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A Better Way Forward

Psst...USGA- you'd rather be here in July.  Just admit it.

Psst…USGA- you’d rather be here in July. Just admit it.

So it’s day 2 of the Senior PGA Championship at Trump National Washington DC Sterling, Virginia and, rather than talk about the course or who might win, the talk is about the name on the course.  Several players are (not shocking) huge fans of Trump, and one (Fred Funk) got his delicate feelings hurt over a columnist who dared to ask him questions (he wears a Trump logo).

John Daly went full Team Trump mode and also took a few shots at the Clintons.  Daly is popular but I’m sure he’ll implode on himself sooner than later (it’s always good for recovering alcoholics to drink “only beer”).  And then he’ll start WDing from events (his track record of WDing from events he gets a sponsors exemption into is flat embarrassing), get into arguments, quit mid-round (another thing that he’s gotten a free pass on way too often) with anyone and everyone, and of course never accept responsibility (so spare me the personal responsibility lecture).

Exactly what you didn’t want to happen is happening.  You don’t grow the game by turning off a large portion of the population especially during a marquee event.  This is PR 101 stuff.  And not for anything, but this is exactly what i said was going to happen.

It might be a good time to point out that the pipeline for the Senior…I mean Champions Tour isn’t exactly all that great if/when Daly goes on his next bender.   Tiger isn’t going to play, and none of the younger players are going to play it (they are all breaking down physically).  I’m not sure Mickelson is going to play (he strikes me as being someone with loftier aspirations).  That will leave someone like Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar….zzzzzzzz and maybe some of the European Tour players chasing money.  To borrow a slogan, Jack Nicklaus ain’t walking through that door again.

Which brings me back to the upcoming US Women’s Open at Trump National in New Jersey and my larger point about why exactly is it that the Women’s Open keeps getting contested at lesser courses (if you think a course that opened in 2004 is somehow better than Merion, Bethpage Black or Merion…go get your head examined).  If the USGA is serious about elevating the US Women’s Open, I’d like to see them take the event to the bigger/high profile courses (which means that Opens should come with the “if you want the men’s open, you’re taking a women’s Open” rule).

In lieu of going to Trump’s course, why not (staying in the same general geographical area) go to Merion?  With the concern about the course not being long enough for the men, it would be perfect for the women and allow them to play one of the truly classic courses in the country.  Or hell, why not a Winged Foot or a Oak Hill?  If you want public in the tri-state area, go to Bethpage Black!

Why isn’t Pebble Beach on the USGA rota for the women (it should be)?  If Pebble wants to host the Open, they should want to host the Women’s Open as well.  Again- why isn’t Bethpage Black a venue for the women?  Or Shinnecock?  Oakmont hosted the US Women’s open back in 2010.  Throw Winged Foot, Olympic Club, Congressional, Medinah, and Torrey Pines into the mix and that’s a hell of a rota.

Or, you could take the tack of “we’re only going to public courses from now on” which makes some sense and a position I’m happy to defend.  If you want to stay public, then Pinehurst #2 has to be on that list as well.  And if you want to stay public AND go different, two words- Bandon Dunes (it’s on any golfer’s bucket list and has already hosted a US Amateur).  If you look at the history of what courses have hosted the championship it doesn’t really compare to the men’s courses.

My point is this- the USGA should let the women play the same quality courses that the men play and don’t need to put them in a position where they’re going to be upstaged by a controversial figure (remember how the 1990 Mens PGA Championship went at Shoal Creek?).  Even if you toss out the private clubs, you could have an unofficial rota made up entirely of public courses: Bandon Dunes (or Pacific Dunes), Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, TPC Harding Park, Bethpage Black, Pinehurst #2,  Kiawah Island, Cog Hill #4, and Whistling Straits.  Yes- it’s West Coast heavy which means you don’t have the constant threat of thunderstorms, and you can have a prime time east coast finish.

Any of these courses would be a far better shop window for the LPGA than what’s coming in July, and deep down, they know it.

 

 

Bulle Rock Course Review

1st hole at Bulle Rock. Let the bludgeoning commence!

1st hole at Bulle Rock. Let the bludgeoning commence!

When I moved to the DC suburbs from San Francisco 20 years ago this month, I didn’t know that I’d still be here (in the back of my mind I thought I’d live here a few years and go on to the next place).  When I first moved here, public courses were your typical scruffy muni tracks that were constantly busy.  It was either that or your tony private clubs and I’m decidedly not the kind of blue-blood (nor do I have the bankroll) person to join a private club.

It was shortly after moving here that the upscale, member-for-a-day, higher end daily fee courses started to open.  In Maryland there’s Queenstown Harbour, Links at Lighthouse Sound, PB Dye, Worthington Manor, Maryland National, Whiskey Creek, Lake Presidential, Blue Mash, and of course, Bulle Rock (if I missed one my apologies).

While as a collection these are all fine courses, Bulle Rock has always stood far and above.  Golfweek has consistently ranked it as #1 in their annual “Best Courses You Can Play” for Maryland, and it’s the only Maryland course to feature in Golf Digest’s recently released list (current rank is 52nd) for US courses.  It hosted the LPGA Championship from 2005-2009 (a major) and it’s not hard to see why it’s worthy.

So despite all of this, the truth is that until recently I hadn’t made the trek to Bulle Rock.  I had talked about it on several occasions, but it never happened.  Finally, I pulled the trigger through a GolfmatchApp outing, and that was that.

When you arrive at Bulle Rock, the first thing you notice is that it’s all golf.  No tennis, no swimming, just golf.  While there is a housing development, you only see homes on the first hole.  Warm-up and practice facilities are as good as anything I’ve seen anywhere.  Short game area, range, practice green all included in your green fee.   With the shotgun start we didn’t play the course 1-18 (we started on 17, which is a tricky par 3 to a protected green).

17th hole at Bulle Rock. Do. Not. Miss. Right. I did and I regret it.

17th hole at Bulle Rock. Do. Not. Miss. Right. I did and I regret it.

The photo may not show it but there is a large bunker and rocks protecting the green.  The bail-out area short isn’t a bad place to be.

The 18th hole (the finisher, our 2nd) is a brute worthy of a great finish.  Water the entire left side and a multi-tiered green.  I was very happy to be in the fairway off the tee given the difficulties a couple players in our group dealt with off the tee.

18th tee at Bulle Rock.  Don't recommend going left.  Not even a bit.

18th tee at Bulle Rock. Don’t recommend going left. Not even a bit.

The first hole should be a handshake hole but the green is small and well protected (if you get wild with your approach shot like I did, there’s ample trouble to be had).

The 2nd hole is a par 5 that should play easier (but as was my day I managed to make a hash of it…when you drain a 30 foot putt for a 7 you’re not exactly doing cartwheels).  The front nine offers a nice variety of holes that all feel unique (the course definitely felt like 18 unique holes and not a case where I was playing the same hole over and over).  Short holes, long holes, and everything in between.

The back nine starts with the 10th hole, a dog-leg par 4 protected by a waste area right and bunkers left.

From the 10th tee at Bulle Rock. Just find the fairway and ignore the bunkers, waste area and wind.

From the 10th tee at Bulle Rock. Just find the fairway and ignore the bunkers, waste area and wind.

Not visible from my photo, from the tee it’s a bit clearer.

The 11th hole is the longest hole on the course (at a robust 599 yards from the blue tees that we played from- the black tees has it in the 600’s).  It’s a dogleg par 5 with a litany of hazards.

11th hole from the tee. Only 599 yards to go.

11th hole from the tee. Only 599 yards to go. Longtime friend of the website is in blue, striping one straight and true.

If this wasn’t enough of a challenge, any shots long are likely to end up with a brutal downhill chip or possibly wet.

Still a ways to go. Don't miss left. Or right. Or long.

Still a ways to go. Don’t miss left. Or right. Or long.

The one good thing with the hole is that a miss short and straight isn’t particularly penal (several of the holes were like that).

If the photos don’t show it, the fairways, roughs, tee boxes and greens were all in superb shape as you might expect.  No un-filled divots in the fairways, the greens rolled pretty true (with the intermittent rain and wind we had I had a hell of a time with the greens but that’s on mother nature and me…not their staff).  The staff in the pro shop were all friendly and helpful to a fault.  If making you feel like a member is what they’re trying to do, then mission accomplished.

The course is a brute and there’s no nice way of sugarcoating it.  Small mistakes get magnified, and it’s easy to get into trouble.  As with many Pete Dye courses, it’ll make you want to pull your hair out at times, but isn’t that the point of testing ourselves as golfers?  If you haven’t made the trip up to Bulle Rock, go this year.  Bring a good supply of ammo and your patience (and your A-game), and you’ll see why Bulle Rock is the best public course in the state.

 

 

More Local Golf News (Sort of)

18th tee at Bulle Rock.  Don't recommend going left.  Not even a bit.

18th tee at Bulle Rock. Don’t recommend going left. Not even a bit.

Now that we seem to be out of this never-ending pattern of cold rain, I suppose it’s time for another local golf news digest of goings-on.  Any opinions are mine and are probably wrong.

POTUS 44 FINDS A HOME

Several reports confirm that former President Barack Obama has been offered a membership at RTJ Golf Club out in Lake Manassas/Gainesville/Don’t You Dare Call It Manassas.  Not to get all snippy, but it’s this kind of reporting that makes me shake the fist of impending doom at people.  RTJ is 40 miles west of Washington DC.  Now, maybe in some circles that’s a short haul, but anyone who lives in a major metropolitan area can vouch for the fact that I-66 traffic is awful on a good day at 4:00 a.m.  I’ve taken I-66 to play in Virginia on weekend mornings, and it’s not pretty.  And not for anything but RTJ is in Virginia.  Mileage wise, it’s similar distance as DC is to Baltimore.

TPC Potomac would have made sense but I guess they couldn’t come to terms.  Well, Obama’s going to get to experience I-66.  So that should end well.

POTUS 45 MAJOR #1

Reminder that the (I’m not making this up) Kitchen Aid Senior PGA Championship is at Trump National DC in Sterling, VA over Memorial Day weekend (seriously, Sterling is near Dulles Airport- IT IS NOT WASHINGTON DC- BUY A MAP).  This course has never hosted a professional tournament much less a major on the Champions Tour.  Maybe let it host a Web.com event first or something just to see how it works in terms of logistics/parking/flow.  Or you know, just kind of wing it because that usually ends well.

This would be a good time to mention my golf-oriented objection to using Trump courses.  Instead of people talking about who might win (go Paul Goydos you spectacular thing you), you’re going to have a week-long discussion of President Trump.  Does he show up over the weekend and completely bigfoot the event?

Come July his New Jersey course in Bedminster will host the US Women’s Open.   So that should be a nice quiet week free of controversy…nothing to see here.  The USGA can’t run a 2-car parade (still waiting to see how they’re going to screw up this year’s US Open at Erin Hills because you know they will) and then there’s the Trump factor.  So the National Championship gets overshadowed.  Again.   The USGA could and should have chosen either Congressional or Merion to host the 2026 US Open (in honor of the country’s 250th birthday) but went with Shinnecock near Long Island.

TIMBERS AT TROY OPENS

After a lengthy remodel Timbers at Troy has re-opened.  I haven’t been able to get out there yet but am hoping to make the short trek sometime in the next 30 days.  The layout was always solid but conditions had gone sideways.  Hoping to see the course at its best.

AT&T NATIONAL GOINGS-ON

Not a bad read on what to expect if you go to the AT&T National at TPC Potomac or if you’ve ever thought about volunteering.  Tiger isn’t going to play, but you should still get a decent field.  I played TPC Potomac in 2012 and it’s a fantastic layout (I never played it pre-renovation so I can’t compare it).   Reminder the event goes back to Congressional for 2018 and 2020.  No word on a 2019 venue (hint: Bulle Rock or Baltimore CC (Five Farms)).

REVIEWS

I’ve been busier than expected of late but I should have the Bulle Rock course review uploaded by the weekend.  I’m also working on an equipment review.

If you’re playing this weekend, hit ’em straight and make those pars and birdies.

SONG OF THE DAY

Do the thing, Reds.  Do the thing.

 

 

 

Easter at Northwest Park

2nd hole at Northwest Park. Pro tip: hit it in the fairway (makes the hole easier).

2nd hole at Northwest Park. Pro tip: hit it in the fairway (makes the hole easier).

Taking advantage of summer-like warmth, your faithful scribe headed out to Northwest Park for my own idea of Easter sunrise service (.  I’ve long touted Northwest Park as having consistently very good playing conditions, and today was no change (their greens have not been punched but were certainly in very good shape).

Having sat through last night’s 2OT win by the Leafs (sorry, local Capitals fans), I was playing on very little sleep (you try sleeping after that- it’s like chugging two cans of red bull, snorting cocaine and then riding backwards on a motorcycle) so I wasn’t really at my best or most wide awake early on.  Luckily, last night we had Leafs Dart Guy (below) providing needed comic relief.

Leafs Dart Guy from last night (a dart is a cigarette, i.e. heater, health stick) who became a Twitter celebrity.  Love this.

Leafs Dart Guy from last night (a dart is a cigarette, i.e. heater, health stick) who became a Twitter celebrity. Love this.

One change I did notice was that several tee boxes and a few areas (not in the fairway or apron areas) had been recently re-sodded (I didn’t take a photo but you could tell with the obvious pattern of sod strips having been laid down).  I didn’t have a chance to play at Northwest Park last year so I can’t comment on what kind of condition they were in last year, but thumbs up to management for addressing the issue and not just letting things deteriorate.

15th hole at Northwest Park. I suggest hitting the green and not hitting some fat chunked shot like I did.

15th hole at Northwest Park. I suggest hitting the green and not hitting some fat chunked shot like I did.

We started on the back nine (a good friend of mine got paired up with two other guys who were nice enough, but they were a bit slow- appreciate walking but when you’re the first group out you’re setting up to drag pace of play down); definitely a bit dewy this morning on the first few holes.  We broke apart from the other twosome after our first nine (I get embarrassed when the second group is waiting on us and get a massive guilt trip) so I didn’t have the time to take more photos on our first nine holes.

5th hole at Northwest Park. Twas a brutal hole location today in the back.

5th hole at Northwest Park. Twas a brutal hole location today in the back.

Playing conditions were good.  One other thing about Northwest is that the people who work there are almost always friendly and polite (it shouldn’t be a big deal but when you encounter indifference or a ‘you’re lucky we let you play here’ mentality being welcomed warmly goes a long way).

I’ve played four rounds in my new shoes; after next week I’ll post a review.

SONG OF THE DAY

Having discovered The Smiths in 1983/84 and having seen them live in concert in 1985, it is rather interesting that they’re getting something of a rebirth as today’s younger set discovers them.  Everything old is new again.  Yes- their songs are rather timeless, but it’s still a three-piece band (guitar, bass, drums) and a lead singer.  No keyboards, no auto-tune.  And no- I don’t want a reunion.

 

Waverly Woods Revisited

From just off the 1st tee at Waverly Woods.  Cold, sun just coming up. Hoping for the best.

From just off the 1st tee at Waverly Woods. Cold, sun just coming up. Hoping for the best.

The last time I played Waverly Woods was in September 2015, and to put it politely I was unimpressed about the pace of play (and more importantly that nobody from the course seemed to give a rip).  I wrote some pretty unflattering words, and I meant (and still do) every word of it based on what was happening at the time.  For a course to permit rounds going over 5 1/2 hours in your dew-sweeper groups is doing the game a disservice not to mention area golfers.  It’s simply going to kill the game.

However, I gave this quite a bit of thought, and wanted to see if things had changed there.  If I’m being honest, I wanted it to improve because the layout is one of the best in the area, and seeing the course function better serves the golfing public far better than if it’s known as a pace-of-play graveyard.  If I make pointed complaints, much of it comes from wanting to see this area serve public golfers better.  I seek not to take people down, but rather, to hopefully see things elevated.

It was in this vein that I made the relatively short drive up to Marriottsville on a chilly Sunday morning (I was worried about a frost delay but we escaped that).  After parking and changing shoes, I went into the pro shop and paid my green fee (range balls were included but I didn’t really have time to hit balls so I went to the short game area and hit a few chips before we started our round).

From the rough on the third hole.  Green is to the far right of the photo (bad aim on my part).

From the rough on the third hole. Green is to the far right of the photo (bad aim on my part).

Despite what must be a challenging winter, the course was, for the most part, in pretty good shape.  Fairways were well manicured, rough wasn’t overly penal, and the greens were fairly true.  One of their members was in my group and he mentioned that they had hired a new GM at the course (apparently the previous one enjoyed the free golf perk quite a bit, while the new one seems to be more concerned about how the course operates) that had been well received.

From the 8th tee at Waverly Woods. Love this hole.  Loved it more after I managed a birdie.

From the 8th tee at Waverly Woods. Love this hole. Loved it more after I managed a birdie.

The good news- pace of play was better (we were first out so there’s no reason it shouldn’t be).  The other twosome in our group were good guys who needed the occasional nudge, but by and large kept it moving.  We finished in 3 hours and 40 minutes (and more importantly the group in back of us only waited on us 2-3 times…still 2-3 times more than they should have had to, but by the time we got to the back nine we hardly saw them).

From the tee at the 15th hole. That townhouse on the right...that's more in play for a slicer than it should be.

From the tee at the 15th hole. That townhouse on the right…that’s more in play for a slicer than it should be.

I did notice that marshals/player assistants on carts at least 2-3 times during the round.  I won’t speculate if they were looking at a time par or making sure we weren’t holding up the group in back of us, but nothing was said to us (I know this is never fun but even a “doing okay fellas but let’s keep things moving- you shouldn’t be seeing the group in back of you” can be well received).

13th hole- a long and very difficult par 3.  I managed to get on the green in regulation. Miracles do happen.

13th hole- a long and very difficult par 3. I managed to get on the green in regulation. Miracles do happen.

The layout is largely unchanged from my visit two years ago, nor should it need to be changed.  It remains a great test with a very wide range of hole lengths (both short and long par 4’s and par 3’s).  The 13th hole (above) is as tough of a par 3 as you’ll fine in the area.  Miss left and you’re well below the hole.  Miss right and you’ve got an almost impossible chip shot downhill to a very slick green.  Even on the green if on the wrong half relative to the hole location is brutal as well.

17tg hole at Waverly Woods.  Target golf at its finest.

17tg hole at Waverly Woods. Target golf at its finest.

While you do see homes on most holes, only on a few holes are they really in play (and this is the reality we have with newer courses).

So all in all, I had a good time at Waverly Woods.  If you can keep the ball in the fairway and get around in four hours, it’s as good of a test of golf that exists for public golfers in the DMV.  They have a pro-shop/grill room that has what you’d expect to see.  They do have a beverage cart during the warmer months (didn’t see one when I played), and as I’ve mentioned before, the green grass driving range and their short game area are better than you’d see at most private clubs.

 

Major Championship Rules Snafu Version 3.0

For the third time in 10 months, a major championship will be best remembered for a terribly managed rules issue rather than for great golf and a worthy champion.  Lexi Thompson was denied the title last night at the ANA Inspiration because someone emailed the LPGA that she thought that Lexi Thompson moved her ball illegally on the 17th hole of Saturday’s third round.   Below is a clip from Golf Channel’s coverage last night:

I’ll point out that at no point did her playing partner nor the walking rules official see any issue with it (who are the primary sources for bringing up any issues).  Nobody on Golf Channel’s coverage (their own rules expert as well as the broadcast team- all experts at golf) saw an issue with it at the time.  None of the print journalists saw an issue nor did anyone covering the event.

No other sport entertains cranks who call in to report this kind of stuff other than golf.  Tennis (golf’s closest comparable) has a fantastic replay system that takes 5-10 seconds to review.  Call the ATP or the WTA about a foot-fault and you might as well yell at clouds.  The professional golf tours should act similarly.

It wasn’t until someone emailed the LPGA after play had ended (the LPGA didn’t see the email until Sunday) to report the issue.  This is wrong on two accounts (besides the larger issue of why professional golf should EVER give these people so much as the time of day):

1) If the viewer waited until Sunday to send the email (or after Saturday’s round), then this is a whole new level of being a shithead, because in doing so you’re setting up Lexi Thompson to fail knowing that she already signed her scorecard which brings in an additional penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard (how much money did this asshole have on someone other than Lexi Thompson because this reeks of some dickhead who had money on someone else and was scrambling trying to figure out a way to not lose?  Oh, am I not being fair to this asshole?  Tough.  In one email he effectively changed the result of a major championship- I hope this person has nightmares about it for the rest of their life, and may the 877-KARS-4-KIDS song be stuck in your head for the next 1000 years).  The word you’re looking for here in entrapment.

2) If the viewer sent the email on Saturday, why did the LPGA not immediately contact Lexi Thompson and say “please come back here NOW” and at the very least, administer the penalty BEFORE the start of Sunday’s round?   Surely it would have been better to let Lexi know where she stood BEFORE teeing off on Sunday (and if you’re so damn worried about protecting the field announce it then as well).  That way, everyone knows what’s going on and can plan accordingly.  In this case, telling her after finishing her 12th hole of the final round is absurd.  Most of the field had finished their round so this idea of protecting the field goes out the window (if you teed off thinking you were 6 or 7 shots off the lead as opposed to 2 or 3, your thinking is going to be entirely different).

So this jerk that thinks he’s a hero is anything but a hero.  Either way you look at it, what this person did was patently wrong.

So how do you go forward?

1) Effective today, professional golf and any governing body has to agree that any rules issues brought up by a viewer is to be ignored.  The role of protecting the field and enforcing the rules has to be the dominion of the players (as specified by the rules of golf) and the on-site rules officials.  The tours should immediately enact a local rule at all tournaments that advice from an outside agency/TV viewer is not to be considered.

2) Players and on-site rules officials should be reminded that they should act immediately if they see something.  I don’t have an issue with a rules official saying “let’s take a look at this on TV” if they’re not sure but the decision has to be made at that point and before the player signs their scorecard.

3) If you want TV to step in, then the professional tours should immediately set up a remote TV rules bunker/war room (MLB, NHL and the NFL have these, as does both codes of rugby).  This means that every player has to be viewed on every hole (otherwise you’re not enforcing the rules evenly).  If the TV war room/bunker see an issue they can contact one of the on-site rules officials and review the infraction with the player immediately.

4) You can’t have things be subject to review after the round is finished.  They don’t do this after the final round, so why is it accepted after the first three rounds?  If there’s any doubt from anyone, the player should be advised to not sign their scorecard until they can review it.

Three incidents in 10 months regarding rules infractions that have been badly managed is three too many.  This simply cannot continue.

Blue Mash Course Review (and more)

From the 4th tee at Blue Mash. Don't go left. Or long. Or right.

From the 4th tee at Blue Mash. Don’t go left. Or long. Or right.

Despite temperatures that were 30 degrees cooler than the day before, I had an enjoyable round on Sunday 3/26 at Blue Mash which remains one of the better public tracks in Central Maryland.  Unlike my 2015 visit to its sister course Waverly Woods, pace of pace was not an issue at all.  The other twosome I was paired with moved on as the cold weather was too much for them (they played the front nine and called it a day),  Playing with the guy I got paired with as a twosome, we finished 18 holes in 3 hours and 10 minutes (and that was with a your humble scribe requiring a stop for refreshments between nines).

Despite the up-and-down weather of late, for the most part, Blue Mash was in good shape when I played it with a couple notable exceptions.  The driving range is currently mats only while their green grass portion comes back (it’s currently covered with a plastic tarp).   As you can see from my photos, much of the turf-grass is still brown, but that’s not really surprising (the turf played fine; if anything it was nice that the rough wasn’t really a factor and easy to play from).  The greens rolled pretty true (it’s hard to tell but there’s a lot more break in them than it appears).

It’s been five years since I played Blue Mash so it was a bit of unfamiliar territory.  For those unfamiliar, Blue Mash doesn’t ease you into your round.  The first 3 holes are long par 4’s that are as difficult of an opening stretch that exists in the DMV.  Once you escape that, you’ve got a medium-length par 3 (photo above( to a well-protected green and a medium length par 5 that has jail the entire left side of the hole.

5th hole at Blue Mash from approx 150 out.  Trees left, water right. Whee!

5th hole at Blue Mash from approx 150 out. Trees left, water right. Whee!

The short 7th and 8th holes look inviting (and easy) enough on the scorecard, but any mistake off the tee and there’s trouble all over the place.

Once you hit the back nine, you have to contend with water for the first few holes, with 11 (a long par 3 into the prevailing wind) requiring a fairly stout carry over water to a well-protected green.

12th hole from the fairway at Blue Mash. The water on the right side isn't for decoration.

12th hole from the fairway at Blue Mash. The water on the right side isn’t for decoration.

So Blue Mash remains a stout test for area golfers.  I’m not going to claim to be Bradley Klein of Golfweek, but three notes about the course design:

1) Unless you’ve a knee that is problematic on a good day like I do, the course is a fairly easy walk.  No big distances between holes and no real elevation changes of note.  If courses want more people walking this is one way to make this happen.

2) No homes.  Not even kidding on this one.  The entire area is nothing but golf course.

3) The green complexes are all well protected; several holes have large bunkers (I know since I found my way in them) in the front of the green.  This came into play because on a cold day the ball doesn’t travel as far as it normally would and being off a few yards had some unpleasant consequences.

So all in all, Blue Mash is well worth a visit.  They have a practice green, a short game green and a range that is currently mats only but should convert to their green grass once we get into season.

SHOE REVIEW

Finally wore my Foot-Joy Hyperflex II shoes during my round at Blue Mash.  Out of the box they felt really good, but I will do a review once I get 3-5 rounds played in them.

SONG OF THE DAY

Alan Hawkshaw is a musical savant.  Put this on and if this doesn’t make you want to fix a cocktail or twelve then I can’t help you. Things are weird.  Sometimes you’ve just got to let go a bit.  This isn’t yacht rock.  It’s something else entirely.

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.

EXPERIMENTATION

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.

SONG OF THE DAY

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.

 

Self Inflicted Wounds and other Tales

Ready to go this morning. More on my round tomorrow.

Ready to go this morning. More on my round tomorrow.

The news that JC Penney is closing stores shouldn’t be news to anyone, given the sorry state of brick and mortar retail.  It’s bad enough if you’re a regular sized person, but being the exceptional man that I am, retailers are particularly good at giving me the middle finger, which is why I shop online.  Department stores don’t even try to cater to me, and Destination XL (who purportedly caters to big & tall men) is like playing the lottery (every successful trip means several unsuccessful trips).

Golf stores are equally bad.  Golf Galaxy doesn’t sell “big and tall” sizes either in store or online, and Howard County doesn’t have a Golfsmith or a PGA Tour Superstore (not that these stores sell big and tall sizes either).  Golf Galaxy does have a nice online ordering kiosk but if you’re not going to carry extended sizes then I’m not really sure what the point is (I can’t be the only plus-size-or-whatever-the-hell-you-call-me golfer in the area).  I have a couple trusted online stores I buy my golf apparel from (Cutter & Buck’s online store or Westport Big & Tall who carry Callaway, Cutter & Buck and Peter Millar in big & tall sizes).

I’m weird in that I don’t mind paying for quality.  I’d rather spend $70-$80 on a shirt that I know will hold up for several years rather than spend $40-$50 and have it fall apart after 1-2 seasons (the Cutter & Buck stuff holds up very well; I routinely will get 5-6 years out of a shirt).

Being blessed (cursed actually) with wide feet, shopping for golf shoes is equally dire.  I went into Golf Galaxy to look for shoes (the New Balance shoes I bought 2 years ago are breaking down on me and if I’m honest I need something a bit more structured given my ample proportions).  My beloved Footjoy XPS-1 shoes were laid to rest after 3 long seasons (loved those shoes), and while I don’t hate the New Balance shoes, I’m not sure I’d buy them again (they aren’t breathable and they’re breaking down faster than I would have liked).

So it was with hope and optimism that I strolled into Golf Galaxy in hopes of finding something.  I’d like to say I was successful but I came out empty handed because they don’t carry anything in the wide width that I need and ordering them at their online kiosk was to no avail.

I know Footjoy makes shoes in the width I need, so why retailers make things near on impossible is beyond me (luckily Footjoy has an online store where I can buy them directly at the same price they have them at in-store).  I’m trying to support a Howard County store…seriously (however, I’m pleased to report that She Who Is Really In Charge and I did go to Perfect Pour and buy several bottles of wine).

While I’m on the subject, I can’t recommend Perfect Pour enough.  Brian (their wine guy) knows more about wine than my very good friend and fellow degenerate Kevin Last Name Classified (which is saying something).  Their beer selection is outstanding (and full of regionally brewed products) as is their distilled spirits.   It’s everything you want a locally run retail store to be.  Full of knowledgeable people (and friendly), great selection, and easy to do business with.  The county is better for having them with us.

ON TOUR

The hot-take level bullshit being served up over Pat Perez’s comments (and subsequent walk-back and inevitable claim about being misquoted) about Tiger Woods serve as a reminder why sports talk radio and these ESPN and FS1 ‘talk’ shows should be permanently consigned to the waste-bin.  Uninformed rubes screaming about a sport they know nothing about…what could possibly go wrong (beyond everything)?  Normally we have to wait until the majors for this to come up, but now we’re being treated to an early dose.  As I’ve said several times, the easiest way for Woods to put this behind him is to finish multiple tournaments in a row.  Or keep missing cuts and going WD, and open yourself up to speculation and the like.

Compass Pointe Round and Timbers at Troy Update

Taking advantage of a pretty nice day weather-wise, I headed out early this morning to Compass Pointe for my second round of the year (putting me well ahead of last year’s dismal pace).  Conditions were a mixed bag (we played the South/West routing and not my preferred North/East routing), but this time of year it can be difficult for courses.  The greens weren’t bad, and the fairways were, for the most part, in decent shape.  It was chilly when we teed off (38 degrees according to my phone), but it warmed up into the mid 50’s by the time we finished, which was pretty pleasant by February standards.  A reminder that, even when I don’t play that well, I love this game.

4th hole on the South nine.  Don't go right.  Or left.  Or long.  Or short.

4th hole on the South nine. Don’t go right. Or left. Or long. Or short.

Had a good time, and as with my previous round my knee started acting up towards the end and started having some issues off the tee.  I’d still argue that Compass Pointe is a decent option in the area.  It’s not on anyone’s Top 10 in the DMV, but it’s a decent test of golf that has a nice variety of short and long holes.   My only complaint about the layout is that the par 5’s are uniformly all very tough with not an easy one on any of the four nines.

West nine, Hole 1.  Not to point out the obvious but going right is highly discouraged.

West nine, Hole 1. Not to point out the obvious but going right is highly discouraged.

However, there’s glimmer of hope of sorts.  The 7th hole on the West nine has had several trees taken down in the waste area which will hopefully make the second shot across the waste area a bit easier (definitely the case today).

West Nine 7th hole.  Note the removal of trees from either side of the hazard.  Definitely a bit easier to deal with.

West Nine 7th hole. Note the removal of trees from either side of the hazard. Definitely a bit easier to deal with.

Compass Pointe is still a fun place to play.  Pace of play in the afternoon can be uneven, but for morning rounds we breezed around in just over 3 1/2 hours (never saw anyone behind us except for a single that I immediately waved to play through).  Paid $49 to play (carts included).   For mid-February, can’t complain.

TIMBERS AT TROY UPDATE

Being mid-February and driving past it on the way home to stately SGIC manor, I stopped by Timbers at Troy to see how things are progressing while they’re closed for renovations.  I got a few strange looks from a couple folks who were wondering what I was doing (hopefully they realized I was just taking photos and was not some threat to security).  I didn’t want to get in trouble or bother anyone, but I took a few photos:

Bunker work done at the 9th green at Timbers at Troy. Looks good.

Bunker work done at the 9th green at Timbers at Troy. Looks good.

As you can see above, not only is the sand new (and very bright white), but it’s obvious they re-sodded the area around the bunkers (I saw this in most bunkers that have been redone.

5th hole at Timbers at Troy. Green-side bunkers have been redone.

5th hole at Timbers at Troy. Green-side bunkers have been redone.

At the 5th hole (above) you can see the green-side bunker is redone.  The fairway bunker (not visible) was also re-done and the area around the bunker was re-sodded.  This photo was taken standing on Marshalee Drive while a couple pedestrians stared at me.  If this was you, I’m a golf blogger.  That’s all.  The thing in my hand was a phone I used to take photos, so chill the hell out.

From behind the practice green looking out to the 1st hole at Timbers at Troy.

From behind the practice green looking out to the 1st hole at Timbers at Troy.

If the photo above doesn’t show it, the first hole also has new sand (the fairway bunker on the right and the green-side bunkers have been re-done.  They don’t care about my opinion but I’d have eliminated the two green-side bunkers at the first hole and just re-sodded, but I’m not a golf architect.  Still think the course is tough enough as is without the bunkers.

From my untrained eye, it looks like they’re making progress.  The bunkers look really good, and from what I saw, the greens and fairways looked better than they’ve looked (small sample size on a random February Saturday).  Admittedly, I’ve had a go at them on multiple occasions for a litany of reasons, but when the course is in good shape, it’s a solid test and one of the options in Central Maryland.  If I’ve pounded them, it’s because I want this course to be in great shape.  It’s a win-win if they do this.

RANT

I’m not watching the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am because I want to see the pros play.  At the risk of angering the masses, Bill Murray’s act is pretty tiresome (dress as oddly as humanly possible and take 6 1/2 hours to play), and my desire to see Larry The Cable Guy lumber about in a sleeveless shirt is a negative number (seriously, you’re a millionaire and yet it’s wear a sleeveless camo golf shirt (the ‘look at me dress like a real Merikun’ act is offensive, stupid and phony as all get out- it’s $500 to play at Pebble Beach so can we stop with the act?) and say ‘git-r-done’ like an organ grinder…is that the depth of this idiot’s talent?).   What horrible things must they do to Peter Kostis to make him ‘analyze’ their swings?  Crazy idea I posted on Twitter:

I don’t mind celebrities, but can we move them along at a pace slightly faster than glacial?  They’re playing at Pebble Beach and a course with its history deserves better than this trope of rubes playing dress-up.  Let Golf Channel cover the pros, and then let CBS go full-time celebrities on the Saturday (I acknowledge that they get ratings for this, so have both).

I actually find the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open funny…you know what you’re getting so either play or don’t.  It’s one hole a year.  If you honestly think it’s the only event where guys are getting loaded, I’ve got some ocean front property in Kansas for sale.

SONG OF THE BLOG

Bryan Adams in his early 80’s rocker days?  Oh hell yes.  You put those sunglasses on, you pull that guitar out of the leaves, and you get down with your bad self.

The leather pants…are a choice.  I’d have to kill a herd of cows for enough leather to fit the planetary force that is my rear end.

Hit ’em straight, and enjoy the nice weather while we have it.

 

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