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.

Reopen Readiness

Golf Courses Reopen After COVID-19 Closure

Folks want things to go back to the way they once were. Or, so they say so.

With the new requirements of face coverings and social distancing, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

My home golf course sent me multiple emails, urging and encouraging me to return the course. They have assured me of all of the safeguards that they have put in place to ensure that play remains both safe and enjoyable. The emails seem well intended and well written.

I’m just not ready yet.

Fauci and Facts

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, “The Virus is a formidable foe.” No matter what President Trump says about Fauci, the fact remains that only one of them is a doctor and a leading expert on such health conditions. In a mad rush to reopen the country, we have seen an enormous increase in the amount of cases across the nation.

The PGA and Golf Channel have given us some teasers with a few tourneys the prior month, then some regular PGA events. Our appetites for watching golf had us salivating for at least a morsel something that we could sink our teeth into beyond those late night viewings of Celebrity Golf with black and white footage of Sam Snead and Hollywood hunks going at it for nine hole challenges. And the almighty golf media gods delivered.

My county has seen fit to reopen golf courses with a laundry list of safety precautions. The one about single golfer per cart is nice since courses were trying to pair riders prior to this, but not touching the flagsticks and removing the ball washers seem sort of extreme. But those precautions would not be deal-breakers.

Other states have slowly reopened courses as well, while some have chosen not to do so. As of now less than 5% of GolfNow.com‘s 5,300 partner courses remain closed. But that doesn’t speak to the amount of players actually hitting the links for a round. The question is not whether or not we can play. The question is whether or not we will play.

As for me and my clubs, I’m just not ready yet.

It’s Been a While and It’ll Be a While

It has been a while since I last played golf. I am not going to lie. And, like many golfers, I feel that itch to toss the clubs into the trunk and head over to at least the driving range to see what I still got in the tank.

But I’m just not read yet.

I believe that I could probably handle a full round of golf and hold my own. I don’t believe that I would come out striking the sweet spot on my drives or reading the greens for those delicate putts for par or better. But I do believe that I could go out and have a great time enjoying the challenge of the course and maintain a steady pace of play.

But I still believe it will be a while before I play again.

This time last year I was knee deep in golf. I played a short par 3 course near home in the AM hours and a choice of municipal and resort courses throughout San Diego County. Or, if I had the option, I would stay overnight and play Barona Creek or Sycuan, even Pala Mesa Resort. On “off days,” I would just hit the range or work on my short game with the gap wedge and pitching wedge. That lob wedge can be tricky. I’d work on putting game every so often, but I had grown accustomed to using my early morning play on par 3 courses to develop an eye for reading greens and feel for delivering some near-miss putts.

I even had plans of venturing up to Journey at Pechanga this summer, but circumstances changed that. The same circumstances have me resolving to not rush it, to take things slow and easy, and simply wait it out until I feel comfortable and confident about getting back out there.

I believe that there is still a while to go before we get through flu season and see the coronavirus curtail and dovetail into the distance like a hooking drive angled on a dogleg fairway.

Waiting It Out

I think I can just wait it out for now.

I fill my time with other fitness and sports activity. I run and walk a lot. I have taken to some body weight exercises that include some yoga and shadow boxing. I have focused on losing weight before I turn 50 years old later this year. I have occupied my time with a lot of other things other than golf.

I have resolved to just wait it out.

My hybrids may grow a little dusty and my putter stroke may grow a little rusty, but golf is about touch and feel among other things. I do not believe that I have totally lost touch with the desire to play. That’s still in there. I do believe that when i feel comfortable and confident, I will load up the golf bag and mark my Callaway Supersoft balls with my red Sharpie as I take a few deep breaths at the first hole. Whenever I go out there again, I will probably wear some Loudmouth gear or something else bold and obnoxious to pretty much announce my return whether anyone else gives a hoot or not.

I just feel like I can wait it out until I am good and ready.


Weight Loss Update

Over the last two weeks, I have extended my long runs on Sundays and have also returned to the work site. Working on site as opposed to remotely from home can impact everything from workout schedule to meal planning. And I feel it.

I lost 7 pounds 2 weeks ago and regained 4 pounds before I got back into any kind of fitness groove this week. I need to kill it on my run on Sunday to keep pace with the weight loss as I enter a 10-day Daniel Fast coming up.

I will be sure to keep you updated as I go further with this journey.

Less than 5 months to go before I turn 50.