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The Pilgrimage: Oregon Golf Trip, Day Three (Bandon Dunes / Bandon Trails)

7/31/2006 1 comments
Bandon Dunes is incredible! What a place. Owner Mike Keiser is my hero. I love him.

I’ve concluded that there are three types of golfers in the world. 1) Golfers who have made the pilgrimage to Bandon Dunes; 2) Golfers who've yet to make it out to Bandon Dunes and are just dying to; and 3) Golfers who have never heard of Bandon Dunes. The reaction from a surprisingly large number of people that I talked to about going on a golf vacation to Oregon replied, ‘why would you want to go to Oregon?’ or ‘are there good golf courses in the Oregon?’. Now that I’ve finally made the transition from Golfer #2 to Golfer #1, I can emphatically say 'Yes!'

We played Bandon Dunes at 6:30 am this morning and the new Bandon Trails in the afternoon. It was a beautiful day here, sunny but cool. Bandon Dunes started off pretty calm early in the morning, but it got increasingly windy in the afternoon. The round at Bandon Trails had a constant forceful wind, but the caddies in our group said it was ‘calm to average’ wind compared to normal conditions. If that is true, I’d hate to see it on a windy day.

I had one of the uber-frustrating rounds at Bandon in the morning. One where you hit the ball beautifully but get absolutely nothing to show for it. I hit the ball extremely well for the whole round, probably only hitting 3-4 ‘poor’ shots. But the poors ones cost me and I couldn’t capitalize on the good ones. The problem was with the flatstick. Numerous three putts and other putts that slid just by. I made four footers for par on the first two holes and those were literally the longest putts that I made all day.

I also parred #3 and was feeling pretty good about myself, but that ended quickly when I hit my 3-iron tee shot on no. 4 into the gorse and had to re-tee lying three. That lead to a triple bogey. Then the putter abandoned me and it was downhill from there. Final tally: 42-43 85, hugely disappointing considering the relatively benign conditions.

Jimbo continued his scrambling ways. He only hit two greens but got up and down from EVERYWHERE and had a respectable 41-42 83. To add insult to injury, our caddies had a little sidebet going between Jimbo and me. Unfortunately, my caddy Frank (who claimed he was a lefty, liked the Pittsburgh Pirates, and had the Mizuno MP-30 irons just like me. Amazing coincidence, although I’m not 100% sure that I buy it) was riding the wrong horse that morning, and he lost $5 (I tipped him an extra $5 to compensate).

Ken was en fuego early on, parring the first three holes and rolling in a long downhill birdie putt to get him to 2 over through 6 holes. Ken Murray...welcome to the place called 'The Zone!' Unfortunately, his time there was short, and once the winds picked up, the Superman cape came off. He ended up with a very respectable 43-51 94. Charles actually started hitting the ball well, and was low man on the back nine with a miraculous 41. I told his caddie Kallie that if any woman could make Charles get around in 41 for nine holes, Charles should drop on one knee and propose. Unfortunately, she was married with three kids, one of those most well-conditioned soccer moms I’ve ever seen.

Bandon Dunes is a sweet, sweet course. The holes by the ocean are fantastic, including #4-#6, #15 and #16. It’s hard to find fault with the course. It’s not as solid from beginning to end like a Whistling Straits, but the course is more rugged and has a more authentic feel (as it should since the Dunes were God-made instead of man-made like Straits). I can tell you with certainty that Bandon Dunes will make it into the top 10.

After shooting such a high number in calm conditions, I wasn’t feeling too confident about scoring well at Bandon Trails, especially since the holes we saw looked extremely punishing. Amazingly, I did a complete 180 in the afternoon. The Trails is one brutally tough course, but I was hitting the ball beautifully and was finally able to get it going with the putter. After missing decent birdie opportunities on the first two holes, I rolled in a 4-footer on the par 5 third, and the flood gates were opened. Bounced back from an unplayable penalty and double bogey on No. 4 by knocking it stiff on the par-3 fifth for birdie #2 (it was a good thing I knocked it stiff, because this hole literally has the craziest green I’ve ever seen. Crenshaw and Coore must’ve been feeling extra surly when they drew that one up). Just missed on a good birdie chance on no. 6, but then made my third birdie of the day on the seventh. Pars on a eight and nine gave me a memorable one-under 35 on the front.

You have to make your score on the front at Bandon Trails because the back nine is extremely difficult, probably one of the most demanding 9 holes that I’ve ever played. I made a couple of dumb mistakes on the first four holes and bogeyed each of them. But I bounced back on the downhill 325-yard 14th, driving it about pin high and getting up and down from just off the green. It’s a good thing too, because I needed to save every stroke possible to give me some cushion for the last 4 holes, a masochistic stretch of round wreckers. I managed to somehow par 15, but 16 is an extreme uphill 530-yard par 5 that ate my lunch. Charles assisted with my triple-bogey snowman. I hit a solid shot on #17 but it was too much club and caught the lip of a bunker, leading to another bogey. I couldn’t get in the house quick enough. The round finished with a deadly uphill par 4 into the teeth of the wind. I absolutely bombed my drive and it only went about 210 yards total (remember this was a relatively calm day. Jimbo hit his best drive of the day and still ended up 25 yards short of the fairway. He knew his golf ball was doomed and we said our farewells to his Maxfli Noodle before he teed off). I hit 3-iron in but missed the green, ending up with yet another bogey but finishing with a 35-43 78. Finally a round in the 70’s. What a struggle.


Jim attempts to drive the green at the 14th at Bandon Trails.

Speaking of Jimbo, his scorecard says he shot a 39 on the front, which would normally be considered impressive except for the fact that it was only for the first seven holes. He fought the black tees and the black tees won...by knock out. 39-DNF DNF. He stopped keeping score but did manage to play a little better on the back. Kenyon had a tough time on the holes that were into the wind, but his caddie Lisa kept him headed in the right direction and he shot a 49-50 99. Charles struggled with his high ball flight and lack of directional control and couldn’t repeat his success from the first round...46-54 100.

Bandon Trails is a nice addition to the other coastal courses here. It reminded me of Pine Barrens at World Woods, but is probably even a little more solid with more elevation change and the extra element of wind. Some holes are a little wacky, but there are opportunities to score to go along with the demanding holes. Other than No. 1 which starts out in the dunes, No. 13 was probably my favorite hole, a downhill par 4 with a green tucked to the right and trouble down the right. The one place not to miss is in the deep bunker right and both Jimbo and I hit in there from perfect positions in the fairway. Jimbo even managed to mutilate half the bunker trying to get down to his ball.


Bunkers designed by Crenshaw, Coore...and Tang. Jimbo wants design credits for (accidentally) altering the look and feel of this bunker at the 13th at Bandon Trails. Ironically, two days later Ken hit his approach shot into Jimbo's footprint that was still there.

From No. 13, you climb up a path and actually take a cart shuttle up to the next tee, that 325-yard downhill par 4 that I birdied. I guess the caddies and players used to have to hoof it up the 200-foot incline, but a course ranger try to make the hike one day and had a heart attack and died.

One other thing of note from the round...we were walking the front nine when out of nowhere a dude and his caddie flew right by us in a golf cart. A cart! Where did that thing come from? I joked that it completely ruined my whole Bandon experience, but the caddies explained that one cart was allowed per course per day for those with disability. That’s cool...but from the looks of it, the guy riding in the cart suffered only from obesity.

Tomorrow, it's Pacific Dunes in the morning and Bandon Dunes in the afternoon. Charles has to take off after the morning round.

By the numbers:
Birdie Count: Jim 4 (8 total), Jimbo 1 (2), Ken 1 (1), Charles 1 (1)
1 - Mouth on ball violations by Jimbo on Jim (a 50% improvement in just one day)
1 - Drivers hit by Jim on a par 3, occuring on the 242-yard uphill into the wind par 3 12th at Bandon Trails
0 - Drivers hit by Jim on par 3’s, last 15 years
4 - Times Charles tried to backhand a gimme putt into the hole on one occasion, before failing to pick up the ball with the back of his putter and accidentally rolling his ball towards Ken, who was waiting to putt, and eventually off the front of the green.
63 - Total number of holes played by Charles, who played an extra 27 holes out at Bandon Dunes.

The Pilgrimage: Oregon Golf Trip, Day Two (Sandpines)

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Just wrapped up 36 holes at Sandpines in Florence, OR. Sandpines was named the Best New Public Course in Golf Digest when it opened in 1993. After playing the course twice, I can’t help but think that the course has fallen on hard times. We were out there on a beautiful Sunday in the middle of the summer and the place was a ghost town. We had the first tee time at 7:00 and the next group wasn’t scheduled until 8:00. We finished up well-ahead of our noon replay time, checked back in and they said we could tee off whenever we wanted...it was wide open. We didn’t run into another group until the 15th hole of the second round, and I can only remember seeing three other groups all day.

When the ratio of golfers to golf club employees is less than 4-to-1, you’re in serious trouble. I can’t help but think that for the average local golfer, Sandpines is both too difficult and, more importantly, too expensive. $110 to ride for 18 holes is probably a little steep, especially when a decent course called Ocean Dunes is in town at less than half the price.

Although open for 13 years now, they are just now putting the finishing touches on a new clubhouse. The clubhouse is huge and provides a nice backdrop for holes 16 & 18. However, it doesn’t totally block two huge unsightly water towers which hover immediately over the course.

Sandpines has some very nice holes. It starts off pretty tame, although no. 2 is a nice-looking short par 4 that wraps around a pond on the left. You better make your pars on the first three holes because it gets exceedingly difficult from there. Holes 4-9 are a tough six-round stretch that will make or break your round (probably break). The back nine is pretty lackluster -- a lot of boring parallel holes that are dead straight and have mounds separating them. Things get a little more interesting the last three holes, including a Pebble Beach-inspired par 5 to finish it off. The other lackluster aspect of Sandpines is the greens. Putts roll true and the greens were in good shape, but they were nearly all dead flat. Generally if you aimed within the hole, you had a pretty good chancing of making it. Overall, I’ll probably rank Sandpines around 90-100th, putting it at about a 5.5 on my 10-point scale.

Unfortunately, I didn’t play nearly as well as I was expecting to. Large numbers killed me. A triple bogey on the 4th and a double on the par-5 8th (two sevens...never good) were the main culprits of a front nine 44. I started hitting the ball much better on the back nine, ending up with a 82. The second round was more of the same on the front nine (although I birdied the 4th this time for an amazing 4-stroke swing versus the first round), but managed to improve a couple of strokes for a 40-40 80.

The second round was capped off by an unconventional birdie. Instead of going around the right side of the lake, I took a shortcut and blasted over to the 16th fairway, leaving only 170 yards to the green. Hey man, nobody said that you had to play the hole the way they want you to. The goal is to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible, via any route possible.

Speaking of playing from other holes, Charles must’ve set a record for playing from the wrong fairway, albeit unintentionally. On one par three on the back nine, his wayward tee shot hit the cart path and bounded to the eighth hole about sixty feet below the level of the green. The downside of this strategy at Sandpines is that instead of a Cart Path Only policy, Sandpines has a fairway only cart policy (an even a sign that says this...a first for me). So if you hit in a different fairway, you have to guess where you think it might be, and traipse up and down the mounds separating the holes. Try doing this (or watching this) 11-12 times in a 36-hole timeframe.

After Sandpines, we made the 90-minute drive down the coast to Bandon Dunes. We have made the pilgrimage! This place is great. We hit some balls on the range into a tough (although relatively tame for here) wind, tried my hand on the massive putting green (you wouldn’t believe how fast and firm they are). Unfortunately, the new lil par-3 course, Wee Dunes was closed, as was most of the putting area and all of the chipping area (I was really hoping to work on bump and run, which I haven’t needed to use since playing the Old Course in 2000). They were closed for the Curtis Cup which was just wrapping up while we were checking in (the U.S. won for the 10th time in a row or something...quick name one person on either Curtis Cup team). We then got some hardy grub at the pub (saw Dottie Pepper there...what a hottie!!!). As the only bachelor in the group, Charles got himself invited to the post-Curtis Cup celebration, using some alias by the name of Kevin Brook. Charles hopes to meet some budding college golf hotties, and Jimbo joked that all his groin problems might be solved (unfortunately he didn’t end up going).

After dinner, we headed over to Bandon Trails right before sunset to get a sneak peek of the course. Climbed up to the first tee, and it only took about .5 seconds for our entire group to become absolutely terrified to play Trails tomorrow afternoon. The first hole is a benign 370 or so yards, but it looks like it’s about 480 yards from the tee box. That course looks like a killer. Very cool looking from what little of it we saw.

By the numbers:

Birdie Count: Jim 4 (6 total), Jimbo 0 (1 total)
Scores: Jim 82-80; Jimbo 85-83; Ken 96-90; Charles 102-98
1 - Clubs thrown (Jim, first in a long time...and it felt goooood)
2 - Mouth On Ball violations (for example, saying ‘great shot’ when it’s in the air, only to have the ball end up in the water) by Jimbo on Jim in the first four holes
11-12 - Times Charles played from the wrong fairway (we lost count)
1 - Ranger warnings (actually his hat said ‘Security’ for some reason) to Charles for driving over or between a tee box trying to retrieve one of his wayward tee shots 2 - Number of beds in the one room shared by the four of us. Yikes! 95 - Degrees of said room after Charles cranked up the fireplace.

The Pilgrimage: Oregon Golf Trip, Day One (OGA)

7/30/2006 0 comments

A successful day one on the Oregon golf trip. Uneventful flight (cool view of Mt. Hood flying in), golf clubs made it on the flight (hallelujah!), and headed down to Oregon Golfer's Association golf course in Woodburn, OR about 30-40 minutes south of Portland. OGA is a quirky course, especially on the front nine. Definitely the type of course you need to play more than once to figure out where you are supposed to hit it (or more importantly, not hit it). I had to hit iron off the tee on a par five...twice!!! This wasn't a Tiger Woods-like strategy. This was a necessity because the fairway ended at about 270 yards. I don't mind short par 4's requiring a lay-up, but not on a par five and especially not on two of them.

So needless to say, OGA was not a bomber's paradise, and my scores reflected that fact. Plus, the greens were firm and fast, and my short game failed to save me. I three-putted the first two greens (well, one lag putt actually went off the green, so I guess that's considered a two-putt, took penalty strokes on #3 and #4 and stood at seven over after seven holes before making bird on the par 3 8th hole. After that, the round went much smoother, although it did include two more three putts and one more penalty. Breaking 80 look like a possibility after birdieing no. 15, but my hopes were dashed ater missing a couple 4-footers for par on 16 and 17. Final tally: 42-39 81.

Jimbo was my polar opposite today, only hitting five greens but managing to get up and down from nearly everywhere. He had a solid 40-37 77 including one birdie. Great start for Jimbo. Charles was hampered by a recent groin injury that really limited his effectiveness on the golf course. We were all writhing in pain just watching him swing the club. Score: TBD. Hopefully he can get back on the mend before we play Bandon Dunes on Monday. My father-in-law Ken played pretty well, making a lot of key putts and staying out of trouble. 44-45 89. Although he did whiff once trying to muscle a 3-wood off the fairway. We'll just call it a practice swing.

Speaking of Charles, he got the trip started on the right foot before it even started as we talked on the phone the day before leaving. We were going through various details of the itinerary when he asks, 'Who is this Ken guy? Is he a buddy of yours? I don't think I've ever met him.' Charles has met my father-in-law many times and actually has played golf with him...he just never put 2+2 together. Or he never knew what Ken's first name was.

OGA was a good warm-up course to start the trip with, but overall it was pretty mediocre. Beaides the quirkiness of the holes, there were a number of other minor service issues:

- Annoying lengthy check-in process. I think they run a background check on every person before you're allowed to play the course (despite my checkered past, I somehow still made it)

- Multiple screw-ups on figuring out the right price to charge us because we all used these coupons off their website (saved us $23 each!). Basically we had to tell them what the right price was (apparently math is not taught in Oregon schools).

- They were completely out of carts and we were told that they would bring them out to us after the first or second hole (we did end up getting them before the round started)

- They didn't have the black tees out, forcing golfers to go no further than the blues. The blacks are only 6,650 yards, and the blues are 6,350. Jimbo, Charles and I just teed up from the black yardage plates (which was actually turned out to be somewhat liberating getting to tee up anywhere you wanted without tee markers)

On the plus side, OGA was in very good shape and was pretty cheap with the coupon. Overall, OGA will probably end up being ranked in the 170-180 range, which is around a 4.5 on my 10-pt scale. We actually had to pass up on an opportunity to play Pronghorn, a privated Nicklaus course that is one of the top courses in the state, solely because of timing issues. Pronghorn would've been a major upgrade, but we just couldn't swing it logistically.

We're off to play Sandpines tomorrow morning for thirty-six holes. Jimbo has a love affair with Sandpines from their last time out, although I've heard conflicting opinions from Jefe and others. From the yardage book, it looks pretty nice. More of a grip it and rip it course, so I'll be looking to score a little bit better. Stay tuned.

By the numbers:

Birdie Count: 2 for Jim, 1 for Jimbo
Stroke Count: 77 for Jimbo, 81 for Jim, 89 for Ken, TBD for Charles
5 - Holes played before Jim made his first par
9 - Holes played before Charles left his wedge behind and had to go back for it
1 - Whiffs by Ken
0 - Clubs Thrown
TBD - Golf Balls Lost by Charles

Diary of a Golfer...

7/25/2006 1 comments

July 25, 2006 - Played 18 holes at Prairie Landing after work tonight. Let's just say it was a memorable round. Check out the blow-by-blow below.

3:56 PM: At work in Chicago on a conference call that seems like it's going to go well past its scheduled 4:00 PM completion. I have to leave in the next 2 minutes to have any chance of catching the 4:11 train and any chance of getting in 18 before dark.

4:04 PM: Conference call ends mercifully. Looks like it's the 5:04 train and nine holes for me.

4:05 PM: I hate playing nine holers. They prove nothing. Maybe I can make that train after all. Bolt for the elevators, head outside and grab a cab. Thankfully, I got the rastafarian Mario Andretti and we're off like a bolt of lightning. He weaves in and out of lanes, blasts through really, really stale yellow lights and somehow manages to cover six blocks in less than two minutes.

4:09 PM: In front of the Oglivie Transportation Center. I dash out of the cab and up the escalators. I make the train with a minute to spare. Thanks, Mario.

4:35 PM: Reading about 17 year old LPGA pro Morgan Pressel in ESPN Magazine. I recollect about the time two years ago when I was hitting at the range right next to her at Pinehurst, right before she was about to wax somebody to win the North and South Amateur. Can't help but think that I was hitting the ball better than she was, but man I wouldn't want any piece of her. She'd tear you limb from limb and have fun doing it. What a bulldog. She played in the US Womens Open at age 12. Here I am standing next to a 16-year old girl and I'm about to wet my pants. And one year after Pinehurst she nearly goes out and wins the Womens Open. Good article. Good feelings thinking about Pinehurst. It's all good.

5:20 PM: Arrive at Prairie Landing. Put my bag down by the first tee and head up to the pro shop to check-in. There's a couple teeing off, but it looks pretty open out there.

5:25 PM: Check in and head back to the first tee. Couple is on the first green but a different twosome is on the tee and a single walker puts his bag down by mine right before I get there. The twosome is pretty scary looking, two guys who somehow time-warped from the 1980's and ended up teeing off in front of me. Golfer #1: Blond mullett with red t-shirt. Golfer #2: Brown mullett with light blue tank top. Brown mullett has one of those swings where the front leg swings wide open and around on the downswing. Doesn't look good. Not to mention that I have this other single to deal with. I know he's aiming to pair up, but that would kill my chances at 18.

5:30 PM: Kill time chipping on the adjacent putting green. Once the coast is clear, I walk towards the single and pull an all-time Jedi Mind Trick.

Obi-Wan: You playing 18 or 9? (*waves hand* You will say 9)

Stormtrooper: 9. Are you playing 18?

Obi: I'm going to try to. Do you mind if I go ahead? If we pair up, we'll never get past these guys and we'll never finish. It's pretty wide open ahead of them.

Storm: You can go ahead.

The funny thing is I quickly tee off, start heading down the fairway and look over and the guy was heading for the parking lot! Although I would've been out of the way in 5 minutes, he was so flustered (and perhaps had only a vague recollection of what just transpired), that he just headed home. These aren't the droids you're looking for.

1st Hole - Par 4, 347 yards
Normally I try to carry it to the right side of the fairway over the water to shorten the hole (or even drive the green..it's 313 to the front), but this hole was playing into a pretty strong wind so I wimped out and went left. Thought I hit a pretty solid drive down the left side that was going to curl back into the fairway (I was off the tee box as the ball was still in the air in order to catch up to the Mullett brothers). However, my ball ended up in the tall grass on the high side of a fairway bunker, but only about 85 yards to the hole. I hit my trusty lob wedge that lands short of the green and rolls to about a foot away. Tap-in birdie, 1 under par.

Normally since I was in a hurry I would just keep the pin-in and tap in the gimme, but I pull the pin and tap it in legally. I think to myself, what if I end up going for the course record? So far, so good.

2nd Hole - Par 4, 365 yards
I catch up to the group in front in time to see Brown Mullett slice one about 100 yards left of the fairway, go back to the cart to grab another ball, then hook his mulligan 75 yards right of the fairway. They see me standing there on the back tee, teed up, driver out, ready to roll (the international sign for 'let me play through, loser'). Yet they started heading back to the cart to head down the fairway. Time to take it to Defcon 2: 'Excuse Me! Do you mind if I play through?' I yell, which got me a half-hearted lift of the club shaft in my direction, which must've been the international sign for 'go ahead' the last time Jack Nicklaus won a major.

I seize the opportunity and put a quick swing on the driver that's low, solid but hooking and heads for the fairway bunker. I hurriedly try to hit a sand wedge out of the bunker but it hits the lip and topspins down the fairway. Decent 3rd shot from 75 yards out with the lob wedge gets me a putt at par but it's not meant to be. Bogey. Even par.

3rd Hole - Par 3, 197 yards
Generally not an overly difficult hole for me, usually plays downwind and left-to-right so I usually just start it left with a big draw and run it up the length of the green. Pin was way up so I hit a 8-iron. Solid shot, but too much club and it ends up about 50 feet away. The difficulty with this hole is the green, which must lead to more three putts than any hole on the course (I can personally attest to this). And my lag putt looks like it’s going add yet one more piece of evidence to the theory but I managed to hole out a slippery 4-footer. PAR, EVEN PAR

4th Hole - Par 5, 530 yards
By far the easiest hole on the course. I once birdied this hole six times in a row. Jefe says it’s a par 4 for me. The hole nearly always plays downwind and if you carry it far enough you get some additional roll from a big downhill slope in the fairway. I hit a straight drive that’s about 2 grooves low and doesn’t take advantage of the wind nor the slope. But I’m in the fairway about 245 to the middle, pin is in the front. I hit 5-iron and run it up there to middle of the green. Get overly aggressive on the eagle putt which slides right by but ends up a good 6-7 feet past the hole. But it’s relatively straight and I roll it in. BIRDIE, ONE UNDER

Now we cross the bike path to play the two holes across the road. I always tell Jefe that if you want to score well, you need to be under par when you cross the road. The first four holes are scoreable. The course gets increasingly more difficult from here.

5th Hole - Par 4, 406 yards
Probably the toughest par 4 on the course. I’ve had so many hopes of good rounds dashed by this stupid hole. The difficulty is in the tee shot, where you have two options. Bailing out right is the easy way out (I've only tried this once), but you have almost no shot on the approach. The green is extremely narrow from that angle. The preferred option is to go left, but you have to carry it about 230 over both water and mounds to a fairway that gets narrows out starting at 250 yards out to a small neck about 300 yards out. Any bit of draw for me and the ball runs through the fairway and into the hazard (guess what kind of shot I hit 98% of the time?). Plus the cart path bisects the left side about 270 out -- I’m still haunted by the time I hit a great drive there that hit the path on the fly and one-hopped straight into the hazard (I would classify that as a design flaw, but overall it’s a great hole).

So,with this in mind I aim way left (there’s more room over there than it looks - right Wego?) and hit an absolute bomb. Ends up in the neck only about 25 yards from the front of the green. I’ve caught up to the couple that was on the tee when I arrived at the course and my drive is close enough to get their attention. I’d call it the best drive I’ve ever hit on the hole, except I did nearly the exact same thing the day before. My ball is literally three feet from the divot from where I was yesterday.

Now the pin is in the front and this is a particular tricky little chip shot. I avoid the urge to speed up to get past the group ahead (which turns out to be a good thing) and take my time, scope out the green, and hit a decent chip that takes the slope and ends up less than 10 feet away. Well, did you watch the British open Saturday when Sergio scorched the front nine only to get really tentative (to put it nicely)? On the 11th or 12th hole he knocked it to about 6 feet and hit this wobbler that never had a chance. Well, that’s exactly what I was going through here on 5. I was so concerned about not running it four feet past that I leave it woefully short. Is it just me or is it getting hot in here? PAR, ONE UNDER

6th Hole - Par 3, 195 yards
Tough par three into the wind. Huge bunker with far too much sand (unlike every other bunker on the course) guards the front, you want no business with that. I try to hit a fade starting it out right of the flag and letting the wind feed it. Well a fade for me is actually still a slight draw, but it’s solid and the wind does what it supposed to. Ends up about 25 feet short of the hole but I have to come up a big slope that divides the green. I get a little aggressive with the putt and run it three feet past, but make the downhill knee knocker coming back. PAR, ONE UNDER

Golf is a humbling game. The minute you think you’re hot stuff, it almost instantly reminds you who’s the boss. Case in point: I’m walking off the sixth tee feeling pretty good about myself. I’m thinking to myself, ‘I gotta call Jefe and tell him how well I’m hitting the ball.’ I swear no sooner than I finish the thought do I step in this huge mud puddle. The course is bone dry but this one sprinkler head must be constantly leaking because it’s a swamp. The whole back of my right shoe is in the mud up to my ankles. I walk the rest of the hole like ‘Verbal’ trying to get the mud off my shoe.

7th Hole - Par 5, 598 Yards
Cross the road again. Under par when you cross the first time is key. Under par when you cross it the second time, and you know you’ve accomplished something. No. 7 is another beast of a hole. Usually always plays into the wind and for some reason I haven’t played this hole well all year despite it being a par 5. I seem to always yank it right off the tee and today is no exception. I don’t end up if very bad shape and hit a 4-iron down the fairway, although it’s starts a little left and ends up in the rough. Not exactly the best place to be given the back left hole location, but I hit a 7-iron that takes the wind nicely, ends up about 20 feet past the hole. Valiant birdie effort finishs inches from the cup. PAR, ONE UNDER

8th Hole - Par 4, 386 Yards
A short par four that just tempts you to try to drive the green. Downhill and downwind, but there’s no margin for error, you have to shape the perfect shot or you’re in trouble. I’ve drove the green a couple times on practice shots but never had the guts to go for it in a live round. I go with the safe route (hey, it worked for Tiger) and hit three wood. Solid shot but it gets caught up in the rough about 90 yards from the hole. Tricky little shot because I’m on a sidehill hook lie and the winds taking it the other way. Again, I play it safe, starting it at the hole and the wind takes it to the far left of the green, about 35 feet from the hole. I hit a firm putt that’s looks pretty good and it catches the left side of the hole and drops in. Wasn’t expecting it to go in, so obviously I'm pleased as punch. I let go with a nice fist pump / overhead chop. Think Tiger when he made eagle to cap off his first round at the British, only not nearly as cool (and worth roughly $1.3 Million less). BIRDIE, TWO UNDER

9th Hole - Par 4, 438 Yards
A tough hole to finish the front nine. Very tough off the tee for me because I either have to fade it or start the ball way left between the 1st and 9th fairways. Anything with a hook on it will end up either vary far from the hole, in a bunker, or worse, in the water. I opt for the 'aim way left' option but it heads dead straight. Still not a bad play because it really shortens the hole. I may have hit the cart path and the ball ends up in the rough. Similar to the last hole with a downhill, sidehill lie from the rough and a right-to-left wind. Water lurks down the right side so I need to be careful off this lie. I’m about 140 to the pin and I opt to try to muscle a sand wedge there. Hit it a little thin but it’s right on line, ends up about 45 feet past the hole. My lag putt comes out hot and rolls about eight feet past the hole. I’m shaking my head in disgust but manage to make it coming back. PAR, TWO UNDER. OUT IN 34.

10th Hole - Par 5, 550 Yards
Good opportunity for birdie here since it’s playing downwind. The day before I started on ten, bombed one about 340 off the tee and promptly hit my second shot in the water to make bogey. I’m determined not to do the same thing here. I usually play a sweeping draw here, so I’m concerned when my drive starts out down the right side, especially with the left-to-right wind. But the ball holds it’s line (it may have actually faded, still waiting for scientific documentation whether that's even possible), and takes a nice left-hand bounce down the fairway. I have 223 yards left to the middle, pin is up a little so it’s probably playing 215. The day before when I hit it in the water, I hit five iron and it was too much club, so I'm confident that six is the right stick.

Do you know that feeling when you hit an approach shot and you know instantly that you hit it exactly like you intended it to? I really only get this feeling about three or four times per year. When I made my hole-in-one last fall, the instant it left the clubface, I said ‘Go In!’ and about two seconds later it did just that. I had the same reaction when I hit this six iron. Hit it dead flush, on the right line and with the perfect amount of draw. ‘Go In!’ I yell as it’s in the air (asking myself why am I talking to an inanimate object…isn’t this a sign that I’m going crazy?). Could it be…a possible double eagle? In the next three seconds, could I be joining Pud in the elite ‘Double Eagle Club’, which has to get you some special VIP treatment somewhere.

Speaking of Pud, whose real name may or may not be Brian Poduska. I honestly don’t know for sure. This guy has to be one of the coolest guys I know. Not only is he a fellow lefty and the only guy I know with an albie, he has what has to be the greatest nickname of all time. Not ‘Pud’, but it’s derivation, ‘Dope Ass Pud’ (plus its cousins ‘Dap’ or my personal favorite, 'the D.A.P.', which gets bonus points for being a nickname of a nickname of a nickname). And I’m not even sure how this all started, but it’s quite possible that he may have just started calling himself that one day. Bonus points for that if true.

Unfortunately my seat in the VIP section will have to wait, as my pleas for the ball to go in are ignored. The ball rolls right by the hole and ends up about 10-12 inches away (see picture below). There’s nothing like a tap-in…EAGLE. FOUR UNDER. My third eagle in the last month, and 16th overall. Just one behind Jefe, who had eight eagles before I had one. It’s just a matter of time, my friend.

So, this is unchartered territory for me. I’ve never been four under at any point in any round in my life. I can’t help but think about the time earlier this year when I was one under through ten and ended up not even breaking 80. Or the time just recently when Jefe was two under through ten and shot 77. The last 8 holes are tough and I’m definitely not out of the woods.

So, I'm eight days into some significant swing changes and so far so good. But how will it hold up under the pressure? How does this story end? Stay tuned. To be continued shortly.

Ps. Bonus points if you got the Verbal reference.







DIARY OF A GOLFER, PART TWO
AKA DIARY OF A CHOKE ARTIST

[Props to Clooney and my Dad who were the only ones who caught the Verbal reference. He's Kevin Spacey's character from the Usual Suspects. Way to go, Big Dogg! Not bad for a guy who just turned sixty last week.]

Well, let’s just say that the chances of Disney picking up the movie rights to this story are pretty slim. Even if I was an impoverished ex-caddie from the hood who makes good, the ending leaves a little to be desired. If only I had also overcome improbable odds or racial discrimination (preferably both), then maybe we'd be on to something. (Come to think of it...I am an impoverished ex-caddie from the hood. Somebody call Bruckheimer! East siii-ide 4 life, fool!)

11th Hole - Par 4, 366 Yards
Number 11 is a lay-up hole off the tee, swamp all the way down the right and through the fairway, but just get it out to the fairway and you’ve got a decent birdie opportunity. I opt for three iron and play it safe down the left side. It clips the top of this big tree on the left but it only takes a little off it. Ends up in the fairway but further back than I’d like to be. 150 to the middle, pin back left and into a right-to-left cross wind.

I’ve never been in this position before so I’m definitely feeling the heat. One thing I quickly learn about pressure is it affects key decision making. I’m stuck between eight iron and nine iron and I opt for the eight. I didn’t want to overswing on the nine and hook it…anything headed right bounds towards the water.

The second think I quickly learned about pressure is the role of adrenaline. I hit a solid shot down the left edge of the green. I’m yelling at the ball to get on the green because it’s teetering close to the left-hand bunker, only I didn’t realize until it came down that it completely airmailed the green. It wasn’t even close. My ball ended up on this mound above the hole, a downhill chip with the green running away with no green to work with. In other words, dead on arrival. I try my best to fluff one off the fringe but it still takes off down the slope and a good 40 feet past the hole. I try to hard to make the par putt and leave myself with a downhill three and half footer that I lip out. The dream is over. DOUBLE BOGEY. TWO UNDER. Total time in my life spent at four under par: 9 minutes, 6 seconds

12th Hole - Par 3, 218 Yards
The good news is I’ve just doubled a relatively benign hole and now I’ve got the toughest hole on the course up next. This hole is my personal nemesis. 218 yards all carry over water. Usually into the wind, as it is today. Last year I went through a month long stretch where I just couldn’t keep my ball dry. I would’ve been better off skipping the hole and writing down a ‘5’, at least it would’ve saved me a pro V. This year has been a little better, although I did have an ‘incident’ with this hole during a recent round with Jefe. I was cruising along pretty well until this hole and the topic of ‘little people’ (that’s not the term we used) came up while we were waiting for the green to clear. Apparently I must’ve said something to offend the karma gods because I promptly bounced a ball off the rocks and into the water to make triple. I ended up shooting three-over that day. Let’s just say I learned my lesson.

The other thing of note from that round was that was the first time I had hit my new four iron. As you may recalled, I retired my old one that got me my ace, played the first half of the summer without one (until I realized the hard way that yeah, bonehead, it’s kind of important to carry a four iron. Especially at Prairie Landing where a lot of the par 3’s play to that distance). So I finally got one, but instead of the identical Mizuno MP-30 that I had, I got a new Mizuno MP-60 (with the hopes of demoing the new line for a potential future upgrade). Beautiful club but little did I know that it would have a slightly different feel to it. Plus the lie angle was about 2 degrees off from the old one. Not major issues, but needless to say you don’t want to be pulling that thing out for the first time on a 218-yard shot over water.

So I faced pretty much the same situation again. I had to trust my swing and trust this new four iron. It worked out okay this time and I cleared the rocks, the water and the karma gods to the middle of the green. The pin was back left so I still had my work cut out for me but managed the two putt. PAR, TWO UNDER.

13th Hole – Par 5, 570 yards
A true three shot par five playing into the wind. Another hole where it just doesn’t suit my eye off the tee. There’s a lot of room left but trees line the whole left side of the hole. Nearly everbody, myself included, bails out to the right. Maybe the tee boxes are aimed that way or something. But I will myself to start it down the left side and it does just that. A little too far left for comfort but it flies the bunkers and ends up safe. The bad news is you have to bomb it about 340 just to have any business even thinking about going for it in two (I’ve only done it once), as there’s a creek that bisects the hole about 100 yards short of the green. I play a boring seven iron approach shot to the end of the fairway and have a good angle to the back, back left hole location. The pin is almost never back there and it’s a tricky one with the wind. The green is narrow back there and left is dead and right is Hasselhoff if you try to carry it that far. Somehow I put a good swing on a pitching wedge and it flies right over the flag about seven feet past the hole. The putt is pretty routine and I roll it in. Fourth BIRDIE of the day to go to THREE UNDER. He is now back!

Wow, three under par with five holes to play. Just four days ago I entered the Golf Digest Beat Your Best Score Challenge which tracks your progress and offers tips to beat your career score. Mine is a 71 that I shot on my honeymoon. My goal for the year upfront was to hopefully put it all together and shoot at least one 71. Not a ridiculous objective. And as of right now, it’s looking like a very good possibility, and perhaps a little conservative. I’m guessing Golf Digest would run with a story of a dude who entered in his objective, took note of all of the timely and helpful tips and blew by his personal best in just four days.

14th Hole – Par 3, 176 yards (aka Jimbo Tang’s hole-in-one hole)
I reach the 14th tee only to find a foursome on the green. Not exactly what I need right now with my mojo going full bore. These guys were on the 13th tee as I was hitting my shot from the 10th fairway. So they played exactly one hole in the time that I played three and a half, and I was taking my sweet time trying to keep my heart from leaping directly out of my chest.

No. 14 is the only short par three on the course and another one that used to drive me batty last year. The pin is about five paces from the front and in my opinion it’s the hardest hole location. It’s only playing about 155, but the green is only about 7-8 yards wide at the front. I have to start the ball over the swamp on the left in order to hit the green. It’s easy to bail out right, which is probably why they have five treacherous bunkers there. I hit a solid eight iron but it hooks into the front right bunker.

Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not the strongest bunker player in the world, but I have worked on it and things have improved dramatically. I have six sand saves on the year and if I had any last year it was because of some fluke. Still, I want no part of trying to get too cute with this one, since there’s so little room to work with. I bail out a little bit right and hit a very good bunker shot that gives me a 15-footer for par. The putt looks good and is on line, but slides by on the high side. BOGEY. TWO UNDER PAR

15th Hole – Par 4, 374 yards
One thing that I have failed to mention is that it is getting dark. I hit the tenth tee at about 7:05 PM, so it’s probably about 7:45 PM right now. The streetlamps lining the entrance to the club are on, and that’s definitely not a good sign. The dude’s in front are feeling the pressure to get done before dark, so they’re reluctant to let me play through. Again no response using the international sign, so I had to take it to Defcon 2 again. I’ve never had this much problem playing through before.

Right now I'm feeling like a pitcher who's got a no-hitter going into the seventh. Minimal human contact is the best approach to take. I rather avoid these guys altogether but thankfully they finally relent. Normally I'm the king of bombing one when I'm playing through a group, but my swing tempo finds a new all-time high and I yank my drive right of right. Wow was this thing right. There's some mounds of fescue interspersed with open areas right of the hole and thankfully I'm in one of the open areas. But I have about 175 to the flag and a blind shot. I walk up to figure out where the hole is, pick my spot to aim, hit seven iron and hope. Pretty solid shot, looks good, did I pick the right line? it felt like it might be long. I hurry up towards the green, see a ball on the green...is it mine or one of the guys in the group I'm playing through?

Confirmation...it is my ball! I'm about 20 feet from the hole pin-high to the left. What a break. I hurriedly pull the pin and read the green. Have a go at it and it looks good but finishes inches away on the low side. I'll take PAR. TWO UNDER PAR.

16th Hole – Par 4, 440 yards
Sixteen is another brutally tough hole that generally always plays into the wind. They have the tees up because they're doing some work on the back tee box. Normally, I would consider this a good thing, but I don't adjust for it off the tee and hit my normal shot. Unfortunately because of the extra yardage it completely airmails the fairway and ends up in the tall stuff right of the hole. Wow, I've never even seen this part of the course before. Usually a good drive gets up to about 150 going in, but now I've got a nasty lie less than 100 yards to the hole. Tough break. It takes everything I got just to advance the ball another 30 yards. Then I hit a nice lob wedge to give me a decent 10-footer for par. My putt looks good but agonizingly lips out on the high side. Oh the horror! BOGEY. ONE UNDER PAR.

17th Hole – Par 3, 224 yards (aka Jim's hole in one hole)
Obviously, number 17 is my favorite hole on the course because this is where I made my ace. I consider this hole to be one of my closest friends, but apparently the feeling is not mutual. Like an ex-girlfriend that dumped you but you keep calling, pleading for her to take you back, ever since the ace she keeps hanging up on me. No. 17, I feel like I don't know you anymore! I'm haunted by the kiss you should've never given me. Well, now it's personal. My swing gets even faster than the one on #15 and I duck hook a 5-iron to about 40 yards short of the green. Think Calc on the 17th at the Ryder Cup at Kiawah. Or Shark at the 16th at the 1996 Masters. So this is what choking feels like? Until now, I never knew what bile tasted like. In the Golf Digest tips, I never saw anything about 'what to do when you're throwing up all over yourself'. BOGEY. EVEN PAR.

18th Hole – Par 5, 570 yards
The dream is over. Or is it? All hope is not lost. I knew if I could just get it to #18 I would have a decent shot of posting a number. I've eagle #18 three times and probably birdie it about 40% of the time, although it's not nearly as easy as No. 4 because double is always a possibility here. You still have to carry your second shot about 200 yards over water. I realized a while ago that the hole is about 60 yards shorter if you actually carry it down the ninth fairway (probably something that is frowned upon, but there was no one on the front. Hey, I didn't design the hole, I just play it). It's actually pretty clear from the aerial picture. But you still have to hit a great tee shot...aiming it far, far left off the tee over some trees and get it to fade (much easier said than done). So I take a deep breath, try to remember my swing thoughts from my new swing and fire away. Lo and behold, it's on the right line, high, and it's fading. The perfect tee shot for this hole. Yes!

When you're going left, you never quite know for sure if it's far enough left to get over to the ninth fairway. I traipse up and down the mound separating the two holes and spot a ball in the fairway. Sweet! I hit the ball about 330 and it looks like it's nothing more than a short iron to the pin. But herein lies the second problem with this strategy. Try finding a decent yardage when you're on the wrong hole. Well that's not a problem if you're taking a cart because of the GPS, but that's not doing me a whole lot of good right now. I think about calling the group in front of me over when they finish to give me a read, but I'm not 100% sure if that's even allowable. I actually made my own yardage book for Prairie Landing primarily to help with this hole, but right now it's sitting on my desk at home. So I'm trying to remember the yardage from when I was in the bunker and hit three iron from 225 yards to make eagle. I'm at least another 50 yards past that. What I wouldn't give for one of those laser yardage thingies right now.

So I opt for a nine iron, hit and hope. Now if this were a Shakespearean tragedy, my ball would probably hit one of the planks surrounding the pond, bounce in the water, followed by me slamming the club into the ground, having the shaft break and fly up in stab me in the jugular (this has actually happened on the course, so watch those temper tantrums). Nine iron is clearly not the right club, but it manages to clear the water right of the hole and end up on the front fringe. If I had hit it straight, the Shakepeare would've been a real possibility.

I'm on the front fringe facing sixty uphill feet to possible Red Glory. I scope out the line (yes, it's uphill), take a couple spastic waggles and have a go of it. Looks good but the slope kills it and it ends up six feet short.

Six freakin' feet to shoot 71. Just the mere thought of putting myself into this position sends chills down my spine. It's too dark to read the green but I try anyways. Looks like it might go a little left at the end so i aim right edge. Think to myself, 'here goes nothing' and let it fly. Well the good news is that I hit a good putt on the intended line. The bad news is the putt was dead straight. Dead straight uphill six footer and I play it right edge. The putt still has a chance but violently spins out ninety degrees to the left. The vision of this lipout will haunt me to end of my days. PAR. EVEN PAR 72. IN in 38.



EPILOGUE

I am the first to admit that I'm a full-fledged choke artist. The first words out of my mouth when calling Jefe are not 'Hey, I shot just shot a 72!', but 'Man, I totally blew it!' On some small level, now I know what Phil feels like. And that is the great thing about golf. It's all relative. If you're a pro trying to make par to win the open, a 3 'capper trying to keep it together, or a hacker trying to break 100 for the first time, you're still fighting that feeling of having your insides migrate up to your throat. We've all been there.

However, I'm optimistic that I learned from the experience. So next time it happens it won't be the first time. One thing I realized is that you can't get two hung up on how well you're doing. 'Oh my gosh, I'm four under par!' is never a good thought to have. You can't ignore it, you just have to play through it. Also, you have to keep yourself from moving too far ahead. On no. 5, I was thinking to myself, 'If I make this putt, I can get to two under, then if i par 6, par 7, etc...I can shoot 69.' My advice to you is...don't do that. Something I read in some magazine or forum was, 'when you get to one under, only think about what you need to do to get to two under. When you get to two under, only think about you need to do to get to three under', etc. In other words, just keep pouring it on (until you need to make par on the final hole, then play it safe). This is probably the exact thing that kept Sergio from beating Tiger last week (other than the fact that Tiger would've probably shot whatever he needed to shoot in order to win.)

If anything, I'm thinking my goal of shooting 71 this summer may be a little short-sided. There's really no reason why I can't go lower. Will it happen? Who knows. I could just as likely follow up my 72 with a 82 (which by the way, is exactly what happened. Ugh.) But that's the crazy thing about golf. And that's the reason we play this maddening sport.

My Golf Swing

7/17/2006 0 comments

I posted my golf swing on youtube for all to see. After videotaping my swing over the weekend, I noticed some glaring problems that need to be fixed. Probably not the wisest thing to do only 12 days away from heading off to play Bandon Dunes, but I think it will help in the long run. Basically, my swing was getting out of whack and I didn't even realize it. I play a draw (it's takes every ounce of energy and concentration for me to be able to fade it, and even then it's still unlikely. In reality, a fade for me is a shot that draws about 2 yards), and lately I've been just aiming further and further left and putting more and more hook spin on it. The result was inconsistent results, far too much sidespin, and loss of trajectory and distance.

So what I'm going for is a more neutral set-up and swing. I cycled through the swing sequences on golfdigest.com, and the best swing for me to try to emulate is actually Michelle Wie. It's not much fun to pattern my swing after a 16-year old girl, but she probably has one of the most fundamentally sound swings, man or woman, in the world. Thank you David Leadbetter. Now if she could only figure out how to win. Does Michelle have that killer instinct? Hard to say at the this point. If she does ever 'get it', she'll probably end up dominating the LPGA like Tiger did the PGA Tour from '97-'05. Basically look for a 10-year reign of terror from Wie if and when she finally puts it all together.

So the swing below is the 'new and improved' version, day one. The initial results were extremely promising, although I'm still far from the neutral set-up I was hoping for. Even when I think I'm aiming straight, the swing and set-up is still down the left side. It will take some time. Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions for improvement, especially if your name is Leadbetter, Rick Smith, Butch Harmon, or Hank Haney.



Review of Northern Bay Golf Course

7/09/2006 0 comments

I had a chance to check out this new course in Wisconsin last week called Northern Bay. Northern Bay has 7 replica holes, including the 17th at Sawgrass and #13 and #16 at Augusta. Now I'm not a huge fan of replica courses to begin with, and Northern Bay did nothing to change my overall opinion of them. It's one thing to replicate the dimensions and elevations of a famous hole, but you can't recreate the look and feel of a hole very easily.

Northern Bay did a decent job of recreating the look of the 17th at Sawgrass, although the Northern Bay version has a much wider area behind the green (and a drop area behind the hole, which I was too late in finding out about). Northern Bay's 13th at Augusta was poor at best, especially from off the tee. The dogleg is sharper and it should've been much more densely wooded at the corner and down the left side of 'Rae's Creek'. Plus they had tall fescue grass lining the banks of the creek...I don't remember seeing that at Augusta. Having both of the Augusta holes with non-white sand also lends to bit of a letdown, even if it's the closest you'll ever get to playing the course.

Apparently there are actually 9 replica holes out there, but Pebble Beach and Pinehurst didn't allow them to use their names in the hole descriptions. If it's any indication of the quality of the replicas, I couldn't discern the two bonus holes from the rest even knowing that they were out there somewhere. And that's saying something considering that I played Pinehurst No. 2 just two years ago. (by the way, only after careful study of the yardage book can I conclude that Northern Bay's 1st hole is the 3rd at Pinehurst, and the 5th hole is the 1st at Pebble Beach).

Probably the best hole out of all of the replicas, although I don't know firsthand how true it is to the real thing is the 6th hole, aka the 16th at Firestone, a 625-yard par 5 that is guarded closely by a pond fronting the green. A beast of a hole from the tips and fun to play.

The sad thing is the non-replica holes are just as good if not better than the replicas. There are some very solid holes carved through the Northern Wisconsin woods, especially on the back nine. I can't help but think that they could've built an excellent golf course on its own without the gimmicks given the excellent plot of land that they had to work with.

And that's really the downside of Northern Bay. They could've built one of the top 15 courses in the state of Wisconsin but they thought they needed a gimmick to get people way out 25 minutes north of the Wisconsin Dells. What they failed to realize is that if you build a quality course, people will drive out there and they'll keep coming back (look at Bandon Dunes for example). Heck, everytime I'm up in Wisconsin I drive either 90 minutes north to play SentryWorld or 90 minutes south to play University Ridge, but it's unlikely that I'll ever head back to Northern Bay despite the fact that it's on the lake that my in-laws have a house on. I don't know if I can sum it up any better than that. The replica holes will build up some buzz that will get people to come out once, but will they keep coming back?

The other downside of the replica holes is the price they add to Northern Bay's greens fees. Likely because of the licensing fees that they have to pay to use the famous holes, they have to pass that cost onto the golfer. The peak rate at Northern Bay is $95. I'm no cheapskate when it comes to golf courses, but I've played enough courses (258) to know the difference between a good value and a poor value. Again, they could've probably built an excellent standalone course and charged $70 and it would've been the best course and the best value within 70 miles. And I would've played it every time I was up there.

And as far as the course operations go, they have a number of bugs to still work out. First of all, I had made a 6:50 am tee time for earlier in the week that I had to later cancel. When I called to cancel, they said they didn't have my reservation (despite a very official looking confirmation number that I was sent via e-mail). Not only that, they said they didn't even start their tee times until 7:00 am. That came back to bite me on that day that I actually did play, because I had what I thought was the first tee time at 7:00 only to stroll up to the first tee to a logjam of groups that they sandwiched in front of us (likely due again to missing online reservations, thankfully there was no starter in sight to clean up the mess). Instead of a nice leisurely three hour round as the first group off, I had to endure a four and a half hour marathon round behind a bunch of yahoos.

But the tee time debacle pales in comparison to the yardages that were way off on a number of holes. Maybe those steroids are finally kicking in, but I've never hit so many approach shots 30 yards over the green in my life (even after clubbing down). Part of this was due to rock hard greens that couldn't hold a pitching wedge (I think they intend to keep them this firm), but I swear the yardage from the GPS in the carts was incorrect (although I'm not sure how they could be that far off). Hitting pitching wedges 180 yards and eight irons 210 yards might be good for the ego, but it's not very good for your golf score. One definitive example was on the 17th hole, where the yardage book said 114 yards to the front of the green from the tee markers and the cart said 94 yards from the same spot. 20 yards difference on a short par 3...this is a pretty important distinction, don't you think? (Note: since I was the only one playing the tips, I got to be the guinea pig who came up woefully short -- despite taking an extra club). How fast would Vijay fire his caddy if he gave him a yardage that was plus/minus 20 yards?

There were a few other minor nuisances that I'm not going to harp on, because I'm sure they'll get them squared away soon enough. Besides, I've probably bashed enough for one night. That said, Northern Bay is still the nicest course in a 30-mile radius, including nicer than it's closest competitor, Trappers Turn in the Wisconsin Dells. However, the replica holes are a bit of a letdown and lead the to the course being tremendously overpriced. I have it ranked 81st out of the 258 courses that I've played, which equates it to about a 7.0 on a 10-point scale.

Update of Golf Update, July 2006

Quick update from the last blog. The day after posting 'Golf Update 2006', I made another eagle. This time the 18th at Prairie Landing. It's the third time I've eagled this hole and the 15th overall eagle of my life (I'm catching up Jefe!). Other than my hole-in-one, it was one of the best approach shots I've ever hit...a 220-yard 3-iron from the fairway bunker all carry over water to about 15 feet en route to a 75 (which sadly included a triple-bogey on the 12th).

Golf Update 2006

7/08/2006 0 comments

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated the blog. I had planned to provide updates on the state of my golf game, but in all honesty, my golf game hasn’t been much to write home about. Too few rounds (18 logged in to date), too few highlights, although things are starting to turn the corner. I did have an eagle (the 14th of my life, three behind my arch-nemesis Jefe who made two in one week recently) and my scores have finally migrated down to the 76-78 range after a lackluster start of the summer. Still haven’t had that breakthrough round that seems to be right around the corner.

Very disappointing start of the season considering I feel like I’m hitting the ball much better than last year...the new 905T driver is great, my ballstriking on the irons has improved dramatically, and I already have more sandsaves this season (5) than I did all last season in 80 rounds. But it hasn’t resulted in improved scoring...primarily for the following reasons: 1) not avoiding the big numbers and 2) horrendous lag putting and chipping. It seems like I’m making fewer mistakes per round this season, but those mistakes have been more deadly. Probably a function of poor play, bad luck and the fact that playing once a week or once every other week is not the most conducive to honing a quality golf game.

But like I said, things are starting to come around. I played 54 holes at my home course, Prairie Landing, a few weeks ago and went 76-76 the first two rounds in a four-club wind. The second round was a 76 that literally felt like a 71. Here’s hoping things will come together for the big Bandon trip...just three weeks away (more on this later).

TOP 10 SIGNS YOU MARRIED A GOOD WOMAN

Somewhere in the top three of this list would have to be, ‘happily and willingly would get up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) to play 36.’ My golf partner for a recent trip to University Ridge in Madison was none other than my beautiful wife Sue. We got up at 4:30 am to get that coveted first tee time. UniRidge is one of the top courses in Wisconsin and an absolute blast to play (it’s #17 on my list of 258 courses played)...they’ve been offering these unreal Customer Appreciation Days: $69 all-you-can play including cart, range balls, and lunch. (Once Jefe & I finally make it up there for one of these, we’ll probably single-handedly bring this deal to an end by abusing the system. 90 holes for $69? Is it possible?)

My wife is no Michelle Wie, but she is the best female golfer that I’ve ever played with and she absolutely loves to play. Unfortunately she never gets to play more than once or twice per year, but still manages to shoot in the low-to-mid 90’s (despite never reading a green for more than .2 seconds) She has the best mental approach to the game...she never takes the game or herself too seriously and just enjoys the opportunity to get out on the course. A lot of guys could benefit from her approach to the game as well as her swing...a slow, simple straightforward swing that’s amazingly consistent. She’s like the female Fred Funk...a more more attractive and slightly less quirky Fred Funk. And for all of the guys who’ve rolled their eyes about getting paired up with us, playing behind us, or to the starters who assumed she didn’t know a 5-wood from a 5-iron...the fact is my wife probably has a more impressive course list than yours, definitely plays a lot faster and is far less likely to send a 9-iron whizzing by your head like a helicopter. Plus count all of your strokes, and she might even give you a run for your money. For all of these reasons (and more), there’s nobody else I rather play golf with.


[Note: If Sue had a top 20 golf courses played list, it might look something like this:
St. Andrews (Old)
Blackwolf Run (River)
Whistling Straits (Straits)
Carnoustie (Championship)
Kingsbarns
World Woods (Pine Barrens)
TPC at Sawgrass (Stadium)
Whistling Straits (Irish)
Blackwolf Run (Meadow Valleys)
World Woods (Rolling Oaks)
Eagle Ridge (The General)
University Ridge
TPC at Deere Run
Disney (Osprey Ridge)
Kemper Lakes
WeaverRidge
SentryWorld
White Columns
Cantigny
Las Sendas ]

Remember how I lamented in my last blog about how I can barely break 100 in my first round of the year? Well, my wife is the exact opposite of this. Her simple and consistent swing ensures that she’s pretty much good to go right out of the truck. Need proof? Check this out...

Exhibit A: Last week we took Jordan and Madelyn out to chip around the giant practice center at Prairie Landing. They also have two practice holes out there and one starts near the chipping area and heads back to the clubhouse, so Sue & I decided to play it in before heading home. So my wife, who has up to this point played a grand total of one round of golf in the previous 20 months and hasn’t touch a club much less had a spare thought about the game since October, proceeds to hole out of the greenside bunker for birdie. One hole, one birdie. Unbelievable. I’ve probably played at least 1,000 rounds of golf in my life and have holed out of the bunker maybe three times in my life. And she holes out like it’s nothing. (By the way, I proceeded to make a 30-footer to get the halve for a Colton-birdie-birdie combo. Our kids must think we’re either really, really good or that golf is really, really easy.)

Exhibit B: So Sue’s first official round of the year was two days ago at UniRidge and she was, dare I say, en fuego. She double-bogeyed the first four holes before going on a rampage. She had seven legit birdie putts over the next 11 holes (made one, three-putted two others) and finished with a 45-43 88 that could’ve easily been a few strokes lower. It wasn’t her lowest round ever (83), but given the difficulty of the course and the fact that she hadn’t played in nine months, it was the most impressive round that I’ve seen her play. Could a sub-80 round be in her future? Stay tuned until September when we head down to Hilton Head.

TALE OF TWO ROUNDS

Check out the stats from my two rounds at University Ridge and try to guess what I shot.


Round One: 10/13 fairways, 10 GIR, 3 birdies, 2 penalty strokes
Round Two: 5/13 fairways, 4 GIR, 1 birdie, 4 penalty strokes

In round one, I had 33 putts and shot 78. In round two, I had TWENTY-THREE putts and shot 76. by far the best putting performance I’ve ever had. Even had two long putts spin out or it could’ve been even better. Let’s hope it’s a trend leading up to...

BANDON

The itinerary is set for our July 29-Aug 4 trip to Oregon. 11 rounds in 6 days, including (at least) 6 rounds in three days at Bandon Dunes. Check out this agenda:

Sat July 29: Fly to Portland, play Oregon Golfer Association Golf Course in Woodburn, OR
Sun July 30: Play 36 at Sandpines in Florence, OR
Mon July 31: Play Bandon Dunes / Bandon Trails
Tue Aug 1: Play Pacfic Dunes / Bandon Dunes
Wed Aug 2: Play Bandon Trails / Pacific Dunes
Thu Aug 3: Play 36 at Myrtle Creek in Myrtle Creek, OR. Fly home

We’ll be out at Bandon immediately after they are hosting the Curtis Cup, so the courses should be in great shape. We’ve got the first tee times each day, followed by the second round each day around noon. Third rounds are free if you are fit enough or crazy enough to give it a whirl. We’ll probably get caddies in the morning and hoof it on our own after that.

We’ve assembled quite a motley crew for the trip. Jefe and wife are expecting their baby girl right around our departure date so he painfully had to bow out (although he has at least entertained thoughts of going out there for the tail end). In his place, we have my buddy Charles from California, in addition to Jefe’s brother Jimbo and my father-in-law Ken. A number of interesting sub-plots remain:

- Will Ken, age 62, survive three days of walking 36 holes per day? Actually, the same question applies to the rest of us.
- Will Charles get lost over a dune or a cliff going after one of his wayward drives? Will he come back with the same 14 clubs that he started with (he loses about a wedge per round), or will one find its way to the bottom of the Pacific?
- Will Jimbo get a week to concentrate solely on golf? Will he be able to improve than his less-than-stellar performance from his 2003 trip to Bandon with Jefe? Will he wake up to reality from his ongoing love affair with Sandpines?
- Will yours truly finally put all of the components of his golf game together for three magical days? Will I attempt to walk 54 holes in one day? Where will the courses at Bandon rank on my course listing?

The goal is to blog or even podcast video highlights from Bandon daily. As always, stay tuned.

 
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