelfth Hole and a bogey after hooking my 4-wood left at the Thirteenth. My tee shot found the sand at the 134-yard Fourteenth Hole, but a good out and a two-putt left me with bogey. I found the green at the 123-yard Fifteenth Hole and sank the 10-foot downhill putt for my second birdie of the round! I pushed my tee shot right at the 323-yard Sixteenth Hole, but I hit a branch and my ball ricocheted into the fairway, 170 yards from the green. My 5-iron found the bunker right of the green, but I escaped and two-putted for bogey. Another crushed drive at the Seventeenth Hole left me 155-yards to the green, but I toed my approach shot and came up just short. I putted from the front fringe with my hybrid and made another bogey. My drive at the Eighteenth split the fairway and left me a wedge into the green, where I finished off my round with a solid par. That gave me a 39 on the back nine and an 83 for the round. It's the first time I've managed to break 90 this season. My two birdies and four pars helped offset the horrible 10 I posted early in my round.

 The Fifteenth Hole

Despite the 10, I felt I played the best round of the year so far. I drove the ball the best I have this season. My approach shots were solid and I gave myself chances to score. I will take a lot of confidence from this round moving forward. I also think my Wilson Staff Smooth Driver performed the best it has this year because it was jealous of being out the bag. I hope it demonstrates that it wants to remain there the rest of the season.
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Back 9 Blues

One of the biggest problems I've encountered this season, besides hitting the ball awful off the tee, has been my poor play on the back nine during most of rounds. In the last seven of the nine rounds I've played so far this year, I have shot worse on the second nine that I have on first nine. While I've only posted one round in which I've hit triple digits (a 103 on June 16 at FDR Golf Club), the fact that I have been unable to shoot lower on the inward nine has kept me from breaking 90 so far.

In my first two rounds of this season, I opened with 51 and 50 on my front nines, but shot a combined 17 strokes lower on the two second nines, an average of 8.5 strokes lower. Since then, however, I have averaged 4.2 strokes higher on the second nine in the seven rounds I've played. This includes four rounds in which I failed to break 50 on the back nine.

I don't know whether it's a lack of concentration, fitness, poor course management or just getting ahead of myself by thinking about my final score instead of playing one-hole-at-a-time on the back nine. Often, it seems like I blow up on a couple of holes or fail to take advantage of the easy holes on the back nine. Either way, it is preventing me from posting lower scores.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Return to The Rookery

The Rookery
Milton, Del
Yards: 2886/3253 – 6139
Par: 35/36 = 71
Rating: 68.8, Slope: 123
Score: 46/51 = 97
Date: July 15, 2012

A family tradition returned last Sunday when I teed it up with my cousins for a round of golf at the Delaware Shore. It had been a Labor Day weekend tradition in the past, but because of family and moving the few  years, the traditional family round at the shore had been missing. My two cousins and my cousin's husband joined me for a round at The Rookery in Milton, Del., just north of Lewes. It is a fairly wide open course that was co-built by Pete Oakley, the 2004 Senior British Open champion.

 The Rookery Scorecard

The front nine is the easier of the two at The Rookery, playing at 2886 yards. There are two bizarre holes that come back-to-back--the Fourth and Fifth Holes. The Fourth is a 290-yard Par 4 that has a large pond in the middle of the fairway. It is the ultimate risk/reward hole, requiring a drive of about 270 yards to clear the water. You lay up off the tee with a 7- or 8-iron, then have an 8- or 9-iron into the green. The Fifth is a 385-yard Par 4 that doglegs left. You tee shot must reach the end of the dogleg to have a clear shot at the green because a line of line trees stands across the front left portion of the green. I started well, with bogeys at the First and Third Holes, and a par at the 168-yard Par 3 Second Hole. But I doubled the Forth when I hit my approach fat and into the water. I also doubled the 491-yard Par 5 Sixth Hole and the 390-yard Par 4 Seventh Hole, but I had a nice par at the short 115-yard Ninth Hole. This gave me a 46 for the front nine. I wasn't hitting it great off the tee and my chipping and pitching was suspect, but I grinded out a decent score.

 The Fourth Hole

The back nine at The Rookery is a great deal tougher, with three Par 5s that measure 575-, 466- and 566-yards. The first of those comes at the Tenth Hole, where a row of bunkers crosses the fairway about 200 yards from the green. The Tenth is followed by the 425-yard Par 4 Eleventh Hole. I made double bogey at both. I managed a bogey and then a par at the second Par 5--the Thirteenth Hole. But then I failed to take advantage of the next four holes, which feature three Par 3s. I made a triple bogey at the Par 3 Fourteenth, double bogey at the Par 3 Fifteenth and bogey at the Par 3 Seventeenth. I did have a par putt at the Par 5 Eighteenth, but missed for a closing bogey. As has been the case throughout this season, I was five strokes higher on the back nine that the front, shooting a 51 for a total of 97. I just didn't take advantage of those holes where I could score on the back.

 The cross bunkers at the Tenth Hole

The Rookery is really a course you must play if you get to the Delaware Shore. It is always in great shape and the constant breezes and course length make it a challenge. We paid $54 with cart for our round at 11:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning in July, which is a bargain compared to the more celebrated Baywood Greens in nearby Long Neck, Del.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Practicing for Delaware

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

Tuesday night I hit the driving range at Bensalem Township Country Club to hit a large bucket of balls. My visit was the result of several factors: the hot weather and death of a close friend keeping me off the course for a week-and-a-half, a new driver in the bag, and preparation for a trip to Lower Delaware.

 The Driving Range at Bensalem

I warmed up by hitting 10 sand wedges, then hit 10 7-irons. While hitting the 7-irons, I opened my stance slightly and found I hitting the straighter or with a slight draw. I then worked on hitting the driver. I put a new TaylorMade Burner Superfast 2.0 in my bag prior to my last round at Horsham Valley Golf Club, but only hit it three times during play. So I wanted to get a better feel for this club moving forward. I focused on my balance, rhythm and making solid contact as I hit 30 balls with it. I hit a few duck hooks and pushed a few shots, I mostly I hit shots that would find the fairway, an aspect of my game that has been sorely missing this season. I then hit 12 3-woods off the mat, 12 4-irons and finished off with five balls hit with my hybrid for a total of 79 balls hit. Overall, I pleased with how I hit the ball. I now need to take that from the driving range to the first tee.

 The Rookery in Milton, Delaware

Speaking of the first tee, I am traveling to the Delaware Shore this weekend to visit family and I am looking forward to teeing it up with my cousins. This used to be a Labor Day weekend tradition for me and my cousins, but we haven't been able to do it since 2010. So I am really looking forward to it. The clubs are all packed and ready to go. I am also looking forward to playing one of the courses down there, since I haven't teed it up down there in a while.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Farewell to Horsham Valley

Horsham Valley Golf Club
Ambler, Pa
Yards: 2536/2579 - 5115
Par: 33/33 - 66
Rating: 62.2, Slope: 101
Score: 43/51 = 94
Date: June 29, 2012

Yesterday I teed it up one last time at Horsham Valley Golf Club, which will be closing for good on July 3. The property will reportedly be developed for housing in the not-to-distant future. The closing of HVGC is a sad event for the region's golfing landscape. While the course would never remind anyone of an upscale country club, this 5,115-yard, par 66 course was a fun and challenging course to play. Joe Logan, former golf writer at The Philadelphia Inquirer who now runs the My Philly Golf web site, once compared Horsham Valley to a neighborhood tavern--friendly and comfortable.

 I've played HVGC about a dozen times over the years and always enjoyed the experience. It is a course where I once recorded a 21 on a single hole and had eight pars during another round. I've birdied the 364-yard First Hole twice and the 493-yard Par Eighteenth Hole once. The 184-yard Par 3  Fifteenth Hole, which has a creek that runs across the front and right side of the green, has given me fits over the years. It is one of the holes in my Nightmare Nine. While I won't necessarily miss the Fifteenth Hole, or the power lines that come into play on the back nine, I will miss the fun times at HVGC. Like the time my buddy and I were buzzed by the A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from nearby Willow Grove Naval Air Station while we walked up and down the fairways. I did get one souvenir from my final round at Horsham Valley. I bought the last HVGC polo shirt hanging on the rack in the almost empty pro shop. I'll wear it with fond memories.

As for my round, it was the same as usual. A good front nine and a bad back nine. I put a new TaylorMade Burner Superfast 2.0 and a Never Compromise Z/I Omega putter in my bag for the round. I struggled early, as usual, with triple bogey 7s on the first two holes. But I then parred four of the next seven holes, including all three Par 3s on the front for a 43. One problem I was having throughout the round was my lack of conviction on my pitches and chips. I was babying the ball and left a lot of easy shots short.

The back nine started OK with three straight bogeys, but lost balls on the tee shots at the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Holes, as well as having trouble with a fairway bunker at the Fourteenth, gave me a 7 and 9 respectively on the scorecard. By this time, my legs were giving out on the extremely hot and humid afternoon. I'm sure having walking 18 holes on Wednesday at Middletown Country Club also contributed. I played very loose golf the last four holes and limped home with a 51. This gave me round of 94. I think I will try to find time to hit the practice range this week to work on some things before I tee it up again, hopefully next weekend.

Memories of Horsham Valley Golf Club:

Photos by The Muni Golfer