Work Your Golf Game Like You Tie Your Shoes

From kidspot.com
From kidspot.com

Readers of this page know that I have been struggling recently with my golf-life balance and trying to find the time to get enough play and practice to maintain my effectiveness.  I had a thought about a month ago; that to give myself a chance, I needed to make golf more of a second nature activity, like tying your shoes.  After all, how often do we tie our shoes, maybe twice a day?  Does anyone screw up tying their shoes?  No.  Does anyone have to think about how to tie their shoes?  No.  Like golf, it’s a learned activity, and while we may have spent a few hours practicing while we were very young, we dedicate merely seconds per day and execute flawlessly every time.  If only golf were so easy.

The Plan:  A week before I left for Myrtle Beach, and every day in the two weeks since I have returned, I’ve made sure to chip and putt for just 15-20 minutes at a golf course on my way home during the evening commute.  My family hardly misses me.  In the two weeks that I’ve been back, I’ve only played nine holes twice, and will attempt 18 tomorrow, but the return on these mini time investments has been big.  I’m very comfortable over any short game shot and am executing fearlessly.  More importantly, I’m not thinking about the shot or putt, just feeling it during the rehearsal strokes and pulling the trigger.  The metrics have been good as well.  I’ve never chipped and pitched on the Myrtle trip so effectively and today during my 9-hole round was 3 for 3 on up and downs.

The mechanics of the daily routine.  I arrive at the course and select one club to work with and three balls.  Vary the club daily but make sure to putt at least every third day.  I also put a tee in my pocket in the event that all the holes on the practice green are occupied and I need to set up my own target.  Only practice for the prescribed time and focus intently on every shot; make every precious second count.  The short duration makes concentration easy and the only distraction I deal with is the occasional pack of children getting themselves ready for their twilight nine-hole event.

So you say, “Brian, what does this do for your ball striking?”  Nothing, except fill me with confidence that if I miss the green, I’ve got a good shot at saving par.  As a result, I’m more relaxed on the full swings.

Remember, there are no pictures on the scorecard, and everyone doesn’t need 10,000 hours of practice to become proficient, so try working your short game in these little micro-bursts and see if this doesn’t work for you as well.  Anyone out there had any success with this method?  Good luck if you try!

 

 

Surf Club – Course Review

Looking down #1 tee at Surf Club
Looking down #1 tee at Surf Club

We played Surf Club in North Myrtle Beach, SC on Saturday, June 14, 2014.  This George Cobb design was built in 1960 and is nestled neatly into a neighborhood one block from the ocean.  Surf is a very old style private club with good conditioning and traditional parkland style routing and if you like doglegs, you are going to love this golf course.  Only about four of the longer holes do not have some kind of bend and an absolute premium is placed on solid ball striking off the tee.  Surf’s Bentgrass greens have a reputation for being among the fastest on the beach but we played them about three weeks after their aeration.  They were almost full recovered and were rolling at medium speed.  On a previous visit, I recall the course playing firm and fast with the the greens running lightening quick.

I’m not an arborist, but the type of trees that frame most of the holes are unlike most you’ll see on Myrtle Beach courses and certainly not the tall Carolina pines you are accustomed to.  Normally, you can play out of the trees but not at Surf.  Trying to hit low recoveries almost always caught bark and was usually the natural predecessor to a double-bogey on the scorecard.  You’re best advice is to drive it straight or punch out sideways.

We played from the back tees and there are three holes that play like a beast.  The par-4, 7th at 442 yards bends to the right and if it’s playing into the wind, is virtually like a short par-5.  You turn right around on the par-4, 8th which plays 430 yards and you hope the wind is favoring your direction.

Par-3, 18th at Surf Club
Par-3, 18th at Surf Club

Finally, the par-3, 18th is one of the finest finishing holes in Myrtle Beach.  At 217 yards, you are faced with a forced carry over water, and we played it straight into a two club wind coming in off the ocean.  Thank goodness for the front flag position, as my fully struck 3WD barely covered the 200 yards needed from tee to pin.

Value (3.75 out of 5.0)

Surf was an upscale addition to our golf package but to our very pleasant surprise, the afternoon replay rate was only $27.  This is a very affordable, high quality golf experience.  Driving range privileges are included and the free tees in the pro shop were one of those nice little touches.

The Range at Surf Club
The Range at Surf Club

Facilities (3.0 out of 5.0)

The clubhouse and grill were on the smallish side and the pro shop displays were nicely detailed, but a little limited in scope.  The grill served very basic golf course food and had walk up service only.  We dined on hot dogs, wings, and chips after our morning round.

The 15-station driving range had good turf to hit off and high quality balls, and the practice green was medium sized and adequate for a warm-up.  I did not observe a separate chipping/pitching green and was unsure if short game work was permitted.

Pro Shop at Surf Club
Pro Shop at Surf Club

Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)

I’m not sure who the amiable professional on duty was but he made you feel very welcome and at home.  He was very accommodating when we inquired about working us into the afternoon tee sheet for a replay and went out of his way to ensure that we had everything we needed to enjoy ourselves.  The rating goes even higher except for the staff at the bag drop were nowhere to be found when we arrived at the course around 7:30 a.m.  It was clear that we were one of the first groups at the course, but we didn’t expect to haul our bags in from the parking lot.  Anyway, they found our equipment and had us loaded in time for play.

Surf Club was a good value and a fun day.  We played the blue tees at 6,842 yards (par-72) I shot rounds of 87 and 81.  It was difficult but I loved it and will be back for more on future golf trips.  Don’t miss this one.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)

Clubhouse at Surf Club
Clubhouse at Surf Club

One Pic – One Fix – One Stroke!

Usually when I return from the annual Myrtle Beach golf trip I don’t touch a club for 7-10 days, primarily because my body feels so beat up from all the rounds and practice balls.  This year was different and I felt pretty fresh.  Not trying to overdo it, I made it a point to stop off at a local course on the way home from work every day this week, and chip and putt for just 15-20 minutes.  My short game is always sharp after the trip and I wanted to keep the feeling.  Then mid-week, Fred, from Team Walmart (AZ guys) sent me a photo stream of pics from our trip and I immediately picked up a flaw in my move that I felt would be an easy fix, and lend itself to more consistent ball striking.

This morning I headed out to my local muni to try the fix on our inside nine.  After just a couple of stretches, no Advil floating through my veins, and no practice balls, I teed up a 9-iron with the fix in play, and rifled it towards the first hole – easy par.  #2 was playing 110 yards and I selected a smooth pitching wedge and drilled it with two hops and into the hole for the second ace of my life.  The first was 31 years ago with a 7-iron – quite a gap.  My last thought before heading off to retrieve and retire the Titleist was, “Who needs a stinkin’ warm up?”

It’s nice when a plan comes together.  Hope your Saturday got off to as good a start as mine did.  When was your last/first hole-in-one?

Lion’s Paw – Panther’s Run Course Reviews

Clubhouse at Lion's Paw and Panther's Run
Clubhouse at Lion’s Paw and Panther’s Run

My travel group played Lion’s Paw on Monday, June 8, 2014 and Panther’s Run the day after on a recent trip to Myrtle Beach.  These are two of the four Big Cat courses at Ocean Ridge Plantation in Ocean Isle Beach, NC.  We’ll review them together because they are sister courses and play out of the same clubhouse.  Tiger’s Eye is the top play of the Big Cats group and is run from a separate clubhouse across the street, but as we learned, the golf operations are distinctly different.

On Monday, we arrived at Lion’s Paw as they were preparing for a ladies tournament on the front nine.  Our two foursomes were scheduled to go off #10 and we were thankful for that.  The bag drop and staging area is rather small and was extremely congested and chaotic.  Play for both courses is launched from the same constricted space.

Staging area on Monday
Staging area on Monday

Due to an airline luggage snafu, four guys in our group were playing with rental clubs, which the golf staff had hastily assembled.  They charged $40 per set for the rentals which were a mediocre mishmash of late year model irons and metal woods.  Nobody in our group was impressed with the offerings and the guys renting actually played several shots using clubs from the rest of our bags which was a little disruptive for everyone.  Given the short notice, I was thankful that the staff could even assemble the sets to allow us to play together.

#3 Tee at Lion's Paw
#3 Tee at Lion’s Paw

Both courses share a medium size driving range with Tiger’s Eye , and the range is located at the far side of the parking lot across the road.  Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to ride your cart to the range from Lion’s/Panthers, but you are from Tiger’s.  Also, the shop charged $3.00 for balls from Lion’s/Panthers, but Tiger’s extended complimentary range privileges.  We thought this was strange given the courses were under the same management company.  There is a small pitching green with one flag and a practice bunker next to the range and two putting greens next to the Lion’s / Panther’s clubhouse.  I felt it would have been beneficial to have a chipping green that allowed your shots to run out, but clearly there was no space for one.  There was good turf to hit off at the range but the quality of the balls was suspect.

Lion’s Paw:

On the course, we found Lion’s Paw to be in good condition, with the Bermuda greens rolling medium fast and smooth.  A couple of the tee boxes were crowned  which was a bit odd but didn’t affect playability.  The course is fairly open off the tee and weaves its way through a residential area with several nice homes nearby, but you don’t have a lot of privacy.

Mike on #3 tee at Lion's Paw
Mike on #3 tee at Lion’s Paw

A couple of the par-3 holes were memorable for the contouring, water carries, and bordering with oyster shells, but you weren’t struck by anything overtly beautiful or difficult.  Lion’s Paw is just a solid, well maintained nondescript golf course.  The biggest appeal for the enthusiast is the ample opportunities for afternoon replay.  With the four Big Cats in close proximity, we chose Tiger’s Eye for the afternoon and at $45, found it a tremendous value and a tremendous golfing experience.  The replay rate at Lion’s and Panther’s is $35 and we actually were given the $35 rate to replay Tiger’s later in the week after they had started fairway aeration.  For the record, at Lion’s Paw, I had a 7-over par 79 from the white tees which were playing 6,457 yards.

#9 green at Lion’s Paw

Panther’s Run:

Tuesday we played Panther’s Run and had a decidedly different experience.  There was no tournament, the course was fairly empty, and everything seemed more organized and less rushed.  Everyone in our group was now playing with their own equipment and the day was more enjoyable.  IMG_0857Panther’s Run is more of a traditional parkland style course that meanders through tall trees with the holes being better framed than Lion’s Paw.  I preferred this layout, although the greens were putting a bit slower, a few tee boxes were a little chewed up, and the fairways were starting to brown out.  Again, nothing affected playability as overall conditioning was pretty good.  Of note are the back to front sloping greens.  Several of the pins were cut in the back along ridges that dropped down at the rear of the greens.  Long two putts were difficult because if you charged these back flags the drop offs would roll out significantly.  I took 36 putts and thee-jacked three times.  Playing for the middle of the greens with back flags was the way to go.  I shot a 9-over 81 from the blue tees which were playing at 6,706 yards.

Jim contemplates the approach on #18 at Panther’s Run

A couple of nitpicking notes:  When we played the par-3 11th, one of the rangers was sitting in a cart just behind the tee box talking on a cellphone and seemed completely unaware of his surroundings or that people were playing golf nearby.  It would have been considerate if he could have held down the chatter.  Also one of our group was perturbed by an experience in the pro shop while in line making a purchase.  The person behind the counter was interrupted by a club member with an inquiry about another matter and immediately discontinued their service on the transaction at hand to cater to the member’s request.  Otherwise, we had a fairly positive golfing experience at Panther’s Run.

If you are traveling to the Myrtle Beach area and want to play the Big Cats, Tiger’s Eye is your course if you only have time for one round.  Lion’s and Panther’s are enjoyable plays as well.

Team Walmart Storms Myrtle Beach!

From ramblinobeachchat.com
From ramblinobeachchat.com

The dust has finally settled from Golfapalooza 2014 (Myrtle Beach) and this was a trip like no other.

Our plan was  to have four players (myself included) drive down from Maryland and four fly in from Arizona on Sunday June 7th, with the intent on playing Monday-Saturday (June 8-14).  Storms on Sunday evening delayed the AZ group’s arrival and then left them stranded in Charlotte, NC as US Airways cancelled their flight to Myrtle.  Determined not to miss their Monday 8 a.m. tee time, they rented a car and drove the remaining 240 miles to Myrtle through heavy rain, and arrived around 8:30 p.m. with nothing but the clothes on their backs.  The airline refused to release their luggage and equipment to them and promised to fly them in on the next plane.

Sunday evening at 10:30 p.m. we checked at the US Airways lost luggage counter at the Myrtle airport but no bags had arrived from Charlotte and we were told the luggage and clubs would be in on the first flight on Monday – uh oh.  Our AZ guys were given permission to buy clothes, toiletries, balls, tees, shoes, and rent clubs, and expense them to the airline, so instead of resting up for our 5:30 a.m. wake up call and dreaming of all the pars and birdies we were going to make on Monday, we went shopping at Walmart at 11:30 p.m.

Team Walmart
Team Walmart from AZ

On Monday, we called Lion’s Paw early and alerted them that we needed four rental sets but upon arrival realized the clubs assembled were barely fit for a yard sale.  Was this how a golf vacation was supposed to start?  The course was also trying to launch a tournament off the first tee and sent our two Team Walmart foursomes off #10.   In the chaos of the arrival, tournament prep, and rental assembly, I did not have the opportunity to hit balls and went to the tee cold.  Somehow I scratched out a 7-over 79 on Lion’s Paw but was out of sorts all day and carded my worst round of the trip in the afternoon (89 on Tiger’s Eye).

In the afternoon, we received word that the clubs and bags had arrived, and had been shipped to our condo.  Upon arriving home, we noticed that all the clothes and golf equipment were soaking wet.  Apparently the airline had left them overnight on the tarmac during the torrential rains in Charlotte.  Very nasty-gram going to US Airways on that one.

Tuesday, armed with dried clothes and equipment, we headed back to Ocean Ridge Plantation for a round at Panther’s Run.  I got a good warm-up in and started to relax a bit.  On the second nine something started to click and even though I carded a 9-over 81, I hit 10 GIR for the first time in 2014.  My ball striking had been so bad this spring I was wondering if I’d ever see 10+ GIR and it was a welcome relief.

Then I got on a ball striking hot streak for the next 54 holes and shot 77 and 75 at Tiger’s Eye, with 13 and 11 GIR respectively, and carded a 76 at Leopard’s Chase with 10 greens.  Our AZ group was starting to play better as well as they settled in with their own equipment and clothes and it started to feel like a vacation again.

Friday, at True Blue, my ball striking was just a little off and I carded a respectable 82 in the morning followed by an 81 in the afternoon.  When the wind is up you need to hit it very solid off the tee, as the 6,812 yards plays like a beast.  If you don’t believe in the horses for courses theory, consider that last year I carded an 81-81 at the same venue under pretty much the same conditions, and in 2012 during my last round at Leopard’s Chase, I also carded a 76.  I’ve observed over the years that I’ve accumulated significant local knowledge and preferences, and often play well/not well at the same venues on repeated attempts.

Saturday at Surf Club (course review coming), I lost my swing and struggled for 27 of the 36 holes we played.  Inevitably, when playing this much golf in a short amount of time, you get too mechanical in your thinking, and I paid for it.  Only on my last nine when I decided to dispose of all swing thoughts except hitting the ball at the target, did things right themselves.  I struggled with a 46-41 (87) in the morning, and finished up with 44-37 (81) in the afternoon and enjoyed a super high note finish, as I hit a 3WD six feet below the hole on Surf’s 200-yard par-3 18th hole, which requires a water carry and was playing into a stiff two-club wind.  It’s great to hit your best shot of the trip on your last attempt.

Stay tuned for trip reviews of Lion’s Paw/Panther’s Run and Surf Club.  Happy Father’s Day to all!

Three fourths of the MD guys
Three fourths of the MD guys

 

 

Golf game is coming around. . .FINALLY and thank you!

It’s not often we once-a-week chops are able to string a series of positives together, but I had such the experience from last weekend to this, and it finally feels like my game is coming around .  It has been a brutal spring punctuated by bad weather and terrible ball striking.  The bad swings compounded into stress, worrying, and some serious mental game foibles.   But after this weekend, things are finally looking up and many in the on-line golf community have played a positive part and deserve my thanks.

First, thank you to The Grateful Golfer for pointing out that focus is extremely important in golf.  After our dialog, I realized that I needed a serious re-commitment to my pre-shot routine and to work on changing focus to targets instead of mechanics.  It’s great to bounce ideas off Jim; he’s such a wealth of knowledge and has great perspective.

Next, thank you to The Birdie Hunt for reinforcing the notion that continuous play is more important than practice, especially for the weekend hack.  I try to do both, but clearly the part time player benefits more from play.  Playing once a week is hard because it feels like you have to re-learn too many shots instead of call on them.  I finally played two days in a row for the first time this season, albeit only 27 holes, but the added reps were great.

Third, thank you to my friend Jim Rush who spotted a serious flaw in my swing during my pre-round warm up last weekend.  Nothing will start your round off worse than hitting huge smother hooks while you get loose.  I leveraged his advice as well as the on-line lesson from FixYourGame.com I took a couple years ago.  The takeaway; when things go bad with your swing, you are usually reverting to bad habits, as I was.  I will probably be fighting spine angle issues the rest of my days, but at least when I spray the ball, I understand why and can work it.  Yesterday and today I worked it and finally felt in control off the tee.

Lastly, thank you to Gary Marlowe for the chipping lesson back in 1983.  Gary was a fellow student at the University of Maryland and on the golf team.  Later he went on to play the PGA Tour for one season but had his career cut short by injury.  Gary and I were on the putting green one afternoon and he had me choke down to the metal with my trailing hand for better control, and play the ball back with a pronounced forward press.  I have been very dissatisfied with my distance control and contact this season, and recommitted to this tip yesterday during my nine-hole practice round and it felt good.  Today, I missed the green on #1 at Northwest and imagine how great it felt when I chipped in for birdie.  Change validated!

I’m not totally out of the woods, but it was nice to feel like myself again over consecutive rounds.  Hoping the momentum continues to build through next week’s trip to South Carolina.

How’s your swing coming along this spring?