Its (British) Open Championship week. Lots of previews and prognostications by golf writers, bloggers and media as to whether Tiger Woods will win. Lots of people predicting a flame-out for Rory McIlory or that Phil Mickelson’s FIVE wedges and no driver will get him his first Claret Jug. No need for me to post another nauseatingly repetitive preview. Instead, I’m chronicling my recent rounds on the golf course which has hosted more Open Championships than any other…
My pal Boynie (left) and myself at the Home of Golf – 2011
I have to admit that after my trip to St. Andrews in 2011, I thought the Old Course was not a terribly difficult golf course. I’d come into that trip hoping to break 80 (2-3 handicap) on the Old Course. Despite my nerves, I shot 80-77 my two rounds there, from the tips. I didn’t find the course to be overly difficult or long and felt like I lost a few shots to simply not having any experience in links style golf. I found one bunker in two rounds on the Old Course, hole #4, which led to a double bogey. The rough was manageable. I could hit even a longer iron from the rough and hit a green in regulation or get close enough to have putter in hand for the next shot.
There were tough holes like #11 (par-3) and the Road Hole. I was +4 on those two holes for the two rounds.
When I arrived in St. Andrews a couple of weeks ago I had thoughts of breaking my record on the Old, 77. I could do it if I didn’t make double on #4 or bogey #11 and/or I could make birdie on the easy 8th or 9th holes. It was definitely possible in my mind, shooting a round in the low 70’s.
My ball striking was better than it was two years ago coming into this trip. New, great irons, a new and longer driver. Solid putting as always. I thought my game, despite being one stroke higher in handicap index, could produce some magic on the Old.
I keep saying “I thought” or “had thoughts.” Yes those are all past tense. The Old Lady had other plans for me. I was about to learn a lesson. I was about to see a tougher side of the Old and it would expose parts of my game which I didn’t realize were as weak as they were. Perhaps it was just the mental part which was weak. Maybe it was just that the conditions were tough and I’m being a little hard on myself.
All of the above.
The conditions these two past rounds on the Old were far different than back in 2011. Yes the ground was still as hard as Interstate 15. Yes there were some new tweaks to the course, like the two new bunkers on hole #2 short right of the green. I did manage to test those bunkers out first hand. They’re penal.
The wind this time around was much stronger and on most holes was a cross wind. It was strong enough to force my driver sight lines some 40-50 yards from the intended area where the ball was to finish. That messed with my brain. A gag reflex in my normally solid driver swing ensued. On hole number one in 2011 I hit wedge into the green both times. With a very strong hurt-wind, I hit hybrid on day one and 5-iron on day two. That’s a little different than wedge. Hole one is short. Having to hit hybrid into that green is crazy!
All the “out” holes on the front were extremely tough with a that hard, hurting cross wind. In attempts to hit the ball low or draw it, I’d either smother them low left or hit a double-cross, giant ballooning slice which would be insanely magnified by the wind. Those shots looked like they’d blow all the way to Carnoustie. Needless to say my fine caddie and friend John Boyne had his work cut out for him just finding my tee shots. We found all but one. The ones we did find though, were more often than not in bad situations like bunkers, sides of dunes or in the hellishly long rough.
YOU try to get out of this!
More on the rough.
The Old Course is the host of the 2013 Women’s British Open Championship, coming up a couple of weeks after the trip. The course was already transforming into “championship” form and the rough was waist deep in some places. They were already putting up the fencing and grandstands.
The rough was extremely difficult, not manageable like 2011. On the 2nd round for example, I made it into the rough left of the Road Hole. I took out my sand wedge and attempted to blast it out to the fairway. Three mighty lashes later my ball was out. The first mighty lash advanced my ball about one foot. It was a fine shot. The ball went nice and straight. If those ladies in the Women’s Open find that rough they’ll be in trouble.
Many holes during those two rounds had similar stories. Missed fairways led to deep rough or those very difficult bunkers. Hitting either one meant a guaranteed bogey or worse.
There were many “bogey or worse” situations.
I became a bit beaten down by the conditions and my score. The Lady sensed my lack of respect the last couple of years and took it to me. I resolved myself to simply enjoy the moment of playing the Old Course, and not worrying about the number on the scorecard or the level of my play. That helped. I tried to enjoy each shot as best I could, whether it was my solid tee shot on the par-3 8th the 2nd day, which I had to play 20-30 yards right of the green due to the wind, or my 8th shot (yes, 8th) on the Road Hole. That 8th shot was a perfectly executed running 9-iron from about 50 yards which ran up the false front and snuggled to about two feet from the pin. The one-putt capped off a “solid nine” on the Road Hole.
At least I finished in style. By the time I reached the 18th hole on the 2nd round, the wind was helping. It seemed like that was the first hole of the 36 where the wind didn’t hurt. My tee shot was far past Granny Clark’s Wynd, the road which dissects holes #1 and #18. I was almost to the Valley of Sin. I hit a less-than-stellar running 9-iron to about 25 feet, leaving me with a severely breaking putt from left to right, a back right pin.
I made the birdie putt.
9-3. Quintuple bogey-birdie. A fine finish on the Old. Only golf can produce such painfully joyous irony. The birdie on 18 was my 2nd birdie in four rounds on the Old, the other two rounds being par. On the positive side I’m -2 lifetime on the finishing hole of the most famous golf course in the world.
A Little Scared, or Scarred
I had a couple of opportunities, though unlikely, to take on the Old Lady again before the trip was over. I didn’t work it too hard, rather preferring to play somewhere else, which I did. I was a bit relieved. I realize that sounds completely ridiculous. Having the chance to play the Old Course and feeling relieved not to does sound crazy. I’d had enough though. The lovely Old Lady had proven her point. She sent me home with the two highest scores I’ve shot all season, on any course.
Even more nutty is to consider that I paid thousands of dollars to fly to Scotland for such punishment.
I can’t wait to do it again.
With the biggest tournament of the year coming up this Saturday and Sunday, the fact that I couldn’t move my right arm yesterday was a bit of a concern. In addition, I have four other big tourneys in June along with a trip to St. Andrews the first week of July. The right arm functioning is a requirement for any of these events to take place as planned.
Holocene Cinder Cone near Veyo, Utah
The big tournament this weekend is the Salt Lake Amateur. The one I look forward to most each year, this event is two intense days at Bonneville Golf Course. While I don’t expect to win it, I do want to perform well and break into the finishing money. I’ve made it as high as 10th place, which for me is great considering I’m playing against the young college scholarship players who hit their 4-irons farther than I hit my driver.
Back to the arm not working. This past weekend I took the family to southern Utah for Memorial Day weekend. We did some fantastic hiking in the Dixie National Forest and some chilling out at the hotel pool. Not far from the Dixie National Forest is the town of Veyo, in the heart of what is called “Volcano Country.” In this area there are dozens of what are called “cinder cones.” Cinder cones are a steep conical hill of tephra (volcanic debris) that accumulates around and downwind from a volcanic vent.
We decided to hike the Holocene Cinder Cone outside the town of Veyo, a popular cone with about a 1.5 mile trail around the back. We didn’t see the trail though, so we went straight up the face, 500 vertical feet. The hike was very difficult as the small and light volcanic rocks would give way under your feet. It was almost like trying to climb a sand hill, but if you fell you’d be chewed up by the sharp volcanic rocks.
We made it to the top and hung around the crater of the volcano, which last erupted roughly 10,000 years ago. On highest tip of the volcano were some flowers which attracted huge and beautiful Swallowtail butterflies (picture below).
Butterflies hanging out atop the volcano!
Heading down the 1.5 mile back trail was difficult. The vertical angle along with the very slick volcanic rocks made keeping solid footing hard. The little rocks work like ball bearings under your feet. My first fall was hard. The trail gave way under my right foot and my left side hit hard on the volcanic rock. I didn’t wipe the dust off my leg or left arm. I figured the dust would keep the blood from my volcanic road rash at bay. Fortunately my Nikon, hanging around my neck, was not injured.
The 2nd fall was even harder. I was going straight down a slope when the ball bearing rocks slid under my right foot. I landed on my back, trying to break my fall with my hands. More concerned for my camera I reached for it to see if it had been damaged. I mounted it on my right side figuring that if I fell on my face or on my back, the camera wouldn’t take a direct hit. The plan worked. Just some dust and a small mark on the lens protector.
Reaching for my camera was a new experience in pain. My right shoulder had taken on some damage. Having separated that shoulder and dislocated my other, I didn’t think I’d done either this time, but it still hurt like a bugger.
During the five hour drive home I iced the shoulder. It stiffened and eventually got to the point where I couldn’t reach for the volume knob on the radio. I’m just thankful that Guns N Roses didn’t come on the radio or I might have driven off the road trying to turn the stereo off with my left arm…
Fortunately this morning the arm is much better. So much better that I put my golf clubs in the car in anticipation of my men’s league tournament this afternoon. I have full rotation of the shoulder and just a tiny bit of stiffness.
Thank goodness the shoulder works. I’m ready to knock ‘em dead this weekend!
Heading to the Home of Golf AGAIN!
It has been a while since I posted an update of my game here. So many reviews and other stuff to write about. But one of the reasons I started this blog was to chronicle my own journey on the course.
Golf here in Utah can be frustrating. Yes this place is beautiful with some of the best golf courses and best pricing of golf anywhere. But we have long winters, forcing us golfers to go into hibernation unless we travel. This winter was tough. Didn’t play more than four rounds, cold ones at that, between December and March. When I don’t play regularly, at least a couple of times per week or more, my game starts to fade away. The first thing that goes is my short game, followed by my irons and ball striking. My driving and putting seem to weather well as those are the two parts of my game which seem to come natural for me.
I’ve got a much busier schedule this year than ever before. Between a new day gig and 3-4 golf writing gigs, finding time to golf or practice is tough. I have been playing quite a bit the last few weeks though and the rust is finally, slowly, coming off. Yesterday I practiced short game for an hour, which was very beneficial. My save percentage, getting up and down for par when not hitting a green in regulation, was awful at the beginning of the year. I’m talking 20% or less. That number is improving. Just yesterday I missed a ton of greens but thanks to decent chipping and great putting I managed an even-par round which included my 2nd eagle of the season via chip-in. That’s evidence right there that when the short game is working, the scores are low.
June is going to be a huge golf month for me. As of this moment I count five state sanctioned tournaments on my schedule, along with my regular leagues. One is my favorite, the Salt Lake Amateur, a two-day tourney held at one of my home courses, Bonneville. This tournament is the one I want to perform in the most. The pressure is high. The last two years I’ve made it into the money, which had been a goal for years. Winning the thing is not likely as I’m playing against the college scholarship players, but you never know.
Also in June I’m playing in the Wingpointe Amateur for the 2nd time in my very modest amateur golf career. There are some serious players in this tournament. I usually play that course well so I have high hopes.
Later in June I’m playing with my pops in his club’s father/son tournament. We are defending CHAMPIONS. I’m not planning on giving up that claim this year either.
My pal Boynie (left) and myself at the Home of Golf
All the tournaments and golf in June will be a great primer to July. On June 30 my clubs and I jump on a plane to Philadelphia. I have a four hour layover in the Philly airport where I’ll be joined by my best friend in the world. We will be flying to Scotland and making our second trip to the Home of Golf, St. Andrews. We’ll be joined by two other very good pals for a week of golf. Very much looking forward to that. By then my game should be in pretty good shape. I’m looking to better my low score on the Old Course, a 77. I’m also looking forward to catching back up with my good friend and Old Course caddie John Boyne (pictured right).
This summer is going to be a good one. Looking forward to playing some good golf, making a lot of birdies, but most of all enjoying it with the fine gentlemen I share the game with.
Once in a while I bust out a cigar on the golf course. There’s something about it that helps my game a bit when struggling. Perhaps it takes my mind away from the game and distracts me just enough to play a little better. There are many obvious problems with smoking cigars either on course or off the course. Your clothes smell. Your gear smells. Your hands smell. There’s a lingering cigar taste in your mouth. Add those to the tar, carbon monoxide and second hand smoke and that’s why I don’t bust them out more than 3-4 times per year.
Now there’s an option which eliminates all those problems above, but still allows one the enjoyment of puffing on a stogy. LOGIC makes an “E-Cigar” or electric cigar called THE CUBAN. They claim this electronic cigar is “a way for golfers to enjoy a cigar on teh golf course without having to worry about smoking bans, disturbing other golfers and dirtying the course.”
E-Cigar Cherry – click for more
- Produces a real “puff” which is not smoke, rather it is vapor (see puffing photo above)
- Each cigar is good for roughly 1500 puffs, about 10-13 regular cigar’s worth
- No tar
- No tobacco
- No second hand smoke
- No smell
- No carbon monoxide
- Yes on nicotine, about 1.8% by volume
- Battery powered cherry ash glows when you puff
- No ash
E-Cigar – click for more
On The Course
I was intrigued and volunteered to try one out. Lighting the unit was easy. Just pop the small rubber cap off the end and start puffing. The taste was a little like vanilla flavoring. I really liked the fact that the smoke didn’t hurt my eyes or make my hands and clothes stink. I REALLY liked that I didn’t have that nasty post-cigar taste in my mouth for the next 12 hours.
The weight of the unit is heavier than a typical cigar. Takes a bit more jaw power to hold in the mouth. The fact that there’s no ash is nice. Once during every cigar I seem to ash on myself, which isn’t great. I also like the fact that you can’t burn yourself, or your gear when you put the cigar down to hit a shot.
At $19.95 the E-Cigar may be the answer to smoking bans on the course or elsewhere and you don’t smell nasty after. Of course the experience is a little different than a real cigar since well, it isn’t a real cigar.
Snow on the camera lens or the latest Instagram filter?
Friday morning snow
I’m running up against a little
writer’s (excuse me) “blogger’s” block. Perhaps that is because I’m going nuts here in Salt Lake this winter. The courses have been closed for months and just when it looked like the snow would melt, it started snowing again this morning. I just walked outside to take a snap of the snow and my phone slipped out of my hand into a snow bank. I had to walk in bare feet and snag it. Such a skilled photographer. The photo right is what taking pictures looks like after you’ve dropped your Samsung Galaxy SIII in the snow…
Keeping one’s game in any kind of shape is very tough when you take months off from hitting balls or playing. Hell, my game suffers when I take a week off. Months? Forget it. I finished the 2012 season as a 2.5 handicap and when I dust the clubs off in April I’ll be playing like a 20. The cycle happens every year… I work all summer to get my game back and just when I start playing well, winter comes.
Perhaps it is time to think about moving to a warmer climate where I can golf year-round. The problem is, aside from a few irritating things about Utah, I really like it here. It is a beautiful place and I love the mountains. I especially love mountain golf. I could move to Florida but I think I’d die of golf boredom. The courses are way too flat and uninteresting there.
WGC Accenture Match Play
Entertaining conclusion to the first round of the WGC Match Play yesterday. Yesterday was a prime example of why the golf networks hate this format. Their big draws can get knocked out before the real money-making weekend broadcasts. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlory are gone, as are Lee Westwood and Keegan Bradley. Ratings will probably tank this weekend. Too bad.
I had Tiger and Rory losing in the 2nd round. I have Hunter Mahan winning in my bracket.
There is something BIG coming up next week. Not sure I want to announce it this weekend, or simply have it be a surprise. Some clues: I’ll be playing golf. It will be one of the most amazing HOG World Tour stops yet.