Tag Archives: Golf

Getting wedded to length

Recently, a friend loaned me a Big Bertha FT3 driver.  When hit well, this club delivers 20-30 yards over my Taylor Made R7.  How enticing to play from areas of the course not previously visited!  Next time out, I found myself hitting this weapon on shots that normally called for placement and adopting a go-for-broke mentality with all my clubs.  At the end of the day, I had jerked my swing completely out of my comfort zone and littered my card with bogeys and doubles.  Next time to the driving range, I still was preoccupied with length and found myself hitting driver to the point of exhaustion.

The lesson here is that it’s difficult to play to a different personality.  Normally, my approach is reserved and calculating, and I’m very careful about picking my spots to be aggressive.  In short, I’m not wedded to length and while I did bust a couple very long ones, I need to resist the temptation to always pull driver and remember to get the ball in play.

Looking forward to my round on the 4th of July and yes, I’ll still be playing the FT3 but will be armed with an attack plan that balances risk with reward and allows me to play to my personality.  Update coming after the round.  -Wish me luck!

The great debate: Walk or ride?

I’m in the walking camp and truly believe one’s game is enhanced to the tune of three strokes better per round by walking.  On foot you get into a rhythm, get a better feel for the course, can judge the effects of wind and terrain, and can play without delay.  Compare to the worst case cart scenario:  You are the driver, riding with a player that sprays the ball, who doesn’t play from the same tee box as you, and the course is wet and enforcing “Cart path only.”  There’s nothing worse than walking all the way across the fairway to hunt for lost balls or grabbing a bag full of clubs because you can’t measure yardage or visualize the correct shot parked on the cart path.  Everything is so much easier when you can just walk to your ball.

There are circumstances where you should be playing out of a cart.  On my recent trip to Myrtle Beach, golfing at The Legends would be nearly impossible for a walker.  The 54-hole complex and driving range is the size of a small airport and motorized transportation is a must.  We were blessed with good weather and could ride the carts in the fairways, which helped to speed play and allowed us to conserve energy for playing 36 holes in the summer heat.

Finally, a word of caution:  If you’re going to walk, make sure you’re physically up for the test.  Pulling or carrying your bag over four miles in summer heat is not trivial.  My back and legs used to get tired after 14 or 15 holes so I dedicated myself to an off-season workout regimen that included aerobic conditioning as well as core strengthening exercises.

Celtic Tiger?

Whoa, not so fast, Karen McKevitt.  She’s a politician in Northern Ireland, and coined the phrase to describe Rory McIlroy fresh off his U.S. Open triumph.  While McIlroy’s performance was stellar and dominating, a run of majors similar to to Tiger’s isn’t in the cards.  The competition is too tough and young guns like Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and Luke Donald are too hungry.  Resurgent old timers like Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia are showing good form and are also primed for runs now that Tiger is off the scene.  So congrats on a great tournament but don’t get a big head and get ready to feel the heat at Royal St. Georges!

Play to your potential – every time out!

Ever wonder why your game seems in the zone on some days and you can’t hit the broad side of a barn the next?  Playing to our potential every time out would be wonderful, but as human beings is profoundly difficult.  From the number one player in the world down to the weekend 35-handicapper, we all fight the battle to elevate our consistency.  Here’s how to improve yours.

First, consider the old axiom that says, “If you can’t putt, you can’t score but if you can’t drive it, you can’t play.”  I’ve found this to be true to the extent that my most satisfying rounds are when my ball striking is on.  As a 5-handicap, a round in the low 70s is good and  I’d rather shoot 72 and hit 15 greens with a bunch of two-putts than shoot 72 with 8 greens and have to scramble all day.  Good ball striking allows you to relax your mind and puts less pressure on your short game.  To give yourself the best chance of having a good ball striking day, adopt this thought:  “Hit the shot you know you can hit, not the one you should be able to hit.”  I learned this from Dr. Bob Rotella, and found that the quicker the player can figure out that good scoring is driven by confidence and is not necessarily related to massaging one’s ego, the faster they will enjoy sustained consistency.  Yes, this is about managing the Driver, and admittedly is difficult because most players love to bomb long drives, but I’ve found that on days where I warm up and struggle with my driver, it’s best to leave it in the bag for the whole round and tee off with a club I know I can put in the fairway.  When I first implemented this strategy, I noticed my scores improved most on my bad ball striking days because I wasn’t trying to swing for the fences, or go after the sucker pins, or try the miraculous recoveries.   The importance of getting the ball in play is paramount to playing with confidence and nothing will crush your ball striking confidence faster than hitting a driver into trouble on the first couple of tee shots.  To affirm, take a quick mental inventory of your last bad round and I’ll bet that most of your trouble began with wayward drives.

Second, take care to not over analyze your swing while on the course.  Too many players tie themselves in knots trying to manipulate and contort their bodies with countless swing mechanics.  This only builds tension and is counter-productive.  Use one swing thought at a time and it should be as free from mechanics as possible.  Anything to promote rhythm or good tempo is best.   A thought like, “Target – Tempo” is perfect.  When I’m playing my best, I notice course management thoughts are in the front of my mind rather than my swing.

Finally, practice your full game the day before you play and make sure you dedicate plenty of time simulating game conditions.  Nothing prepares your mind and body better than making an easy transition from practice to play.

Good luck!

Ten minutes from parking lot to the tee – help!

It’s happened to every one of us, so how do you get an emergency warm-up in a rush situation?  Two keys to focus on:  prepare your body to make an athletic move and get a feel for how the course will play.  You’ll need to divide your prep time into two five-minute halves.

First half:  grab a club and hold it by both ends out in front of you.  Do 10 full squats, getting as low as you can, and raise the club as high over your head with each squat, returning it to its starting position as you raise up.  This will loosen the shoulders, hips, knees, and get your heart pumping.  Next, while still holding both ends of the club in front of you, tilt slightly from the waist and turn your upper body 90 degrees to the right and left without moving your legs.  The resistance of your lower body will provide an excellent rotational stretch.  Do 15 in each direction.

Second half:  spend the time hitting low running chips on the practice green; the longer the chip the better.  This will offer the opportunity to take your full swing grip, make a small golf swing, get the ball rolling to judge green speed, and focus on a target.  All the things required to be successful on the course.  Finish up by hitting six straight three-foot putts into a hole to build confidence and put you in a “make it” frame of mind.

Ready to go, hit ’em straight!

Heritage Club – Course Review

#8 tee Heritage

Summary

Heritage Club, on Pawleys Island, SC, is one of my favorite layouts in Myrtle Beach.  Two things make  Heritage unique;  a bevy of Live Oak trees draped with Spanish moss that line the entrance to the club and frame several outstanding holes, and huge undulating Bermuda greens that provide a daunting challenge to your short game.  This course is challenging and you MUST place your approach shots on the same level as the pins.  Missing the greens on the proper level is an easier play than playing from the wrong tier of the putting surface.  40 and 50 foot putts are not uncommon and will create havoc with your confidence and put big numbers on your scorecard.  You’ll need length off the tee, accuracy on approaches, and a deft short game to score at Heritage.  The course is an awesome test.

Value (4.0 out of 5.0).

Playing on The Legends rotation package, Heritage provides very good value considering the overall layout, scenic beauty and quality of course conditioning.  To get top billing, they need to include range balls in the cost, don’t charge an extra $2.00 to turn on the Logitec distance finder in each cart, and stock the range with some quality balls.  I bought a bag of 40, with nearly all the dimples wiped off.  Get them for $5 in the pro shop or the range shuttle driver will sell you a bag in route.  A classy course like Heritage doesn’t need to nickel and dime their customers.

Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)

The property is not that large but a shuttle is required to go everywhere.  To the range, back to the clubhouse, to the parking lot after the round.  The putting green is located adjacent to the range and not withing walking distance of the clubhouse, which is a bit awkward (also requires a shuttle.)  The attendant manning the cart staging area reminded us not to drive our clubs to our car after the round because of some insurance concern, which I found interesting since the other Legends courses mentioned no such restriction.

From the front and rear, the clubhouse is drop dead gorgeous and is reminiscent of the antebellum mansion that might have existed on the property in yesteryear.   Between our morning and afternoon round, we dined in the clubhouse and while the standard American fare was quite tasty, we found the service a bit on the slow side.

Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)

Despite all the pre and post round shuttling, we found all the staff very friendly and accommodating.  The pace of play was excellent for both morning and afternoon rounds, and the course a delight to play.   Bring your patience, nerve, and your A-game because from start to finish, Heritage is a fun stern test of every club in the bag.  I’d consider this a must play for anyone making the trip to Pawleys Island.

Overall Rating (4.0 out of 5.0)


Ouch! Sergio Garcia cards an 11 in the first round at Memphis

Just when you thought the guy was rounding into form he pulls this out of the bag.  After driving it 336 yards on the par – 5 third hole, he tried three times to hook a ball around a tree and carry a lake on a 216 yard approach.  Dumb!  I remember my last double digit hole; a 10 on a par – 5 at my local muni a couple of years ago.  That was full of dumb decisions and Sergio made the same mistake.  You simply cannot compound an initial error and need to know when to back off and take your medicine.  A professional tournament is rarely won on a single hole but can easily be lost on one.  Let’s see how this affects his attitude and performance in round 2.

Tiger Woods pulls out of the U.S. Open

So hobbling around in a walking boot apparently isn’t good preparation for a major.  This guy needs to be thinking about participation and making cuts before contemplating more major victories.  Tiger – Phase 1 is over and done.  Images of Tiger tooling around in a mini-cart like Casey Martin now come to mind and may come to fruition once the network suits figure out how much money they’re losing without Woods to anchor their telecasts.

Oyster Bay – Course Review

#5 tee Oyster Bay

Summary

Oyster Bay, in Sunset Beach, NC is the northern most track affiliated with The Legends courses managed by Arnold Palmer Golf Management.  My group played here on a recent trip in early June.  Located close to the ocean, the course boasts a variety of holes that weave their way around scenic lakes and marshes and are buffeted by the stiff ocean breezes.  Notable holes begin with #14, a downhill par 5 with a large tree to negotiate in the middle of the fairway, which is followed by a risk-reward carry to the green over water.  This is followed by #15, a beautiful short par 3 surrounded by water that challenges the player’s ability to keep a ball down under the prevailing sea breeze.  #16 is a long par 4 that plays downwind and is bordered by water on the right and in front of the green.  Set just inside the ocean, these three holes, along with the par 5 fifth hole (pictured above), provide a standout variety of challenges for the nature loving golf enthusiast.  Course conditioning is less than spectacular, with several brown patches intruding on some greens as well as a good number of burned out tee boxes and worn spots in the fairways, but the scenic views and variety of holes make this a very fun course to play.

Value (4.0 out of 5.0)

Greens fees run $79 dollars during June and July and include cart but range balls are extra.  Our group was playing on the package offered by The Legends which included breakfast, lunch, two drinks, and golf, which was a great deal.  If you are a playing conditions purist, Oyster Bay’s value is middle of the road at best.  Our group felt like we easily got our money’s worth and enjoyed a second 18 in the afternoon at a $30 replay rate which was discounted, as the course honored our 9-hole price replay card from our scheduling snafu at Heathlands earlier in the week.  We viewed Oyster Bay very favorably and would rate it a top value except for the slightly scrappy conditions.

Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)

The clubhouse structure was a bit dated and the grill was on the smallish side and offered a limited variety of food choices, especially on the breakfast buffet and just a few ready made sandwiches and hot dogs for lunch.  The pro shop seemed nicely stocked for its size.  Oyster Bay has a medium size grass driving range with balls costing $5 for a bag.  There’s a good size practice putting green where chipping is allowed since there’s no separate short game area.  Most holes on the course are surrounded by houses albeit very beautiful properties, but there is little privacy during play.

Customer Experience (3.0 out of 5.0)

The course had double teed groups from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and we began our morning on the 10th tee accompanied by a very friendly and informative starter/marshal.  We played our first nine quickly and our marshal visited us a couple times on the course to inform us that our pace was good and on one occasion brought a player in our group some fresh ice and cold towels to relieve a painful shoulder injury that had flared.  We appreciated the assistance but when we turned the pace slowed to a crawl with three and four groups playing each hole and we never saw our marshal again.  Ultimately our second nine took three hours to play which taxed everyone’s patience.  A few of us decided to replay and went out again shortly after 2:00 p.m. and breezed around 18 holes without waiting on a single shot which picked up our spirits and provided a very enjoyable afternoon.  If you are interested in 18 holes on the weekend during the summer, try to reserve between 1:30 and 2:00 p.m. for the best pace of play.  The final verdict:  If you want a beautiful layout and don’t mind playing on less than stellar conditions, Oyster Bay is a good choice.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)


Caledonia Golf Course – Course Review

#10 green Caledonia

Summary

My travel group recently played Caledonia Golf Course which is located in Pawleys Island, SC and is managed by Caledonia Golf Vacations along with its sister course, True Blue.  Caledonia sits on a wonderful piece of property which is actually an old rice plantation and has many spectacular views and is beautifully appointed with many charms of the old south.  While not terribly long (6,526 yards from the back tees), the superb conditioning and well maintained grounds make for a very enjoyable afternoon of golf.

Value (3.5 out of 5.0)

Greens fees range from a low of $110 during the summer to a high of $200 in the spring for morning tee times.  Technically, range balls are included, but there is no driving range at Caledonia and it’s not practical to shuttle back and forth to True Blue to hit balls before a round.  Also, at these first class prices, you need to have a yardage guide, extra towels, and mini cooler provided with each golf cart, but at Caledonia you get none (just a cart with a scorecard), which we found disappointing.  These minor inconveniences need to be balanced against the sheer beauty and conditioning that the golf course provides.

Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)

There is a bit of a cramped feeling around the bad drop and cart staging area as it’s apparent that Caledonia was built on a limited amount of real estate.  With no room for a driving range, they’ve created a smallish practice area with about four or five separate greens, complete with bunkers and mowed approaches to warm up on.  Want to hit balls?  You need to drive to True Blue which is a couple of minutes away by car.  The practice putting green is very small and barely had room for our group of two foresomes.  You felt congested when several players were trying to warm up in the practice area because the practice greens are tightly interwoven and shots were being struck from several different directions (watch your head!)  The morning we were playing they were double teeing off #1 and #10 and the practice area was crowded.  Additionally, there was little room to maneuver carts around the staging area to get to the practice greens. However, once on the golf course, you no longer felt squeezed and could relax.  Finally, the clubhouse, while on the smallish side, exudes southern charm with it’s wonderful wrap around porch outfitted with rocking chairs overlooking the 18th green and is a wonderful place to watch groups concluding play for the day.

Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)

I’d like to see the course minimize the distractions and crowding by eliminating the practice of double teeing.  Once away from the confusion associated with staging and warm-up, the customer can relax and enjoy the beauty and challenges of a great golf course, which is pretty much what you remember at the end of the day.  Tee boxes, fairways, greens, and bunkers are all immaculate and the landscaping a true marvel.

Finally, you can enjoy an excellent lunch in the grill room with very tasty menu selections, good service, and reasonable prices.  I will be back to Caledonia.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)


The Legends – Course Review

Fairway bunker #18 Parkland

Summary

The Legends is a group of five golf courses, three of which (Heathland, Parkland, and  Moreland), are located off Rt 501 in central Myrtle Beach.  Heritage (Pawleys Island), and Oyster Bay (Sunset Beach, North Carolina), round out the group and all have been operated by the Arnold Palmer Golf Management group since 2009.  Recently our group played all five courses in late May – early June of 2011.  This review covers Heathland, Parkland, and Moreland.

Value (5.0 out of 5.0)

The Legends is an excellent value when coupled with the readily available “Three Round Special” package that includes daily lodging, greens fees for one round per day, carts, range balls, breakfast, lunch, and two drinks.  Our group played on a package that included Heritage and Oyster Bay and found that the excellent course conditions and the professional staff’s ability to move several hundred golfers a day and pay special attention to each made the golf experience very cost effective.

Facilities (4.5 out of 5.0)

Along with three superb championship courses, the Rt 501 facility includes an extensive grass driving range and short game practice area.  Each course presents a stern test and is very different in layout, but each are equally playable and enjoyable.  All three are very well marked and a free yardage guide is provided in each golf cart.  Heathland is a wide open links style layout with large bunkers and undulating greens providing the main challenge.  Parkland is a traditional tree-lined layout with large fairways and is the longest of the three.  Moreland is a P.B. Dye design and provides several elevation changes and significant greenside mounding as well as routing around water hazards that creates an ample test of a player’s shot making ability.  Conditions were consistent across all three courses with closely manicured fairways, very undulated greens that ran smooth and true, and consistent sand in the vast array of deep faced bunkers.  Several of the tee boxes were a bit patchy and slightly burned out but did not affect playability.

Driving range conditions were equally impressive as the all grass hitting areas were rotated to ensure even ware and recovery.  Considering the large number of players and long hours (open under the lights until 9:00 p.m.), we always had good grass to practice from.  A large undulating practice putting green with room for 20 + holes was available and closely mirrored course conditions.  Putting green markers are used in lieu of actual cups, which is an inconvenience for players who prefer putting to an actual hole.  Shuttles constantly move players and equipment from the staging areas to and from the driving range since the walk is considerable.  Shuttle service was also available to transport golfers to and from the golf facilities and their housing units.

Customer Experience (5.0 out of 5.0)

The professionalism on display from the golf shop staff, food service staff in the clubhouse, beverage service on the golf course, range attendants, and shuttle drivers was unparalleled.  From the little details like fresh towels and coolers with ice in every golf cart to the television screens showing scheduled tee times for all three courses in the clubhouse, our group definitely noticed a marked improvement in friendliness and attention to detail.   Everyone went out of their way to accommodate our every need and when a tournament was mistakenly scheduled over our previously reserved tee times on Heathland, the shop staff handled the mix-up calmly and professionally and got us out on Parkland in the same time slots and even compensated us with half price replay rates for the balance of our stay, which was greatly appreciated.  You get the feeling the customer is truly appreciated.  The Arnold Palmer Golf Management group has done the job.

Overall rating (5.0 out of 5.0)

Ernie Els – flatstick failures. Is he done?

Remember that silky smooth putting stroke that had Ernie in contention on the fastest greens in the toughest tournaments?  Well it’s gone, poof!  As of this writing, Els is ranked 185th on the PGA Tour in putting from the critical 3-5’ range with an average of 73%.  Pros having top seasons like David Toms (93%) consistently excel in this scoring zone and it appears Els has completely lost it at age 41.  Compare the ball striking of the two and you’ll see both are comparable with Toms ranked 2nd  on Tour in GIR at 72% and Els ranked 11th at 70%  But the true impact is felt when looking at stroke average with Toms, ranked 4th  at 69.60, and Els at a whopping 159th at 72.16!  What’s troubling for Els fans is when great ball strikers like Tom Watson and Johnny Miller lost their ability to make the short ones, they lost their ability to compete for good.  Is Ernie done?  Will we see him with a long putter before too long?  Place your bets.

Maryland National Golf Club – Course Review

Summary

Maryland National is located in Middletown, MD about 45 minutes from my home in Rockville.  While not overly long at 6,811 yards from the championship tees, this links style course has beautiful mountain vistas and significant changes in elevation on several holes.  The course will test your ball striking ability, especially into some of it’s very small protected greens.  There is ample room off the tee on most holes with the course’s main defense provided by creative green-side mounding and deeply contoured bunkers.  Players enjoy GPS in all golf carts and five sets of tee boxes make the course a fun challenging experience for everyone.

Value (3.5 out of 5.0)

The club lists greens fees on the weekend after 10 a.m. at $74 but we were playing on a pre-purchased discount card that allowed you to play on any day/time for $50, which is an excellent value.  Greens fees before 10 a.m. on the weekends are $94 which seem a bit high.

Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)

The practice area is a medium length cart ride from the clubhouse and consists of a nicely maintained grass driving range, albeit on the small size, with about 15-20 hitting stations.  Balls are included with greens fees.  Adjacent to the range are two very small nicely maintained pitching (bunker included) and putting greens.    I was left with the distinct impression that these practice areas could become very crowded during times of heavy play because of their limited size.  There is a fully stocked pro shop and the on-site restaurant provides either sit down or walk up service.

Customer Experience (4.5 out of 5.0)

On Sunday, May 15, 2011 I found the course to be in excellent condition with all tee boxes and fairways nicely manicured and the greens running medium fast and very true.  The course had received significant rainfall the night before but all bunkers were nicely raked and there was very little standing water as the fairways and rough appeared to have drained nicely.  It was clear the staff takes pride in their course conditioning.  Everyone from the pro shop staff to the beverage cart girl to the staff in the restaurant were very friendly and accommodating.  My only complaint was a malfunctioning GPS.  Once we left the cart path, a message to “Return to the cart path immediately” was displayed and could not be cleared until the cart was back on the path.  When we questioned the clubhouse staff, they indicated the GPS was infected with a computer virus and had been for several days.

Overall rating (4.0 out of 5.0)

Tiger – Gone from The Players!

To be honest, Tiger’s withdrawal is no surprise, however, the comments in his post round interview left me thinking that he overplayed the injury and simply quit because he was hacking so badly.  Mark O’Meara reported that he had played pre-tournament practice rounds with Tiger and Tiger’s knee seemed fine.  Frankly, I’m mystified as to how he could warm up before the round without issue and seriously re-injure himself on his first tee shot.  Is Tiger’s will to compete the same as it was when playing on a broken leg in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines where the injury seemed more serious than this one, or is it dependent on the quality of the shots he’s hitting?

Clearly Tiger is playing on an old 35 year body and his mental state is not even close to his former self.  You can lock up Nicklaus’ record for majors and throw away the key!