Thursday, June 28, 2012

Up and Down at Middletown

Middletown Country Club
Langhorne, Pa
Yards: 2909/2837 - 5746
Par: 35/34 - 69
Rating: 66.7, Slope: 116
Score: 48/49 = 97
Date: June 27, 2012

Yesterday I teed it up for the first time at Middletown Country Club in Langhorne, Pa. Located just minutes off Route 1, Middletown is a classic, tree-lined golf course. The course was designed in 1913 by Alex Findlay, who designed such local courses as Llanerch, Doylestown Country Club, Reading Country Club, Paxon Hollow, Walnut Lane, John F. Byrne, Woodbury and Tavistock Country Clubs. The course was once owned by George Fazio and was represented on tour by Gary Player early in his career. Such golfing legends as Player, Ben Hogan, Lloyd Mangrum and Johnny Miller have played Middletown, as well as actor Michael Douglas.

 Opening Tee Shot at Middletown CC

Conditions at Middletown were very good. The course features rolling, hilly terrain and tree-lined fairways. The greens are a generous size and very slippery. Except for a few "well-used" tee boxes, my only complaint about the course was the lack of sand in the bunkers. It made escaping the bunkers very treacherous as there was noting to slide your wedge under when hitting the ball out. It was easier to chip from the bunkers than hitting a conventional sand shot.

 The Sixth Hole, a Par 3

I played my round with two of my cousins who tried to convince me to ride in a cart rather than walk because of the hilly nature of the course. But I walked and survived just fine. Middletown was a lot of fun to play, even though the course doesn't set up well for my game. The course seems designed more for someone who hits a fade, with no less than eight holes having doglegs that went to the right. Only three holes when right-to-left and favored a draw, my natural shot. But I was happy that I manged to get around in the 90s, despite never having played the course and it favoring players who hit a fade as opposed to a draw.

 The Par 3 Tenth Hole

My round started off in ominous fashion with two lost balls on the First Hole. I pushed both my original tee shot and a provisional tee shot well right and into the woods. That led to an opening 10. But I managed to par the 384-yard Second Hole, the 335-yard Fifth Hole, the 159-yard Par 3 Eighth Hole and the 302-yard Ninth Hole. Even with the 10 and three double-bogeys, I managed a respectable front nine 48. I was driving the ball better as the round moved along.

 The Par 4 Eleventh Hole

The back nine has been my achilles heel this season and this round was no different. The back nine at Middletown begins with a 184-yard Par three that I missed way left and had to pitch between two trees and over a bunker. I dumped it short in the bunker then skulled it across the green. That led to a triple bogey 6. But I drove it over the green at the short, 256-yard Par Eleventh Hole, chipped to two feet and tapped in for a birdie. I made two triple-bogeys and three double bogeys on the back nine for a 49. This gave me a round of 97.

 The Approach to the Thirteenth Green

My biggest problem at Middletown seemed to be putting myself into bad situations, usually with my second shot. Three examples were the Fifteenth, a 430-yard Par that doglegs left; the Sixteenth, a 405-yard Par that requires a second shot over a valley and pond in front for the green; and the Seventeenth, a straightaway Par 4 of 282 yards. At the Fifteenth, my tee shot found the left rough, but my second shot was pulled short and left under a tree. It took 5 to get down from there. At the Sixteenth I hit my best drive of the day and was about 145 yards from the green. But I hit an 8-iron fat into the pond and made a 6. And I hit a 3-wood on Seventeenth to about 50 yards, but my pitch rolled off the back of the green for a bogey.

 The Sixteenth Green from the Fairway

Except for the First Hole, Middletown was one of my better rounds off the tee. Despite an opening 10 on that hole and some poor second shots, I was able to keep my game under control and grind out a round in the 90s. I think it shows my game is moving in the right direction. Now, if I can just play a bit better on the second nine, I can start posting some really good scores going forward.
Photos from The Bausch Collection

Monday, June 25, 2012

No Whining at Twining (Valley)

Twining Valley Golf & Fitness Club
Dresher, Pa
Yards: 2932/2650 - 5582
Par: 37/33 - 70
Rating: 64.7, Slope: 114
Score: 45/46 = 91
Date: June 24, 2012

Twining Valley can only be described as a no-frills, hard-scrabble golf course. If you are looking for country club conditions, Twining Valley is not the place. But if you are looking for a cheap golf course that will challenge your game, as well as your patience, then Twining Valley is it. The tee boxes often look like a plowed up field and are so hard, it is often difficult to get a tee into the ground. The fairways are very dry, very hard and very fast. Tee shots can run forever, but so can chips and pitches. Yet the greens can be so slow you feel like you are putting on shag carpeting. And bunkers feature hard dirt instead of sand. At times you almost have to play Twining Valley like a British-style links course. And because Twining Valley attracts players of all skill levels, play can be very, very slow. But the course does offer an interesting layout and is rather cheap to play; I payed $20 to walk on Sunday afternoon. If you want to play a course for practice, check out Twining Valley.

 Twining Valley Front 9 Scorecard

I decided to shake things up for my round at Twining Valley. I put an old TaylorMade Tour Burner Driver in my bag and replaced my Wilson Staff irons with a old set of TaylorMade 200 irons. These irons have a habit of finding their way back into my bag every couple of years. Although they are a cavity-back iron, they look more like a blade, with a thinner sole and top line. Plus the reminder-ribbed grips just feel good in my hands. I think these irons may stay in the bag for the foreseeable future.

 Twining Valley Back 9 Scorecard

With a partially re-constituted arsenal in my bag, I hit the course. Twining Valley starts off with a modest Par 5 of 434 yards that plays uphill to a plateaued green. After hitting three straight pulls, I was just left of the green and chipped to about 10 feet. After my first putt, I still had about 5 feet left for par. I told you, these greens can be slooooow. At the Second Hole, a downhill Par 4, I had a short chip to the green, but watched as it hit in front then rolled well off the back, leading to a 7. I managed a two-putt par at the Third Hole, a Par 5 that runs along Twining Valley's Driving Range. I followed that with a double bogey and three bogeys. The Eight and Ninth Holes are both very short Par 4s; 255 and 256 yards respectively. I made par and Eight and birdie at Nine after nearly driving the green with my 4-hybrid. As I said, you get a lot of roll from the fairways. The front nine is a par 37 and I went out in a respectable 45.

 Approach to the Fifteenth Hole

As has been the case for most of the season, the back nine has been my nemesis this season, and Sunday at Twining Valley was no different. The Tenth Hole is a 174-yard Par 3 that plays uphill and is followed by a 545-yard Par 5. I made double bogey at both. I did make par at the Twelfth Hole, a 322-yard Par 4. But I followed that up with a double-, triple- and triple-bogey. The Fifteenth is probably the most difficult and awkward hole on the course. The 331-yard Par plays from an elevated tee to a small, hard landing area, then doglegs right over a a creek to a small green on the side of a hill. The tee shot requires probably nothing more than a 9-riron. I hit the hybrid and put it through the fairway and into the creek.After a drop, I then chunked my approach into the creek. Fitting five, I wedged on and two-putted for a 7. But I pulled myself together and parred two of the last three holes, including the Sixteenth, a 190-yard Par 3 that plays straight downhill to a green that is tough to hold and the Eighteenth, a 156-yard Par 3 that plays uphill. I played the Par 33 Back Nine in 46 for a total of 91 for the round.

 The Downhill Par 3 Sixteenth Hole

Despite some of my struggles, I was pleased with how I played. Some of my problems stemmed from failing to adjust to the fast, hard fairways and slow speed of the greens. While I'm still not hitting it how I'd like off the tee, I was happy with my iron play, chipping and my putting. I feel like I was able to carry over the positive play from my previous round at The Fairways. Now, I just need to keep it moving forward.
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Fair Day at The Fairways

The Fairways Golf & Country Club
Warrington, Pa
Yards: 2255/2248 - 4503
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 43/47 = 90
Date: June 18, 2012

Hoping to put Saturday's really bad round at Franklin D. Roosevelt Golf Club behind me, I teed it up Monday for the second time in a month at The Fairways Golf & Country Club. The Fairways is always in great shape and this round was no different. It was overcast most of the day, which kept the heat and humidity down and made for a comfortable round. The starter matched me up with Larry and Janet on the First Hole and off we went. One of my priorities for this round was to drive the ball more consistently off the tee and put myself in better positions to score.I amde tow changes to my clubs, swapping out my Wilson Staff Smooth Driver for a TaylorMade R9 and my Solus 56-degree sand wedge was replaced with a 59-degree Solus wedge.

 The Fifth Hole, a 372-yard Par 4

On the front nine, I was much better off the tee, finding the fairway or green on the First, Third and Fifth Holes. At the Second and Sixth Holes, I was just left and right of the fairways, respectively, but still had decent shots to the green. At the Par 3 Fourth Hole I found the left bunker and at the Seventh I also missed the green left. Through the first seven holes, I had all 4s and 5s on the scorecard, which included two double bogeys at Par 3s. The double bogeys were more a result of my short game failing me than my tee shots. At the Eighth Hole, I pushed my tee shot right over a large tree that guards the right side of the fairway and had an open shot at the green from the rough. I came up short left with a 7-iron however, barely chipped on, then four-putted for a 7. I hit my first really bad tee shot at the Ninth when I hit it fat and short leading to another double bogey and a front nine 43.

 The Sixteenth Hole, a 323-yard Par 4

The back nine started off with a thinned three wood at the Tenth that found the first cut of rough, but I hit a wedge on the green and two-putted for a par. Then the first breakdown occurred. A local only permits an iron off the tee at the 291-yard Par 4 Eleventh, which doglegs right; not the kind of shot that favors someone who plays a draw. I pulled my 6-iron left and from the rough about 180-yards out, I hit my hybrid right and out-of-bounds.  This led to a triple-bogey 7. My 8-iron at the Par 3 Twelfth, a hole I birdied a month ago, found the left bunker and I took three shots to get out. Another triple-bogey 7. I regrouped and found the fairway with a 3-wood at the Thirteenth and made par. I hit the green on the Par 3 Fourteenth, but three-putted for a bogey. I also found the green at the Par 3 Fifteenth, but I two-putted this time for my sixth par of the round. Then came the second breakdown. The last few holes have really plagued me this year, and this round was no exception. At the 323-yard Sixteenth, I hit 3-wood to be safe, but pushed it right a hit a tree, which led to a lost ball and a double bogey. At the 374-yard Seventeenth, I hit the ball off the heel of the driver and barely made it as far as the red tees. Three hacks up the fairway and a three-putt equaled a triple bogey. I hit a low short hook off the 334-yard dogleg right Eighteenth, but recovered to make a bogey. This added up to a back nine 47 and total of 90 for the round.

 The tee shot at the Eighteenth Hole

So after two rounds at The Fairways, I have recorded two 90s. My front nine Monday was eight strokes better than my front nine a month ago--51-42; but my back nine was eight strokes worse--39-47. I had six pars in my most recent round, compared to one birdie and four pars a month ago. But most importantly, I put the ball in play better this round, which meant no 8s or 9s on the scorecard like last month. Lets hope I can carry it over and it starts to become the rule, rather than the exception.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Long Afternoon at FDR

Franklin D. Roosevelt Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2865/2855 - 5720
Par: 35/34 - 69
Rating: 63.9, Slope: 105
Score: 49/54 = 103
Date: June 16, 2012

Saturday I continued by tour of Philadelphia's muni golf courses by playing a round at Franklin D. Roosevelt Golf Club in South Philadelphia. Located across the street from Philadelphia's sports complex, FDR was  built as WPA project during the Great Depression, the course opened in 1940 and is affectionately know as "The Lakes" to many native South Philadelphians. The course is managed by Billy Casper Golf for the Fairmount Park Commission. While the course shows improve from the last few times I played there, I think charging $29 to walk at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon is a little high. The course does ofter a unique layout and is a challenge to play, but the tee boxes were well chewed up to the point that finding a good spot can be a challenge. The greens are in very good condition and the rough is thick if you miss a fairway or green.

 FDR Scorecard

As for my round, it was a step back from last Monday's round a John F. Byrne Golf Club. Getting off the tee continues to be a problem, particularly with the driver. I repeatedly put myself into trouble off the tee, which makes scoring difficult. And even when I did hit a good tee shot, I was unable to take advantage of it. The only hole I played well was the 403-yard Par 4 Ninth Hole, where I crushed my driver off the tee and actually found a fairway. I then hit a 5-iron from 165 yards that hopped onto the green, where I made a 25-foot putt for birdie. But I only managed two other pars the rest of the round. I shot 54 on the back nine, which included three triple bogeys and a quadruple bogey. It was a long and disappointing round.

Par 4 Ninth Hole

The only part of my game that has been consistent so far has been my putting. I put a Winn jumbo-sized pistol grip on my Snake Eyes putter at the beginning of the season and it has helped my feel and speed. During Saturday's round I had one-putts on at least seven of the greens. I also added an Adams Golf Speedline Fast 12 3-wood to my bag before the round. I bought the club on sale at Dick's Sporting Goods using a gift card I received for my birthday. The club is long off the tee and I think I need to start using more off the tee in place of my driver until I can get things figured out.

Adams Speedline Fast 12 3-wood

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bringing it Back at Byrne

John F. Byrne Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2273/2658 - 4931
Par: 33/34 - 67
Rating: 63.9, Slope: 116
Score: 44/50= 94
Date: June 11, 2012

Feeling some consistency developing in my swing during my last round at Juniata Golf Club, I teed it up Monday for a round at John F. Byrne Golf Club. Formerly Holmesburg Country Club, the course was designed by Alex Findlay, and 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. The course is one of the three golf courses owned by the City of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park Commission, but managed by Billy Casper Golf. I played my round with three students from Father Judge High School, including Steve, a member of the school's golf team who played all 18 holes with me.

My round got off to a rather typical start with my tee shot being blocked out to the right of the first fairway. This led to a double bogey 6 after I hit my third shot from one bunker across the green into another. At the Second Hole, I again blocked my tee shot way right, but managed to escape with a bogey. I hit a 5-wood off the third tee and two-putted for a par at the short 254-yard Par 4. Then came my nightmare hole, the 293-yard Par 4 Fourth Hole in which you must hit your tee shot over the creek through a narrow opening in the tree line. I accomplished this and lipped out a 20-foot birdie putt, but made my second par. I was feeling really good about my swing, even though I wasn't hitting the best off the tee. However, my short game and putting were working. I two-putted for bogey after missing the green left at the Fifth Hole, but then hit my tee shot long and left at the 142-yard Par 3 Sixth Hole. This led to a double bogey. I made another par at the short Par 4 Seventh Hole and a bogey at the 162-yard Par 3 Eighth Hole, which plays longer since it plays uphill. Another pushed tee shot at the Ninth Hole caused me problems and led to an 8 at the uphill 376-yard Par 4. Even with the 8 I scored a very good 44 on the front nine, with three pars.

 The Fourth Hole

The back started with another missed fairway left, but I managed to scramble for a bogey. I hit my tee shot at the uphill Par 3 Eleventh Hole to about 20 feet, but lipped out my second birdie attempt of the round. I again went left at the Par 5 Twelfth Hole and made another bogey, before my third birdie putt of the round lipped out at the short Par 3 Thirteenth. I double bogeyed the next two holes--both Par 3--after poor tee shots. I thing at this point, fatigue was beginning to set in because I wasn't staying down and through the ball on my shots. I made a 10 at the 495-yard Par 5 Sixteenth as I repeatedly topped the ball while trying to lay up after missing yet another fairway. I then hit my tee shot at the Seventeenth Hole off the heel of my 4-wood and hacked my way up the fairway for a 7. I hit my best drive of the day at the 338-yard Par 4 Eighteenth, which played over the creek then straight uphill. But I pulled my second shot wide of the green and made a double bogey. My back nine was a 50 after taking 23 strokes on the last three holes.

 The Eighteenth Green

My round of 94 was only one stroke higher than the 93 I posted at Byrne nearly a year ago. This isn't too bad since the course has been lengthened by nearly 50 yards since then. While I'm still not hitting it off the tee as consistently as I'd like, I was hitting my irons and wedges much better this round. So I feel the game is coming along. I did make a slight change in my equipment for the round, exchanged my Callway Warbird 3- and 5-woods for an Adams Redline RPM 4-wood and Fast 10 5-wood. As for John F. Byrne, I payed $29 to walk on a Monday. The course is in decent, playable shape shape. There are spots , particularly in the rough, where you will get lies that will penalize you. But overall, Byrne is worth a visit.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Return to My Roots

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa
Yards: 2805/2185 - 4990
Par: 34/31 - 65
Rating: 63.2, Slope: 106
Score: 50/45 = 95
Date: June 8, 2012

Whenever I am having trouble with my game, I like to go back and play a round at Juniata Golf Course. My familiarity with the course where I learned to play golf always helps me steer my game in the right direction. So on Friday, I teed it up looking to re-kindle my game from 2011. Although the golf course is still technically owned by Fairmount Park Commission, Juniata has been undergoing a stunning transformation the past few years under the guidance of the Juniata Golf Foundation. What was once a laughingstock to many golfers is suddenly a hidden jewel.  You can see everywhere the work that is being done. Tee boxes that no longer look like a chewed up football field, defined fairways, rough is penal yet fair, new cart paths and fencing, and greens that could compete with many high-fee suburban courses. If you haven't played Juniata in a while, you be in for a surprising treat.

 Juniata Scorecard

As for my round, my struggles continued through most of the front nine. I hit my opening tee shot fat and the downhill Par 3 First Hole. At the Second, I hit a 5-wood off the tee into the Eleventh fairway, took three to get out of a bunker and made a 9. In fact, I didn't hit a fairway until the Ninth Hole, an uphill, 380-yard Par 4. I am putting a lot of pressure on myself by continually missing fairway. By the Sixth Hole, I was setting up to hit a fade instead of my natural draw. At least I cashed in at the Ninth by making a par after finally landing my tee shot in the short grass.

 The Fourth Hole now has a fairway bunker

The back nine was a lot better than the front, even if my score wasn't that much better. I made a second part at the 165-yard Par 3 Tenth Hole after just missing the green short, then pitching to tap-in range. I lost ball at the Eleventh led to a double bogey, which could have been a lot worse. I made bogeys at the three holes, before hitting my tee shot at the 150-yard Par 5 Fifteenth Hole way right. But I got up and down for a par. The Sixteenth Hole now features an elevated tee, which has stretched the hole to 400 yards. This has caused my a real problem as the tee shot comes out of a narrow chute, with no room to the right for me to set up and play my draw. Two balls hit into those woods led to another 9. I hit a good draw at the Seventeenth, but three putted for another bogey, but fatigue led to a triple bogey 6 to close out a back nine 45.

 New tee box at the Sixteenth Hole

Although I shot a 95, I felt my swing got much better as the round progressed. I started hitting better tee shots from the Ninth Hole on, except for the Sixteenth and Eighteenth Holes. While I am not happy with the 95, I am happy with the way I feel my swing and my game responded. The magic tonic of Juniata Golf Club strikes again.

Monday, June 4, 2012

It's not the arrows...

There's an old saying that is used frequently in golf: "It's not the arrows, it's the Indian." It is generally used when a golfer is hitting the ball bad and tries to blame it on the golf clubs. I recently found myself in this same situation and had to remind myself of that old quotation.

After hitting the ball so poorly during my first round of the season two weeks ago, then hitting even worse at the driving range a week later, I found myself suddenly replacing almost all the clubs in my bag. My Wilson Staff Smooth Driver isn't working so lets go
back to that TaylorMade R9. And the Callaway fairway woods should go too, replaced by TaylorMade Burners. Why stop there? Might as well take out the Wilson Staff Ci7 irons. Lets see, maybe my old TaylorMade Tour Burner irons would be better? Suddenly, my golf bag started to look like it did in 2009 and 2010.

After looking for several days at my old/new set of golf clubs in the bag, I started to think about the old saying, "It's not the arrows, it's the Indian." And this Indian hit that Wilson Driver and irons pretty well last year. Those Wilson irons made a birdie, three pars and three bogeys on the first seven Par 3s I played this year. This Indian hit those new Callaway woods pretty well on the range this year too. So it's definitely too earlier to be panicking over a few bad shots when this Indian has only played one round of golf and had three sessions at the practice range. So good-bye again TaylorMade Driver, woods and irons. Back into the bag goes Mr. Wilson and the Callaway woods. This Indian is sticking with his current arrows.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Muni Golfer's Darrell Survey

At every PGA, LPGA, Champions, Nationwide and Japanese PGA Tour event, I representative of the Darrell Survey stands on the 1st and 10th tees during the tournaments first round and records the equipment being used by each golfer in the field. This information is then compiled into a weekly and yearly report that is sent to subscribing golf equipment companies. The companies use this information to monitor that their staff players are adhering to their contracts, as well as using the information in print and broadcast advertising. So when TaylorMade claims it is the #1 Driver on the PGA Tour or Titleist says it is the #1 one ball in golf, it is thanks to the data collected by the Darrell Survey.

While no one from the Darrell Survey has ever looked in my bag before I started a round of golf, I do keep a record of the equipment I use during every round I play each year. So here then is my version of what the Darrell Survey's year end report would have contained for the Muni Golfer for the 2011 season. In the 13 rounds I played last year, I used one driver, seven fairway woods, 3 hybrids, one 4-iron, two sets of irons (5-GW), three wedges, four putters, seven golf balls and three golf gloves.

Here's a breakdown:

Wilson Staff Smooth
 Fairway Woods:
Adams Redline RPM 4-wood, Sonartec SS-07 4-wood, TaylorMade Burner 3-wood, TaylorMade Burner 5-wood, Adams Fast 10 3-wood, Adams Fast 10 5-wood, Golfsmith XPC Plus 4-wood
Tommy Armour 845, TaylorMade Raylor

TaylorMade r7 CGB

Irons (5-GW):
TaylorMade Burner, Wilson Staff Ci-7s

Solus 53-degree, Solus 56-degree, Solus 59-degree
Odyssey White Hot XG #9, Odyssey White Hot Tour #9, Odyssey White Hot Rossie, Snake Eyes MCS-2
Golf Balls:
Maxfli Revolution, Maxfli Fire, Wilson Staff Zip, Titleist Prototype #1, Titleist Prototype #2, Titleist NXT, Titleist DT SoLo
Golf Gloves:
adidas Exert, FootJoy Sta-Soft, FootJoy SciFlex