Aerated Greens and More Challenges

“A great golf course both frees and challenges a golfer’s mind.” — Tom Watson

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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.

Scrambling Saves the Scorecard

Let’s be honest! If you keep pulling your drives to the right, you will not hit too many greens in regulation nor set yourself for too many birdie opportunities. You’ll work against the thick grass of the rough, having to select a club and shot based upon how the ball lies in the thicker grass as opposed to how it might be sitting on the fairway. So, hitting 3 fairways and 1 green in regulation did not help to improve my scorecard.

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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.

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Spring Break Golf PLans

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.

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Limited Daily Doubles

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.

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Breaking 90 is an Ongoing Goal

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
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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.

Keep swinging and having fun.

Getting Over the Mud Ball Ruling and Other Controversies in Golf

Before I get too far into the whole mud ball ruling and Patrick Reed’s advantage in his recent PGA Tour victory at Torrey Pines by 5 strokes, I have to admit that golf fans can get into a frenzy over all things golf related. This is especially a sensitive issue when it comes to the rules of golf. We see golf fans up in arms of things that span the full spectrum of play from the new rules regarding the flagstick to the highly-debated controversy of Mudgate, the muddy ball ruling that has sparked so much chatter and fodder on discussion boards like Reddit and social media like Twitter. At the end of the day, we spend a great deal of time discussing and debating these occasional hiccups in the professional ranks and end up pointing fingers rather than developing real-time solutions and accepting human error as part of the game.

Am I a Patrick Reed fan? I think some would do well to read hist story before passing judgment on a journeyman golfer who finally broke the ranks to win in the professional ranks. His journey to where he is now says a lot of who he really is and might help some folks see the man beyond the hoopla of the headlines.

Controversy or Convictions

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.

Really?

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?

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Lexi’s LPGA Loss Due to Fan Calling In a Penalty

Fan input took to an all-time new high when a fan dialed in to share that Lexi Thompson should have been docked four strokes. The fan stated that since Lexi moved the ball she should have been assessed a two stroke penalty and then a second two stroke penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. Four strokes? That cost Lexi the win despite her heroic efforts in a major tournament playoff round.

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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.

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LPGA Q-School Rules Violation

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.

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Where do we go from here? Patrick Reed will continue to be demonized as a PGA tour menace for all kinds of reasons that people feel comfortable tossing his way. Lefty will always get a side eye glare as he plays until his retirement. Fans will no longer have input on rulings, though. That might remain a good thing that comes out of all of this controversy.

I find that the best answer to all of this comes in the form of a controversial video of one of my favorite golf guys Bubba Watson. He has a recovery shot and a fan belts out advice from the other side of the ropes on what Bubba should do, but Bubba takes to addressing the ball and striking it pure to make a sensational recovery. He looks around for the guy afterwards but no sign of him. What is most delightful is Bubba stating that there’s a reason that the fan is on that side of the ropes and he’s not before taking his swing.

They’re pros. and we’re not.

Leave it at that.

MLK Day: A Day Off, A Day on the Course

I rarely pass up a good deal. And, when it comes to good deals on a round of golf, I am usually game. That’s what I came across online for walking 9 holes at Carlton Oaks Country Club at 7 AM on MLK Day. I took that with a quickness.

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Carlton Oaks Country Club (Santee, California)

Located in the midst of a residential area, Carlton Oaks Country Club is tucked away between the 52 Freeway and the single family homes of this eastern suburb. In an era where many courses seem forsaken by management and groundskeepers alike, this course still retains its luster as the morning sun pushes up from behind the nearby hilltops and shines upon the dewy fairways. Even with the morning mist rising from grassy open areas, this course offers plenty of built-in challenges embedded within the front and back. It also includes water coming into play on some key holes, especially a forced layup for most golfers on the final 18th hole.

Play to Your Strengths

My switch back to the TaylorMade Burner with the 10.5 degree head has been awesome off the tee. I am seeing more lift in my drives with less drift and pull. Right now, I am just under 40% of fairways hit. I expect that to bump up on my next outing for a similar course. I can gain a little bit more control extending my arms through impact and following through further. Plus, if I can be honest, I could truly have utilized my 3 wood off the tee to have given myself a better second shot in a few places. Implement that strategy on 2 holes, and then I am busting over 60% fairways hit.

Maybe next time.

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More Par Opportunities and Close Calls

After my play at Cottonwood, I knew one of my struggles was not giving myself enough of a chance at making par. What does that mean? If I average two putts when I make it to the green, then my best shot at par is to get to the green with at least a birdie opportunity. For instance, I took some time to read and watch Today’s Golfer’s instructional article and video on scoring better on par 5s. I am not there yet, but I am getting closer.

My par on the 15th was after my third shot with a hybrid landed above the hole just off the green. By following that up with a light chip shot that rolled within inches of the hole, I was in the prefect position for par. Fast forward to the next hole and I found myself in a familiar position at the same hole I had chipped in for par my last time on the course, but this time fate killed my chip shot just inches from falling into the hole and forced me to take a bogey. It was a heartbreaker, but like I said before, you limit your chances for making par when you force an all-or-nothing shot for par off the fringe or at an extensive distance.

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Next Time I Play. . .

  • I will have on some lightweight golf shoes
  • I will consider my 3 wood on some holes surrounded by hazards
  • I will try to shave 2 strokes off my score
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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
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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.