Wednesday, May 26, 2010

ASU Karsten Golf Course

On Sunday, Chad Feldheimer and I played at ASU Karsten Golf Course in Tempe near the Arizona State University campus. This is the home course for the ASU golf team. Players like Billy Mayfair and Phil Mickelson played Karsten when they were student athletes at ASU. It is a 7,002 yard, par-70 Pete Dye-designed, Scottish links course with rolling hills and railroad ties. The course is built on only 156 acres in the barren wasteland of the river bed of the Salt River adjacent to an electric substation with huge overhead power lines running across the golf course and within the flight path for Sky Harbor Airport. The course was completed in 1989 and the clubhouse was completed in 1994. The golf course is a brilliant use of virtually worthless real estate.

Playing from the professional tees, the course rating is 73.8 and the slope rating is 131. The front 9 is a par-34 with no par-5 holes. Chad Feldheimer and I both started out par-par-par. I also parred the par-3 7th hole and bogeyed the 494-yard par-4 5th hole (of which I was pretty proud), but double-bogeyed 4 holes for a 43 on the front 9. Chad did not play well and shot a 42 on the front 9. By the time we got to the 9th hole, the wind was blowing more than 20 miles per hour and we were struggling.

The back 9 is a 3,751 yard par-36 and we decided that playing from the professional tees was too masochistic even for us so we moved up to the champion tees, which are 3,395 yards. It seemed like we were hitting into the wind on almost every hole, although sometimes there seemed to be a cross-wind. The 10th hole is a 478-yard par-4 (498 yards from the professional tees). I had 2 pars, 5 bogeys and 2 double-bogeys for a 45 on the back 9 and an 88 for the round. Chad started bogey-bogey on the back 9 and was even par on the last 7 holes for a 38 and an 80 for the round. The wind on the back 9 was howling and it was a struggle just to finish. On the signature hole, the 217 yard, par-3 16th hole, Chad made a birdie and I made a par I hit the ball pretty well off of the tees, but I was missing the fairways so I had a lot of blind shots over the hills or shots with the ball sitting on the side of a hill either 2 feet above or 2 feet below my feet. I still hit a lot of good hybrid shots and I chipped and putted reasonably well. A number of greens are elevated and a shot that misses the green rolls down into the collection area below the green and I do not have enough confidence to consistently hit a high pitch or lob onto the green.

Because of the difficulty of the golf course, my 88 equated to a 12.2 handicap differential. With back-to-back 12.2 differentials my handicap index should go down when the new handicaps are posted on June 1.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My New "Go To" Course

On Saturday I treated my friend and client Digger to a round of golf at Stonecreek Golf Club. Stonecreek has become one of my "go to" courses. The course is in great shape, it is very convenient from central Phoenix, it is reasonably priced, it is walkable and it plays almost 6,900 yards from the back tees. The course is a par-71 with a course rating of 72.8 and a slope rating of 131 from the back (green) tees. At times the course can be very slow, but we played Saturday morning in less than 4 hours. The course also has a replay rate of $20, although we did not take advantage of it this time.

Digger is a member of Moon Valley Country Club so he does not often venture out to play other courses in the area. He had not played Stonecreek for a number of years. Digger was hitting the ball pretty well, but he has a penchant for fading the ball (and sometimes even slicing the ball!). This golf course is not set up for a left-to-right hitter. Somehow, the creek seems to only run along the right side of the fairway. Digger started off with two double-bogeys, but then parred 3 of the next 7 holes for a 46 on the front side. I was driving the ball really well and parred both of the par-3 holes and one par-4 for a 44 on the front 9. I was having my normal trouble hitting my chip shots thin. I generally use a lot of wrist action on my chips rather than a straight-arm chip. After hitting another chip shot thin, Digger recommended that I try to chip with my putting stroke. I re-hit the chip and rolled it right into the cup for what would have been a birdie (but I took my double-bogey since I am now carrying an official USGA handicap index).

When we made the turn, there was a man selling golf balls from his backyard. I bought 9 like-new Titleist Pro-V golf balls for $1 each and one TaylorMade Penta TP golf ball for $1. The Penta TP is a 5-piece ball and is supposed to be the best ball on the market. On the back 9 I continued to drive the ball straight and in the fairway or short rough. I made a birdie on No. 13, a 548 yard, par-5, and had 3 pars for a 43 on the back 9, including a par on the 609 yard, par-5. I triple-bogeyed the 227 yard par-3 hitting my first tee shot into the water (thus losing my Penta TP golf ball!). Somehow, this par-3 is considered the no. 18 handicap hole. I assume the handicap is based on one of the shorter tees (166 yards from the gold tees and 147 yards from the black tees). On the par-3 197 yard 12th hole, Digger and I both won $20 gift certificates from the pro shop by hitting the green (or coming pretty darn close). We paid $10 each for the opportunity so it was a net $20 gain (it was actually a $20 gain for me because Digger paid my fee). I bought a Stonecreek golf hat to add to my collection. Digger bought a Boston Red Sox logo golf hat and claimed it was for a relative (but I think he may be a closet Red Sox nation fan).

I was able to string together two reasonably consistent 9-hole stretches for an 87. I still leave a lot of strokes on the course because of my short game, but my putting seems to be improving. Because of the course rating and slope rating, my handicap differential for this round was 12.2, which is my lowest differential for my last 20 rounds and should reduce my handicap index.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Golf Lingo - Part 5

It is time once again for a fan favorite, "Golf Lingo". This is Part 5 of the series. "Golf Lingo - Part 4" was posted on January 20, 2010. If you click on the defined term you will link to the post in which it was used. Even if you cannot walk the walk with your golf game, if you can talk the talk you can hold your own at the bar after the round.

Blind Shot. A shot in which the golfer cannot see the intended target for that shot (e.g., over a hill, behind a line of trees, to an elevated green or out of a deep bunker).

Bump and Run. An approach shot to the green usually played with an 8-, 7- or 6-iron. The ball is typically played from the back of the stance, stays low and then runs up to or on the green.

Double Eagle. A double eagle is a score of three under par on an individual hole. Double eagles are more rare than holes-in-one. To record a double eagle, a golfer would have to make a hole-in-one on a par-4 hole or make a 2 on a par-5 hole.

Fringe. An area of grass immediately off of the putting surface and surrounding the green.. Generally, grass in the fringe is higher than on the fairway and green, but lower than the rough. Players often use their putters when their ball is on the fringe. See Texas wedge.

Gorse. Gorse is very thick, gnarly high rough, more similar to shrubbery than grass. It is oftentimes found on British and Scottish courses.

Grooves. The indentations on the face of all irons, which help to impart spin on the golf ball and help the ball get airborne. The groove controversy relates to the shape of the grooves ("u" or "v" shaped), the depth of the grooves and the distance between grooves and the sharpness of the grooves. Due in part to the grooves, professional golfers were able to impart sufficient spin on the ball from the rough to stop the ball on the green and even to spin the ball backward. The USGA and R&A are further regulating the grooves on irons to put more of a premium on hitting the ball in the fairway and penalizing a player that hits the ball in the rough. The driver does not have any grooves because the intention is to reduce spin so the ball flies longer.

Ground Your Club. Touching the head of the golf club to the ground behind the ball at address or before the forward swing. You may not ground your club in a hazard.

Handicap Differential. The difference between a player's adjusted gross score and the USGA Course Rating of the course on which the score was made, multiplied by 113, then divided by the Slope Rating from the tees played and rounded to the nearest tenth, e.g., 12.8.

Hiding in the Weeds Rule. A situation where your playing partner knows that you are about to play out-of-turn, thus violating Rule 10 of the Rules of Golf, and he allows you to commit the violation and based on the outcome of your shot, the playing partner either invokes the Rule and requires that you re-hit your shot or does not invoke the Rule and allows your shot to stand. Under the "Hiding in the Weeds Rule", the playing partner is deemed to have "unclean hands" and cannot invoke Rule 10.

Loose Impediment. From the Official Rules of Golf, "Loose impediments" are natural objects including: stones, leaves, twigs, branches and the like, dung, and worms and insects and casts or heaps made by them, provided they are not: fixed or growing, solidly embedded, or adhering to the ball. Sand and loose soil are loose impediments on the putting green, but not elsewhere. Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Dew and frost are not loose impediments.

Perimeter Weighting. Invented by Karsten Solheim and made famous with the Ping Eye2 irons. The weight of the golf club is distributed more evenly around the club by moving more weight to the heel, toe and sole. Perimeter-weighted clubs are more forgiving for off-center hits for the average golfer. The professionals generally play "blades" where most of the weight is right behind the center of the clubface since they rarely hit off-center shots.

Stroke and Distance. The penalty imposed under USGA and R&A Rules for a lost ball or ball hit out-of-bounds. The player incurs the stroke for the lost ball or ball hit out-of-bounds, takes 1 penalty stroke and must make his third stroke from the same spot where the original ball was last played.

Thin. A mis-hit shot in which the clubhead strikes the ball near its midpoint or slighly lower. A thin shot generally travels lower and longer than anticipated.

Tiger Pelts. Also known as "beaver pelts"; these are large divots taken by a golfer, generally with his short irons. The tiger pelt probably emanates from the large divots that Tiger Woods used to take with all of his irons.

Tight Lie. Any lie in which your ball is sitting on bare dirt, very short grass or similar position in which there is very little grass beneath the golf ball.

Thank to and the USGA Official Rules of Golf for some of these definitions.

Monday, May 10, 2010

You Drive Like a Girl!

It is starting to get warm in Arizona so it is great golf weather for the frugal (cheap) golfer. There is an inverse relationship between the temperature, on the one hand, and the greens fee and pace of play, on the other hand. On Sunday, Chad Feldheimer and I played at the Legacy Golf Resort. This is one of the best public golf courses in the central Phoenix area. The temperature was above 90 degrees, the greens fee was less than $50 and we played in just over 4 hours (notwithstanding Chad badgering me about slow play).

Chad bought a new TaylorMade R9 SuperTri black-on-black driver at Golfsmith. He said that he was carrying the ball 270 yards in the simulator (I think there must have been some simulated gale force tailwinds or they just spotted a sucker). He would not even let me touch his new driver! I decided to put my TaylorMade R580 driver away and use my Ping G10 driver that I won in a charity golf tournament a couple of years ago because Legacy has very forgiving fairways. I had the G10 driver "fitted" at the Ping headquarters with a 10.5 degree loft and a draw face. The G10 driver is also an inch longer than my TaylorMade driver and has a whippier shaft. I have never hit this club well, but I keep hoping that something will change. See definition of insanity. We played from the back tees (Copper), which are 6,908 yards with a course rating of 72.1 and a slope rating of 128. We played with a husband and wife that were probably in their early 60s.

I usually average about 240 yards with my R580 driver (although I am often directionally challenged). I was hitting my G10 driver about 220 yards! I was being out-driven by our husband and wife playing partners. It can make for a long day when you are only driving the ball 220 yards and the course is almost 7,000 yards long (and a par 71). Luckily, I am hitting my 1, 3 and 4-hybrids really well (I have been getting a lot of opportunities). I started off with a double bogey, but parred both par-3 holes and both par-5 holes on the front 9 for a 42. I double-bogeyed a par-4 and both par-3s on the back 9, but also had two pars for a 45 (the back 9 is a par 35) for an 87 total. I did not make one medium to long putt all day, but I lagged the ball pretty well. I missed 3 putts within 6 feet, all of which I pushed to the right! Based on my gross score, the course rating and the slope rating, my "differential" for this round was 13.2, which is my lowest (best) differential of all of my handicap scores. I have no idea how the differential is calculated but I am sure that Chad Feldheimer will dazzle us with his knowledge of the USGA Handicap System.

Chad could not hit his new driver at all. Instead of his normal moderately high ball flight with a slight fade and 260+ yards of distance, he was hitting the ball low with an ugly hook. He shot a 40 on the front 9 and I thought that he might just call it a day and quit. On the back 9 he hit the driver a little bit better, but not much better. He started 3-over par on the first 4 holes, but ended 1-under par on the last 5 holes. He was in trouble on a few holes off of the tees, but miraculously he always found his ball and had a shot of some sort. Chad is a great scrambler. If he has to chip out from the desert on a par-4, he will oftentimes hit his third shot to within 10 feet of the flagstick and sink the putt or if he hits the ball into a greenside bunker, he has a pretty decent chance of getting down in 2 strokes or he will make a long putt for a par save. Notwithstanding his poor tee shots, Chad shot a 37 on the back 9 and finished with a 77, which was pretty impressive given the way he was hitting the ball off of the tees.

[Editor's Note: A "Handicap Differential" is the difference between a player's adjusted gross score and the USGA Course Rating of the course on which the score was made, multiplied by 113, then divided by the Slope Rating from the tees played and rounded to the nearest tenth, e.g., 12.8.]

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Hated San Antonio Spurs

On Monday night I went to the first game of the playoff series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Suns. The Spurs are the seventh seed in the Western Division, but they beat the second seeded Dallas Mavericks to advance to the second round of the playoffs. The Suns are the third seed. The Spurs have been injury-riddled all season and are finally healthy.

The Spurs are the Suns' playoff nemesis. They have beaten the Suns the last four times the two teams played in the playoffs! Every year something crazy happens. One year Tim Duncan made a 3-point shot at the buzzer to win a game (his only 3-point shot the entire season). Another year Amare Stoudemire was suspended for a game because he stepped onto the court from the bench during a fracas and Steve Nash was cut with less than a minute to go in a game and the trainers could not stop the bleeding to get him back into the game. Another year Joe Johnson was injured and out for the season when he was undercut and landed on his face.

The US Airways Arena was electric on Monday night! The Suns started the game on a tear and Steve Nash may have had one of the greatest playoff game quarters ever. He scored 17 points on 7 for 10 shooting and had 4 assists and no turnovers in the first quarter. The Suns led by 10 at halftime and increased the lead to 14 in the third quarter. Twice San Antonio rallied from 14 back, with a 12-0 run in the third quarter and a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter that cut Phoenix's lead to 94-93 with 4:26 to go in the game. Oftentimes against San Antonio the Suns could not stop Duncan, Ginobili and Parker down the stretch and lost the close playoff games. This time, San Antonio could not make its shots and Jason Richardson made a big 3-point shot, Grant Hill made a jump shot and the Suns made all of their free throws down the stretch to win 111-102. Although the Suns controlled the game, you can never breath easy playing the Spurs because they never give up, they are well-coached and they have some great clutch players.