Facing Facts from My Final Round During Winter Break

My Final Round for the Week and My Winter Break at Enagic Country Club

I planned my final round according to my Golf Planning Resources and still felt as if I had left something to chance. Playing Enagic Country Club in Eastlake was a familiar layout that takes you in and out of street traffic on a course interwoven into the Eastlake residential community. The course is laced with some challenging holes such as its signature usage of waterways on hole #9 and #12. In particular these two holes are guarded by water and bunkers, making accuracy a key factor in approaching the green.

My goal was simple: finish the week and winter break on a high note and possibly take note of where I leave off to take my game to a higher level upon my return to regular play.

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Don’t Play Yourself

I found things different at the course since I last graced its tee boxes. As I sought to keep up with the long-driving and power-hitting younger trio of my foursome, I felt like the odd man out. In some cases, I knew what I was doing wrong and I was just struggling to get out of my own head with weak tee shots forcing long distance recovery and scrambling for a shot at par. Even saving bogey was tricky at times. My best play came using my putter off the green to trail my Callaway Super Soft along a prickly fringe to bend onto the green and end up within an inch from the hole. Close but no cigar, just another bogey. Beyond that my short game research came into play and helped me save some strokes within 50 yards and at times within 100 yards. One key to my play was fatigue. I played myself out. I played a lot of golf and by the time that I got to this course I was not having as much fun and I felt the physical strain of it as I struggled in various parts of my game.

Good Scores, Good Vibes and Good Tries

I shot a 97 at Pala Mesa & a 93 here

My struggles did not translate to the scorecard as much as I felt. My mulligans had to come in to use on a few holes, but I can live with that. I was not playing for any type of wager and I certainly was not going for the club record, so I can roll with it. After all, I was having a good time and I was feeling those good vibes like when you are first introduced to Bob Marley or Steel Pulse.

I felt like my prior score on a par 3 was a more productive round, but I can still recall some highlights of this round making me realize why I come out to play. That feeling of punching a stinger across the fairway and getting that favorable bounce at the edge of a bunker that sends your ball swirling around the green to leave you with a four to five foot putt is hard to recreate on one’s own. Those types of shots keep you coming back for more and eagerly seeking out almost any opportunity to work in some new technique that the club pro or a golf buddy has shown you to give your game an edge.

I find it amazing that I could feel so inadequate about my game. I knew that my body was tiring from more consistent play than usual. I loved being in the company of some guys who could pound it off the tee and maneuver around the course. The number of double bogeys alone would amount to dropping four strokes if they bogeys and 93-4= 89. Playing bogey golf alone would it make a major difference in scoring. But if I had gotten at least 3 holes where I landed on the green rather than to the right or on a fringe, I would have had both green in regulation (GIR) and a shot at birdie which would have me with a greater chance at par than bogey due to my 2 putt average per hole. With so many options for breaking 90, I need to revisit my game strategy and execution for next outing.

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Playing a Par 3 to Strengthen Short Game

If you visit Colina Park Golf Course, you will come face to face with a sculpted bust of Ernest H. Wright, Sr., the founder and chairman of Pro Kids Golf Academy & Learning Center. Pro Kids was founded in 1994 by former AFL/NFL player Ernest H. Wright, Sr. and a group of community leaders, who saw the game of golf as a way to help underserved youth develop the character and life skills required to find success in school and in life. In addition to the course and training center in central San Diego, there is a Pro Kids-First Tee center in Oceanside in North San Diego County.

Scorecards at Colina have 1 of the 9 healthy habits of Pro Kids-First Tee on each hole
This is a keeper!!

Working on Wedge Shots

Have you ever overpacked for a trip? Or, you have at least traveled with someone else who does it? That’s how I felt armed with 3 wedges and a putter on a par 3 course the other day. It was like I had overpacked and I was toting an extra load.

Solution: pick one wedge and work that the whole course. For this course in particular, with hole yardage spanning an average of 60-80 yards, you could work on any of a variety of wedges to your heart’s desire. Think of trying varied ball placements in your stance as well as different levels of swing adjustments such as a half swing or three-quarter length swing rather than a full swing. I would also to be sure to consider the bounce and roll or the bump and run effect. Some people work on Phil Mickelson-type wedge shots such as the famous flop shot using a lob wedge or higher degree club. I would like to think more along the lines of Lefty’s handiwork on distance control with wedges coming in handy for this type of course along with his basic steps on chipping shots. Beyond Dave Pelz’s short game instruction, Lefty’s demonstrations on wedge shot lessons are remarkable.

Scores Tell Some of the Story

So +7 on a par 3 sounds good, especially when your last words before stepping up to the tee box are: “Let me see what happens if I . . .” You have a few surprises and head scratches, but you know that you should have had more greens in regulation (GIR) and par holes. There’s a story that goes along with that.

  • At least 2 holes I shorted the shot. I don’t have any other excuse except that I can barely guess the yardage of my gap wedge in the middle of my stance when using a half swing.
  • I overshot the green 4 times as I toyed with somehow controlling my pitching wedge on 3 holes on the front and my gap wedge on the 12th hole. My pitching wedge was dead weight after the front nine.
  • Switching back to the Callaway Super Soft was beneficial for my putting in general. My major issues with putting tended to stem from fast greens on the front nine which would have saved me at least 3 strokes.
  • Tee boxes are turfed mats so there were no divots as I chipped and pitched my way from hole to hole.
  • Upon check-in, they provide you with a divot tool to repair the ball marks on the greens.

Anticipating Playing Eastlake Wednesday

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Having prepaid for what seems like my final round of golf for winter break, I am eager to loosen up, check in, and attack the course. Playing Colina Park helped me discover the shortcomings of my short game. With six holes that were misjudged, that’s 1/3 of the course and you can’t help but to expect that to translate into some lost strokes. Unless you pick up some strokes with some miracle putts, that’s just natural outcome.

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Can I squeeze in a weekend round before everything officially starts back? I am hopeful, but I am not banking on it. I realize that I can stretch my frugal dollars a little further if I simply take the time to plan out my play in advance and find some of the hot deals and the bargain discount tee time available out there. Some sites and courses allow you to book up to a week in advance, so if the price is right, then the early bird might just get the biggest worm in the bunch.

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Final Week of Winter Vacation Golf Plans

As my free time begins to slowly dwindle away with a return back to work looming soon, I desperately have to schedule my golf outings for the remainder of my winter break. As I reference my golf planning resources and list out what I want to get done by next Sunday, I believe that I have my work cut out for me. I am already scheduled for an afternoon tee time at Eastlake on Wednesday scheduled after my Bible study livestream and a midmorning business meeting. I don’t have a lot time to work with here.

Monday

Today will include some range work on my irons and wedges. Plus, I want to try this bunker shot that I learned watching Mark Crossfield. Beyond that, I think my focus is fitness and health as I prepare for another 10-Day Detox Challenge.

Tuesday

This might be the day where I can walk an 18-hole par 3 in the morning. I have a critical business meeting later that afternoon, so I believe that would be the best time. Plus, as far as I am concerned that’s the best warmup that I can do for playing 18 on the next day.

Wednesday

With an afternoon tee time at Eastlake on Wednesday already scheduled, I am seeing this as one of the last shots at a par 72 for me before the break is entirely over. After my Bible study livestream and a midmorning business meeting, I will head to the putting surface for some practice and stretching before my round. This might be the last shot at breaking 90 over the break on a fairly familiar course and a shot a trying some of these new golf tips.

Thursday & Friday

Nothing happening here. I got all-day meetings for work in preparation for resuming remote learning with students. Not playing golf either of these days.

Saturday

Saturdays are tricky. The weekend golfers invade the local courses like a swarm and the foursomes get bunched up as the holes get backed up, so it can be a grueling time of tested patience. If I go out, it will definitely be a twilight tee time and it might have me finishing 18 all by my lonesome after the sun has gone down. Thank God for those neon yellow balls.

I would love to play Barona but we’ll see how things go.
Sunday

It all depends for me. If I didn’t get a shot at it on Saturday, I might just make a go of it on Sunday. Typically, I would not play on Sunday. I try to unwind and relax even take it easy before my last day off work. But what else is golf but an opportunity to do that? If I get out there, I will play real close to home and be prepared for a definitely twilight type of play. It’s a lot cheaper and it’s a lot more convenient when the crowd is chugging along throughout the day. Once spring break comes up, I will surely have a greater experience at twilight because of the extended hours. For now, I make the most of it and have as much fun as possible.

It Was the Best of Times. . .

No matter how I approach it or look back at it, I enjoyed this break. I got in some good rounds and saw that the pandemic had not totally crushed my golf game like it has been killing my waistline. Working from home is killing me, so I know that I will take charge of my health differently as I return to work. This will surely include walking at least a par 3 course every 2 weeks. I got to keep the rust off my game, so I am going to keep swinging like I know how.

More Lessons Learned Playing Golf During the Pandemic

According to data from the National Golf Foundation, only 26 percent of all golfers shoot below 90 consistently on regulation 18-hole courses; 45 percent of all golfers average more than 100 strokes per round. A player who shoots 85 is doing better than nearly three out of four of his golfing peers–a good score. (Golfweek)

That being said. . .

New Year’s Day at Pala Mesa Resort

I got to sneak away up the freeway to one of my favorite golf getaway spots in SoCal- Pala Mesa Resort. I used to eyeball this resort from the freeway on trips between Riverside and San Diego, dreaming of the day that I would get a chance to play there and see what this picturesque course was like. I have been here a few times in the last 2 years. I usually get to go there and play at least twice a year.

It is a beautiful course and resort that is nestled within a residential area and includes some holes that chiseled out of the rocky hillsides and sloping landscape of the area. The hole designs have you navigating doglegs with skillfully-placed sand traps and multi-tiered greens with some unforgiving slopes even on their fringe. If nothing else, I love the challenge of the layout.

Playing Lessons Learned at Pala Mesa Resort

I definitely found myself scrambling for bogey and double bogey at times, wondering what went wrong with that last shot as I tried to make up lost ground and time with some off shots. I was thinking that my better work had been around the green, but even your short game gets tested when the fast green let your simple chip turn into a rolling runaway down a slope of the fringe. Despite eating away at all sorts of parts of my ego, the course offered some real playing lessons for me as I endured the challenge and had me some fun giving it a go again.

Scorecard courtesy of Garmin Golf App

Pace of Play

I was teamed up with a group of 3 other golfers and we decided to play from the blue tees. I had just come off walking 2 rounds of playing from the white tees (I ain’t killing myself; it’s a leisure sport), so I was game for extending the course a bit. Our foursome made for a fairly good match with everyone having their own ups and downs here and there, but we kept a good pace. When there’s a holiday crowd and there are holes just backed up like crazy, you keep the pace moving steady. Learn to know when to either pick up the pace or just pick up your ball. You don’t have to putt out every hole if there’s no wager or if others a willing to give you credit for it. Pace of play makes a big difference in your experience. The longer you’re waiting on the foursome ahead of you to get off the green or even out of the fairway, the more thoughts get in your head and the more loss of focus you tend to experience. (At least that’s how it works for me) Give up on some of the kneeling and squatting to gather a read on the potential pathway of your putt and pick it up if it is within four to six feet if the pace is pressing on you and the sun is on its steady descent to where you might not finish your round before sunset.

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Play Ready Golf

I am a respecter of golf etiquette and the gentleman’s rules, but I am also considerate of the group behind me pressing to get their round in, too. Nobody has to get the honors of teeing off first unless it’s a big deal birdie or eagle on the prior hole. Get off the green, get to the next tee box, and if you are ready, tee it up and let it fly. It’s really that simple.

If your playing buddy can’t find his ball and you are ready, take your shot while he and another player give it a decent search. If he is still looking and lagging, suggest that he drop a ball and get on with it. We’ve got golf to play and not all day to get it in. Play ready golf and that promotes a steady pace of play.

Play Your Own Game

As golfers, we tend to live in the competitive zone. Egos are bruised at both the tee box and the putting green. We have to learn that are true competition is not any member of our foursome or any player on the charity tournament slate. That’s gotten into our heads and we need to crush that thinking altogether. What we are really competing against is the course itself. We are up against the intricacies of the course designers and their intricate layout of signature holes and challenges along with the course management’s pin placement for the day.

Hole by hole, we have to play our own game not get caught up in the yank out the driver for this baby and let it rip mentality when a 3 or 5 wood for less yardage and more accuracy might be the elixir for those wayward shots in the first place. Drop the idea of competing against your friends and family unless you have a list of folks like mine who talk enough trash and needle you just enough to get you to go there every so often. But once you have gone there be sure to get back to where you play the course strategically and selectively as you seek to conquer each hole stroke by stroke.

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Recognize What’s Working (And What’s Not Working)

As golfers, we could simply run down a full list of items to check here and we wouldn’t be far off from most of us statistically. Why? Because the common factors in golf remain the same if you think about it. If we play an 18-hole par 72 course, everybody has to face 18 tee shots and 18 putting surfaces with a whole lot of green grass to cover in between and we might want to appreciate the “little things” like a par or better as Lydia Ko said in a prior interview. But we don’t tend to prepare for that with our time on the driving range like Nick Foy suggests. You hear a lot of driver action on the driving range with soaring shots launched skyward like missiles, but the range has targets from within 100 yards to way back at 300+ yards as well as plenty of things in between both. Just like those targets we need to spread the range of our practice on the range or a decent walkable 18-hole par 3. Why not walk amid the morning dew, armed only with a handful of irons and a sleeve of Callaway Super Softs? I mean when the scorecard says that the yardage on the longest hole is just over 140 yards that’s better practice for you at $15 to walk than standing on a turf mat and swinging away at a bucket of 100 or so gnarly range balls.

Your play will reveal what’s working. Simply adjust when necessary and where necessary. I was getting some good drives in at around 185-190 yards on average, but I was missing the fairway plenty of times. Switching to my 3 wood on a few narrow holes gave me a more accurate drive with a little less distance, but it set me up for a decent approach shot and some work around the green. My chipping with the gap and pitching wedge was not getting enough roll to run across that thick grass guarding the green from about 50 yards out, so I modified my swing with an 8 or 9 iron to get things going again. It might have cost me some strokes along the way, but it paid me dividends in providing for less frustration as I kept battling the course. Your play will let you know what’s working and what’s not working, so remain open minded and observant as you play hole by hole.

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Embrace Change and Enjoy the Game

Like I said, I was paired with 3 other golfers at the first tee. They were not the 3 golfers that I was supposed to play with according to the starter, but they were the three that he was going to put me with once he realized this other group of folks were a no-show. So be it! I still get to play within my tee time and these guys got bumped up to start a little earlier than their expected tee time. There’s a lot to be said by just showing and being ready.

Take whatever you got from your time on the driving range or the putting practice surface and apply it where you can and how you can. This isn’t the time to go experimenting with your game. My late cousin and I used to play religiously when we lived together. He was a recovery shot machine. I mean out of all sorts of nasty situations, he could needle a punch shot with a fairway wood off of a bed of pine needles or lob a wedge shot over a willow tree’s canopy of drooping branches and leaves for a soft roll onto the green. That guy would experiment to the point where you could get high blood pressure just watching him work his way out of trouble. That worked for him, but that’s not what most of us need to do. Most of us need to tackle the course with our best game and have some fun while doing it. That’s the way I see it.

Thank you to all golf writers and bloggers featured, mentioned and linked here. You add to the life of other blogs with your content. However, this post contains 2 of my favorite golf bloggers to quote/ link: Brian Penn and the Grateful Golfer with a post on putting what you see that I linked where Brian is mentioned by the Grateful Golfer, What small blogosphere we live in.

5 Lessons Learned on My First Round of Golf since the Pandemic

I learned some real valuable lessons on my first round of golf since the pandemic hit our nation and the entire world. I wouldn’t really consider the golf tournament that I participated in this fall as a round of golf nor anything that contributes to my goal of breaking 90 consistently. It definitely helped to boost my confidence, but it was just not one for the record books. I felt that this was my first outing and I learned plenty along the way.

My outing included some lessons learned on two different courses positioned at opposites sides of East County San Diego and at opposite ends of the day. Morning started with me walking the back nine at Carltons Oaks Golf Course in Santee as clouds of mist began to subside to the rising sun. That afternoon had me facing the par 3 18-hole Pine Glen course at Singing Hills Golf Course (Sycuan Resort) in the middle of threats of rain and mild Santa Ana winds. Both courses offered me some extremely timely and useful lessons on engaging in golf since the pandemic as I walked each round with my golf bag slung across my back.

1. Walking the Course Has Advantages Over Riding

I find that walking a course toting your bag on your back can give you all sorts of lessons alone, especially when you consider issues such as lower back pain and overall fitness. The game of golf has its own lessons and walking the course teaches us plenty, too.

  • Much like running or jogging, walking the golf course during a round allows you to listen to your body.
  • You quickly have an idea of just how fit your are (or not) as you walk the golf course during your round
  • You try to keep your shot selections more selective and strategic when walking more than while riding in the cart
  • Downsizing is a practical pathway, whether it be the number of clubs or other items in your bag.
  • You feel a bit closer to nature while walking the course during your round of golf. It can be the ducks by the water hazards or the rising mist from the grassy fairways in the morning, but it is definitely a sense of serenity that comes over you as you take it all in step by step.

2. Technology Helps Track Stats More & More

I used to keep scorecards stuffed and tucked away in my golf bag’s pockets. They would come straight from the back pocket after the final hole and into a hidden place in that bag and remain there until they slip or drop out by mistake. That’s not what I am doing now.

I used Garmin’s mobile golf app on both my smart phone and my Garmin Vivoactive 3 watch. My preference is the mobile phone app for just tracking strokes, but the watch allows you to track distance to the pin as well as the distance of your last shot. Course information can be downloaded in advance for usage on the watch during a round. Another option is MyScorecard and its mobile app. The technology kept me on track as I improved my score hole by hole.

3. Muscle Memory Works Most of the Time

I hate to admit it but it’s true that muscle memory is not an absolute. It tends to fail when your nerves get the better of you and those first tee jitters get to jumping around like nervous butterflies in your belly. Yips can override any personal yearning for swinging for big yards and open fairways as I realized the reality that played out before my eyes unlike some things I read when I browse the blogs and sports articles. I definitely learned that some things are slower to change as it initially took me 3 holes to warm up at Carlton Oaks.

4. Every Round of Golf Offers Surprises

It almost goes without saying that nearly every single time I play golf that I am provided some kind of surprise. Previously playing Oak Glen at Sycuan, I learned how a wayward duck can disrupt the perfect flight of a line drive from a hooded 6 iron. While playing at Chula Vista Golf Course, I discovered how a fairway wood recovery shot could simply be shortened and cutoff by low-hanging electrical wires threaded across the otherwise wide open fairway.

This time around did not displease. Hole #16 at Carlton Oaks gave me an unjust and cruel fate handed down when my approach shot was cut short by grazing the peak of a jutting mound of earth, forcing me to chip as close as possible to the green with an explosion of sand in my face upon impact. Faced with a par shot off the fringe of the hole, I elected to use my putter as opposed to any wedge play and struck paydirt for par even to my own surprise. Like I said, I’ll take that all day long.

5. Your Game is Usually Better Than You Expect

Put all of the b.s. aside for a moment. I am not always walking the course, and I am most certainly not always one who undergoes a regimented routine of arriving at the course early and ensuring that I have things in order to have a productive and positive round of golf. Maybe that is a profound lesson learned for me, too. Things can be more productive and more positive when you decide to do more preparation for your round than just popping up and playing without a plan.

My results speak for themselves. I was +13 on 18 holes of par 3? Anyone who has played with me over the years know that I dread almost any par 3 hole. For me to make multiple pars on that course, I knew that my morning round had helped me build some confidence and recognize where I lacked strength. Prior to teeing off at Singing Hills that afternoon, I smashed range balls with my 6 and 8 irons as a warmup and a reinforcement of my own potential with my irons.

You have to understand that despite being +9 on the back nine at Carlton Oaks those irons were not my saving grace that morning. Every time I pulled them out of my bag it seemed to my detriment. I even went so far as to using my hybrid to work anything between 150 to 100 yards out and my pitching wedge for anything within 100 yards of the pin.

Knowing that I was facing 18 holes of par 3 challenges, I knew that I needed those two clubs to get my scores down and conquer those par 3s. And they delivered well and allowed me to keep pushing even when I had to use the same club where I had just flubbed a tee shot to pull off a high risk recovery shot. I learned that my application of hooded tee and approach shots with a 6 iron and sharply-chopped 8 iron rolls were enough to keep me in contention for par at nearly every turn.

I value all of the lessons that I learned playing golf again since the pandemic arose. I am eagerly awaiting my next outing this week most probably on New Year’s Eve. I am going to reference my notes and try to compensate for where I allowed my game to lack focus and get sloppy. I mean what do you call it when your second shot on a par 5 places you squarely 155 yards from the pin and your 6 iron sends a rocketed misaligned third shot approximately 25 to 30 yards off target to the left of the green? I think sloppy is a euphemism for such a thing, but it all taught me a clear lesson on the power of consistency making things easier for myself than forcing risky and remarkable recovery shots. Thank God for walking the course, bitterly condemning myself as I walked from one shot to another to regain my composure and play it strategically to keep things under a double bogey.

Until next time, keeping swinging and having fun.

Simple Tips for Planning Your Next Round of Golf Part 2

You have to succeed in doing what’s necessary.

Winston Churchill

In Part 1 of this posting, I focused I on the things that you needed to do in order to secure a tee time reservations. Technically, I would have shared the FREE Golf Planning Resource Sheet within that first post, but here’s the link for you to download your copy right now. Think about this as not so much a continuation of the same post but an additional phase of preparation when we talk about tips for planning your next golf round. With the rise of swift changes to many course policies and practices due to the widespread pandemic, being prepared is going to take you a long way and limit the amount of frustration that you may have to endure upon arriving at the golf course.

Check Your Equipment

You cannot show up for a round of golf and you haven’t checked your equipment since your last round or visit to the driving range. Like Winston Churchill said in his famous address to the House of Commons in 1916,”You have to succeed in doing what’s necessary.” Take the time to simply do a brief equipment check and ready yourself for your upcoming round of golf.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST
  • Golf Bag (overall function) If it has a stand, is it still popping out and stable? Plan on walking, do you need all of those clubs and balls in your bag?
  • Clubs Check to make sure that your golf clubs are in order and clean. Wipe them down the night before as you get into the right mental state to head to the course for your next round of golf.
  • Additional Equipment Do you carry your bag or use a walking cart? What condition is the cart in right now? Have you checked your inventory of golf tees and golf balls? Make sure to ensure that you a divot tool and ball marker, even if it’s a lucky dime.
  • Golf Gear & Clothing This includes everything from what you wear and what extras you carry. Rainy weather might require a rain poncho and an umbrella. Golf shoes always seem to be a good asset, especially when playing some of these less-maintained municipal courses.

Download a FREE copy of the Golf Planning Equipment Checklist.

Plan Your Arrival

Stretch the Night Before

I would suggest yoga or some deep stretching exercises that involve engaging your core and your lower back. Use an early morning warm-up of full-body exercises such jumping jacks and squats topped off with planks. Look into golf fitness programs and regimens that might fit your style.

Get a Good Night’s Rest

Sleep is a highly undervalued commodity as noted as part of Amanda’s posting in Bubbles & Barbells. Rest can impact not just your immune system. It can also have a direct correlation to your ability to remain engaged for extended periods of time. No wonder the CBD industry and its hemp-based products are making a killing as it spreads throughout the golf industry. Weekend golfers need to maintain their alertness while on the course and searching for lost balls in the rough.

Wake Up Early

Rise up early the day of your round. Get your cup of coffee or tea. Stretch your muscles and open your eyes with some early morning of CNN, Fox Business or BBC News Worldwide. Or, you could always read an article or a blog post on tips for planning your next round of golf to see if you have done everything as planned.

Arrive at the Course Early

Provide yourself enough time to check in and conduct whatever pre-round ritual you need to do in order to get into a good head space before teeing off for your round. If you use the range or putting surface, allow time for it and whatever pandemic changes that might have transpired since your last golf outing.

If you are organizing a foursome or group for golf that day, be sure to text and call your fellow players to ensure that all parties arrive early, check in and are in the ready position for when the start calls your group name over the intercom system. Nothing worst than that late-comer member of your foursome running to catch up with your group at the first tee out of breath and barefoot on one foot with his other golf shoe and sock in hand. That makes for a good impression regarding that golf etiquette.

Have Fun and Keep Swinging

The great thing about golf is being out there. You hit the fairway and feel at one with the environment. Whether you enjoy just a good time with some friends and a few brews or you truly embrace the challenge of competing against the course, golf is the type of thing that can consume four hours of your day with one round and leave you feeling like you truly got to know the other person in the cart (well, at least pre-pandemic) and you learned something new about yourself and your golf game or at least about the golf course and its layout and design.

Just be sure to have you some fun out there after all of the planning that you did for your next golf round and keep swinging.

Simple Tips for Planning Your Next Round of Golf Part 1

Proper planning rules the day.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Introduction

While playing golf can be fun, I have to admit that it takes some planning to get onto the course. For those whimsical and impulsive folks who like to just pop up, show up and do things on the fly, a golf outing might either require a high degree of patience mixed with free time or a load of luck. For the rest of us, a well-planned golf outing is based on some simple tips on how to plan for a round of golf.

I broke this into a 2-part posting because I wanted to make sure that you grasp the tips offered here on how to plan and prepare for your next round of golf. Although these are not an end-all of tips available on preparation for a round of golf, these tips on how to plan for your next round of golf are a look into my own process as well as ideas on how to save money and eliminate frustration when trying to prepare for a round of golf in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

My latest golf practice video

Where to Begin

I am a planner. I like to plan my practice days and I like to plan my playing days. That just works for me and it helps me with my schedule and calendar. I tend to start my planning with 3 major factors in mind:

  • Time: How much time do I have available to play and when is that available time (morning or afternoon)?
  • Distance: How far am I willing to travel to play? Am I staying nearby at a local municipal course in my area? Or, am I thinking of hitting the road and bracing traffic for something beyond my immediate 10-20 mile radius?
  • Budget: How much am I willing to spend for a round? Is there FREE or discounted replay?

I might not write it all down, but I have it all in mind. I use this as my starting point to know what I am looking for versus what is not on my radar for this particular golf outing. This keeps my frustration level low when it comes to identifying available tee times and particular courses in my area.

Time Window for Play

When it comes to winter vacation, spring break or even a summer vacation, I find that I can play more weekdays at a cheaper rate than my regular weekend golf rounds. So, for someone like me, my planning might look different at different times of the year, but I try to stick to the same process most of the time.

You might have more free time on the weekends, for instance, but that leaves you at the mercy of the pro shop’s higher rates. You may prefer the early to mid-morning tee times, but those tend to come at a premium price compared to playing later in the day during what is called twilight. Twilight rates come a discount and leave you in a hurried pace of play to finish before the sun goes down. Based upon your available time to play, you can identify a window of time that both fits your schedule and your budget for your next golf outing.

Travel Distance

During my extended periods of time off like winter break, I like to mix in a few course that I might not travel to on the weekends. I feel free to hit the road and go beyond my immediate circuit of regular golf course selections in my area. During this winter break, I have already spied out some deals for play at Pala Mesa Resort on a weekday soon and I potentially want to play at Oceanside Golf Course when I visit the Linksoul Lab in the same area. Otherwise, I manage to keep my travel distance down to about 20 miles maximum to play local courses not far from my home and with no stress on my gas tank.

Golf Budget

No matter how you slice it, playing golf can be considered expensive by many outsiders. For the frugal golfer, I am always putting out some tips and how-to information as it comes my way. You can enjoy the sport without having to pay wildly high prices as if you only had country club and resort course options. If you do not approach your planning with a budget, you might need some assistance picking your jaw up off the ground for how much a single round comes out to at a luxury golf resort and spa. (They always have a spa as if that justifies the additional hike in tee time rates.)

Please note that I would approach planning a destination golf trip or stay-and-play golf weekend a whole different way than just the above-mentioned factors. Lengthy trips include a lot more considerations than just an afternoon outing to a local course. When you involve travel beyond a single day, you need to expand or enhance your criteria as well as engage others in the process if you are planning for a small group and overnight accommodations.

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Searching for Open Tee Times and Deals

Now that you ae armed with your preliminary planning items like available time and budget, you can start searching for for open tee times and deals. You save a lot of time using online resources rather than calling pro shops. (You’ll be lucky if you get any on the phone when it’s great weather = they’re busy checking in other golfers!)

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Get on the Email List (Worth It!)

If you haven’t done so already, definitely sign up for emails from Golf Advisor and GolfNow even TeeOff. A recent newbie for me has been Rockbottom Golf. For me, these tend to be my go-to sites for comparison pricing on tee times. There are others such as Golfzing and even sites like JC Golf that have memberships tied to specific courses of play. I think American Golf used to be my favorite back in the day, but changes in ownership, management and course offerings and packages just left me at the point where I let that go.

Search by Your Criteria (Based on Your 3 Major Factors)

Don’t waste your time. That can get frustrating or take you down a rabbit hole. Focus on your goal of finding a tee time that fits for you and how you want to play. Most sites like Golf Now and Tee Off have filters that allow you to set everything from numbers of players, cart or walking, price range, distance from your location, and of course, time window. They will spit out some tee times and locations for you to browse and select from as you review the available deals and rates.

Be aware that there are always some Hot Deals as Golf Now likes to call them and featured courses. These may not match your criteria specifically or entirely, but occasionally they’re worth a look and the possibility of altering your plans slightly. Keep in mind that every deal is not a fit for you. Take it like shopping for anything: just because it is on sale doesn’t mean that you have to buy it.

Review & Research the Courses

Know what is under the hood per se. Get to know a little something about the course, especially if you have not played that specific course since the pandemic hit the nation. Keep in mind that local health guidelines impact golf course facilities and their procedures and policies like many other businesses. Beyond face coverings and social distancing, you might be required to ride in separate carts and that could impact fees and rates. This is all part of planning for your next round out golf.

GET TO KNOW THE LAYOUT
  • Is this the course where your buddy talked about that severe dogleg or the tee shot over the canyon?
  • Are there areas where there is water in play?
  • Do you see a trend of sand surrounding the greens?
  • What in the devil was the designer thinking when he laid this out?
  • Will this provide a fund, challenging time on the course?
READ THE REVIEWS

Numerous golfers have cited course changes in policies and procedures, but also some course layouts and maintenance has been altered. When the grounds crew feels the need to move the entire green to the fairway and you can hardly tell the moss of the fringe from that stuff that is growing near the newly-identified hole, you might want to have some advance notice, especially when they’re hitting you up at premium rates. Get some insights from course reviews on sites like Supreme Golf or Greenskeeper. Even course reviews by golf pros and golf instructors can provide some gems. Taking the time to take in the reviews of potential golf courses on your list will give you an idea of what to expect when you arrive at a new course and what has or hasn’t changed at an old familiar course. Your planning for your next round of golf should involve taking the time to read some of the latest reviews.

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READ & REVIEW THE SCORECARD

This might seem like a given, but the first tee is no place for surprises as you discover that there are four different tee boxes, not including the ladies box, and that the course has the traditional black, blue, and white tees along with gold and green. So, where are we hitting from?

You need to spend some time ahead of your time at the course getting to know the course that you have your game up against. In essence, this helps you prepare for a better outing. If you are facing a series of narrow, tree-lined fairways with little to no forgiveness and you have been hooking and slicing those fairway woods since you got them for Father’s Day, then you you might want to leave them at home or in the trunk and show up with your best iron game off the tee if that’s your selected course of play. Like they say on social media: #IJS.

BOOK YOUR TEE TIME

What I like about using sites like Golf Now or Tee Off is that you can book and secure your tee time online. Oftentimes, you can do this with little to no money down, depending the course and its relationship with the site. I find that convenient when I am booking a tee time 3 to 4 days in advance, especially when I am hitting the road or its between paydays between today and then. I am not the type of guy to use the funds that I might have used for a bag of groceries on a round of golf. (Well, at least not any longer since quite a long time ago) Needless to say, the setup with these online tee time reservations is simple, easy and convenient. And, as part of the new normal, contactless.

Once you have this under way, your next move will be to contact your foursome or playing buddies if you are not playing as a single. Otherwise, I always like the added convenience of adding the event to my calendar, in particular my personal Google Calendar. That allows me to set alerts and keeps me focused as I schedule my days ahead. By doing this, I keep myself organized and balanced when it comes to managing my time and preparing for my next round of golf.

Next in Part 2: We get to preparation for your next golf round

Right When I’m Ready

I have oftentimes heard if you snooze you lose. And here it is in the first week of December just after a quiet Thanksgiving break and a short session to the driving range, and California as a whole is looking at massive shutdown and stay-at-home orders going into effect within the next 24 hours. I mean all of this right when I was ready to visit my local municipal course and give the course a whirl.

Think about it like this. Last week I had just posted on my driving range session prior to my play at a local charity golf tournament. I have visited the range multiple times since that session and tournament, but the feedback and support that I got both here and on YouTube, even Twitter, have helped reshape my approach to the range for my next session tomorrow. Brian Penn with All About Golf gave me some spot on pointers that have me engaging my core more than just swinging my shoulders and arms.

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I see the shutdown orders as another thing that will simply force me to do what many golfers dread and some others simply geek out about to no end. I am going to be forced to plan my play.

Plan Your Play

Working in the school system means that I get those extended breaks for winter and summer, even those week’ for Thanksgiving and Spring Break. Hey, I will take them all day long.

And this usually causes me to engage in planning my play. Scheduling includes which days I will make a run up to Oceanside and visit the LinkSoul shop for my Make Par Not War gear and play Pala Mesa Resort. Or, it might even entail my own personal version of two-a-days where I might play a par 3 course in the morning hours and work in a full 18 on a course like Cottonwood or Chula Vista which isn’t too long or drastic like Barona Creek or Eastlake Golf Course. Courses like Sycuan offer multiple hole layouts so you could replay and have the feel of a totally different course. Regardless of how I format it, such extended periods of time afford me the opportunity to plan my play much like the Grateful Golfer shared.

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Shutdown Means a Slight Adjustment

Outdoor recreation will adjust again. We will have to remain contactless and maintain social distancing with face coverings of course. It is in effect for 3 weeks, so that will put us right into the middle of my winter break. I could jam in a handful of rounds weather permitting… Oh, who am I kidding! It’s Southern California. Any bad weather is a welcome added challenge for the course.

In all honesty, I look forward to having to plan out my play. I got a few folks I need to try to catch up with on the course. It will give me a good target to take aim at as I do my indoor workouts daily in preparation for my next outing.

Tomorrow’s driving range session will be another chance for me to get the GoPro working and capture myself in full swing mode after all of that quality advice and feedback alongside the golf tips and videos that I researched and reviewed. I think it will be a bittersweet session since I have only played in a tournament since COVID-19 struck us with its massive effects on our daily lives. All I know is that next time, I am jumping out there and getting on the links when this thing opens up again (as long as the cases go down like the governor hopes).

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Back into the Swing Again & Then. . .

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” And seems like a promise more than an axiom

 

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I got back into the swing of things by participating in the Escondido Chamber of Commerce’s annual golf tournament at Woods Valley. It was a sunny day in Valley Center just east of Escondido, California, as I checked in and made a hasty attempt at stretching for the delayed tee times. I used to love the shotgun starts, but we got new rules and regulations for the new normal. I was ready to get going and get out there to get swinging.

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Undoubtedly, I had a great time being teamed up with some extraordinary folks within North County. I truly enjoyed the special ball launcher advantage early on where my foursome easily birdied. I mean what else could be expected with that canon at work and playing best ball?

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I loved the time spent with my friends from the Chamber office and made plans to get together “once this COVID thing died down.” Altogether, I got some good advice from one of fellow players, opened up my stance and laid out some promising drives that sailed down the fairway. That was a far cry from that initial set of drives that all drifted and faded like crows diving from the sky.

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Hello! I mean it was all cool that I did not win the raffle prizes… ANY of them at all! I just could not believe that one dude in my foursome won 3 raffle prizes. I mean for real? Needless to say, we didn’t win the tourney either. But we did manage to square away a solid scorecard and come in 5 under on a fairly challenging course.

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What I did learn was that my putter stroke was still smooth and i dropped a few crucial ones when we were in a pickle. I did not have to use my Mulligans so i shared the wealth with my foursome. I also felt pretty good about my approach shots with the hybrids. The long irons above 6 are almost obsolete. Plus, it requires a lot of adjustment for guys like me to angle that shaft and clubhead after whacking balls with drivers and hybrids. The accuracy is still under construction with the long irons 6 and above. Heck, they hardly offer full club sets with 3 irons anymore and the ones with 4 irons are gradually being replaced with mini hybrid clubs.

Play your best and make it work. Keep swinging and have fun.

I wanted to get a bicoastal competitive vibe going with my guys back East Golf Rookies 704. That might have to wait given the conditions these days. California has gone COVID crazy!

Now that this COVID thing is NOT going away any time soon, I am not sure on the new regulations and restrictions. I have to see what my holiday week off looks like. I f I can get one or two rounds in, I am golden. Otherwise, I am down to hold on for another lockdown period. I waitied this long.

But that one day got me jonesing for more for sure.

Restart Today

Do less, better. Because most of what we do or say is not essential.

Marcus Aurelius

If I am honest about it, I have not played golf in ages. I can honestly say that I miss it.

I miss that feeling of the soft leather glove gripping the driver and taking the club head back slowly at the first tee and letting it rip on the downswing. I miss the green grass fairways and the oddly cut greens that leave your putts short and absorb a Callaway Super Soft like Cookie Monster on a chocolate chip cookie. I just miss the game.

Playing in the TJ Winters Golf Tournament its first year at Riverwalk Golf Course

Almost daily, I walk by multiple sets of clubs in my garage over and over again, agonizing over the pandemic precautions and the restricted movements of our society. Sadly, the truth of the matter is that many have suffered and died due to this COVID-19 pandemic. I truly have been stuck with where to begin again with my golf journey to breaking 90 on a consistent basis.

Then I got an email about an upcoming golf tournament for a good cause. The Escondido Chamber of Commerce will host its annual Chamber Challenge Golf Tournament November 2nd at Woods Valley Golf Club. A good cause plus a good price usually equals a good time.

What better way to work my way back into the game?

The last tournament I played in tested out my latest driver and fairway woods. This one will give me a chance to shed some rust from the coronavirus closure. It would mark my first foray back onto the fairway.

Am I ready?

Can we ever say that we are really ready? I doubt it. I probably will regret not buying a few Mulligans. I probably will have a few of those yippy putts where I regret not practicing my short game on the bedroom or hallway carpet just to maintain my feel. But I bet I will have some of that old luster come out, too. You know that one drive where you say that’s why you came out in the first place. I could imagine feeling myself get into the swing of things by the back nine, depending on where I start with the scramble rather than shotgun start.

But I need to get started now and take on some sage advice for tournament play.

So, today I dust off the clubs and hit the range. Brush up on that good old golf etiquette.

I think I can get in about 3 or 4 trips to the range and maybe 2 solid golf rounds before the tournament. That way I can at least make a decent showing before I tee off with my fellas from the Escondido Chamber.

At the least I should get a pretty cool golf face covering in the goodie bag with some free tees.

Let’s get this thing started.