A busy week endend by playing course number 70 today, Buffalo in Sarver Pa. about a 50 minute drive. It was a gorgeous day in May and Buffalo was a real treat to play. The course plays 6500 yards from the back tees to a par of 71 with many interesting and challenging holes. The greens ran a 6 on the stimp and were very smooth. The course is very flat with many trees, and the fairways are wide and lush with the rough a little heavy but did not have any bare spots. This has to be one of the fairest golf courses I have ever played. With the exception of one short par 4 the holes are layed out where you can see where you are going and there are no false fronts on the greens. The flatnes of the course is a real treat here in Western Pennsyvania. My only suggestion would be to move up the tee on the first par 5 on the back and make it a more challenging par 4 and play the course to a par of 70. The hot dog at the turn was nothing special but the staff was friendly and the hot dog tasted good because of that. Won’t make the top ten but will be far from the bottom 30. The price was right for a Sunday as we paid 38 dollars with a cart. This course is worth the trip and if I lived a little closer I woud go to this course more often. In fact I think I will go to this course more often anyway. We had a threesome today with Tony shooting a very nifty 69 which included only 23 putts. Wow. I shot a nice smooth 76 and John an 83. On Wednesday I went to Indian Run and kept the streak going to 12 rounds in the 70’s with a 75. But on Thursday playing from the blues at South Park I staggered around and shot 81. The next day in the 2 man scramble at the same Park, Pete and I had a very respectable 66 and finished 7th in about a field of 60 teams . Not bad for a couple of old farts. Stil hitting the ball very well as I am pretty confident that I have found the answer to the physical side of this game and the controlling factor in the golf swing. But the mental game is looming large and that will be the next step in the answer to this goofy game. Speaking of goofy I think we need to get rid of the term short game. Just what the hell does that mean. I think golf should be divided into 3 parts. 1. The full swing which includes trying to work the ball. 2. Less than the full swing which is what the “short game” is. 3. Putting. So from now on I am not going to use the term short game any more. Well, we have 70 courses down with 20 or possibly more to go. Update on that later.
Added two new courses this week as the solid playing continued. On Wednesday we went to Champion Lakes in Ligonier, Pa., which is an 86 minute drive. This course is owned by two former Pittsburgh Pirates Jerry Lynch and Dick Groat. They bought the course sometime in the mid to early 60’s and last updated it in 1970. The golf course is a solid layout and has a beautiful setting with the mountains in the background. The course played 6300 yards from the white tees to a par of 71 and the greens were the old bent and ran a very fuzzy 5 on the stimp. The fairways were a little long and the roughs was grown in fine with little or no bare spots. The course has many tree lined holes and can be very tight in some cases. It has a lot of up and down holes but over all is an enjoyable course to play. It is a very old facility that could use a little updating both inside and out with the golf course included. There was no hot dog at the turn and we made the turn at 12:45 and I do mean in the p.m. So 88th place for Champion Lakes for the hot dog at the turn. I turned a spectacular ball striking front nine into a mediocre 39 with horrible putting. I putted a little better on the back by making some par saves and shooting a 77. Rich had a 75 with Pete coming in with an 81 and John an 82. A pretty good day for the group as this is not that easy of a golf course. Champion Lakes is worth the trip even though it is a brutal trip and would be better as part of a 36 hole day. On Thursday I went over to South Park with supreme confidence that my rounds in the 70’s streak would continue and when I birdied the first hole it looked like I might have a really good round. Then I bogied the next 4 out of 8 holes and made the turn 3 over thinking am I going to blow it on this course. But then I rattled off 8 straight pars and even with a last hole bogey shot 76. Today we went to Olde Stonewall in Elwood City Pa which is about a 50 minute drive. This is a course that I thought would not be on the list because it is a very high end course and the green fees are 150 dollars. Let that sink into your budget for awhile. But one of the guys in our group got a coupon for the month of May for 50 per cent off the green fees. So the guys were game and so I said what the hell why not. This golf course has some spectacular holes on it and the stretch of holes on the front 4, 5, and 6, may be the finest stretch of golf holes I will ever play but it is not and never will be worth 150 bucks to play the joint. This is also the home of the 5 dollar hot dog and it was very good and had the best bun I have ever had at a golf course,but it still is not worth it. Come on 5 dollars for beef intestines at the best. The course is in great shape with the fairways very tight and the roughs were good. This is also another example of a links course is Western Pa. where they allow a lot weeds grow up and call it heather. In the case of Olde Stonewall, they call it native grass. NATIVE GRASS!!. The greens ran a 6 on the stimp and were very smooth. Its these greens that make this course as difficult as it is. The greens are not very big but they have many small undulations which makes reading them very very difficult. This course would be worth the trip if it was a little more reasonable. Sixty five on the weekend would be just about right. I shot 77 and the streak remains alive. Tony shot 81 with Pete coming in a 88 and John a 95. We had a gorgeous day to play and it was nice to include a course that I thought would be left out. The course plays 6700 yards from the tees we played, to a par of 70. There are some spectacular views and holes that have greens surrounded by three sides with water and many many sand traps. This course without a doubt has the best conditioned sandtraps. I will say if you really like golf and live or visit Western Pa. you should play this course at least once. Well the streak is at 11 and the Memorial weekend is on the way and a 2 man scamble tournament is this Friday. Sixty nine courses down and twenty one to go.
Another weekly wrap up a day later as I had a busy Mother’s day. The golf for the week continued to be pretty solid. There were no new courses this week but the week was interesting none the less. I had rounds of 78, 76, 78, and 78. The highlight of the week was a 2 under par back nine at St. Clair Country Club, which gave me the round of 76. I had two nines at Mt. Lebanon of 37- 41 and the other two 78’s were at Scenic Valley and Riverview respectivaly. The ball striking was good all week and the short game continued to make strides. I had putting issues at Scenic Valley and the weather yesterday was a little rainy with some lost concentration contributing to some bad bogies. The new method, which is not that new any more continues to get better and I am getting more comfortable with it every time I play. It continues to be a little difficult to totally trust it and believe that it could be this simple. Now that the physical side of the game seems to be solved for the time being it is freeing me up more to think of the mental side, particularly with the short game. If the scores are really going to come down then this will have to be the next step. I have broken 80, nine straight times and all the rounds have been between 75 and 78. To say the least this has been one of my most consistant periods of solid play, and I am still getting use to the swing. This week coming up we are going to add two more courses to the list and both are challenging lay outs so we will see if I have just jinxed myself. The keys will be continued improvement on the ball striking and getting the short game to click. We will see what this week will bring.
Another good week, and a very productive week, as I did course numbers 66 and 67. The first course was North Park, which is the county course north of the city and about a 40 minute drive. North Park and South Park, which we played earlier, are very similiar courses with greens that are exactly the same in the way that they look and putt. The day we played, the greens ran about a 5.5 on the stimp meter and were very smooth. North Park played 6400 yards from white tees which we played and about 6800 yards from the blues. I feel that North Park plays harder than South Park but the course rating and slope are higher at South Park. Many holes are tree lined and the course is hilly but there are not as many blind shots at North Park so maybe that has something to do with the lower rating. The fairways were good and the rough did not have many bare spots.The one other thing that I think makes North Park harder is that the greens have more undulations in them, than at South Park. North Park was in much better shape than South Park when we played there, but I think that has more with the fact that we have had one of our best springs, compared to the terrible spring we had last year. North Park was definitely worth the trip with very reasonable fees. The hot dog at the turn was just ok but the lady who served it was very nice. She was nicer than the starter who told us before we signed it that it would be a 6 hour round. The course didn’t seem that crowded to me when we drove in and I couldn’t figure out why he would say that unless he was trying to discourage play. Well the starter should become a weather forcaster because he was about as right as they are, as the round took only 4 hours and 6 minutes to play. When I turned in the cart key I told him he only missed it by and an hour and 56 minutes. He did chuckle so maybe he isn’t so bad after all. The game is coming around as I shot a 75 and Pete had a pretty good day with a 79. Today we went to Birdsfoot golf club in Freeport Pa. about a 55 minute drive. This is a solid golf course, that can be stretched out to 7000 yards but we played the tees that play 6500 yards. This course is newer, so there are not many trees, but they don’t have too much of that heather around, so the course is enjoyable to play. The greens were very smooth but a little slow at 5 on the stimp. The fairways were excellent and rough was not too bad with some bare spots. The course has a great variety of holes and is very hilly. This course is worth the trip, although their green fees can be a little steep at times. The hot dog at the turn was good, but it could head into the top five by a condiment, that was called vegetarian chile sauce. It made the hot dog taste just like a chile dog with a little spice but only better. It added 5 yards to my drives on the back nine YUMMY! This course is pretty tough and my 76 here was even better that the 75 at North Park. Pete had a one of those days that I have talked about before, when you are not playing well and even your luck is bad and struggled with a 90 and Tony had a 79. This week I had a 9 hole 39 and a 77 at Indian Run. The ball stiking is getting better and even the short game has had its moments but there are still struggles. The putting has been a solid good. I haven’t made many putts of length but I haven’t 3 putted much. I have tried some new things putting and chipping more on the mental side and they seem to be working out pretty well, but too early to tell if this is something worth sharing. I tweaked the “swing thing” a little but the basic principal is still the same. Progress is being made. The search will continue and the numbers will tell the tale. Sixty seven courses down and twenty three to go.
A good golf week this week, as the play improved, and I got in course no 65 this week. We went to Suncrest, which is just south of Butler, Pa. and was about a 50 minute drive. The course plays 6300 yards from the mens tees, and has very small greens, and no sand traps. Even though the greens were small they had some good slope from front to back, and vice versa. The ran a 5.5 on the stimp, and were very smooth. Overall, the course was in excellent shape and the roughs were good, with little or no bare spots. It has many holes that are tree lined and is more of a rolling course rather than a hilly course. This was a very enjoyable course to play, with many interesting and challenging holes, despite only being 6300 yards. The par 3’s were particular good, with the last one being 219 yards uphill. I shot 80 and David shot 91 as we both had troubles off the tee, making some of the easier holes play much more difficult than they had to be. I particularly butchered the par 5’s on the front with back to back bogeys. The hot dog at the turn was just fair, but the overall day was quite nice as we had a cool, but beautiful day to play with very little wind. There are many courses very close together on Route 8 and we haven’t played many of them yet but this course was worth the trip and hopefully it could be tandemed with another course for a very nice day. My scores this week were 39, 80, 78, and lookout 75 today. Today was the best ball striking day of the year and even though I 3 putted 4 times today I had some fortunate encounters with trees today, that made the round just about what it should have been. I hit 14 greens in regulation today and 2 of my missed greens were right on the fringes. The short game wasn’t bad and the putting really was not as bad as it sounded but that kept it from being a really good round. However, I had trees spit my ball back in play not once not twice but three times. WOW. Obviously though I let things happened today and trusted my swing totally without trying analyse things too much and the ball striking except for those tee shots was right on. So we will see what happens as we continue with the goofy game and hopefully will add some courses this week. Sixty five down and 25 to go.
Well another weekly wrap up on a Monday but the weather has turned bad and I knew I would have this afternoon to do the blog. Another disappointing week with scores of 44 80 80 and 82 and each one of those were worse because the courses were easier with each round. There are many possiblities that the game has fallen on hard times. The short game still continues to be a problem. I think the biggest reason is that I am trying to analyse this new thing I am doing too much. I still am having a hard time believing that something this simple is working as well as it once was. I am still debating how much to incorporate it into my short game and even my putting. The other thing that is happening is that I am runny through a period of bad luck where every bad shot ends up in something that is worse than it could be. It ends up right behind a tree or in a terrible lie in the rough and lip outs are routine. Every golfer has had that experience when you are shooting a really good round. You hit a bad shot and it hits the tree and comes back in play or in the woods and is in a perfect spot to give you a clear shot at the green. Everybody remembers when Fred Couples hit the shot at no. 12 at the Masters and his ball did not roll back into the water. When Vjay won his first PGA he hit a shot in the last round on a par 5 that rattled around the trees and came right out on to the green for an easy 2 putt birdie and he went on to win his first major. When you are going bad everything just seems to bounce wrong at times but it will even up in the end. Despite these recent struggles I still think I have got something here but only time will tell. One thing about golf, the numbers never lie. Despite the early week being quite bad it looks like the rest of the week will be fairly nice. Hopefully we will be getting to course no 65 soon.
The weekly wrap up is one day late as a busy Easter Sunday did not allow me to blog. The week was rather disappointing, which could be another reason I was not too fired up to put the week into print. The scores were 35, 80, 79 and 81. The 80 was the best score as it was done at St. Clair Country Club which is a pretty difficult course. In a nut shell it was an up and down week on all levels. I still feel I am on the right track but execution just does not seem to there, at least for now. It was a great Masters. What a great golf course. It is the best designed course in the United States. I am not talking about it being the toughest by any stretch of the imagination but the possibilities on each and every hole is phenominal. The course is what makes this tournament so great. Going out to San Diego to see the grandkids for about a week on Wednesday so golf will be taking a back seat for awhile. The answer will be coming.
It might be awhile before we hit one of the 26 remaining courses with Easter on the horizon, and I am out to California to see the grandkids from the 11th to the 17th. I thought I would start doing a weekly wrap up on Sunday nights covering what I did during the week and some inane observations of whats going on in the world of golf. I played 2 and 1/2 rounds of golf this week shooting 77, 36, and 81. It was a particular disappointing day today as I took a step backward on the process of searching for the answer. I think what I am doing is sound but today was a lack of execution especially in the tempo department. I am still having the short game blues which does not help as I am trying to incorporate this new swing thing into the short game with mixed to terrible results. I don’t want to say that this is starting to get to me but I threw my sandwedge into the woods today. Later in the round I was between clubs. The one in my bag and the one in the woods. Even though this has been a physical search for a better way to swing the club, maybe it should be a search for the mental approach, which if you been watching the PGA tour lately has not been discovered. It was nice today to watch nobody choke down the stretch today. I don’t like that word choke even though I just used it because it is the popular term to use when someone either messes up down the stretch or screws up the entire round on the last day. It seems no one is immune to it. Even Ernie Els a couple of weeks ago missed 2 short putts and hit a terrible shot on a par 3 to blow a tournament. The only player that really seemed not to blow tournaments was Jack Nicklaus. I have read most of Jack’s books and I don’t find them all that enlightening on the subject. Even Tiger has taken the big Apple but sometimes he gets away with it. Even though he made that unbelievable chip on 16 a few years back at the Masters, he still finished bogey,bogey and if Demarcos chip goes in on 18 instead of lipping out they would still be talking about the Masters that Tiger let slip away. I think it boils down to some kind of disconnect between the mind and the body. In the last 15 years there have been 3 golfers who made triple bogeys on the last hole to get into a playoff when a double bogey would have won the tournament. Just what the hell happened there. I bet you could give Ernie Els that putt he missed on 18 a hundred times and he would make it a hundred times. But when it counted he did not even touch the hole. There is no question the answer has not been found.
Finally we get to part 2 of practicing. Jack Nicklaus use to say you should always practice with a purpose. This blog will explain what’s the purpose of practice. This is what you should expect from practicing and why you should go to the practice range.
1. It is the best the thing to do for your golf muscles. Even if you work out, a golf swing is so unique, that the only way to really get those golf muscles in shape is to swing that golf club. You get to hit a lot of shots in a very short period of time.
2. Practicing is a way to learn. Beginners learn the basics of the swing. Once you start playing awhile this is the place to learn to hit the ball low, high, left to right, and right to left. Many players don’t think they have the capabilities to hit these shots but if you do not try them on the practice range you will never get better. This is also the place to learn short game shots.
3. Experimenting. There are certain aspects of the golf swing and address position that have to be very exact. You will never be a good player if you have poor posture at addrees. However, there are many things you can change at the address position that can have a positive impact on your game. Turning your hands on the grip a little to the right or left can help you square the clubhead. Playing from an open or closed stance can have a positive effect. Remember, Ben Hogan the great fader of the golf ball played all the longer clubs the driver down to the 4 iron with a closed stance. If he had followed normal golf thinking he would have hit all shots from an open stance. Ball position is another area which can be moved around. Playing the ball a half ball forward or backward in your stance can make a big difference in how you hit the ball. These are all things you can try on the practice tee. All you have to lose is strokes.
4. Checking those static positions in golf. Remember 85% of golf swing problems happen before you swing the golf club. This is the place to check posture, alignment and distance from the ball. You can not do this enough.
So there are the reasons you should go the the practice range. Just remember practicing is not playing, practicing is not playing, practicing is not playing.
Yesterday we went to Beaver Valley Golf Club which is about a 35 to 40 minute drive. It was another unbelievable March day with plenty of sunshine and temperatures near 80. The course plays 6300 yards from the back tees to a par of 72. It is a very interesting golf course that has some very difficult and long par 4’s but the par 5’s are short and easy. They also have par 4’s that are almost driveable and the par 3’s are all solid golf holes. The greens were running a 5.2 and for early in the year were very smooth. The course is hilly and not very narrow but there is trouble to be found with enough trees and water. The fairways and rough were good. The only negative more for the course than for us, was despite the beautiful day they were not very busy. We got there at 9 am and left at about 1:40 and I don’t think there were more than a half dozen foursomes that went out during that time. Because the course was not busy there was no hot dog at the turn. I had played this golf course before about 6 years ago but I liked it a lot better this time. Is it worth the trip? I would say if you do not have to drive more than 50 minutes then yes. We had a threesome today. I had a bad front nine but settled down on the back and shot 80. Tony was in midseason form with a 72 and Pete shot 78. I am back to hitting the ball much better, but now I have to get my brain in order and hopefully the scores will come. A very enjoyable day for March 21st. Sixty four courses down and twenty six to go.