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