Monday, June 29, 2015

A LOCK at The Fairways

Fairways Golf Club
Warrington, Pa.
Yards: 2255/2248 - 4503
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 48/53 = 101
Date: June 29, 2015

As much as golf is a game of physical, it is an even bigger game of mental. As Bobby Jones once said, "Golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half inch course...the space between your ears." That five-and-a-half inch course played like the U.S. Open for me today at the The Fairways Golf Club. Ten days after shooting a 86 at the course, I returned to shoot a 101; 15 strokes higher than the previous round. Nothing in my game went particularly well today. I was back to blocking tee shots to the right, hitting iron shots fat, chipping poorly and putting even worse. I three-putted the last four holes on the front nine, twice turning pars into bogeys. And things went even worse on the back nine.

The Fairways Scorecard

Today's round was a LOCK--Lack of Concentration, Knucklehead. It was the first round of the year that I played solo. Not having a playing partner, it seemed like I was always focusing on every bad shot I hit. I since it was always my turn to hit, I never got a chance to focus on anything else. My mind was constantly thinking about what I was doing wrong--or going to do wrong--and never had a moment to re-focus on how to correct things or just play. I think I will just chalk this up to one of those days and try to let it go quickly.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday at The Fairways

Fairways Golf Club
Warrington, Pa.
Yards: 2255/2248 - 4503
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 47/39 = 86
Date: June 19, 2015

I teed it up for the first time this season at The Fairways Golf Club, a short, but well-maintained track in Warrington, Pa. The Fairways reminds me a lot of Juniata Golf Course, where I learned to play the game. Both are Par 65, with a combination of Par 3s and 4s. While Juniata sits in urban setting that sometimes encroaches upon the course, The Fairways has more of a suburban country club feel as it winds through a housing development. Both courses have small greens, but The Fairways' greens are protected by many more bunkers. Given the struggles to find consistency  this season, I thought The Fairways would be an ideal place to try and gain some confidence.

The Fairways Scorecard

Teeing off on a warm day, with the humidity rising a bit, I started out just fine. Even though my approach on the First Hole found a greenside bunker, I nearly made a good sand save. A tee shot off the heel of my driver at the Second Hole went left and nestled under a large evergreen tree. This led to a dreaded "snowman" 8. I played decently, if inconsistently through the rest of the front nine and finished with a 47. My putter continued to plaque me and I missed several short putts, included a downhill two-footer for par at the Fifth Hole.

The Tenth Hole, which I parred

On the back nine, my game started to heat up like the weather. I made a putt at the Tenth Hole for my first par of the day. At the Eleventh, I made a 12-footer for a nice bogey 5. I found the green at the Par 3 Twelfth, but three-putted; again missing a short par putt. The Thirteenth Hole gave me my only real problem on the back; a poor double bogey after hitting a great drive with my 4-wood and having only a gap wedge to the green. I made a par and bogey at the back-to-back Par 3 Fourteenth and Fifteenth Hole. At the 323-yard,Par 4 Sixteenth Hole, I hit my driver up the right side, hitting the car path and gaining several extra yards. My ball was in the rough, just off the path, a little over 100 yards to the green. I hit my gap wedge, which hit on the front of the green and rolled up to 10-inches from the hole for a tap-in birdie! At the Seventeenth Hole, I pulled my driver into the Sixteenth fairway, but made a respectable bogey, and at the closing Eighteenth, I crushed a drive, then hit an 8-iron to the back of the green, but three-putted for a 5. It totaled up to a back nine 39 and round of 86.

The Sixteenth Hole, which I birdied

While my putting, especially short putts, continue to be a problem, I hit the ball off the tee much better today. As I noted in my last post, I shortened the length of my TaylorMade Aero Burner Driver to 45.25-in. in an attempt to find more fairways. Today was the first time I used the shorter driver in a round and I used it on six holes. Although I only hit actual fairways (First and Fifth), I only hit one really bad drive (Second). The other three where just off the fairway and very playable--even the drive at Seventeen which I hooked into the adjacent fairway. And the drives were pretty long as well. So far, given the results, I would say shortening the driver shaft was a positive move.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Going Shorter to Hit It Longer

As I previously wrote, I bought a TaylorMade Aero Burner Driver about three weeks ago to replace the Wilson Staff Smooth Driver that had been in my bag. I like the new driver, but I've had a tough time getting consistency with it. When I manage to square the clubface and hit it on the sweet spot, it is probably the longest driver I have ever hit. However, during the two rounds I've played with it, along with the two sessions at the practice range, I have been unable to consistently find the fairway or hit my comfortable draw. I have had more fades, slices, pull hooks and shots off the heel than I would like.

TaylorMade Aero Burner Driver

One of the reasons I believe for this inconsistency is the length of the driver. My Wilson Staff Smooth was 45.5-in in length, while the TaylorMade Aero Burner is 45.75-in. While quarter-inch might not seem like much, I believe it has been huge in getting the correct timing on my swing. Considering that the average length of a driver on the PGA Tour is 44.5-in., I contemplated shortening the length of the Aero Burner.

Wilson Staff Smooth Driver

After much research to determine that cutting down the driver shaft from the butt end would not seriously alter the shaft's flex or overall distance, I decided to shorten it by a half-inch to 45.25-in. This is a little shorter than the Wilson Staff Smooth, which I have hit so well for several years, but I feel that the slightly shorter shaft, combined with the hot face of the Aero Burner, will still give me the overall length I'm seeking, as well as help me put the ball in the fairway more consistently with my familiar draw. So last night, I removed the driver's grip and sawed the half-inch off the butt end, then re-gripped it using a Winn Dri-Tac grip; the same model of grip which had previously been on the driver. I also added some lead tape on the club's sole, towards the heel, in order to approximate its previous swing weight and also to promote a draw. The newly re-configured Aero Burner will be in the bag tomorrow for a round at The Fairways Golf Club, so I will quickly get an idea how well it works.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Pause for Practice

Practice Range
Bensalem Township Country Club
200 Brown Ave.
Bensalem, PA

On Sunday, I had planned to play a round at The Fairways Golf Club. But based on my results from Friday's round at Limelikn Golf Club, I decided some practice would be better. So I packed my clubs into the SUV and headed over to the practice ranged at Bensalem Township Country Club.

The Practice Range at Bensalem

I grabbed a small bucket of balls and found an open spot on the range. After some stretching, I warmed up by hitting 10 balls with my 56-degree sand wedge. I put a yardstick down to help with my alignment as I proceed to hit 30 balls with my TaylorMade Aero Burner Driver. At first, I hit some fades; my draw still eluding me with this new driver. While I did hit some long drives with a slight draw, I continued to hit a lot more duck hooks than I would like. I believe the problem may be that the driver, which is 45.75-in., is just a bit too long for me to control properly. I don't think I am able to properly square the club face at this length, which is causing me to hit the fade or slice, and to hook it as I try to force the ball the draw.

On the Practice Green

I have begun to research cutting it down to 45-in. So far, my research indicated that cutting three-quarters of an inch off the butt end and re-gripping it will not seriously effect the the shaft's flex or the overall distance of my drives. The shorter length should allow me to better control my drives and hit more fairways. I will try to pick up a Winn Dri-Tac grip--the same grip presently on the driver--so I can cut it down later this week.

The Big Putt Practice Ball

After hitting balls with my driver, I headed over to the practice green to work on my putting. I have been missing far too many short putts, which is turning 3s, 4s and 5s into 5s, 6s and 7s on my scorecard. I spent about 20 minutes practicing short putts with The Big Putt, an over-sized ball that weighs the same as a regulation golf ball. The Big Putt is 1.95-in in diameter, whereas a golf is 1.68-in. The theory is that after putting with the larger ball, the hole will look bigger with a regular golf, instilling more confidence over short putts. Hopefully, the additional practice on the greens will pay off in my next round.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Scores and Temps are High at Limekiln

Limekiln Golf Club
Ambler, Pa
Yards: 3059 (Blue)/2864 (Red) - 5960
Par: 35/35 - 70
Rating: 67.9, Slope: 117
Score: 55/47 = 102
Date: June 12, 2015

The first heat wave of the season had settled over the Delaware Valley as I teed it up for the first time ever at Limekiln Golf Club. Founded by Philadelphia Phillies' 1905s Whiz Kids Robin Roberts and Curt Simmons, the course has 27 holes located on Limekiln Pike in Ambler, Pa. The course was in excellent shape and we got an excellent deal from GolfNow; only $25 plus cart.

I teed off with my cousin at 11:45 a.m. on the Blue Nine as temperatures climbed into the mid-90s, with very high humidity. We were joined by a husband-wife pairing of Larry and David. I had a lot of confidence in my game after the 42 on the bank nine at Neshaminy Valley last Sunday, but I struggled off the tee from the start, hitting my opening right to the right and narrowly avoiding the woods on the dogleg left. I played army golf through the front nine, hitting tee shots left and right throughout. Even when I did manage to put my ball in the fairway, I followed it up with a poor approach shot, pitch or chip. And my putting wasn't much better, missing several short putts. I ended the front nine with a bogey 6 at the Par 5 Ninth Hole after missing another short par putt. It left me with a very disappointing 55.

Limekiln Scorecard - Blue/Red

The back nine, played on the Red Nine, didn't start off any better as I hit a tree on the left side of the fairway after hitting my 4-wood off the tee. My play got a little better as I started hitting my driver better off the tee, but it seemed like I couldn't put two decent shots together and I continued to struggle on Limekiln's greens. My one good hole of the day came at the 418-yard Par 4 Fifth Hole on the White Nine. I blasted my driver 271 to the middle of the fairway, leaving me just 147 yards to the green. I then hit a 7-iron to 15-feet behind the hole and two-putted for my only par of the day. As the back nine went on, I was getting longer and more consistent with my driver off the tee, so I'm hoping that I'm starting to adjust to the TaylorMade Aero Burner. My back nine was a 47, an eight stroke improvement over the front nine, but it still left me with a 102 for my round.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Happy in the Valley

Neshaminy Valley Golf Club
Jamison, Pa.
Yards: 3338/2676 - 6014
Par: 36/34 - 70
Rating: 68.7, Slope: 118
Score: 50/42 = 92
Date: June 7, 2015

My second round of 2015 was at Neshaminy Valley Golf Golf and it was a tale of two 9s. On the front 9, I couldn't find the fairway on the Par 4s and 5s and I couldn't hit a green on the Par 3s. The only two times I put the ball in the fairway, on the Par 4 Fifth Hole and the Par 5 Ninth, I reached the green in regulation and walked off with a par. I also had 3 bogeys, two double-bogeys, a triple-bogey and a quadruple-bogey at the long 219-yard Par 3 Sixth Hole. It all added up to a frustrating 50 on the first nine holes.

The Scorecard of Neshaminy Valley

Going to the back nine, I was just looking for a bit more consistency off the tee and a little better course management. So naturally, I sliced my tee shot at the Tenth Hole across the Eleventh fairway and had and uphill shot to the green. Just trying to hit the ball up near the green, I hit my 7-iron just to the right of the green, pin high. I flopped on and sunk a 20-foot, let-to-right putt for an unlikely par! I hacked the ball around on the next hole for another triple-bogey, but I felt I was suddenly hitting the ball much better. I ran off a string of consecutive 4s that included a par at downhill, slight dogleg right Twelfth Hole and my first birdie of the season at the 473-yard Par 5 Fourteenth Hole. I double-bogey at the Sixteenth was followed by bogeys on the last two holes and a back nine 42 for a total of 92. My scorecard on the back nine included six 4s, a 5, a 6 and a 7.

The 219-yard Par 3 Sixth Hole

I was really happy with how I turned around a disappointing front nine to shoot a pretty good back nine and post a very respectable score. I had some significant changes to my club set-up from my opening round of the season at Mountain View Golf Club. I replaced my Wilson Staff Smooth Driver with a TaylorMade Aero Burner, and my Callaway fairway woods are gone in favor of an oldie but goodie: an Adams Redline RPM 4-wood. I also put an old Elevon Tour 20-degree hybrid in the bag, along with an Alphia Golf Rx 4-hybrid. My 5 thru Gap Wedge are still Wilson Staff Ci7s and my two additional wedges--53- and 56-degrees--are still Solus. I also returned my Snaked Eyes MCS2 blade putter to the bag, this time with a new Super Stroke Slim 3.0 grip. I like the versatility of this set-up and hope it continues to provide me low scores.

The 473-yard Par 5 Fourteenth Hole

Neshaminy Valley, a public course, was in pretty good shape, although the greens were spotty and bumpy. At $27 to walk on a Sunday afternoon, I thought it was a good bargain. Play was a bit slow on the front nine, but moved along well on the back.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Looking to Make My Stroke Super

A few years ago I went to a larger grip on my putters in an effort to improve my stroke on the greens. I like the way the larger grips feel in my hands and the way they keep my wrists from breaking down during my stroke. I had been using a Winn Jumo Lite Grip, but as I posted last August, I went even bigger to a Winn ProX 1.60.
During first round of the season two weeks ago, I went back to a putter that had the Jumbo Lite Grip and results were okay, but still not the consistency I was hoping before. Scheduled to play at Neshaminy Valley Golf Club tomorrow after, I decided it was time for another change. Tonight I took my Snake Eyes MCS2 putter to Dicks Sporting Goods and had a Super Stroke Slim 3.0 grip installed. The grip is one of the most popular on the PGA Tour and is used by Jason Dufner, who won the PGA Championship in 2013. I will let you how it turns out.