Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Off to PGA Village

Just a quick couple of notes as I prepare for my trip to Port St. Lucie tomorrow...

First of all, the fiance is back and we're now officially living together. The move took place this past weekend and really just finished tonight, as I had a LOT of crap to move over.

The Buffalo Sabres are absolutely dominating the Philadelphia Flyers in NHL first round playoff action thus far, winning the first game 3-2 in double overtime and the second game 8-2.

I was lucky enough to be at both games but unfortunately, I'll likely miss games three, four and five unless we can find a sports bar that shows hockey down in Florida.

Somehow, I don't think I'm THAT lucky.

Harry, Preston and Vito are joining me for the trip to PGA Village tomorrow. I'll take a bunch of pictures and make sure to post a detailed report when I get back.

Have a great week!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Long and Short-Game Handicaps

There's an interesting article in the May 2006 issue of Golf Digest that discusses a method of determining a long-game and a short-game handicap.

Essentially, it will pinpoint the area of your game that needs the most work.

It's pretty easy to calculate. The necessary information to keep track of is:

  • Greens in Regulation
  • Long game strokes (ie: shots from 50 yards away or more)
  • Your total score

You also need to know your course rating and slope.

I'd go into detail about how everything is determined but it's pretty boring unless you're a stat guy (like me). I kind of laughed at my results but based on my stats so far I guess I can't be too surprised...

Basically, through two rounds I have a long-game handicap of 5 but a short game handicap of +1!!!

I have a better than scratch short-game!!!

Well, not so fast bucko!

The system is definitely flawed, as it doesn't take into account the fact that I missed about three or four greens by a yard or so - that obviously affects my putting and GIR stats and makes me look like a ball-striking sieve and a short game superstar.

I'm neither of those things and likely fall somewhere inbetween.

I'll keep monitoring these stats though as I build up more rounds. It's definitely an interesting little tool.

If anyone out there is interested in me posting the formula, let me know and I'll throw it up in a future post.

I was able to somehow get around in a 75 on Sunday this past weekend after struggling most of the day with my ball striking. I shot a 41 on the front and came in with a phenomenal 2 under 34 on the back to save the round, making three birdies on the inward half.

That's two subpar nines already this year!

My putting stats are crazy-good right now but I'm not really making anything of consequence; again, this is likely a product of just missing greens in regulation and having the shots from the fringe not count as official putts.

I'm just happy that I'm finding a way to score so well without my 'A-game'. It's a good confidence builder, that's for sure.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

'Diary' Reading Breaks Slump

I didn't have to hit the driving range after the round today...

My putting was hot early, as I made a 5 footer and a 12 footer for par on the first and second holes. Then, some precise iron play helped reinforce the fact that this was going to be a good scoring day.

I hit it to about 12 feet on three but missed the birdie effort and also missed a 18 footer on 4. However, on the 423 yard par four fifth, I knocked my five iron approach to about a foot for the gimmie birdie to get to red figures for the first time in 2006.

After pars on six and seven, I knocked a wedge stiff to three feet on eight for my second birdie of the day. I got up and down from the greenside trap on nine for par and the surprising 34 (-2) on the front nine.

I made a shaky par on 10 but skyhooked a driver on the short par four eleventh into the lateral hazard left of the fairway. To add insult to injury, I three-putted the hole as well for a double to come crashing back to even par.

I came right back, hitting a six iron tight on my nemesis hole, the par three twelfth but was unable to convert the 9 footer. I'd three putt again from off the fringe on 13 and also bogeyed 14 to ruin any thought of breaking par overall.

I did come back with a nice bird on 15 but a bogey on 18 gave me a 40 on the backside and a 74 overall.

Good start to the real golf season!

The key to the 10 shot difference between today's round and yesterday's is the fact that I consulted my 'diary', which earned ribs from my playing partners Toast, Harry and Gary today when I told them about it.

Diary is not the word I should have used but I've kept notes on my golf game for a couple years, jotting down swing thoughts and keys to my game when things are going well so I can refer back to them when things start going awry.

The golf stat software that I use (Golfers Diary and StatDoctor) both have a 'Notes' section for every round that I can utilize for recording my thoughts on the round or my game in general.

The swing key was posture-related and the little change I made worked wonders for my ball-striking. As I told the boys today, I can take the ribbing if it means I'm getting in their pocket every day!!! ;)

Tomorrow should be a full group, with 8-12 guys likely showing up for some great skins and Hollywood action. Hopefully I can build on today's success!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Calling My Shot

My golf game has been really ugly thus far but thankfully, the rounds I've played are all considered 'pre-season' games.

The real season begins tomorrow morning.

Basically, Canada's official golf season starts on April 15th for handicap-tracking purposes so the four rounds I've played so far this year don't count against my index.

And for a guy who's looking to improve on a 1.6, that's a good thing considering the way I've been scoring early on. I made four unsightly double bogeys on the way to an 84 today. Four more penalty strokes.

Enough is enough. I'm calling my shot right now.

I'm going to break 80 tomorrow.

If I make good on my promise, there is no punishment. If I fail, well...I'll do something extremely painful...

I'll go to the driving range.

That's SEVERE punishment!

The fiance is now safely in Boulder, Colorado visiting her sister and her family. I haven't had the chance to talk to her since she arrived, missing both of her phone calls. Jacky, if you read this, LEAVE ME YOUR SISTER'S NUMBER!!! I'll call you!!!

Had a nice Easter/Birthday/Engagement Celebration dinner with my parents and sister tonight at the Blue Mermaid, a fancy steak and seafood joint in St. Catharines. Really nice night with the family, as we hung out after in the lounge, listening to the piano player while having a few drinks.

I'll report again tomorrow with the results from the golf game.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Happily Off-Topic

On Monday night, down in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake, my girlfriend Jacky became my fiance, (foolishly?) accepting my proposal of marriage!

We have dated for exactly one year, with our first date taking place on April 13, 2005. We went to the driving range that night (how romantic) and then went for some Thai food.

It's been a wonderful year and I'm really excited to continue the journey with the bride-to-be.

We haven't had time to set a date yet. Jacky is heading off to Colorado tomorrow to visit her sister for a week and then I'll be leaving for Florida shortly thereafter for my four-day golf excursion at PGA Village. So we'll likely start making plans when I get back on May 1st.

An expensive year lies ahead!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mickelson Wins the Masters...Yawn

Ian Andrew wrote about the changes at Augusta National earlier this week and the adverse effect they'd have on the excitement factor for the Masters this year.

I was going to make a comment on his blog disagreeing with him, thinking that the Hootie Johnson-led committee always seems to be able to tweak things on Sunday by switching tee boxes and utilizing more accessible pin placements.

Well, I couldn't have been more wrong.

What a snoozer of a golf tournament this year. Part of it is because of my dislike for the overly smug Mickelson but there was so little to cheer for this year it was borderline shocking.

It was just missed putt after missed putt for all of the contenders. I've never seen Tiger miss so many crucial putts. And the Freddie Couples three-putt from 5 feet on 14 was heartbreaking for me and pretty much ended any hope of a battle down the stretch.

Guess I'll have to wait for the British Open (the REAL Open Championship) for some thrills.

I played golf this morning for the second time this year with Toast and Harry, shooting my second consecutive 82. Way too many mistakes today, as I made four doubles and had to take four penalty strokes during the 18 hole round. I made a couple birdies during the round and my putting stroke was good but I had a lot of near misses (three lip-outs).

I took out a Taylor Made R7 425 today as well but was fighting the lefts all day. The non-TP version is set about a degree closed and it just didn't fit my eye. My pro says the TP may be in soon so I'll hold out until that comes in.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Deerhurst Resort - Highlands Course

Deerhurst Resort - Highlands Course
Huntsville, Ontario, CANADA


7011 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 74.5/140
COURSE ARCHITECT: Robert Cupp & Thomas McBroom (1990)
ACCESSIBILITY: Resort
COURSE WEBSITE: http://deerhurstresort.com/golf/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 4
LAST PLAYED: August 8, 2012.
LOW SCORE: 82 (+10)

ACCOLADES -
- Golfweek Best Canadian Modern Courses 2015: #32
- ScoreGolf Top 100 in Canada 2014: #70
- ScoreGolf Top 59 Public Courses in Canada 2015: #37
- Canadian Golf Magazine Top 100 in Canada 2015: #62


Continuing with the adventures of the 2003 Muskoka trip, as the four of us were off to Deerhurst to play the well-regarded Highlands course the day after Bigwin.

One of the assistants out there used to work in the backshop at St. Catharines so we had our 'in'. Well, it's a public course so we were in regardless but we were able to get a steal of a green fee rate with him behind the counter. I think we paid $50.00 for the round and he was going to give us the second round for the price of the cart ($15 each).



The shot above shows us on the gorgeous downhill par four opener very early in the morning. Beautiful scenery from the tee that's for sure!

The course itself is quite good although there are a few holes that don't seem to fit in. If you've ever been out there, I'm sure you know which holes I'm talking about...

Things start out strongly with the aforementioned first hole and the very long and difficult 465 yard par four second. This hole requires a lengthly poke from the tee to clear a ravine to get to a narrow-looking fairway.

The awesome continues on the signature third hole, a downhill 201 yard par three with granite outcroppings on the left. The threes at Deerhurst are quite strong overall.

However, things get strange when you go over to the other side of the road for the fourth, fifth and sixth holes. Whereas the rest of the course is a rollicking parkland-style test, this stretch of holes is completely out in the open and has a very linksy-feel. It just seems out of character with the rest of the course but maybe it's just me.

Eight is another great par three, a 231 yarder to a double green (sharing it with #17) and nine is an interesting dogleg left with a great elevated green complex.

The back side has a few holes of note as well. Number ten would likely be signature hole #2, a 464 yard par four from an elevated tee, with granite outcroppings on the right side of the fairway in the landing area.

I'm also a big fan of the risk/reward par five 14th, a 523 yarder that's reachable in two for those willing to clear a large lake fronting the green. Number 15 is an excellent 411 yard par four with a creek that meanders the entire length of the hole, forcing the player to clear it twice before reaching the putting surface. Lots of options on this hole make it one to remember.

I shot 82 both rounds I played that day. It's a solid test, with big numbers lurking around almost every corner should you misstep.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Deerhurst Highlands and Taboo

Deerhurst Highlands Golf Course
Huntsville, Ontario, Canada


Course Architects: Robert Cupp & Thomas McBroom
Established: 1990
Personal Rounds Played: 3
Low Score: 82

Continuing with the adventures of the 2003 Muskoka trip, as the four of us were off to Deerhurst to play the well-regarded Highlands course the day after Bigwin.

One of the assistants out there used to work in the backshop at St. Catharines so we had our 'in'. Well, it's a public course so we were in regardless but we were able to get a steal of a green fee rate with him behind the counter. I think we paid $50.00 for the round and he was going to give us the second round for the price of the cart ($15 each).

The shot above shows us on the gorgeous downhill par four opener very early in the morning. Beautiful scenery from the tee that's for sure!

The course itself is quite good although there are a few holes that don't seem to fit in. If you've ever been out there, I'm sure you know which holes I'm talking about...

Things start out strongly with the aforementioned first hole and the very long and difficult 465 yard par four second. This hole requires a lengthly poke from the tee to clear a ravine to get to a narrow-looking fairway.

The awesome continues on the signature third hole, a downhill 201 yard par three with granite outcroppings on the left. The threes at Deerhurst are quite strong overall.

However, things get strange when you go over to the other side of the road for the fourth, fifth and sixth holes. Whereas the rest of the course is a rollicking parkland-style test, this stretch of holes is completely out in the open and has a very linksy-feel. It just seems out of character with the rest of the course but maybe it's just me.

Eight is another great par three, a 231 yarder to a double green (sharing it with #17) and nine is an interesting dogleg left with a great elevated green complex.

The back side has a few holes of note as well. Number ten would likely be signature hole #2, a 464 yard par four from an elevated tee, with granite outcroppings on the right side of the fairway in the landing area.

I'm also a big fan of the risk/reward par five 14th, a 523 yarder that's reachable in two for those willing to clear a large lake fronting the green. Number 15 is an excellent 411 yard par four with a creek that meanders the entire length of the hole, forcing the player to clear it twice before reaching the putting surface. Lots of options on this hole make it one to remember.

I shot 82 both rounds I played that day. It's a solid test, with big numbers lurking around almost every corner should you misstep.

Taboo Golf Course
Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada


Course Architect: Ron Garl
Established: 2003
Personal Rounds Played: 1
Low Score: 85

We were off to Muskoka Sands the next day to play the brand new course named Taboo. It was a bit of a controversial choice among the guys, as the steep green fee (about $150.00) didn't seem right for a course that just opened weeks earlier.

Well, let's just say that the scenery at this course would quiet the loudest critic...

The course has it's quirks but aesthetically speaking, it's absolutely breathtaking.

Garl utilized the wonder of the Canadian Shield to tremendous effect, routing the course around the myriad granite outcroppings on the property. The effect is stunning to say the least.

I imagine Garl gets some inspiration from Pine Valley on the par three third hole, a 204 yarder with a waste bunker that runs from tee to green. It's a cool looking hole but I was dismayed later in the round when we hit the par three eleventh, a hole that must be the third's twin sister.

They look almost exactly alike - a bit of a turnoff.

Back to the front nine though. The fourth is a strong 553 yard par four with a stretch of granite running across the fairway about 100 yards from the putting surface. It's slightly elevated from the landing area off the tee and provides a bit of deception for a visually difficult layup shot.

Number six (shown above) is a fantastic 411 yard par four that forces the player to twice cross a large, winding creek. Again, the way Garl uses the granite to frame the holes is tremendous.

Seven (see above) is another beauty, an uphill 218 yard one shotter with granite outcroppings running from tee to green on both sides of the hole! I put my tee shot in the rocks on the left side and made a great bogey four. Just an exhilarating tee shot.

The middle stretch of holes are all pretty strong, most notably nine, ten and twelve. My least favourite hole is number 16, a short par five measuring 484 yards from the tips. It's a dogleg left with a tall tree sitting in the middle of the fairway in the target area. The tree is only about 250 yards from the tee and anything that runs past it hits the rough. Unless you have a controlled right-to-left shot in your bag, it might be best to leave the driver in the bag, which is a flaw in the design in my opinion. I think this hole would be stronger if they decided to clear some trees that border the left side of the fairway and make it a par four.

The course finishes very strongly. 17 is just a gorgeous hole (see above), a 436 yard downhill dogleg right par four and 18 is even more spectacular. It's a 563 yard par five with granite EVERYWHERE. The contrast between the green fairway and the rocks is quite striking and very intimidating here and it makes for a thrilling finisher. Again, deception really comes into play here and makes club selection very difficult.

The conditioning out there was really good for a new course and I really enjoyed the difficulty of the course. We were a bit put off by the snobby staff, who wouldn't cut any deal for us to play a second 18 ("If you wait till 4pm, we can put you out there for $95.00!") but that didn't ruin the great experience I had playing Taboo. I shot an 85 and played really well for the most part. Good courses penalize bad shots and reward good ones and I felt that the place was more than fair in that regard, even with the bold design and the prevalence of the granite.

It's one of the prettiest courses in Ontario and is really an interesting design. If you're ever in the Toronto area, I'd strongly urge you to make the two hour drive to play this track.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Masters Week is Upon Us!

The start of the golf season for me historically has always coincided with the start of The Masters, the finest golf tournament in the world.

However, the mild early season weather here in the Niagara Region has meant an earlier start than normal and I was on the course for my first full round of golf on Sunday morning.

I shot a solid 39 on the front with only 14 putts and a number of nice up-and-ins from around the greens. The good fortune ran out on the backside, starting with a three putt double bogey on my nemesis hole at St. Catharines, the par-three twelfth. I then proceeded to knock two balls out of bounds on the next hole, making a triple bogey in the process on my way to a 43 on the incoming nine and an 82 overall.

My ball striking was a bit loose and my putting was pretty horrible on the back nine but I'm pleased overall with the early season results. I didn't make a birdie on Sunday, missing a couple five footers on 15 and 16 but those putts will eventually fall. I'm more concerned with fundamentals early in the season and I seem to be okay there.

I'm going to attempt to maintain some statistics here on the site during the season. Toast was wondering about a good software program on his blog at Golf + Poker.

I'm trying out StatDoctor right now. It seems to have a lot of options and offers some rudimentary analysis as well. Check out the free ten round demo program right here.

The house hunting continued on Sunday with an appointment at the ranch-styled house in St. Catharines. VERY disappointing walk-through, as the place was a complete project inside. The owners of the house have done nothing with the place and treat it with absolutely no respect - it was bar none the dirtiest upscale house I've ever seen. I kid you not when I say the place would need about $100,000 in renovation work just to make it livable for Jacky and I.

Maybe new is the way to go...

I'll be back soon with some more from the Muskoka vacation of 2003, specifically our trip to Ron Garl's visually spectacular Taboo Golf Course.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Tales from the Birthday Boy

On Thursday March 30th at about 5:25pm, I hit my first golf shot of the 2006 season.

My four iron off the first tee at St. Catharines G&CC got about a foot and a half off the ground and rolled a little over 100 yards right down the middle of the fairway.

Laughter ensued from my partners Toast and Harry.

Our course had opened the day before and it was great to finally hit that first shot of the year. When I stop playing golf, I REALLY stop playing. I hadn't hit a shot in almost five months and it showed, as I made a triple bogey seven on the first and ended up shooting about a 45 for the nine.

That first round out is really about trying to get some sort of rhythm back and I started hitting the ball really well by about the fourth or fifth hole. I was just striping my driver long and dead straight, which is nice for the first time out. The putting and chipping will take a bit more time but that's to be expected.

I'm looking forward to our first full 18-hole round of golf Sunday morning. Should be fun!

I celebrated my 33rd birthday today with a trip to Golf Town with my extremely patient girlfriend. She bought me a gorgeous painting of the par-three 7th hole at Pebble Beach that I'll be hanging in my office and I also bought a sweater while I was there. I need shorts for my Florida trip but I wasn't keen on anything GT had to offer so the search continues.

We also looked at some more houses and found an interesting one in St. Catharines (ranch style, really nice piece of property). We were able to schedule a walk-through for tomorrow after my round of golf so I'm pretty pumped about that too.

We topped the night off with a fantastic dinner at Mai Vi, the phenomenal Vietnamese restaurant in downtown St. Catharines. They have a tremendous shrimp and mushroom wanton soup for an appetizer and I had the Roasted Chicken in a Spicy Curry Sauce for my entree, one of the house specialties.

Highly recommended!

I then saw my night go into the crapper when the bloody Toronto Maple Leafs destroyed my Buffalo Sabres 7-0 on Hockey Night in Canada. Just a humiliating defeat for the struggling swordsmen, who looked completely lost out there.

When you're getting outworked and outclassed by the Leafs, you're in big trouble...

Oh well. They have eight games to get their act together before the playoffs.

I'll report back with the details of my first real round of golf in '06 sometime tomorrow!