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.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Trying to Stay in the Zone

Neshaminy Valley Golf Club
Jamison, Pa.
Yards: 3338/2676 - 6014
Par: 36/34 - 70
Rating: 68.7, Slope: 118
Score: 48/45 = 93
Date: June 8, 2018

Trying to follow up on my record-setting round the previous Friday, I teed it up at Neshaminy Valley Golf Club. This course is where I had posted my lowest round ever for a course of Par 70 or better when I shot an 87 in 2011 (later tied with an 87 at The Rookery South in 2014).

Neshaminy Valley Scorecard - Front Nine

The tone for the day would be set early when I three-putter the First Hole, something that would be repeated throughout my round. The greens were seriously slow, much like they were a few weeks ago at Juniata Golf Club. No matter how hard I tried, mentally, I could not get myself to hit the putts hard enough to get them to the hole.

Neshaminy Valley Scorecard - Back Nine

On the front nine, I had two pars--a nice sand save at the long Par 3 Sixth Hole and the Par 5 Ninth Hole--two bogeys and five double bogeys. Most were the result of not being able to adjust to the slow speed of the greens.

The Twelfth Hole from the tee

On the back nine, I again made two pars at the Eleventh and Twelfth Holes, but I could have had at least two or three more if I could have putted better. My only bad hole on the back was at the Par 5 Fourteenth Hole, where I hooked my second shot left and had to chip back towards the fairway, then hit my fourth shot over the green, which led to a triple-bogey 7.

The Par 5 Fourteenth Hole

While I won't certainly complain about shooting a 93 at Neshaminy Valley, my score could have been so much better if I could have putted better.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

In the Zone at the Fairways

Fairways Golf Club
Warrington, Pa.
Yards: 2200/2248 - 4448
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 39/36 = 75
Date: June 1, 2018

It was one of days that you typically get in the summer: overcast, very humid, possible periods of sun, threat of pop-up heavy storms. Watching the meteorologists on the morning news, I was unsure if I should try to play nine holes, go to the practice range and just hit a bucket of balls, or find something else to do. Ultimately decided to try to play nine holes--thankfully--and it turned out to be a record-setting round for me!

As I set off to the Fairways Golf Club, my intention was to walk and play nine holes before the afternoon storms. But when I arrived at the course, I quickly changed my mind and decided to get a cart and play all 18 holes if possible. It turned out to be the right decision as the sun came out after a few holes and the storms never materialized. Not only did I play 18 holes, I made 10 pars during my round and shot my lowest score ever on a course with a par under 70: 75.

My scorecard from the record-setting round

The course was fairly empty when I teed off, no doubt a result of the uncertain weather forecast. But standing on the first tee, I had no clue as to the round that I would produce over the next couple of the hours. Here is a hole-by hole breakdown of my record-setting round (all yardage is what is indicated on the scorecard and not the actual yardage from the tee):

First Hole: 341 Yards, Par 4 -- My drive found the left side of the fairway in the first cut of rough. My approach with a 6-iron found the green and I lagged my first putt up for a sure opening par. But when I lipped out the par putt, I thought, "Uh-oh, I could be in for one of those days." Score: 5 (+1).

Second Hole: 322 Yards, Par 4 -- My drive found the fairway and my 8-iron approach trickled out of the left fringe and onto the green. I two-putted for par. Score: 4, Total: 9 (+1).

Third Hole: 109 Yards, Par 3 -- I hit my tee shot a tad fat and came up short left of the green. I chipped past the hole and two-putted for a bogey. Score: 4, Total: 13 (+2).

The Third Hole

Fourth Hole: 161 Yards, Par 3 -- My worst hole of the round. I overplayed my 5-iron off the tee into a bunker on the left of the green. Because of water in the bunker, I got relief, but had an awkward downhill stance and left my second shot in the bunker.  Another awkward stance, but I managed to just blast the ball out of the bunker and into the rough. A chip and two putts for a triple bogey. Score: 6, Total: 19 (+5).

Fifth Hole: 317 Yards, Par 4 -- My 3-wood off the tee found the left center of the fairway, but I hung my 8-iron approach to the right of the green in the collar. I chipped on and one-putted for par. Score: 4, Total 23 (+5).

Sixth Hole: 284 Yards, Par 4 -- I hit a 4-hybrid off the tee to the left side of the fairway, but again hung my approach out to the right rough with my Pitching Wedge. I chipped just below the hole and made the putt for back-to-back pars. Score: 4, Total: 27 (+5).

The Sixth Hole

Seventh Hole: 168 Yards, Par 3 -- My 6-iron off the tee landed in the right bunker. I splashed out onto the green and two-putted for a bogey. Score: 4, Total: 31 (+6).

Eighth Hole: 365 Yards, Par 4 -- My drive found the center of the fairway, but I thinned my 7-iron to the right rough, short of the green. I hit a so-so pitch which hopped onto the front of the green. Two putts for a bogey. Score: 5, Total: 36 (+7).

Ninth Hole:133 Yards, Par 3 -- My 8-iron off the tee found the right side of the green, where I two-putted to close out the front nine with my fourth par of the round and one of my best front nines ever at the Fairways. Score: 3, Total: 39 (+7).

A brief stop in the clubhouse to use the facilities and then I headed to the back nine hoping to continue the momentum from the opening nine holes. Several times on the back nine I had to give myself a pep talk to stay in the present and not think about a final score.

Tenth Hole: 248 Yards, Par 4 -- I hit a 3-hybrid off the tee, which found the first cut of rough on the left side of the fairway. My Gap Wedge from 88 yards found the right side of the green and I two-putted for another par. Score: 4, Total: 43 (+7).

Eleventh Hole: 291 Yards, Par 4 -- A dogleg right where you can only hit an iron off the tee, this hole has given me nightmares over the years. I hit a 7-iron off the tee and through the dogleg into the rough. My approach shot came up short and left. I chipped on and two-putted for a bogey. Score: 5, Total: 48 (+8).

Twelfth Hole: 139 Yards, Par 3 -- My 8-iron off the tee ended up hole-high, but in the right rough. I chipped just below the hole, then made my par putt. Score: 3, Total 51 (+8).

The Par 3 Twelfth Hole

Thirteenth Hole: 292 Yards, Par 4 -- A 3-wood off the tee found the right side of the fairway. My Gap Wedge approach from 88 yards was a touch heavy and trickled onto the front of the green, but a long way from the back hole location. After coming up a good short with my first putt, I three-putted for a bogey. Score: 5, Total: 56 (+9).

Fourteenth Hole: 134 Yards, Par 3 -- I hit my tee shot about 15 feet left of the hole, but left my birdie putt too high and made par. Score: 3, Total 59 (+9).

Fifteenth Hole: 113 Yards, Par 3 -- Playing 122 yards this round, I hit a Pitching Wedge about 20 feet right of the hole, but came up short on my birdie putt. Another par. Score: 3, Total 62 (+9).

Sixteenth Hole: 323 Yards, Par 4 -- I pulled my Driver left into the rough and had a long approach. I hit a 6-iron which again found rough left and short of the green. I chipped on and two-putted for a bogey. Score: 5, Total: 67 (+10).

Seventeenth Hole: 374 Yards, Par 4 -- Another Driver than went left, but this time it was in the first cut of rough. My 5-iron approach from about 165 yards rolled up onto the green about 12 10 feet to the left of the hole. My uphill putt just missed and I tapped in for my ninth par of the round. Score: 4, Total: 71 (+10).

The tee shot at the Eighteenth Hole

Eighteenth Hole: 334 Yards, Par 4 -- Another dogleg right, my tee shot found the left side of the fairway, but my approach was again a touch heavy. From short and left of the green I chipped past the hole, but made the downhill eight footer for my tenth par of the round. Score: 4, Total 75 (+10).

The score of 75 beat the 77 I shot at Juniata Golf Club in October 2001. I was +5 on the Par 3s and +5 on the Par 4s. The 10 pars also eclipsed the 8 I made during a round at the old Horsham Valley Golf Club in August 2010.

I also went back to the bag setup I had for my first round this year, except I swapped out a 3-hybrid for the 7-wood and an old 16-degree Golfsmith 3-wood for my 4-wood.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Home, Not So Sweet, Home

Juniata Golf Club
Philadelphia, Pa.
Yards: 2805/2185 - 4990
Par: 34/31 - 65
Rating: 64.2, Slope: 106
Score: 50/44 = 94
Date: May 30, 2018

On Wednesday, the Muni Golfer returned to his roots for a round at Juniata Golf Club, the Philadelphia-owned course along the banks of the Tacony Creek, where I learned to play golf. Although the course is officially owned by the city, it is successfully operated by the non-profit Juniata Golf Foundation.

Juniata Scorecard

Under gray skies, humid temperatures and the threat of showers, I teed it up at Juniata for the first time in nearly two years, and only the second time since 2012. The foundation has done a lot of landscaping and other improvements over the last decade or so, and they are noticeable as you play the course. However, and I will attribute some of the this to the very wet spring we have experienced, the grass was thick from the tee boxes to the greens. In fact, Juniata's greens were some of the slowest I have ever played on. On one green, I hit my putt so hard that on any other course it would have rolled past the hole and six feet off the green, but in this case, I cam up six feet short of the hole. When I missed a fairway, which was too frequently, my optic yellow golf ball was often difficult to find.

Conditions aside, I did not play very well. I was using this round as an opportunity to try a new Wilson Staff F5 Driver and Ping G20 4-Wood. Although the Driver has a regular flex shaft, it felt a bit stiff and I left numerous tee shots out to the right and short. This left me with long second shots from the gnarly rough, which meant long pitch shots to the green for my third shot. Coupled with the very slow greens and it added up to multiple double- and triple-bogeys.

After the Sixth Hole, where I pulled my tee shot just into the left rough and couldn't find the ball, I was very frustrated. But I gave my self a lecture about grinding out the round. I recovered a bit and made my first birdie of the season at the short, but challenging Seventh Hole. I shot a very uncharacteristic 50 on the front nine. I played slightly better on the back nine, making pars at the Thirteenth and Fourteenth holes, but still shot 44 on the easier of the Juniata's two nines. This gave me a disappointing score of 94 for the round.

For now, I will go back to my Wilson Staff Smooth Driver while I work with the F5 at the practice range to see if it has a place in my bag. My search for a reliable fairway wood that I get hit consistently off the tee also continues. Up next is an old Golfsmith XPC Plus 3-wood, which has 16 degrees of loft. I am hoping that it pairs well with my WS D200 7-Wood.

Because of the threat of afternoon thunderstorms, Friday is going to be a practice day at the range as opposed to a playing day on the course.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Fair Start at The Fairways

The Fairways Golf Club
Warrington, Pa.
Yards: 2200/2248 - 4448
Par: 32/33 - 65
Rating: 62.1, Slope: 104
Score: 43/43 = 86
Date: May 25, 2018

Three weeks after winning the Steve Young Invitational Outing, I was able to tee it up for the first time this season for an individual round of golf. The cloudless sky let the sun shine and there was not a hint of rain. I played alongside one of my family members at The Fairways Golf Club.

The Fairways Scorecard

My round started out well, with a par at the First Hole, but after missing the green right on the Second Hole, I three-putted for a double bogey. I made bogeys at the Par 3 Third and Fourth Holes after missing the green on both my tee shots.

The Sixth Hole

I made my first big mistake of the season by hitting my 4-wood dead left at the shortened Par 4 Fifth Hole. After a drop and lay up down the fairway, I missed the green left with my fourth shot and made a triple bogey 7. A scrambling par at the Sixth Hole was followed by another double-bogey at the long Par 3 Seventh Hole when I again missed the green left, then failed on my pitch to reach the putting surface. I closed out the front nine with two more bogeys for a score of 43.

I lipped out a birdie putt at the 12th Hole

The back nine started off with another tee shot that ended in the left rough on the Tenth Hole. I thinned my approach shot over the back of the green, then again three-putted for a 6. I made bogeys at the next four holes, just lipping out a birdie putt at the Par 3 Twelfth Hole. I made back-to-back pars at the Par 3 Fourteenth and Fifteenth Holes. I finished out my round by sandwiching double bogeys around a bogey at the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Holes. That gave me another 43 on the back nine and score of 86 for my round.

I made par at the 14th Hole

Overall, I managed to get around the course and post a decent score, but I was too often in trouble off the tee and pulled alot of shots left. My putting also not what it was at the outing three weeks ago. I think I started playing too much break on my putts. But these are things that I think will correct themselves with more playing.

The view from the 18th Tee

I made a couple of changes to my bag from the season opening scramble: substituting a Wilson Staff FG Tour F5 3-Hybrid for my 7-Wood and a WS V4 Utility 4-Iron for the 4-Hybrid I carried previously.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Nearly Washed Out Weekend

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

This past Friday was set for the first individual round of the year. A 10:30 tee time awaited my cousin and I at The Fairways Golf Club. But the meteorologists were all calling for heavy downpours throughout that day. Even the course called Thursday with a warning to call and make sure they would be open before traveling there. So I did the natural thing and canceled Thursday while we spoke on the phone. My instincts were confirmed Thursday night when my cousin called to say he didn't want to play Friday due to the predicted weather. So what happened Friday? Nothing! Some light sprinkles in the morning, but the main showers stayed to our south. The day was mostly overcast but dry.

Frustrated that an opportunity to play golf had slipped away, I decided I would attempt to play at least nine holes at The Fairways on Sunday afternoon. The skies appeared clear enough, so I readied my carry bag and headed off to the course. And naturally, I drove about a quarter-mile when the heavens opened up! I had to pull off the road for about 10 minutes waiting for the rain to ease up. As I again began driving to the course, the gray skies gave intermittent showers, so I decided to head for the Mad Golfer for some practice. At least there I would be undercover and able to hit some golf balls.

The rain disappeared as practice began

I purchased a jumbo bucket and took up a spot on the range, laying out my alignment stick and warming up by stretching and hitting 12 balls with my lob wedge. And what happened? That's right; the clouds disappeared, sun came out, and it was a beautiful afternoon. Oh well. At least I was hitting golf balls.

The practice gave me the opportunity to test out the Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 Driver I had put back in my bag. I had adjusted the loft to 11.5-degrees and wanted to see how it played. After hitting 24 balls, I adjusted the loft back to its original 10.5-degrees and hit 24 more shots. I hit some good shots straight down the range, but I also hit an alarming number with a giant fade to the right. The session convinced me to put my Wilson Staff Smooth Driver back in the bag.

The 1st blister of the season
Next, I hit my FG Tour F5 4-wood, both off the tee and off the turf. I picked up this club last season, but was unable to really use it due to the heart surgery. Today demonstrated to me that I need some more practice with the club, but I think it will be a good addition to the bag.

I followed the 4-wood with my FG Tour F5 3-hybrid, another club I have not had much of a chance to work with yet. I picked up this club to replace my 7-wood on shorted courses, giving me some flexibility in my arsenal. Again, I need to work with more, more I again, think this will be a good addition. I finished my practice with my V4 Utility 4 iron, hitting six shots off the tee and six off the mat.

While the weather didn't entirely keep me from hitting golf balls this weekend, it did cause me alter plans, and in both cases, unnecessarily. My practice with my long game was beneficial and hopefully, the weather will allow for more play and less practice in the coming weeks.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Beating the Weather

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

Yesterday's forecast called for severe weather to begin rolling through the region in the late afternoon. Because of commitments, Mrs. Muni Golfer had the car until the late afternoon. As the clouds were turning the skies gray and the temperature was beginning to drop, I knew I would not have enough time to get in even nine holes. But I did feel optimistic that I could at least get in a bit of practice, so I headed out to the Mad Golfer to use the practice range.

The skies were gray

Based on my play in last week's golf outing, I felt I needed some work on my fairway woods and long irons/hybrids, so I made that area the focus of my practice. I purchased a large bucket of range balls and found an empty stall at what was a surprisingly crowded range.

Swing Sock

After putting down my alignment stick, I used my weighted Swing Sock on my 7 iron to loosen up, then hit 10 lob wedges, followed by 10 8 irons to warm up. I am still trying to decide between carrying a 4 hybrid and a 4 utility iron. So I hit 10 balls with my Wilson Staff V4 Utility 4 iron and my Callaway Heavenwood 4 hybrid. I hit balls much better with the 4 utility than I did the hybrid. The result is the V4 will be going in my bag for the next round.

Wilson Staff V4 Utility Iron

Next up, I hit 10 balls with my Callaway X Hot 7 wood, then 5 balls with my Wilson Staff FG Tour F5 4 wood. I made solid contact with the 4 wood, and okay contact with the 7 wood. I still need to practice with both, but they will remain in my bag for now.

Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815

I finished off my practice by hitting 15 balls with my Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 Driver. I purchased this driver nearly two years ago when Sports Authority was going out of business and played about seven rounds with it during the 2016 season. For some reason, I went back to my Wilson Staff Smooth Driver, but I am putting the Callaway back in the bag. At the range yesterday, I hit the ball solidly and with a good trajectory. An adjustable driver, I had it set at 10.5-degrees loft and a neutral setting. Last night I increased the loft to 11.5 degrees, still in the neutral setting, so I will need another session at the range this week to see how that works, but I expect to play my next round with this driver in the bag.

The rain came, but practice was not a washout

As the skies continued to darken during my practice, I knew I was in a bit of a race against the weather. As I was hitting my last three balls with the driver, the rain began. Fortunately, I was undercover and during a brief letup, I was able to get myself and my clubs in the car. Practice was complete and the weather was beaten.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Practice Pays Off!

Steve Young Invitational Outing
Paxon Hollow Golf Course
850 Paxon Hollow Road, Media, Pa.
Yards (Blue Tees): 2733/2976 - 5709
Par: 35/36 - 71
Rating (Blue): 67.7, Slope: 122
Score: 31/30=61, Place: 1st
Date: May 4, 2018

What a way to start a golf season! As you know, my first round of the year was in a charity golf outing that raises money for scholarships at Temple University. To prepare, I made three trips to the practice range in hopes of finding some type of game before we teed it up yesterday. Well the practice paid off as my foursome won!

Playing at Paxon Hollow Golf Course, a very well maintained municipal course in Marple Township, Pa., me and three partners made 10 birdies--with nearly half being from putt of 20-plus feet--and most importantly, NO bogies, to shoot a 61. And I was quite pleased to contribute five of those birdie putts. None was more gratifying that at the 9th Hole, who I made a 30-foot putt that broke at least four feet from right-to-left.

Our round began at the very tricky 17th Hole, a par 3 that is only 115 yards, but plays straight downhill. Temple Men's Basketball Coach Fran Dunphy, a very accomplished golfer, greeted us on the tee. He would tee off first and then groups were challenged to beat the Coach. I am proud to say I not only the sole member of our foursome to put their tee shot on the green, I put it closer to the hole that Dunphy!

After starting with a par at the 17th, our foursome faced the very challenging, 535-yard par 5 18th Hole. Your tee shot is to a narrow sloping fairway with a creek on the left. From there, the hole uphill towards the green. We made a 15 footer for a our first birdie of the round. I made another 15 footer for birdie at the 1st Hole and made birdie putts the 7th and 9th holes as well. We finished the front nine with a four-under 31.

Our winning scorecard

The birdie at the 9th propelled our foursome onto a run which saw us birdie six holes in row (9-14). I began the birdie streak with my putt at the 9th and ended it with another long one at the 14th. At the 15th, a 175-yard par three, we all missed the green and was scrambling to make par when our chips left us a good 30-plus feet from the hole. But my teammate stepped up an nailed it to keep us from dropping a vital shot!

The 17th Hole

That par save may have been the difference as our score tied another foursome's, but we took first place on a match of score cards. Of course, it didn't hurt that we birdied the first four handicapped holes.

The 9th Green

The outing, and the victory, provided my with a bounty of swag. Just for being in the tournament, I received a reversible fold umbrella, water bottle and $100 to spend on Under Armour merchandise (which I used to purchase a polo, a pullover and a backpack), a book about legendary Philadelphia Daily News basketball writer and Temple alum Phil Jasner (personally autographed by his son the author), and a Temple windbreaker. For winning the event, I received a $75 gift certificate to the Pro Shop, which I used on a Paxon Hollow-logo'd Under Armour polo and two pairs of FootJoy ankle socks.

The 18th Hole from the fairway

All-in-all, everyone in the foursome contributed to our winning effort: George hit some timely approach shots, Mike boomed his drives which often left us with short approach shots, Bob made several key putts, and I added some key putts and tee shots. My game felt very good for the first round of the season. The only glaring weakness to my game yesterday was hitting my fairway woods and hybrid off the turf. It is definitely something I need to practice and improve upon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Get Ready...Get Set...

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

Last night, as the last glimmers of sunlight faded across the driving range at Bensalem Township Country Club, I completed my last practice session before I tee it up for the first time this Friday in a golf outing. Although I was somewhat rushing against the onset of darkness, I did manage to hit a large bucket balls.

Practically alone on the range.

As I have through my previous two practice sessions this season, I worked on just finding my swing and experimenting with a few clubs which may or may not end up in my bag. I started as I usually do
TaylorMade Raylor
with a warm-up using my Orange Whip. From there I hit my 52-degree Wedge, Pitching Wedge, 9-iron, 7-iron, two 3-Hybrids, and ended things off hitting my Driver for the first time this season.

Overall, I feel is in decent enough shape to carry me through the outing. I don't feel I will be completely rusty and embarrass myself; I should contribute some shots to our foursome. I have also decided to keep my Wilson Staff D200 7-Wood in the bag, along with added a 22-degree TaylorMade Raylor Hybrid in place of my 4-iron.

Tomorrow night, I will inventory my golf bag, make sure my equipment is ready, check my golf shoes and lay out my golf clothes for Friday. The weather is predicted to be very warm and I can hardly wait for that first tee shot of the season!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Pre-Season Prep Continues

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

What a difference a day makes. From Saturday's sunny, warm day to today's cloudy, windy and cold conditions. But I need the practice, so I headed to the practice range at Bensalem Township Country Club late this afternoon. I ordered a small bucket, which had 45 balls, and took a spot on the sparsely populated range.

Due to the conditions and the lateness, I only brought two clubs and a putter with me. I started my session with some light stretching, then placed an alignment stick on the mat. I hit 20 lob wedges and 20 9-woods, before finishing off that part of my practice with five more wedges. I hit the ball okay, but not as well as I did yesterday. I experimented with the 9-wood to see if it is something I want to put in my bag this season. The jury is still out on that decision.

From the range I walked down to the practice putting green, where I spent about 45 minutes hitting putts using The Big Putt (see video below), which is an oversized ball that has the same weight as a regular golf ball. The theory is after putting with the larger ball, the hole will seem much bigger when putting with a regulation golf ball. I wasn't as worried about making my putts as I was about just getting a feel for putting a golf ball.

I am hoping to get at least one more practice session in this week. If I can do that, I feel at least I will ready to play in the golf outing on Friday.