Sunday, December 23, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Fairways Fantasy

When The Muni Golfer was a member of the Juniata Golf Association in the late 1990s and early 2000s, one thing that would be given to each golfer at the year-ending banquet was our fantasy score. It was a scorecard that contained the best score you recorded on each hole, taken from all of your tournament rounds that year. It was always fun to see what our fantasy score was for that season.

My Fairways Fantasy Scorecard

Having played the most rounds--eight--at Fairways Golf Club than any other course during the 2018 season, I decided to see what my fantasy score would compared to the course's normal par of 65. After going through the scorecards from those rounds and recording the best score for each hole, I shot a fantasy score of one-over-par 66. I made two birdies, 13 pars and three bogeys for my fantasy round.

The Tenth Hole, one of two I birdie at the Fairways this season

Of my two birdies, which were both made during the same round on October 7th, I made one at the 248-yard par 4 Tenth Hole and the other at the 334-yard par 4 Eighteenth Hole. The only holes at the Fairways where I did not make par or better this season were the 161-yard par 3 Fourth Hole, the 365-yard par 4 Eighth Hole and the 291-yard par 4 Eleventh Hole.

The Fairways Fourth Hole, one of three I failed to shoot at least par

My fantasy score of 66 was only nine strokes lower than my all-time lowest round for a course under par 70--a 75 which I shot at the Fairways back on June 1st. During that round, I made 10 pars, seven bogeys and a triple-bogey.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Blowin' in the Wind

Fairways Golf Club
Warrington, Pa.
Yards: 2200/2248 - 4448
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 44/46 = 90
Date: October 21, 2018

Indian summer has finally given way to more traditional autumn-like weather. Temperatures barely reached 50 degrees when I teed off with my cousin on Sunday morning at Fairways Golf Club. But steady winds gusting at 35-40 miles-per-hour across the course made it feel much colder. It also made playing a challenge as club selection became a guessing game, while trying to play with or against the strong gales.

Fairways Golf Club Scorecard

I enjoy the challenge of playing golf in adverse conditions, whether is be windy or rain. On a day like this, my strategy is to play conservatively and accept bogey as a good score. A bogey is becomes a par and a par is often becomes the equivalent of a birdie. Thus, the par 65 for the course is thought of as a par 83.

The strong winds had the pins bent like this one
at Juniata a few years ago

On the front nine, my strategy worked through the first five holes, with one par at the 109-yard par 3 Third Hole and four bogeys. On the Next four holes, I again made a par at the 168-yard Par 3 Seventh and just lipped out a par putt at the 133-yard par 3 Ninth. But the 284-yard par 4 Sixth and 365-yard Eighth holes both caused me problems. I made a 7 at the Sixth when I failed to get out of a bunker and made a triple-bogey and an 8 at the Eighth when I hit a tree with my second shot. This left me with a 44 for the opening nine holes.

Wilson Staff Di11 Iron
On the back nine, I started with a par at the short 248-yard Tenth Hole, then bogeyed the next two holes. A double bogey at the Thirteenth Hole--I fatted a chip on my third shot--was followed by three more bogeys. Bad drives and poor putting the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Holes saw me finish out my round with a quadruple bogey and a double bogey for a 46 on the back nine and a total of 90 for the 18 holes.

Except for the 7 and two 8s that I posted, I was happy with the way I played in the windy conditions. I also had two new irons in bag: Wilson Staff Di11 5- and 6-irons, which replaced the Ci&s I had been carrying. These irons are designed for more distance and they delivered when I hit them during my round.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Split Decision at Bensalem

Bensalem Township Country Club
Bensalem, Pa.
Yards: 2759/3014 - 5773
Par: 35/35 - 70
Rating: 68.7, Slope: 127
Score: 44 (Front Nine)
Date: October 14, 2018

Because of other weekend obligations, I wasn't able to tee it up until late Sunday afternoon. Afraid I might be in a race against a mid-autumn sundown, I opted to go to Bensalem Township Country Club only play nine holes. I teamed up with Sean, who was also playing solo, on the First tee.

Bensalem Twp. Country Club Scorecard

With virtually no warm-up, I chunked and chipped my way to a bogey at the First. At the Second, my tee shot found the right side of the fairway and my approach clattered through the tree that guards the right side. After pitching on, I sank a long uphill putt for par. This began I run of three consecutive pars, including the 487-yards Par 5 Third, where I just missed a birdie.

My par run was halted at the Fifth after I short-sided myself with my approach shot on the 309-yard hole and made double-bogey. That left me three over par through five holes. I began another short par by two-putting from long range at the par 3 Sixth and then missing a short birdie putt at the 317-yard, dogleg left Seventh Hole.

The Par 3 Fourth Hole

Even though I made bogey at the Eighth, I was pleased with the way I recovered after blocking my tee shot right into the creek that runs parallel, then across the fairway. I hit my second tee shot (third stroke) to the left-center of the fairway, then dropped an 8-iron from 140 yards to 10 feet. I made the putt to walk away with a mere 5, when it could have been much worse. That left me four over par through eight holes.

But I came crashing back to reality at the 356-yard par 4 Ninth. After pulling my left driver into the bushes on the blind tee shot, I hit my second tee shot up the left side and into the rough. From just
TaylorMade 200 Iron
inside 150 yards, I hit my approach shot well right of the green. Having to pitch over a bunker to a back left pin, I went long and into the spotty rough. Instead of putting, I tried to chip and when well past the hole. Putting for a 7, I burned the edge, then lipped out my short tap-in, which left me with a 9 for the hole. My score for the front nine was a 44, with five pars, but it could have been much better if not for the blow-up at the Ninth.

I made one drastic change for this round, splitting my iron set. I kept the Wilson Staff V4 Utility 4-iron and the Wilson Staff Ci 7 5- and 6-irons. But I replaced the Ci7 7-iron through Pitching wedge with TaylorMade 200s. These irons, while still cavity backs, are thinner and look and play more like blade irons, which seems to give me better feel and control of the shorter scoring clubs.

The rest of my irons--all Wilson Staff--remain the same: Ci 48-degree Gap Wedge, PMP 52-degree Wedge and 56-degree Sand Wedge. I want to try out this configuration through the rest season and see if it is something I want to keep for next year. I am also looking to replace the 5- and 6-irons with models that are more forgiving and have added distance. With the new iron figuration, I now have seven Wilson Staff clubs in my bag, six TaylorMade and one Odyssey (putter).

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Fairways Test Drive

Fairways Golf Club
Warrington, Pa.
Yards: 2200/2248 - 4448
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 43/39 = 82
Date: October 7, 2018

Through most of this season, I have been switching drivers and fairway woods in and out of bag. So far, I have used four different drivers and 12 different fairway wood during the 17 rounds I have played. This round at the Fairway Golf Club was another opportunity to course-test a driver, a Wilson Staff FG Tour F5, and a Ping G25 3-wood.

Fairways Golf Club Scorecard

I had acquired the Wilson F5 driver earlier this season and had used it once, shooting a 94 at Juniata Golf Course at the beginning of June. During that round, I hit most of my shots with the driver either to the right and short or a duck-hook left. It quickly came out of the bag and has been patiently waiting for another round. It got the opportunity on Sunday.

I used the F5 driver on six tee shots during my round: holes one, two, eight, sixteen, seventeen and
Wilson Staff F5 Driver
eighteen. The first two times I teed off with it, my drives were anything but impressive: a low hook at the first and screaming worm burned at the second. Although I recovered to make a bogey and a par on those holes, I seriously considered whether I would hit the driver again during the round.

At the eighth, I decided to tee the ball a little lower and position it a little further back in my stance, just off my left heel, than I do with my other drivers. I proceeded to hit a low draw up the right side of the fairway, one of my best drives of the round so far. I teed the ball the same at the last three holes, and except for pulling my tee shot left at the sixteenth, I hit very good tee shots. In fact, I made par and birdie on the last two holes, where I hit the driver. So it will stay in bag for now as I give it some more testing.

A good tee shot at the 18th led to birdie

I hit the Ping G25 twice off the tee during my round, at the fifth and thirteenth holes, and I didn't like either tee shot. I will be going back to the TaylorMade Burner 2008 3-wood that I used for four rounds in August and September.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Saturday, Muddy Saturday at FDR

FDR Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa.
Yards: 2865/2855 - 5720
Par: 35/34 - 69
Rating: 63.9, Slope: 105
Score: 44/51 = 95
Date: September 22, 2018

Despite September's overabundance of rain, I decided to play FDR Golf Club in South Philadelphia. One of the City-owned courses, FDR gets its name from Franklin D. Roosevelt Park, which is known to many native Philadelphians as The Lakes due to the numerous bodies of water found throughout the park. Rain tends to make the course muddy and soft; conditions that linger longer than usual.

FDR Scorecard

Teeing it up on the first day of the fall, the temperatures were just a little cooler and the sunny skies gave way to cloudy and windy as the round progressed. Still, I got off to a blazing start as I parred the first two holes. Of course, the Third Hole at FDR is a par 5, and as usual, I struggled to a triple-bogey six. Still, I played consistently through the front nine, parring both par 3s and finishing with a 44 despite a bad double-bogey at the Ninth Hole.

The Par 3 Fifth Hole

As the winds picked up on the back nine, I struggled off the tee, my iron shots weren't solid and my putting erratic. By the Seventeenth Hole I had figured out what I was doing wrong on the greens. I was using a forward press to begin my putting stroke, but that was causing me to miss putts to the left. It is something I need to work on moving forward.

The 418-Yard Tenth Hole from the Tee

I ended up making double-bogey or worse on seven of the nine holes, parring the par 3 Thirteenth and par 4 Eighteenth Hole. I shot a disappointing 51 on the back nine for a round of 95.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Vacation Finale at Rookery North

The Rookery North
Milford, DE
Yards: 3030/2916 - 5946
Par: 36/35 - 71
Rating: 69.0, Slope: 126
Score: 55/46 = 101
Date: September 6, 2018

My third and final round during my week-long Labor Day vacation in Delaware was played at The Rookery North in Milford. Originally built as a private club, Shawnee, in 1957, it was acquired by the owners of The Rookery Golf Club a few years ago and re-branded as The Rookery's north course. I had previously played the course when it was Shawnee nearly 20 years ago, shooting a 99.

My original intention for my vacation finale was to play at The Rookery's South Course in Milton, Del.,, but an outing had the course closed. So I took a chance and drove to the North Course, about 20 miles north of Lewes, for my round. I felt confident as I teed off, but my opening drive found trees on the left side of the fairway. It was a foreshadow of how my opening nine holes would go as I struggled to find the fairway, and when I did, I could not take advantage. Again, par 5s were a nightmare, as I triple-bogeyed both on the front nine. I made double-bogey or worse on seven of the nine opening holes. It added up to a 55.

The Rookery North Scorecard

The back nine was a good bit better. I actually made a birdie at the 114-yard par 3 Thirteenth Hole and parred the long, 198-yard par 3 Tenth Hole. But a quadruple-bogey 8 at the 327-yard Twelfth and a double at par 5 Seventeenth blunted any real momentum, though I did manage a 46 for the nine. That gave me a disappointing 101 for the round.

Overall, my three rounds were fun. Except for a three hole stretch at the American Classic I would have shot a fantastic round. And one nine holes--the back at Jonathan's Landing and the front at The Rookery North--kept me from shooting better scores. I was also happy that I got to play two courses that I haven't played in a very long time.

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Rough Landing

Jonathan's Landing Golf Club
Magnolia, DE
Yards: 3062/2575 - 5637
Par: 36/35 - 71
Rating: 65.6, Slope: 110
Score: 47/50 = 97
Date: September 4, 2018

My second round during my Delaware vacation was at Jonathan's Landing Golf Club in Magnolia, Del., just outside Dover, and about 35 miles north of Lewes. I had played the course once 10 years ago and I was looking forward to giving it another try.

Jonathan's Landing Scorecard

The two nines at Jonathan's Landing are starkly different. The front nine is more open and is often bounded by marsh areas and wetlands, while the back nine is tighter and winds through a housing development. The two nines have been reversed since the last time I played the course.

Par 3 Third Hole

My round couldn't have gotten off to a worse start: I hit my lay-up second shot at the par 5 First Hole into a marsh area and made double-bogey. I followed that up with double-bogey's at the par 5 Second and par 4 Third Hole. I righted myself a bit with back-to-back pars at the Fourth and Fifth holes, with another par at the 137-yard par 3 Eighth. I shot a 47 on my opening nine and felt somewhat optimistic heading to the second and easier nine.

My ball sits on sand on the Sixth green

One thing that made scoring a bit difficult was the fact that the course was topdressing the greens with sand in preparation for aerating them. This made putting to the hole difficult on many greens. The course's fairways also showed the effects of all the rain and extreme heat from this summer with many bare spots.

The Sixth green being topdressed with sand during my round

My back nine was worse than the first nine, as I double-bogeyed two easy par 3s in the first four holes. I also missed a 5-foot birdie putt at the 241-yard par 4 Twelfth Hole. After hitting my tee shot right and out-of-bounds, I made a triple-bogey 7 at the Fourteenth Hole. A bogey at the 138-yard par Fifteenth was the last gasp, as I proceeded to double-bogey the last three holes. This was especially frustrating since the Sixteenth and Seventeenth holes are par 5s where I hit perfect tee shots, but chunked easy layup and pitch shots. It added up to a back nine 50 and 97 for the round. This was two strokes higher than the 95 I shot in 2008, when I made a birdie and four pars.

The par 3 Thirteenth Hole

The most disappointing things about my round at Jonathan's Landing was I didn't take advantage of the easier holes on the back nine, I double-bogeyed every par 5 and I wasn't warned about the greens being topdressed before teeing off. I was happy, however, that I managed to shoot under 100.

Not just bugs buzz around the course

One interesting aspect of the course is its location. It is on the approach to Dover Air Force Base and throughout my round, Air Force transport planes continually flew literally overhead.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A Classic Warmup

American Classic Golf Club
Lewes, DE
Yards: 2017/2017 - 4034
Par: 32/32 - 64
Rating: 60.2, Slope: 107
Score: 46/36 = 82
Date: September 2, 2018

Labor Day week means vacation time and a week at the Delaware beaches, where the Muni Golfer has plenty of family. While the week means beach time for Mrs. Muni Golfer, it is a min golf-getaway for me. The week offers me the chance to play three rounds at three different courses.

American Classic GC Scorecard

Since I hadn't played for two weeks leading up to the getaway, I decided begin my golf vacation with a warmup round at the American Classic Golf Club in Lewes. A nine-hole course that plays to a par 32, you can play around twice for 18 holes.

When the course was first built by the Heritage Inn, it was a nice par 35 that played to 2,359 yards and featured two par 3s, seven par 4s and a par 5 whose green was an island. But eventually, development won out and housing was built around the course, forcing holes to be shortened. Maintenance seemed to get less and less, to the point where you could play all for only $10.

Tee shot at the Second Hole

A couple of years ago, the course was purchased from the Heritage and it has undergone a transformation. Upgrades have been done and conditions have improved. I paid $35 to walk on the Sunday before Labor Day.

My round started off with pars and the First and Second holes. I was playing well until I reached the par 4 Sixth Hole, which used to play as a long par 5, with an island green. I duffed the ball down the fairway and deposited it into the pond. I would making a 10. I splashed my tee shot at the Seventh and wound up making a triple-bogey 6. That was followed by a double-bogey at the short par 3 Eighth. I finished off the front nine with a par and a score of 46.

The island green at the Sixth Hole

The second nine couldn't have been any more different. I made a birdie at the last hole to go along with five pars. If I hadn't triple-bogeyed the 175-yard Fourth Hole, which used play as a 400-yard par 4, I might have broken 80. As it was I shot a 36 on the back and a score of 82. A good warmup round to begin my Delaware golf vacation.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Ecco Bravo!

For the past few seasons, I have been looking to replace my go-to black Adidas golf shoes, which had been getting more and more beaten and worn with each round I played. Because I like how the black golf shoes looked, I wanted to stay with that color. I also wanted a shoe that featured replaceable spikes as opposed to a golf shoes that had molded spikes in the sole. So I began a search that has lasted for several seasons.

Ecco Men's Cage Golf Shoe

I looked first at Adidas, which I have worn exclusively since the late 1990s, but I didn't like the contemporary styles that now popularize their brand. The same was true with Foot-Joy, one the most popular golf shoe on the market, and Nike. With those virtually eliminated, I began to focus on off-brands such as New Balance, Skechers and Ecco. I wear New Balance trainers at the gym and was intrigued by their Golf 2004 model. Skechers has been carving out a niche on the professional golf tours, and a few of their models seemed worth exploring. But I have always been fascinated by Ecco, a European-based company, whose golf shoes are worn by pros such as Fred Couples, Ernie Els and Graeme McDowell. While they had several models I strongly liked, I always had concerns over sizing (I wear a 9.5, but Ecco is 9-9.5) and their high price was more prohibitive.

The shoe features Champ Zarma spikes

The weekend after July 4th, I was in Rehoboth Beach, Del., for a family celebration. There are several outlet stores there, including New Balance, Skechers and Ecco. I decided this was possibly the opportunity to pull the trigger on finally replacing past-their-prime Adidas golf shoes. Fortunately, my cousin was also looking for a new pair of golf shoes, so we could possibly take advantage of any discounts that were being offered. After he struck out at the Nike outlet, we ventured over to Ecco. I quickly zeroed in the Men's Cage model in black, which was on sale at $60 off the regular retail price. I tried on the 9-9.5, but they felt a bit big, so I moved to the 8-8.5 size, which felt better. Ecco was also offering a deal that if you bought one pair, the second pair was 40 percent off. My cousin also found he liked so we were able to split the discount and each get another 20 percent off our purchase!

I have worn my new Ecco golf shoes now for three rounds, including one walking 18 holes. They look and feel great. The Champ Zarma golf spikes on the sole provides a great base and traction from all types of stances on the course. It was definitely worth the wait in replacing my old golf shoes and I give these Ecco shoes a high recommendation. I can see now why Couples, Els and McDowell trust their feet to Ecco.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Championship Connection

Brooks Koepka celebrates his PGA Championship with his mom and girlfriend
After winning back-to-back U.S. Open titles earlier this year, Brooks Koepka added to his list of majors by winning the PGA Championship last weekend. During the week, I learned that Koepka's mother is Philadelphia-area native Denise Jakows, a longtime news anchor at WPTV in West Palm Beach, Fla. She is also a former college classmate of The Muni Golfer--we both attended Temple University's Klein College of Media and Communication during the last 1970s-early 1980s, worked as student reporters for Temple's FM radio station, and even had a class together. Even then you could tell that Denise was bound for big things, so it is no surprise her son is a three-time major champion golfer.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Wet Play at The Fairways

Fairways Golf Club
Warrington, Pa.
Yards: 2200/2248 - 4448
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 46/44 = 90
Date: August 12, 2018

Several days of heavy rains gave way to for a brief respite yesterday, allowing for 18 holes of golf under eventually sunny, skies and humid temperatures. But even though the sunshine beamed down on the Fairways, the course was water-logged in places, making for some sloppy play during the round. The rule of the day was cart paths only and bunkers were often mini ponds. Puddles could be found in numerous places and many times, the water squished under your feet as you took your stance. Still, it was an opportunity to play golf, no matter how wet the conditions.

Fairways Golf Club Scorecard

Following last week's round in Bethlehem, Pa., under similar wet conditions, I managed to play much the same way. I shot an identical 90 for my round. My problems at the Fairways were much the same as they had been, when I hit it poorly off the tee, big numbers follow. I made an 8 and two 7s on the front nine (a 46) and each could be traced to a very bad tee shot. The back nine was a little better (a 44), as I was able to overcome my errors off the tee.

TaylorMade AeroBurner Driver

I had put a TaylorMade AeroBurner driver in my bag for this round and it did me very few favors in finding the short grass. On the three holes on the front nine where I can hit driver--1st, 2nd and 8th--I topped my drive (1st), hit it way right (2nd) and plunked a ball in the creek (8th). Only at the 2nd Hole was I able to recover and make a par. On the back nine, the three holes that require driver: 16th, 17th and 18th, I fared no better, missing all three fairways short and in the rough. Needless to say, that driver will be replaced for the next round.

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Perfect Practice Place

Bethlehem Golf Club Executive Course
Bethlehem, Pa.
Yards: 2325/2581 - 4906
Par: 34/34 - 68
Rating: 63.3, Slope: 109
Score: 46/44 = 90
Date: August 4, 2018

While visiting family in the Easton, Pa., on Saturday, I had a chance to play 18 holes at Bethlehem Golf Club's Executive Course. The nine-hole Executive Course, along with the 18-hole Monocacy Course and Driving Range, comprises the City of Bethlehem's wonderful public golfing complex along Illicks Mill Road.

Bethlehem Golf Club Executive Course Scorecard

I have played the challenging 18-hole Monocacy Course, which used to play 6,679 yards from the white tees in the past, but on this occasion I opted for the nine-hole course instead. I like the shorter course because it offers a great opportunity to work on your game while getting in a round at the same time. For only $19--the non-resident rate--I could play as many holes as I would have liked and I have played 27 at the EC in the past. Also, there are no carts on the Executive Course, which meant I walked a round for the second time this season.

First Hole from the Tee Box

Due to severe rain storms late last week, the course was very soft, making it play a bit longer, and puddles could be found around the course, although none affected play. On this Saturday, they only had one set of tee markers, so the nine holes played the same both times around. The one thing I didn't like was there are no yardage markers in the fairway, so approach shot distances are strictly by feel. I often under-clubbed during my round, but this also gave me the opportunity to practice my short game on almost every hole. I also used my 4-wood and hybrids off of most of the tees on the Par 4s.

The iconic Bethlehem Steel Building looms a short distance away

I was a bit disappointed with my play on the front nine. I had some good holes and a couple of very bad holes. I did make two pars, but I wasn't happy with my 46. The back nine was better, but my score was almost identical with a 44. I was happy in the fact that as I approached my closing three holes--16 (Par 4), 17 (Par 3) and 18 (Par 4)--I pretended I needed to shoot no worse than two-over-par to score a 90. I parred 17 and bogeyed 16 and 18 to shoot 90!

More photos of the Bethlehem Golf Club's Executive Course:

The downhill Par 4 4th Hole

The Par 3 8th Hole, which plays uphill

Photos by The Muni Golfer

Monday, July 30, 2018

Ready for Another Round

Fairways Golf Club
Warrington, Pa.
Yards: 2200/2248 - 4448
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 45/40 = 85
Date: July 29, 2018

After a two-week break, I teed it up at the Fairways Golf Club for my 10th round of the season. I had only hit golf balls once during the break and I expected a little bit of rust when the round began. After parring the First Hole, I played some consistent golf, but couldn't quite put another par on the scorecard through the rest of the front nine. My putting wasn't sharp and I turned pars into bogeys and bogey's into doubles. I made the turn in 45.

Fairways Golf Club Scorecard

The back nine started much like the front, with a par at the short Par 4 Tenth Hole. But I was able to keep it going a bit better on the back nine, even with some trouble hitting my tee shots. I made additional pars at the Thirteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Holes. I would have had a couple of more pars if my putting had cooperated. A back nine 40 gave me a score of 85 for the round, and while satisfying--I didn't make a score higher than 6 on a hole--I know my score could have been even lower.

The 16th Hole where I made par

I had a few equipment changes for the round, some permanent and some as a trial. I will detail those changes in separate future posts. In the meantime, I am working on setting up a round for this coming weekend at a course that I haven't played in a few years. Hopefully, I can get it scheduled.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A Break From Play, But Not From Practice

Practice Range
Mad Golfer Golf Club
114 E. Street Road
Southampton, Pa.

After playing eight rounds of golf over seven consecutive weeks, I took off past two weeks due to other planned events and inclement weather. But today, I did work in a practice session at the Mad Golfer Golf Club. After warming up by hitting 15 balls with my sand wedge, 6-iron and 3-wood, I employed a method called "random practice," in which you vary what you are attempting to do from shot-to-shot.

The Mad Golfer Practice Range

In today's random practice session, I hit golf balls as if I were playing Fairways Golf Club. For example, I hit a ball with my Driver, just as I would on the First Hole at the Fairways. I then judged what I likely would have remaining for my approach and hit the appropriate club to a target that distance. Today, that was a 7-iron. If I judged myself to have missed the green with my approach shot, I then hit a chip or pitch to a marker the distance I felt I would have been from the cup. The only part missing was putting.

After using the random practice to play the 18 holes at Fairways Golf Club, I finished off my practice by working on my long irons and fairway woods. I hit 12 4-irons, 15 5-woods--both off the tee and off the mat, and 14 3-woods.

This practice has hopefully set me up for another stretch of golf, which I hope will carry me through the week of Labor Day in early September.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

I Needed More Than a Mulligan

Mulligan's Pointe
Georgetown, De.
Yards: 3072/3195 - 6267
Par: 36/36 - 72
Rating: 71.1, Slope: 127
Score: 50/57 = 107
Date: July 8, 2018

Visiting the Delaware shore for a family reunion provided the perfect opportunity for a round of golf with a few of my cousins. Looking for someplace new to play, I found Mulligan's Pointe in Georgetown. Formerly Sussex Pines, a private country club, Mulligan's Pointe opened to the public for play earlier this year.

With a newly remodeled clubhouse, Mulligan's Pointe still has the look and feel of a private, "member's only" club, but with green's fees of $40 including cart, it is definitely public-friendly. It was evident the new owners are putting money into restoring the course and facilities. The course still needs some work, but overall, it was a bargain compared to surrounding courses.

Coming off last week's heat wave, temperatures only reached the upper 70s on Sunday when we played, and a gusty breeze made it feel more like September than early July. Except for the breeze, which made hitting some shots rather difficult, it was pleasant conditions for a round. The breezy conditions certainly didn't help me deal with a course that was already a bit of a beast. It is nearly 6300 yards in length and there is water on numerous holes, just waiting to drown wayward shots.

Mulligan's Pointe Scorecard

My game has not been at its best the past few weeks and Mulligan's Pointe wasn't the place it was going to reappear. I had trouble off the tee, and when I did hit a good drive, I often had a very long approach shot into the green. My short game was fair, but my putting was really poor. So poor in fact that I played the last three holes putting cross-handed. While I never made worse than an eight during the round, I had three of them, along with three sevens and six sixes. In fact, I only made one par, at the 180-yard par 3 Third Hole, during my round. I think it was a combination of my game being off, breezy conditions and unfamiliarity with the course.

Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed with my round at Mulligan's Pointe, but I can't get discouraged. I will work to get my game back to where it was earlier this year. And by the time September gets here and we head back to the Delaware shore for vacation, I will be ready for a mulligan at Mulligan's Pointe!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Mid-Year Review

At the beginning of the year, I posted a list of five golf resolutions or goals that I aimed to achieve this year. Since we are halfway through the year, I thought it would be good to review and recap how I am doing in terms of successfully meeting those resolutions:

* Play a minimum of 20 rounds in 2018. As of June 30th, I nearly halfway to achieving the this goal. To date, I have played eight rounds and have another scheduled for July 8th. The raining weather through most of spring delayed the start of the season, so I am playing a bit of catch-up, but I feel I can meet this goal.

* Have a minimum of 10 practice sessions during the 2018 season. Because of the rainy spring, I practiced more than normal because I wasn't able to play on a course. So far, I have had five practices at the range and putting green, leaving me halfway to fulfilling my goal.

The Mad Golfer Practice Range

* Play at least two now courses in 2018. While my eight rounds so far this season have been played over five different courses, I have yet to play a new course this year. That should change this weekend when I play my inaugural round at Mulligan's Pointe in Georgetown, Delaware.

* Start my golf season no later than April. While I didn't play my first round of the season until May 1st, I did have two practice sessions in April to prepare, so I consider this goal achieved. Cold and rainy weather into late spring also played a role in delaying my first round until May.

* Maintain a focus on course management and playing all of my rounds under 100 throughout the season. I did well with goal through the first six rounds of the season, but I severely lost my focus, as well as my emotions, during the seventh round and shot 100 at the Fairways Golf Club on June 22nd. I have since revised this goal to be only shooting 100 or worst once this season.

My personal best round at Fairways on June 1st

So there is a brief recap of my season at the midway point. I have played some really good golf, shooting a personal best 75 at Fairways GC on June 1st; some consistent golf, with a  four rounds in the low 90s; and one really bad round of golf, the aforementioned 100 at Fairways GC. Overall, I would grade myself a B- for the season so far, with an aim to get that to B+ or better by the end.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Bouncing Back?

Fairways Golf Club
Warrington, Pa.
Yards: 2200/2248 - 4448
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 49/42 = 91
Date: June 29, 2018

Hoping to bounce back from the mental meltdown I experienced the previous week at the Fairways Golf Club, I teed it up at the course again this past week. In hoping to change my score, I made several changes to my bag for this round: I replaced my Wilson Staff Driver and Golfsmith 5-Wood for a Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 Driver and X Hot 7-Wood, respectively, as well as subbing a 56-degree Solus sand wedge for the Wilson Staff 58-degree wedge I had been carrying. I also went back to a Titleist NXT ball from the Pro V1 I had struggled with the prior round.

Fairways Golf Club Scorecard

These changes seemed to have little impact on the front nine, as I made an 8, 3 7s and a 6 in shooting a 49--one stroke worse than the front nine the week before. I did, however, manage to make par at two of the four Par 3s on the front nine. I also discovered that my swing was getting more around my body instead to more up-and-down.

Standing on the Tenth tee, I kept one swing thought: swing more up-and-down. I also was determined to have a better mental focus than I had the previous. It resulted in a back nine 42, which is certainly better than the previous round, but still not good enough. I did make two pars and had par putts on five of the other seven holes. If my putting had been a little better, I could have easily shot in the 80s, instead of the 91 I posted.

Overall, I played better than the previous round, but I am still searching for the consistency I had earlier. I think the discovery about my swing plane could help, as will the change in equipment. But I need to get back the short game and putting that helped me open the season so well.

Moving forward, the Callaway clubs will stay in the bag and I will also replace the Golfsmith XPC Plus 3-Wood with a Callaway X Hot2 4-Wood. The Solus sand wedge will be replaced by a new Wilson Staff 56-degree FG Tour PMP 56-degree wedge. And my Odyssey #9 will be removed in favor of another Odyssey putter, an original Rossie II. These changes will be tested this coming Sunday when I tee it up at a new course in Delaware: Mulligan's Pointe in Georgetown.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mental Meltdown

Fairways Golf Club
Warrington, Pa.
Yards: 2200/2248 - 4448
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 48/52 = 100
Date: June 22, 2018

One of my golf resolutions for 2018 was to "maintain a focus on course management and playing all of my rounds under (a score of) 100 throughout the season." That resolution or goal came crashing down at Fairways Golf Club on Friday when I shot an even 100 for my round.

Buoyed with confidence from my last three rounds--75, 93 and 90 at the Fairways, Neshaminy Valley Golf Club and John F. Byrne Golf Club, respectively--I was anticipating another opportunity to go low as I stepped onto the first tee. And while I was satisfied with the way I was hitting the ball early on, I was just not getting the results I expected.

Fairways Golf Club Scorecard

As the round progressed, my tee shots strayed ever so slightly off line, iron shots struck crisply came up short, chips and pitches were hit tentatively and putts repeatedly went left or burn the edges. On those rare occasions on the front nine when I had the opportunity to make a par or bogey, it became a bogey, double-bogey or even triple-bogey. It all added up to a front nine 48.

Now, this round was certainly not the first time I had shot a 48 on the front nine at Fairways. And in the past, I have often been able to concentrate, grind out the back nine and post a respectable score. But during this round, try as I might, I could not get my game headed in the right direction. My mental game sagged when I needed it to soar. My mistakes got bigger and the frustration took hold.

My playing partner, who is my cousin, sensing that things were going south mentally, even suggesting letting a twosome behind us play through so I could hopefully regroup mentally. But it was not to be. My back nine scores included a 7, 8 and 9. At the 323-yard Par 4 Sixteenth Hole, my mental meltdown was complete as I thinned my approach shot from the fairway into the right greenside bunker, then hit it across the green to the left bunker, back to the right bunker, then well off the green to the left.

The Sixteenth Hole where I made a 9

In reviewing what went wrong in my round, I realized I was more disappointed in losing my mental approach than I was in hitting bad shots. As I lost focus, I lost my ability to grind. So, my resolution or goal for the year will be revised to "maintain a focus on course management and playing all of my remaining rounds under a score of 100 for the remainder of the 2018 golf season."

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Not Getting Byrne(d)

John F. Byrne Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa.
Yards: 2273/2658 - 4931
Par: 33/34 - 67
Rating: 63.9, Slope: 116
Score: 46/44 = 90
Date: June 15, 2018

While the world's best golfers were grinding away Friday during the second round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills on the eastern tip of Long Island, I was grinding away during my own round at John F. Byrne Golf Club in Northeast Philadelphia.

John F. Byrne Scorecard

While Shinnecock is a private wind-swept, links-style course that is ranked among the top 10 in the world, Byrne is a Philadelphia-owned municipal track that sits in a valley, with the Torresdale Creek serpentining throughout. It is more renowned for its elevation changes than its scenic views.

My round got off to an okay start, with a two-putt bogey at the First Hole, followed by a double-bogey at the long Par 3 Second Hole, which requires golfers to hit a very tiny green with their downhill tee shots.

After a routine par at the short Par 4 Third Hole, I faced the short, but devilish Par 4 Fourth Hole. Although the hole only plays 293 yards, your tee shot must carry over the creek and through a narrow opening in the treeline 145 yards off the tee. From there, the fairway slopes severely downhill from left to right. If you make it through the opening to the fairway, you must play your approach shot--often with ball well below your feet--uphill to the tiny green that juts out from the side of the hill. Any approach shot that misses left or right leaves a very difficult chip or pitch.

Opting for a conservative approach off the tee, I hit my 4-wood at the right side, hoping to draw the ball toward the center of the gap. My shot, however, hung to the right just enough and while I didn't hear it hit in the trees of the creek, I was unable locate my ball on either side of the creek. I finally took a drop on the tee-side of the creek, and drawing a poor lie, hit my third shot into the weeds along
Fourth Hole looking back to the tee
the creek bank. Another drop. I hit my fifth shot over the creek up the left side about 50 yards short of the green. With the ball way below my feet as I took my stance, my punch (sixth) shot landed short and bounded right down the hill below the green. My chip up (seventh shot) ran over the green into the rough, but against the hill. With room for much of a backswing, I hacked down on the ball (eighth shot), which squirted across and off the green. I chipped again (ninth shot), this time stopping the ball about six feet from the hole. I sank the putt for a 10!

As I headed to the Fifth Hole, my mind made me think I was playing the world class U.S. Open venue, not a Philly muni course! A 10! On only the fourth hole of the round. But wait, there was still 14 more holes to play and I was not going to let this one hole blow up my round and my score! All week long, I have listened to golf commentators talk about players who are grinders, who don't have flashy styles, but who get the ball in the hole and post good scores. Well, here was my chance to be a grinder! To focus and put up a good score, despite the 10. My immediate goal became keeping my score under 100, shooting in the 90s at minimum, and if possible, getting into the 80s since the last time I played this course in 2016, I shot 86.

The comeback started at the 293 yard Par 4 Fifth Hole. I hit 7-wood off the tee, leaving me a gap wedge for my approach that I hit to 15 feet. Two-putts and a par. The grind has begun. I miss-clubbed at the downhill Par 3 Sixth Hole, hitting my tee shot into the creek that front the green. Double-bogey. A poor chip led to a bogey at the short Seventh Hole and a bad tee shot at the slightly uphill Par 3 Eighth led to another. At the 376 yard Par 4 Ninth, the tee shot starts out downhill, goes over the creek, then straight uphill to the green. I found the fairway, but came up well short on my approach, then hit my pitch a good 25 feet past the hole. But I slowly rolled in the slick downhill putt for par and a score of 46 on the front nine, even with a 10 at the Fourth!

I stood with confidence on the Tenth tee, another downhill tee shot that had to cross the creek. It quickly evaporated when my tee shot found the water and led to a double-bogey. I pulled my tee shot well left at the uphill Par 3 Eleventh Hole, which resulted in another double-bogey. But I was grinding, and my tee shot at the Par 5 Twelfth Hole found the middle of the fairway. I hooked my lay-up left with my hybrid, pitched out to the fairway, then wedged on to 15 feet. Two-putts and a six. A three-putt bogey at the very short Par 3 Thirteenth Hole was followed by another bogey at the long, 219-yard Par 3 Fourteenth Hole. After missing the green right for another double-bogey at the Par 3 Fifteenth, I was determined to finish strong. Although my tee shot went left into the treeline at the Par 5 Sixteenth, I hooked a 5-iron out and down the fairway. My third shot with a 7-iron came up short of the green, but I chipped on and made the 12 foot putt for a par. I found the left rough on the Seventeenth and my approach shot went even more left. I got a break when my pitch shot hung up just above the right bunker, leaving me a straight chip and a short putt for bogey. I got another fantastic break at the Eighteenth, as my tee shot at the 371-yard Par 4 hit in the creek, bounced high in the air and forward up the fairway, leaving me 135 yards uphill to the green. My approach with an 8-iron found the left rough and I chipped up to two feet and a closing par. It added up to a 44 on the back nine.

As I headed to the clubhouse, I felt a great deal of satisfaction. I had done it. I had grinded out a decent score on a day when my game wasn't hitting on all cylinders. I had met the goal I set for myself after the disastrous 10 on the Fourth Hole. I hadn't let it define my round.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Another Hybrid Audition

Since the longest iron I carry is a 5-iron, I have long searched for a club to fill the gap between my fairway woods and my irons. This club has ranged from a 4-hybrid to a 4 utility iron.

This season alone, in the five rounds I have played thus far, I have carried a TaylorMade hybrid three
times and a Wilson Staff utility iron twice. Now, a new club is auditioning for the opportunity to fill that critical spot in my golf arsenal.

On Sunday, I picked up a Top-Flite Gamer Tour 4-hybrid at Dick's Sporting Goods. Top-Flite, which used to be owned by the Spalding Company and had a major presence on the PGA Tour, is now a brand that is exclusive to Dick's and Golf Galaxy. During the first 10 years or so of my golfing career, I used Top-Flite golf balls exclusively, so I feel some good karma having this brand return to my bag.

The new hybrid, which I purchased on sale for $40, has 22 degrees of loft a heavy head which features a low center of gravity to aid in getting the ball in the air. It also features an Aldila NV 75 shaft, which retails for more than I paid for the club.

The new hybrid will get its first audition in the bag when I play my next round this weekend. I look forward to seeing if it will earn a permanent place among my golfing arsenal.