Whether you follow golf closely or you just peep in occasionally during the golf season, you have most probably heard of both Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau. If you have been keeping up with the latest golf news, you know things have gotten ugly between both golfers, especially if you follow the headlines and digs dished out via social media. In essence, it’s a full blown feud in the eyes of sports media and other media outlets.
What it means so far is that the pair have not been set up to tee off with one another as many had anticipated. What it looks like is that DeChambeau has taken to video to deliver one of his latest blows, and Koepka has utilized the opportunity to shift the focus and spin the narrative in another direction during the U.S. Open Championship. At this point, in the final round, DeChambeau remains 2 strokes off the lead and tied for fourth, while Koepka is stuck somewhere in the middle of the pack tied for fourteenth place. The final numbers have yet to come in, but from the looks of it, DeChambeau appears to be the only one of the two in the running, and the feud can pick up where it left off until the next tourney comes around.
After struggling to scramble for make the cut, Lefty finds himself currently tied for 63rd place at +8 through six holes. That might sound like an issue, but I am sure that he has enough scrambling left in his game to inch up a few spots on the leaderboard before it’s all said and done. After all, he’s one of those players that will let loose like never before on the last day.
Schauffele is another story. He has demonstrated an uncanny ability to stay in the hunt for many tournaments recently. The 27 year old golfer is poised to play a promising round today and just might surprise us all with where he ends finishing this final round. We have yet to see and golf usually rewards its fans with some final round surprises.
No matter how you see it. It is good to see the U.S. Open Championship back in San Diego and at Torrey Pines. All that is left is for us to see who comes out on top and what other thrills we will witness along the way to hoisting of that trophy. Hell, with just a few strokes off the lead, Rory McIlroy might be able to work his way into a fight for the lead throughout the day. That would make for a daring finish right there.
Most golfers can say that the challenge of your average golf course comes down to its design or its incorporation of the natural landscape into the course design. Whether it be the flowing waterways that present a hazard running parallel to and across a course’s fairway or the rocky hillsides of local mountain ranges, most courses tend to place you smack dab in the middle of nature with a few added challenges to boot. To be honest, most golf courses have their own built-in challenges.
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Aerated Greens Add a Challenge
Playing Cottonwood the other day gave me a discounted tee time and plenty of challenges on the putting surface. The course is an East County of San Diego County staple with its wide open fairways and reachable par 5 holes. Take into account that landing in the rough tends to come at a high cost for the average player, this course continues to reward straight drives and soft chips onto the green with little backspin. . . even on aerated greens.
Decent Play Despite the Heat
An added challenge for this day was the heat. I was on my way to the course and found myself battling temperatures pushing beyond 90 degrees. As I drew closer to the course, the higher the temperature rose. By the time I reached the course, the temperature was somewhere between 92 and 95 degrees. Thank God for dri-fit golf shirts and board shorts.
Despite the heat, I still had a decent outing. I found myself pulling my drives to the right initially. My on-spot analysis gave me every indication that my hands and clubhead were moving out of sync with my body, but I did not make a major adjustment immediately since my recovery shots were placing me in a decent position. Those right-sided drives would come to cost me on holes #10 and #17, robbing myself of yardage as obstructions cut down the ball flight of my tee shots.
Oddly enough, my tee shot on hole #13 placed me smack dab behind a tree line and facing about 195 yards out from the green. I smacked a 5 wood low and it threaded the needle between a wishbone-looking branch of a tree for a straight pathway that left me about 10 yards short of the green. Having survived that hole with bogey, I began to adjust my alignment on the tee and cut down on my tendency to pull my drives to the right, but I slipped back into old habits on hole #17 and it proved costly.
My scrambling got me out of trouble a few times and I thank God for that type of recovery on the course. However, even scrambling here and there isn’t enough to get you shot at birdie or par. In most cases, it is just enough to keep playing that bogey golf. On the front end, my 3 double bogeys cost me. In theory (and hindsight), if I had cut that down to just a single double bogey, I would be sitting pretty with an 89. But my 91 was well earned. My putts rolled well despite the aerated greens, edging the hole more often than I care to mention, so I continue to play with confidence.
Aerated greens? I’ll take the challenge. And I’ll take the discount as long as it’s still available.
Spring Break golf plans are underway. Every single day during the week of Spring Break this year has some element of golf on the to-do list, even if it isn’t all play. Whether it be a bit of wedge work and chipping around the green or walking 9 holes in the morning hours, this week is dedicated to getting out there and getting back on track to breaking 90 more consistently.
Spring Break Golf PLans for 2021
After some review of my winter break golf spree, I have chalked up my lessons learned and see how to add more balance to days off and spending time between rounds of golf on productive work like my freelance writing, weekly video livestreams, and organizing multiple side hustle projects. I have made an initial decision regarding my dilemma to go spikeless or spikes, purchasing the Skechers Pivot spikeless golf shoes. Other than a few extra pounds from bouncing from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting, I believe that I am armed and ready to get back out there on the course.
Roll back the calendar a few years ago, I would have definitely felt fine about taking advantage of free replay or playing early AM and then again at twilight on the same day. I learned my lesson and I definitely will take it easy, spreading out my daily doubles during this time of intensive play. My regimen has to include at least half a day gap if not a full day off from playing twice in one day. The body needs what it needs.
Walk More, Ride Less
Like I said, working from home and sitting on Zoom has not been the best thing for my health. I have truly had to change some things up in order to get my fitness back on track. That is perfectly fine and it fits perfectly into my playing plans for Spring Break golf rounds this year. My focus is to walk 75% percent of the time or more. If that’s the case, then I need to be sure that the Advil is packed, the water bottle is filled, and my pre-game stretch routine includes some deep or dynamic stretching.
I have broken 90 multiple times. That is not the problem. I can play primarily bogey golf and catch that one par to break 90. The formula is not that hard to calculate. Execution is the key. That’s a major factor when you start talking about golf and errant drives, remarkable recovery shots, and yipped chips around the green.
Here is my short list for keeping my head in the game and getting out of my own head:
Control: I want to remain in control and that means not forcing myself to make a lot of poor choices that leave me with limited shot options. Know when to layup. Keep an eye on where I am with hitting the fairway consistently. Manage my expectations and play the shot that will deliver the most benefits with the least amount of trouble. Play under control and keep swinging.
Confidence: The more I play the more confidently I play. That might be more than just me, but it makes a difference. You can be 1oo confident. That’s cocky. We don’t want that. We want confidence in our swing and shot. That’s where we want to be this Spring Break.
Consistency: This comes from doing thing right time and time again. Don’t make drastic changes. Adjustments are fine. Those don’t cause us to get too far off into our own head. Major changes can cause
Overall, I am ready to hit the course this Spring Break and see what rust I can shake off and what new adventures that I can experience. I have a good idea of where i would like to play, so I will keep you posted as I post throughout this week.
My latest golf outings show that my score did not improve much, but my overall game improved in different areas. What does that mean? I am finding the fairway a little bit more with each outing. I have also been fixing flaws here and there, so I can see and sense some changes in my game. I have not conquered those greens in regulation (GIR) yet, but I am making some overall progress with my game improvement time and time again. Having played Carlton Oaks at least 3 times in the past 6 months, I have been able to compare my stats and recall my mishaps where I still need to make some simple fixes.
I spent an early Sunday morning walking 9 holes at Carlton Oaks with the sun just beginning to peak out over the ridges of the nearby hillsides. I usually find a deal on this every so often, so I take advantage of the price and the opportunity to get my steps in before 10 AM by walking the back 9. This also makes my comparison between these rounds played at different times.
I love that scenery and layout of the course, especially the back nine. I am growing more comfortable with substituting a fairway woods and hybrids for my long irons on approach shots and second shots on long par 4 holes and par 5s. I can see the difference in my play. Plus, it is just refreshing to get up and walk 9 holes every so often.
Body Alignment = My Best Adjustment
My alignment in the tee box and off the tee has improved over the last few weeks, especially after seeing some of my better iron shots and other shots miss the mark due to my body alignment with the target at address. By making some simple alignment adjustments, I am finding more fairways and playing from a better position than the rough to the left or the right. I can feel the difference upon contact, and I can see the difference with the ball placement after its carried nearly 200 yards off the tee. Centralized ball placement on most holes will provide you with a better shot at getting on the green in regulation (GIR). Just this change alone has contributed to more consistency within my play.
My main flaws have been the lack of greens in regulation (GIR) with some fairways hit and poor judgment in some key areas of my game. I already addressed the GIR situation, but let me expand a bit further on these fairways. This latest outing had me with no GIRs but 57% of fairways hit compared to 42% in January and 25% in December. That’s incremental improvement and I will take that over time all day long. If I continue that pattern and pace, then I will killing the fairways time and time again.
Judgment calls cost me strokes at times. To be honest, these poor judgment calls are costing me at least one if not two strokes each time. I need to minimize that and quickly. I can recall 2 holes specifically where poor judgment killed me.
I messed up off the tee and hit the ball fat off the edge of the club’s face. That produced an odd runner that skipped and bounced onto the edge of the green with a rollback that settled on the fringe. I putted onto the putting surface working a whale of a curve shaped into the green only to come up too short on the right read. Get that fact. I had the right read. It was the right line. I just didn’t give it enough gas. After my next putt went beyond the cup, I settled down and got it in for 5 strokes. I knew where I misjudged and I will work on that.
This hole requires either a bold and big time second shot to give you a chance at par or a deflated ego that can live with laying it up and taking it home with a bogey on the card. I let my ego get the best of me. My hybrid and 3 wood had been good to me all day. With less than 220 yards to carry the water hazard, I swung that 3 wood and fell short of my goal by about 10 yards. Total Tin Cup scene played out right there. I dropped another Callaway right where I was and I repeated the same shot but aligned with twin bunkers guarding the green, swung with that alignment, and got that Callaway 3 feet off the green. I at least know that I have it in me. I know that by the time I got done with the drop area and a bunker shot I walked away with my double bogey and laugh at the expense of another stroke.
In planning my play, I have mentioned at times on this blog how my work schedule allows for me to have extensive periods of golf play during school breaks. Technically, I preferred the year-round school schedule with its periodic 20-25 days off. But you oftentimes have to make do with what you get when you work for someone else.
President’s Day Weekend is one of those rare four-day weekends that affords me some extra time to mix in some practice rounds. This includes me playing at a championship course like Carlton Oaks. Gone are its days of luster from yesteryear, but this course still packs plenty of challenges for an average golfer. Walking the back 9 for about a third of the regular price for the full course with a cart is great way to make the most of my practice rounds.
I like mixing in weekend workouts and practice rounds of golf whenever I can. These both work to my advantage. These both best fit the time that I have free and available. When it comes to the weekends, I need to make the most of my time.
Weekday Workouts: Training Days
During the weekdays, I set up Tuesdays and Thursdays as my training days. I usually try to get in my high intensity interval training (HIIT) along with some simple cardio and resistance training on these days. The other days are simply walking or light cardio and bodyweight exercises. This has worked for me so far, and I find that what I am able to get done before one makes me feel like I have accomplished so much.
Weekend Workouts: Walking the Course and Practice Rounds
It might seem like a bit of a cheat but it works for me. I used spend endless hours searching for the ideal local 5K to run at least once per month. Usually these happened on the weekends, so my weekend workouts were in the bag per se. Then COVID-19 hit.
I know that my practice reveals my problems, but I also know that it also sheds some light on where I have lost a step or two and where I need to push myself in order to get back into shape. That’s a reality that I have had to face, so I deal with it by mixing in some weekend workouts with practice rounds this weekend. I will face some challenging courses and some familiar holes with different flag pole positions, but I will also be killing two birds with one stone. I get in my walking steps at new heights for probably two days in a row and I will kick off my week with a fitness spark that will keep me motivated throughout the week.
I tend to play golf in the morning a lot. Sometimes, as luck and circumstances would have it, I just get a better deal on that 6:30 AM tee time. That means that I not only find myself getting dressed while it is still dark and downing a hot cup of coffee before hitting the road towards the course but also facing different types of conditions. It’s usually wet with dew still making the fairways and greens play differently. It usually includes some fresh mud and even marsh-like conditions when you find that tee shot has veered to the rough just left of the fairway. And heaven forbid if I find myself in one of those beach-like bunkers with that wet sand like a shoreline.
I have slipped and busted my butt a few times playing early mornings with only the sun peaking through the distant trees, so I know that I need some grip and traction. There’s nothing like having your swing mechanics aligned with all of your swing thoughts, only to result in you swinging and spinning out of control every now and then. That causes you to play too cautious and rob yourself of some yardage on a tee shot. Approach shots, chips, and pitching are not so bad. But I never noticed how much your shoes came into play for putting out on the green until my feet were pulsating and throbbing after tackling the front 9 of a hilly, slightly-sloped course. You don’t have to worry about the yips when you got aching feet halfway through a round. That’s when I vowed to restrict my play to certain predominantly-flat courses until I made some changes with my footwear.
The Choices are Either Spiked or Spikeless
Regardless of how you play or under which conditions you usually play, you got a choice of two options: spiked or spikeless. You can go traditional with spiked golf shoes. Or, you could go with the more trendy option of spikeless golf shoes. My current golf shoes are an early version of spikeless golf shoes and have suffered the inevitable doom of wear and tear. Prior to that, I have had both types of shoes. Since I am walking more, I am leaning toward the comfort and lightweight spikeless versions. Yet, due to playing in the mornings a lot, I recognize the benefits of a good pair of spiked golf shoes.
I will be sure to check back over the next few days to weigh the results. I already have some folks weigh in offline and they are killing me with their rationale. If you believe that you have some sound advice, drop it in the comments and I will be sure to check it out. I usually get some sound advice from the likes of Brian Penn and other golfers who blog on their play and the sport in general, so I am looking forward to getting some ideas on this whole dilemma.
Will I win many fans based on this post? No, this post is bound to split the entire span of golf fandom right down the middle. We are so likened to baseball and its vanguard of the legacy and integrity of baseball that even we at times can’t see that the times are a-changing right before our eyes. Golf today is nowhere near what it once was to so many diehards, but most of the changes have led to increased diversity and all sorts of innovations to spread the gospel of the game of golf to new fans and players alike.
We’ve got basically two distinct but overlapping sets of golf fans. There are those who just watch and follow golf, and then there are those who play golf and try their best to keep up with the latest PGA Tour and LPGA Tour buzz. A few are dedicated followers of the senior ranks in the Champions Tour, but for the most part people keep their eyes out for PGA Tour major tournaments and some serious competition within the LPGA ranks like the Koda sisters, Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang, and Lydia Ko. Brooke Henderson, Anna Nordqvist and Charley Hull are popular LPGA players with a fan following that includes some rowdy boys shouting out their undying love every now and then at an otherwise quiet par 4 hole. That’s not the entire realm of golf fandom but it puts some major groupings in order for starters.
Here’s the scoop on all of this. They’re pros. We’re not. They’re human. Yes, they are. They make mistakes just like us and they tend to err in judgment just like the rest of us who seek relief or declare a ball unplayable when we know good and well that we’re just not that good.
Questionable Play Beyond the Mud Ball Ruling
There have been plenty of questionable antics on the PGA and LPGA tournament circuits that we’ve witnessed televised right before our eyes. Golf fans keep an eye out for some of the slightest rules infractions as well as some of the most egregious ones. It’s part of the phenomena of watching golf live and seeing things go down during real-time viewing.
Lefty in the 2018 U.S. Open
Albeit one of my favorite guys to watch, Lefty took things to an extreme in 2018 U.S. Open. He putted a ball while it was rolling. He took the 2 stroke penalty and moved on. Most golf fans did not. Such an act was unfathomable and it was just too much for too many fans.
I dare most weekend golfers to go back over their weekends on the links and recall the most outrageous act by that guy in your foursome- you know the one who pushes the envelope at every opportunity and says to hell with the rules. Whether he claimed that his twelve feet left to putt should be a gimme or he used 2 mulligans before you reached the 6th hole, that guy gets a pass with his constant rule-breaking antics and Phil Mickelson needs to be demonized?
Imagine playing with that guy. Well, you probably have played with him before. Or, you have played with someone with a similar disposition of knowing what’s best. You know the guy who keeps the scorecard and asks after every hole: “How many you get on that one?” and he still counts every stroke and step you took from the tee to the green. Some people take the fun out of just enjoying a sunny afternoon on the course. It’s different if you got some money on the game, but this is an otherwise futile fun-stripped outing at best with this guy.
I don’t know who is really to blame for this. It seems like part of the point of Q-School is to get more familiar and prepared for entry into the professional ranks. The primary folks in any Q-School whether PGA or LPGA are people coming up from the amateur ranks. Either way, the controversy in 2019 LPGA Q-School involved two players, a par 3, an 8 iron, and a two stroke penalty. The real funky part of this ruling was that it simply involved asking another or his or her caddie for information during play. She asked what club the other player was using, and the other player’s caddie obliged by divulging the information.
Whoa! How many times in similar situations have you heard another player ask a fellow member of his or her foursome: “What club did you use on that shot?” I mean I would imagine that unless you have been playing with some tight-lipped golfers, plenty of us have gone so far as to break that one on every dogleg and tucked away green on the course. And, like these ladies involved in the ruling, we didn’t realize it was a rule either.
As I dip in and out of watching the early rounds of the Farmers Invitational, I know that it has been something of a desire for many to play our local Torrey Pines course. I know the familiar coastal views and the lush green fairways appear even more majestic now that we cannot travel in hordes of rowdy fans trailing Tiger, DJ and Brooks to rival our Phoenix Open golf bros with this COVID-19 fan restriction, but the course still appears to be challenging from what I have seen on TV so far. All those in contention for the lead (or even a share of the lead at the least) have one thing in common: they’re all playing the same course and facing similar challenges.
I see the course as both challenger and competitor. It has been designed to not simply offer too many “gimme” holes in the form of easily reachable in 2 par 4s or simple par 5s that are just a mere 15 to 20 yards longer than the longest par 4 on the course. Course design of late has seemed to taken a less is more approach that somehow leaves most Saturday and Sunday golfers seething with some sort of sadistic sensation of seeking more as their course designs dumbfoundedly develop desires as they both defeat and dissatisfy the average duffer at the same time. In other words, plenty of folks are not getting plenty of pleasure out o these course designs but they keep coming back for more like gluttons for punishment.
It is simply by design now and more apparent when we see championship courses that might have boasted of a challenging par 5 last year that the tournament committee has unanimously and hilariously opted to convert to an extensive par 4 for this year’s tournament. Course design typically pits a full roster of FedEx Cup chasers against the course and its course designers and groundskeepers. Those pin placements are so intricate and whatever clipping or trimming level that they are using for these greens with this mixed in sand are enough to keep your head spinning from day to day. But whoever created island greens or bunker-guarded greens just plain has some aggression issues that need to be worked out. I can only imagine what it does for these guys seeking FedEx Cup points who have braved courses from Dubai to Mexico in the off season, only to face the return of the PGATour season with a kickstart in Hawaii and the newly-COVID-cleared West Coast Swing kickoff at Torrey Pines (and we’ll see from there).
So what does that mean for us so-called regular golfers?
Past Championship Courses Still Present Challenges
I played Carlton Oaks many times before I realized that it had hosted PGA and Canadian Tour Qualifying Tournaments, NCAA Western Regional and Championship events, Junior World, The American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) and many other professional, collegiate and amateur events. One guy remarked when I got my first par on the course a few years ago that scoring well on that course and keeping it in the low 90s is feat within itself for a weekend golfer. I shrugged it off, but then later I began to realize how much playing practice rounds and multiple tournament rounds does to a golfer’s advantage within a week.
I guess if a few of us played the same course again and again, even something like Carlton Oaks, we should see some marked improvement over our scorecards, too. Some would get a better feel for the course in general, other would hone in on those special touches around the green to get that to work for them. In other words, we would have time to tackle the course based on past and present experiences and make note in our own little yardage books that very same hole where the fast greens veered to the right now have a sudden speed drop within 2 inches of the hole.
Chisel the Course into Chunks
Armed with that knowledge, I would probably shave a few strokes off here and there. My problem is that it took an article in Today’s Golfer to open my eyes to what a round of golf really come down to in terms of strokes. “Golf’s Most Wanted Shots” opened my eyes like I said to how much short game focus would be required to shave strokes off the scorecard quickly and repeatedly.
The main shot of any round is putting. Say what? Every hole doesn’t require a drive off the tee. Every hole doesn’t require an approach shot or layup. But each and every hole requires you to putt. So, if that’s the case, improve your putting skills and start to improve your scores. Combine wedge shots, chip shots and bunker play and you have another 13 strokes or so added to 35 putts which makes for 48. Well, man, I shot that on the back 9 alone a few times on a good day.
What I am saying is that we look at the game from the wrong perspective. We tend to rally behind DJ, Brooks, Tiger and a few others because they crush that ball off the tee and send us into a frenzy over what is not even a major factor in the scoring calculation of a full round. Driving counts. It just doesn’t count as much as we make it seem like it should.
If we chisel down the course into chunks, then we can approach each hole with analysis and anticipation. We can design a strategy (Plan A) for if we take care of business and launch a solid tee shot into the fairway at approximately 200+ yards. But, if need be, we have a recovery strategy (Plan B) where we select a long distance hybrid after a weak tee shot landed us at an odd angle 180 yards from the green and just off the fairway in the early signs of the rough that our fairway woods won’t be able to cut through at all. That way we keep the emotions out of it. That way we don’t lose it and toss clubs into lakes or trees. We simply assess the results of our last attempt and make an adjust prior to taking action with our next attempt. Other ideas on how this can help lower scores are out there in the blogosphere.
I have included part of my process for planning my play that i used in 2017 and 2018 as I began to approach golf with a different mindset. These are visuals that I use based upon the current scorecard available on www.greenskeeper.org and most discount tee time sites. This process helps me develop my attack plan hole by hole in a planning mode that I try to translate onto the course without losing my way or getting too cocky if it’s going good. Much like other golf bloggers out here, I can admit when I lose sight of the goal or focus on the immediate action in the moment.
As I continue to work on my game, I am going to watch Brooks and DJ clobber those tee shots. I am going to shout and howl when that titanium plate makes contact with that dimpled synthetic ball, sending it to heights and distances that even send the most popular golf shot trackers out of orbit. But I will know deep down inside that I need to watch those putting techniques from the types of John Rahm, Patrick Reed, Kevin Na and Webb Simpson
I have been investing for years now and it has saved me from some real low times in my life. My most recent investing has me weighing heavy bets on the dividend-paying stocks of the Dogs of the Dow and a major index -driven ETF position of DIA (Dow 30), SPLG (S&P 500), and QQQ (Nasdaq 100). However, I do get to dabble in what I call my sports-folio. It literally lets me own the course in a few instances with some relevant golf stocks.
Acushnet Holdings (GOLF) gives me a piece of the action with some highly recognized names in golf today. Considering that GOLF is associated with some of the biggest names in the sport like Titleist, Vokey and Scotty Cameron, I have to admit that it seems like the Amazon of golf stocks to me. It just has everything in its wheelhouse. Wedges, putters, and all of the equipment and one of the most popular balls on the PGA Tour and among weekend golfers with the Titleist ProV1. This one is just a winner all around.
VIVI Properties (VICI) is a diversified real estate company formed as a REIT with a handful own golf properties in its portfolio that are featured on the PGA Tour. The company is truly engaged in entertainment, hospitality and more, including Caesars Palace. VICI owns four championship golf courses among its portfolio of properties and stands to keep investors happy with its consistent dividend payments going forward.
Nike (NKE) and Callaway (ELY) are still involved in the golf equipment and apparel markets. Why not NKE, a major leader among sports retailers on a global scale? Why not ELY which represents one of the most popular brands of golf equipment and apparel on the market today? because I am looking at the stock and not for a new driver. I have a different strategy for evaluating stock ever since I started reading and listening to Gerald Peters. Those stocks do not fit my plan right now. And, to be truthful, they may never fit and I can live with that. Investing should not be based on emotions and sentiments. It should make sense for making you wealthier day by day with increased valuations and price as well as dividends or other perks.
At the end of the day, I feel good of where I am with this sports-folio. I am hedged my risk. I am positioned to say I own a piece of the action in both sports and entertainment. And I know that may not say something to someone else, but it makes me feel like I am really owning the course. And in some cases, I am really owning the course.