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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Right When I’m Ready

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

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

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

Plan Your Play

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

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

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Shutdown Means a Slight Adjustment

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

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

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

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Practice Reveals Problems

The driving range offers you an opportunity to bring your best and see how well it measures up. It is never as menacing as the course itself, but it does have its own way of showing you where you might have some issues with your swing. Whether it be a matter of trying to address that major hook that was supposed to simply be a line drive or adjusting your body and stance at address to establish better alignment, you can learn a lot about your swing on the range.

My first outing since COVID-19

My overall focus is getting back to regular play. That most probably will not occur to winter break. Even with school’s going to distance learning, those of us who work with the kids in the school system still need to show up and remain attentive. After all, I can wait until a few weeks to make golf a regular feature in my coronavirus-impacted life right now. My goal of breaking 90 regularly will have to hold on until then and i will take to range more often to prepare myself for that time.

And the driving range reveals where you have swing issues. Like an old school basketball coach told me long ago, your practice reveals where you got problems. Address your problems while you got time to practice.

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Your Most Important Swing Component: Your Body

Swing mechanics look at numerous components of your golf swing. Watching my video recording of my golf practice sequence, I noticed my body was stiff and rigid. I did not have that loose flow within my swing that once helped me gobble up at least a handful of pars and an occasional birdie while at play. I went back to Golf-tip.com and looked at the advice offered there for game improvement. Like I said, my body was not engaged properly and I was making solid contact, but I was still robbing myself of quite a few yards of distance because of it.

According to the Grateful Golfer, golf fitness can lead to lower lower scores. As I observed my COVID-19 gut, I could not help but agree. My limited flexibility cut down on both my distance and accuracy on the range. That would translate to some added strokes on the course. I know good and well that I need to add more dynamic stretches to regime as well as use some of the yoga that I learned to open up my hips like I do for running.

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Beyond stretching and adding yoga, I want to address my overall health. Golf is just a part of that practice. I want to add more cross-training. I need to bike, hike and run, even dance, more day by day. I might even consider incorporating Gary Player’s 60/40 Rule. But I definitely will be running and walking more regularly.

By addressing just a few of these issues over the next couple of weeks, I think that I can get back into the low 90s by mid-December. Increased flexibility would help with both my golf game and my overall workout regimen of taking on fitness activities for at least 3 to 4 days per week. This will really help as I seek to walk the course more in 2021 than I have ever walked in my past.

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Adding Self-Talk Helps Beyond Muscle Memory

There are numerous strategies to fix your flaws, especially your posture and golf swing. For me, I know that I need to add more self-talk as I address the ball where it lies. We all have our own thing, but mine seems to be not taking enough time in my setup. I need to slow down and spend a moment simply talking myself through the next steps that lead to a successful golf swing for the moment.

I need to do so with course awareness and heightened sensitivity to the overall conditions. I do not mean to stand there and measure the wind projections. I mean to simply talk myself into refraining from hitting a lofted club into the windy air and settling for a hooded seven iron with a half swing to keep it low. I need more self-talk like that to keep me from self-cursing when I have to search for lost Callaways or Pinnacles in thorn bushes and amid cacti.

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Practice Reveals Problems: Whether You Fix Them or Not

Brian Penn nails this down on an All About Golf post related to proactive or reactive. It’s called game improvement because inherently most folks want to improve their game, their scores and overall play at golf. I welcome more advice, tips and comments on my swing as I focus on getting the rust off and increasing my flexibility. Drop them in the comments of this blog and offer your feedback. Just try to keep it helpful. After all, I am going for game improvement and trying to maintain some positive Zen if at all possible.

Restart Today

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

Marcus Aurelius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I ready?

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get this thing started.

Game Improvement at a Higher Level

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Getting to the point where you can break 90 easily comes with practice and consistent play.  That’s a simple look at it.  Dig deep into the idea of fixing your golf game for better scores and more fun.  Dig deeper and you will discover that breaking 90 will take more out the high handicapper than just showing up and teeing it up for a round of 18 holes every weekend.

“Play your own game.” – Harvey Penick

 

Fix Your Flaws

Your game will not improve without making some changes.  The things that need improvement usually take away from the game being fun.  You know what should happen, but you just don’t seem to have that execution down yet.

That needs fixing.  You have to fix your flaws.

I love to research different golf publications that can help.  Some of my go-to reads include:

These usually give you tips and exercises on game improvement as well as equipment and product reviews that span from golf shoes to golf equipment.

Find the Right Strokes and Shots

You have to add a little bit of finesse to your game.  You have to add some focus as well.  You also need to add the right shot selection for the present opportunity.  That means taking into account the course and the conditions as well as the lie of the ball and how well or poorly you have been playing so far and similar situations.

Some folks might recall me sharing about the infamous flop shot and how mastery of it does not come easily.  When you are struggling and scrambling to keep up with the rest of your foursome, that is not the time try out some new shot or swig technique that you caught a glimpse of while watching YouTube.

Find what works for you and keep a running mental file of which shots work best in which types of situations.  Refer to these when you are considering your options.  Rely on these when you have very few options before you.  High quality equipment and gear play a role in golf, but they do not outweigh shot selection as a core element of game improvement.  Your shot selection is highly import and has an impact on improving your game.

Play Strategically

Take on All Kinds of Challenges

Many people have a “home course” or some course that they play often.  What that really means is that they play that course frequently.  In many cases, they can run down the specifics of each and every hole as if they were asked to recite the ABC’s.  The problem with home course mentality is applicable to maintaining one’s game, not necessarily improving one’s game with challenges found in different courses.

Your game cannot improve without some challenges being faced and conquered.  That is where the improvement comes into play.

GolfEtail.comin to improve your game, the challenges faced must take you to different aspects where your game is not at its best.  That’s when you have to start improving via innovation and intuition.  If you do not do well on par 3;s, play a full 18 hole par 3 course.  They do exist, you know.

Your game will not improve just by research and swing analysis.  You need to put together a plan that will both challenge and help change your previous knowledge.  Your biggest hack for your game might come in the form of learning how to conquer your challenges.