Tag: Golf (page 2 of 8)

Diamond Ridge Course Review

3rd hole at Diamond Ridge Golf Course.  Do not hit the tree branches on the right. Do not hit the...crap.

3rd hole at Diamond Ridge Golf Course. Do not hit the tree branches on the right. Do not hit the…crap.

At the start of 2017, I had a couple goals.  Finally play Bulle Rock, and make a concerted effort to play some of the courses in Baltimore.  Bulle Rock was crossed off my ‘to play’ list in early May, and I’m just now starting to discover golf courses in Baltimore County and city.  I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about what was on offer, but there’s plenty there for a variety of playing levels.

On a muggy and humid morning, I made the trek to western Baltimore County to play at Diamond Ridge, a 36-hole facility that operates two courses (The Woodlands is the second course and one I have yet to play).  The drive heading to the course is a lot of ‘one lane in each direction’ roads that wind through some rural parts of the county (so be careful during certain parts of the year).

Checking in was a breeze thanks to a couple helpful folks in the pro shop.  We loaded up our carts, rolled a few putts (the practice green was not exactly rolling a 16 on the stimpmeter but it mirrored conditions on the course which is sort of the point) and headed off.

If you’re looking for pristine conditions and white-glove service, then Diamond Ridge probably isn’t for you (most public courses aren’t for you either).  But, if you’re looking for a tough but ultimately fair layout with good playing conditions that requires accuracy off the tee (my driving was a gong show and the rough was more than a bit thick and lush), then you could do a hell of a lot worse.  It’s a traditional parkland, tree-lined layout with a mix of holes that are fairly flat and others that have significant elevation changes (most of the holes are fairly close together but the elevation changes can make it a bit of a slog to walk).

A mundane opening hole leads to two holes with elevation changes (the third is a challenging and long dogleg par 4 to an elevated and protected green).

6th hole at Diamond Ridge.  A good time to not go left in front of the trees.

6th hole at Diamond Ridge. A good time to not go left in front of the trees.

On the front side you don’t see a par 5 until the 9th and it’s a test (one minor quibble with what is otherwise a great layout is that six of the first seven holes are par 4’s).  From the tee it looks fairly straightforward but any tee shots that go wayward and you find out that this course has a lot more challenge than you expect.

The back nine starts with a par 3 over water (if you start on the back nine that’s a hell of a way to start your round); it’s just long enough to make you think about the impending doom.

10th hole at Diamond Ridge.  Don't think about the water or the bunker on the right.  Or the trees on the left.

10th hole at Diamond Ridge. Don’t think about the water or the bunker on the right. Or the trees on the left.

The back nine has a much larger variety of holes including 3 par 5’s.  The par 5’s may look easy on the card (I said this and immediately regretted it) but they’re not.  11 is a dog-leg beast (our group collectively blew up on this hole), 14 is not long but is very tight, and 18 looks easy but like the rest of the holes, if you get the least bit wild you’re screwed.

Long birdie putt that I missed, and yes- I repaired the pitch mark. Getting toasty here.

Long birdie putt that I missed, and yes- I repaired the pitch mark. Getting toasty here.

The closing stretch of holes are good- 16 is a short dogleg par 4 that big hitters might think about taking a run at.  17 is a long par 3 to a green with a ton of undulation, and 18 is a par 5 that plays slightly uphill and bends to the left.

Tee boxes, fairways and greens were well maintained (the greens were being hand-watered while we were playing- smart to not shave ’em down given the current weather we’re having).  Pristine?  No, but still maintained and I’d put them as “above average” compared to what I’ve seen from courses in the region this year.  The superintendent deserves plaudits given how nutty our weather has been.s

There’s a fairly decent driving range (mats only), and several practice greens and chipping greens so plenty of space to work on your game.  One minor quibble was that we didn’t see a beverage cart on a very hot and humid morning.  The pro shop was well stocked and though I didn’t avail myself of their grill/bar, it looked as though they had what you’d expect to find (we didn’t stop at the turn which I was wishing we had).

Diamond Ridge isn’t going to appear on Golfweek’s “10 Best You Can Play in Maryland” anytime soon.  And that’s okay- it’s still a well maintained layout that will challenge the vast majority of players.  You should go, and when you do- keep those tee shots in the fairway.

Enjoy your July 4th celebrations.

Bulle Rock RIP?

After hearing from several people through the grapevine that Bulle Rock golf course, consistently ranked as the #1 public access course in the state, may be on its last legs.  An article cites several issues that Harbor East Management Group (who owns the development) has with taxes and abatement charges (read the article).  Lest we forget, they own the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel in the Harbor East development and pay a grand total of $1.00 in property taxes (according to the article).

Here’s the problem- people work at the golf course, and people spend money to play the golf course.  Not just in green fees, but food and beverage (money that gets redistributed in Harford County), and likely helps with tourism given its lofty ranking.

Its closure would signal a massive shakeup in public-access golf in the region, and more worrisome, could have a domino effect of sorts.

This should be a year to celebrate golf in the region as three professional tournaments are being held in the area; the Senior PGA Championship was held over Memorial Day weekend at Trump National in Sterling, this week sees the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac (played it in 2012 and was very impressed), and the seniors return in mid-July to Caves Valley for the Senior Players Championship (if we could just get an LPGA event in the DMV…oh to dream).  Instead, it looks like what is arguably the best ‘course you can play’ in the region may be going away.

IN VIRGINIA…

On the other side of the Potomac River, Landsdowne Resort is being sold to an Asian developer, but according to someone in the know, plans to continue operating the course ‘for now’ which doesn’t exactly sound promising.

OTHER LOCAL GOLF NEWS

Congrats to the fine people at Golfmatch announced that they have entered into a partnership with Troon.  Full disclosure- I use Golfmatch and find it useful.  I played in one of their events and enjoyed myself.  It’s a great way to meet other golfers and share experiences (and as much as I want argue otherwise, the reality is that we all want experiences).  If I didn’t use it I’d still mention it because Troon has one of the more impressive portfolios just from their Americas portfolio.

Long weekend coming up- sure, it’s going to be hot but who cares!  Get out there and tee it up!

The Language of The Game

Remember kids, Aloha Means Hello. And Goodbye.

Remember kids, Aloha Means Hello. And Goodbye.

As part of an occasional series geared towards newer golfers, I humbly present a list of terms you’re likely to encounter on the golf course that may confuse you.  We have a host of ways to describe shots that don’t quite come off the way we planned it.  Some people just throw a club while others will often use various terms of endearment.  Some of these terms are regional in nature, but I find it’s good to have a solid level of understanding.  Others of these are terms I’ve conjured up as a means of not offending people with the usual stream of profanity that I’m frankly quite good at.

Chili Dip: Nothing to do with chili, or dip.  When you are hitting a chip or a pitch shot and stick the club in the ground rather than hitting the ball.

Enter Sandman: When you take more than one shot to get the ball out of a bunker.   Also a famous Metallica song.  You have a hole where it takes you 7 shots to get the ball out of the bunker and you never live it down.

Pinball Wizard: When you manage to hit multiple trees with one shot.  Don’t know what a pinball machine is?  Ask your parents.

El Hozel: Otherwise known as the lateral vomit, la hozela, a hosel rocket, or a word that rhymes with banks that we simply do not say for fear that it will show up.  It’s like a virus.  You go to Tijuana for a fun evening of donkey shows and cheap tequila and you end up with some kind of infection.  El hozel works the same way.  I’ve seen people do everything short of animal sacrifice to get rid of el hozel.

Slice: For a right handed golfer when the ball goes unexpectedly right in the arc/shape of a banana.  For a lefty, the ball goes to the left.  Common miss for most amateurs.  Distant cousin of the power fade.  You can talk to a power fade.  You can’t talk to a banana slice.

Hook: The opposite.  Ball goes to the left for right handed players and to the right for lefties.

Skull: hitting the ball with the leading edge of your iron.  Often results in a ball that doesn’t get airborne and doesn’t go very far.  Used to end up cutting the surface of old balata balls.

Whiff: Making a swing and missing.  Also known as stiff breeze, air shot, 0 and 1, 0 for 1, etc.

Rinsing the Balata: Hitting a ball into a water hazard.  Balls used to be made out of balata.

Teenage Beer Pong: The act of getting on the green in two shots on a par 5 and then three-putting.  Much like teenagers who think it’s going to go great…and then it doesn’t.  Helps if the birdie putt just misses.

Sacrifice fly: A short tee shot that goes very high in the air but not very far.  Often followed by the ‘the runner will score on the sac fly.’  Don’t know what baseball is?  Ask your father.

Swing Oil: Alcohol quickly consumed.  A chugged beer, an airplane bottle of alcohol consumed in one shot.  Not to be confused with actual Swing Oil which is a supplement some golfers take.

La Hozela: El hozel, but for women.  Equally maddening.

Decell: Slowing your swing down on a chip or pitch shot which results in the ball either not making it on the green or just trickling on leaving you with a long and difficult putt.

Hairpiece: The pelt-sized divot that comes from hitting too far behind the ball.  Please replace if at all possible or at the very least fill that crater with some divot mix.  Sometimes called a toupee.

Topper: A topped shot; often a tee shot where you hit the top half of the ball and the ball rolls a few dozen yards.  Sometimes known as Free Toppings, Topper Shutt, Top of the Pops, or Big Top Pee Wee.

Moped: A guy who has a golf swing that looks ugly as sin but ends up scoring fairly well.

Commercial: A putt that ends up in tap-in range is said to be Commercial.  Not to be confused with the ads CBS runs to infinity during their broadcasts (it’s a pity that the golf gets in the way of their never-ending ads).

Donna Shalala: A short shot that goes left.  Named after the former Clinton cabinet member.

Rush Limbaugh: A fat shot that goes hard right.  Named after the conservative talk radio host.

Fat: Hitting behind the ball, causing the ball to not go as far as intended.  The cousin of the chili-dip.

Three Waggle: Taking three strokes to hole out on the green.  Also known as three-putting, going three-Jack City, three hole Monty, or just being bad at putting.

Socialist Roid Rage: A shot that gets hit hard left and long.

One: The thing that you can be guaranteed someone will say if your ball falls off the tee while you’re getting ready to hit your tee shot.  I think it’s required.

Caddyshack: Golf movie of some renown.  Someone is legally required to quote from the movie during your round or someone has to die (I think this is the rule…but I could be wrong).

Mrs. Doubtfire: Professional golfer and Scotsman Colin Montgomerie.  Use Google Images.

All Bag: Term of derision to describe guy that has pro staff bag and matching clubs but couldn’t break 130 to save his life.  The golf equivalent of soccer’s Full Kit Wanker.  Often will wear full Nike stuff with red shirt.  Impossible for him to play in under 5 hours.

Action: Wagering.  Many people will wager during a round of golf because they need ‘action’ to keep things interesting.

Fugly/Fungly: Decent and fun player to play with who has horrible-looking swing.

Sandbagger: See ‘cheater’.  Someone who keeps an artificially high handicap and during competitive events will play much better.  Will often use words like ‘I never putt this well’ or ‘I guess I was due for a decent round’ and the like.  The Brits like the word ‘bandit’ and I prefer cheat.

Man Bun: A generic term to describe something wholly inappropriate.  Think ‘chipping on the putting surface’ or using the word ‘sh***k’ on a golf course.

Evel Kenevel: Famed stuntperson and doer of stupid things.  Used to describe people who think a golf cart makes a great racing car.

Flying Lady: Generic term used to describe lower-compression golf balls some women and older men use.

 

 

 

 

 

Timbers At Troy Course Review 2017 version

2nd hole at Timbers at Troy. Hello, old friend. It's been a while.

2nd hole at Timbers at Troy. Hello, old friend. It’s been a while.

First off, happy Father’s day to all the dads.   My father never played golf and didn’t have any desire to take up the game- he played professional baseball (minor leagues), and prior to my arrival in his world he played doubles tennis but wasn’t a golfer.  While I prefer whiskey, bourbon and Scotch, my father drank a gin martini every night and God help you if you screwed with that (I don’t dislike gin, but I prefer other spirits).   He passed away more than 20 years ago, and I miss the stubborn SOB all the time mostly because we could argue and disagree on a level that I cannot possibly put into words (which happened pretty much all the time).

I mention this because it was on Father’s Day that I went back to Timbers at Troy for the first time in 3 years when the course had fallen into a state of disrepair.  I do remember playing at Timbers on Fathers Day in 2007 or 2008 and getting paired up with a father/son playing together.  I tried to avoid being a third wheel, but the father seemed to gravitate towards me while the son was a weepy, pathetic mess of humanity seeking an “experience” with his father (if you’re that son and reading this, just enjoy each day for what it is.  Be your own man.

When Timbers closed for renovations and repairs last fall, I didn’t know what the next chapter of this course would look like.  The course I remember from 3 + years ago was one with washed out hardpan bunkers, chewed-up tee boxes, fairways that had seen better days, and greens that were inconsistent.  I’ve long complained about the state of affairs for Howard County public golf (the CA courses are at best a mixed bag, Waverly Woods seems to have its act together, while Timbers at Troy is still the big question mark).

So it was on a peak summer-like hot and steamy morning that I made that familiar drive off MD-100 to see what seven months’ closure had done.

Whether you play off #1 or #10, both starters are among the toughest holes on the course; long par 4’s that require two accurate shots to reach the green.  Whatever optimism I had about the state of affairs took a punch to the gut fairly quickly.  The fairway on #1 was a soggy, spongy mess and the area around the green had several spots that should have been Ground Under Repair (the bunkers on either side did look quite good).

10th hole at Timbers at Troy.  A good time to hit one straight.

10th hole at Timbers at Troy. A good time to hit one straight.

Unfortunately, the 1st hole was fairly consistent with what I saw most of my round.  Either heavy overnight rain or over-watering (I didn’t have any rain at my house yesterday but I suppose it’s possible that Timbers got a deluge) made most of the fairways fairly wet and heavy.  The tee boxes were a mixed bag; some were in great shape and others looked like they’d been used by a rugby team for scrum practice.  Roughs were also inconsistent, however several areas had the obvious signs of being re-sodded.

13th green at Timbers at Troy.  As you can see some areas are still in need of some TLC.

13th green at Timbers at Troy. As you can see some areas are still in need of some TLC.

If there’s hope with the course conditions, it’s on the greens.  The surfaces were hardly US Open level speeds, but they were smooth and consistent (which  99.9% of golfers will gladly take).  Hopefully, others will make sure to repair pitch marks and ball marks (if you’re not then shame on you).   I was impressed with the greens.

The layout is unchanged.  It’s certainly not the longest track in the area (from the tips it’s under 6700 yards, and from the blues it’s less than 6200 yards but has a rather stout slope rating of 133) but it demands accuracy.  For all of its shortcomings, it’s still a great layout with a nice variety of holes and lengths.  The longest par 5 is just over 510 yards from the blue tees but wild shots are punished.  The elevation changes aren’t overly dramatic other than the 14th hole (a shortish par 3 that plays 1-2 clubs shorter), but they are noticeable.

From the 18th tee at Timbers at Troy. More uphill than it looks.

From the 18th tee at Timbers at Troy. More uphill than it looks.

One other improvement was the staff.   The pro shop, the starter and even the ranger/marshal were all if nothing else friendly (and I firmly believe this goes a long way).  This was not always the case; more than once I can remember going to the pro shop or dealing with the starter and thinking I was an intrusion and not a customer.

So overall, conditions are improved at Timbers but they have some work to do.  The bones are there; now they just need to take it to that next level.

 

Back To Where It Started (Needwood Course Review)

3rd hole at Needwood. Pretty straightforward.

3rd hole at Needwood. Pretty straightforward.

It’s hard to believe it’s been as long as it’s been since I packed up and headed east.  From the time that I made the long drive to the DMV I’ve aged a fair bit, grey hair has impeded where I still have hair left, and my limbs are showing their age and years of abuse.  When I first moved here, I didn’t know the lay of the land at all, and finding basic information on where golf courses were located wasn’t easy.  So after driving around looking for a course to play at after settling in here, I stumbled upon Needwood Golf Course.  I didn’t really know anything other than that it was a golf course and I was able to walk on.  I don’t remember much about the round beyond seeing they had a 9-hole executive course in addition to the 18-hole regulation course (and it was a sunny warm (but not humid) day.

Fast forward far too many years, and I decided to go back.  After a few weeks of playing some of the state’s toughest tracks, I needed something that wasn’t going to punch me in the face relentlessly which was the feeling I was getting at Bulle Rock and PB Dye (which are marvelous tests).  After paying, the other people in my group were no shows, so the starter, in a rare bit of generosity, let me play through the foursome in front that was the first group out which meant I could play at my own (rather fast) pace.

6th Hole at Needwood GC. Straight is the way to go.

6th Hole at Needwood GC. Straight is the way to go.

I breezed through the first couple holes; one thing I noticed was that the greens were in really good shape.  They rolled pretty good (they have a board near the first tee with the stimpmeter reading- they were rolling a 10 according to the board (kudos for the “Augusta National speed is a 14”)).  Actually, they rolled fantastic (this was after I officially put my Odyssey 2-ball putter on notice (and yes I’m aware that a fat guy lecturing a putter is the kind of imagery that must draw people to the game by the thousands).  Really smooth and consistent.  Fairways were in pretty good shape, tee boxes and roughs were also in good shape.

Layout wise, the front side (other than the 2nd hole) is fairly flat.  If you like tree-lined fairways that are fairly generous, you’re in luck.  The back-to-back par 5’s are shortish (even from the tips they max out at under 515 yards).  If I have one complaint, it’s that the par 3’s are all longish and are all similar distances.  It finishes with a tight (but short) par 4.

From the rough on the 10th hole. The photo may not accurately show the elevation change.

From the rough on the 10th hole. The photo may not accurately show the elevation change.

The back nine has much more elevation change with only one par 5 (for the blue or white tees, the course is 36/34=70) and 3 par 3’s on the back.  A par 4 with a very uphill second shot followed by a longish dogleg right par 4 starts the back nine off.  The only par 5 is 13, which features an elevated tee box to a tight tree-lined fairway.

13th hole at Needwood from the tee box.  Hit it long and hit it straight.

13th hole at Needwood from the tee box. Hit it long and hit it straight.

The 18th hole is everything a closing hole should be; a longish par 4 (420 yards) to a green protected by a lake to the right with the clubhouse, practice green and 1st tee in full view (which means your catastrophic failures are on display for any remotely interested party to watch).  In my case, I was able to get up and down from a tricky lie to save par which felt better than good.

18th hole at Needwood. Just be straight on both shots and don't think about the big lake front/right of the green.

18th hole at Needwood. Just be straight on both shots and don’t think about the big lake front/right of the green.

There’s a decent range (mats only), a good sized practice green, and there is also a 9-hole executive length course which is perfect for beginners or novice golfers (or anyone who just wants to play 9 holes).  They also have an indoor

Nobody is going to put Needwood on a ‘Best You Can Play’ list.   It certainly lacks a signature hole and the design, though classic, isn’t going to blow the socks off of anyone (it’s a classic, parkland style course).  With all that being said, what it does it does well.  A well maintained course (in spite of some fairly significant challenges this year) that offers plenty of challenge to most golfers that isn’t in the stratosphere cost-wise (I paid $64.99 to ride- of that, $15.00 was a cart fee) relatively speaking.  They have a snack bar which isn’t going to earn a Michelin Star but it serves its purpose.  They have an indoor studio open year-round and the last few years were offering indoor leagues on their simulator.

I had fun, and was able to  break 80 (which I haven’t done all year).  Sure- the course isn’t exactly a beast even from the tips (less than 6,300 yards from the tips), but I had fun and remembered all the things I love about this game.  That’s worth something.

NON Golf Commentary

Go Preds.

SONG OF THE DAY

London and Manchester have had a rough go of it.  Wishing both towns courage, peace, and hope.

This Smiths video has 2 songs; The Queen is Dead and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.  Some of their better work; jarring, beautiful, and imagery that runs the spectrum.  Not bad for 4 kids from Salford (a Manchester suburb) who weren’t together very long but while they were made songs that still hold up 30+ years later (and quite well).

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.

 

 

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.

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.

 

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