Category: Grill Room (page 2 of 6)

Saturday Round and Experimentation

From the rough on the 2nd hole. Not exactly super thick, thankfully.

From the rough on the 2nd hole. Not exactly super thick, thankfully.

Taking advantage of whatever the hell the weather was a couple weeks ago, I played early Saturday 2/25 at Rattlewood.  Played in a foursome, and got around in 3 1/2 hours (note- it can be done) despite a couple guys in our group struggle to start.  You don’t need to play well to play fast.  We played ready golf and used continuous putting which really cuts down on your time (if you’re asking).

From the left rough on the 5th hole at Rattlewood. Caught the slope perfectly.

From the left rough on the 5th hole at Rattlewood. Caught the slope perfectly.

The course was in good shape given that it’s late February.  Greens were rolling pretty quick but that seemed to be a function of our dry weather of late along with a steady wind all day that was blowing in the 1-2 club range.  Given the cold snaps we’ve had I can’t vouch for things right now.  I have a bad feeling that the course superintendents are going to have their hands full over the next several weeks if this rollercoaster keeps up.

3rd hole at Rattlewood. It not only looks long, it plays long.

3rd hole at Rattlewood. It not only looks long, it plays long.

While I’m sure that many courses are thrilled to see tee sheets full this time of year, the guy in the pro shop made a solid point- most courses aren’t yet staffed up yet for the season (and if you’ve seen this weekend’s weather forecast, March can be a rollercoaster).

Really hoping that after this coming weekend’s cold snap that we see a return to seasonal temps since I’m slated to cross a biggie off my local bucket list in a little over a week.


Being a blogger and a Twitter user who’s trying to build an audience (why don’t you follow me on Twitter?  Come for the golf, stay for the complaints about Liverpool FC, rugby league (go Canberra Raiders the mighty green machine) and my love/hate relationship with the Toronto Maple Leafs (and the occasional music retweets).  If you’re already following me, have I mentioned what good taste you have?

So it was in the spirit of learning, discovering something new and growing that I downloaded the Golfmatch App a month or so ago.  I stumbled upon them on Instagram and it looked simple enough, but as I’m want to do I gave it some thought, and some more thought.  Out of the blue I signed up and downloaded the app.

I signed up for their event next Saturday 3/18 at Bulle Rock (crossing my fingers for decent weather).  To paraphrase, you had me at Bulle Rock.  This course has been on my “must play” list for years so to finally have the opportunity to play it is something I’m really looking forward to.  I’ll be sure to take photos and try to put together a course review that gives you a sense of what to expect should you play there.


Just discovered this.  Catchy as hell.  It’s the music that the kids are listening to and damned if I don’t like it.  Give it a whirl.


First Practice, First Golfers, and Other Random Crap

Somewhere out there is an improved game. Now I have to find it.

Somewhere out there is an improved game. Now I have to find it.

Amid this foggy, drizzly, and dank Saturday, I trudged off to Olney Golf Park (they have heated stalls) to hit a bucket and try to find that magical something that everyone is looking for.  I like going early for a host of reasons (it’s quieter; towards the end you had a couple Chatty Charlie types show up who were kind enough to share their worldview with everyone within earshot), and their mats are usually in good shape (yes- the bag tag is from Links at Lighthouse Sound).

Hello, friends. I've missed you. Being apart is such sweet sorrow.

Hello, friends. I’ve missed you. Being apart is such sweet sorrow.

Feeling better than I have in recent weeks, I’m trying to get in some practice so that hopefully I can get off to a good start this year and find that form that I last had in the fall of 2015, when I seemed to have found something.  I’m ready to chuck 2016 off and try to pretend it never happened because I’m not sure there’s anything worth salvaging.

In short, now is a great time to get out there and hit a bucket.  It’s not that cold currently, and just think- you’ll be that much further on when the season gets going in full.


With Trump’s swearing-in Friday, several golf magazines are putting out special covers.  I’ll leave the wisdom of this to others, but I will point out that the idea that Trump is the only President who’s an avid golfer is ridiculous.  Eisenhower, JFK, Nixon, Ford, Bush 41 (get well soon Pappy, you thoroughly decent man and fast pace of play demon), Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama were all golfers.   In short, a majority of Presidents in the last 60+ years have played to varying levels.

On that point, I was more than a bit disgusted at how Woodmont Country Club in Rockville acted with respect to the idea of a membership for Obama.   They’re a private club (and a good one), but this garners attention for all the wrong reasons.  They’re a private club and if they don’t want to extend a membership to the former President, it’s their business but the optics are, frankly, terrible (rather than go for a grandstand move that makes them look small, simply keep quiet if you don’t want to offer a membership).  I’ve felt (and still do) that Congressional or TPC Potomac (Columbia CC and Chevy Chase are closer but not sure how their membership feels about dealing with Secret Service) are better options (closer to his Kalorama house).  Still, their rationale makes them look downright silly.  It’s exactly what a club that has hosted US Open sectional qualifiers should NOT be getting involved in.  The area already has one private club that has outdated membership policies (Burning Tree); it doesn’t need another one.

As to POTUS 45, a reminder that his Virginia namesake club (former Lowe’s Island club) is hosting the Senior PGA Championship this year, and his New Jersey course is hosting the US Women’s Open.  And yes- I wholly disagree with Trump that golf is only for the elite.  It’s not.  Every weekend every public course in the DMV is filled with golfers of various abilities; we may not agree on politics and our playing abilities may be all over the board, but we all love this wonderful game (I’m lucky to have played with many different people of all walks of life).  He’ll never set foot on a public course, and he’s the poorer for it.


I’m glad to hear about Sugarloaf Social Club’s love of West Potomac Golf Course; it would be wonderful to see this course restored and improved.  The location and vistas aren’t available anywhere else.  This course should remain open to the public and it should be one of the gems of the DMV.  There’s no reason this can’t happen.

No word on a re-opening date for Timbers at Troy.  Hopefully the (so far) mild winter is helping them progress to a late winter/early spring re-opening.  The layout remains one of the best in the region; hopefully the refurbishing and repairs will bring course conditions up to par.




My 2017 Predictions (and Wishes)

After saying farewell to a truly terrible 2016 (a year that can be summed up as “well, that’s over”), 2017 is in its infancy which means that the PGA Tour is starting up this week (NBC running promos for the Hawaii swing is equal parts brilliant and torture).  Which means new seasons for the PGA, LPGA and European Tours.  The PGA Tour’s promo video has plenty of visuals to torture you as we endure a cold snap here in the DMV and a couple light snows.

With Nike out of the hard-goods equipment business (that’s clubs, balls, bags), it’s been interesting to see how the former Nike players shake out.  Rory McIlroy has gone to a multi-brand approach (notably back to a Titleist ball); and a fist bump to the fine fellows at No Laying Up for breaking the story (I’d call them competition but they’re 1000 miles ahead of your humble scribe).  Tiger Woods is doing something similar, but honestly for him it’s about being physically able to complete 72-hole stroke play tournaments.  I don’t think it’s crazy to think that, if healthy, McIlroy will have a very good year.

I’ve played Ko’olau on Oahu.  This sort of captures why this is remains one of my two favorite places I’ve played.  The video is a pretty good indicator why.

The other big player has been PXG.  Only in their second year of existence, they continue to add players to their stable; focusing on the LPGA at the moment (Lydia Ko and Christina Kim are solid names to get under their umbrella).  I’ll admit I was skeptical of their approach last year, and it’s curious that they’re staying out of the big-box/online retailers to this point.  With that being said, their clubs are striking in appearance.  The question that others have asked is reasonable- is a $5,000 set of clubs worth it (and is there really a market for this)?  I don’t know, but it’s certainly going to be interesting to see how it shakes out (full disclosure: my website is hosted by GoDaddy which was Bob Parsons’ company- I pay for the hosting and have not accepted any compensation from PXG or GoDaddy).

Former #1 Jason Day made news this week by saying he’s going to play even slower than he has been because he felt he was rushing things.  I will start a GoFundMe for the first official who hits him with a stroke penalty for slow play.  If it’s taking  him more than 35 seconds to hit a shot, then he’s clueless about what he’s doing.  My fear is how many people are going to watch him go from glacial to stationary and think “that’s what I should do!” and then wonder why 6 hour rounds are commonplace at public courses.

In terms of majors, the men visit an unknown entity in Erin Hills for the US Open (so having Fox on the broadcast makes me fear the worst since they have nothing to go off of), go back to Royal Birkdale for the Open Championship, and to Quail Hallow in Charlotte for the USPGA Championship (the Wells Fargo championship skips Quail Hallow for Eagle Point GC in Wilmington).

I’m still not a Joe Buck fan and I still think that Fox does more wrong than right, but there are a couple things I do like about their telecasts.  For starters, they use a ProTracer or something similar on most shots (this should be the standard by now), and Paul Azinger is a competent 18th hole tower analyst.  They still get way too much wrong, but Azinger and Brad Faxon are good at what they do.  For Fox’s other three high-profile events (US Amateur, US Women’s Open, US Senior Open), it’s to Riviera (fantastic call) for the US Amateur, Trump National in New Jersey for the US Women’s Open (so the best women in the world will be upstaged by the venue’s name when it should be all about the players), and to Salem Country Club in Massachusetts for the Senior Open).

NBC/Golf Channel will cover the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.  They did everything you could have asked for at the 2016 Open Championship (and the Olympic tournaments).  Wall-to-wall coverage, and on Sunday got out of the way and let that memorable Mickelson-Stenson duel play out (which can be the hardest thing to do).  Nothing against Dan Hicks but if Hicks were to move on, Mike Tirico is tailor-made for the 18th tower and probably becomes the best in the business (better than Buck and yes- even better than Jim Nantz).  If they can figure out what to do with David Feherty (seriously), they’d be near perfect.  I still don’t know what the best use of him is.  Is he a tower analyst?  Raconteur?  Replacement for Roger Maltbie?   One suggestion for David- when you ask guests on your show a question, don’t frame it to give them an easy answer.  Frame it to make them think about an answer.  And then follow up.  Saying you’re something and actually walking the walk are two different things.

CBS will have the Masters and the US PGA Championship.  For me, CBS remains something to watch this year.  Their coverage has gotten stale (if not out-and-out bad), and frankly their problems start with Nantz and Faldo.  Nantz sounds like a guy phoning it in (I’ve said I think the issue for him is his workload is way too heavy), and Faldo seems to be perfectly happy to go months without saying anything remotely interesting.   The problem is that they’re not going to blow it up (they should), which means another 6 months of Nantz on autopilot, and Faldo droning on about nothing.  Meanwhile, Peter Kostis and Dottie Pepper do great work and get lost in the shuffle.

Golf Channel will have the bulk of the LPGA season.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Judy Rankin is outstanding on their coverage (her and Terry Gannon have good chemistry).  She knows how to inform the viewer and be critical without being bombastic (we used to call this “being smart”).

Note to Michael Breed: Love your work…have you considered cutting back to 1 or 2 triple espressos a day?  If nothing else, you clearly have a passion (which is good).

For Golf Channel- please, pretty please give the endless loop of the trilogy of golf movies a rest.  Develop original programming geared towards average golfers.  Showing Tin Cup or Caddyshack 27 times a month isn’t serving that need.

Major Predictions (use at your own risk): Mickelson (Masters), McIlroy (US Open), Shane Lowry (Open Championship), Dustin Johnson (USPGA).  For the women, Christina Kim (ANA Inspiration), Brooke Henderson (US Open), Jutanugarn (USLPGA Chp), Piller (Open Championship), Lydia Ko (Evian).  Again- using these at your local wagering house is your decision, not mine.  Most likely they’re all wrong.

Some wishes:

1) Both tours (men and women) decide to start seriously cracking down on slow play.  If this means handing out penalty strokes, do it.

2) The LPGA continue to gain traction and grow their TV audience.  And while they’re at it, add an event in the DMV (Williamsburg doesn’t count).

3) The R&A take over as the sole body for rules, and that they bifurcate the rules.  The cutoff can be national amateur and above competitions.  Let average golfers have a few advantages.

4) The tours agree to roll back the ball, which will negate the need for 8,000 yard courses.

5) The USGA does not decide to fiddle about with golf courses at their national championships.  Less is more.  Stop worrying about protecting par.  If someone goes lights out and shoots -15 it’s not a bad thing (see Tiger Woods 2000 at Pebble Beach).  People want to see great shots and birdies.

6) We see Tiger Woods healthy at the start and finish of the season with a healthy sense of humor.

7) The Solheim Cup is contested with passion and great golf, and is remembered for the quality of golf and not a dispute over a rules issue.

8) We see no more ‘scripting’ of outfits for majors.  Make this stop being a thing.

9) We see a return to professional tour rounds finishing under 4 hours.  No exceptions.

10) That everyone have their best season possible, and if you see me lumbering about, say hi.  It may not appear to be the case but I’m not as cantankerous as I appear to be.  That the DMV continues to grow and thrive and become a region with strong public courses that do well.  Hit ’em straight and make those putts.

Enjoy some pre-2000 Tragically Hip.  Forgot they played Woodstock 1999.  Courage.  Much thanks to Mike in Toronto for posting all 4 hours of The Hip 30 from the Strombo show.  I was too busy watching the Centennial Classic on New Year’s Day to tune in.


Revealed- What Really Happened at the Nicklaus Ryder Cup Dinner

If you missed it, during the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic in March, Jack Nicklaus hosted a dinner for Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and 40-or so hopefuls to make the 12-man team.

The American side had lost 3 straight Ryder Cups prior to this year’s win at Hazeltine, and hasn’t won in Europe since 1993 and only two wins (1999, 2008) prior, and the 2014 Ryder Cup didn’t exactly end well and by not ending well, it was a disaster.

So as you might imagine, the goal for the American side this year was to win back the Ryder Cup.  Rather than have another Task Force, Jack Nicklaus thought it would be nice to have a bunch of hopefuls at his house for dinner and a chat.  While the media wasn’t permitted, SGIC spies were there and took notes for me.  I was embargoed from writing this up until after the Ryder Cup.  By all accounts, it was a lovely evening and everyone had a good time.

Smile if you thought Tom Watson was a terrible Ryder Cup captain.

Smile if you thought Tom Watson was a terrible Ryder Cup captain.

They event took time out to enjoy some delicious Jack Nicklaus ice cream, and having stolen a pint, I have to say, it is delicious.

That moment just before Nicklaus knocks the spoon out of Fowler's mouth and says "ice cream is for closers, Rickie".

That moment just before Nicklaus knocks the spoon out of Fowler’s mouth and says “ice cream is for closers, Rickie”.

You might have heard that Tiger Woods was the first to arrive.  This is true, since he had to get a lift from Secret Tour Pro and Secret Tour Pro had to hustle to get to the European meeting that night, where European captain Darren Clarke got some of his lads together and took a slightly different tack on dessert.

Tastes like Victory!

The official dessert of Ireland, in pint form.  Tastes like winning.

The rest of the players either drove over or took Uber.  Davis Love III greeted each player as they walked in, and thanked them for coming.  Dinner, as you’d expect, was casual (burgers, chicken, and steaks on the grill- Jack runs a mighty fine grill but he will stab you in the eyes if you so much as look at his spatula or tongs), as Zach Johnson found out.  Tiger Woods immediately gave the dinner 4 stars on Yelp; you can see his review called “it’s good but not as good as my restaurant in Orlando!”

Ian Poulter drove by in one of his Ferrari cars with the “Ole, Ole Ole Ole” song blaring out of his car.  Jack was heard to say “impressive stuff from a guy with as many majors as Sergio Garcia and Barbara.”  I’ll leave this here for Poulter to enjoy:

After dinner, Jack gathered everyone in his family room for a friendly chat.  After the players all sat down, Jack asked everyone why they think they keep losing in this event but continue to do well in the Presidents Cup.

Tiger: Well, Jack, you notice I wasn’t on the 2014 team and I think having me there can make a huge diff…

Jack: Really?  You have one more Ryder Cup team win than my sons. You were 0-5 in 2012.  Try again.  Can you even walk 18 holes without breaking apart?

Jordan Spieth: Mr. Nicklaus, I think it’s down to confidence. We think…

Jack: Sure…YOU have confidence in your swing. I have confidence you’ll be Jim Furyk bald by the time we get to Hazeltine.  Seriously kid, here’s some Propecia and the number for Hair Club for Men.  Thank me later.

Patrick Reed: I don’t know what y’all are talking about. Didn’t you see me shhh those Haggis-eaters in 2014?

Jack:  Remind me who won. And seriously, those slacks you wear…Ian Poulter tweeted that he wants his look back. I better shut up because if he sees this it’ll be Twitter diarrhea from him.

Dustin Johnson: With my long game I think I would be helpful in the foursomes and four-balls.

Jack: True, but this means someone will have to break your leg with a tire iron to keep you off the course on Sunday, because your record on Sunday is uglier than a hat-full of assholes.

Rickie Fowler: Mr. Nicklaus, look at what I did last year at the Players Championship.  I know I can replicate that form at Hazeltine.

Jack: What form is that- making out with some pretty young thing after you won?  Too bad Skinamax isn’t showing the tournament.  Great job in Phoenix by the way.  You choked as bad as Cam Newton did in the Super Bowl.  You’ve got to figure out how to beat these guys when it matters.

Webb Simpson: I know I didn’t have a great Ryder Cup, but…

Jack: You were terrible.  Barbara, tie him up and make him listen to the audio book of my autobiography.

Barbara: Jack, I’m not sure that’s necessary…

Jack: You know that this idiot blogger we’re doing this for thought Webb Simpson was a good idea.  BRING HIM TO ME.

Bubba Watson: Mr. Nicklaus, I appreciate what you’re doing but I think we just need to have some good ole’ American spirit in the room and we’ll be fine.

Jack: Says the guy who drove around in The General Lee car…you do realize that nobody likes you for a reason, right?  Seriously fellas, it’s not that hard- why is it that you can play great week to week but you go up against a bunch of Europeans you fold up like Arnie used to fold up after I beat him in the 1962 US Open.  So there I was on 18, about 145 out from the pin…

Everyone: SHUT UP JACK!

Jack: Sorry…old habits die hard.  So anyway…you guys do great at the Presidents Cup, and they’ve got Jason Day, Adam Scott, and some other guys who can play.  So why do your collective sphincters tighten up at the Ryder Cup?

Jason Dufner: My sphincter is just fine…getting sleepy (he then fell asleep).

Jack: Anyone awake want to comment?

Woods: Freddie Couples didn’t do any of this crap.  We played ping-pong at night and then went out and played…that worked pretty well.  We made some suggestions….

Matt Kuchar: Did someone say ping pong (ambient noise and Kuchar gets up with two ping-pong paddles)?

Phil Mickelson: It’s on, chrome dome (sound of a ping pong table being rolled in, and several bets being placed).

Jack (to everyone): It’s okay, let ’em play ping pong as long as we don’t have to hear about any..

Phil: Before I beat Kuchar like a bowl of eggs, I put together a presentation that will show where we lost in 2014 and a detailed analysis showing coefficients and regression data that my girls put together…as you can see clearly…


Patrick Reed: I bet FIGJAM is his safe word.

Phil: See, that’s where you’re wrong.  Amy and the girls drew up this analytical chart, that shows exactly how we should prepare.  We’ll need the following items…a rock from the moon, two bars of soap, a leather belt, the phone number to Ladbrokes, and….


Phil: I’m not sure…I mean, I spent a month on this.

Tiger: Four words…your own In-N-Out restaurant.

Phil: Done (sound of laptops being closed and equipment being put away).

Jack: What we need is that intimidation factor.  Someone who, when they see him, they’ll be intimidated.  Think about how Seve used to be intimidating…even Colin Montgomerie, in Ryder Cups, was nearly unbeatable.  We need someone to be that 13th man, that person who’ll scare them.

Tiger: Well, since you asked…

Jack: Not you.

Jordan Spieth: Mr. Nicklaus I’m happy to be that leader for the team.

Jack: That’s nice but you don’t scare anyone.  I mean someone REALLY scary who will do whatever it takes to win.

Zach Johnson: I’m proof that size doesn’t matter.

Everyone: Should we tell him…nah…

Jack (yelling into one of the guest bedrooms): No…look can you just come out and get this over with.

Arnold Palmer (walks out shirtless, crushes a beer can on his chest, rips chest hair off of his own chest and punches two holes in a wall and eats an entire steak with his hands): Do it for me.  Please.  Thanks fellas.

I think we know how this ended.







Golftec is Coming to Howard County

While we’ve enjoyed pleasant weather for the first half of November (allowing courses to stay open), the weather people are saying we’re supposed to have a cool-down and it’s looking highly unlikely we’ll have a repeat of last year when we were playing in December and around Christmas (let’s all pause and think about how great that was even if it didn’t make for a particularly festive setting for Christmas).  However, we can always hope!

Coming soon- a Golftec in Howard County.

Coming soon- a Golftec in Howard County.

Once it gets cold and courses start closing for the year, options become limited.  Some ranges stay open year-round, but that means battling the elements.  One option that’s coming for Howard County golfers in Golftec, which has a location in the works in Ellicott City.  While driving on MD-108 this past Sunday I saw a sign for Golftec but wasn’t sure if it was real or if I was hallucinating.  So after a workout this morning, I stopped by to take a further look and was pleased at what I saw.

Golftec is not a retailer in the vein of Golf Galaxy.  They specialize in lessons (they have indoor facilities) and club-fitting which are two things that we lack in the area (I’ve had a club-fitting at Golf Galaxy that was okay, but I was mostly decided when I walked in the store).  For Howard County golfers this option currently doesn’t exist, which means it’s trek to Montgomery County to one of two Golftec locations or Needwood GC who have an indoor simulator (they offer indoor leagues through Montgomery County Golf).

So in the same shopping center as the Coal Fire Pizza, the Glamour Shots, and a Cold Stone creamery, there will be (see the picture above) a Golftec moving in.  When I was there, two guys went inside the store (you can see their cars in the photo).   And if that’s not enough motivation, you can get Glamour Shots once you’re done (I’ve often wanted to recreate the Jan Stephenson bathtub photo- see below), and then grab a meal at Coal Fire Pizza, Urban BBQ or Starbucks.  Jokes aside it’s very close to Timbers at Troy (right off of MD-100) and is fairly convenient to Hobbit’s Glen or Fairway Hills as well.

I'm going to recreate this at Glamour Shots.  You're Welcome, Everyone.

I’m going to recreate this at Glamour Shots. You’re Welcome, Everyone.

As with my tweet I sent out on Sunday, no update from Golftec’s website about anything official or an opening date.  But, signage at the shopping center as well as front door signage bodes well.  Your faithful scribe will stay on top and continue to provide updates.  In the meantime, hit ’em straight.



Dreaming of Something Great

And now, it’s back to golf and waving the flag for golf in Howard County from your intrepid blogger.


Exterior of Hobbits Glen and The Turn House at night.

As maddening as supporting (and advocating its advancement) golf in Howard County can be, I firmly believe that the county can, and should, become a golf destination.  Adding a couple courses and working together towards a larger goal can put Howard County on the map.  I believe that Howard County can, and should, work to replicate what Montgomery County is doing (and done correctly can one-up our friends in the MoCo).  It’s only impossible if they don’t try.

To that point, you don’t do this at once; you do it by making a million small steps that always push towards that larger goal.  Last night, I saw first-hand what new thinking looks like, and what might well be a game-changing improvement to apres’-golf dining.

I won’t pretend that I haven’t been critical of Hobbits Glen in the past.  The last time I played there the pro shop looked like something from the 1970’s and their bar/grill was a dark, dingy place that was the polar opposite of inviting.  I never saw the ill-fated CoHo Grill, but my spies weren’t impressed.  The course itself should aspire to be the gem for Howard County golf, a title that sadly must remain vacant for several reasons (that’s a different column that requires a lot of alcohol).  Now the pro shop is larger and is more inviting, and that then-dingy bar and grill (now named The Turn House) sets a new high water mark for golf course dining.

Oysters, tartare, and a great cheese plate. Far better than your standard golf grill fare.

Oysters, tartare, and a great cheese plate. Far better than your standard golf grill fare.

Last night while attending a HoCoBlogs event, I saw what golf course dining can and should aspire to in the form of The Turn House (@theturnhouse).  It doesn’t (nor should it) have to be gloppy chicken wings and frozen, pre-packaged burgers, chicken fingers or mozzarella sticks.  The beer doesn’t have to be the boring national brands who make uniformly bad product.  Between Manor Hill and Jailbreak, Howard County is making some damn good beer that you’d actually want to drink.  The Turn House, under their new chef Thomas, plans to serve both Manor House and Jailbreak along with some other Maryland favorites that aren’t Natty Boh (Natty Boh is made in Wisconsin, if you’re curious).

The proverbial 19th hole, where you (hopefully) celebrate a good round or commiserate over a bad round, does not have to involve eating poorly.  Golfers can, and should, want to eat better.  If you’re going to eat a mediocre burger, why not eat a good one that has that nice beefy flavor?  If you’re going to enjoy a cold beer (and after a round a cold beer is one of those simple things that lets us know we’re alive), why not drink something that actually tastes like beer (a Manor Hill Katherine’s Kolsch or a Jailbreak Feed The Monkey are both great warm-weather beers made right here in Howard County).

Those are cupcakes topped with bacon. I did manage to NOT eat all of them.

Those are cupcakes topped with bacon. I did manage to NOT eat all of them.

The Turn House has several rooms (including a bar with several TV’s for watching a ballgame if that’s your thing) and has some of the best outdoor seating in the area.  Even if you don’t play golf, sitting outside on a how-is-this-November evening enjoying a cold beer is a great way to pass the time.   The space looks to work great for weddings and similar functions, and there are plans to have an outdoor beer garden in the warmer months.  It’s all part of asking questions about what’s possible, rather than accepting what is.

Montgomery County still has better courses that are better conditioned, but I defy you to find a better restaurant/bar at any course in Montgomery County.  It’s one step, but it’s an important one and one I’d like to see replicated.  The food at the MoCo courses is forgettable and the beer offerings are the same national brands that seem to be made for people who don’t really like beer all that much.

Their dinner menu holds promise and can hopefully become a place people might hope to dine at.  After a round, why not stick around and enjoy a cold beer or two (or a properly-made cocktail) in a brightly-lit bar with great views of the course?  Have lunch there while you’re at it!  They’re hosting a Bourbon and Cigars event on November 14th that holds promise and an example of what is possible.

Fresh oysters, a cheese board, a Pimento cheese dip that had a nice kick (and wouldn’t make a bad sandwich), and some locally sourced sausage were all outstanding examples of elevating things.  Bacon-topped cupcakes were a nice mix of sweet and savory (it took no small amount of discipline to not grab the tray and run for it).  For golfers, under a GM who comes from a hospitality background (and a local-boy done great chef in Thomas Zippelli), the plan is to upgrade the offerings at the course’s halfway hut (also named The Turn House) and add a hot dog, a burger, and local beer offerings and cocktails to the beverage cart.  If you can drink a Jailbreak or Manor Hill, why would you ever drink something else?



My Solstice Survival Experiences (and why you should consider playing)

Now that winter seems like it’s behind us for good, we start getting into the meat of golf season.  Like you, I love watching the West Coast swing, and even the Florida swing can give us that good-vibes feeling of what’s to come (before the Masters tells us it’s time to tee it up).

Part of what I love about golf is that every time you tee it up, you’re testing yourself.  Today might be that worst round possible (which is why I suggest keeping airplane bottles in your golf bag), or it might be that rare day when it all comes together.  Or, if you’re like most of us, it’s somewhere in between.  But for the most part, standing on that first tee is still a thing of wonderment because we don’t know what will lies ahead for us over the next 3 1/2-4 hours (hopefully).

In that vein, if you really want to test yourself and you’re up for it, the Solstice Survival is something you should consider doing at least once.  It’s put on by Golfstyles which is one of those magazines you see in the grill rooms and pro shops at some golf courses (I subscribe so I don’t have to “borrow” a copy).  For the uninitiated, the Solstice Survival is 54 holes (3 full rounds) of continuous play golf (these events are always during the week- the only people on the course are your fellow competitors); you start at sunrise and finish after you putt out after your 54th hole of the day which is usually close to sunset, and it’s a competition so there’s no gimmes or mulligans.  You play the same course for all 3 rounds, with the same group (hopefully you get a decent group of guys- unless you have your own foursome in which case good for you!).  For what it’s worth, I have no association with Golfstyles, and while they’re welcome to share this article, they weren’t consulted on this and anything I write is my own opinion (and if you’ve met me you know I’m stubborn as a mule and not prone to be easily swayed).

I played two years (both times at Musket Ridge), and once things (body parts, limbs) start to work normally again, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  So you’re sitting there, reading this (and my, what great taste you have in golf blogs), and you’re wondering what sane person would do this (you’d be surprised), and what the hell am I getting myself into?  The day isn’t cheap (you’re looking at anywhere from $240-$300 for the day depending on where you play at, but that does include food and drink and a decent gift bag), and you’ll be out of pocket until late evening (well past sunset), but isn’t that the idea?  Maybe you’ve played 36 holes before, but have you ever played 54 holes in one day?  Sure- this sounds like a great idea when it’s winter and you’re weeks from even thinking about seeing courses open, but what about the actual day?  Read on.

Both times, the day starts around 3:00 a.m., which allows me time to get up, get myself put together, get dressed, take care of the dogs, and try to be on the road by 4:00 a.m. and allow me an hour to make the trek to Musket Ridge, which Google Maps says will take 49 minutes without traffic (you’ll want to have directions and driving times figured out the night before).  This will allow time to stop for a coffee and still get to the course and loosen up.  Despite the DMV having terrible traffic, at this hour it’s manageable.  It’s also dark which means you’re likely sharing the highway with truckers and other early-risers along with your fellow die-hard golfers.

Pulling into the parking lot while it’s still dark can be a bit off-putting if you’re not used to it, but being someone who prefers to play early it’s old hat.  However, the parking lot is quickly filling up, which is not usually the case (the event does a shotgun start so everyone starts at the same time).  If you’re smart, you brought plenty of balls (more on this later), and you’ve got plenty of sunscreen, bug spray, and hopefully and extra glove or two.  The event provides refreshments on the course so no worries on that front but I do have a bottle of swing juice to get me going in the morning.

After a quick stop at the registration desk to pick up my goody bag (2 dozen balls of a brand I don’t play but I’ll end up re-gifting, a couple highball glasses and a too-small golf shirt), I then carry my bag over and find the cart I’ll be in.  Everyone’s doing the same thing- carrying their bag around looking to see where your assigned cart is.  Many will then hit the range to warm up; some will seemingly try to hit a full bucket (keep in mind it’s still dark), while others will hit a couple balls and work on their chipping and putting.

Looking at my watch, it’s time to make a quick stop in the washroom, pop a couple ibuprofen, and put some analgesic cream on my back and shoulders (it’ll help loosen them up for now- I know that by sunset I’ll be in a world of pain again but it’s worth it).  It’s also time to take one last look at my smart phone; part of playing 54 holes of continuous golf is that there’s no time to check e-mail or take calls.  It’ll all get handled later tonight or tomorrow morning.  I’m sure that 20 years ago, this didn’t seem like a big deal but try going a day of being off the grid, unreachable, and out of pocket.  I can see many folks freaking out at the idea, but that’s the point.  Worry about work tomorrow.  Today, it’s all about golf and lots of it.

After getting a quick speech from the Golfstyles folks and the home pro, just as the sun starts coming up and there’s enough light (or close enough) for play,  everyone gets into their carts and heads out to their assigned starting hole.  It may be cool at the time, but both times it’s been warm by mid-day (the first year it got up into the low 90’s, the next year it was in the low 80’s).

On the first hole, there’s the usual introductions and hope of a good day out for everyone before we tee off.  At this point, I’m just hoping to make decent contact.  The first year I played the nerves got to me in a big way, as I hit a worm-burner that went dead left and put me on my way to a nice triple bogey to start the round.  Few things stir the soul quite like “just made a snowman on a par 5, and I’ve got another 53 holes to go”.

Hopefully, you start to rectify things if you got off to a bad start, or even better- if you got off to a good start you’re having your share of birdies and pars.  Since this is a “count ’em all, play by the book” event, there’s no gimmes, so that 18 inch putt to save bogey has to be holed (and I swear it looks like that hole is about 1/2 the size it should be).  Seems simple until you’re putting on greens that have quickened up since the sun has come out and you’re not exactly Brad Faxon with the flat-stick.  It’s starting to warm up so that windshirt or sweater vest you started the day with has surely come off.  There’s no free drops if you hit one in the woods or in a hazard; if you can’t find it you use the lost ball rule, if it’s a hazard  you proceed based on the USGA rule book (should probably have a copy in your bag).

By this time, you’re putting out on your 18th hole of the day; normally you’d be shaking hands but you’ve got another 36 holes to go!  So now it’s time to play that hole you started your day on…again.  But now you know where everything is so this time will be that much better (or so you think).  The way that the Solstice Survival works is that when you play the 18th hole (of the golf course) during your second round is when you stop for lunch.  If you’ve ever seen a NASCAR or Formula 1 pit stop, then you get the idea of the process.  You pull up in your golf cart and go through a buffet line (it’s burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches) and then you eat it in the cart and then tee off on the 1st hole.  Ideally at this point you’re at the half-way point of your day.  I usually take this brief break to pop a couple more ibuprofen.

They do have beverage stations and beverage carts (and a couple washrooms that are nicer than a port-o-let) going around the course so staying hydrated isn’t an issue (nor is having to pee), however there’s no beer until you’re done for the day so if you were wanting the revival that can only come from shotgunning some terrible American piss-water lager, you’ll have to wait until you finish for the day unless you have any airplane bottles stashed in your bag.

Of the three rounds, I’ve always felt that the last 9 holes of the second round is the hardest.  It’s in the heat of the day, and you’re starting to get fatigued and you’ve still got 19-27 holes left to play.  Both times I’ve played I’ve carded some scary numbers.  It’s also where you can struggle in terms of mental concentration; the first round might feel like a regular round, but most people who play 36 will stop for lunch before going back out.  Now you’re 28-36 holes into the day, and fatigue can be a factor.

The third round is hopefully when your second (or third) wind kicks in.  They do move the tees up for the third round so that long par 4 you’ve seen twice previously becomes a bit shorter.  You’ve got the hole locations down (hopefully) and hopefully by now you’ve got a good feel for the break of the greens.  Hopefully your muscles aren’t sore at this point, because while the tee boxes are moved up (the equivalent of going from the blue tees to the white tees at most courses), by now it’s afternoon and the shadows are starting to get a bit longer.

This is where I’d pop a couple more Ibuprofen and try to maintain focus and maybe have one of those energy shot drinks if I was feeling a bit sluggish.  When you hear touring pros talk about the mental concentration factor, this is what they mean.  You’ve held it together for 36 holes, and you’ve got one more round to go.  Sure- you know the course but you’ve got to focus amid some possible physical fatigue to keep making good swings for one more round.  At a minimum, you’ve got to keep from having a blow-up hole (and being someone who has turned the blow-up hole into an art form I speak from experience) which means no 3 putts and trying to keep it somewhat straight off the tee.

At some point late in the day, as the sun is setting you’re going to putt out on that 54th hole of the day, and you’re going to feel an odd mix of excitement, fatigue, and maybe (just maybe) accomplishment.  That you pushed yourself to the limit on one of the longest days of the year and played 14-15 hours of non-stop golf.

After that, it’s a cart ride back to the club house to sign your scorecards, and enjoy some well-deserved 55th hole refreshments.  At some point you’re probably changing shoes (and hopefully socks) which is going to feel oddly refreshing.  You’ll have a buffet dinner, and while you’re eating the Golfstyles staff will have tabulated things up, award prizes for low gross and low net scores, and after (hopefully) a bit of regaling one another with stories about the day, you’ll load your clubs back in the car (likely in the dark by now), and head home, where the rest of the world will surely be waiting.

If you’re a little bit sore the next morning (or a lot), it’s okay, because you’re sore from doing something we all love, and that’s the best kind of soreness there is.

WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU (this list is hardly complete but it’s a few things that will make that longest day of golf a bit more bearable:

-Plenty of balls.  Think about your typical usage during a round.  Triple it and add an extra sleeve just in case.

-Sunscreen. Apply before you start and re-apply mid-day.  Trust me.

-Bug spray. See above.

-Extra socks, extra pair of shoes, extra hat, extra golf shirt (if it’s supposed to be dry you probably don’t need the extra pair of shoes or shirt but a lot of people like to change socks and/or shirt after a round or two).

-A comfortable golf shirt.  For me this means something that’s a bit looser since the fitted look on me means something resembling a sausage casing.

-Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, or your OTC pain reliever of choice.   Don’t overdo it but a couple ibuprofen can help.

-Extra glove or two (and if rain is in the forecast rain gloves, umbrella, and rain jacket).

-Sharpie pen (to mark your balls if you haven’t already done so).

-Ziploc bag (in case of wet weather it protects the scorecard).

-First aid kit (hopefully you don’t need it but it’s better to be safe than sorry).

-Your sense of humor.  It’s going to be a long day.  I played with a dour, humorless dolt one year.  Don’t be that guy.  We’re not playing for a million bucks and we’re paying to be here.  It beats working.  Enjoy the day.

-A rangefinder (if they’re permissible- ask them).  Many golfers have the GPS watches.  If they’re allowed and you have one, by all means wear it.

-Patience.  The course will be full with your fellow competitors and it’s a shotgun start.  Since it’s a count-everything event pace of play isn’t going to be lightning fast.  Where possible try to play ready golf (within the rules); i.e. if you need to pee either tee off first or last.

-A USGA rulebook.  If you’re not sure about an issue, play two balls, record both scores and have the Golfstyles folks settle it.


The Major For The Rest of Us

See- even Judge Smails wants you to sign up for the Myrtle Beach World Am!

See- even Judge Smails wants you to sign up for the Myrtle Beach World Am!

The Myrtle Beach World Amateur, formerly known as the Dupont World Am, World Amateur, Sandbagger Open (among other names) is once again slated for August 29-September 2nd (it’s almost always held the week (Mon-Thu) going into Labor Day weekend).  I’ve played it, and if you haven’t, I’d recommend it at least once in your life.  If you’ve played it, then you probably get it.  If not, here’s why you should strongly consider playing.

1) Competition.  If you’re like me you don’t belong to a private club so the opportunity to play competitive golf is limited.  Sure, there’s the Golf Channel Amateur Tour and the Golfweek Amateur Tour, but these are 1-day events on weekends (fine, well-run events though).  The Myrtle Beach event is four rounds over four days…just like a major that the pros have.  It’s easy to have a great first round, but try coming back on that second, third, or fourth day when you’re tired (or if you were out enjoying yourself the night before) and maybe you’ll gain some appreciation for what the pros go through week in, week out.  Or, you have a bad first day (I managed to put up a nice cool 108 one year that had an 8, a 9 and a 10 on the card) and you have 3 days to make up the ground.  Maybe you’re in the lead after one round (they post the scores at night at the Convention Center where they have a nightly 19th hole party).  Have you ever had to sleep on a lead before?

2) Handicapped flights.  Look, I could feed you a line of bullshit and tell you that they have eliminated sandbaggers (or bandits, or cheating, lying assholes).  They haven’t, but they’re doing a decent (could be better but they’ve made improvements) job of policing it.  You don’t see that many guys throwing up net 59’s anymore at least and then claiming to have a hot putter.  To play you have to have a valid USGA handicap index (the “I’m about a 12” won’t cut it) and they will give you a tournament index based on the rating and slope of the course each day (so your index will vary from day to day).  You’ll be playing with golfers who have roughly the same index as you do.  It’s not perfect but they’ve made improvements.  If you do post two net 59’s on consecutive days, expect that you’ll get to meet with the handicap committee and they’ll want to have a chat.

3) Cost.  It’s $525 for four rounds including cart.  In my experience, you’ll get one of the top-tier courses in Myrtle Beach, two average courses, and one less-than-average course.  With several courses having gone under in the last few years, the odds are you won’t be playing too many dog tracks.  Split that, and it’s just over $100 per round which isn’t bad for a once-a-year “major” event.  Yes, travel costs are extra but it’s Myrtle Beach in August (not exactly prime season).  From DC it’s an 8-9 hour drive (Myrtle Beach Airport’s pretty easy to fly into but you’re going to need a car as they don’t provide transportation to the courses).  When I’ve played I drive down, mostly because it’s easier to decide when to head back rather than waiting for your flight.  The cost includes a decent gift bag (a decent golf shirt and some other stuff) and their nightly 19th hole party every night that I would call watch the seniors get their groove on (if that’s you, then by all means shake what your momma gave ya!).  The party is typically slammed on Mondays and attendance backs off Tue-Thu nights.  If you’re looking for a younger rave party…definitely not the scene but if you want to have a couple cold ones and chat with some of your fellow competitors, you can’t beat it.  They say they have food, but trying to make dinner out of it isn’t that hot of an idea.  The good news is that there’s cheap eats up and down the area so you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on meals.  The courses will provide bagels and donuts for that morning, but Gatorade is on you.

4) Fun.  Look, odds are you’re not going to win (and if you do, expect some scrutiny from your fellow competitors).  There are approximately 3,400 competitors (it was up to 4,500 years ago) so the odds are pretty small.  Accept this, and focus on playing the best you can.  However, you’re going to meet some salt-of-the-earth folks who love the game as much as you do (and are as nuts as  you are) and who know some of the same bad jokes as you do.  Odds are, someone in your group (you’ll be flighted and your group of 48-50 players will play the same courses on each day) will have a skins game (typically birdie skins) of some kind going.  If that’s your thing, throw some cash into the pot (if not, do NOT pull the “gambling at Bushwood is illegal” crap- let people have their fun because it’s not “harming the integrity of the event”).  I managed to pull down $350 from a skins pot by birdieing a hole on a day where I shot a gross 102.  That, and a cold beer (or five), can take the steam off.  I still smile and chuckle at some of the stories I heard (one started with “so there I was, laying 2 and I noticed I still had glitter all over me…”).  If you have a group you go out with, have a designated driver (more tips below) or agree in advance to pay for an Uber.

5) Something to prepare for.  Playing every weekend is fantastic, and I wouldn’t trade my weekend morning rounds away.  But the reality is that other than playing against yourself and the course, there’s not that big event to plan around.  Putting an event on the calendar months in advance means you’re preparing for it.  Maybe you practice more, or focus on your short game more.  But it’s that “circle it on the calendar” event that you now have.  It’s not just another weekend round, it’s a 4-day, 72-hole, count-everything, playing-them-down, no-gimmes tournament.  You’ll learn about yourself and you’ll be a better golfer for testing yourself.  Put it this way- the first time I played there, I used to never thing of those 18-24 inch putts until I missed one.  And another one.  And another one.  See there?  Made you think.  It’ll make you a better player.

Having said that, it’s an undertaking and by Thursday night, you’ll be tired.  So here’s a few tips on what to do, and what not to do:

-Myrtle Beach in late August is hot and humid.  And I mean really hot, and really humid (worse than we get in the DMV).  Staying hydrated isn’t a joke.  My trick is this- freeze a few bottles of water the night before and take them with you.  They’ll thaw, and you’ll have icy cold water.  Pick up a case of bottled water and go to town.  Gatorade is another great option especially if you’re sweating a lot.  Save the beer for the 19th hole is not a bad idea.

-Courses have pro shops, but you’re better off having it with you and not hoping that the pro shop has whatever item you need.  Bring four days (5 if you manage to win your flight and make the finals) worth of stuff.  Think socks, shirts, shorts, shoes (bring two pair and rotate) along with balls (the tournament uses USGA tournament rules which includes the “one ball” rule; in short, you can’t mix brands- pick one and stick with it), tees, gloves, caps (and sunglasses) and the like.   Most courses have ranges and will include practice balls (some don’t which is pretty crappy).  There are retail golf stores in Myrtle Beach should you need additional whatever.  I’d also make sure my grips were in good shape before heading down.

-Sunscreen and bug spray are pretty much mandatory.  I’m not kidding.  Something sweat-proof (I like the Coppertone Sport spray- it’s easy to apply and does the job).  Bug spray…look for something with deet that keeps mosquitoes away.  Try playing with a sunburn and a bunch of mosquito bites and you’ll learn a whole new level of pain.  Use sunscreen and bug spray.

-Get a USGA rulebook, and read up on it (they cost a dollar; they’ll give you one if you sign up to be a member).  At a minimum, understand rules on hazards, out-of-bounds, playing a provisional, maximum number of clubs (14).  I hope you don’t get someone who sees themselves as an expert (by your 9th hole of the day you’ll be actively plotting their death).  If you’re not sure about what to do if you hit in a hazard, ask someone.  Understand that if your ball ends up in a divot, that’s tough shit for you.  You probably roll it over back home, but you can’t do that here.

-Keep accurate track  of your score and your competitor.  You’ll be marking a competitor’s card and they will mark yours (like the pros do).  If you’re unsure of their score, speak up and say something.  Keep accurate track of yours as well.  Better to take an extra minute and make sure you have the correct score than mis-mark a card.  Tell your competitor your score after each hole.  Before you turn them in you’ll review them (just like the pros do).  If you see an issue, speak up because if you sign for a 5 and you made a 4, then tough shit.  It’s a 5.  To that point, you’ll get paired with different people each day within your flight, so if you end up with a guy who’s a total jackass, odds are you won’t have to play with him again.   There’s 1 or 2 in each flight…95% of the guys you’ll meet are good, decent, salt-of-the-earth types just like you.

-Expect pace of play to be slow.  You can’t just say “I’ll hit another” or “just drop one here” like you’d do in a casual round.  You have to drop according to the rulebook, and if you go out of bounds off the tee, the only option is to re-tee with a 1-stroke penalty (when you’re hitting your 5th shot from the tee box after hitting 2 balls O. B. it’s not much fun but it is the rules).  Rounds of 5 hours are about what you should expect.  Hopefully you don’t end up having your last day take 6 1/2 hours because of torrential rain the night before and the course being cart path only (this happened to me and it wasn’t much fun).

-If the heat and humidity aren’t enough, thunderstorms aren’t unusual.  Courses will typically have some kind of alarm/warning system with respect to storms.  Bring some Ziploc bags with you (the quart size) to protect your scorecard (that you turn in).  I use them for my golf gloves as well.  Don’t leave your clubs in the car when you’re done.  Bring them inside.

-By all means, go out and enjoy yourself at night, but don’t be an idiot.  Have a designated driver, hire an Uber, call a cab, or go out and party somewhere close to where you’re staying.  Hangovers in the heat aren’t fun.  Plan accordingly.  Bring Advil, Tylenol, or whatever painkiller/NSAID you prefer.

-You’ll get your course assignments a couple weeks before the tournament.  Definitely worth doing some research on the courses.  The committee will set tee boxes so if you’re a 15-handicapper you won’t have to play from the tips.  I’ve only seen one course setup being unfair (we were in the 18-20 handicap range and they thought it was 8-10 indexes); we had a ton of forced carries that few of us could clear.  It also made for a long day and a lot of high scores.

-People fly in from all over the country (and outside the U.S.) to compete.  It’s a great chance to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t meet.

-Kids go back to school the week of the tournament so traffic can be an issue.  Give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go.  I’d recommend having drive times checked on Google Maps or something similar.  Allow time to stretch and warm up properly or take care of anything you need to take care of prior to teeing off.

-Tournament rounds are shotgun start; in other words, you won’t start on the 1st hole in all likelihood.  You might start on 3, 8, 11 or whatever.  The home pro will give you a quick speech to everyone before they head off.  If there’s a local rule, they’ll tell you (one day we played “lift, clean and place” and they told us this- if they don’t tell you this, you can’t touch your ball until you’re on the green).

-MUTE YOUR MOBILE PHONE.  This should be obvious but sure enough I’ve played with a guy who had his going off.  After the second time it went off the three of us playing with him had a word.  If you need to check messages do so while you’re waiting for a group to clear off the green (after you’ve ascertained your yardage and club selection for your approach shot).  If you want to take pictures do it quickly, and make sure nobody is playing a shot while you do it.  Not hard.

-If you need a ride on a specific day you can Uber or request a ride-share, but you’re on your own to get to the courses.  To that, not a bad idea to stay somewhere central (close to as many of your courses as possible).  Condos, AirBnB, hotels, and motels are all viable options.  Go with what’s going to be easiest for you.  If you look around deals can be found.  Keep in mind that the 19th hole and the registration center (where you pick up your stuff on Sunday) are located at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

-From the tournament website, there’s this on range finders:The World Am does allow range finders, but they must be USGA approved. Any device that is used may only have the function of measuring distance, even if the device has other options that can be turned off, it is not permitted. Any device measuring slope or wind is not allowed.  Not sure?  Check your range-finder and make sure it’s legal for tournament play.

-Women play in their own separate flights, so if you’re a woman and considering playing…by all means sign up!  You’ll be playing with other women (all from the same tee box) and you’ll have the same chance to play tournament golf (unlike this week’s ANA Inspiration there’s not an equivalent of Poppy’s Pond on 18 (if there was I wouldn’t jump in because God only knows what else is in there).

-Others I’ve played with have brought snacks with them to eat during the round (apple slices, orange slices, PB&J sandwiches seem to be the most common).  A deck of cards in a Ziploc bag isn’t a bad idea (especially if there’s a weather delay).  Not bad ideas all around.

-Most groups will have a few enterprising folks who will get a skins game of some variation going.  Participation is optional, but that cost is extra.  Look for the guy with a few pieces of paper talking to every cart 5-10 minutes before everyone heads out.  Again- winning some big skins (that’s cash money) can take the pain out of a humiliating round, so if you’re inclined bring some cash with you.  No PayPal, no Venmo.  Cash on the barrel-head.

-While I’ve always traveled solo, many people play and bring their families with them.  Not a bad idea, and certainly there’s plenty of family-friendly stuff in Myrtle Beach.  For time budgeting, expect that you’ll be gone most of the day (5 hour round plus warm-up time, plus going to/from the course).  They can go to the beach, hit the malls, enjoy air conditioning and they probably won’t miss you all that much.

-For those in search of night-life, things have changed and a couple of the standard-bearer options are no more (farewell, Thee Doll House).  If that’s your thing, research it prior but expect that the local constabulary might be waiting for you should you decide to drive while under the influence.  Just remember that if you are looking for…well, you know…then be smart (and remember to use the “safe search” on your computer).  If you have specific questions you can always DM me on Twitter

-South Carolina has weird laws on purchasing liquor (among other things).  If you drive down and are the type to enjoy making a pitcher of margaritas after a round of golf, maybe stash a couple bottles of tequila (or whatever) in your suitcase.   Don’t try to re-sell it, but for your own consumption…do what you need to do.  It’ll be our little secret.

You could do a hell of a lot worse than spend a week in Myrtle Beach playing golf.  To test yourself against golfers of your same ability over 72 holes is well worth taking time off.  Hope you make it to Myrtle Beach!

The 2016 Predictions You Didn’t Ask For

As we say adieu to 2015 and hello to 2016, I thought I’d whip out my crystal ball and see what my magic crystal ball has in store for golf this coming year.

Only slightly more accurate than most.

Only slightly more accurate than most.

PGA Tour: With the season starting on Thursday of this coming week (in Hawaii so get ready for lots of pictures that will make you want to get on the first thing smoking to Hawaii), it’ll be interesting to see who gets off to a hot start and generates much of the early ink.  For the life of me, I’ll never understand why someone wouldn’t play in the Kapalua event (no cut, limited field, plenty of FedEx Cup points).

I know that everyone has a hot nut all over Jordan Spieth, but he’s coming off of a 12-month stretch where he was the dominant player in the world.  I see him struggling early on and don’t see him repeating at Augusta.  The schedule is brutal especially from June onward with three of the four majors being played from mid-June through the end of July.

I'm sure this will look fantastic with a green jacket.

I’m sure this will look fantastic with a green jacket.

What’s interesting (and worth keeping in mind) that the last PGA Tour event to make the top 60 for the Olympic tournament is the Greenbrier Classic (the cutoff date is July 11th), so players will go into the Open Championship the following week already knowing who is or isn’t qualified for the Olympics (and will also play the PGA Championship after the cutoff date for Olympic qualifying, which means that half the majors this year won’t count towards Olympic qualifying.

I’m also curious as to what the attitudes will be toward the Olympic tournament.  It’s a 72-hole stroke play event (same as the week-in, week-out tournaments on the PGA Tour).  Remember- this is a course that was built for the Olympics, so it’s really a case of nobody really knowing what to expect.

Predictions: I think we’ll see a dark horse/first timer win at Augusta; my crystal ball thinks one of Jason Day (has played well there), Patrick Reed or Ian Poulter will be the last man standing.  It would be great for golf to see Rory McIlroy win the Masters and complete the career grand slam, but I don’t see it happening this year.

Poulter is ready for the PGA Tour's "Disco Appreciation Day"

Poulter is ready for the PGA Tour’s “Disco Appreciation Day”

At the US Open, thankfully they go back to Oakmont.  Hopefully the USGA will manage to not f*** the course up that much (they don’t need to, and they should resist any attempts at trying to gin something up).  I don’t know why, but I have a wild hunch that this will be the year Phil Mickelson finally gets over at the US Open.  I like Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka to contend.  I’d scratch anyone who changed brands in the off season; historically that rarely ends well.

At the Open Championship, the last three times that the Open Championship has been held at Royal Troon (this year’s venue), it was all won by first-time Americans who had not won majors previously.  Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed are, for me, the guys this year (your previous winners at Troon were Todd Hamilton, Justin Leonard, and Mark Calcavecchia).  The last time a non-American won at Royal Troon.  Bobby Locke in 1950.

The PGA Championship is held in late July (two weeks after the Open Championship and the week after the Canadian Open) at Baltusrol in New Jersey.  The last time it was held there (2005) Phil Mickelson won.  I think this will be the major that Spieth wins this year, which will put him an Open Championship shy of the career grand slam.

Ryder Cup: When last heard from, the Europeans won (again) and the US team spent several months trying to figure out what the hell happened (Europe played better).  So this time we go to Hazeltine National in Minnesota.  Seriously?  This is the best we can do?  Is it beyond the PGA of America to play the event on the West Coast or somewhere in the Rockies?  Your US captain is Davis Love III, the European captain is Darren Clarke.  Barring injuries, I think the Europeans will win yet again.


I think at least one fairly well-known public course doesn’t survive 2016 barring a sea change in the economy.  It could be in Maryland or Virginia, but I really have a bad feeling (and I hope I’m wrong).

I think at least one private course either goes public or goes to some kind of a public-private relationship where they allow more non-member play.  I’d like to see the gong show that is Turf Valley open themselves up to public play during shoulder months or at least release tee times within 72-96 hours to the public.

To that, with private courses struggling to attract new members, they could do worse than start to try to attract new members by selling tee times inside 48-72 hours that would otherwise go empty.

Four Wishes for the local area:

1) With the PGA Tour’s annual stop moving around (it’s at Congressional this year and 2018…2017 is up in the air), I’d like to see the LPGA return to the DMV.  I’m not counting their event in Williamsburg; I’m talking something within an our of DC or Baltimore.  The LPGA Tour has done so many things right in the last few years that I’d like to see locals get to see what a fantastic tour they have.  Ideally, you’d shoehorn an area event before the tour stop in Atlantic City which would be an easy trek for the players to make.

2) I’d like to see public courses step up their game in terms of playing conditions (talking to you, Renditions and Timbers at Troy) and start to enforce pace of play and time par (pointing at you, Waverly Woods).  Yes- you might make a few golfers upset, but you’re going to make dozens more happy.

3) On a personal level Howard County needs an additional public course.  Ideally you’d look to Western Howard County where you have cheaper land than you would in the Columbia/Elkridge/Ellicott City area.  I’d also like to see a MCG-type situation in the county, where you’d bring several courses under one jurisdiction and one umbrella.  MCG isn’t perfect but there’s no doubt they’ve improved playing conditions at their courses.  Even if you went in with some kind of partnership with Baltimore County, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it meant better course conditions and improved pace of play.

4) To see Golfdom or some form of competition come into the Maryland suburbs and compete with the Golf Galaxy/Dick’s Sporting Goods duopoly.  I remember the old Washington Golf Centers and mourned the demise of Mammoth Golf.  It’s not that Golf Galaxy and Dick’s Sporting Goods are bad, it’s that I’d like to see competition and more options.

Two Wishes for me:

1) I know that the schedule makes it hard, but I’d like to see the PGA Tour do a better job of giving the Canadian Open a better spot on the schedule.  What they’re doing this year is particularly offensive.  The event always does great attendance, and their National Open deserves better.

2) To play more, and improve course reviews.  The first one is simple, the second part isn’t.  I want to have course reviews that you, as a reader, would find useful.  I’m not sure how this will look, but I’m looking at changing how I review courses to make it relevant to ordinary golfers and ask the kind of questions an average golfer might have.  I’ve long argued that Golfweek and Golf Magazine’s course reviewers aren’t bad at their job, but 99% of their course reviews are destination tracks, and some of their ratings sound a bit jaded.  When it’s your job it’s one thing, but when you’re paying out of pocket to play somewhere, you want to know you’re seeing something worth your dollars.  Nobody reimburses me for my green fees and my guess is if you’re reading this you’re in the same boat I am.

My sincerest wishes to all of you for your best year ever in 2016.  Hit ’em straight, and make lots of pars and birdies.

Song of the day:

Before they became huge, U2 did one of their first US tours in 1983 to support the War album.  They did a concert at Red Rocks Ampitheatre and filmed it.  Below is my favourite track of theirs.  Hard to believe this is 30+ years old.  Still sounds great.

A Farewell to 2015

All of the rain we’ve had over the last few days meant any hope of getting out to play yesterday was unlikely.  I guess I could have played but my knees have been bothering me lately.  I opted for a trip to Olney Golf Park to get a few final swings in for the year, since I won’t have a chance to go to the range or hit balls until 2016 (and while this warm spell has been great I can’t see it continuing) since work typically keeps me busy during the week.

I like Olney Golf Park because the range has covered bays (the ranges at Fairway Hills, Timbers at Troy, Waverly Woods and Hobbits Glen do not), and because the mats are in better shape than you find (they were pretty wet yesterday, which isn’t a surprise given the rains we’ve had).  Unfortunately that means going to Olney and dealing with the army of photo radar that they have (or “speed traps” as they should be known as).

My view from my hitting bay at Olney Golf Park.

My view from my hitting bay at Olney Golf Park.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get loose, my hand kept bothering me (I fear that I may be developing some kind of arthritis in my hands- make your own jokes), and I never felt comfortable bringing the club back (I’m not overly mechanical).  The bays that are covered are heated (kind of needed yesterday due to fairly constant breeze- the photo above shows the flags all blowing pretty good) but the one I was at wasn’t working.  I hit far too many bad shots.  Hopefully I can get back out there sooner than later.

I was hoping to start earlier, but their hours on Google weren’t correct (their website and their signage at the range is correct- currently they open at 10am).  So with some time to kill, I thought I’d venture down Georgia Avenue and see how one of my old haunts was getting on- the mystery golf course that was Trotters Glen.  I spent many a happy evening after work there, hitting balls and using their short game area.  I never knew what happened, but a few clues made the answers fairly apparent.

Driving past the two large churches and a few McMansions, it was clear the area had seen some development.  And then, there it was.

Trotters Glen.  Brought to you by Toll Brothers homes.

Trotters Glen. Brought to you by Toll Brothers homes.

I’m not against development, and I’m not against progress, but I am concerned about how the average person gets into the game (Trotters Glen was a shorter course).  The course’s website is now this, and if you look carefully, you’ll note that these are going for $1.1mm plus.  So for an average family, that’s so far beyond attainable it’s ridiculous.

This made me wonder two things- who’s paying into seven figures for a home, and where does someone new to the game go?  The First Tee does great work for kids, but what of adults?  Are we to assume they binge-watch old Golf Channel infomercials?

If you’re scoring at home, Virginia is losing Goose Creek at the end of the year, Trotters Glen is gone, Sligo Creek has long been rumored to be going away, and I’d argue that Old Gunpowder may not survive this decade.  Montgomery Country Club went under for a housing development.  I’m almost certain I’ve missed at least one course going away.  And yet, interest isn’t waning.  The number of rounds is typically impacted by weather (notice how much rounds went up in November/December since the weather was spring-like?).

And what of that lack of interest by millennials?  Looking at my Instagram feed and suggestions (and if you haven’t done so, follow me on Instagram- I post other stuff besides golf photos), it’s a lot of golf stuff being largely produced by the younger set (some of it really good and some of it terrible).  They’re playing the game (I played several rounds with millennials this year; they’re just like most golfers- by and large a decent lot, they love the game, and they want to improve).

Where one of the holes used to be.  Have to wonder how many people got bit by the game here?

Where one of the holes used to be. Have to wonder how many people got bit by the game here?

So when I hear people talking about growing the game, I point out that you’re losing courses that weren’t as intimidating to novice players as some other tracks…how does the game grow again (you don’t grow any business by reducing supply)?  There’s no new courses coming to the area that are public and/or daily fee.  We keep adding houses.  Where are the golfers going to play who want to take the game up who aren’t quite ready for a full size course?  Northwest Park has the “inside 9” which is a pretty stern test.  Needwood has an executive nine hole course, and Sligo Creek is a nine-hole course.  Hilltop in Alexandria is a 9-hole course but is no pushover.  See where I’m going?

There are rumors floating around East Potomac Golf Course in Washington.  I fear what may happen, because frankly, this rarely ends well for golf courses.  Look at what almost happened to the golf course at University of Maryland.

Meanwhile, tell me again how to grow the game when you eliminate courses.  Take as much time as you’d like.

Unrelated, if you have a chance, go see the film The Big Short.  I can’t recommend it enough.


Enjoy your New Years’ celebrations and all the best in 2016.


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