Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Grind Continues at Upper Dublin

Upper Dublin Golf Club
Dresher, Pa
Yards: 2932/2650 - 5582
Par: 37/33 - 70
Rating: 64.7, Slope: 114
Score: 53/56 = 109
Date: July 26, 2015

Buoyed by the confidence from my practice session last week, I teed it up at Upper Dublin Golf Club, formerly known as Twining Valley, under a hot sun on Sunday. That confidence lasted all of one hole, as I took an 8 on the opening hole, a 434-yard par 5. I followed that up with a 7 at the downhill 316-yard par Second Hole and another 8 at the 467-yard par 5 Third Hole.

 The scorecard when the course was called Twining Valley

I should have known that things were not going to go my way in the Pro Shop when I paid as they informed me they were out of scorecards. How does a golf course run out of scorecards? I started my round with 12 golf balls in my bag and finished 18 holes with 5. I somehow managed to eek out two pars; one at the short 256-yard par 4 Ninth Hole and another at the uphill, 138-yard par Eighteenth. I shot 109 for round, the seventh time in nine rounds this season that I have failed to break 100.

The short Ninth Hole where I made par

While the greens fee at Upper Dublin are incredibly cheap--I paid $20 to walk after 12 p.m.--you really do get what you pay for at this course. This course is hard-scrabble the whole way. The rough is so high and thick that golf balls are easily lost. And the greens are the slowest I have played anywhere. Upper Dublin is a course I play every 4-5 years and I don't see that changing any time soon.

A par at the Eighteenth finished the round

As for my game, it's back to the drawing board as I re-evaluate my game, my clubs, my practice and my course management. Perhaps it is time to employ the old KISS method: Keep It Simple Stupid! Stay tuned.
Photos by The Muni Golfer

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Playing The Fairways GC at Bensalem CC

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

With my golf in dire help of help, I went to the practice range at Bensalem Township Country Club last night to work on my game. I experimented with a new method of practice as I hit a small buckets of balls of the range.

Typically, there are two practice methods when you go to the range: blocked and random. Blocked practice is when you take your bucket of balls and hit virtually the same shot, with the same club, at the same target, over and over and over. Although this method is extremely useful if you are changing a certain part of swing, it is, unfortunately, how most people practice at the range.

The practice range became the front nine at The Fairways

In random practice, you attempt to simulate what you doing on the golf course by not hitting the same club or same shot twice in a row. I used this method last night by playing the front nine at The Fairways Golf Club on the practice range at Bensalem. For example, the First Hole at The Fairways is 341-yard par 4. So I hit driver, which I duck hooked to the left. I estimated that would have left me about 160 yards to the green, so I hit 6-iron for my next shot. And I aimed at a flag that was to the right of my hitting bay. That shot would have come up short, so I chipped with my 53-degree wedge to one the nets in front of the hitting mats. I did this for each of The Fairways nine holes. I hit all the shots on each hole until I feel I would have been on the green.

Twilight descended on the range

I started my practice by some stretching and swinging my 8-iron with a weighted Swing Sock on it. I then hit six sand wedges and six 9-irons to warm up. I then went into random practice, playing the nine holes. After I finished palying the nine, I hit 13 drivers, alternating between my TaylorMade Aero Burner and an old Maxfli Blue Max Driver. I hit them both a bit better than I have been hitting my driver on the course. I finished up hitting seven shots off the tee and mat with my TaylorMade JetSpeed 3-hybrid.

Maxfli Blue Max Driver

Overall, I hit the ball a little better than I have been hitting it on the course. I hit a few good shots and a few bad shots. I was lacking distance and power in more than a few of my iron shots. I will take a positive feeling away from this practice session. I think using random practice will help me moving forward.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Wilted at Walnut Lane

Walnut Lane Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa.
Yards: 2173/2098 - 4271
Par: 31/31 - 62
Rating: 59.9, Slope: 91
Score: 53/45 = 98
Date: July 18, 2015

Hoping to reverse my current golfing fortunes, and armed with 10 new additions to my golf bag, I teed it up at Walnut Lane Golf Club. Tucked into the Wissahickon Valley, which is part of the Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, Walnut is owned by the city, but operated by a non-profit entity. Designed by legendary designer Alex Findlay and opened in 1940, it is a short course, but challenging through its tight, tree-lined fairways, hills and valleys, and unique Par 3s.

Walnut Lane Scorecard
Saturday's weather was extremely hot and humid, one of the hottest of the summer so far. Still, as I stood on the first tee, I had a good feeling a about my round. That lasted all of one hole. After a benign bogey at the short Par 4 First Hole, I hooked my tee shot at the Par 3 Second Hole. Unable to find my ball, I took a drop and made a 7. At the Third Hole, another short Par 4 that doglegs left, I hit three consecutive tee shots left; the first two out-of-bounds.That led to an 11. Three lost balls in two holes. All season I have been searching for my customary draw, or right-to-left shot. On Saturday, my shot was right-to-Fore, Left! At the long, downhill 218-yard Par 3 Fourth Hole, I hit the ball over the green and it naturally cam to rest on top of a pile of sticks. That led to a double-bogey 5, but considering the way the previous two holes had gone, I wasn't too disappointed. The Fifth Hole is a 184-yard Par 3 that doglegs left over a deep valley. After pulling my tee shot left--notice the theme here--I hit chipped over a waste are onto the green and two-putted for a bogey. At the Sixth Hole, I hit my tee shot fat, which led to a triple bogey 6. At the Seventh Hole, a downhill, 357-yard Par 4, I hit my Driver left, then pulled my 4-hybrid left and out-of bounds. Fourth lost day in seven holes! I dropped and hit it again to the back of the green, then two-putted for a 6 instead of a par. At the short Par 3 Eighth Hole, I found the green off the tee and two-putted for my first par and second decenty hole of the day. A double-bogey 6 ended the front nine with 53.

The Eleventh Tee looking down from the green
At this point, I was drenched in sweat and my legs were beginning to feel the effects of the heat and the hills. But I was determined to try and turn things around on the back nine. At the Tenth, I skyed by tee shot left and very short, which led to a 7. The Eleventh Hole is  tight, up-hill Par 3, where I hooked my tee shot for another lost ball and made a 5. The twelfth is a dogleg left that plays over a ravine off the tee. I hit a draw off the tee and made a 5. At the Thirteenth Hole, a short 125-yard Par 3, I sat for about 10 minutes and made a bottle of nuun energy drink. Of course, when I did resume, I hit my tee shot left and made a 4. At the Fourteenth Hole, a 147-yard Par 3, I uncharacteristically pushed my tee shot short a right, then chunked my pitch shot. Needed to hit my third shot between two bunkers, I lobbed it up and onto to the green, where it tracked all the way to cup and dropped it for a par!!!! Buoyed by this, I was determined to grind out the round and break 100! A decent tee shot at the 340-yard dogleg right Fifteenth Hole left me with a 8-iron into the green, but I came short, took two shots to chip on and made a 6. I made bogeys and the back-to-back Par 3 Sixteenth and Seventeenth Holes. Standing on the tee at the 360-yard Par 4 Eighteenth Hole, I went back and forth between hitting my Driver or 4-Wood. I choose Driver and hit it left for my sixth lost ball of the day. I hit my third shot just short of the green, then took four more shots for a 7 and a back nine 45. But I had grinded it out and I had broken 100! No small feat for me lately.

The chip shot I holed at the Fourteenth
Other than my putting, don't quit attitude and somehow breaking 100, there is very little positive I take away from this round. My tee shots were horrible, my irons were poor and most of my short game was weak. I definitely need to get to the practice range this week to try and find an answer so I can begin to turn this season around before it is too late.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Change for (Hopefully) the Better

There is a saying in golf that goes, "It's not the arrows, it's the Indian." That means that it's not the golf clubs' fault when a golfer is playing poorly, it the fault of the player, himself. And while much of that rings true during this slump I am experiencing, I still feel it's time to shake up my golf bag and the mix of clubs I carry.

TaylorMade Aero Burner Driver
So over the six days, I have examined the clubs in my golf bag and made a few changes. Some clubs have remained, while the majority have been replaced--at least for now. So here is new composition of the 14 clubs currently in my golf bag:
Driver: I am sticking with the TaylorMade Aero Burner that has been in my bag since the end of May. Even though I have wildly inconsistent with it--even shortening by a half-inch to gain better control--I feel confident that will soon begin to yield better results for me off the tee.

4-Wood: I have upgraded the Adams Redline RPM 4-Wood that was in my bag with a newer Adams Tight Lies 4-Wood I purchased at Golf Galaxy last Saturday. The Tight Lies is one
Adams Tight Lies
degree stronger, but both are the same length. I used it in my round last Saturday at The Fairways Golf Club and was impressed with the results. I expect to be as good off the turf as it is off the tee.

Hybrids: I have replaced my steel-shafted 3- and 4-hybrids with new TaylorMade Jetspeed hybrids. I purchased the new hybrids last night from Golf Galaxy, which had them on sale for about 40 percent of their original retail price. Combined with an e-mail coupon that I received and I got them for practically cost. These new Jetspeed hybrids have a Matrix graphite shaft and match my old hybrids almost exactly, except the new 3-hybrid is one
TaylorMade Jetspeed Hybrid
degree stronger. It will play as a 5-Wood/2-iron in my bag, while the 4-
hybrid replaces my 4-iron.

Irons: I have replaced my Wilson Staff Ci7 irons, 5-through Gap Wedge, with an old set of TaylorMade 200 irons, also 5 through Gap Wedge. The 200s, which came out around 2002, are a cavity back iron that looks and feels more like a blade iron. I have had very good success with them in the past and I hope they will instill some needed success in my current game.

Wedges: I am sticking with the Solus 53- and 56-degree gap and
TaylorMade 200 Irons
sand wedges that have been the bag for several years. These wedges are the best I have ever played. They are extremely versatile and I like the fact that they are more of a cavity back than a blade, which helps with forgiveness.

Putter: I have played a great deal with a Snake Eyes MCS2 putter through most of this year, but I have been horrible on short putts all
Odyssey XG9 Putter
year long. My last two rounds, however, I have played with an Odyssey XG9 putter and I have been much better on both my long and
short putts. It has a WinnPro X over-sized grip, which has helped my with my feel. This putter is staying in the bag.

So there you have it. Only four of the 14 clubs in my bag last week have survived. Ten new clubs have entered the bag and will comprise my arsenal when I tee up this weekend and the forseebale future. I will keep you apprised of now they work out.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Grind

The Fairways Golf Club
Warrington, Pa.
Yards: 2255/2248 - 4503
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 51/53 = 104
Date: July 11, 2015

Just when I think my game reached rock bottom last week at John F. Byrne Golf Club, I played an even worse one at The Fairways Golf Club on Saturday. I was hoping that returning to The Fairways, I course that I know so well, would give my game a boost and help to instill me with some confidence. It did, perhaps, just the opposite.

The Fairways Scorecard

It started on the first tee, where my driver struck the turf well behind the teed golf ball, and I managed to hit it about 125 yards. Hitting the turf well behind the ball, or "fat", was to become a recurring theme of the round. I had to lay up short of the pond that fronts the first green, only to dunk my third shot into the water--a quadruple bogey. Triple bogeys at the Third and Fourth holes. A double bogey at the Fifth after hitting my tee shot out-of-bounds. A double bogey at the Seventh was followed by another quadruple bogey at the Eighth after I putted my fifth shot off the front of the green. Somehow, miraculously, I managed to par the 133-yard Ninth Hole. An gut-wrenching slog to a 51 on the Front Nine.

The Seventeenth Hole, which I parred

I took renewed hope to the Tenth Hole after the par at the Ninth, but any hope for a back nine comeback was dashed with a 9, followed by an 8 and the Eleventh Hole. Somehow, someway, I continued to grind it out on the course, actually making five 4s on the last seven holes, including three pars and two bogeys. These were offset by another quadruple bogey at the Par 3 Fourteenth and a another 9 at the closing Eighteenth. It was the second round in a row at The Fairways that I shot 53 on the back nine.

The TaylorMade Aero Burner remains in the bag...for now

The main thing I need to do is keep grinding away on the course and the practice range, trying to find my game, somewhere, somehow. It might get worse before it gets better, but that's what I have to do. I am also contemplating--no, change that to making an overhaul of my golfing arsenal. All that will remain from the current setup is my TaylorMade Aero Burner Driver, Solus wedges and Odyssey XG 9 putter. I will update you on the changes--and the new bag setup--later this week.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Slow Byrne

John F. Byrne Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa.
Yards: 2273/2658 - 4931
Par: 33/34 - 67
Rating: 63.9, Slope: 116
Score: 50/52 = 102
Date: July 5, 2015

Hoping to change the declining fortunes of my golf game, I played a round at one the Philadelphia-owned courses, John F. Byrne Golf Club in the Northeast. Originally built as Holmesburg Country Club, Byrne winds through a valley with the Torresdale creek coming into play on no less than ten holes, including the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth.

John F. Byrne Scorecard

Hoping to switch up my luck, I put an old 3-wood (TaylorMade Burner), my Callaway X-Hot 7-wood, Wilson Staff RS 4-Hybrid and Odyssey XG #9 putter into the bag. Unfortunately, other than my putting, which improved greatly from my previous rounds, nothing much changed in my game.

The tee shot at the First Hole

Although I pulled my opening tee shot left, I still had a shot at the green, but came up short on my approach and made double bogey. I redeemed myself at the Par 3 Second Hole, where I missed the green right, but chipped on and two-putted for a 4. At the Par 4 Fourth Hole, where you have hit your tee shot over the creek through an opening in the treeline, I managed to find the green in two, but missed short putt--one the few short putts I missed during the round--and made a 5. Unfortunately, that was sandwiched by a 7 and 6 on two of the easiest Par 4s on the course: the Third and Fifth Holes. I made bogeys and the Par 3 Sixth and Eight Holes and double bogeyed the easy 242-yard Par 4 Seventh Hole, before making a disastrous 8 at the Ninth Hole. It added up to a Front Nine 50.

The tight drive at the Fourth Hole

Again, my tee shots were a major cause of my poor play. I hit several tee shots off the heel of the club, putting in a poor position. My second shots were often not much better and my chipping was tentative at best. No excuses, but we had an extremely slow three-some in front of me and my playing partner, 84-year-old Bob, who more than held his own off the tee. The threesome became a five-some at the Tenth Hole, and the prospects for a quicker Back Nine looked grim.

The tee shot at the Tenth Hole

After finding the fairway with my 3-wood off the Tenth, I made a 5, At the Eleventh, the five-some mercifully allowed Bob and I to play through. I made a double bogey after coming up short on the uphill Par 3, then took two shots to chip on. At the Par 5 Twelfth Hole, I began a three-hole stretch that started to give me some hope. I hit driver off the tee and found the left side of the fairway, just in the rough. But my 7-wood went right and hit a tree. I punched out to just inside 100 yards, then wedged on and two-putted for a good bogey 6. I made my only par of the day at the very short, 89-yard Thirteenth (lucky for me) by hitting into the middle of the green and two-putting. At the long, 219-yard Par 3 Fourteenth Hole, I hit my tee shot right of the green, in the Twelfth fairway. I pitched on and two-putted for a 4 on a fairly difficult hole. It was the last decent hole I played. It took my 29 shots to play the last four holes. My legs were gone in the humid weather and I limped in with a Back Nine 52 and disappointing total of 102.

The Par 3 Eleventh Hole

As I stated earlier, my putting was much improved using the Odyssey XG #9. I missed only one short putt, which has been my achilles so far this season. Those missed short putts have turned numerous pars into bogeys, bogeys into double bogeys and even doubles into triples. But that wasn't the case at Byrne. I am however, really struggling off the tee, whether it be the driver, fairway wood, hybrid or iron, but especially with the driver. After the round, I removed some lead tape I had put on the bottom of my TaylorMade Aero Burner Driver and I hope that might help with the problem. I also think I need to use the driver less off the tee in favor of my Adams Golf 4-wood--which is now back in the bag--until I get more consistent. Perhaps a session at the practice range is in order.
Photos by The Muni Golfer