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About this blog

The occasional random golf-related thoughts pop into my head.  It was fun to try to flesh out the idea while putting the figurative pen to paper.  A few attempts were made by me on another site a few years ago.  The efforts of several other TST members has inspired me to give it a try again. No one should anticipate a cohesive series of blog entries.  I go where the mental winds blow.  ;-)

The photo was taken at Carnoustie as I and my fellow golfers/caddies walk down the fairway.

Entries in this blog

bkuehn1952

For a number of years I have been consciously avoiding viewing my golf swing on video.  My swing is flawed but at 64+ years old, I am not sure I want to start a reclamation project.  Playing golf is a lot of fun and if my results are not particularly good, I am okay with that.

The first time I saw my swing on video dates back to the 1980’s when my wife and I went to “golf camp.”  The pro had a series of stop action photos of professional golfers and he would stop my swing video at various points and we could compare my position with Tom Weiskopf or Gary Player.  It was eye opening to see how flat footed I was at impact, among other flaws, and it convinced me to work harder at my game.

Fast forward 30 years and part of the application process for the 2017 Newport Cup involves a V-log.   There is no way to create a V-log without taping one’s swing. :facepalm

Of course the first hurdle was figuring out how to record all the action.  I own a digital camera and have recorded various activities (grand kids zip lining, making pesto in Italy, etc…).  I also own a “gorilla” tripod and have taken many photos using the timer.  So how hard could it be to record my 3-hole V-Log out on the golf course?  As I found out, it is not that hard … to make a terrible video.  If one is searching for a better quality presentation, as in all things, practice, practice, practice.

Having another person along makes the process infinitely easier.  No worries about cutting off your head or your feet and the ball.  Starting and stopping the action, too close or too far, are all solved with an assistant.

Of course, convincing someone to tag along on a windy 37 degree day is a challenge and my first efforts were done solo.  While I eventually learned how to properly frame the scene, the sound quality was all over the map.  The wind plays havoc with the audio.  Some segments are fine, others just sound like a wind tunnel.  It is still not clear to me how to obtain decent sound quality on a windy day so I may need to wait for a windless day.

In the past, I never felt the need to edit any of the videos I had recorded so that process was a mystery.  Fortunately, I discovered that the editing process is fairly simple; even I could figure it out.  Using my test videos, I managed to cobble together a viewable presentation.  True, my swing looks like I am fighting my way out of an invisible plastic bag but I am excited about my next trip to the course.  Martin Scorsese has nothing on me!

bkuehn1952

We often hear, “that is a 1st World problem,” when we complain about many of the trivial irritants we encounter during the day.  The following list clearly falls into that category.  In my defense, there is not a lot of golf being played here in the Frozen Mitten right now and that likely explains my irritable mood.  Also, I know at some point I have been guilty of a number of items on the list and likely a lot more!  Still, sometimes it feels good to just vent.

·         Very long posts.  Yes, I don’t have to read them if I think they are too long.  At times, however, I start reading one without realizing that is it going to require scrolling & scrolling & scrolling.

·         Posters who ask a question but don’t answer the question themselves.  For example, “Who is your favorite PGA player to watch?”  Well, who is yours?  It is one thing to ask a question when you have no idea how to proceed.  When someone, however, asks a theoretical question or wants an opinion on a topic, the person posing the question should also provide an answer.

·         A question is posted such as: “What was your single best golf shot of 2016.” Inevitably a poster responds, “The three shots that come to mind …” and they proceed to describe in detail the three shots.  Hey!  The question was the single best shot, not your best three (or five or whatever).

·         Posters who, for whatever reason, choose not to reveal where they are located but post comments like, “around here the average cost of a round of golf is $25.”  Thanks for the info but where exactly is “here”???  No one is asking for your address but if one listed a state or region in their profile then comments related to one’s location would make sense.

·         If you have Game Golf and state that 170 yards is the perfect distance for your 7 iron, at least make sure that your Game Golf stats back you up. 

So, aside from this blog post, what type of things irritate you a bit when participating in or reading golf forums?

 

bkuehn1952

The other day I drove past a large inflatable dome on the side of the highway.  I thought to myself, “Gee, I didn’t realize that they had built a golf dome there.”  As I thought some more, it may actually have been an indoor soccer venue or tennis facility.  Golf domes seem to be going away as more driving ranges build shelters and install heaters.  Also, simulators are big business and take up a lot less room.

All this got me thinking about the indoor golf course they built in Michigan back in the early 1980’s.  It made quite a splash in the metro Detroit golf community, golf in the middle of winter.  Eventually three golf buddies and I decided to check it out.  I do not recall the cost but it must have been under $25.  I can’t imagine me being willing to pay much more than that.

The course was a glorified nine-hole par 3 set-up.  Netting separated each hole from its neighbors to prevent mayhem and maiming.  The tees & “fairways” were carpets but the greens were actually real turf with grass.  The grass in many places had been pounded down into dirt.  Where the grass still hung on, it was quite long and pasted down on the turf, like a guy slicking down his comb-over hair style.   The putting quality was worse than any green I had ever played upon.

There were some sand bunkers but no water that I can recall.  I don’t remember anything related to our “round” of golf.  I am sure we tried playing shots off the nets for fun. No one was going to mistake this place for a golf course with the dome, nets, artificial lighting and golfing hordes slowly working their way from one net draped area to another.

Everyone quickly figured out this was a gimmick.  If this venture made it into a second year of operation, I would be amazed.  It does not exist now.  I wish I had taken some photos as it was a pretty unique experience.

bkuehn1952

Golf Bags

My first golf bag wasn’t even really my bag; the bag was shared with my sister and brother.  It was a jaunty red, black & white tartan patterned “Sunday” bag and held our 7 or 8 slightly undersized clubs along with a supply of golf balls and tees in a single zippered pocket.  The bag eventually was consigned to the basement when we graduated to a standard set of clubs.  I remember occasionally sighting it stowed away under the basement stairs.  I imagine it got tossed when my parents moved to Florida several decades ago.

The first full-sized bag was a gray, somewhat square-shaped, fake leather, single strap bag.  My friends and I almost always walked rather than pay for a cart.  Since “stand bags” were not invented yet, when we arrived at our ball we just laid the bag down on the ground or propped it against a tree (according to Sun Mountain, the first bag with built-in legs was introduced in 1986). 

As a late adopter, it was likely well into the 1990’s until I converted to a stand bag.  Once I had one, I was hooked, no more laying my bag down in the dew laden grass.  Managing one’s clubs became easy as you no longer had to lift the bag to remove or insert a club.

By the late 1990’s I faced a crisis, the dual strap.  Beginning in 1996, dual strap systems became more & more popular.  Having played golf for over 30 years, I had a problem getting acclimated to the dual strap.  My biggest issue was that you had to always approach the bag from the left.  With a single strap I could pick the bag up from either the left or right side.  For a while I would buy a dual strap bag and swap out the dual strap for a single strap.  Eventually I gave up and adopted dual straps and got in the habit of approaching the bag on the left.  Frankly, the dual straps are a huge improvement as far as weight distribution.

As a frugal golfer, I tended to try to hunt out bargain bags.  One time I got a particularly good deal.  I made the transfer from old to new but ran into a problem.  I could not find the umbrella holder.  Apparently the designer in Indonesia or Vietnam decided I did not need to carry an umbrella.  For years after, when I would look at a new bag I would double check that there was a system to hold an umbrella.

So what do I look for in a bag, other than an affordable cost (and an umbrella holder!!)?  Number one is weight.  I don’t want to lug around an extra 5 pounds for 4 hours if I can avoid it.  Another preference is for the legs to spread far enough apart so as to give the bag a stable “stance” on hills and in wind.  I have owned a number of bags with non-adjustable legs that could barely stand up to a 10 mph breeze or a 3% incline. Never again!  Other than that, as long as there are a couple pockets, one of which is large enough for a rolled up rain suit, I am good to go.  In a perfect world the color scheme would be subdued but I have owned a yellow & black bag in the past (dubbed the “Bumble Bee”).

So what does everyone else look for?

bkuehn1952

Buddy Trips

I love golf buddy trips so the announcement of the 2017 Newport Cup has started my golfing juices flowing.  A well-organized golf buddy trip is a great experience.  Considering the people planning the event, I suspect that the 2017 Newport Cup will be singular experience.  I am doing my best to temper my excitement at possibly participating with the knowledge that there are many better players ahead of me in line. Still, it is a welcome distraction while the snow levels ebb & flow this winter.

My first golf buddy trip was in 1994, and our destination was the quintessential buddy trip location, Myrtle Beach.  There were just four of us and we had two hotel rooms, double occupancy.  We flew into Charleston since there were no direct flights from Detroit to Myrtle Beach at the time.  Our line-up was Myrtlewood (Palmetto), the now defunct Bay Tree (Green & White), Possum Trot, Heather Glen, and Indian Wells.  Not exactly a “killer’s row” of the best courses in Myrtle Beach but we were newbies and tried to save money.

I remember my first shot on the afternoon of our arrival.  We had raced up to Myrtle from Charleston, checked in at the hotel, dumped our bags and headed to the course.  It was sunny and 80 degrees – perfect.  Eventually the starter called us to the first tee.  This was going to be great.  In an adrenalin induced frenzy I swung so hard I almost missed the ball, thinning a worm burner about 100 yards.  From there it took another 7 shots to finish the opening par 4.   I recovered from that opening hole disaster and played decently for the balance of the round and trip.  That tee shot still lingers in my memory, however.

It wasn’t until 1998, that I took another buddy trip and again the destination was Myrtle Beach.  I was originally approached by an acquaintance, George, in late 1997, taking a trip to M.B. with a group of guys he knew and worked with.  I said “no thanks” and promptly put the idea out of my mind.  In early March, George again called and said two guys had dropped out.  Would I be interested in taking one of their spots?  His timing was right and this time I said yes.  A few weeks later, as I was driving to the airport, I realized that other than George, I knew none of the other participants.  If George didn’t show, I was going to need to stand up on the plane and ask whether any of the guys had planned a trip with “George”.  Well, George did show and the trip was a success.  I made a bunch of new golf friends and we made the trip annually until 2004, when the organizer passed away and no one took up the reins.

As fate would have it, I joined a family-owned business in 2006.  As part of their marketing efforts, they organized a golf trip for the independent sales representatives from around the country.  One day the owner called me into his office.  The conversation went something like this:

Owner:                 My brother can’t make the golf trip.

Me:                        I am sorry to hear that.

Owner:                 Do you have a current passport?

Me:                        Yes.

Owner:                 Would you like to join us in Ireland next week?

Me:                        I will go home and start packing!!

Twenty of us flew to Ireland the next week, all expenses paid, and we spent the next 6 days playing golf in southwest Ireland, including Ballybunion, Waterville and Doonbeg.  Talk about walking into a great situation.  The family subsequently dragged me along on trips to Greenbrier, Pinehurst, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews.  I guess I picked the right people with which to work.

I have thought about trying to organize another trip to Scotland for 2018.  There are a number of members in our club-without-real-estate who could probably be counted on to tag along.  How about the rest of you guys? 

bkuehn1952

End of the Season

My last round of the year was played Wednesday, 12/7/2016.  It wasn’t exactly perfect weather with a high of 37˚ (f) and a 14 mph breeze.  Still, it was sunny and I have played in much worse conditions.  I tend to tell myself that if we had this weather in January or February, we would all be out running around in shorts. It was definitely chilly at the outset but after walking the first three or four holes it was very comfortable.  

Living in the north central part of the USA tends to influence what is considered “cold.”  Anything above 32˚ with some sun and/or little wind isn’t really cold.  Cold is when the snow squeaks as you walk and the mucus in your nose freezes.  My parents were both natives of the Midwest but once they moved south to Sarasota, FL, their perception of “cold” shifted.  I had to smile when my parents complained that it was too cold to play on days that were cloudy, 58 degrees and a bit breezy. 

Weather played a part the year my father and I won the Member-Guest at his club.  We had one of our scheduled matches in the late afternoon against a couple of decent players.  It was cool, cloudy & breezy; we expected a tough fight.  As soon as our opponents rolled up, I knew we had the match in the bag.  They were wearing ski hats, parkas and looked very unhappy to be outside.  We beat them like a drum. 

After Wednesday’s round, I took my clubs to the basement and cleaned out my car of all the collected golf paraphernalia (rain gloves, extra shoes, extra socks, rain suit, etc.).  We received a dusting of snow Thursday and then were hammered this past weekend with 11 inches.  That pretty much dashed any hopes of a warming trend extending the season. 

For my own amusement, I typically write up a summary of the season just completed.  There is often a theme or big event during the year which serves as the basis for the entry in my personal golf journal.  One year it was the trip to Scotland, another my 2nd ace, etc.  This year I stole the title from an earlier blog posting, “The Eagle Has Landed.”  My four eagle hole-outs this year certainly made 2016 different. 

At some point this month I will go to the basement and clean up everything, replace worn spikes and grips, toss out the half eaten granola bar and just generally make the equipment ready in case we take a trip south before March.  With a new golf bag about to be delivered (Sun Mountain 2 Five), the clubs will be officially transferred to their new home sometime this month.  Then, like Punxsutawney Phil, I will settle in for the Winter and await the moment I re-emerge as a golfer in the Spring.

bkuehn1952

One day last week it was relatively cold (50 degrees F), with overcast skies and a chilly 15 mph wind.  Add to that the fact that the course had been completely aerated and we had a soaking rain the day prior; it was going to be a long day.  It seemed like a good time to experiment with the “Tee It Forward” idea.  While I ordinarily play a set of tees measuring 6,560 yards (par 71, 71.6/120), today it was going to be 5,606 yards (67.1/111).

A few years back another site had held a “Tee It Forward Challenge Weekend.”  The idea was for everyone to move up and see if anyone could beat their personal best or break “70”.  I wasn’t able to participate and sadly, none of the participants were able to record a P.B. or a score in the 60’s.  After a long delay, I was finally going to accept the challenge.

As I stuck my tee into the ground between the Gold/Red markers on the first tee, it was clear the course was almost completely empty.  That was good.  Frankly, the idea of having several dozen people watch me play from the forward tee area was mildly embarrassing.  On this day it looked like I was going to have few witnesses.

The first thing that struck me was how one’s perspective changes from the forward teeing ground.  Many of the angles are different and my typical aiming points had to be adjusted.  It was fun figuring out the best way to play a totally new tee shot.

It also became clear that despite shortening the yardage, one still needed to hit a decent tee shot and an accurate approach.  Scoring was not automatic.  The hole may be shortened 20-100 yards but one still needed to play good golf.

At one point I caught up with a 4-some who offered to allow me to play through.  Great, now I was going to need to walk past them to the gold/red markers. :facepalm I thanked them, smiled, and said, “I shouldn’t hold you up too long as I am playing the Ladies Tees.”  They all chuckled and one remarked that they probably should do the same.  Having watched them for a bit, I silently agreed.

I wish I could report that I set a course record or achieved a personal best.  Too many poorly struck approaches and a couple of three putts derailed anything like that.  I did manage to beat my course handicap of “8” but not by much.

Will I do it again?  Most likely yes.  It is a nice change of pace, like playing alternate shot or a 2-person scramble.  I can’t see moving to the “gold” or senior tees on a permanent basis, yet.  Despite the relatively good final score, it did not feel like much of an accomplishment.  I hope I recognize when it is time to make a permanent move.  I do not want to become the old guy who plays a set of tees where I can’t reach any of the holes in regulation. 

bkuehn1952

Seasonal Sandbagging

Our state association recently announced that the handicap reporting season has been extended to November 15.  This came after they opened the reporting season early with a March 15 opening rather than the traditional April 1st date.

I am all for reporting as many scores as possible but extending the handicap reporting season, on both ends, seems like a bad idea.  Certainly most courses in Southeast Michigan become playable by mid-March and remain so until mid-November.  There is a big difference, however, between being playable versus being in decent shape.  Early in the year the ground is extremely soggy, temperatures are barely above freezing, and the greens are slow & bumpy. Late October and November often sport similar conditions with aerated greens and reduced course maintenance.  Many course’s bunkers look like a battle zone with deer tracks, leaves and water puddles.  There are no tournaments played after September or scheduled prior to May in recognition of the rough conditions that exist early and late in the season. 

These rough conditions often lead to what I call, “seasonal sandbagging.”  Those of us who play regularly through November and then start early in March typically see our indexes rise.  As an example, at the end of tournament season in 2015 my index was 7.3.  By the first May tournament in 2016, my index was 9.4.  Until the improved conditions allowed me to score better (and lower my index), I had a 2-3 shot advantage over competitors whose indexes reflected the fact that they started the season late and put their clubs away early. 

Undoubtedly, the Golf Association of Michigan staff have their reasons for extending the reporting season. I remain unconvinced that reporting scores from March or November create a more accurate handicap index.  Still, rules are rules so that 86 I will shoot in November will replace that 78 I carded in the last tournament at the end of August.  And I will be that much more competitive in our first net event of 2017.  ;-)

bkuehn1952

The Eagle Has Landed

Early in 2016 I asked some of my online friends when was the last time they made eagle. I had discovered, to my chagrin, that while I thought it had been a year or two, it actually had been nearly 5 years.  Many of my online buddies confessed to similar droughts.  At the time I joked that we all had better start taking dead aim.

Shortly thereafter, a golf buddy remarked that I was one of the better wedge players he knew.  He said I always seemed to be right in line with the target and usually around the hole.  High praise from a very good golfer but also an indication that perhaps he doesn’t know enough good wedge players.  My scoring record and handicap index (8.2) clearly tell me that my wedge play, along with the rest of my game, are fairly average.  I thanked him for his compliment and just filed it away.

Yesterday I holed a 60-yard wedge shot for eagle on a par 4; it was the third time this year I had performed the feat from 60-120 yards.  I also holed out a 155 yard 7-iron.  To put this in context, over the past 20 years I have averaged less than 1 eagle a year.  This year I have had four (so far!), none involving a putter.

I suspect this is likely a temporary phenomenon and next year I will return to my standard pattern of -0- eagles.  Still, it has been fun.  Also, there is always the faint hope that I actually have discovered something in my wedge game that suddenly resulted in the surge in eagle production.  Or perhaps, after my friend’s compliment, the power of positive thinking pushed me over the top?  Time will tell.

Now if I only could get my putter to join in the fun!

bkuehn1952

Birthday Golf Tradition

For over 20 years one of my birthday traditions has been collecting a free round of golf at one of the local Huron-Clinton Metro Park golf courses.  My birthday falls in September so I get to enjoy a taste of Autumn with my round.  Those with birthdays that fall between November 1 and March 31 get to celebrate a ½ birthday 6 months after their real date.  There are four Metro Park courses within a ½ hour drive and I have joked about hoping that my birthday would be a rainy washout so I could drive to each course and get a rain check.

Some other courses have joined in the “Birthday Club” idea.  Most require one to bring along one or more “friends” at full price in order to receive the “free” round.  That is not “free” in my book.

I typically take a full or ½ day of vacation on my birthday in order to enjoy my “gift”.  This year, sadly, a business conference fell on my birthday and I was unable to collect my round.  Otherwise, I pretty much have a perfect record.  One year my wife & I returned from a trip to Europe on “The Day”.  After unpacking, I grabbed my golf bag and headed to the course.

My most memorable birthday so far was my 60th.  I took the day off and played a morning “free” round at the Brighton-area Metro Park.  A mediocre score left me mildly disappointed.  With an afternoon of great weather still left, I headed further north to Hunter’s Ridge where I had a prepaid round pending.  My par & bogey start was typical.  When I got up & down from the sand on the 3rd hole, I thought the afternoon might turn out to be decent.  Five birdies during the balance of the round got me in the house at even par “71.”  Up to that point, that was the closest I had come to “shooting my age.”  It remains the best birthday round of my life, but then, there is always next year! ;-)

Anyone else have a birthday golf tradition?

 

 

 

 

bkuehn1952

Well, the first Indiana State Senior Golf Association (ISSGA) versus the Michigan Publinx Senior Golf Association (MPSGA) golf tournament is in the books. Foursomes and Four-Ball matches were played the first day (9 holes each) with singles the second day (18 holes).  Sixteen four-ball matches, sixteen foursomes and 32 singles with a point for each match won, ½ for a tie.  The team with 32.5 or more points was the winner.

For most of us, the Foursomes play was new.  Some had experience with the Four-Ball format and most had played some Singles match play.  I was not aware of any Rules dust-ups so any trampling of the special rules for the team formats was either ignored or allowed to pass because of ignorance.

The Foursomes was actually a modified Foursomes match with every player hitting from the tee.  Each team selected a drive to play and then the other team member started off the alternate shot process from there.  It was a concession to the fact that most of our teams had players with course handicaps in excess of 9.  I always knew this as “Scottish Foursomes” but whatever the real name is, this format worked.

The event was also a “net” event.  We tried to balance the opposing teams so few or no strokes were involved. Only a handful of the matches had more than 1 stroke a side.

I found the modified Foursomes to be the most interesting and it also was our closest match.  There were definitely opportunities for some strategy.  My partner was struggling a bit off the tee and with his lag putting.  Fortunately, I was driving well so we could allow my partner to hit approaches, usually from the fairway and close enough to hit short irons or wedges.  That allowed me to be the chipper and lag putter.  The only time we deviated from that formula was coming down the stretch.  We both hit good drives in the fairway with my partner at least 15-20 yards closer.  With the approach over water, we agreed the shorter shot made sense and I managed to get the ball on the green about 15 feet away.  Then the wheels fell off.  My partner got a bit too aggressive on the lightning fast greens and hit it 10 feet past.  I promptly missed the comebacker and we found ourselves only up by 1 going into #17. :facepalm Fortunately, we played the 17th in par while our opponents imploded and gave us the match.

 

The Four-ball was actually our first match and because of the shot-gun start it was divided into two parts, 3-9 and then 1 & 2, if needed.  We did not really employ any strategic moves in this match. We never had the closer player putt first; no one “went for it” when the other player was safe.  Our idea was to always have two guys in the hole to reduce the pressure on each other.  At least this time it worked with us winning 3 & 2 on the 7th hole.

Singles play was my least comfortable format.  I had never met my opponent and the Michigan player in the other match for our group was at best a slight acquaintance.  Also, we each rode in the cart with our opponent (a mistake).  It is tough to make small talk and then try to figuratively kick the guy in the nuts.  Better to have someone riding with you to commiserate or celebrate the prior hole.

My match started out to be a disaster as I struggled in all phases of my game.  After 8 holes I was already 3 down with no sign that I was going to make a match of it.  At that point, my fellow Michigander gave me a little pep talk.  I re-focused and decided to try to stay in the match as long as possible.  As mid to high handicappers, it is often hard to stay steady through 18 holes.  My opponent had played extremely well up to that point.  On a different day he may have been able to continue that pace and card a round under his handicap.  On this day, however, he began to display some nerves.  An extremely poor chip by my opponent allowed me to win the 9th and I was now 2 down.  My 3-putt on #10 looked to be another loss but then my opponent gave me a gift and also 3-putted.

Still 2 down, the turning point was #12.  He hit another solid drive in the fairway while I pushed my effort a bit right.  I could not see the green and needed to hit a blind shot over large trees to a well bunkered green.  I really wanted to see him hit first as that would dictate how aggressive I needed to be.  Everyone assumed I was away but since the hole doglegged right, I felt I might be closer.  I took a GPS reading where my ball was and then walked to the fairway where his ball lay.  I told him my GPS showed he was away by 5-6 yards.  To his credit he accepted the challenge and hit his approach to about 15 feet.  Touché!   Now I had to go up and over the trees, which I managed but still had to 2-putt from 75 feet, which I did. He disappointment in not winning the hole was palpable.  After tying that hole, I steamrollered him the rest of the way, with a lot of help from my opponent.  I won the next five holes and the match, 3 & 1.

I wish I could say I enjoyed the match, but I didn’t.  My preference is to play the course rather than an opponent.  My overwhelming feeling after the match was over was relief, not joy.  On the other hand, the team games were fun.  With a teammate one is not alone on an island, locked in a death struggle with a stranger.  You have someone to lean on when things are going poorly and a fellow celebrant when there is success.

Being on the winning side (MPSGA) probably creates a warmer afterglow but the men from Indiana were gentlemen and did their best to at least pretend that the event was fun. Will I play again next year?  Assuming Indiana is not too bitter about the drubbing (40 to 24), I will likely give it another try.  Time will tell.

Indiana vs. Michigan -- 2016.jpg

bkuehn1952

This Monday I travel to the Ft. Wayne, IN, area for a Ryder Cup-style event between a group of senior golfers from Michigan versus a similar group in Indiana.  We are only going to play two days with the first day a team game, either foursomes or four-ball, or maybe a combination.  The second day is singles.

I have never played a competitive foursomes or four-ball match.  I suspect most of the other players on the MI team have no experience, either.  I will need to brush up on the few Rules differences between team play and regular singles match play.

The event is going to be played “net” and it will be interesting to see how that goes down, too.  We have our share of players with interesting handicaps and I suspect the Hoosiers do too.  Fortunately, the people organizing the event are well experienced and will lead the rest of us by the hand.

It has been several years since my last true match play event.  I play against friends often but not in match play tournaments.  I am going to need to toughen myself up mentally in case my singles match is against an overly enthusiastic competitor.  This is not the Ryder Cup and it is supposed to be a fun event.  Inevitably, however, there will be some who will play like it is a blood match.  I’ll just need to cross my fingers that I get matched against someone relaxed, like me.

If nothing else, there should be a few interesting stories to tell next week.

bkuehn1952

Disappointment – For me the most disappointing result in golf is when I hit a green in regulation and then 3-putt.  Yes, a “5” on a par 4 is a bogey no matter how one achieved that result.  Still, having a GIR and then throwing it away with my putter stings a bit more.  I am going to make a fair amount of mistakes and poor shots during a round and they often lead to bogey (or worse!).  When I manage to put together a decent drive and a well struck approach shot, I really need to make par (or better).

Peer Pressure – Our tournaments are flighted and generally I am the shittiest player in the “A” flight. I have noticed that I tend to get a bit anxious at times, probably because subconsciously I feel the need to show the other “A” players that I actually belong in the “A” flight.  I don’t really care what everyone else is doing during a round and I suspect the same is true for the other “A” flighters.  Still, the anxiety is there.

Provisionals – I hit quite a few provisionals in the tournaments I play.  Few are ever needed but if I can’t see the ball or know almost exactly where it stopped, I am not reluctant to hit a provisional.  Early in my tournament experience, I had to make the walk (or drive) of shame a couple times.  Knock on wood but it has been a long time since I had to make that trip.

Sand - Ever notice how from similar lengths, a bunker shot that has to clear a lot of sand seems more difficult than one that has a shorter distance in which to clear the bunker?  I suspect I hit similar quality of shots but the ones that go shorter than desired are much worse when they remain in the bunker.  One can get a fortunate bounce if the ball gets on to the grass.

Hole Outs – I make my share of chip-ins and even holed out two shots from over 100 yards in the same round this year.  The one thing that I seem to never do is hole out sand shots.  I can only recall doing it twice in the past 20 years.  I make sand saves about 25% of the time so it is not as if I am completely incompetent from the sand.

Retirement - My wife, sister and younger brother all recently retired.  I am the last one in our family working.  That sucks!  ;)  Maybe I will fix that situation next year.  I already play over 100 times a year even though I often don’t touch my clubs for 90-100 days in winter.  It is hard to imagine I will play more often but it will be fun to try.

Golf in the Rain – We played a round recently with a steady light rain for most of the round.  It was warm enough (70’s) and not windy so being wet was not uncomfortable.  I did not wear my rain suit and just relied upon the cart roof, rain hat & umbrella.  It was fun having the course to ourselves.  My rain gloves once again proved to be indispensable.

bkuehn1952

I just competed in my 26th consecutive City Championship (one year the tournament was not held as the course was undergoing renovation).  It is a three-day stroke play tournament with the final day flighted (8 flights) based on the prior two days’ results.  At no time during those 26 tournaments did I ever have a chance to win the championship; I continue to play as a challenge to myself. 

We get all kinds of players looking to see how they will do under three days of tournament pressure.  This year’s winner, a former pro baseball pitcher, shot +3 over the three days (70/71/78).  Last place was +91 (118/92/97).  I finished in the middle of the 3rd flight (88/81/85).

At nearly 64 I could be some of the entrant’s grandfather.  As such, I had relatively modest goals: keep it under 90 every day, finish in the top half of the field, beat my two senior friends, Marty and Pat.  I accomplished all my goals but not without some stressful moments during the opening round.  My swing pretty much abandoned me on day one and I had to put up a furious rally on the last couple holes to scratch out some pars and finish a miserable 88.  Pat decided the course/event was too tough and did not play this year.  Marty and just over half of the field played shittier than I so my mission was accomplished.  I am mildly disappointed in my play.  I did not come close to my personal best in either a single round score (78) or total (240) from 2010.  Oh well, there is always next year.

A few observations:

·    We used to get much greater participation, 156 players in 3-somes going off 1 & 10 in a morning and afternoon wave.  Plus, there was a waiting list.  Now it is hard to get 100 players interested in competing.  I suspect we have a few things at work here.  First, our local newspaper stopped publishing 5-6 years ago.  There was always a big spread on the tournament but now there is very little public information out there without actually going to the course or website.  Second, younger players seem less interested in committing to the time it takes to play in a 3-day tournament.  Last, there is more competition from “amateur tours.” Also the state association sponsors more events that are played on a “net” basis and are open to everyone.  These events typically are 1 day so the commitment is not as great.

·    There are quite a few players out there that can really hit the ball, 300 yards and mostly straight.  I need to figure out a way to squeeze a few more yards out of my game (without moving to AZ!).

·    Many players are clueless about even the most basic of Rules.  I don’t understand why someone would enter a tournament and not know the most common Rules.  One member of my threesome had no idea how to take a drop for an unplayable.  He neither knew the difference between a water hazard and a lateral water hazard nor the options available for relief.  This was not his first tournament; he had participated in another City’s championship for 10 years.  One can only wonder what Rules he trampled in the past decade.

·  In golf nothing quite feels as good as playing well in the heat of competition.  On the flip side, nothing is more agonizing than to see the stroke count keep going up as one collapses under competitive pressure.

 

 

bkuehn1952

Golfer Memory

There is a thread in the “Forums” where the total number of courses played has been discussed.  I have undoubtedly played more courses than the average golfer but certainly not as many as some of the more prolific players have stated.  One point that interested me was a comment someone made about not remembering every course without the aid of an actual written list.  I suspect that many of us could list every course we have played from memory and give some story or incident that occurred.  We may not remember a birthday or appointment but that day at Black Forest when sun alternated with sleet and rain is etched in our memory.

On courses I play frequently I seem to have one or two permanent memories for each hole.  The 17th at U of M is thought of as “The Skunk” hole.  One evening we were finishing up our round when the driver of our cart, Marty, saw a skunk moseying along the left side of the rough.  He thought it would be interesting to get a closer look; I jumped out of the cart before he got too close.  The rest is history.

The 15th at Hudson Mills is the site of the 8-putt.  My wife and I were playing a mixed couple two-person scramble event.  On the 15th green the hole had been placed on a diabolical slope.  My wife and I negotiated it in 2 putts.  The other couple was not so lucky.  Their first efforts up the hill left his putt 3 feet above the hole and hers 12 feet short.  Eventually they decided to take the shorter putt and when they both missed their closest ball was now 15 feet away.  When they both missed again, one short and one long, they had now accumulated 6 putts and still had a choice of an uphill 5-footer or a downhill 3-footer.  This time they took the uphill option; she missed and he made for a team total of 8 putts.

Playing a new course is always exciting.  Still, it is nice to tour a familiar course and recall all the triumphs, tragedies and comedies.  We don’t need a list, we have a golfer’s memory.

bkuehn1952

A recent round reminded me that the game of golf consists of 18 holes.  A great start rarely ensures a satisfactory final result.  I started out with 2 birdies and managed to make the turn at +1, only to fall on my face on the back nine.  

Some years ago I started a round with an unusual string of “3, 3, 3” on a course that began par-5, par-4 and then par-3.  I don’t think I broke 40 on the front side or 80 for the round.

Of course, I don’t toss away all rounds when I make a fast start.  Still, it seems to be that hanging on to a good start is often much harder than rallying to save something.  The quick start tends to make many of us more cautious, for fear we will waste the good position we find ourselves in mid-round.  I have always felt the expression, “fear of going low” was pretty true for many of us amateurs.  Early success can lead to overly cautious play and heightened nerves.

The opposite seems to occur when we need to rally.  Since there is no great score to “save”, we relax and just go for it.  My most recent win in our club’s tournament series is a great example.  I had stumbled my way to a +4 on the opening nine.  I was going nowhere and just relaxed on the back.  As soon as I thought I had shot myself out of the event, I got on a roll.  An inward 34, including a birdie on the final hole, won the event.  It was totally unexpected as I had no idea what I had scored for the back nine.

So that is my story for today.  Anyone have a tale of triumph or woe to share?  Who has tamed the mental side of the game?

bkuehn1952

Solo

There are not a lot of games one can play solo.  Solitaire in cards, I suppose.  Video/online games where one doesn’t need a human or computer-based opponent.  One can run or ride a bicycle to beat one’s best time but I wouldn’t think most of us would consider those types of activities as a game. 

Most games need an opponent in order to create a contest.  So golf and bowling are somewhat unique in that one’s opponent is not a person but a standard, par in the case of golf and “300” for bowling.

In some ways I suspect the loner’s ability to play the game of golf was one of the attractions for me.  I dabbled in bowling for a while.  Just me against 300.   Still, bowling had a lots of strikes against it.  It was played inside, often in smoky venues.  One alley looked pretty much like another and there wasn’t a whole lot to the game other than staying behind the line and rolling a ball.  Or at least that was the way it seemed.

I also dabbled with tennis a bit.  The funky scoring system was sort of cool.  15, 30, 40 (40? Shouldn’t it be 45?  Never mind). Unlike many sports, tennis only required one other person.  Unfortunately, that one other person had to be able to hit the ball back with the same degree of competence for the game to be any fun.

Ultimately I settled on golf.  Golf was played outdoors and had lots of rules and different situations, unlike bowling.  With golf I did not need a competent partner in which to exchange shots like tennis requires.  I believe Annika Sorenstam once admitted that she gave up tennis for golf primarily because she could play golf alone.  I totally understand this mindset.  No team or opponent is needed like so many sports & games.  Just you, the course and par. 

Playing with a group of golfers is enjoyable.  Tournaments are fun, too.  But I am just as comfortable teeing it up solo.

My wife thinks I am a bit odd, going off to play golf alone.  Of course she has learned that even when I play with golf buddies, the conversations tend to stay with golf.  She used to ask a lot of questions about my playing partners and the conversations predictably went something like this:

Her: Is Bob married?

Me: I don’t know, probably.

Her: What is his wife’s name?

Me: I don’t know.

Her: Does he have kids?

Me: I don’t know.

Her: Where do they live?

Me: Near the course, I think.  Oh, his index is 11.3 and he had a hole-in-one two years ago.

The latest wrinkle with solo golf is one can’t post truly solo efforts.  I am okay with that and most of the time I pair up with someone anyway.  Based on early results, eliminating true solo rounds has made me more competitive and kept my handicap index up.  Those other seniors better watch out and keep their hand on their wallets!  ;-)

 

bkuehn1952

Well, the snow is gone and I have had a chance to wander out to the course a few times. While a casual round is a time to relax for most of us, often all I do is work on my ulcers thinking about the myriad ways course owners and green keepers do a number on me.  To be sure, not every course is guilty of these transgressions but they are common enough that most of us are familiar with a few of these issues.

Tee Markers – One is allowed to tee the ball in a rectangular area defined by the markers and two club lengths deep.  Inevitably some green keeper will place the tee markers 18 inches shy of the rough at the back of the tee.  If the tee box is chopped up between the markers you are given the option to go back up to 2 clubs and hit from a 45 degree slope out of 6 inch grass.  If placing the markers close to the end of the tee box isn’t enough, our friendly grass mower will routinely set tees 30 degrees off from the preferred direction.  Yes, one can always correct one’s aim and not rely on the markers for directional assistance.  Still, with the markers squarely aimed OB or at a hazard, it is really tough to overcome the power of suggestion emitted by the poorly placed markers.   Come on guys, the last 5 feet of the tee should never see a tee marker.  And while we are at it, take that extra 15 seconds and sort of line up the markers properly.

Cart paths – So who hasn’t hit a marginal shot that appeared like it would miss the green by about 5 yards or so?  Your ball was going to be pin high with a 5-10 yard chip until the intervention of a cart path.  After a healthy bounce off the path you end up in jail rather than attempting a routine up & down.  My guess is most of us are hurt rather than helped by paths at a minimum ratio of 20:1.  At best the path ruins your ball but usually your ruined ball ends up in places that require greater skills to extricate it than you possess.  Yes, shortening the walk from the cart to the green helps a bit in pace of play but cart paths were never intended to be a surprise hazard.  Let’s keep those asphalt booby traps 20 yards or more from the green.

No Drinking Water – This is a recent development.  Admittedly, in some instances those ubiquitous water jugs on golf courses have been the source of serious bacterial infection.  Many courses pulled the water jugs in reaction to the perceived risk of illness.  Very noble of the owners one might think, until you have to buy a bottle of water for $1.50 or $2.00.  Talk about turning a bad situation into a money maker.  There are ways to prevent contamination of water jugs but apparently selling over-priced bottles of water was too attractive for some courses to consider alternatives. What’s next?  Paying rent for a bunker rake?  Carrying my own water bottle has become mandatory now with courses cutting back on drinking water.

No Benches – Courses have saved money by not installing benches at each tee.  The course is subtly telling everyone, if you want to sit, rent a cart.  In an effort to increase cart rentals, a local club owner who purchased a private facility went so far as to actually remove all the benches from the course.  Most of us don’t tend to lounge around on the course.  If you are like me, you prefer to keep moving.  When things are slow or I am a bit tired, however, it is nice to put my butt down on a bench rather than try to find a boulder or tree stump.

Unmarked/Incompletely Marked Hazards/OB – As maintenance budgets have been squeezed, more courses have unmarked hazards.  Yes, it takes time to maintain those stakes or paint the lines.  When a course stops the maintenance, however, it becomes very difficult to know where to make the proper drop or whether one is allowed to take a drop at all.  Water hazard? Lateral water hazard? Lost ball?  OB?  It makes a difference.  Is this soggy patch of weeds a water hazard or am I subject to a “lost ball” stroke & distance penalty?  Come on course owners, give me a clue.

So what ulcer-inducing condition have I missed?  Share your misery with the rest of us!

 

bkuehn1952

It can be Hell getting old, but becoming a senior golfer has its benefits.  Senior rates save one a bundle in greens fees.  People expect us to tee off from the forward tees.  In fact, it can be fairly easy to impress others who assume anyone over the age of 60 should be in a rest home.  I became a minor celebrity one day down in Florida.  As I was making the turn the starter asked if I was checking in.  I told him I was making the turn.  He nodded and said, “Oh, you are the guy who walks and carries.”  If I were Native American, that might be a decent name; like “Dances With Wolves”, I could be “Guy Who Walks and Carries”.  Unfortunately, being a senior golfer is not always a stroll in the park.

On another golf website, a number of posters identified foursomes of "seniors" (whatever they think “senior” means) as being the typical group that would not allow faster players to play through.  My response that they were stereotyping was lost on them.  Kids, what do they know anyway.

Still, I can understand why some might develop a stereotype about us (I am 63).  Frankly, there are more of us "seniors" out on the course than just about any other demographic group in many places.  The odds of occasionally running into a slow/rude/clueless/angry senior is a lot higher than most identifiable population segments one finds on a golf course.

When someone talks about seniors being slow, I always flash back to a round I played at the quintessential “muni” in Sarasota, FL, “Bobby Jones Golf Club.”   The courses are flat as a pancake, not too difficult and cheap.  I had joined a threesome and we were following a foursome of walkers who appeared to average 90 years in age.  They were a bit slow but the course was fairly full and no serious gaps were evident.  As we walked off the 4th green, I saw one of their group creeping along a wetland near the 5th tee with ball retriever fully extended.  When we arrived at the tee, someone in his group, which was walking down the fairway, shouted at the guy, “Morrie, put the damn ball retriever away and move it!!”  While there certainly are seniors like “Morrie” playing golf, my experience is many seniors are pretty darn fast.  When you may only have a few years left on Earth, you tend to want to move along.

As to rude, at 63, I know I have become a touch more outspoken when I see someone insisting on being an idiot.  For example, the caddie who always stood on the far side of the green away from the direction of the next hole.  He was informed to get his butt over where his player would be exiting.  Of course this bit of wisdom was delivered only after I walked the length of the 175 yard par 3 on which we were waiting.

There is also the possibility that I have become a bit clueless as a senior.  The single who drove up with his clubs rattling and music playing while I was teeing off on #18 seemed to think so.  He asked if he could play in with us on #18 and I told him "No, unless you are a lot less noisy."  He looked at me like, “what the heck is wrong with this clueless old guy?”

I know the golfer who whistled a ball past my head on the finishing hole recently might say seniors are angry.  As I walked to my car, he rolled up in his cart and offered up this explanation for why they did not yell “fore.”  “Sorry dude, my buddy and me (sic) lost sight of my shot.”  Let’s just say my response is unprintable and he left thinking senior golfers can be pretty angry “dudes”.

Now that I think about it again, maybe those guys on the other website were right.  Maybe I am just another slow/rude/clueless/angry senior golfer.  :facepalm

bkuehn1952

“Single Digit”

It seems like most serious golfers, at one time or another, want to be “single digit” players.  Of course, once one has achieved that status it becomes a fight to be a low “single digit”, then scratch, then plus...

One problem with this progression is we can’t even truly agree as to what “single digit” means.  I read a post where a player was quite elated to have reached an index of 9.9 and now felt he was a “single digit” golfer.  Another poster quickly added that 9.4 needed to be achieved as that produced “9” when rounded off.  In fact, 9.4 does indeed produce a “9” when placed into the course handicap conversion table for a set of tees slope-rated 113.  Another person offered up the idea that one did not achieve “single digit” status unless it was based on the slope from the tips of one’s home course.  Personally that is too variable for my taste but if one wanted to create a lofty standard, use a slope of 155, which would require a 6.9 index.

Then there is the issue of longevity.  Can someone who achieved 9.9 (or 9.4 or 6.9) for just a brief time period use the title of “single digit”?  My inclination is that one should have an index under 10.0 for an extended period of time, say 6-9 months or so.  Just as 15 seconds of fame does not make one famous, 15 days of “single digits” does not make one a “single digit” golfer.

My quest for “single digit” status started in the 1980’s.  Slope had not been introduced in Michigan at that time so one was a “single digit” when the handicap sticker said “9”.  My first handicap was around 16 or 17.  I became fixated on playing and recording scores.  One had to wait a bit after the 1st of each month to allow for the handicaps to be calculated and the sheets of stickers to be mailed to the course.   About the 7th of each month, I would head over to the course to claim my handicap sticker.  We all had a credit card-sized plastic holder on which one placed the sticker over the prior month’s sticker.  For me, the start of each month was exciting.  It was like Christmas or the first day of exams depending on whether the “16” dropped to “15” or surged upward to “18.”

With the growth in the use of the internet for handicapping, the handicap sheet and sticker system is long gone, save for perhaps a few private clubs.  By 1990, the simple “12” had been replaced by “12.2”.  I kept working at lowering the number and eventually I hit 9.9 or 9.4, and immediately wanted to be lower.  In my quest for a lower and lower index I resorted to fudging the numbers.  Various rules issues were often skipped over in my effort to produce a lower index.  A casual effort would be made at the 3½ foot putt; if it went in, all was good and if it didn’t, well I hadn’t really tried so let’s call it good.  Breakfast ball on the first tee?  Of course!  Eventually I became a vanity handicapper.  It was the rare day when I could even come within a stroke or two of shooting my handicap.

Eventually it became clear to me I was a “10” posing as a “6”.  I stopped manipulating the data and adhered (mostly) to the Rules.  My handicap index is not a badge of honor; it is just a number that somewhat reflects how I played in the past month or so.  My golf life is a lot simpler as a former vanity handicapper. ;-)

bkuehn1952

I Hate Scrambles

I hate 4-person golf scrambles.

Yes, charities raise a fair amount of money holding these events.  I also appreciate that many non-golfers and bad golfers like the 4-person scramble because there is no pressure to perform.  That’s fine, just don’t call me to round out the team.

I did not always hate 4-person scrambles.  For a while, long ago, I actually liked joining my buddies in these events.  Swing out of my shoes, drink some beer and chill out for 5+ hours.  What was not to like?  Eventually I began to realize what a waste of time these events were.  We weren’t really playing golf.  We were drinking with golf clubs or using the course as a driving range.  My circle of friends did not include any amazingly long-hitting plus handicappers so actually winning an event was pretty much a non-starter. 

The truth is, I am not a proto-typical scramble player.  For starters, I am not long off the tee.  No one includes me on a team for my distance.  I don’t putt incredibly nor am I a laser-like iron player.  I am a grinder.  Any success I have on the course is a result of squeezing the best result from a pretty limited golf game.

A few years back I was the 4th member of a loaded team in a limited-field scramble.  We had a former Asian Tour player who had won on the tour and in the past had made the cut at the British Open.  Another player was a former assistant golf professional.  Rounding the team off was a scratch golfer who had played all over the world.  If I had slipped on the first tee and broken my ankle, our team would have shot the same score with me participating.  At times it was fun watching these guys play.  Five hours of hitting the 4th best shot, however, requires a lot of alcohol.

There are some scramble formats that I find interesting.  The problem with interesting formats, unfortunately, is there are a lot of people unwilling or unable to follow the “rules”.  I happen to like reading and understanding “rules”.  The more complex the game, the better I like it.

The cleverest format I have played involved 4-man teams made up of our club’s membership.  Each team had an “A”, “B” “C” and “D” player, based on the flights in which they had competed during the season.  Each team was given 3 marked “gold” balls.  The team rotated players so each member played at least 4 holes with a “gold” ball.  The other 3 members played a scramble with a regular ball.  At the end of the hole the scramble team wrote down their score and the member playing the “gold” ball wrote down his score (less handicap strokes and subject to a max of “10”). The team score was the total of the scramble score and the net “gold” ball score.  The kicker was that at the end of the day, each team had to have at least 1 “gold” ball left.  It got pretty exciting when your “D” player had to play a hole with lots of trouble and the course had plenty of holes like that.  It became a game of figuring out how to protect (or recover) the “gold” ball while allowing the “D” player to try to score.  Sadly, so many of the teams became hopelessly confused that the format was a bust.

Heading into last September, I had successfully dodged playing in any 4-person scrambles for several years.  Then I got a call from the boss.  He needed a 4th for a charity event in Indiana.  With no way to escape I agreed to fill in the last spot.  As we prepared to tee it up, I was naturally reviewing the instructions.  Men played the “Blue” and women/60+ year old males played the forward tees.  Wait, a second!?!  60+ play the forward tees?  The young lady and I took turns driving par 4’s and setting up the team for iron 2nd shots on the par 5 holes.  Just call me “John Daly.”

You know, maybe scrambles aren’t so bad after all.

 

bkuehn1952

Each summer for the past 7 years I have played in a series of 12-14 “net” tournaments with 100+ fellow senior golfers.  Over the years I have enjoyed some success but nothing out of the ordinary.  We typically have 4 flights of 25-30 players with each flight competing against similar handicapped individuals.  Everyone uses their full USGA-certified handicap index to develop their tournament course handicap.  Our prize structure is $100/$80/$60/$40/$20 for the top 5 “net” scores (plus ties) in each flight.  No one is going to get rich on our gift certificates.

Out of our 200 member club-without-real-estate, a handful of players seemed to regularly dominate the list of total prize winnings.  One member in particular, “Bob”, was a perennial winner.  Over the course of 6 years “Bob” never finished out of the “Top 10 Annual Money Winners” and was 1st twice and also had a 2nd and a 3rd finish.

It became clear to many of the members that some of the membership had a knack for performing well in competitions.  The Board of Directors fiddled around with various ideas.  They could never decide upon an effective process for slowing down the handful of hyper competitive golfers we had as members.

The fact was that none of the members appeared to be manipulating their handicap indexes.  Using “Bob” as an example, we knew he posted every eligible score.  While his “T” scoring was better than his other scores, he never ran afoul with the “Exceptional Tournament Scoring” component of the USGA Handicap system.   His index never rose or fell an exceptional amount.

We eventually opted to “follow the money” and adopted the Knuth Tournament Point System [ http://www.popeofslope.com/pointsystem/flighted.html ].  This system gives each player points for top 4 finishes in tournament play over a 2 year period.  The player’s point total is compared to the number of events played.  When a player accumulates enough points in relation to his participation level, his tournament handicap is decreased.

I personally had an excellent tournament record in 2015.  So good, in fact, that despite a 7.8 index I will be playing this season with a tournament course handicap of around 4 to 5.  “Bob” is in the same boat. Do “Bob” and I like the idea of playing tournaments with the handicap equivalent of fighting with one hand tied behind our backs?  No, but we understand that our club-without-real-estate can’t have the same group of members consistently winning our events.

We are not playing “gross” tournaments where the best man wins.  “Net” events should see a more level playing field.  Everyone should be able to win when they shoot their handicap every 4 or 5 events.  Of course, we have our share of vanity handicappers who will never win (and can’t understand why!).  For the 50-60% of our membership that keep an accurate handicap and don’t suffer too badly from performance anxiety, there should be more opportunities to finish in the top 5.

Our first event is mid-May. I have informed our handicap chairman that as soon as our golf handicap season starts on April 1, I will begin to pad my index! ;-)

 

bkuehn1952

I recently read a short posting by an excellent golf blogger, Charles Prokop.  A link is below.  I highly recommend his blog for short, well-written essays on golf and life in the Texas Hill Country.

http://fairwaywords.com/2015/11/06/patience-in-golf-really-does-pay/

His tongue-in-cheek conclusion about the virtues of being patient got me thinking.  I have played golf in SE Michigan for 40 years.  Over those four decades I have played around, over and through a number of trees that I have silently and not so silently wished would have a close encounter with lightning or a chain saw.  A contest of patience with a tree is rarely rewarded but given enough time, one just might win a few. ;-)

Hole #1 – Huron Meadows: When I began playing this course, the short par 5 (483 yards) had a fully mature oak tree smack in the middle of the fairway, between two water hazards.  If one had plenty of distance or talent, getting past or around this obstacle wasn’t impossible.  For rest of us who hit less than 280 yards and had some concerns with working the ball, the tree was a considerable obstacle.

One spring day I got ready to tee off and noted something seemed different.  The tree was gone!  It had been replaced by a thin “aerial antenna” newly planted tree.  It turned out during the winter a storm had toppled the massive tree and all they could do was plant a replacement and wait 100 years.  The course wisely planted the tree somewhat off center to one day reward a ball in the center of the fairway.

Hole #12 – Lake Forest: This par 4 (364-328 yards) was universally disliked.  The tee shot required one to hit a layup about 180-220 yards, depending on the tee.  The fairway ended at the 150 yard marker.  Anything that went much beyond the 150 yard marker would roll downhill into a water hazard.  If the ball hung up in the rough, then one had a downhill lie and, depending on the time of year, a wall of 10 foot tall cattails & reeds to hit over.

The problem with the layup was a grouping of 3 mature Beech trees which sat in the middle of the hole just beyond the 150 yard mark.  Lay up to the 150 yard marker in the middle and one was completely blocked.  Going toward the left rough required threading a shot along the forest to the left of the fairway.  The only solution was to hit well right into the rough, leaving a longer shot to the dogleg left green.

One spring the trees had vanished.  A rumor making the rounds was that a regular at the course had taken a chainsaw to the trees while the club was closed for the winter.  I suspect the rumor was just a flight of fancy and that the owners of the club had decided the trees had to go.  Whatever the truth is, the hole plays much better now.

I don’t want everyone to think I am anti-tree.  Far from it, I believe our parkland courses need strategically placed trees & forest.  There are many holes that have been sadly diminished by the loss of one or more trees.  If takes so long for replacement trees to grow that the course is pretty much altered for the balance of one’s lifetime when a tree is lost.  Of course, if that oak on Eagle Crest’s 11th hole should somehow get struck by lightning, I won’t shed many tears for it.

Anyone have some tree stories to share?

bkuehn1952

Head Covers

With the advent of metal-headed drivers, some golfers dispensed with head covers for their “woods.”  The thinking is the head is no longer wood and any damage is limited.  I admit the clanging of metal heads hitting together is a bit of a bother to me but not so for the irons clacking.  So I use head covers on just my “woods” both as a noise dampening method as well as a tip of the cap to traditionalism.  A golf bag just does not look complete without a couple of head covers.

Many people use their head covers to display their allegiance to a college or professional team.  Others prefer the puppet-like large animal heads.  It is also pretty common to see the matched set look.  High rollers can spend $75 and up for a hand knitted Jan Craig cover.  Someone looking at my bag and the head covers I use might correctly decide I am a frugal golfer.  The covers are pretty beat-up yet each one has a story.

Driver – back in 2014 I won a Nike Covert driver in a website drawing.  For someone who rarely wins any sort of drawing or raffle, it was pretty exciting to receive a new driver in the mail.  Of course, the driver came with a standard Nike Covert head cover, which almost immediately began to unravel at the open end.  Eventually the unraveling got so bad this frugal golfer decided to “cauterize” the end strands since the woven material was synthetic.  Which led to everyone asking, “What happened to your head cover?”  At some point in 2015 I lost the head cover.  I realized it was gone but decided it was not worth going back to search for a “cauterized” head cover.  I used an older Callaway cover for the balance of the season.  Apparently my golf buddy felt the Feng Shui of a Callaway cover with a Nike driver was not good so he picked up another Nike cover for me.

“The B” – My granddaughter made my 3-wood head cover from one of her old soccer socks.  In lieu of a “3”, the head cover is emblazoned by a “B”.  When I played Kings Barns in Scotland, the caddy asked about the club and I told him about the switch from “3” to “B”.  That club promptly became “The B” as in, “we don’t want to go too far on this drive, let’s use The B.”  The nick name stuck and I no longer carry a 3-wood but instead have “The B.”

7-wood – I picked up this head cover in 1993 when I played Pebble Beach.  Enough said.

Utility – This is the oldest and rattiest of my covers.  It dates from our practice round attendance at Oak Hill for the 1989 US Open.  Curtis Strange won and I picked up a head cover as a souvenir.

 

What does everyone else use to protect their Driver and/or fairway woods?  Any stories to share?

bkuehn1952

Learning "Clutch"

I imagine some people are just born with the ability to perform when the game is on the line.  These are the guys who tee off and putt last in scrambles and are avoided as opponents in match play.  For the rest of us, performing under pressure is a learned skill, if we ever acquire the talent at all.

A golf buddy, “Bob”, helped me a bit over the past couple years with performance pressure.  He is a gambler and always likes to have something on the line, nothing too big, more of a bragging rights kind of thing. I think he correctly figured out I was the perfect pigeon to be plucked.

Our games are similar but I suspect we each think we are a bit better than the other.  Bob goes to Arizona about October 1 and returns around May 1.  While he is in Arizona, his index typically drops to around 6.0.  Meanwhile, I struggle with the mud and cold during the early season and stand at 9.0 or so in May.  By the end of the summer, though, we typically are fairly close statistically.   

Our game is match play with $1.00 on each nine and total.  Yes, big stakes.  Still, it is REALLY hard to take when one of us has to hand over $3.00 at the end of the day.

The first year we started our game, Bob got up close to $30.  He beat me like a drum.  My stroke count was often better but he always won the hole-by-hole match play scoring.  Bob was the consummate gambler who was not averse to using a bit of verbal or mental gamesmanship.  Also, match play was fairly foreign to me and my conservative stroke play mentality of “don’t make the big mistake” did not work as well with match play.  But I was learning.  While I made a bit of a rally near the end of the year, Bob left for Arizona with close to $25 of my money. 

The following year Bob was ready to use me as his personal ATM once again.  Not so fast Bob! I had learned my lessons well the previous year.  I did not lose to Bob the entire summer.  The best he could do was tie me on occasion.  The trend continued the next year until Bob was forced to call a truce.  He was done with handing money to me every week.

While I certainly don’t consider myself a clutch player, most of the time I no longer wilt under pressure.  I do tend to over think certain situations.  As one competitor observed last year, “you are a good player but you worry too much.” Still, I am learning.

How about everyone else?  Clutch or choker?