Monday, January 30, 2006

Post Weekend Ramblings...

Practice Round at Bayou GC...

I made it down for a round at Bayou on Sunday. My focus was my new wedges. Again, with little exception, I tried to fly the ball on to the green to take advantage of the high trajectory of the 60* wedge and to get a feel for how much roll to expect.

I made two outstanding shots to within one foot. One was on the 5th where I flew the ball over the bunker, and the other was on the 15th where I hit my 5th shot from about 5 feet off the green (with about 60 feet to the cup) to within inches with the tight lie pitch shot.

I made several shots from 40-60 yards and many of them fell short. This is an area where I really need to work on to get the feel for how much swing is needed with these clubs.

One thing I've noticed is that the 52* gap wedge seems to have a smaller head than the 53* Wilson sand wedge I had been using prior to purchasing the Ray Cook set. I'll need to get out to the range and hit a bit before I'll be able to have confidence hitting this club with a full swing. Unfortunately, I have not been able to hit this club as well as I can hit the Wilson.

Joining Bayou Golf Association...

I don't have the details of the round (I shot 102) because I turned in the scorecard along with 19 other scorecards and my application to join Bayou Golf Association. I also signed up for the February tournament as a "Stand By" player. The signup sheet was full and the only slots to write my name in were the "stand by" slots. I sent an email asking if there was a limited number of participants, but have not received a response. I'm a little concerned about giving up my scorecards. I emailed the handicap guy and requested that the cards be returned, but I just don't know. What's the SOP with this? Should I expect to get them back? Am I asking too much? How should I handle this? I'm thinking I should fill out another scorecard with just the strokes and turn that in, keeping my original that has fairways hit, yardages, GIRs, putts, distances and other notes. Opinions anyone?

The next day...

Ok, I'm a BGA member and I'll be playing in the February tournament. It turns out that I'll get worked in based on no-shows or I can show up at 11:00 and be placed in a group at that time. There was no mention of getting my cards back so I think I can guess what that means. In the future I'll fill out a second card to turn in, keeping the original with more detailed notes.

Practice outlook...

Now that I know I'll be playing in the tournament, I'll want to play mainly at Bayou. My first official practice round will be Saturday. My work schedule will allow a weekday round each week so I should have a minimum of three practice rounds over two weeks. I am psyched!!!!

The Buick Invitational...

I watched my first golf tournament this weekend. Usually, I don't watch more than a few shots of golf on television. I managed to see most of the Saturday and Sunday coverage and I have to admit, I was pretty excited as it came down to the last few holes. I felt much better about my three-putting at least five times earlier in the day once I saw Tiger do it. I was rooting for the rookie and felt bad for him after the first playoff hole. I'll give Tiger some props for making the birdie put to get into the playoff and the par put to pressure Jose Maria Olazabal into missing his four-footer.

So, I thought to myself, "Hey, I can 3-putt (Tiger), flub chips from the fringe (Green), and miss 4-footers (Tiger, Jose Maria Olazabal, Mickelson, and others I'm sure), I can play like the pros!" The amazing thing is that these guys (and gals :^)) can score so low even when they make mistakes!!!

Looking forward to competition,

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Not Bad on the Bayou...

I took my new wedges down for a round at Bayou. I shot 43 on the front and 55 on the back for a 98.

New Record: 43 is my best nine holes (not counting San Jac where I also shot a 43). The previous record was 44 at Bayou on the back which I shot after a 45 on the front. I think I'm gonna do a back flip when I break 40!!!

On the front I only hit two fairways and one green. While that looks pretty bad, the missed fairways were generally not missed by much, sometimes feet but hey, a miss is a miss. The green I hit was the par 5 eighth hole where a nice drive and sweet 3W got me to about 40 yards and I hit the 52* GW to about 8 feet and birdied the hole. I also made a par on the par 3 seventh with an up and down. I managed to do a good job on my nemesis hole, the 6th. I tried to hit an easy 5W and did not follow through which left me with a 3W from about 220 much of which is over water. I made good contact and had I not grazed some foliage on a tree, I would have made a nice approach shot. That graze took just enough energy out of the shot to fail to clear the water but a yard or two. I advanced toward the water and dropped at about 190 and hit a sweet 4i that rolled right up to within six feet. Best bogey ever!!! Take that you nemesis hole!

I started off on the back with a par that followed both a fairway and a GIR. Then I hit one OOB and finished the hole with a three-putt snowman. It was pretty downhill from there with double, triple, triple, triple, bogey, double, bogey. Here's the real irony - I hit five fairways on the back but couldn't hit a green. The two fairways I missed were OOB and I lost one in the water. Also, while I hit the new wedges pretty well on the front, on the back I hit nearly all greenside shots well short with the 60* LW. The putts confirm the tale with 13 putts on the front and 19 on the back.

So after one round I can say I like the wedges. I did not try the "tight lie pitch" I've talked about in recent posts. I tried to fly the ball to the pin on every shot, almost always with the 60* LW. I think once I get used to their full-swing distances, I'll be able to take better advantage of them.

Here's the summary:

Fairways hit... 7
GIRs........... 2
Birdies........ 1
Pars........... 2
Putts......... 32
Bogeys......... 8
Doubles........ 3
Triples........ 3
Bad holes...... 1 (Snowman on 11th after OOB)
Balls lost .... 1 (water)

Just for grins, here's a shot from the 18th tee box. I described this hole in my "Breaking 100" post.

Bayou Golf Association...

I will be turning in my scorecards and joining the BGA in time for the February tournament. If I get my scorecards turned in in the next couple of days, I should have an official handicap to compete with. It will be an individual stroke event on February 18th.

This weekend is up in the air, but where there's a will there's a way. I guess what I mean is, if I get my way you know where I will be.

Thanks for reading,

Test Drive...

I got my new Ray Cook Wedges last night.

I'll be giving the Hybrid the old "Heave Ho" since I've learned to love my original Adams Tight Lie Fairway Metals. Also, the 3i is pretty useless since I have a hard time hitting it straight and when I do, I rarely get more than I would have had I hit the 4i (which I hit 185-190). So, here's what's in my bag:


I can't resist the urge to head out and give them a try. I'm going to run down to Bayou for a quick round today and give them a test drive.
For anyone that's interested, I got them from "hillcountrygolf" on eBay and I've noticed a set listed weekly for a couple of months now. I lucked out and got my set for the listing price of $34.99.

Gone golfin'

Monday, January 23, 2006

Breaking 90...

Progress, Progress, Progress…

After three weeks of windy golfing, it looked like my break would come in the form of rain. I knew all week that it would likely rain on Sunday and day-to-day checks only confirmed it. I managed to get out on Wednesday since it looked like the rain would have me spending Sunday doing something other than golf. My focus was to practice my tight lie pitches.

I made two loops of the 9-hole course at San Jac both from the front (white) tees. I struggled on the first nine and carded a 47. The chipping came through beautifully and my new shot gave me a chip-in par on the 518-yard par 5 fifth. Not too bad considering I started out with a triple on the first. I really pulled it together on the second loop with 4 pars, 3 bogeys, and one double for a 43. So there we have it, my lowest score to date, a 90 on the whites at San Jac.

I got out of bed Sunday morning hoping for the best but the forecast called for a constant light rain throughout the day building to thunderstorms in the evening. It was not yet raining but the visibility was so low in the early morning fog that it looked like the rain could start at any moment.

After letting the weather mock me for an hour and a half I made the decision to go for it. I chose San Jac since it’s cheap, it’s close, and the nine-hole layout means I won’t find myself too far from shelter.

I was surprised to find more than a few cars in the lot as I pulled in. I made my way to the first tee as a couple of guys were on the blues. They had just finished the whites (so finishing the round from the blues) and allowed me to join in. I shot par, bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, double, par, par, double for a 44. The weather held for the most part with only a few minutes of short rain.

When I came to the 10th there was a single that was just starting but playing the blues. One of the guys decided to play one more nine, and the other went home. So, I shot my second nine from the blues which is kinda fitting since I shot my last 18 from the whites. I started out on fire hitting fairways and greens and made par on the first three holes.

With thoughts of smashing through 90, I stepped up on the number four tee box. This is the hardest hole on the course with a ninety-degree dogleg left at about 210 yards and a ditch on the right after the turn. Almost everyone tries to cut the corner and most folks play on even if they did not clear the out-of-bounds stakes. There is some room on the tee box side of the fairway, but hit it long and you’re in the ditch. Hit it too short and you’re out of bounds.

The pressure was just too much and I topped the ball with the heel of the club and it dribbled 20 yards to the left of the white tee box. The guys wanted me to hit another ball, but I pulled my tee and stepped off. I took a double on that hole.

I followed that with bogey, triple, par, bogey, double and penciled in a 45 on the scorecard, breaking 90 by one stroke.

As I passed the clubhouse I just had to stop in to ask if the course was rated. I asked and the attendant pointed to a large chart on the wall that was the USGA rating results from 2002. I marched over with pencil in hand and jotted down the slope and rating for each tee box:

Whites – 65.2/98 (2666 yds)
Blues – 67.2/111 (2954 yds)

There you have it, after 32 rounds (eight at San Jac) and in about 7 months, I broke 90 and set three new records:

Best score = 89
Fewest Putts = 30
Most Pars = 7

After spending way too much time revising my records (adding 4 San Jac rounds and adjusting for ESC) I have recalculated my handicap to be 27.0 (I only gained a tenth by adjusting for ESC).

Other stuff…

I have a couple other things to blog about. After walking a few rounds in my new golf shoes, I can give them an official thumbs up.

I purchased a brand new set of Ray Cook Wedges on eBay for 46.99 shipped. I’ll post more about these beauties at a later date.

Grinnin’ Big,

Friday, January 13, 2006

No ESC Required...

I made it out to The Battleground yesterday and had a good round in windy conditions. After a tough start ((7,7,7) double, triple, triple), I managed to pull it together to shoot 50 on the front. At the tee box on the 18th I was sitting on 94 strokes and a par would tie my course record. I swung for the fences and sliced the ball into a right to left wind. I found my ball and decided to play it safe (since the approach is over water) and get back to the fairway. I had about 160 to the green which is just on the other side of a water hazard. I hit a 5i fat and though I cleared the water, my ball was drilled into the bank and I had to declare it unplayable. I took a drop on back across the water and rolled on to the fringe, then one-putted for a triple. So, my 24th round will go down as a 101 at The Battleground.

Here's why I think it was a good round:

Fairways hit... 6
GIRs........... 1
Birdies........ 0
Pars........... 1
Putts......... 32
Bogeys......... 9
Doubles........ 4
Triples........ 4
Bad holes...... 0
Balls lost .... 4 (3 water)

My highest stroke holes were all 7s. OK, I managed four of them, but NO ESC Required on this round!!! Check out that Bogey count... and 32 putts!!! Those are pretty good stats for me. My driving was good, chipping was pretty good, my putting was good... I could not hit a green to save my life! My full-swing iron shots were terrible. This has been a problem for the last few rounds. So, I got to thinking about it and realized that I hadn't been going to the range between rounds.

Figured it out...

Babble mode ON. I went to the range that night to figure out why I could not hit my irons. I also wanted to hit my fairway metals off of a tee, and work on drawing the ball with my driver.

I learned that I was not straightening my wrists fast enough. I'm not sure if I'm explaining that right, but I'm aware of the cause. This was a huge problem for me on the course. It caused me to slow down my swing (which made the problem worse) and lose confidence with my irons. Hopefully I've worked it out and I'll hit a few more greens with my approach shots.

Hitting the fairway metals off the tee turned out to be pretty easy. I was able to hit them with about the same success rate that I hit the driver. I'll have no trouble using them on the course.

I can not hit the type of draw that I'm looking for. I tried and tried and no can do. I'm able to move the ball from right to left, but that movement is more than I want, and I cannot get the ball in the air like I do with a fade. On a good fade shot, I'd say that I get 15-20 yards or right to left with a nice high trajectory. That's what I'd like to do with the draw.

Frustrated with the driver, I tried drawing with the irons. I had some good success with the 4i - 7i. I can hit some good looking shots, but I have trouble with direction. Not a surprise, but these shots usually fly left of my target line and then draw further left. To land a ball on my target line, I have to aim about 20* to the right.

I worked with my sand wedge and chipping before calling it a night. All in all, I hit about 4 large buckets (bottomless bucket at Green Caye for $7.00).

Another big problem I have is chipping off of a short, tight fairway. I have basically two shots (well, three if I add the "Texas Wedge") for getting on to the green. In some cases, I "sweep" a 7i for a bump-and-run type of shot, but for the majority of cases I like to fly the ball with my sand wedge. I try to fly the ball about 65% of the way and count on roll for the rest. I can do this pretty well especially if I have a nice lie. It's a completely different story when I'm short of the green on a short, tight fairway. I dig, I top the ball, I hit too hard, too soft... I fear that shot.

Yesterday, I was browsing and came upon this article: The Tight-Lie Pitch
Of course, the title of the article (set of three articles) really grabbed my attention. I read it and it made sense. I went out in the back yard, and Ba BAM, I was hitting great short shots. I loaded up the kids and we headed off to the park where we all played for an hour or so. I can confidently say that this shot will take strokes off of my game.

I had tried this type of shot before, but I never had any success. The reason is because I was doing it with arms only and without turning my body. Now, as the article reveals, I use my body turn to move the club head and I get crisp contact - even off of hard dirt!!!

Not sure when I'll be playing my next round. Looks like sometime next week. If I'm lucky, I'll have a day with a little less wind.

Hoping to get out soon,

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bigger Wind at Eagle Pointe...

I saw another great discount at Eagle Pointe and snagged it up. I tried to get a couple of buddies to do the same, but by the time they were able browse over the, all the slots were gone. I would be driving 35 miles to play golf with three strangers. I don't mind golfing with strangers, I often do. Only once has the experience been less than pleasant. But this is a nice course (they're trying to get a PGA event there), and a good little drive from home, and only the second time I've played there... Anyway, I was a little apprehensive.

I got there early in case they could fit me in and as it turns out, there were four others signed up for my time slot (I later learned that they allow fivesomes in the winter). Luckily, there was a twosome who welcomed me to join them for an earlier slot.

The wind was howling at 20-30, but this course is nestled in tall trees on rolling terrain, so sometimes there was a good wind, and sometimes there wasn't much at all. That made it tough at times because it could be calm while your partner tees off, then blow like the dickens when you step up.

You may recall from last time that I shot 108 up there and today I thought I was going to choke after recording 59 strokes on the front. I pulled it together on the back and shot a 51 for a total of 110. Not bad considering the weather and I'm trying to hit a draw with the driver.

I talked about drawing the driver in my last post and I have to say that what I'm doing is more like a hook than a draw. Several of the holes here are dogleg left holes and turn at about 210 to 240. Since I've just started hitting the fairway metals on the fairway, I'm just not comfortable hitting them off of the tee. So a slight hook worked out well on some of the holes.

I started out ok, hitting the fairway, laying up to within 20 feet of the creek, and hitting a 5i on to the green on the 496-yard par 5 first. Then I three putted for a bogey. That was disappointing because I spent 15 minutes on the practice green before the round.

The real trouble started on the second where I tried to draw the ball and made contact on the toe of the club. The ball went sailing into a tree and came to rest about 25 yards behind the tee box in the trees on the right. Then an easy, safe 7i failed to get through the trees and moved me another ten yards back. The third shot found a tree and the ball came to rest in a pile of leaves with no shot at the fairway. I swept it out toward the black tee box where I finally had a clean shot at the fairway, albeit from 40 yards behind where I started. I carded a 2-putt 10 on that hole.

I did fair from there, hitting four fairways, but still managed a couple of three putts.

I made up for the poor putting on the back where I had three one-putts and one chip in on the 18th from about 30 feet. My drives were okay averaging 222 with 303/195 being the long/short of the five that hit the fairway. The 303 was a hookish drive on a dogleg left that rolled quite a bit. Here are the stats for the round:

Fairways hit... 5
GIRs........... 1
Birdies........ 0
Pars........... 2
Putts......... 36
Bogeys......... 4
Doubles........ 6
Triples........ 3
Bad holes...... 2 (2nd and an 8 on the 13th)
Balls lost .... 4 (3 water)

I took a couple pictures with the W-10 and I'll try to update this post this evening.

Other Stuff to Blog About...

I have tired of entering my scores, slopes, and ratings into on-line handicap calculators, so I wrote a short program to calculate my handicap that uses a file I update each time I play a round. In doing so, I determined that 8 of my last 10 games rank in my top 10 (based on differential) and count toward my handicap. The 108 at Eagle Pointe last week ranks 4th!! That's good news since I felt pretty bad about shooting above 100. The 98 at Battleground ranks 2nd!!!

While doing this little project, I did some research and came upon this little thing called ESC (Equitable Stroke Control). ESC uses your course handicap to determine the maximum number of strokes you can take on any hole for that course. My max happens to be 9. Now the problem here is that my golfing history is peppered with 10s, 11s, 12s, and 13s. I carded a 10 twice in the last three rounds (once during each round at Eagle Pointe). Does anyone use ESC? Do you turn in your cards with actual strokes and let your club (or whatever handicapping service you use) figure it out, or do you record your maximum based on ESC?


I noticed that Scott (one of the folks I played with) had thick grips on his clubs. I asked and he let me swing one a little bit. I have pretty big hands and I'm wondering what this could do for my game. They felt very comfortable and if I had to choose, I would probably want the thicker grips. It's not that I have a problem holding the club, I don't even wear a glove (yet). It's just a comfort thing. They really felt comfortable.

My wife is working this weekend so I'm hoping to get out this week.

Some time later...

Okay, I grabbed a discount tee time for The Battleground tomorrow. Looks like it will be another windy day with the winds forecast to be out of the south at 10-20.

I'll keep you posted,

Monday, January 09, 2006

Big wind at Bayou...

I played Bayou on Thursday last week. The winds were forcast to be 10-20 and out of the north. The weatherman did not disappoint. This is a shot of the flag pole by the clubhouse just after I arrived:
I can tell you that it takes a 15+ knot wind to straighten a flag like that. Bayou is a course built on a wetland with little protection from the wind, so I was in for an interesting day. I wasn't too worried since I played my best game ever at Bayou and finished in strong winds.

Though there were several groups on the course, I only saw them as I drove in. During play, I only saw a couple of groups but my pace of play was not affected. On this day, since I was walking and playing alone, I was equiped with my Olympus W-10 digital voice recorder. I have decided to bring this great tool regardless. It's so easy to take detailed notes during a round that writing down the score on the card is no longer adequate. Being an engineer, I'm just too hungry for data and the digital voice recorder is simply the most efficient way to record it.

Speaking of data...

Fairways hit... 7
GIRs........... 0
Birdies........ 0
Pars........... 3
Putts......... 39
Bogeys......... 3
Doubles........ 8
Triples........ 3
Bad holes...... 1
Balls lost .... 3 (3 water)

I missed a five foot putt for birdie on the 10th where my 315 yard drive left me 121 yards from the pin on this short 436 yard par 5. Granted, there was a downwind component to that drive :^) That missed putt was trivial compared to missing the green from 121 and having a shot at putting for eagle. My approach shot was long and to the right. I was just too psyched by the huge drive and the prospect of eagle.

The GIRs tell the same story for the entire round and show that driving remains the centerpiece of my game. My putting was very poor with five 3-putts and only two 1-putts. I missed several from less than six feet. I think part of that was the blazing fast greens of Eagle Pointe from the prior Sunday still rolling around in my head (and rolling, and rolling...).

My drives were spectacular on this day. I had been struggling to keep a fade/slice in check like so many other beginners. Then I read an article about how to fix it. I'm sorry I don't have a link, I searched and searched, but could not find it :( The artlcle said the way to fix a slice is to hit a draw (wow, who'da thunk it?). The article discussed how (for right-handed golfers) your right forearm must roll on top of your left forearm to some degree at the point of impact. It went on to describe this to feel similar to "steering" or "veering" your car to the left. I immediately related to this. I had been trying to develop a draw by hitting the wiffle balls in my back yard and I have been able to do it with a 3i, 4i and 5i with the exact motion thay the article described. Further, the article stated that dropping the right shoulder and swinging with the arms was a cause of a slice (which I had identified as one of my problems).

I had only made a few swings with the driver in the back yard and felt confident that I would be able to draw the ball.
The result.?.? Well, since it was soooo windy it's hard to say but, I'm pretty sure that I hit a draw on nearly every shot. Normally I would not try a swing change on the course without some range work, but this day demanded that I give it a shot.

The first hole (a slight dogleg left) was into a quatering headwind that blew left to right. The shot needed to straight or drawn left. Even a straight shot would need to be aimed left and blown onto the fairway after the turn. I lined up along the left, slightly over the water. The shot went left of my aim point, with a lower than normal trajectory, and didn't come back. There was a shot that if it were long enough, I would make the fairway... and it looked long. The shot was obviously a draw with just enough to counter the wind. I found that ball (along with sixteen others) just in the marshy thicket tens yards past the 250 marker. The drive went 250 yards into a quatering headwind.

The rest of my drives were similar and effective in this wind, but the very low trajectory is a concern.

Time to bring this long-winded post to its conclusion,

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Post Christmas Update...

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and are enjoying a Happy New Year. 2006 is here and we're all stating our goals and resolutions. Before I get into that, I need to sum up last year.

I completed 20 rounds of golf in 2005 after taking up the game in June. Here's a graph of my raw scores (including my 21st round):

I had a few good rounds in there and ended the year with a dissapointing 120 at Bayou (where my best was 94). I played that 20th round the day after Christmas and guess what? I "stumbled" on to another one of the busiest golfing days of the year:

We had to wait almost 2 hours!!! Hey that's a new record, and one I don't want to break.

So, you already know how I did... My worst score ever at Bayou. I don't know what happened. I hit some balls at the range with the driver that went nice and straight, but I could not hit a straight shot on the course to save my life, I was slicing nearly every drive. Then on about the 14th or so, I developed a pinched nerve or something in my back that certainly didn't help my game. Even though the course was packed, I did not feel rushed, so that was good. There was alot of waiting, especially at the par 3 holes.

Now that I have the 20 rounds required to get a USGA handicap... I just need to do it (Resolution/Goal???). Unofficially my index is 32.2 Now I'm not too happy with that number, but looking at Golfchick's handicap history, I think I'm in a good position to follow in her footsteps. I will use her progress as a template for the coming year.

I received some gift cards for Golf Galaxy and picked up a pair of golf shoes. I must have tried on 10 pairs before I pulled the trigger and went with these:

I tried them out when I played at Eagle Pointe. I can say that they felt comfortable. I thought I would have to be careful walking on the greens, but those worries were unfounded.

Eagle Pointe... Wow!! If this course were closer (and I could play there for $20-25), I would sure play there more. Eagle Pointe is a very nice course with nice elevation change (for the flat Houston area). If it weren't for the 45 minute drive, I would make Eagle Pointe my home course. I thought I did pretty well for the first time on a new and difficult course. Eagle Pointe is the most difficult course I have played (72.2/128) and I managed to shoot a 108. I drove well, hit some good shots with the irons, but suffered with my putting. The greens were the fastest I've every played and first I was hitting too hard, then too soft.

Since I now have calculated my handicap, I came up with a course handicap of 36 which gives me a net of 72. Gotta love that handicap system.

My daughter has been swinging her new clubs in the back yard and putting in the living room. I have to say that while she meets the minimum height requirement for these clubs, they are way too big for her. She only likes to hit the 9I and putter. I may have been better off getting her the smallest set where she is at the top of the height requirement. After all, my son is 22 months behind her and they would still go to good use.

My family played a round of putt putt golf and she did well with her putter. We didn't keep score, but she made several nice shots off the "tee".

OK, on to the goals for 2006...

Join Bayou golf Association and play in competitions (win?)
Reduce my handicap by 50% by the end of the year
Take my daughter to the range often and then to the course

That's it for now. I'll have a report on a windy day at bayou in a day or two. Also, I'll be heading back to Eagle Pointe this Sunday and perhaps I'll take some pics.

Trying to get back below 100,