Tag Archives: Blue Mash

Your Best Friend

You are on the golf course hitting great shots and scoring poorly.  How frustrating.  Has this ever happened to you?  How you handle depends on your abilities to observe, adjust, and most importantly, how you treat yourself. 

Last weekend I was playing an afternoon round at my club, Blue Mash, where I have an expectation for a score between a 73 and 78, on a normal day.  I noticed something was off from the first tee box where the markers were pushed back, and the hole was playing into the wind.  My tee shot was well struck and barely cleared a fairway bunker which is normally an easy carry.  I had 5-iron in where I usually take 8 or 9 and made bogey.  It became clear from the setup and conditions that the course would play long and difficult.  I bogeyed the first five holes and could safely say that I hit a great shot on each of those holes.  At this point, I had a decision regarding how I would approach the remainder of the round.

When you are not rewarded for good effort, you get upset.  Dr. Bob Rotella says that when distracted by bad play or bad scores, you need to be your best friend out on the course because nobody else is there to help you.  I agree and have learned that positive self-talk is key and to not get down on myself.  I also understand that you can’t confuse effort with results.  Imagine how the tour pros felt on the final day of the 2020 US Open.  Only one (Bryson DeChambeau) managed to break 70 in the final round.  These guys were clearly scoring 5-10 strokes worse than a normal day and were grinding terribly.  They were frustrated and you could see how their scoring affected their game.  De Chambeau didn’t let it alter his attitude and approach and was victorious.  The guy is comfortable in his own skin and despite being a bit of an odd duck, is clearly his own best friend.

The temptation after a bad start is to press and try to save the round.  Last weekend, I had to resist by using positive self-talk and to try and focus on the next shot.  I was partially successful and finished with an 11-over 82.  Normally, after shooting a poor score, I’ll stew about it for a day or two, but I honestly felt that was the worst I could have scored for the way I played and the conditions that presented themselves.  The previous week, I hit the ball horrendously and carded an 8-over 79 on a different track, which was the absolute best I could have shot considering my ball striking.  Still, I took some positives away from that round and felt that my short game saved me from carding a round in the mid 80s.  The key in both situations is to understand and adjust to the current conditions and not get down on yourself.  Be your own best friend!  If you can do this, you will be mentally tough to beat.

Obviously, I have some areas of my game that need work.  I’ve got a tournament coming up a week from Monday, and a trip to the eastern shore to play on some tough venues.  I’m off to the course to practice. 

Do you confuse effort with results?

Are you your own best friend?

Play well!      

Zombie State – Broken!

From vectortoons.com

Dr. Bob Rotella is fond of saying, “putt like you don’t care if you make it.”  The advice is supposed to keep you focused on your routine and not let pressure situations alter your nerves or approach. Can you take this to the extreme?  I did, and was not getting mad at myself when I’d three-putt or miss a make-able shortie and had started to wonder; do I really care?  Why am I playing like a Zombie?  That was until two weekends ago playing The Links At Gettysburg.  We were coming up the 18th (a reachable par-5) and I had ripped a long drive to within 180 yards in the left rough.

18 green seen from the clubhouse

The approach was over water and I picked a 4-iron and stuck it two feet from the cup.  As I approached the green, I sort of conceded the eagle putt in my mind.  It was one of those that would normally be conceded in a match but if you’re just playing for score, you should putt it out. . .because it’s for eagle.  So, I casually strolled up, tapped it and missed left.  Now that was surly the shortest eagle putt I have ever blown and at the time I felt a little numb but just shrugged it off – because I didn’t care.  But on the drive home I started stewing.  Why hadn’t I gone through my regular routine on that damn putt!

Now the story gets better.  I’m drawing inspiration from my friend Jim, over at The Grateful Golfer.  Jim was working all winter on his chipping and putting in his basement, waiting for the snow to melt.  He reported his short game was sharp at the season’s start, and I’m reminded of a winter long ago when I built a putting track and used it for a few months.  That spring I was automatic from inside six feet.  So after the round at Gettysburg, I decided to work short game and putting – exclusively.  I even dragged out my old alignment stick drill

Putting drill with alignment sticks

and have been banging groups of 50 4-foot putts to build good rhythm, get centeredness of contact, and start the ball on line.  I want automatic again.  Now this drill is VERY mechanical, but it has worked before and just payed off.

Fast forward to yesterday’s round at my home course, Blue Mash.  “The Mash” hits you with three par-4s at the start of 424, 428, and 453 yards – hard holes.  I hit good putts on 1 and 2 that didn’t go in and bogeyed both.  After a nice two putt par on #3, I hit a great tee shot to #4 which is a 190-yard par-3.  From 20 feet straight uphill, I blew it by six feet and three-putted, but here was the difference.  I got pissed and back in the cart, slammed my fist on the seat.  And then something happened after that burst of emotion; I felt a weird sense of relief, like some strange burden was lifted off my shoulders.  Almost immediately, I regained an amazing level of concentration with my putter and rolled in five birdies and ended up shooting 71 (even par).   It felt good to get mad again because I realized I do care and missed putts do matter.

I seemed to have rescued myself from this zombie like state.  Have you ever gone “Rotella” too far in the opposite direction?

2018 – Season Wrap and Lessons Learned

Tee shot on the par-3 17th hole at Eagle’s Landing

We like to think the golf season never ends in the Mid-Atlantic.  2016 was so mild we played straight through the winter.  Three days ago, I was wrapping up an excellent 54-hole trip to the Delmarva, but three inches of the white stuff today slammed the lid on my year.  It’s time to hang ’em up and reflect on one of the best seasons in recent memory.

Commitment

2018 started off with a renewed commitment on my part to improvement through additional instruction and by challenging myself on harder courses.  Over the course of the year, I took four lessons (two on full swing, one on short game, and one on putting).  The attention to all facets was incredibly beneficial.  I had never had a professional putting lesson and the last time I received any short game instruction was in college.  Both were eye-opening experiences and left me more confident on and around the greens, and a bit  regretful that I hadn’t invested in either earlier.  The results from the last ball striking lesson in August were profound and left me with a bit of a dilemma for next year.  More on that shortly.

Challenge

In April, I joined Blue Mash Golf Club and spent my first four rounds trying to figure out how to play the first three holes.  Blue Mash hits you straight upside the head with par-4s of 424, 428, and 453 yards.  There is no easing into your round, and the 4th hole is a 190 yard par-3.  Even if I was hitting the ball well, I would often require a 3-iron or more into the first four greens.  There are opportunities to score later in the round, but coming out of the blocks playing bogey golf is not uncommon and figuring out how to play for par was critical to my improvement.  Eventually I got comfortable with the layout and was able to game plan for the brutal start.

A key takeaway is that you need to challenge the weakest parts of your game.  Mine is long iron play, and is where I tend to hit my big miss (pull hook).  There were several afternoons that I wondered what the hell I had done by joining this course, and would I ever get my round off to a good start.  But through lessons, practice, and constantly challenging my weakness with the long irons, I began to improve.  There’s an old saying in software development that says if you are faced with a difficult task or process, repeat it as often as possible and it will become easier.  I learned the same is true in golf.  Out of necessity, I worked those long irons and slowly built confidence.  Later in the season, I was able to play some initial rounds on new difficult courses with significant success because of the challenges overcome at the opening holes at Blue Mash.  Now, I am not a great long iron player, but I don’t fear them or the big miss any more.

Adjustments

During my last lesson, my pro had me make two adjustments.  I moved closer to the ball for all shots and that solved an alignment and balance issue that had been plaguing me for a long time.  It allowed me to flush my irons with more regularity.  Next he had me pause a bit more than normal at the top of my back swing which allowed me to start the swing with my lower body and not cast the club, as so many amateurs are prone to do.  Late in October and again on my recent trip to the shore, we played several rounds in heavy wind.  I had been practicing for this by playing all my iron shots on the range 3/4 back and knocking them down, and was able to leverage that during play.  It’s an incredible feeling to strike it solid and straight in heavy wind.  This was so much the case, that I’m considering playing ALL my iron shots in this fashion next season.  In essence, I would reinvent my golf persona ala Paul Azinger, who played these low knock down style shots all over the course.  The dilemma is, of course, what do I do when I need to hit it high?  I’m thinking the success of this low ball flight was so encouraging, that I may just play it and deal with the high shots as they come up.  I just dropped a note to my pro mentioning the same and asked for his thoughts.  What do you think?

So here they are, staring at me from behind my living room couch.  Should I bag it for the season and put them away, or have the stare-down for another month?

Play well!

 

The Adventures Of Captain Single

Captain Single at the famous biker bar in Murrells Inlet, SC after a round at TPC

I have never been adverse to playing golf as a single. . .until the last three times out.  Normally, I enjoy meeting people and have actually made some lifelong friendships on the first tee, but as luck would have it, my regular golfing partners have been quitting the game or dropping out temporarily for health reasons.  I’ve been relegated to playing as a single this season and the experience is driving me nuts.

It started three weeks ago on Easter Sunday.  Who golfs on Easter?  Nobody, right?  I figured church in the morning and a tee time right after noon on a wide open course – perfect.  I showed up for my 12:06 and there were ten foursomes right in front of me playing a self-organized tournament and putting everything out.  The single I got paired with was nice company but it took nearly three hours to play the front nine.  He dropped out after nine and I was hardly thrilled at the prospect of following this rolling roadblock, but fortunately a threesome zipped down to the 10th tee and joined me.  These three guys were hitting it all over the lot, but they kept moving which suited me fine.  Round one in the books but it gets more bizarre.

Two weeks ago, at a different track, Seargant Solo was out again with a noon time.  The starter paired me up with a guy and a girl in a cart and as I rolled down to the tee I noticed they only had one set of clubs.  I introduced myself and the guy tells me his girlfriend has never played and was just was riding along and would hit a few shots from time to time.  Then he invited me to “go ahead of them because they just wanted to lay back, relax, and drink a few beers.”  It was 80 degrees, the sun was shining, and the course was packed with foursomes.  I’m thinking, “Dude, you just don’t get it,” but I didn’t say anything.  Then two more fellows rolled down and joined making us a happy five-some.  So we played two holes uneventfully and the guy even fist bumps me after I sink a putt on #2 green.  I’m thinking, “Okay, this isn’t that bad.”  Then on the par-5 third, the other two guys and I hit our tee shots but the thirsty couple just sat in their cart chatting.  We took off up the fairway and hit our second shots and noticed these two were still on the lady’s tee fiddling around while the foursome behind them were standing on the regular tee.  He wasn’t kidding about laying back.  They must have yelled at them because they came rushing back up to join us.  We finished the front with just the guy hitting shots.

After three holes on the back, this twosome just got in their cart and rode off while we were putting out.  They didn’t say good bye and were never to be seen again.  Turns out they had polished off a twelve pack and a fifth of whiskey in the 12 holes.  I was left to wonder who was their designated driver, the last person standing?  It gets worse.

Single-Seat Sombrero had a 12:33 time last Sunday and was pared up with a threesome.  I showed up only to find out it was U.S. Kids tournament day at the course.  There were kids already on the course and the nine-holers were scheduled to go off the back nine from 2-4 p.m.  Before I even left the golf shop, the pro was offering me a rain check because I might get blocked out trying to make the turn.  I’m wondering why they didn’t call me or post this on the website, and I asked if I could play the front twice and he said they’d  try to fit me in.  Well it was 12:05 and I was ready to go and they were not running with a starter for some inexplicable reason, so I just jumped on the tee, ripped a shot and headed off by myself on foot.  Soon a single in a cart was pushing me from behind, but never got close enough to join me.  I felt rushed and started to miss shots and get frustrated.  On the par-4 fourth hole, I was in the fairway off the tee and couldn’t see the flag stick because the last kids group had forgot to replace it.  I tried to hit a ball on the center of the green and pull hooked it badly.  Now I was seething.  On #7 I realized I was playing so fast that if I kept my pace, I could beat the first kids group off #10 at 2:00 p.m, and proceeded to do just that.  On #15 I was still feeling rushed and blew a tee shot way right.  At that point, I finally caught up to the last kids tournament group and the guy in the cart caught me and I asked him to join.  Funny, but as soon as he joined, I slowed way down and didn’t miss a shot the rest of the way in.  It’s weird how a nice measured pace will help your game, but I was very disheartened by the whole experience.

So what’s next?  I realize this charade has to end.  I need to get out and play with good players on a regular basis.  No more solitary Sundays for me, I’m joining a club next weekend.  The course is Blue Mash in Laytonsville, MD.  More to come; stay tuned!

On the tee at Oyster Bay, but playing in a foursome

 

Can you have fun playing bad golf?

Think back to the worst round of golf you’ve played.  I don’t have to go far because today was mine.  This four-handicap shot a 27-over 98 at Blue Mash but still had fun.  Can you have fun playing bad golf?  Maybe the old adage that a bad day on the golf course is still better than a good day at work is true because I took the day off to hack.

The round started out ominous as I warmed up on the range hitting weak cuts with every club in the bag.  My search for a WOOD band-aid to get me around the course came up empty and I arrived at the first tee with zero confidence.  It showed early as I started off double bogey, triple bogey, double bogey.  I’ve read advice from several sources about warming up poorly and the conventional thinking is to write off a bad range session because it’s not an indicator of how you’ll play.  Wrong!  I’m different because my warm up, is always an indicator of how I’ll play.  Oddly enough, I had warmed up well on the putting green and was brimming with confidence in my reads and stroke but the poor ball striking infiltrated my putting and I ended the day with 40 putts.  Egad – how could this be fun?

The weather started off cloudy and warm with a few rain squalls, but on about the fourth hole a cold front blew through and the temperature began dropping and the wind increased.    When we turned, we were dealing with a gale force wind that bent flagsticks, oscillated balls on the greens, and played havoc with our club selection.  We were live at the British Open!  My thoughts had shifted from my horrible ball striking to how to execute shots I had never practiced but now needed to use.  This was fun!  With my mind off my swing and on the demands of the game, my ball striking improved.  On the par-3 17th, I hit a full three wood from 190 yards and missed the green left.  My short greenside pitch was blown 90 degrees sideways after the first bounce.  Never witnessed that on the golf course.  Short putts (inside six to eight feet) were being pushed six inches off line.  Finally we finished on #18, a par-5 playing straight into the wind at 540 yards.  I estimated effective yardage at about 640 yards and crushed a driver and two three-irons to within 40 yards of the green.  A full sand wedge purely struck and three putts later, I had my final double bogey and a 98.  I left the course humbled and exhausted, yet somewhat exhilarated at the experience.  Have you ever had as much fun playing bad golf as I did today?

Blue Mash – Course Review

Summary

Blue Mash golf course in Laytonsville, Maryland is a Joe Hills-Tom Healy design that combines links and parkland styles into a single theme that is both challenging and very fun to play.  The course is home to a fabulous grass driving range and large short game practice facility that begs the seasoned player and beginner alike to come and spend time.

Always in good condition, this upscale daily fee track smacks you right out of the box with three meaty par-4 holes each playing over 420 yards from the men’s tees.  Water and well placed fairway bunkers come into play and frame the approaches on several holes but there’s only one forced carry on the par-3 17th.  A mixture of short and medium length par-4s and 5s keep the route interesting with no two holes alike.  The true toughness of Blue Mash is evident in hot dry conditions when the greens are rolling fast.  I recently played on August 14, 2011 during “Diabolical Pins Week” where the course attempts to mirror some feature of the major tournament being played at the time (2011 PGA.)  The pins were cut on various humps and near the edges and needless to say, I made nothing outside of six feet.  Fortunately, some early rain had slowed the greens to a manageable pace but I left imagining what kind of day I could have had with these pins cut on fast rolling greens.

Value (3.5 out of 5.0)

Greens fees for 2011 are $79 for morning weekend starting times.  This includes cart and range balls.  You can get $10 off if you elect to prepay.  A variety of weekday, 10-year, and corporate memberships are available that offer good value to the individual who plays a lot.

Facilities (4.0 out of 5.0)

Blue Mash is where I go when I need to do serious practice.  The driving range is the best I’ve found in Montgomery County and always seems to be in excellent condition.  The practice putting green can handle a large number of players quite comfortably and is always rolling smooth and true.  Nearby is a short game area that provides a variety of shots from all sides.  Several tightly mowed areas are provided as are a variety of tall grass configurations, as well as uphill and downhill lies.  Two bunkers at opposite ends of the green are much lower than the surface of the green and are the only awkward feature, as thinly struck sand shots from either can sometimes endanger players at the opposite end.

A modest sized clubhouse is home to a small pro shop and medium-sized grill area.  A good-sized patio  overlooks the short game area and is a great spot to enjoy some food and drink after a round.  Finally, a small set of lockers are available to the members for a nominal fee.  The allure of Blue Mash facilities are the course and practice area.

Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)

The pro shop staff and starters are friendly and accommodating.  With the driving range, putting green, and short game area closely situated to the clubhouse, the process of warm-up and teeing off was a cinch.  Everything moved orderly and we did a minimal amount of waiting on the course, albeit after teeing off on a less crowded rainy morning.  The course had aerated greens which I thought was a little awkward considering it was still late summer but then found that another local upscale daily fee (Whiskey Creek) had done the same a week later.  Perhaps there’s a reason, but I’m accustomed to a mid-Fall aeration schedule.  Anyway, the greens were a little slow because of the rain and not rolling true from aeration.  The course had drained very well from heavy early morning rains as we rode and played cart-path only.  Tee boxes and fairways were in good shape with the lone exception on the short par-4, 8th fairway which had many unrepaired divots left from numerous short iron approaches.

Overall Rating (4.0 out of 5.0)