Tag: PGA Tour (page 1 of 5)

When You Are The Slow Play Problem

Last weekend’s Farmers Insurance Open should have been remembered for Tiger Woods returning to competitive golf and posting a better-than-expected finish in the top 30 and Jason Day winning in a 6-hole playoff that finished on Monday due to darkness on Sunday night.  Unfortunately, what most die-hard types are talking about are the beyond-ridiculous four minutes and ten seconds it took for JB Holmes to play his second shot on 18 on Sunday.

You read this correctly; it took JB four minutes and ten seconds to play one shot.  For the record, if someone I got stuck playing with pulled this, they’re getting left behind.

Golf already has a litany of issues; adding a televised slow play meltdown at a time when CBS was cutting into their coverage of the Grammy Awards was at best terrible.  When Jim Nantz calls you out on live TV (he might have had an early dinner reservation for all I know, but still) for slow play, there’s a problem never mind all the people who wanted to watch the Grammy Awards getting pissed His fellow tour pros called him out on Twitter (calling him in his face en masse afterwards would have been preferable).  The final threesome took six hours to finish and finished more than a hole and a half behind the group in front of them (at most public courses you’d have the marshal/player assistant/golf police drop the hammer).  People wonder why slow play is a problem; it’s because people see this on TV and when they go to their local course they do the same crap (glacial pace of play, taking forever to read a green when putting, etc.).

Making matters worse, Holmes responded with something along the lines of not knowing he had a homework assignment due.  He didn’t know how long he was taking was his actual excuse, which is some straight up bad etiquette.  Again, pull this at any public course and the other people in your group and the marshal/ranger is going to light you up (and they should).

The solution is simple; the rules say it’s 40 seconds to pull a club and complete your shot.  Two warnings, then a stroke penalty.  Anything longer than 60 seconds is an automatic stroke penalty.  Three stroke penalties in a tournament and it’s an automatic DQ.  Two DQ’s in a season and you’re ineligible for the FedEx Cup Playoffs.  Three and you lose your card and are ineligible for sponsor exemptions.  Make Ready Golf mandatory for PGA Tour events.  I’d go so far as to set a daily time par based on the course, weather conditions, and how early/late the player goes out and make finishing outside a threshold of the time par a stroke penalty.  Until you start hitting players where it hurts (on their scorecard, making them ineligible for playoffs and losing their Tour card), you’ll see the same crap every week.

SONG OF THE DAY

NOW IS THE TIME ON SPROCKETS WHEN WE DANCE.

Your 2018 Majors (and other) Predictions

Your faithful scribe, hard at work.

Now that 2017 is in the rear view mirror and everyone looks at the 2018 season, it’s time to make some (likely wrong) predictions.  First, let’s take a look at my 2017 majors predictions.

NOT Better Than Most.

 

Event My Prediction Actual Winner
Masters Phil Mickelson Sergio Garcia
US Open Rory McIlroy Brooks Koepka
Open Championship Shane Lowry Jordan Spieth
USPGA Championship Dustin Johnson Justin Thomas
ANA Inspiration Christina Kim Ryu So-Yeon
US Womens Open Brooke Henderson Sung Hyun Park
LPGA Championship A. Jutanugarn Danielle Kang
Womens Open Championship Gerina Piller In-Kyung (IK) Kim
Evian Championship Lydia Ko Anna Nordqvist

That’s pretty bad.  In fact, it’s downright terrible.  I wasn’t remotely close.  As much as I’d like to run from this, I can’t.  I could sit here and wallow in my failure and go crawl into a hole to cry softly, or I could knock back a few drinks and take another stab at things.  As with other things, I’m choosing the option involving drinking.  To borrow an old line, the use of these picks as the means for making a wager is, at best, foolhardy and at worst plain stupid.

Masters Tournament:

The “root for the story” pick: Either Rory McIlroy or Tiger.  McIlroy needs a green jacket to complete the career grand slam and Tiger in the hunt on Sunday would move the needle unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory.  For the record, I don’t know what to think about Tiger’s latest comeback, because frankly we’ve heard this same stuff before.  As of this writing he hasn’t hit a ball in anger in 2018 yet so I’ve no clue about this comeback.

The thinking man’s pick: Dustin Johnson can overpower this course (or anywhere else, really) unlike anything we’ve seen.  If he’s healthy and his putter is working he’s the favorite.  What happened last year (getting injured and having to WD) was incredibly unlucky.  If Jason Day is healthy (and that’s a HUGE if) he’s got the game to win here.

My pick: Six first-time winners in the last seven years (which underlines how hard it is to win a major with so many very good players out there).  I think this continues in 2018 and Jon Rahm wins.  He has the length and I like his short game.  First timers often struggle.  This will be his second Masters.

US Open (Shinnecock):

The “root for the story” pick: Phil Mickelson. Another ‘should have’ from the last time they were here.  The USGA managed to cock up the course by being unable to read a weather forecast and turned the greens into concrete.  They have an entire year to properly set up a golf course for the national championship and manage to screw up more often than not.  If he’s in contention and wins this is THE story of 2018 unless Tiger wins Augusta by 10, and the other majors by 5+ strokes.  It completes the career grand slam for him and gives him the ultimate sendoff.

The thinking man’s pick: Jordan Spieth.  Wind won’t bother him and he’s already won a US Open on a similar course.

My pick:  Your previous winners at Shinnecock are Raymond Floyd, Corey Pavin and Retief Goosen.  Not bombers but guys who can think their way around a course.  I’m going to go out on a big ass limb and predict either Justin Thomas or Rickie Fowler (I think this is the year he finally wins a major).

Open Championship (Carnoustie):

The “root for the story” pick: Either Sergio (should have won in 2007), Tommy Fleetwood or Ian Poulter.

The thinking man’s pick: Justin Rose.  He’s got the game to win, and he was probably unlucky to have not won in Augusta last year.  Paul Casey seems to have found his game.

My pick: Your previous winners at Carnoustie are Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie, so the sample size is really difficult.  The weather is always a factor; bad weather on the first two days can easily knock out half the field so it’s really a bit of a lottery.  Having said that, the R&A don’t get worked up about protecting par.  If the winning score is 17 under then fine; if the wind blows and it’s 5 over, then that’s okay as well.  A lot of first-time winners of recent memory and a lot of Americans winning, but not at Carnoustie.  I think this continues.  I think it’ll be a non-US first-timer that wins.  Rafa Cabrera Bello has the length, he played well last year at Birkdale.

US PGA Championship (Bellrieve):

The root for the story pick: Jordan Spieth needs a US PGA Championship to complete the career grand slam.

The thinking man’s pick: Rickie Fowler is way overdue.  Patrick Reed fits the profile of a young American first-time winner and I think he’ll contend.

My pick: First-time major winners galore.  This will be the last US PGA Championship held in August (thankfully); and of course they’re going into the St. Louis area (so expect horrible heat, humidity and likely thunderstorms).  I’ve advocated that the PGA get the hell out of middle America and look West, but they don’t seem to be able to do this.  I’m going with Charley Hoffman who will come out of a competitive and muddled pack to eke out a win.

RYDER CUP:

Unlike a certain writer who thinks we’re into some gilded age of American dominance, I’m not ready to hang the bunting just yet.  The ugly truth is that it’s been 25 years since an US team won in Europe.  I think Europe wins a very closely contested Ryder Cup.

 

 

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.

Giving Thanks in 2017

Being able to play in the desert is always worth giving thanks.

Being able to play in the desert is always worth giving thanks.

It’s been a few weeks since I updated my blog; after returning from the desert a few weeks ago, things have been less than ideal on several levels.  I’ll spare you the details, but it’s been the things that nobody should ever have to endure.  If you’d have told me on October 25th after getting up and down for a 79 that I wouldn’t touch a club at all in November I’d have thought you were crazy (I guess it’s for the best that the weather has been uncooperative).

So it’s from there that I wanted to pause for a moment and offer up some holiday thanks (since this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving in the US; if you’re curious She Who Is Really In Charge and I will be having a quiet dinner) to some people in the golf world who deserve it.

To the LPGA, thanks for providing a blueprint on how to grow the game and engage fans.  It’s a travesty that all four rounds of their Tour Championship this past weekend weren’t being shown live on TV (bump it to USA Network or MSNBC if needed; surely a bunch of USA Network reruns of NCIS and whatever “Prison Lockup” show MSNBC is showing could be bumped to show live golf).

To the USGA and the R&A, thank you for making progress towards simplifying the rules.  I still argue that bifurcation is the way forward with the rules (and equipment) but you’re making an effort.

To all of the local maintenance staffs, superintendents, starters and people who work at golf courses, thank you.  Profusely.  While it’s all good and well to thank the local teaching professionals (and they do great work), if you didn’t have maintenance people doing what they do at zero dark hour things wouldn’t be that much fun for us.  They get next to no credit and blamed for pretty much anything and everything.  Yes, putting on punched greens isn’t fun but it’s punching them that keeps them in great shape.

To Golf Channel, thanks for ensuring I never go more than a week or so without a rerun of the Golf Movie Trinity (Caddyshack, Tin Cup, Bagger Vance).  Can you maybe air the unedited/non-condensed versions after 11pm?  Just a request (and while we’re at it, could you possibly acquire the rights to Dead Solid Perfect which remains the greatest golf movie nobody’s ever seen).

To Alan Shipnuck, thanks for writing a terribly-sourced piece of click-bait on the supposed impending dominance of the Americans in the Ryder Cup.  A US team that has exactly one win on European soil in 35 years (I distinctly remember reading about how the Americans were going to be dominant with Tiger as their anchor; didn’t quite work out that way) should probably avoid talk of a dynasty just yet.  I’m not saying the US doesn’t have what could potentially be a great core of the team, but things happen (Anthony Kim anyone?).  Call me old fashioned but i prefer to actually WIN before pounding my chest.  And while it’s all good and well to point out what a folly it was to have Tom Watson captain the 2014 side I remember reading dozens of pieces about how he’d be the steady hand on the tiller (didn’t quite work out that way).  I also read stories galore about US dominance before the 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2012 matches.

Thanks to the PGA Tour for doing your dead-level best to ensure the DMV doesn’t have a tour stop anytime soon.  The level of support the events here get despite every attempt to let them fail is nothing short of amazing.  The weather issues this event has dealt with (going back to the old Kemper Open days) look like end-of-days stuff.  And yet, people come out in droves to volunteer, buy tickets, attend events, and watch with amazement.

Thanks to our local golf retailers for continuing to fail to stock my size in clothing and footwear and saving me from having to fight traffic in hopes of finding something.  When you wonder “why is retail dying?” see me quietly buying stuff online because I literally don’t have any other options.  When the inevitable fail happens, a lot of good and decent people will lose their jobs as a result.  Please start catering to a wider audience.  Or don’t.  I can literally update my blog and buy a pair of shoes at the same time while enjoying a couple scotches.

To my friend Real Name Redacted, thanks for putting up with my admitted insanity and more-than-occasional OCD behavior (I could write 500 words about tee colour, towel usage and why #2 balls are bad luck and that’s not even my top 5) as we trek all over the DMV to play golf (I may seem normal, but I’m most decidedly not).  It’s been fun seeing you go from curious enthusiast to full-blown addict and putting a unique spin on the Circle of Trust.

Photo from GNNstore.com

Somebody’s Christmas gift available at gnnstore.com

To my putters who’ve endured unspeakable insults and threats, thank you for not rising up in the middle of the night to attack me.  If having conversations with my putters and giving them rum and cigars is wrong, then maybe I don’t want to be right.  Worked for Cerrano in ‘Major League’ so why not, I say.

This may or may not be me before I tee off, trying to wake up my putter.

This may or may not be me before I tee off, trying to wake up my putter.

To all the people who are on Golfchat on Twitter on Tuesday nights, thanks for sharing your insights, opinions, and perspectives.  It’s interesting to hear from other people and learn from their experiences on this game we all love.  We may not agree on every issue but it from hearing each other, maybe we learn something we didn’t fully understand prior.

Best wishes for an enjoyable Thanksgiving if that’s your thing; otherwise thanks as always for reading.

SONG OF THE DAY

For a lot of reasons, this song always brings me back to a happier place.  I’ll pause from my current state of affairs to give thanks, and one small reason is this song which brings a lot of happy memories.

 

FootJoy Hyperflex II 30-Round Review

When it comes to shoes I’m fickle.  I have wide feet with high arches, and unlike most people I don’t pronate (I under-pronate or supinate).  So buying golf shoes can be a bit of a challenge at best.

My new Footjoy Hyperflex 2 Golf Shoes. From the top.

My new Footjoy Hyperflex 2 Golf Shoes. From the top.

I don’t have the Adidas shoes currently (if they made golf shoes in a EEE Width (they don’t) I’d probably buy from them since the one pair I bought was great save for the fact it wasn’t wide enough).  If your feet are normal width they have some fantastic looking product.

For me, I’ve had my best luck with Footjoy.  Not because they give me anything or because they’re nice people (they may well be) but because their product fits my foot and is comfortable.  I got 4 very productive years out of their old XPS-1 shoes (ask your parents, kids) before they started coming apart.   I tried a pair of New Balance shoes (lightweight, but not a lot of ventilation (my feet would be incredibly sweaty after a round)) and didn’t care for them at all, so this past March I went back to Footjoy.

After emailing their customer service team, they recommended the Hyperflex II as the closest thing to my beloved XPS-1’s.  Placed an order, and within a few days they showed up at my house.

From the bottom.  A lot of yellow, and a lot of fantastic grip on turf.

From the bottom. A lot of yellow, and a lot of fantastic grip on turf.

I’ve held off doing a review because initial reviews are rarely that good; most newer golf shoes are well made so they should easily hold up out of the box.  But what about after 30 rounds over the majority of a season?  Would they still feel good in October the same way they do in late March?  Read on.

Comfort:  Outstanding. When I first put them on they felt better than any golf shoes I’d ever worn before.  Slipped right on without any issues.  The last time I wore them a week ago, they still feel great.  Haven’t had any blisters or sore feet after rounds (used to have issues with my New Balance shoes).  The white cushioning is firm (good for bigger lads like myself) without being overly plush.  Even after 30 rounds they still feel good.  The cushioning hasn’t broken down and other than the spikes starting to wear down (expected) they feel as good as they did out of the box.

From the side. The white portion has firm cushioning yet is stable. Bravo.

From the side. The white portion has firm cushioning yet is stable. Bravo.

Waterproofing: Above average.  Morning rounds in dewy/wet conditions haven’t been an issue nor have a couple rounds in light/moderate rain.

Grip: Outstanding.  I’ve never slipped, and even going down steep hills I’ve never had an issue with the shoes.  They have replaceable soft-spike cleats which for the most part don’t leave a big impression on the greens.

Stability: Above average. The soles flare out a bit (it’s one of the things I loved about my XPS-1 shoes) but not that much.  I’d like it if they flared out more (I have a tendency to roll my ankle a bit in my downswing) but that’s my only quibble and it’s a minor one.

Look: Average.  They’re golf shoes.   They’re not a traditional wing-tip or a saddle shoe, but those seem to be going the way of the persimmon driver.  They’re not hideously ugly, they don’t look like Sketchers, and I like the yellow sole.

Overall: Outstanding.  I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive when I ordered these but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  It has some elements of a traditional golf shoe but with lightweight stability a

nd comfort that should be expected.  If you’re in the market for new kicks, you could do a hell of a lot worse.

Song of the Day:

Waking up to hearing about the events that happened in Las Vegas overnight was horrifying.

I have many happy memories of my visits to Las Vegas (I could probably write a novella about them); love, lust, great golf, bad decisions, and a host of other things.  This song always takes me back to a 1992 trip (back when I was living in Southern California).  Driving through the desert at sunset on a hot July evening and hearing this song on the radio.  A simpler time, when everything seemed possible.  The last 25 years have been a lot of things, but more than once I think about that car ride through the desert, hearing this song, and wondering but what if.

The Cocteau Twins were never a major commercial hit.  This is probably their most well-known song.  Always brings a smile to my face.  Hope it does the same to you.

 

 

Potomac Shores Course Review

When I think of Jack Nicklaus-designed courses, I think of private country clubs with members who enjoy their enclaves of solitude (Muirfield Village in Ohio comes to mind pretty quickly).  In that I’m decidedly not a member anywhere, I accepted that this was the way things were.  So when I heard about a Nicklaus-designed course down in Dumfries, VA named Potomac Shores being open to the public a couple years ago, I’ll confess I was interested (especially given Potomac Shores‘ rather interesting history).

Driving range & practice area at Potomac Shores.

Driving range & practice area at Potomac Shores.

There’s little question that if there was a Mount Rushmore for American golf architects that Nicklaus would be on it; the sheer volume of his work (I’m convinced if someone wanted a course on the moon that Nicklaus would not only design it but would incorporate his own style along with the natural contours of the moon) and that his work has become as much of a brand as anything else he touches (I haven’t had his ice cream yet but you know it’s probably good).

From the 1st tee at Potomac Shores. Not a handshake hole by any means.

From the 1st tee at Potomac Shores. Not a handshake hole by any means.

Rather than go hole-by-hole with some comments, I’ll separate this into a few different parts:

WHAT I LIKED:

  1. The course is more than playable for low, mid and high handicappers.  I play (not nearly enough but work and life get in the way) with a former colleague who plays to an index in the low 20’s, while my index is closer to 10.  I’m a bit longer off the tee and my years of practice around the greens pays off on occasion.  But you don’t have to be a low-digit handicapper to enjoy this course.  From the silver tees (that we played) it’s less than 6,000 yards but still plays to a 132 slope which is no pushover.  If your index is in the 20’s and you play from the gold tees (because you see just under 6,400 yards and think ‘piece of cake’) you’re going to be in for a long day (and by that, you may want to make sure you have plenty of balls).
  2. Fairways are generous but bad shots get punished.  It’s not impossible to put the ball in the fairway off the tee and leave yourself a decent chance to get the ball onto the green in regulation.  Which leads me to my next point…
  3. Greens are big and require accuracy.  Greens are often multi-tiered and being on the wrong side or wrong tier is, in some cases, worse than being off the green.
  4. Service.  Too many courses still fail to see golfers as customers.  Not the case here.  Everyone I ran into was unfailingly polite and hospitable.  The starter was competent and made us feel welcome.  The people in the pro shop were friendly and helpful.  The course is managed by Troon Golf if that matters to you.
  5. Ice water stations.  The day we played was quite hot and humid.  Being able to stop for a cup of ice water was pretty darn nice.  Makes you wonder why more courses don’t do this especially in the mid-Atlantic.
  6. Beverage cart.  It’s hot, and occasionally you want something besides ice water.  Saw the beverage cart twice (we went out early so I don’t expect to see them early on).  Can’t complain.
  7. Lack of houses.  Even though Potomac Shores is part of a larger housing development, it didn’t feel like it (in 4-5 years this may not be the case).  It felt like a course by itself that was adjacent to a housing development.  I played South River a few years ago (before it went private) and it felt like I was in someone’s backyard.
  8. Free range balls.  We paid $100 each to play which isn’t free.  Including range balls and use of their excellent practice facility is a nice touch.  The range (picture above) was country-club level nice.
  9. Conditions.  Despite the heat wave we were in, the course was, for the most part, in great shape (the photo below you can see some brown spots in the fairway but these were few and far between).
9th hole at Potomac Shores (their 'signature' hole).   Tee is more than a bit elevated.

9th hole at Potomac Shores (their ‘signature’ hole). Tee is more than a bit elevated.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

  1. The horse flies and other biting insects.   If you play here in the summer, bug spray is pretty much a requirement.  Not remotely kidding on this one.  On the scorching hot & humid day we played, you can tack sunscreen on.  Re-apply often.  A hazmat suit might not be a bad idea.
  2. Bunkers.  A few bunkers are good.  A lot is too many.  I know that Nicklaus uses them and that’s fine, but on two occasions I didn’t have a rake anywhere near the bunker.  For a place that does so many things right, this seemed odd.  Did Michael Greller come and take them or something?
  3. Sizes in the pro shop.  I’m big & tall and would occasionally like to come home with a souvenir beyond the logo ball.  I’d have happily handed over money for a shirt if they had one in my size.  I can’t be the only person who thinks this.  This happens a lot at higher-end courses (although if I’m being honest, She Who Is Really In Charge probably likes that I’m not throwing down $60 on a golf shirt with regularity).  But it would be nice to have it as an option.
  4. No GPS in carts.  Given that rangefinders and wearable devices are pretty common, having carts with GPS would help (especially for first-timers) especially with pace of play.  We were first out and finished in 3 hours 40 minutes playing as a foursome (we got paired up with a couple who were members).

IF YOU GO (AND YOU SHOULD):

  1. The course is right off I-95 just south of Potomac Mills.  If you don’t normally trek this way, traffic sucks.  I mean, it really sucks.  So give yourself plenty of time to get there (they have free range balls- did I mention this?).
  2. A yardage book isn’t a bad expenditure if they don’t have GPS on carts, because several holes are target variety and you can (and will) end up in trouble if you don’t know where to avoid.  Measurements are to the centre of the green, NOT to the pin (and the greens are huge so take heed).
  3. Play it forward.  I played from the silver tees and didn’t feel the least bit shame in doing so.  I prefer to hit short irons as approach shots rather than long irons and hybrids.   It’s more fun (not to brag but I made two birdies and should have had 1-2 more).
  4. The greens are huge.  Being on the right side of the green is a huge advantage.
  5. A couple holes have views of the Potomac river (notably from the 3rd tee).
  6. There are several holes that have lengthy rides between holes (even on a cart) so the course really isn’t a walker’s paradise.
Third hole at Potomac Shores. Pro tip: don't get too cute at cutting off the dogleg.

Third hole at Potomac Shores. Pro tip: don’t get too cute at cutting off the dogleg.

OVERALL:

To the best of my knowledge it’s the only Nicklaus designed course in the area that’s open to the public (if you can get on Creighton Farms contact me and I’ll be happy to join you).  I’m not a guru of golf architecture but this course is definitely a Nicklaus design.  Lots of elevated tees and greens, plenty of bunkers, and playable for a variety of levels.  Golfweek has it ranked in the top 10 for ‘Best You Can Play’ in their 2017 rankings for the state of Virginia if that matters to you.    Most importantly, I had a good time and I’d happily come back.  If you haven’t been, it’s worth the drive.

 

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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