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.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

First Swing of Spring

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

With my first round of golf less than a week away, it was time to get some serious prep underway. Under glorious sunshine, and with temps in the 70s, I got my first practice session in at the Mad Golfer Golf Club in Southampton, Pa. The Mad Golfer's practice range is where I conditioned myself last September to return to the links after my heart surgery in March 2017.

Since today was the first practice session, it was more important to focus on the muscle memory of my swing than it was to work on any specific swing mechanics. With this in mind, I hit a large bucket of 63 balls. I felt a small would not be enough and a jumbo could possibly be pushing it so early.

After warming up with several stretches and swing with my Orange Whip, I hit 10 shots a piece with my Wilson Staff PMP wedges, Ci Gap Wedge, and Ci7 Pitching Wedge and 9-iron. I finished up with eight balls struck with my Alpha Rx 6-Hybrid and five with my Golfsmith Big Gun 7-Wood. Again, my focus was not where I hit the ball, it was getting a feel for swinging the golf club with a fluid rhythm and making solid contact. I did use an alignment stick to help with my setup.

Overall, I was pleased my first practice session. Despite only playing three times late last season, my swing did not feel awkward; not in mid-season form, but better than I expected. My next practice session will concentrate on putting, along with some more work on swing. While I realize I still have plenty of work to do, I think I should ready to play on May 4th.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Season is in Sight!

Punxsutawney Phil's prediction of six more weeks of winter turned out to be nearly double as the calendar approaches May. The calendar says it is late April and spring-like weather is finally here, which means golf is finally an option in the Northeastern part of the U.S.

Punxsutawney Phil

So far, my golf has been limited to watching the professional tours on TV. But that all changed this afternoon when I was invited to play in a golf outing May 4th at Paxon Hollow Golf Club. My golf season now has an official starting date. It also means that I have to get in some practice in the next eight days. Practice range here I come!

The Par 5 18th Hole at Paxon Hollow

Because I face a short time to prepare, I will draw up a practice plan in which I will focus on hitting wedges and short irons, as well as putting, since the short game constitutes nearly two-thirds of all strokes during a round. I will hit a few drivers and fairway woods, of course, to stretch out my swing, but mostly I want to establish a swing rhythm.

The practice range

So May 4th is circled on the calendar. The start of the season is finally here. I can hardly wait to put that first tee into the ground!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wishing everyone a Happy and Safe St. Patrick's Day!

Hopefully the weather will soon be such that we'll not only be wearing the green, but putting on it as well! In the meantime, I raise a glass of Guinness to the Irish. Sláinte!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

For The Record...

Since 1996, I have kept a yearly spreadsheet of my rounds played, tracking such statistics as score, total strokes, scoring average, birdies, eagles and holes of par or better. Recently, I decided to create a list of my all time achievements on the golf course. So below is the Muni Golfer's own personal record book. These records are through the 2017 season.

Most Rounds in a Season: 33.5 – 2001

Lowest Round (Par 69 or Lower): 77
   * Juniata, 10/28/01

Lowest Round (Par 70 or Higher): 87
   * Neshaminy Valley, 8/13/11
   * The Rookery South, 7/20/14

The 6th Hole at Neshaminy Valley

Career Birdies: 127

Most Birdies in a Season: 14 – 2001

Most Birdies in a Round: 2
   * 1998 – Juniata (6/7, 8/23), Walnut Lane (7/19), Pocono Palace (11/12)
   * 2001 – The Rookery South (9/4), Old Landing (9/7), Juniata (10/28)
   * 2002 – Cedar Ridge (10/5)
   * 2004 – FDR (5/15)
   * 2005 – The Rookery South (9/7)
   * 2007 – Baywood Greens (8/31)
   * 2011 – Fox Hollow (5/22)
   * 2012 – The Fairways (7/22)
   * 2016 – The Fairways (8/28), American Classic (9/9)

Most Consecutive Holes with a Birdie: 2
   * 2007 – Baywood Greens (#16-17, 8/31)
   * 2016 – The Fairways (#1-2, 8/28), American Classic (#7-8, 9/9)

The 16th Hole at Baywood Greens

Career Eagles: 3

Most Eagles in a Season: 1
   * 2000 – Marsh Island (7/28, #18)
   * 2006 – Juniata (7/30, #14)
   * 2007 – FDR (10/14, #18)

Most Pars in a Season: 93 – 2001

Most Pars in a Round: 8
   * 2010 – Horsham Valley (8/29)

The Par 3 4th Hole at Horsham Valley

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Peeble Beach By Way of the Amazon

One of my Christmas gifts this past holiday was a $25 gift card for Although I do order a lot of things online, particularly golf equipment, I have never ordered anything from Amazon. So this was a great opportunity to experience what the online retailer was all about.
Since Pebble Beach is my favorite golf apparel, I decided to explore what Amazon offered. As luck would have it, I found a nice Pebble Beach 1/4-zip pullover, with a chest pocket. While Peeble Beach describes the color of the pullover as Iron and Heater, it is really black with a grayish trim. It's price fell just within the gift card's amount, so I ordered it.
In placing my order, Amazon offered me free shipping if my order totaled $30 or more. This enticement led me to add a faux alligator scorecard holder from Fairway4 to my cart. Both arrived last week.
The pullover looks good, fits nicely and has a very soft feel. It will be perfect both on the course and practice range during the cool weather in the early spring  and late fall. I can't wait to wear it over one of my Pebble Beach golf shirts in the very near future.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Go Gym Dandy

Eight weeks after last March's cardiac bypass surgery, I began 12 weeks of cardiac rehab at Temple University Health System's Jeanes Hospital. Three times a week I would go and work out for an hour, as I recaptured my strength and stamina. Once I completed the supervised rehab, I was on my own, although they did give me a plan to follow.

While I relied on walking throughout the fall to keep myself in shape, my cardiologist felt that with winter weather approaching, it wouldn't hurt to join a gym. So at the end of December, I joined the Planet Fitness in Trevose, Pa. Since the week of Jan. 8, I have regularly been going to this gym three times a week, where I work out for approximately an hour following a modified version of the routine given to me at cardiac rehab. My workouts are as follows:
  • 30 minutes on the treadmill
  • 15 minutes on the stationary bike
  • 5 minutes on the elliptical machine (occasionally)
  • 3 sets of free weights (5-7.5 lbs)
  • 2-3 laps around the gym to cool down.

These exercises have helped to keep my weight steady, my cholesterol low and my heart strong. There have been nights when I haven't felt up to going to the gym, but it is interesting how something like heart surgery can serve as a motivator! I even plan to try and add some abdominal strengthening in the near future. It is my hope that come the spring, this regular exercise routine will benefit my golf game too.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Adding Flexibility to My Arsenal

Today in the mail I received a  Wilson Staff FG Tour F5 20-degree hybrid that I ordered last week during a 2018 "Clean-out Sale" from I wanted to add this hybrid to my arsenal of golf clubs to provide flexibility on a variety of courses. On shorter courses that don't feature long Par 4s or Par 5s, like The Fairways or Juniata Golf Club, I can swap this hybrid in for my Wilson Staff D200 7-Wood.

The F5 hybrid, which debuted in 2016, comes with a Mitsubishi Fubuki Z 80 shaft in regular flex. The clubhead feels a bit heavier than most hybrids and the club received good very good reviews, particularly for those of us that have slower swing speeds. And although the club plays normally at 20-degrees loft, the head can be adjusted up or down to either 19- or 21-degrees. Since my 7-Wood is 21-degrees, I will play the hybrid at 20.

In the very near future, I will do a post on the full arsenal of clubs I will use in 2018, plus the other equipment and accessories I carry in my golf bag. In the meantime, my newest addition to the bag, along with the Wilson Staff PMP wedges I picked up at the Philly Golf Show, just adds to the anticipation of getting on the practice range sometime within the next few weeks--weather permitting--to begin the 2018 season!