Tag: maryland golf (page 1 of 5)

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.

 

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.

 

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