Category: Uncategorized (page 4 of 4)

La Quinta Golf Review

I spent most of the last 10 days out in Palm Springs (official motto “sure it’s hot but at least it’s not humid!”) and had the opportunity to play a lot of golf and enjoy all that is the Palm Springs Area.

While the area’s “peak” season for golf is the November-April period I found playing golf in the end of May to be largely comfortable (no humidity was a welcome respite from our summertime heat and humidity).

We stayed at the La Quinta Resort, which has been around since the 1920’s and is now under the Waldorf-Astoria collection of Hilton. The resort has 5 golf courses, over 40 pools and plenty of restaurants and other trappings (including over a dozen tennis courts) for those so inclined.

While Palm Springs has an airport, we flew into Long Beach Airport on Jet Blue. It’s roughly a 2-hour drive (depending on traffic) to Palm Springs from there (or any of the Southern California airports). I’ve flown them several times with golf clubs and touch wood, have always found my clubs waiting for me sans any issues or damage.

My golf experience started on the La Quinta Resort Mountain Course (of the 5 golf courses, 2 are at the resort and the other 3 are approximately 5 miles away in the PGA West development); the Dunes Course is the other on-resort course and the easier of the two. Since my better half was doing a day-spa in Desert Hot Springs that day, I was left to surrender the car to her and take a shuttle over to the course. The pro shop at the resort was well-stocked and they were able to sell cold drinks before the restaurant/snack bar opened (important if, like me, you play early). I found my cart and went to the range to warm up (range balls and use of the practice facility is included…for $100 per round it’s the least they can do but nonetheless, it’s a nice touch). The starter at the Mountain Course is an example of the kind of person the golf industry needs more of. Funny, affable, and warned me about fire ants in the tall grass area (thanks for the heads-up). For a Pete Dye course, the Mountain Course was tough but fair and had numerous vistas. The course was in fantastic shape (my putting was horrible but that’s solely on me- the greens were in great shape and rolled true); a back-nine ride on the bogey train kept breaking 80 from happening but a solid par at 18 was a nice way to finish.

A couple suggestions for the resort- their website content about golf is very lacking. All carts have GPS (something that is good to know and they should publicize); they should also have scorecard pdf’s on the site as well. My only other beef is that it’s frustrating to walk into the pro shop with cash in hand and them not stock shirts in my size (as I’m not anorexic…I won’t even get into the folly of trying to wear the new “slim fit” shirts). I can’t be alone in this.

The next day left me with my big challenge of the trip- a visit to the TPC Stadium course at PGA West. I was going off first so I hoped to set a good pace…and then the trouble started. A young couple rolled up and I found out I’d be playing with them…right as I heard the phrase you never want to hear…the “we’re not any good and we don’t play much” comment.

Not only were they bad golfers, but they didn’t have a clue about pace of play nor did they understand how to use a golf cart (at one point, the cart was parked behind the both of them as they wondered about looking for their balls). I’m torn on this one- on the one hand, the game needs to welcome new golfers and not scare them away…on the other hand I’m not sure what playing what is one of the toughest courses in the world does to serve enjoyment of the game. They were perfectly happy to be oblivious of anything going on around them…as if there weren’t 2 groups waiting on us by the time we teed off on the 2nd hole (a mortal sin if you ask me). I hated to do this, but I had to bail on them and play as a single. At one point I asked them why they wanted to play such a hard course and they both looked at me like I was crazy…these were your bucket list types; never mind that they couldn’t have broken 150 in a best-ball and that they had no clue what they were doing…by all means be able to tell your friends that you played the Stadium Course (and had at least a dozen groups play through you). Again…I understand the “I paid my money just like you did” arguement…but you can’t have people out there who are holding everyone up and causing pace of play to grind to a halt (if I had seen a ranger/marshall I’d have said something but didn’t see one).

The course itself was pure Pete Dye; uneven lies abound and tough shots to tough greens. A decent run mid-round meant I came home with a serviceable 85 that could have easily been worse. The “signature hole” is 17, called Alcatraz and similar to 17 at Sawgrass (island green…this time with rocks surrounding the green and no alligators). Missed shots will find one of many large mounds and humps- assuring one of a an awkward stance for a second shot. The fifth hole is very similar to 16 at Sawgrass with water along the right side. If you go, bring your patience and your accuracy.

My third round was at the Nicklaus Tournament course…if you’re a fan of Nicklaus’ design work you’ll love it- generous fairways, elevated tees and greens and large greens with undulation are in abundance along with false fronts. Not my favorite of the bunch but in immaculate condition. However, there was a decent variety of length (I’m not a big fan playing what appears to be the same hole on four or five occasions in a round). If ever a course “looked” like Nicklaus work, this would be it. To be fair I wasn’t feeling at my best the day I played it, so perhaps a second round might lead one to think otherwise. Again…I cannot speak enough to how good the conditions were; among the best I’ve ever seen.

I didn’t get a chance to play the Norman Course; a repeat visit would find this at the top of my wish list.

Close by and en route from La Quinta to PGA West is Silver Rock resort; a couple locals I ran into spoke well of it; consider it added to my list for next time.

Thoughts nobody asked for

Finishing up my most recent round (a rather desultory affair) quicker than normal (always a good thing), I decided to stop by the practice green before heading home (putting has always been a challenge for me, and I have the 3-putts to prove it). Which got me thinking.

I grew up watching hockey and this time of year is easily my favourite- the Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing, the PGA Tour is going, and the weather is great. It was thinking about hockey (and the thought of being able to play golf this morning and watch a playoff game tonight featuring my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs). I have friends who have kids who play hockey (the cost makes golf seem cheap) and at one point I coached youth hockey in the area (at a program geared toward beginners). The league (and all youth hockey) requires that players wear full face cages and doesn’t allow fighting (and the league I coached didn’t allow body checking). Which led me back to golf, and the current furor over anchoring putters.

Every pro hockey league except the NHL requires players to wear visors, and the NCAA requires full facial protection. Even Canadian major-junior hockey requires visors (they also require the certified visors which are affixed differently than the visors you see in the NHL) and they also require kevlar neck guards and the helmets to have ear flaps. In short, different rules at different playing levels.

But what about football? Different rules. Receivers only have to have one foot in-bounds for a catch, and there’s the whole college football overtime thing. Kickoffs are different as well.

But what about basketball? Games are of different length, players have different numbers of fouls before disqualification, and the number of time-outs per game is different.

Baseball? College baseball uses aluminum/titanium/stealth bomber material bats, and yet, the pros only use wood bats.  So different rules for different levels.

And yet golf, which by every account would like to see the game grow, has its governing bodies trying to force amateurs and casual players to play under the same rules as professionals.  Most of the casual golfers I know are honorable people who play by the rules, but like everyone we have our “circle of trust/friendship” for conceded putts and during early season rounds we’ll play “winter rules” or roll it over in the fairway if it’s in a divot.

I don’t use a long putter (tried one once and hated it)…I’m fully capable of missing putts with my conventional 35-inch model…but if you (or anyone else) wants to use a long putter…have at it.

The dichotomy goes further in golf…the PGA of America has correctly pushed a “tee it forward” in order to have faster rounds.  If we followed the consistency based on the governing bodies we’d all play from the same set of tees.  I’ve had the pleasure of teeing it up at two courses used by the PGA Tour.  I’ve seen the tee boxes they use, and no thank you.  A 502 yard hole is a par 5 for me.  If Messrs Mickelson, Watson, Woods, etc. play that as a par 4 then good on them.

So yes, any events conducted by the R&A or USGA ban anchoring.  The PGA Tour should probably go that route as well along with the European Tour and LPGA Tour.  Casual golfers could then decide for themselves.  There are enough serious golfers who’d want to play using a conventional putter as they have designs on amateur championships.  But for a bunch of my fellow 10-handicappers…let them choose for themselves.   The game is hard enough as it is.  In the end, we play because we enjoy it.  It’s not our job (it’s what I do to escape from the stresses of my job).

Round #3- Fairway Hills

Played an early morning round at Fairway Hills…took a chance on walking on, and lucked out.  It was only chilly this morning and not the “holy crap why did I wear shorts” cold I’ve managed so far this year.  Played with a threesome that were nice enough but unforunately, the concept of “ready golf” hasn’t yet hit them. One of the big problems of being a SGIC is when you get stuck with the folks that, while nice enough, give you the stink eye as you head off with them.

Fairway Hills (and it’s tougher sister course Hobbits Glen) went to bermuda grass for the tees and fairways several years ago; while it means they do great in our inevitable hot summers, bermuda is brown when it’s dormant (and it stays dormant until it warms up). You can play off it fine, but it’s brown. A week of nice weather this week means it’s slowly starting to go green but for now, it still has that redolent look of being brown.

I tried to explain this to the guys I was playing with but they were seemingly content believing the course was shoddy (it’s not).  Greens were in decent shape; I’d put this down to everyone in the region still recovering from their post-winter aeration/punching.

Fairway Hills is a very odd course; there are some short holes where you can make pars and birdies and a few holes that you could blow up (#5 and #16 for starters).  Overall, a nice day out (it was warming up nicely as I putted out on 18 while the threesome I played were arguing over something from 17).

Fairway Hills will never be my favourite course…it’s not walkable (too far between holes) and there are some holes that are backups waiting to happen (#5 being a prime example- a forced carry over a native wetlands followed by a layup to a tiny landing area and a third to an elevated green with trouble all around it).  But, they work with the First Tee and have a good set of forward tees for golfers new to the game.

Note to my fellow golfers: if you have a single assigned to your group, there’s a better than good chance that we’re not a homicidal murderer or some form of similar lowlife.  Just throwing that out there.


Round #2

Played at Redgate in Rockville yesterday…despite a cold wind it was a nice day.  Course was, for the most part, in good shape (the cold March and some pretty bad t-storms on Friday evening aren’t anyone’s fault).  The old SGWC played with a rare friend who doesn’t give me the stink-eye (in fact I think I contributed to him getting the golf bug as bad as he did…you’re welcome).

A full review to follow, but a few mentions about Redgate Golf Course:

-Folks in the pro shop were very polite and friendly and not the “whaddya want” attitude I’ve experienced a few years ago.  The gentleman who was working was apologetic about it being “cart path only” (given we had strong t-storms on Friday night, it’s understandable- several bunkers had standing water and there were at least half a dozen not small puddles in fairway and greenside areas).

-The starter was a nice guy as well.  Look- we’re playing golf!  It’s supposed to be fun so starters that see themselves as some kind of “Checkpoint Charlie” types…ugh.

-Played (as is my want) as part of the dawn patrol.  I play fast (our twosome wasn’t trying to set a speed record, but by playing ready golf and having a reasonable “circle of friendship” on conceded putts) and we got around in 3 1/2 hours; saw the group in front of us a couple times and only saw the group in back of us a couple times.

-Billy Casper Golf is managing it; I won’t pretend to know or care about the politics of the course (at one point the city of Rockville ran it).  If the course continues to be viable (and honestly it’s a great traditional course) then that helps everyone.

-I played average.  Did something to my middle finger (those that know me would say it’s from overuse) so the back nine wasn’t exactly great.   Unlike last year I didn’t have a chance to do a lot of gym work early so I feel like I’m behind the 8-ball a bit.  Played really good on the front nine but missed more than a few makeable putts.  Maybe not having feeling in my  hands didn’t help (and having people and animals look at me weird for choosing to wear shorts).


First round of the season

It was cold and breezy, but the 2013 season is finally off and running for me.  Our March cold snap pretty much eliminated any thoughts of playing any earlier, but a bright (albeit cold) sunny morning was just what the doctor ordered.

Played at Hampshire Greens (review to follow); played with another single and got around in 3 hours which isn’t bad all things considered.

Definitely got a few strange looks from the starter and the guys in the pro shop (I wore shorts- not something I’d recommend on a 36 degree morning but I hate wearing long pants while playing) with the shorts (granted it may have been that they aren’t used to seeing anything that blindingly white- my legs) but nice enough.  Despite two snowmen and a craps (7) I easily broke 90 playing from the blues.  Note to self- go renew handicap.

Took a few holes to warm up but all in all can’t complain.  I was hoping to play on Friday but our weather people here (who can barely predict rain in a hurricane) called for all day rain (so of course it ended up being sunny and pleasant).   Greens had been recently punched which made putting even more of a comedy of errors than normal. 

Opening tee shot

This blog is about the fun, excitement of being a solo golfer who’s forced to get thrown in with another twosome/threesome or play as a single.  If you’re looking for dating advice, can’t really help you.  Love golf?  Stay a while.  I live and work in the DC/Baltimore area and typically play in this area other than when on vacation.  I’ve been playing long enough to know that any designs on becoming a touring pro are absolute folly, but I can string a decent round together and hold a handicap that I’m neither proud nor ashamed of.

I’d like to think that, if I get paired up with your group (ergo the single golfer thing) that you won’t think I’m a tool, douchebag, or a prick.  I know a boatload of bad golf jokes (let’s be honest- they’re all pretty bad), am what you might call an easygoing sort.  I’m also something of a fast player who never wants to be “that guy” holding things up. 

I will do course reviews and add my two cents on the golf scene in the area, hopefully having a laugh in the process while hopefully being remotely helpful.  But mostly with jokes.  I’ll talk about equipment, because if you can’t trust anonymous bloggers and guys with username “LOLTROLL69” then really, who can you trust? 

I’ll occasionally break out the swears…so you have been warned. 

I’m aware blogging isn’t a new thing…but then again I’m also in a war to be the last person in the planet on Facebook (so trying to find me on Facebook is like trying to find that new ProV1 you smacked into a hazard- even if you have a ball retriever or radar it’s not happening). 

Let’s see…what else?  I’m a diehard fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs (and yes, I’ve hard all the jokes) because some times, you need more agony and angst in your life when golf doesn’t quite do enough to make you insane.

Why am I a single?  For one I don’t really like people.  Two, my regular golf friends had to go and move (and if you met me you would as well).  Three…well, my workplace isn’t exactly overrun with golfers.  So there’s that. 

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