Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Get your JELL-O butt outta the cart!

So, today I thought I would tackle one of my biggest pet peeves in public golf...the golf cart.

I should start by admitting that, yes, I have used a golf cart several times in the past, but generally speaking I only do so when the course forces it upon me. For example, if you play golf in Florida during the summer months, many courses will not allow walkers due to the "liability". On the other hand, while almost every golfer who plays at the famed Pinehurst resort uses the "complementary" cart, during a summer trip there back in July 2007, my friend Brad and I walked all 4 Pinehurst courses we played along with Tobacco Road. The starters all look at you like you are an alien, but we were just fine.

See, in my opinion golf was meant to be played while walking. Walking helps me stay in a rhythm, to follow/find my ball easier, and to play my own game. All too often when you are sharing a cart with someone you end up driving all over the course as inevitably your partner will slice while you hook. Simply put, I generally play better when I walk, and I bet many others would find they would as well, if they tried it.

A second issue I have is the way so many golfers just shun the fact that they could use the walk. Watching an overweight dude squeeze himself out of the cart, waddle the four feet to his ball, then shank it into the bunker 20 yards away, only to return to his seat and drive the next 20 yards just sickens me! Are your legs not functioning? These are usually the same guys who have their teeth clamped around a fat cigar as they use their belly putter to miss short and on the low side once again.

Finally, and perhaps the more objective issue is the ever present and ugly paved cart paths. Sure, a shot that is bad enough to hit one of the fairway bordering runways might deserve a bad bounce, but that isn't always the case. At least a couple times per round on many of the better public courses in Chicago, you have a paved path cut directly through the middle of the fairway. I guess if you need the extra distance on your shots, go ahead and aim for it.

The most appalling example of this is one of my favorite courses, in fact the one where I maintain my handicap...Orchard Valley in Aurora. Orchard Valley is a short layout with hazards everywhere (far too much OB due to houses, but that is another subject). This is a VERY walkable course...VERY walkable. You should be ashamed of yourself if you ride in a cart at Orchard Valley.

Just last year, Orchard Valley unnecessarily ADDED more cart paths...most notably between the 7th & 8th holes, then again along the left side of the 9th hole. The 9th hole is a straightaway, but LONG Par 4 which in the summer generally plays into a SW wind. The tee shot calls for a big drive with a slight draw to grab as much distance as you can to avoid hitting a fairway wood or long iron on your 2nd shot. The problem is that just left of the hole is Orchard Rd., getting busier all the time. Anything overhooked has always gone near, into, or even across the road, but now the course has added a paved cart path atop the ridge all the way up the left side. This now makes even a slight overcooked draw fodder for the road at best...a car seeking missile at worst. Not only does this make your score worse, but is downright dangerous.

Meanwhile, on the very cool 15th hole where you have to choose to hit a conservative shot down the left fairway or take a driver directly at the green over the lake, they REMOVED the walking bridge that allowed walkers to avoid the longest walk on the course around the back of the green. Yes, the previous bridge was a bit hazardous, but certainly they could have just built a better walking bridge and saved the expense of the additional cart paths on the front, right?

Whatever, it is obviously all about money, right? So I implore each of you to skip the cart, buy a lightweight bag (check out Sun Mountain's Ultralight 3.3 ounce bag - heck, use the Golf Galaxy link on the right to browse walking bags), and get some badly needed exercise! Your husband/wife and your doctor will join me in applauding your effort.

Fairways and Greens!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Congratulations to Lucas Glover!

So, Lucas Glover won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. Congrats to Lucas, and hopefully he can legitimize this win with many others in the future. Y'know, not many flukes win the U.S. Open, but this really could be the year that one does. I do hope I am wrong. I have no real feeling about Lucas Glover positive or negative, but doesn't this year's Open just feel like good fortune played too large a role?

Weather is impossible to control. Everyone knows that weather can be unpredictable, especially golfers who get out on at least a weekly basis. It is also hard to fault the USGA for their handling of this year's Open...I mean, they have a TON of logistics to deal with (read the John Feinstein book entitled "Open" about the first time the USGA came to Bethpage in 2002).

Despite that, the fact is that the golfers did not play on an even field. Many, including past Open Champions like Woods, Ogilve, and Cabrera were forced to play in downright miserable conditions during the height of the rains on Thursday's round one, while many others, including Mickleson and eventual winner, Glover, did not have to hit their first shots until Friday, which was quite a pleasant day from what I understand, on a course that was laying down like a lamb when compared with other recent Opens.

I was rooting hard for Phil today, and he gave it another good go, but it was not to be, and for the fifth time, Phil is the bridesmaid at the Open (more than anyone in history). A Phil victory would have, in my opinion, immediately legitimized this year's Championship, but now, with Glover as the Champion, we will have to wait for a little while to see how this victory shapes his career so we can decide if he was truly the best golfer in the world this past weekend.

Fairways and Greens!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

GOLF COURSE REVIEW: Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort

Looking for a great Las Vegas golf experience that won't break the bank? About a 25-30 minute drive from The Strip lies the Paiute Golf Resort, and it is well worth the drive.

The Paiute resort offers three world-class 18-hole courses highlighted by their signature Wolf course. True desert golf is a stunning and unique experience. Carpets of fairways and greens have been meticulously intertwined with the native desert landscape creating a wild and stunning mosaic of bright green with the brown hued colors of the desert.

For the seasoned golfer, the Wolf is the truest test out here, and even features an island green on the Par 3 15th! At 7,604 yards from the back tees, it will challenge all but the greatest golfers, but allows for all levels of play with five sets of tees. I can proudly claim one of my 3 career eagles came at this course with a short chip-in on the Par 5 6th.

Both of the other two courses provide an enjoyable round for everyone with reasonable challenges along with perfect conditioning. Named by the local Native American tribes, Nu-Wav-Kaiv (Snow Mountain) and Tav-Ai-Kaiv (Sun Mountain) are outstanding options for the average golfer.

Now is a great time to take advantage of the rates at Paiute. From June through the end of August, the Wolf is $99 (a deal for Vegas) and the other two are $79...OR you can choose the GOLFaPalooza 2009 special which gets you all day unlimited play along with lunch and 50% off rental clubs if needed for only $109 ($129 for the Wolf). Just click the link above and go to Rates for details.

Just to wet your whistle, here are a few pics from our round on the Snow Mountain course back in April 2003 while in Vegas for a bachelor party!

A lot of fun, and actually can save you some dough by keeping you away from the tables for 5-6 hours!

Fairways & Greens!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

GOLF COURSE REVIEW: World Woods Golf -- Brooksville, FL

If you are like me and love not just playing golf, but playing on some of the greatest tracks in the world, then you have got to make your way to a hidden gem on Florida's Gulf Coast.

World Woods Golf sits just northwest of the small city of Brooksville, FL...two counties north of Tampa/St. Pete. This golf complex features two world-class 18-hole courses named Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks, as well as an incredible practice area that I believe can be used as a short Par 3 course for outings and such.

I have personally played at World Woods twice. The first time was in early 2005 (Super Bowl weekend to be exact) for a quick jaunt before a week of work back down in Orlando. I flew into Orlando, then drove up to Weeki Wachee where I had booked a stay & play at a nearby Best Western. I rose early and played Pine Barrens, then after a quick lunch, plowed through Rolling Oaks. I shot 81 and 83 respectively, and fell in love with the courses...particularly Pine Barrens. I knew that I had to get my friends to see this place.

So, one year later (again on Super Bowl weekend), I convinced my two buddies to join me on a return visit. This time we flew into Tampa and stayed in Wesley Chapel to act as a base from which we would also play two rounds at TPC @ Tampa Bay. The morning we went to World Woods was terrible. It had been raining for days and was still coming down pretty hard when we arrived. We waited for a couple of hours before we could tee off on the back nine of Pine Barrens, and by the time we finished, were not able to play Rolling Oaks. While it was unfortunate to have only played half the complex, and in near flood conditions, I still found the Pine Barrens course to be incredibly entertaining, and shot another tidy 81 to make it worthwhile.

I would recommend the World Woods resort to any group of golfers looking for a challenging and entertaining place to play golf for bargain prices relative to other far more over-priced areas of Florida. If you go, or have already played there, let me know what your opinions are.

Fairways and Greens!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Happy Birthday to me!

As is sit here and listen to the fireworks going off at Navy Pier from my "home office" at 10:15 Saturday night, I contemplate the last 31 hours that made up an extended 38th birthday celebration.

Friday after work, my friends and I squeezed in 18 holes at Steeple Chase Golf Club in Mundelein to start it off. I played decently, but not great shooting 86 and breaking my string of at least 1 birdie in every round this year. The weather was almost unbeatable, and I have played this course many times, so no excuses, I just couldn't pull it all together to shoot my age on either nine.

Steeple Chase is nice. The fairways are generous, but still narrow enough to challenge an 8 handicap like me. The greens were firm and lightning fast, and the bunkers were in excellent condition. If the two nines didn't each end with a goofy type of hole, there would be little reason not to play here all the time for a non-resident twilight rate of only $32. Oh yeah, except that it is about 400 miles from the city!

Anyway, after a medium long ride, I was welcomed home by my family with a birthday cake that had been "decorated" with M&Ms and several little finger-shaped gashes in the frosting along the side (courtesy of Xavier doing a little pre-celebration snaking unbeknownst to Mom, of course). A good day to say the least.

I woke up this morning and headed straight back out to the course, this time Prairie Bluff Golf Club in Lockport. I have played Prairie Bluff well over 50 times before, so am entirely familiar with every place you should not hit the ball, but did that stop me today??? No, it did not. I only took 29 putts, but sprayed my drives and couldn't hit a green to save my life (one Green in Regulation to be exact...and on the hardest hole on the course). Shot a somewhat miserable 89, shooting 11-over on the back nine...very poor, very poor.

So, Brad and I dragged ourselves over to Wendy's where I partook of The Baconator -- and all was well with me. After a painfully long Saturday afternoon ride home on the normally placid Stevenson (that's I-55 to you non-Chicagoans), I made it home for a quick shower, and was shortly thereafter presented with a gift by Xavier. Somehow without me knowing Kerry had gotten me a $50 gift certificate to Harborside International Golf right here in Chicago! Fantastic, now I can head out to the range in the morning...OK, maybe the afternoon.

Fairways & Greens!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Is the USGA Rating System Fair?

I have been tracking my handicap for about 8 years now, and played at least 50 different courses during that time. One thing that simply baffles me on a regular basis is how the USGA determines the rating it assigns to each course.

Sure, I understand that if a particular course is a Par 71, or even a Par 70, the rating will be a touch lower simply due to the lower expected strokes. What is becoming apparent to me over time, however, is that the actual length of the course appears to carry far too much weight in the rating, and the condition of the course far too little.

I had the "opportunity" on Memorial Day to play with my Dad and Step mom at a local Chicago Park District course at Jackson Park. Jackson Park is a short Par 70 course on the near south side of yardage is only 5,508, and only one of the holes, the Par 5 14th, is over 500 yards (559). The five Par 3s on the other hand measure up with most other higher rated courses at 133, 144, 176, 183, and 212 yards. The rating the USGA gave to this course is a stunning 65.7 with a slope of only 107! That is from the "tips" if you will.

Wow, what a piece of cake dandelion of a course...right? Well, maybe, on the perfect day with all the right breaks. First, many of the holes are short, yes, but just banging your Driver onto, or near the green doesn't always get you the results you might expect. The greens are small, sometimes downright tiny, roll with inconsistent speed, and have some absolutely gnarly breaks to them. Should you be slightly less than perfect with your driver or 3-wood off the tee, you are often faced with a shot from behind the multitude of trees surrounding the greens, from out of what might be accurately called "dirt" bunkers, or (and this is if you are really lucky) from out of a patch of mud and grass in a depression just feet off the edge of the green.

So go ahead and take a hybrid or even an iron off the tee...hell, knock it into the middle of the fairway. Now, should you manage to land in one of the more narrow than you would ever expect fairways, there is a pretty fair chance that you are going to be in a divot, a patch of weeds, or perhaps just some bare dirt. Should you miss the fairway, the rough is often just like hitting out of a well-fertilized, yet rarely mown front lawn.

So, you must think I went out and shot 100 the way I describe it. Nope, I shot a 79. I made 3 birdies, and only putted 28 times all day. I nearly drove onto 4 different Par 4 greens. I was slightly "wild" off the tees, only hitting 2 fairways all day. On any other day, I would be very content with a 9-over par...especially breaking 80. Here is the issue...I currently play to an 8.8 handicap. That means that just to meet my handicap differential, I needed to shoot a 74.

Now, could I have shot a 74? No doubt I could have, but I can tell you that I would have a far easier time shooting an 86-88 on any other of the courses I normally play with ratings around 71-72. So, I walked away with 3 birdies, one double bogey, and a 14 handicap differential...the same differential I had from a less than inspired 89 I had shot a couple weeks earlier at Prairie Landing in West Chicago.

Here are two other examples to help support my point, then you can let me know if you agree, or if I am just blowing so much smoke (or both I suppose).

Heritage Bluffs - Channahon, IL - 72.1/132 - Par 72
Orchard Valley - Aurora, IL - 70.6/130 - Par 72

Pacific Dunes - Bandon, OR - 69.3/125 - Par 71
The Links at Carillon - Plainfield, IL - 72.5/125 - Par 72

Fairways & Greens!


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