Because of weather, and visiting grandkids, but mostly the weather, I have not been able to play a new course for the last 2 weeks. Therefore, I thought this would be a good time to write about the search for the answer and some of the things I have looked at over the years. This blog I will cover the garbage. The things not to waste your time on in the golf instruction literature. The first thing to avoid is any of the so called golf methods. These include the square to square method, natural golf, stack and tilt, Jimmy Ballard method, swing the handle and automatic golf just to name a few. I compare method golf to weight loss diets. They help some people but they are not for everyone. The only thing you can say about both things is that who ever invents them, its puts a lot money in their wallet. Its not to say that there are not some good things in these methods but if you follow them to the letter you will always be a frustrated golfer. They always have some tour player that has used or is using the method with great success but more often that not, 5 years or so later, he or she is doing something else. Now lets get to worst instuction book that was ever written and that is The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan,written in 1955. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Annika Sorenstam, all wrote instruction books that described the way they played golf and were titled accordingly. The idea of these books is to show in detail how these great players go about hitting a golf ball and if the average golfer can apply some of this to their own game, so much the better. If the Ben Hogan book had been titled similiarly, like How I Play Golf by Ben Hogan, then I would have no beef with the book. Ben Hogan was a golfer who was plagued in the early part of his career by a terrible duck hook. So everything he describes in this book concerning golf technique is with the sole purpose of keeping a player from hitting the ball from right to left. The problem is that 90% of all people that have taken up the game are slicing the ball, hitting it from left to right. So if you pick up this book thinking that it is truly the modern fundenmentals of golf, you won’t last very long playing the game. However if you are troubled by a duck hook then this is the book for you. The problem is the book doesn’t really say this and that is why I think it is the worst book for instuction ever written. Now that we have taken care of the garbage, on the next golf swing blog we will get to what you really have to do to hit the ball reasonalbly well. Hopefully the weather will improve and we can get to course n0. 61 in the next 7 to 10 days.
Yesterday played course number sixty, 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills which is a 25 to 30 minute drive. I had played this course about 20 to 25 years ago and remembered nothing about it. The course was in very good shape and had the fastest greens we have putted so far. They ran a 7.5 on the stimp and were very smooth. The course was still very wet despite all the sunshine we have had, as again the temperatures hit the lower 80’s. The course was typically hilly but was fair and very enjoyable to play. We played from tees that made the course play about 6300 yards,to a par of 72 You can play from tees that will stretch the course to 6800 yards plus. The course played long enough, with the wet conditions. The hot dog at the turn was fair as it was one of those bigger fatter dogs that just doesn’t taste as good as the smaller round hot dogs. My swing change continued to work well and I shot a 75 and Tony came in with a nice 76. This course use to be a country club but went public about 5 years ago. I am sure these greens were even faster back then but it was fun putting on a relatively quick putting surface. The greens did have some undulations in them but overall were very fair. The course had some tight holes with many trees and even from the middle tees was good challenge. This course was definitely worth the trip. As I said the swing change I made seems to have helped me quite a bit. It is not a new thing as far as golf instruction is concerned and so I am no closer to any new discoveries concerning how to hit this little ball or playing this game but the quest will go on. It is a little easier to continue the search when you hit the ball reasonably well. This past week was great weather wise and I got 5 courses in. However things are looking a little shakey this week so we will have to see if any are going to get added this week. Two thirds of the way home with 30 to go.
Yesterday with beautiful fall condtions I had another 36 hole day. The first course was Stonecrest in Wampum Pa. about an hour and 5 minute drive. This course plays about 6400 yards from the back tees with most of that on the back nine, and plays to a par of 71. The course was in very good shape with the greens running a 6.25 on the stimp and were very smooth. This course is very flat and has a very good design. The three finishing holes are very long and demanding par 4’s playing 440, 468, and 426 and with the wet conditions played all of that yesterday. There are many tree lined holes but yet the course is not super tight. The hot dog at the turn was very good. I got off to a horrible start but did make a swing change in the middle of the round which seemed to work well for the rest of day. But for this 18 because of short game blues again, I could only muster an 83 while Pete shot 80. Then we headed about 6 miles south to Beaver Falls to Fox Run golf course. I had never played this course before and this was a pleasant surprise. It was about 6500 yards from the back tees and again most of this was on the back nine. The par was 72 and the course was in very good shape with these greens running a 5.5 on the stimp and they too were in excellent condition. This course had many interesting holes with lots of water that came into play. The course was hillier but was again very enjoyable to play. Two of the more interesting holes were early in the round. The 2ond hole was a 365 yd. par 4 with a dogleg left. The dogleg was well down the hole about 260 yards out and the green which was relatively small was surrounded by very large trees. The third hole was a short par 4 of 297 yds. with a large tree directly in the middle of the fairway about 200 yards out. Again on the back nine there was a stretch of demanding par 4’s, 12, 13, and 14 that were all over 400 yds. My only compaint about this course was some of the scorecard yardages seemed to be off but it is a minor complaint as this was a good solid golf course. My swing change started working well on the front nine and I shot a 1 under 35 on the front but the wet conditions and again bad chipping caused me to stagger in with a 40 on the back for 75. Pete shot 82. The hot dog at the turn was good but they had no relish or onions. Overall with the beautiful day and two solid golf courses this was one of the better days of the trek. These courses are worth the trip and I will be going back. Fifty nine down and Thirty one to go.
Yesterday was a 36 hole day as I headed back to the Steubenville, Wintersville area. The first course we played was Red Oaks which is about an hour and 10 minutes drive. This is a short course playing about 6000 yards from the back tees, to a par of 72. The greens were excellent and ran about a 6 on the stimp. We have had a lot of rain in the area for the last week and the course was very wet. This was only the 2ond time I had played the course and that was about 15 years ago. There are a lot of blind shots and there are parts of the back nine which is very tight and hilly. We had a foursome today and with the wet conditions and some early fog we all had out problems. I managed to scrape out a 79, Pete had 84, Rich 85 and John an 89. The hot dog at the turn was very good. Then we headed back to Pittsburgh a little ways to play Spring Hill. This course plays 6200 yards, with a par of 71. The course is a little less hilly is a little more open and therefore more player friendly. The greens were good and ran 5.25 on the stimp. One of the unique things about these greens is they were very grainy. This affected the speed and break of the putt more than we were use to and everybody had their share of problems on the greens. I really had my problems and shot one of my worse scores an 85. Pete shot 78, Rich 79 and John who had as much problems on the greens as I did had 93. The hot dog at the turn was excellent with one of those smaller V shaped buns that allowed the condiments to be under the hot dog. Both of these courses are not worth the trip but if you live in this area both course are enjoyable to play and are in very good shape. If you are headed down south and are going to play Bermuda greens Spring Hill is a good place to go, to get use to putting on greens with lots of grain in them. Obviously I had pretty bad scores today, and most of this was due to some real short game blues. We had beautiful weather after a miserable weekend of cold wind and rain. Hoping to knock off 3 more courses over the next 3 days. Fifty seven down with thiry three to go.
Today I went to Krendale golf course in Butler, Pa., which was about an hour drive. This is a 27 hole lay out and I played the North and West course today. I have played this course only once before and then I did play all 27 holes at that time. All three nine’s are pretty solid tracks. The only bad thing today was that this area has had a lot of rain lately and the the course was very wet, and this was probably the most careful I have ever been driving a cart, since they had virtually no cart paths. I feel my biggest accompishment of the day was not getting the cart stuck in the mud. The two nine’s today played about 6450 yards to a par of 70. The greens were very smooth and ran a 5.5 on the stimp. The course was enjoyable to play and overall the course was in good shape considering the wet. However there were a few oddities about the place. The clubhouse is old and you feel a little isolated out there like you are arriving at the Bates motel. The inside of the clubhouse seems to have little to do with golf. The the scorecards they have are only for each 9 and each card is no bigger than a playing card. They remind you scorecards that would get at a minature golf course. Then even though the cards are all only 9 holes they handcap all the holes like every time you go there you are going to play 27 holes. In other words there is a 22 handicap hole and a 26 handicap and so forth. I must admit I have never seen anything like that and it certainly would make for some intersting 18 hole matches. I wouldn’t say this course is worth the trip but it has lots of good holes. I went around today in 76 with some short game blues but overall it was a good day. I am working on something again and it seems to be helping some. I have done it now for a whole 2 rounds so you never know. The hot dog at the turn was just ok, and they only had mustard and ketchup, no onions or relish. Where is that garlic hot sause when you need it. On the way home I stopped at a place called the ice cream king, or something lile that, and they had my favorite flavor of ice cream, Chocolate Marshmellow and it was delicious. That may have been worth the trip. Fifty five down and thirty five to go.
Yesterday was a trip down memory lane as I played on 2 golf courses that I grew up on. The first course was Fairway River Links in Rayland Ohio, which is an hour and twenty minute drive from my house. This course was a 9 hole course back in the late 50’s and 60’s and my dad and I played it almost every weekend when I was a young boy and then when I was in high school I played it almost every day. A season long pass in the mid 1960’s would cost 70 dollars. To fill up your car can cost that much today. The course was owned by former Pittsburgh Pirate 2ond baseman Bill Mazeroski and he eventually sold it and the new owners were able to turn it into and 18 hole course. Six of the old holes remained virtually unchanged. The course is in fair shape with the greens smooth but slow barely running a 4 on the stimp. There is no definition to the fairways and lots of crabgrass but the course has a nice setting as it runs along the Ohio River and is very flat. From the back tees the course plays about 5800 yards to a par of 70. There are many interesting and picturesque holes and I found it to be an enjoyable course to play. Of course I had many memories come back as I played the 6 originals holes. The old number 2 hole was the sight of my first hole in one on July 31 1968. I went around the track in 75 yesterday as it was difficult to adjust to the slowness of the greens. The 4 reading was on the cut greens and I played a lot greens that were not cut yet which were even slower. I was done too early to get a hot dog. Next stop was a course that had opened in 1965 which I also played when I was in high school, Bec-Wood Hills about 15 minute trip down the road or should I say up and down and around the road. This course is much hillier and the greens were in great shape running a 6 on ths stimp and were very smooth. Lot more doglegs and again not really any definition to the fairways although on some holes I thought I could see a line between the fairway and the rough. The fairways were about the same as River Links but the greens were much better and more undulating. From the back tees this course plays about 6100 yards to par of 72. The hot dog at the turn was exceptional and they had a garlic hot sause to die for. It was so good that I had another at the end of the round. I shot 77 here with some adjustment problems on the much speedier greens and I made some strategic errors on some holes because I had not played them before or at least I certainly don’t remember that far back. All in all it was a very enjoyable day as the weather after some early fog was very nice and sunny with temps in the low 80’s by the time I finished. Fifty four down with 36 to go.
Yesterday I went to Hickory Heights in Bridgeville Pa which is a 20 minute drive form my house. This golf course has been around for close to 20 years, has had many changes in ownership and the only reason I think this golf course has been able to survive is that it is located around a lot of poputlation. This course was designed by some well know golf architect and all I can say is he must have been on some kind of acid trip when he built this golf course. To get to the basics the course plays about 6500 yards from the back teess and the greens were running a solid 6.5 on the stimp and were very smooth. The fairways were in good shape and the rough was long but had a lot of bare patches. However the greens are poorly designed, the holes are very narrow and if you have a desire to see just how unfun golf can be I suggest that you buy 2 dozen cheap balls because you are going to lose at least half of them. I was charged 35 dollars to play this golf course from hell and when I got home their web site did say they have a senior rate but gave no details. I guess they only give you this rate if you look like death warmed over. On the web site there is guy on there that says that one of their holes is part of his dream 18. I almost puked on my computer. The only dreams you are going to have about this golf course would be classified as nightmares. I was so disgusted I didn’t bother having a hot dog. I went around the track in 77 which is 5 over par. I played well in the middle of the round and made some nice short game saves at the end when my swing went south. Still no closer to any answers but at least I have this course behind me. Fifty two down and 38 to go.
Today was course no 51, Rolling Fields in Murrysville Pa., which was about a 30 minute drive. I had not heard much about this course and this was the first time I had played it. I knew it was one of these short courses that would probably not be in that great of shape. I was right about that. The course was not as bad as some of the more recent courses but the fairways were choppy and sparse and the rough was about the same length as the fairways. The greens were not cut today but they were in pretty good shape but because of the dampness and not being cut they ran only about a 4 on the stimp. The course plays about 6200 yards from the tips to a par of 70. The first 10 holes were pretty much what I expected a lot of short par 4’s and a short par 5 and one really nice par 3 of about 180 yards over water. The 10th hole in fact is nothing more than an uphill par 4 of 270 yards. Then you get to the 11th hole and welcome to the PGA tour. 11 is a 420 yard par 4 a lot uphill, then 12 is 440 par 4 down and uphill. The 13th is a 375 yard par 4 with a tight dogleg to the left. 14 is nice straighaway par 3 at 180yds. 15 is a so so short par 4. Then we are back in business a 190 par 3 over a ravine. A short par 5 is then followed by a solid finishing hole a 410 yard par with at least a 230 yd. carry over water with more trouble on the right. I do not think I have ever seen such two contrasting 9’s. If the greens had been cut I would have probably enjoyed this course more. The hot dog at the turn was fair with another dirty mustard and ketchup tops. Needless to say I had only relish and onions. I had my typical up and down day with some really bad short game shots. I hit the ball pretty good overall but made too many bogeys against 3 birdies to shoot 75. I must say the back nine was quite a surprise but this course is not worth the trip. Overall it was a rather pleasant day even though it was a little cloudy and murky but at least I stayed dry. Fifty one down and thirty nine to go.
Today was course no 50 Lindenwood in Peters Twp. which is about a 25 minute drive from my house. This course has 27 holes and we played the older 18 holes. We have had a lot rain the last 2 days and the course was soggy but held up rather well. The greens were running a 5.5 on the stimp and did have some rough spots on them. The course was in good shape overall. Lindenwood plays about 6400 yards from the tees that we played. We did not play from the exteme back tees because the first nine plays over 3500 yards from the tips. Lindenwood has always been close to where I have lived but I have never played the course very much because generally they want too much to play it and the course is never in really great shape. The greens have always been just so so and today was no exception but they were a little faster than expected despite the rain. There was no hot dog at the turn today because there was no service even though it was 12:30 and 2 to 3 people were waiting. After 20 minutes I left. Lindenwood has always had their nose up in the air a little bit for a public course and most of the time its really been up their ass. Because of the weather we were one of the first one’s there and the lady at the pro shop took forever to ring us up and we gave her exact change. Then the starter said keep those receipts for the rain check and I who look at the radar said “Oh its not going to rain” Then he curtly said well ok then just rip them up. And then no service at the snack bar was the final straw even though people were yelling, anybody back there. Obviously this course is not worth even a 25 minute trip. The play was mediocre today as I shot an 80 and Pete had major putting woes and had an 86. I may have come up with something today though, and again time will tell. One of these blogs I will go through some the experimental swing ideas I have had during this 1 year trek so far. One of the reasons I haven’t gone into details on some of these swing ideas is out of embarassment. Some I have kept for a few weeks like the one I had at the end of last year and some have not even lasted a round. I may save all that for the end of the season blog. Fifty courses down and 40 to go.
Today I went to Foxwood Acres in Eighty Four Pa which is about a 50 minute drive from my house. This course plays about 6200 yards from tees that I played but can be stretched to 6500 yards and is a par of 70. As we passed the half way point of this 90 golf course trek I wrote that we had not played a course that was truly in bad shape. Well through the first four courses in the second half we have already two courses that are in very bad shape. In fact this course was in worse shape than Castle Shannon. The greens barely ran a 4 on the stimp and had many burned out places and bares spots. The fairways were mostly crab grass and tee boxes were not much better. The course did have some interesting and challinging holes but this did not make up for the bad state of the golf course. This course is fairly new and they recently added another 9 holes to make it an 18 hole golf course, but I think they should have spent the money on keeping the original 9 in better condition. I started at 8 am and course was empty and I got around in about 2 and a half hours and when I was done there was about 4 other cars in the parking lot. Needless to say there were no hot dogs. I played ok but could not muster any birdies and had 5 bogeys to shoot a ho hum 75. This is the second course now in the last week that does make me sad. This golf course is not bad from the stand point of design but obviously there is not enough poputlation to support this place and it is not likely to happen any time soon. At least I was the only one that had to suffer along with the conditions. One of the courses we were suppose to play by the name of Kings Creek in Weirton West Va. has just recently shut down and I expect this course and Castle Shannon may not be too far behind. Oh well, forty nine courses down and forty one to go.