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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Mixing in Weekend Workouts and Practice Rounds

In planning my play, I have mentioned at times on this blog how my work schedule allows for me to have extensive periods of golf play during school breaks. Technically, I preferred the year-round school schedule with its periodic 20-25 days off. But you oftentimes have to make do with what you get when you work for someone else.

PLaying Practice Rounds

President’s Day Weekend is one of those rare four-day weekends that affords me some extra time to mix in some practice rounds. This includes me playing at a championship course like Carlton Oaks. Gone are its days of luster from yesteryear, but this course still packs plenty of challenges for an average golfer. Walking the back 9 for about a third of the regular price for the full course with a cart is great way to make the most of my practice rounds.

Whenever I am planning my next round of golf, I tend to go through a routine that helps me get in the right mindset, find a good deal on tee times, and occasionally work in walking the course as part of my weekend fitness routine. I find that playing an 18-hole par 3 course is more economical and more efficient than buying a large bucket of range balls. The key advantage is that I learn more situational golf skills, decision making, and adjustments.

Weekend Workouts Versus Weekday Workouts

I like mixing in weekend workouts and practice rounds of golf whenever I can. These both work to my advantage. These both best fit the time that I have free and available. When it comes to the weekends, I need to make the most of my time.

Weekday Workouts: Training Days

During the weekdays, I set up Tuesdays and Thursdays as my training days. I usually try to get in my high intensity interval training (HIIT) along with some simple cardio and resistance training on these days. The other days are simply walking or light cardio and bodyweight exercises. This has worked for me so far, and I find that what I am able to get done before one makes me feel like I have accomplished so much.

Weekend Workouts: Walking the Course and Practice Rounds

It might seem like a bit of a cheat but it works for me. I used spend endless hours searching for the ideal local 5K to run at least once per month. Usually these happened on the weekends, so my weekend workouts were in the bag per se. Then COVID-19 hit.

No more 5Ks other than run-on-your-own virtual events. That called for me to come up with a replacement. With golf fitting in as a perfect social distancing sport, I found that walking the course gave me some challenges but it was best for me overall as I entered 2021. This allowed me to get in some steps build some stamina and build confidence as I mix in a few practice rounds.

Maximizing Practice Rounds as Weekend Workouts

I know that my practice reveals my problems, but I also know that it also sheds some light on where I have lost a step or two and where I need to push myself in order to get back into shape. That’s a reality that I have had to face, so I deal with it by mixing in some weekend workouts with practice rounds this weekend. I will face some challenging courses and some familiar holes with different flag pole positions, but I will also be killing two birds with one stone. I get in my walking steps at new heights for probably two days in a row and I will kick off my week with a fitness spark that will keep me motivated throughout the week.

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.

Captivated by the Challenge of Championship Courses

In golf your strengths and weaknesses will always be there. If you could improve your weaknesses, you would improve your game.

Harvey Penick

As I dip in and out of watching the early rounds of the Farmers Invitational, I know that it has been something of a desire for many to play our local Torrey Pines course. I know the familiar coastal views and the lush green fairways appear even more majestic now that we cannot travel in hordes of rowdy fans trailing Tiger, DJ and Brooks to rival our Phoenix Open golf bros with this COVID-19 fan restriction, but the course still appears to be challenging from what I have seen on TV so far. All those in contention for the lead (or even a share of the lead at the least) have one thing in common: they’re all playing the same course and facing similar challenges.

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The Course is Both Challenger & Competitor

I see the course as both challenger and competitor. It has been designed to not simply offer too many “gimme” holes in the form of easily reachable in 2 par 4s or simple par 5s that are just a mere 15 to 20 yards longer than the longest par 4 on the course. Course design of late has seemed to taken a less is more approach that somehow leaves most Saturday and Sunday golfers seething with some sort of sadistic sensation of seeking more as their course designs dumbfoundedly develop desires as they both defeat and dissatisfy the average duffer at the same time. In other words, plenty of folks are not getting plenty of pleasure out o these course designs but they keep coming back for more like gluttons for punishment.

It is simply by design now and more apparent when we see championship courses that might have boasted of a challenging par 5 last year that the tournament committee has unanimously and hilariously opted to convert to an extensive par 4 for this year’s tournament. Course design typically pits a full roster of FedEx Cup chasers against the course and its course designers and groundskeepers. Those pin placements are so intricate and whatever clipping or trimming level that they are using for these greens with this mixed in sand are enough to keep your head spinning from day to day. But whoever created island greens or bunker-guarded greens just plain has some aggression issues that need to be worked out. I can only imagine what it does for these guys seeking FedEx Cup points who have braved courses from Dubai to Mexico in the off season, only to face the return of the PGA Tour season with a kickstart in Hawaii and the newly-COVID-cleared West Coast Swing kickoff at Torrey Pines (and we’ll see from there).

So what does that mean for us so-called regular golfers?

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Past Championship Courses Still Present Challenges

I played Carlton Oaks many times before I realized that it had hosted PGA and Canadian Tour Qualifying Tournaments, NCAA Western Regional and Championship events, Junior World, The American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) and many other professional, collegiate and amateur events. One guy remarked when I got my first par on the course a few years ago that scoring well on that course and keeping it in the low 90s is feat within itself for a weekend golfer. I shrugged it off, but then later I began to realize how much playing practice rounds and multiple tournament rounds does to a golfer’s advantage within a week.

I guess if a few of us played the same course again and again, even something like Carlton Oaks, we should see some marked improvement over our scorecards, too. Some would get a better feel for the course in general, other would hone in on those special touches around the green to get that to work for them. In other words, we would have time to tackle the course based on past and present experiences and make note in our own little yardage books that very same hole where the fast greens veered to the right now have a sudden speed drop within 2 inches of the hole.

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Chisel the Course into Chunks

Armed with that knowledge, I would probably shave a few strokes off here and there. My problem is that it took an article in Today’s Golfer to open my eyes to what a round of golf really come down to in terms of strokes. “Golf’s Most Wanted Shots” opened my eyes like I said to how much short game focus would be required to shave strokes off the scorecard quickly and repeatedly.

Golf Shots as Today’s Golfer expertly broke down

The main shot of any round is putting. Say what? Every hole doesn’t require a drive off the tee. Every hole doesn’t require an approach shot or layup. But each and every hole requires you to putt. So, if that’s the case, improve your putting skills and start to improve your scores. Combine wedge shots, chip shots and bunker play and you have another 13 strokes or so added to 35 putts which makes for 48. Well, man, I shot that on the back 9 alone a few times on a good day.

What I am saying is that we look at the game from the wrong perspective. We tend to rally behind DJ, Brooks, Tiger and a few others because they crush that ball off the tee and send us into a frenzy over what is not even a major factor in the scoring calculation of a full round. Driving counts. It just doesn’t count as much as we make it seem like it should.

If you are serious about your game, sooner or later you’ll play Ben Hogan.

If we chisel down the course into chunks, then we can approach each hole with analysis and anticipation. We can design a strategy (Plan A) for if we take care of business and launch a solid tee shot into the fairway at approximately 200+ yards. But, if need be, we have a recovery strategy (Plan B) where we select a long distance hybrid after a weak tee shot landed us at an odd angle 180 yards from the green and just off the fairway in the early signs of the rough that our fairway woods won’t be able to cut through at all. That way we keep the emotions out of it. That way we don’t lose it and toss clubs into lakes or trees. We simply assess the results of our last attempt and make an adjust prior to taking action with our next attempt. Other ideas on how this can help lower scores are out there in the blogosphere.

Conquer the Course: Hole by Hole

If we could do that for every hole, review and revisit it as we play, and remain calm enough to continuously refer to it, then I believe that we could see results trickle in over time. It’s just like that elephant that the consultant spoke about during your last strategic planning session or team training that you attended. You’ve got to take it one bite at a time, so chunk that 18 holes into sets of 3 holes. See each hole within that set as a separate attack plan with a sequence of anticipated actions in mind.

I have included part of my process for planning my play that i used in 2017 and 2018 as I began to approach golf with a different mindset. These are visuals that I use based upon the current scorecard available on www.greenskeeper.org and most discount tee time sites. This process helps me develop my attack plan hole by hole in a planning mode that I try to translate onto the course without losing my way or getting too cocky if it’s going good. Much like other golf bloggers out here, I can admit when I lose sight of the goal or focus on the immediate action in the moment.

As I continue to work on my game, I am going to watch Brooks and DJ clobber those tee shots. I am going to shout and howl when that titanium plate makes contact with that dimpled synthetic ball, sending it to heights and distances that even send the most popular golf shot trackers out of orbit. But I will know deep down inside that I need to watch those putting techniques from the types of John Rahm, Patrick Reed, Kevin Na and Webb Simpson

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Owning the Course

Be sure to read my article on owning sports & entertainment stocks to get the full list of stocks.

When it comes to playing in your zone, you are said to own the course. In other words, you can’t do wrong. And if somehow something does go wrong or awry, you end with such a sweet recovery that it all just seems so meant to be somehow. You play with an ease that keeps the yips at bay. You play with such a laser-like focus that your clubs work like magic from hole to hole and your scorecard shows it.

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Own the Course Beyond Your Play

I recently wrote an article about my sports-folio, the portion of my investments that I dedicate to stock in sports and entertainment companies. This was a follow-up to another article I published earlier the same day on Medium. Some of what I own spans the sports world from sports teams like the Atlanta Braves and Manchester United to entertainment and media companies like Disney and Comcast, but owning some of the golf companies is real hoot.

I have been investing for years now and it has saved me from some real low times in my life. My most recent investing has me weighing heavy bets on the dividend-paying stocks of the Dogs of the Dow and a major index -driven ETF position of DIA (Dow 30), SPLG (S&P 500), and QQQ (Nasdaq 100). However, I do get to dabble in what I call my sports-folio. It literally lets me own the course in a few instances with some relevant golf stocks.

While there are plenty of sports-related stocks, I try to manage and hedge my bets. I like owning a piece of the action. I like being able to say that that’s my team and I literally mean that’s my team. I use Robinhood and Stash for these portfolios split almost evenly between both accounts. If you join and add cash to Stash now via my link, you will get $20 sign-up bonus and I will receive a $20 referral bonus. Join Robinhood via my link, and we both get a FREE share of stock.

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Got Golf Stocks in My Sports-folio

My sports-folio got a wide array of sports and entertainment stocks that include Disney (DIS) and Comcast (CMCSA) as well as Barclays (BCS), Manchester United (MANU) and Madison Square Garden (MSGS).

Acushnet Holdings (GOLF) gives me a piece of the action with some highly recognized names in golf today. Considering that GOLF is associated with some of the biggest names in the sport like Titleist, Vokey and Scotty Cameron, I have to admit that it seems like the Amazon of golf stocks to me. It just has everything in its wheelhouse. Wedges, putters, and all of the equipment and one of the most popular balls on the PGA Tour and among weekend golfers with the Titleist ProV1. This one is just a winner all around.

VIVI Properties (VICI) is a diversified real estate company formed as a REIT with a handful own golf properties in its portfolio that are featured on the PGA Tour. The company is truly engaged in entertainment, hospitality and more, including Caesars Palace. VICI owns four championship golf courses among its portfolio of properties and stands to keep investors happy with its consistent dividend payments going forward.

Another blogger did an excellent job laying out similar golf stocks, including the ones that elected to not add to my sports-folio. It is well worth the time it takes to read.

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Why These Golf Stocks and Not Others

Nike (NKE) and Callaway (ELY) are still involved in the golf equipment and apparel markets. Why not NKE, a major leader among sports retailers on a global scale? Why not ELY which represents one of the most popular brands of golf equipment and apparel on the market today? because I am looking at the stock and not for a new driver. I have a different strategy for evaluating stock ever since I started reading and listening to Gerald Peters. Those stocks do not fit my plan right now. And, to be truthful, they may never fit and I can live with that. Investing should not be based on emotions and sentiments. It should make sense for making you wealthier day by day with increased valuations and price as well as dividends or other perks.

At the end of the day, I feel good of where I am with this sports-folio. I am hedged my risk. I am positioned to say I own a piece of the action in both sports and entertainment. And I know that may not say something to someone else, but it makes me feel like I am really owning the course. And in some cases, I am really owning the course.

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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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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.