Tag: Pro shop

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.

 

Update on GolfTec Ellicott City

Good news; in short, Golftec Ellicott City is open.   Stopped at Coal Fire for pizza during lunch (I do enjoy their pies), and after we finished I popped over to see that they’re open (doors open, people inside).  They’re open 7 days a week as well (I’m not paid to endorse but I’m happy to see Howard County finally get a dedicated indoor facility specializing in lessons and club-fitting).

Photo from The Golfers Academy

This could be you!

Not for anything, but Golfweek has Golftec lesson packages in their 2016 Holiday Gift Guide (sort of like Oprah’s Favorite Things but for golfers) which, if you’re asking, is a far better gift idea for the discerning golfer than a sweater or some godforsaken golf-themed gift that will serve no purpose beyond dust collection.

As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, another fantastic gift for that discerning golfer is a dozen of their favorite balls.  Simple, and you can be assured they’ll get used.

 

 

Shoe Review- New Balance NBG2002

With the untimely demise and departure of my beloved Foot Joy XPS-1 shoes (damn you Foot Joy for discontinuing them), I was forced to look elsewhere for a new pair of shoes this year once the XPS shoes starting coming apart (to be fair, I had them for 3 years and wore them in a variety of conditions.

My options are limited because I have a very wide foot; I’ve had minimal luck with Adidas  (they were okay comfort wise but I wanted a more stable platform), so I started looking.  I’ve never had good luck with Nike (I bought a pair of their shoes 20 years ago and regretted it after one round- uncomfortable and two spikes came out mid-round) and Puma just feel terrible on my feet.

I’ve been a fan of the soft spikes since they came out, and trying on a pair of spikeless shoes, I immediately scratched this off my options.  Since I tend to play early morning rounds and given that we do get a bit of rain here, a spikeless shoe made no sense (I immediately began having concerns about safety and stability).  If I was going somewhere like Palm Springs or Scottsdale (dry areas that get little rain) I’d probably reconsider, but in our climate?  No thanks.

Seeing that New Balance were entering the golf shoe market, I was intrigued.  They make wide width sneakers that I’ve had decent luck with (currently I’ve leaned toward Asics but I still have a pair of New Balance shoes in rotation), so I did some digging.  They make a “minimal” shoe but my size and need for stability ruled that out pretty much immediately.

After some digging and research, I settled on the NBG2002 shoe (photo from New Balance) because they had it in a 4E width and it met my requirements.

New Balance 2002NBG shoes (photo New Balance)

New Balance 2002NBG shoes (photo New Balance)

I put them in rotation in late June, so the review is after a dozen rounds (a good sample size, it seems)

Comfort: Out of the box, the initial feel was very light and very comfortable.  There’s ample cushion.  They’re very light.  If you’re not used to this (and I wasn’t) it’s a bit of a pleasant surprise.  While I do ride when I play, as we know, you still end up doing a bit of walking.

Grip/support: The spike design isn’t bad (see photo below taken after 12 rounds).

Spike pattern (2 in the heel, 5 in the forefoot).

Spike pattern (2 in the heel, 5 in the forefoot).

The spikes provide plenty of grip in both flat and hilly lies as well as in the sand.  In terms of support, the base of the shoe isn’t as wide as my XPS-1 shoes were.  Ideally it would be wider but it’s not horrendously different.

Waterproofing: So far, the waterproofing has held up.  If I do have one complaint, the shoes aren’t that breathable compared to other shoes I’ve owned.  If you buy a pair and you keep them in a shoe bag, I HIGHLY recommend taking them out of the bag after your round and let them dry naturally.  They have held up in early morning rounds, but they do make my feet sweat something to beat the band.

Appearance: I’m something of a traditionalist when it comes to shoes, so you’ll never see me wearing the Rickie Fowler orange.  I don’t mind a bit of colour, but from the so-called “mirror test” I’m happy with how these look.  My photos don’t really show it but I like the tone-on-tone hexagonal motif (the first picture from New Balance picks it up).

Side View NBG2002.  The yoga mat is not mine.

Side View NBG2002. The yoga mat is not mine.

Durability: After 12 rounds, frankly it’s hard to say.  They appear to be holding up okay, but being somewhat large, my added tonnage probably doesn’t help things.

Overall: The lack the shoe breathing notwithstanding, they’re comfortable.  If you wear orthotics the sockliner insert comes out (it’s the green thing you can see).  They grip fairly well (no slips so far), and are pretty comfortable.  I’m not that happy that New Balance isn’t making a 4E width in their higher-end models (seriously- WHY NOT?).  If I was to add things to my want list, I’d like to see a customize option where I could get a pair with a certain English Premier League Team logo that happens to wear New Balance (if they do that or figure out how to let me get a Maple Leafs logo…then here- just take my money).

Top view NBG2002.

Top view NBG2002.

 

Maryland, My (and yours) Maryland

As I constantly look to expand my golfing horizons beyond the usual rota, I find that sometimes, this means going to take a second look at a course I may have played years prior, to see things that maybe I missed the first time.

It was in this vein that I happened upon University of Maryland Golf Course which is located across the street from their College Park campus.  I had played there once before; I left work early on a Friday in July 2008 (which, unbeknownst to me at the time, was the last weekend the course would be open as it would be closed for several months to undergo an exhaustive renovation) and thought it was a good test of golf.

A year or two ago, the University thought about shutting the course down to use the land for something else (just what we need- another “mixed use” retail facility); luckily, cooler heads prevailed- not only do the men’s and women’s golf teams have a home course, but the golfing public has a fantastic public course located inside the capital beltway that can challenge anyone.

The course wastes no time getting your attention; the first two holes (over 410 yards each from the “gold” tees and over 450 each from the tips) are as tough of a start as you could ask for.  The second hole (#1 handicap on the card) requires an uphill second shot to a well-protected green (I got in a bunker and went full Benny Hill from there, carding a triple bogey 7).

Scorecard.  Four sets of tees plus two "combo" options.  Huzzah!

Scorecard. Four sets of tees plus two “combo” options. Huzzah!

The third hole is a short par 4 that looks benign on the card, but like #2, has a well protected green (despite only being 316 from the gold tees it’s not easy at all).  The fifth hole is fairly benign; only 400 yards from the gold tees and relatively flat.

UMD golf course 5th hole. Just hit it straight.

UMD golf course 5th hole. Just hit it straight.

The eighth hole (seen below) is the shortest of the par 3’s at less than 130 yards from the tips, but the green is well protected and par is certainly a good score.  Anything long gets wet as you’ll see (or goes far right).  It’s down hill so it’s probably 1/2 -3/4 a club shorter than on the card.  The landing area left of the front bunker is a good “miss” spot.

UMD golf course 8th hole. Best to be accurate.

UMD golf course 8th hole. Best to be accurate.

The front side ends with a long, uphill par 5 that runs parallel to route 193.  Only 510 from the gold tees but it plays uphill and into the prevailing wind (it was dead calm when I played).

The back nine starts with a shortish par 4 that plays shorter as it’s downhill before coming to the 11th hole.  Playing from the tips it’s over 225 yards but from the gold tees it’s only 168.  If you can play a right to left shot it’ll help.  If you duff one like I did, then you’re in a world of hurt.

UMD golf course 11th hole.  Just ignore the trees, waste area, and just see the green.

UMD golf course 11th hole. Just ignore the trees, waste area, and just see the green.

The back nine is considerably tighter than the front nine, despite being longer (it has 2 par 5’s rather than only 1 on the front side).  The 17th hole (below) is a real gem and proof you don’t need length.  At 327 from the gold tees and just over 300 from the whites it’s a short hole but there’s elevation changes and well-protected greens that require two good shots.

The 18th is a monster; 486 from the tips and 438 from the golds.  I was very happy to hit two good shots to get on in regulation and two putt for a par.

One thing- unlike most courses, the tee boxes, fairways and roughs are bermuda grass, which you don’t see much of in the mid-Atlantic.  The ball will tend to sit up a bit in the fairway, but nestle down in the rough.  The rough was not that tall when I played but it didn’t need to be.

The other gem is the practice facility.  While most courses have a pedestrian driving range, the UMD golf course has one of the best short game areas in the region.  Two practice greens (one near the first and tenth tees, the other complex featuring a putting green and a short game green) and a decent range (mats only, but still).  Seeing this further shames me for not taking advantage of this when I was working nearby.

Where three putts should go to die at the practice green at UMD.

Where three putts should go to die at the practice green at UMD.

If that’s not enough, one final touch- in addition to four sets of tees, there’s two different “combo” options (I played the gold/white combo) available.

The only negative I can see is that once the class begins I’m sure that playing here becomes tricky as I’m sure the golf teams must have playing privileges.  It’s location off state route 193 with the football stadium visible from the course would also mean one should plan any rounds opposite home football games with care.

The greens were fast.  They don’t look it, but they were very quick and very easy to three-putt if you’re not careful.  Despite potential traffic issues, it’s a solid test of golf and worthy of a visit.  If you find yourself playing there, you’ll be in the middle of the front side with nothing visible except fairways, greens and trees.  From there, remind yourself that you’re actually inside the capital beltway.

I didn’t see one during my early morning round but they do have beverage carts, a half-way hut called The Turn, and a restaurant on-site.  There’s a pro shop where you can buy, presumably, University of Maryland golf-related things (I’m required to mention that She Who Is Really In Charge attended and graduated from Maryland and is a proud Terrapin) and the kinds of things you’d expect to find in a pro shop.

I had a great time and enjoyed my round.  Would I come back?  You bet.

Since we’re discussing colleges, my fellow Spartan Ken Venturi is still sorely missed to this day.  He remains, in my opinion, the best in the business because he explained things succinctly and accurately.  To wit, 30 seconds of his genius on how to skip a shot over water.

 

Round #2

Played at Redgate in Rockville yesterday…despite a cold wind it was a nice day.  Course was, for the most part, in good shape (the cold March and some pretty bad t-storms on Friday evening aren’t anyone’s fault).  The old SGWC played with a rare friend who doesn’t give me the stink-eye (in fact I think I contributed to him getting the golf bug as bad as he did…you’re welcome).

A full review to follow, but a few mentions about Redgate Golf Course:

-Folks in the pro shop were very polite and friendly and not the “whaddya want” attitude I’ve experienced a few years ago.  The gentleman who was working was apologetic about it being “cart path only” (given we had strong t-storms on Friday night, it’s understandable- several bunkers had standing water and there were at least half a dozen not small puddles in fairway and greenside areas).

-The starter was a nice guy as well.  Look- we’re playing golf!  It’s supposed to be fun so starters that see themselves as some kind of “Checkpoint Charlie” types…ugh.

-Played (as is my want) as part of the dawn patrol.  I play fast (our twosome wasn’t trying to set a speed record, but by playing ready golf and having a reasonable “circle of friendship” on conceded putts) and we got around in 3 1/2 hours; saw the group in front of us a couple times and only saw the group in back of us a couple times.

-Billy Casper Golf is managing it; I won’t pretend to know or care about the politics of the course (at one point the city of Rockville ran it).  If the course continues to be viable (and honestly it’s a great traditional course) then that helps everyone.

-I played average.  Did something to my middle finger (those that know me would say it’s from overuse) so the back nine wasn’t exactly great.   Unlike last year I didn’t have a chance to do a lot of gym work early so I feel like I’m behind the 8-ball a bit.  Played really good on the front nine but missed more than a few makeable putts.  Maybe not having feeling in my  hands didn’t help (and having people and animals look at me weird for choosing to wear shorts).