What’s your hardest shot? For me, it’s the long bunker shot. You know, 50-60 yards and perhaps over another bunker or with water behind the green. The shot places seeds of doubt in your mind and what follows is not pretty. It’s made more difficult by the infrequency that it occurs. I don’t practice it, will go several rounds without confronting it, and often play away from it altogether. Yesterday, I learned how to hit it.
I had been struggling with consistency in my green-side bunker game and went to my pro for a lesson. He had me hit a few shots to a close in flag with my lob wedge and quickly identified a flaw in technique. I was forward pressing the grip and that was causing me to hit the shot heavy (take too much sand and leave the ball short). The fix was to move my hands back – even or slightly behind the ball which allowed me to use the bounce in my wedge to slap the sand in a more aggressive motion. Not very complicated and the burst of adrenaline from the “ah ha” moment teased me with anticipation.
This practice bunker has targets at 20, 40, and 60 yards and the lesson progressed into hitting shots with the new technique at varying distances. I changed out to my 54-degree sand wedge for the longer green-side shots. The new setup allowed me to approach with an attack mindset. I now controlled distance with club selection, how fast I swung, how hard I hit the sand, and with the confidence that I wasn’t going to chunk or blade the shot.
In the past, my aversion to the long bunker shot was rooted in the belief that I didn’t have enough power to take sand and get the ball to the hole. But I do! We talked about choice of wedge for this shot and my pro said he adjusts by squaring the face on a sand wedge or gap wedge. Gap wedge? I had never thought of that and tried a few with the square blade at 60 yards and presto! Never in a million years did I think I could hit an explosion and cover the distance.
We then moved to uphill, downhill, and side-hill bunker shots. I hit a few out of footprints and learned this was an excellent way to practice. Don’t get married to hitting simple 20-yard shots from a perfectly raked lie. We finished up with some 9-iron, 7-iron, and 4-iron fairway bunker shots. Of utmost importance out of the fairway bunkers is to keep your lower body and your head as still as possible. I made good contact on most of these but without the lower body rotation, pulled them a bit. I learned I need to aim a little right and allow for it.
Finally, we dialoged set make-up. I recently purchased a TaylorMade M6 3-hybrid and had been considering dropping a wedge to get to 14 clubs. He advised against this because the wedges are key in scoring situations which should be my top priority. We agreed I should remove my 3-iron instead.
This was a fantastic learning experience. My only regret was that a steady wind was blowing in our face for the entire lesson. After nearly a hundred balls I was caked; but was beaming with confidence. 😊
What is your toughest shot to execute? Need any help with that?
Your humble servant has just returned from a trip to the Grand Strand for nine rounds over eight courses, in five days. There is some great golf to be played in Myrtle Beach but some courses to be avoided at all costs. Along with playing some awesome venues, we managed to visit with as many golf shops as possible to get an accurate picture of playing conditions across the region. The following trip report has first hand accounts, photos, and snippets of knowledge picked up by conversations with key people. Hopefully you’ll find it valuable and interesting.
On Monday, we made the hour drive from our condo at Sea Trail to TPC of Myrtle Beach only to get dumped on by Tropical Storm Alberto and completely washed out after three holes. We grabbed our rain checks and went shopping. Off to a poor start.
Tuesday we ventured out to Myrtle Beach National for a round on Kings North. Much to our surprise, the greens were rolling okay on this Arnold Palmer gem, but were in very poor shape with significant browning caused by the winter freeze/kill that affected the area. After the round, the pro explained that the Champion 327 strain of Bermuda was on the Kings course and that another strain of Bermuda was on the West and South courses and they were playing much better, so we replayed on the West and had a very enjoyable round on lush conditions. Only one or two greens were in questionable shape. The North is still an awesome layout with tees and fairways in great condition, and is still playable but temper your expectations.
On Wednesday we hit Glen Dornoch for 36 holes and encountered lush full greens that were rolling rather slow. Admittedly it had rained the previous two days, and we got dumped on again for about five holes but the surfaces were in good shape. We asked the pro how they managed to keep their greens in order and he indicated they had overseeded with Rye, which was essentially what we were putting on. It had filled in nicely but you could see the spotty Bermuda and our thoughts were that after another month of heat, if that Bermuda didn’t come back, they’d be in trouble when the cool season grass became stressed from the summer bake.
Back down to the southern end we went on Thursday to Willbrook Plantation. The course was wet from the previous deluge but in otherwise great condition except for a lot of clumpy grass in the fairway since they had just mowed for the first time that week. For the third straight day we were playing cart path only and getting plenty of exercise toting clubs from buggy to ball and back. The greens were in good shape and were another overseed job similar to Glen Dornoch. We had a nice round and elected to forgo a replay in order to save our strength for a head smacking big day on Friday.
The morning round on Friday was at Pawley’s Plantation and we left the condo at 5:45 a.m. to make our 7:48 tee time. We found Pawleys in great shape and we were finally allowed to ride the fairways. 17 of the 18 greens were perfect, except for the memorable island 13th, which was very stressed.
I love this golf course and its killer par threes and it took every ounce of skill for me to muster an 8-over 80 from the blue tees which were playing at 6,549/73.7/144. Finally the heat and humidity had returned. These were conditions were were more accustomed to playing in.
In the afternoon, we made our way up the coast to Murrells Inlet and TPC of Myrtle Beach to cash in our rain checks. TPC had dried out but for some reason they were still playing cart path only. This is a big golf course with wide holes loaded with tons of sand and water. The course was in excellent shape and the greens were rolling medium fast but again were primarily on overseeded Rye. You could see the Bermuda was very spotty and we were glad we were playing it now before conditions deteriorated. We were tired from the 36 holes, the heat, and playing from the cart paths in the afternoon. But there was one more day to go.
Our last play day was Saturday and in the morning we tried out Crow Creek in the north. Course review is coming but in short, conditions were pure on this all Bermuda track. It’s a must play.
We wanted to replay in the afternoon but they were booked. They called over to the Sea Trail resort and got us a time on the Maples course right after lunch. Sea Trail has three courses and had been brutalized by the winter kill. Two of the courses, Jones, and Byrd had totally lost their Bermuda greens. Maples had lost everything but their greens because they were bentgrass. We learned that they close Maples in the summer so as not to stress their greens. The Maples tee boxes were very scratchy and there wasn’t much turf in the fairways, although you could play on it. We were just glad to be playing our final round of golf on a course next to our condo. After all the driving to the south, it was nice to sink your final putt and collapse in your bed in five minutes. Oddly enough, despite the conditions, I had my best round of the trip (3-over 75) on Maples. I suppose if you’re going to play on a scratchy course, the one thing you want is playable greens.
We did a great job moving our venues off courses with known winter kill and generally played on very good conditions during the week. Sunday, I had a late flight and decided to visit some of the area courses for intelligence gathering. Here’s what I learned:
Oyster Bay: I adore this layout but the greens are shot. Avoid it.
The Legends: According to the pro in the shop, Moreland has the Champion 327 Bermuda and lost seven greens. They are giving discounts to play it. Steer clear. Heathland is in great shape and Parkland has a few spots on a couple greens. I checked the practice green and it looked fine. Play here at your own risk.
Thistle: The practice green had a couple damage spots but I examined a green on the course and spoke to the pro who told me the greens keeper did a great job and the course was in excellent condition. I rolled a few balls on the putting green and it seemed fine. I’d play here as the layout is awesome and the operation first class.
Then I drove across the street to Perl (East and West courses). Their greens were Bermuda and looked immaculate. I went inside and learned that Perl had covered their greens during the winter, off and on and especially during the one week stretch that had killed everyone else. This was the key, and I had received earlier reports that both courses were in great shape. Passed the eye test, get yourself out on both of these!
Finally, I struck up a conversation with my seatmate on the flight home who was wearing a Caledonia shirt. He reportedly had played and said the course was in fabulous shape. So there you have it. If you are making your way down to the Grand Strand, I’d do it sooner rather than later when all the Rye overseed on some of these good courses is going to get stressed. If you have any other first hand accounts on Myrtle Beach course conditions, please share!
How big is your golf gap? Your gap is the difference between what you know is the right thing to practice and what you actually practice. Your goal is to lower your scores through effective practice, and folks who have been playing and studying the game for a long time should have smaller gaps than beginners. The smaller you can shrink your gap, the more rapidly you should improve.
My gap is larger than it should be. I had a bit of an epiphany last weekend and the experience might serve a useful purpose going forward. It started when I read the article by Dustin Johnson in the February 2018 Golf Digest on how he practices. DJ was always an excellent ball striker but he truly became a superb player after he adopted his current routine of dedicating 80% of his range time to full and partial wedge shots. Considering how great he is with the driver, I was surprised to learn how little he practiced with it. Bottom line: his weakness was inside 100 yards and he addressed it.
Aligning my own game to DJ’s is like comparing a rowboat to a battleship, but his routine is instructive and should be copied. I reviewed my 2017 season performance notes and most of my good rounds were preceded by lessons and practice with my wedges. Like DJ, my goal last year was to get more consistent inside 100 yards. From some mechanical changes my pro helped me with (using primarily my wedges), my proximity improved greatly inside 100 yards and I began to hit it longer. I became enamored with the newfound length and in accordance, began hitting more practice balls with the driver. That’s when my performance dipped. Argh! My gap had widened.
Last weekend I hit the range with the goal of closing the gap and connecting the dots between practice and play. I only worked on hitting partial and full wedge shots. The contact was excellent and transitioned nicely to the few shots I mixed in with the longer clubs. What I would advise is that you hit the range and work on your wedges. See your pro if you need help with your technique. Then jot down what you are working on. This makes it easy to recall past practice that preceded good play, and of course, any “ah ha” moments you may discover. Finally, one caveat, if you are filming your own swing for analysis purposes, hit shots with a medium iron and a driver, as a wedge swing will often be too short and compact to reveal some critical swing flaws.
Just returned from six days of golf in Myrtle Beach and have shattered my previous record of 198 holes played by a full 18. We needed perfect weather to play 36 on six straight days and the golfing gods cooperated with partly cloudy skies and temps around 80 every day. Powered by nine 200 mg Advil tablets per day, the pain and stiffness associated with 12-hour days at the course was kept at bay.
Normally, we’d arrive at the course around 7:00 a.m. and hit balls for 30 minutes and go. The early tee times allowed for a break for lunch before heading out around 2:30 p.m. for the afternoon round. Two of my traveling partners also managed the full 216 and the whole affair was exhausting but tremendous fun. I would not advise taking this on if you have any physical limitations or sense of reasonableness 🙂 .
Leading up to the trip, I had forsaken all practice time for play, mostly over nine hole rounds, in hopes that the added reps would allow me to adjust more easily in bad stretches. This worked incredibly well, especially when my ball striking took a downturn. Also we took video of our swings on the course and reviewed at night and I picked up a few nuggets that I put in play the following day. The added play early in the season clearly helped and the availability of video was like having a swing coach always nearby to assist. Here’s one of me on my best drive at The Legends Heathland course. I noticed my ball position was back quite a bit and I’m still trying to figure out what else I did right. See anything?
Kings North and Rivers Edge were new courses for me and I shot my highest scores on those venues, which was not unexpected. Most of the courses were in excellent shape and a delight to play. Full course reviews are coming for True Blue, Kings North, and Rivers Edge. Stay tuned!
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)
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