Tag: maryland golf (page 1 of 5)

DC Back in the Fold in a “Major” Way, and Tour Championship Insanity

Thoughts on another rainy day here while waiting to have a roofer perform leaks to my roof for the second week running:

The PGA of America rolled out a major announcement involving its championships and Congressional CC:

To borrow one of their old marketing terms, this is major.  Let’s go to the video:

KPMG LPGA Championship: 2022, 2027

Senior PGA Championship: 2025, 2033

Junior PGA Championship: 2024

PGA Club Professional Championship: 2029

PGA Championship: 2031

Ryder Cup: 2036

Staggering.  Badly needed.  I’ve written previously how the PGA Tour leaving this area with their revamped 2018-19 “wrap-around” season was one of the dumber things they’ve done (more on that later), and in comes the PGA of America with 8 championships to be held at Congressional.  That Keith Foster (h/t to Brandon Porath for letting me know about this) will ‘hopefully’ redo Congressional and undo much of Rees Jones’ work is the whipped cream and cherry on top of a delicious sundae.

Let’s start with the LPGA.  Their tour should be playing the best courses in the world (this includes majors).  They’ve played at Oakmont for a US Open (Christina Kim raved about Oakmont; good enough for me) and Pinehurst #2.  Pebble Beach should be on their rota of US Open venues.  The women can, and should be playing the same rota of courses as the men.  Their tour is more than capable and deserves it.

The Senior PGA comes back twice (RTJ is more than worthy if they want a venue in Virginia) and they get the same; iconic course in a big media market.

The Junior and PGA Club Professional events aren’t high-profile but holding them at Congressional is a nice signal that they want to upgrade the caliber of courses.  Good for them.

The PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup speak for themselves.  The Ryder Cup is very much a ‘one shot’ deal (not to get too far ahead but by September (please let September be dry that year) of 2036 Patrick Reed will be 46, Rory McIlroy will be 47 which is that sweet spot for captains).   Assuming the PGA Championship doesn’t move off its new May slot, in DC May ‘can’ be really nice and is typically devoid of the swamp-ass humidity of summer (hopefully concurrent with a deep Capitals run to the Conference Final where they lose to my beloved Leafs while the Nationals get off to a roaring start).

Tour Championship:

The announcement today about changes for the 2019 Tour Championship are, at best, foolhardy and at worst, the single dumbest idea in professional sports.  From the Golfweek article:

The player who has the most FedEx Cup points after next season’s BMW Championship will start the first round of the 2019 Tour Championship with a score of 10 under par and a two-shot lead over the second-highest FedEx Cup point earner who will begin at 8 under. The player ranked third will start at 7 under, while the golfers who arrive at East Lake in fourth and fifth will start at 6 under and 5 under, respectively.  The next five players on the list will begin at 4 under par, with scores regressing by one shot for every five golfers until the players who enter the Tour Championship ranked between 26th and 30th start the events at even par on the first day.

Drinking bleach sounds better than this steaming turd.

I have spent two days trying to come up with anything remotely close to it in terms of a comparable.  The pro tennis tours wouldn’t let the #1 player start up 2-0 in the first set.  Track & field doesn’t let the fastest qualifier have a 10 meter head start.  No professional team sport lets a team start a game up in score over the other team.  You know who did this?

The original American Gladiators (the one that started in 1989).

Take that in.  The PGA Tour looked at American Gladiators and thought “hey, they’ve got something there.”

So that’s where professional golf is.  The obvious answer of having a match play Tour Championship doesn’t work for TV because they’re afraid of a bad final match-up (I’m just spit-balling here, but if your top 30 players can’t produce a decent final round that will get eyeballs, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of your marketing efforts).  So we’ll rule that out because of…reasons.

The other option is play a Wed-Sat 72 hole event, and the top 4 (or 6) make the Final Round; a one-round low-score wins it all deal (easy to market; 4 or 6 players, one round, low score wins the Tour Championship and the $15 million).  If you go to the top 6 and want to reward season-long excellence, give the top 1 (or 2) finishers in the standings an automatic berth in the Final Round.  A top seed earning a bye?  Yeah, there’s a ton of evidence showing this happening in other sports.  If you want to give the top seed something, let them pick who they play with in the Final Round and if they go out in the first or second group (maybe you pick a couple guys who you’re comfortable with rather than a couple guys you don’t get on with).

Another idea is a form of gradual elimination.  Start by playing 2 rounds of ‘qualifiers’ (like the first two rounds at most events) and let the top half advance into the next stage (giving the top 2 or 4 finishers an automatic bye into the next stage- their benefit after a long season is a less grueling path to the Final Round), and then have 2 rounds of single-round eliminations.  Say you get the top 30 whittled down after 2 days to the top 14 or 16.  Round 3 cuts it down to 10, round 4 cuts it to 6, and then the top 6 play a Final Round for everything.  It’s about elevating your game for the playoffs.  I’m pretty sure I’ve heard athletes talk about that before.

You could play the Tour Championship on the West Coast (nothing against East Lake) and finish in prime time on the East Coast on either Sunday or Monday (start on Golf Channel, switch to NBC).  It’s not like the TV landscape in late August is over-run with better options unless the orgy of so-called reality TV shows and reruns has some grand appeal.

The argument that is being made is down to what value does the regular season have?   Does being the best player over the course of a long season matter as opposed to a ‘playoff’ system that the Tour seems to want.  In team sports, it’s the team that performs best in the playoffs that wins the championship.  In the NFL, a 14-2 regular season record is great but teams have lost Super Bowls to teams with 9-7 records.  Is the 14-2 team better because of their record over a 17-week regular season or is a 9-7 team better because in the Super Bowl they were the better team on that day?  Note- either case has valid points.  What you can’t do is say to the 14-2 team that you’re going to start the Super Bowl up 14-0 over the 9-7 team.

That, dear reader, is what the PGA Tour is trying to do.  They want their Super Bowl, but they want to give the team with the best record a head start.  It’s a terrible idea; the Tour and its fans deserve better.

 

 

Let’s Play Two! A Guide to Golf and Minor League Baseball Day Trips in the DMV

Free stock photo of people, field, grass, crowd

After playing 18 (or 36) holes, few things are as enjoyable as a baseball game with a cold beer on a summer evening.

Now that our seemingly endless winter has ended, the DMV has shifted into Spring (i.e. All of the Pollen) mode, which means summer is right around the corner.  While I’d encourage anyone reading this to take a vacation (they’re awesome), for various reasons it’s hard for some people to take a lot of time off.   Sometimes, the best you can do is a day trip with your buddies.

One of the most enjoyable day trips you can do is to play golf by day, and catch a ballgame at night.  While Orioles and Nationals games are enjoyable, there’s a lot to be said for catching a minor league game.  Tickets are cheaper, you’ll sit closer to the action, and it’s generally a more relaxed vibe.  Luckily, there are multiple options for minor league baseball in the area, with outstanding golf options nearby.

Minor League Team: Potomac Nationals (Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals); Woodbridge, VA

Golf: Options are plentiful.  If you want to play courses in the ‘Best You Can Play’ tier, Potomac Shores is outstanding; you can read my review here.  It’s a real ‘member for a day’ experience.  Laurel Hill is close by and has hosted a USGA championship.  Not bad for a county-run course.  Another option at the higher end is Old Hickory; also in Woodbridge.  If you’re looking for something less costly and not as challenging, Lake Ridge is a 9-hole executive course.  Warning: Traffic on I-95 in Woodbridge is pretty much guaranteed to be awful.  Potomac Mills is there for any retail therapy you need.

Minor League Team: Frederick Keys (Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles); Frederick, MD

Golf: Options are very plentiful.  Musket Ridge is a top 10 you can play course that has one of the tougher opening holes in the area.  Whiskey Creek is also a top 10 ‘Best You Can Play’ that offers the ‘member for a day’ experience (and with the cost).  PB Dye is a Dye design close by that is a bit friendlier to your wallet.  Worthington Manor is another  top 10 ‘Best You Can Play’ course.  Maryland National is several miles west of Frederick and is a challenging and scenic layout.  A few miles south of Frederick has the outstanding Little Bennett.  Not a wallet crusher but a fantastic test that’s almost always in great shape, and the tee shot off the first hole definitely gets your attention.  The course used to be used for hosting the Monday Qualifier for the old Kemper/FBR Open.  Clustered Spires is a bit more wallet-friendly than the other courses listed; I’ve not played it so I’d say check online reviews before you go.

Minor League Team: Bowie Baysox (Class AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles): Bowie, MD

Golf: Options exist but not as numerous or close by as Frederick and Woodbridge/Potomac.  Oak Creek (in Upper Marlboro) is a decent upscale semi-private track.  Lake Presidential has been a bit up and down with respect to playing conditions (they addressed some of the issues on their blog last summer, so stay tuned).  The layout is one of the best in the area, but I haven’t played it in a few years and I’ve heard some pointed comments about how they’ve let the course go.  I’ve also heard they are in the process of making improvements, so I’d say look at recent reviews online before you book.  Renditions is similar; if the course is in good shape it’s a great place to play (the ‘Amen Corner’ holes are the pick of the bunch if you’re asking).  The “book” on Renditions is that they book way too many outings that tear the course up, but as with Lake Presidential, allegedly they’re trying to make some improvements.  At the lower end of the price range, Bowie Golf Club is close by and if nothing else a solid value.  The ballpark is right off US-301 which is a huge commuter artery.

Minor League Team: Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (independent); Waldorf, MD

Golf: Potomac Ridge is closed (Atlantic Golf lost Potomac Ridge to development, and South River near Annapolis to going private).  Waldorf isn’t that far from Upper Marlboro, so Oak Creek or Lake Presidential are your best options.

Minor League Team: Aberdeen Ironbirds (Short Season Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles); Aberdeen, MD

Golf: The list has to start with Bulle Rock in nearby Havre De Grace.  Easily the ‘Best You Can Play’ in the state.  My review of Bulle Rock goes into greater detail.  Mountain Branch is nearby and is a solid layout that’s usually in pretty good shape (I last played it in 2014 and it was in great shape then), but hearing a few rumblings so be warned.  A GPS or rangefinder is highly recommended.  Wetlands Golf Course is in Aberdeen and isn’t the wallet-buster than Bulle Rock is.  Well conditioned, decent layout.  The Ironbirds season starts on June 15th.

Minor League Team: Delmarva Shorebirds (Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles); Salisbury, MD (Eastern Shore)

Golf: Your best options for golf are in nearby Ocean City, which is one of the best places to play on the Eastern Seaboard.  I wrote a review about golf in Ocean City that is still accurate.  Note: summer in Ocean City is prime season so if you’re staying, expect to pay accordingly.  The Bay Bridge is a toll bridge (going to the Eastern Shore); Salisbury is a 2 1/2-3 hour drive from either Washington DC or Baltimore (longer on afternoons Thu/Fri, or Saturday mornings).  Warning; Salisbury is home to the Perdue chicken processing plant and the area has a distinct…let’s call it smell.  Ocean City is 30+ minutes from Salisbury.

SONG OF THE DAY:

Departing from golf, the World Cup starts next month in Russia.  It’s become something of a tradition for a band in England to write an official song for the England team (insert joke about futility, losing at penalties, etc.).  New Order were the high water mark of these, which they did for the 1990 World Cup.  Genius work.  They got several players to participate in the video shoot (most notably John Barnes and his ball-juggling and rap skills).  Probably the greatest music video marriage of sports and music.

 

 

 

 

The 2017 SGIC Plays Santa Awards You Didn’t Want

Screw cookies and milk. I prefer bourbon. And a dozen ProV1’s.

What a year it’s been in golf.  Until things went completely sideways for me, I was set to make my personal goal of playing in every month of a calendar year (so I’ll have to settle for 10 months).  Sergio won a major, Lexi got robbed of one through a call-in rules violation, Jordan Spieth won a crazy Open Championship, Justin Thomas won a major and the FedEx Cup, the US won the Presidents Cup, Lexi won the CME Race to the Globe, and there’s optimism of another comeback from Tiger Woods (he fired his coach last night so there’s that).

Breakfast of Champions. Accept no substitutes.

If it’s late December and close to Christmas, it’s time for my annual Single Golfer In Cart (SGIC) plays Santa day!  Unfortunately I can’t claim it has the cult following of Drew Magary’s annual Haters Guide To The Williams Sonoma Catalog.

After having given this much thought (a few glasses of whiskey), I’ve put on my Santa costume while Santa is delivering presents to good boys and girls and have decided to grant some wishes throughout the world of golf (a mix of local folks in the DMV and on the pro tours).  These gifts aren’t returnable, by the way.  Suck it up.

For Jason Day you’re getting a copy of “Pace of Play and You” which I’d politely suggest you put to use.  I know you’ve had a rough year but you make early 2000’s Sergio Garcia look fast.

For Golf Channel, Santa is giving you the rights to air “Dead Solid Perfect” which remains the finest golf movie ever made.  Every time I have to see Matt Damon or Shia Leboeuf swing a golf club I fear for my own swing.  And seriously, can you air these films unedited?  You’re a cable channel so you’re not under some FCC bullshit decency coda.  Please.

Lake Presidential Golf Club, you’re getting improved playing conditions.  I know you made some improvements but some trusted spies say it’s still not great.  Earn that top-10 “best you can play’ ranking Golfweek keeps giving you.

Phil Mickelson, Santa has decided to give you that US Open win you keep asking for as long as you agree to go immediately into the booth when you finish playing and agree to be the same candid self you are now.

Golfweek Magazine, I’m getting you a new crop of raters.  Your “best you can play” lists are fairly stagnant.  Also, start showing actual reviews and speak to the methodology.

Worthington Manor Golf Course, Santa is giving you intermediate rough.  Use it.  You’re a great track, but seriously- embrace intermediate rough.

The LPGA was very good this year so you’re getting a few things.   Santa is getting you your own video game.  Also, some of your tournaments are getting new formats (a 6-hole event, a 2-player team event, a Stableford event, and a match play event or two).  Lastly, you’re getting a partnership with Top Golf to help get young people exposed to your products.

Timbers at Troy golf course, Santa is giving you improved drainage.  Your course still drains at the rate an 85-year old man pees.  The new bunkers look great.  Do something about the drainage.  I’ve played there on dry mornings when we haven’t had rain for 2 weeks and it’ll still be squishy fairways.  Or stop overwatering.  Seriously.  Do something about it.

The PGA Tour is getting a map of the DMV from Santa.  You’ll notice Virginia, DC and Maryland.  Look at the population, average income, and ask yourselves why you insist on jobbing this area as often as you do.  I mean, the LPGA doesn’t get closer than Williamsburg or Atlantic City.  The area event has constantly been plagued by a litany of issues, and yet every year people show up in large numbers.

The Guys Who Call In To Report Rules Violations are getting a lump of coal, a beating with a bag of hammers and a kick in the groin.  Stop it.  You’re not a rules official, so just stick to watching.

Brandel Chamblee is getting his own “hot talk” or talking head show from Santa.  First guest is Jason Duffner.  I don’t mind Brandel being a bit of a bomb thrower; it’s better than everyone unafraid to have a controversial opinion.

The USGA and the R&A are both getting pocket dictionaries from Santa.  If you turn to the page I’ve flagged, please read the definition for the word Bifurcation.  Study it.  Memorize it.  Live it.  Roll back the ball for the US Open and Open Championship.  The women don’t need this, nor do 99% of golfers.  And while you’re doing that, we’re getting rid of the OB rule for us mortals.  Play it as a lateral hazard.  No more walking back and hitting 3 from the tee.

Last, and certainly not least, Santa is giving local courses a short winter, a good growing season, and a 2018 playing season that runs into December.  And for all of the marshals, teaching professionals, superintendents and their staffs, Santa wishes all of you a very Merry Christmas (or the holiday of your choosing) and a prosperous 2018.

SONG OF THE DAY

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame continues to ignore some highly influential bands and everything that came out of the 80’s New Wave era.  Duran Duran, The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, and Depeche Mode hold up incredibly well.  Three decades later you still have kids ‘discovering’ this music.  At some point they’re going to run out of mediocre old white dude bands and start to induct the New Wave era bands.  Now would be an ideal time.

Good Things Come In Threes (or more)

Torrey Pines (South) 3rd hole.  Nothing is needed here except you.

Torrey Pines (South) 3rd hole. Nothing is needed here except you.

Despite the fact that the 2017 season has all but ended here in the DMV, your faithful scribe is still chugging along.  This blog came from inspiration from two of the people I follow on Twitter who deserve a generous concession; Mike at 36 a day and Beltway Golfer; two fine folks whose work is always worth a read (and if the Beltway Golfer (BG) is reading this and needs a partner to play at Congressional my DM’s are open, and I’m only begging a little bit).

It was Mike who posed the question about best 3-hole stretches for courses in Canada (I’ve not played outside Ontario so as much as I’d like to write 5,000 words about Cabot and Highlands Links I can’t do so with any level of knowledge) that got me thinking, and BG for pointing out (correctly) that Arthur Hills has done some fantastic projects in the area.  I’ll admit I’m not a subject matter expert on golf architecture, although if asked I’d lean in favor of people who don’t try to fit courses in areas they don’t work and letting the land dictate how the course will look (so I suppose I’m a minimalist).

But Mike’s question got me thinking; what are the toughest (my extrapolation) 3-hole stretches in the area among public courses here in the DMV?  As always, I took some time to ponder this by looking at reviews I’ve written, made a few overtures, and did some research (research is what I call “drink two double scotches”, if you’re curious), and put together a list.  I haven’t played every course in the DMV so take that with a grain of salt, but from courses I’ve played these are the toughest stretches I’ve encountered.

  • Blue Mash (Holes 1-3): As tough of a opening stretch as any course in the area.
  • Bulle Rock (Holes 16-18): A tight par 4, a par 3 over a hazard, and a par 4 with water left the whole way.
  • Fairway Hills (Holes 16-18): A tight and long par 4 1/2, a par 3 over water and a par 5 straight uphill.
  • Rum Pointe (Holes 16-18): Three tough holes with water in play, and a closer with a well-protected green.
  • Lighthouse Sound (Holes 5-7): Two toughies and the signature hole along the bay.
  • Potomac Shores (Holes 7-9): Looks easy on the card.  It’s not.  The 9th alone can wreck a card.
  • PB Dye (Holes 14-16): A not-easy par 3 and two sneaky-brutal par 4’s.
  • UMD Golf Course (Holes 11-13): A long par 3 over a hazard, a tight par 4, and a sneaky-hard par 5 (holes 1-3 are no slouches either).
  • Waverly Woods (holes 12-14): Par 4 with a carry over a ravine to an uphill green, a long par 3 to a well protected green and a long par 4.
  • Worthington Manor (holes 1-3): two forced carries off the tee to well protected greens and a long par 4 with a second shot over a hazard.  No easy start here.

TIGER, TIGER, TIGER

I believe I’m legally required by the Golf Blogger Regulations Handbook (2017 version) to write about Tiger Woods’ latest comeback (this weekend at the not-at-all ironically named Hero Challenge).

How many of these comebacks has he had (looks at old results)?  Haven’t we been down this road before?  Oh, wait, this time is different.  Oh, the same dirge was being uttered last year (remember that 2nd round 65 he fired last year at this event?) before it went off the rails.  And the time before that, and the times before that.  So you’ll excuse me if I don’t turn into a mouth-breathing goober over this.

Except this time, he’s coming out of legal trouble (he plead guilty to reckless driving in late October) and drug rehab, which his enablers and fanboys (of which there are far too many) would very much like to sweep under the rug and pretend it never happened.  Except that it did.  Part of being an adult is making choices.  Choosing to hoover up a bunch of pills and go for a drive at some ungodly hour is a choice (it’s not like he had no way to get home; he could have called any number of his enablers and they’d have driven him home).

Was he taking painkillers last year during this event or at the start of the year?  I’ve no idea, and without proof you’d have to give him the benefit of the doubt (nobody has asked him if he’s taking anything now, which seems a fair and reasonable question).  Or, everyone just kind of puts their head in the sand and pretends everything’s peachy keen jelly bean.

Having said all of that, he’s the greatest talent of generations and has a record of on-course accomplishments that may never be touched (at one point he held all 4 major championships and the Players Championship at the same time).  Winning the US Open and the Open Championship at two of the most well-known courses in the world (Pebble Beach, Old Course) in the dominating fashion he won them in is unlike anything we may ever see again.

I suppose it is possible that this time will somehow be different, but I’m still skeptical.  If he can, it’ll be a great story and would certainly ‘move the needle’ as the marketing people like to say.  But even as he’s playing a practice round, I’m waiting to see how he holds up over multiple tournaments.  Just because it would be a great story doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.  So I’ll hold my powder for now.

SONG OF THE DAY

Something to get you going when you need a pick-me-up.  Ready to go run through that wall now.

The Next 10 Best You Can Play

Uphill par 3 eighth hole at PB Dye.  One of my "next 10 best you can play" courses.

Uphill par 3 eighth hole at PB Dye. One of my “next 10 best you can play” courses.

If you’re like me, you eagerly look forward to the spring when Golfweek magazine publishes their annual ‘Best You Can Play’ list for each state.  Their 2017 list appears here however like far too many websites, they have auto-play video and audio that made me want to punch my laptop (seriously- if your website has this make it stop for everyone’s benefit), so if you don’t want have that torture subjected to you, below is Golfweek’s 2017 list for Maryland:

  1. Bulle Rock
  2. Lodestone
  3. Links at Lighthouse Sound
  4. Lake Presidential
  5. Whiskey Creek
  6. Musket Ridge
  7. Worthington Manor
  8. Hyatt Chesapeake Resort (River Marsh)
  9. Queenstown Harbour (River)
  10. Greystone

I have a few quibbles.  Playing conditions at Lake Presidential have been uneven at best and a couple folks I trust have said that while they have improved, I’m not sure it merits being ranked 4th.  Whiskey Creek is another.  When I played it I thought it was okay.  Not blow the doors off outstanding.  Good.   I thought that playing conditions at Worthington Manor were better and I think the layout is a better test (however it does not have a historical relic in the centre of the 18th fairway as a photo opportunity, and Whiskey Creek has that).

The ratings were done by Golfweek and their course raters (and for the record I’m not a Golfweek rater, nor do I play one on television however in full disclosure I am a subscriber to their magazine).

Looking at this list the other night got me thinking (which can be a dangerous thing) about the best of the rest.  Being opinionated and being someone who tries (when possible) to be an advocate for golf in the state, I decided to pour myself some thinking juice (otherwise known as scotch) and ponder a ‘next 10 best you can play’ in lieu of playing this weekend (Friday and Saturday’s rains meant everything’s pretty soggy and not exactly my idea of fun).  It was hard.  It took two glasses, 30 minutes, and what came of this was a list of courses that I’d gladly offer up as good examples of that ‘next tier’ of great courses in the state.  Rather than rank them I’m going to list them in the order I wrote them down and a comment or two about each one.  Feel free to disagree.

  1. Blue Mash: Why this isn’t in their top 10 amazes me.  Fantastic layout with the toughest stretch of opening holes in the region.
  2. Rum Pointe: Underrated Dye designed course near Ocean City.  Half the price of Lighthouse Sound.
  3. Little Bennett: At one point it was used for Monday Qualifying for the old Kemper Open.  Still a solid test and almost always in great shape.
  4. Northwest Park: Always in great shape.  Classic parkland-style course holds up to big hitters and shorter hitters alike.
  5. Waverly Woods: Blue Mash sister course is the best public course in Howard County.  Period.
  6. UMD Golf Course: Former Nationwide Tour Stop. Everything public golf should be.  I’m not saying this because She Who Is Really In Charge is a Maryland alum, I’m saying it because it’s a fantastic track that’s a challenge but playable.
  7. Maryland National: Fantastic layout just west of Frederick.  Bring plenty of ammo.
  8. Queenstown Harbour (Lakes): Same great conditions as the River course.
  9. PB Dye: Playing conditions have improved.  A few odd holes but overall a great layout
  10. GlenRiddle (Man O’War): Solid layout on the eastern shore that features bermuda tees and fairways.

Hurricanes

If you’re inclined, ABC has put together a list of ways to donate if you want to help out the people in Texas.  I donated through the Houston Humane Society (they have a wish list on Amazon of things they need).

Here’s hoping Irma will stay far, far away from North America and go out to sea and become a fish storm.

Greystone Course Review and a chance to meet SGIC!

From the 2nd hole at Greystone.  A good time to be long and straight.

From the 2nd hole at Greystone. A good time to be long and straight.

As part of my goal to play more courses in Baltimore in 2017, I took a trip up into northern Baltimore County yesterday (August 19th) to play at Greystone Golf Course (located in White Hall, which is north of Hunt Valley for those interested).  Greystone is part of the Baltimore County Revenue Authority portfolio of courses (similar, it seems, to the Montgomery County Golf courses).

3rd hole at Greystone. A long par 3 to clear a hazard and land on a severely sloped green.  The morning mist, combined with the sun coming up made for interesting light conditions.

3rd hole at Greystone. A long par 3 to clear a hazard and land on a severely sloped green. The morning mist, combined with the sun coming up made for interesting light conditions.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Greystone beyond having seen it listed in Golfweek Magazine’s ’10 Best You Can Play’ list by state on several occasions (it’s ranked #10 in their 2017 list).  From my humble abode in Columbia it’s an hour drive up to the course.  Not the easiest place in the world to find, but credit to them for having ample signage along the way (strongly prevent having directions or using a GPS).

7th hole at Greystone.  Lay up and then a long 2nd shot over a hazard to a tough green.  Whee!

7th hole at Greystone. Lay up and then a long 2nd shot over a hazard to a tough green. Whee!

Having finished, I can see why it earns the praise it does and it further shows that a municipally-run course can be well taken care of and hold its own against privately-run courses.

18th hole at Greystone.  Still a long ways to go.  Very much a 3-shot par 5.

18th hole at Greystone. Still a long ways to go. Very much a 3-shot par 5.

WHAT I LIKED:

  1. Five sets of tees.  So many courses only have 3 or 4 sets.  They had five sets.  From the tips it’s just under 7,000 yards and from the forward (red) tees it’s 4,800 yards.  I played the front nine with a husband and wife (she was playing from the red tees and enjoying herself and finding plenty of challenge and opportunity).
  2. Conditions.  The hot, humid and spate of strong thunderstorms that we’ve had must be a nightmare for superintendents and it seems like this year has had its own unique challenges.  So full credit to the maintenance staff for their work.  Greens rolled true.  Fairways were in good shape but the turf was probably in need of a trim so not exactly playing firm and fast, but they were consistent.  Rough was, for the most part, thick and lush.
  3. Yardage poles.  I know that this is a bit of controversy for some, but I like them.  For one, it helps people determine yardages since not everyone carries a GPS device/watch or a rangefinder.  Second, it helps someone see how the fairway is laid out (especially on semi-blind tee shots).
  4. Five par 3’s, five par 5’s.  Don’t see this very often.  Both nines start with a par 5.  The par 3’s vary quite a bit in length (white tee lengths listed) from 130-175 yards (when I played it ran from 120-195 yards).  The closing hole (572 yards from the tips, 541 from the white tees) is a 3-shot deal.  Three of the par 5’s are under 500 yards from the white tees.
  5. Not a lot of housing.  With the exception of a couple holes on the back nine, you don’t see any housing.  It’s pure golf.
  6. A nice sign in the pro shop and a nice link on their website about their aerification schedule.   Well done.
  7. Pro shop was well stocked and had the kind of things you’d expect to find.
  8. Everyone I met that worked there was friendly.  Guy in the pro shop was nice; the guys in the staging area dealing with carts and getting people off were nice enough as well.  I’d also comment that since I left my glove (I do typically go to a new one after 6-8 rounds, so sue me for that) at home I had to buy one there; not sure what it says when the one I buy at a course is $4.00 cheaper than at a retail store beyond thanks for not ripping me off.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

  1. Cart path only.  The fairways and roughs weren’t wet other than from overnight dew.  Not spongy a bit.  I understand the par 3’s and hole 15 (tight, tree-lined, clearly doesn’t get a lot of sun) but otherwise I’m not sure about this.  They didn’t get that much rain the night before (according to the NWS).  It really slows pace of play up.  If it were wet I’d understand, but it wasn’t that wet.
  2. Didn’t see a beverage cart all day.  Water stations weren’t plentiful.  I don’t expect courses to have the holy shrines of ice/water machines like Potomac Shores (TPC Potomac also has them) has, but seeing a beverage cart would be nice.  It was warm and humid.  For a course that does a lot of things well, this struck something of an odd note.   Trying to finish quickly I didn’t make a stop at the turn, so I can’t comment on that.  If you do go, you can hit the clubhouse after the 4th, 9th, and 18th hole.
  3. Cart paths were pretty beat up.  Don’t think anyone’s going to talk about how great the asphalt is.  Excusable given the conditions of the fairways and greens.

IF YOU GO

  1. Give yourself plenty of time to get there and to come back.  Traffic on the Baltimore Beltway (I-695) rivals its DC cousin, and I-83 can be less than fun.
  2. You don’t need to bring 2 dozen balls but don’t show up with a sleeve and think that’ll get you through the day.  There’s enough holes with forced carries and hazards to give most players pause for thought.
  3. Some of the bunkers are pretty deep so be good with that 56-58 degree sand wedge.
  4. There’s not really much of anything near the course (probably 4-5 miles south on MD-45 until you hit what appears to be civilization).
  5. Have directions.  Once you make the turn from MD-45 for the street to the course, it’s a several miles of 1-lane (in each direction) road.  Watch out for deer and other drivers.
  6. You don’t need to be long, but accuracy is rewarded.
  7. Someone chop that damn tree near the tee on the 8th hole.  Please.

OVERALL

Greystone is a great challenge for most golfers including single digit handicappers.  It’s not quite on the par of a Bulle Rock or Worthington Manor but for a county-run course it’s outstanding.  If it were in Howard County I’d put it on a par with Waverly Woods and above Timbers at Troy or the CA courses.  In short, go.

 

MY PUBLIC DEMANDED IT

Okay, that’s probably not true (and by probably I mean ‘in no way’) but barring an emergency I’ll be making an appearance on Monday, August 21st at the HoCoBlogs event at BareBones Grill in Ellicott City.  Watch me attempt to eat food without spilling on myself.  Watch me consume alcohol.  Listen to me have terrible opinions about golf.  Watch me interact with other bloggers (sorry folks, but She Who Is Really In Charge will not be there- someone has to take care of the dog).

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.

 

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