Tag: Sports (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.

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.

 

The Other “Other” Palm Springs (a travel review)

 

It's a school!  No, it's the clubhouse at the Gary Player Course!

It’s a school! No, it’s the clubhouse at the Gary Player Course!

When She Who Is Really In Charge (SWIRIC) and I booked an October vacation in Palm Springs, we (meaning me) didn’t know that October was prime Overseeding Season in the desert (hat tip to Larry Bohannon of the Desert Sun for this piece about it).  But, with plane tickets and hotel booked, we decided to go forward with our vacation and hopes for making the best of it.

It also posed a challenge; could a self-admitted golf junkie (me) find a decent variety of places to play while SWIRIC enjoyed non-golf activities (she has zero desire to take up the game but encourages my addiction)?  Could we do this and eat well (while holding to our vacation rule of “no chains, nothing we couldn’t get at home)?  The answer, I’m happy to say, was yes.  Very much yes.  With over 100 courses in the area and most, it seemed, were overseeding, it took some work but I was able to book a decent variety of courses over our stay that were all in good shape, and we ate and vacationed far better than expected.

There are multiple options if you’re flying in from out of the area like we did, but we found the option that worked best for us was flying into LAX Airport (San Diego, Ontario, Orange County, Long Beach and Palm Springs airports are also good options when looking for flights).   Other than flying into Palm Springs (off-season flight availability is VERY limited) you’ll definitely need a car (LAX, Orange County and San Diego are all a 2 hour drive (or more with traffic) to Palm Springs).

Day 1

In-N-Out lunch al fresco. Oh hell yes.

In-N-Out lunch al fresco. Oh hell yes.

The drive into Palm Springs left me a bit tired especially after being rather cramped during our flight from the east coast.  We stopped for lunch at In-N-Out (the only chain we’ll eat at because it’s not available on the East Coast) along the way.  We stayed at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort in Indian Wells (they have one of the largest pools in the area and it’s right off highway 111).  After checking in we went to the pool to relax and take a dip (being Saturday it looked like a lot of Southern Californians had made the trek).  Dinner was at the Cork & Fork in La Quinta, a wine bar with a nice mix of small bites, a few pizzas, and some entrees.  I had their fennel sausage pizza (quite good and definitely rather filling), SWIRIC had their scallops in risotto, and we enjoyed a fantastic Spanish cava (until very recently I had never really been one for sparkling wine; then I got introduced to the good stuff and now I’ve come around).  Suffice to say, Cork & Fork is highly recommended.

Day 2

From the 2nd hole fairway at Desert Willow. I love this place.

From the 2nd hole fairway at Desert Willow. I love this place.

My first day of hitting the links meant a visit to Desert Willow Golf Resort; as I learned they had one course (the Mountain View) shut down for overseeding along with their range but the Firecliff course was open.  Playing early it was a bit brisk at first (the other members of my foursome were all in sweaters and jackets) before warming up very quickly and becoming hot.   The course was nothing short of outstanding and was in good shape; greens were definitely quick and fairways were pure.  I played with a couple from Vancouver and a local who seemed a bit displeased they had changed the colours of the tee boxes (they now have black, purple, lavender, tan and green tee boxes).  Like many courses, they’ve gone to a combo set which gives them an additional set of tees without doing anything.  The Firecliff course has a nice variety of holes; in addition they had ice water stations on the course in addition to a beverage cart which we saw once on each side.  All the carts have GPS which really helped a lot since I didn’t know the course at all (not that it helped my scorecard).

18th hole at Desert Willow. Fantastic finishing hole on a great course.

18th hole at Desert Willow. Fantastic finishing hole on a great course.

Lunch was at Guillermo’s; your basic Mexican fare done really well.  My tacos were exactly what I wanted and were flavorful.  After an afternoon at the pool where I got a Charley horse cramp in my calf (I did everything I could to not scream every profanity I know to the mountains at full volume which would have probably upset the large throng of people at the pool), we went to Eureka which was 5 minutes away (in Indian Wells).  If you’re looking for really good burgers, it’s definitely worth a stop.  The fried mac & cheese balls were delicious (highly recommended as a starter) as was their clear lemonade (honestly I’d go back for the mac & cheese balls and the clear lemonade).  If you want something with more of a bite, they have a great beer & whiskey selection (I was trying to hydrate myself so I had to decline that sweet delicious beer on offer).

Day 3

Monday left me hobbled (getting old sucks) so I had to cancel my round at Indian Wells; with the one course open only doing cart path only, I knew my calf wouldn’t hold up (I was still hobbling and having a fair bit of trouble with it), but using the GolfNow app on my phone I booked a round the next day at Cimarron Golf Resort in Cathedral City.  Lunch on Monday was at Elmer’s in Palm Springs.  Elmer’s is a chain based in the Pacific Northwest (as I found out later) but we didn’t know going in.  My omelet with peppers, onions and Tillamook cheese was perfect, while SWIRIC had the house specialty in the form of a German style pancake the size of a hubcap.  It was actually more crepe-like in thickness.  The place seemed to have a good mix of locals and tourists which typically bodes well.

Monday afternoon we did a bit of sightseeing.  I’ve a huge fan of the mid-century architecture that is very prevalent in the Palm Springs area.  While I did take a few photos, in the interest of privacy I’m not going to post them here out of respect to the people who live there.

Playing Fabulous Bingo at the Ace Hotel.  I did not win.  I hang head and feel shame.

Playing Fabulous Bingo at the Ace Hotel. I did not win. I hang head and feel shame.

Monday night’s dinner was at Kings Highway at the Ace Hotel, but in truth we were there for Fabulous Bingo, because who doesn’t want to play Bingo hosted by a drag queen?  This may not be your thing, but it was fun, and that’s the point.  It’s definitely a younger, more hip crowd but we had fun (they do a trivia night later on if Bingo isn’t your thing).

Day 4

Tuesday started with a trek out to Cathedral City to Cimarron Golf Resort (I played the Boulder course while the Pebble course was being over-seeded).  I’ll be honest- I booked the round last minute after canceling my Monday round due to my calf problem so I didn’t really know what to expect.  The course was in good shape (fairways and roughs were VERY green); the greens were slow but otherwise rolled true.  My only complaint was that the GPS system was down so the cart GPS was pointless.  To that point there’s no yardage markers, poles, sticks, or sprinkler-heads.  So if you play here, make sure you bring a rangefinder or a GPS device.  I did like that they had a cooler on the cart filled with ice (on a very hot day this helped quite a bit).

11th hole at Cimarron Golf Resort. Straight and long is good.

11th hole at Cimarron Golf Resort. Straight and long is good.  Overseeding is done.

Tuesday lunch was a real treat as we headed to Indio to TKB Bakery & Deli.  What if I told you the best damn sandwich you can eat in the area is at a place in an industrial park that’s not exactly easy to find?  It’s true.  I had the pastrami (it’s a great representation of what I’d call California style pastrami so New Yorkers may not like it (I’ll eat it if you don’t want it)), SWIRIC had the meatloaf sandwich.  Both came on a jalapeno/cheddar roll and both were beyond delicious (and huge).  Okay, so the dining room isn’t exactly the lap of luxury but who cares?  Forget about that and focus on that sandwich because it’s out of this damn world.  This place is most definitely on the ‘must have’ list when I return.

With Tuesday’s lunch being rather filling, we opted out of going to the Sagauro Hotel for Taco Tuesday (we went last time and it was outstanding) and instead went to Flor de Jalisco in Palm Desert (the link is to their Yelp page; they don’t have a website) for simple but well done Mexican.  My fajitas were exactly what I wanted, and SWIRIC’s chicken mole was good.

Day 4

2nd hole at the Gary Player Signature Course.

2nd hole at the Gary Player Signature Course.  The shadow to the right is me.

On our final full day in the desert, I started with a round at the Gary Player Signature Course at the Westin Mission Hills.  It was a bit longer of a drive than Google Maps said it would be (the course isn’t at the resort but a 5-10 minute drive from there), but it was worth the trip.  Very impressed with the layout; a nice mix of holes in a classic desert setting.  Fairways were fairly generous; greens rolled true.  Not quite as hard as the Pete Dye course that was being overseeded, but still a good challenge with plenty of places to get into trouble.  The older couple I played with weren’t exactly speed demons (the ranger/player assistant asked me to politely ask them to pick up the pace which I found odd, but necessary).  Luckily I played about as well as I could hope for and parred the last 4 holes to card a 79.

18th hole at the Gary Player Course. A great finishing hole (

18th hole at the Gary Player Course. A great finishing hole (helps to par it for a 79)

After a visit to Footloose Reflexology for a massage (after 3 rounds in 4 days the foot massage felt pretty good), our last night was dinner at The Tonga Hut in downtown Palm Springs.  It’s a tiny space devoted to the Tiki culture that abounded.  If you want to enjoy well-made cocktails (think Mai Tai, Zombie, Blue Hawaii, Rum Punch and a Scorpion) and a better-than-it-needed-to-be pu-pu platter, this is the place.  We caught a break in that it was slow (the place gets quite busy on the weekends), but had a good time.

One caution if you go to Footloose; their “medium” pressure is pretty intense; I think “firm” pressure is them using bricks or something.  Still a worthy visit and felt good afterwards.

A delicious and well deserved Mai-Tai at the Tonga Hut.  Better have a few more.

A delicious and well deserved Mai-Tai at the Tonga Hut. Better have a few more.

So after 4 1/2 days in the desert, we ate well, had fun, logged a fair bit of pool time.  You don’t have to be a senior citizen nor do you have to be a 20-something in for the weekend to have a good time.  You can, and should visit and not just during their peak season (winter for us in the DMV).

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.

 

 

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).

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.

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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).

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