Reviewing My Winter Golf Game

Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.

John C. Maxwell
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Main Key to Everything Golf: Consistency

I have been building up my confidence through consistent play. I get more out of playing a round of 18 on a par 3 or walk nine holes on a par 72 course rather than swing like crazy with a bucket of 100 range balls on a turf mat. I went so far as to return my TaylorMade 10.5 degree Burner Superfast driver to my bag for my last outing at Cottonwood Golf Club. It worked out when my back wasn’t aching like crazy and forcing me to chop rather than swing the club with my entire body, especially my torso. my best remedy for that is either to go CBD for relief and recovery from the pain or to keep it old school and keep popping the Advil. Either way, that Lamkin grip feels just right when I am in the swing zone and make solid contact with the ball off the tee. If I fight the pain and fatigue from overplaying too many rounds too close to one another, then I can really get back on track with some decent scores. Aside from the flubbed chips and pitches with the shanked and misguided approach shots here and there, I do see some progress.

Game Improvement

I say I have seen some improvement despite shooting 49 on the front nine of the course where I have shot both an 83 and an 85. My progress has been in areas where I can see a difference being made and where I can see my overall game coming together with solid consistency.

  • Golf Shoes: I desperately need to replace my golf shoes with a lightweight upgrade like Skechers or FootJoy. My current golf shoes are clunkers and definitely give me grief since I started walking the course more. If I am going to walk a full par 72 by march, I need to lighten the load on my feet a bit with some new golf shoes. It’s been way too long.
  • Walking Cart: I have seen some unique walking carts and I believe that I am ready and in the position to make the investment. After I read a few more reviews, I will grab one that is easier to pop open than a new age baby stroller and walk more. My back will thank me for making the move and my budget could take the hit. Bye-bye, Christmas Bonus!
  • Short Game Practice: I am going to schedule at least 2 rounds of short game practice at local par 3 courses before March. My ability to wage war with a gap or pitching wedge within 100 yards has answered some serious questions on approach shots. I need to increase that accuracy approaching the hole and keep working the magic around the green. I see my practice routine shifting in the coming months and making adjustments based on what translates to the 18-hole par 72 rounds in the near future. Honestly, my lob wedge and that dreaded sand wedge have hardly left the bag, even when I have found myself in the bunker. It all comes down to how you plan your play.
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Golf Fitness & Nutrition

I recently did a 10-day detox challenge in December and I am headed that way again. I could stand to lose around 30 pounds to safely play at a healthy but hefty weight. The CDC’s standards according to my BMI will have me listed somewhere between overweight and obese even if I got down to my playing weight from when I was a junior in high school on the basketball court. For me, I need to detox and get back to eating 75-80% living items like green veggies and fruit while eating out less than 10% of the time. My workouts need to increase and I believe that i have learned my ways to manage that despite COVID-19 and its repercussions. Walking, running, dancing and more will serve as my means for staying active beyond walking the course. Put it all together and you have a combination for getting better sooner than later.

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Playing Rounds of 18

Within the next 2 months, I will play Cottonwood and Carlton Oaks at least twice. I will add a round at Mission Trails and maybe one at Sycuan (Singing Hills). Eastlake is being used as a qualifier for the PGA’s Farmers Insurance Open, so playing there again for any sort of redemption is out of the question for a while.

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My measure of play comes down to both fairways hit and greens in regulation (GIR) much like the Grateful Golfer shared in his post. If I do not give myself an opportunity for birdie while I am averaging two putts per hole, then I am not giving myself a decent shot at par either. Ultimately, by the time I get to my spring break in late March, I believe my consistent play and game improvement will add up to some lower scores and some good times on the course.

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If all else fails, I know two things that will remain consistent. I am going to keep swinging and having fun while doing it.

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.