Hybrid shootout and other things

A few items:

– Got the Exotics hybrid on Wednesday afternoon and took it out for the first time on Thursday. Didn’t have tons of time to work with it on the range, but got a few swings in. My initial reaction was that it launches much lower than the Adams Super Hybrid, which is the other contender

Unable to really give it a run on the range, I took both clubs on the course (yes, I played with 15 sticks instead of 14). Afterwards, I still don’t know that I have an answer. My first few swings with the Exotics were dreadful, but it got better the more I swung it.

On 15 – one of the holes that I’m interested in finding an answer for – I hit two balls with each club. The Exotics got one ball on the green and one on the back fringe. The Adams, by contrast, wasn’t as good. I yanked one into a tree short of the green and hit the second one in a bunker.

While I want to try each of them a little more, my gut feeling is that the Exotics might be a touch more forgiving. We’ll see I guess.

– I have to love the fabulous mullet of Charley Hoffman this week. After a marginal British Open in which Ernie Els missed the cut for me, I rallied in fantasy golf last week thanks to Charlie Wi’s great Sunday round and tie for fourth. I’m in fourth place with eight tournaments to go. A couple of good weeks could move me quickly into second.

With the tour playing in West Virginia this week, I felt compelled to go with the guy with the mullet. It seemed pretty obvious. Well, the guy with the hair shot an even par first round and started this morning outside of the cut line. Well, it appears things have started to turn around. As I write this, Hoffman is 4-under for the day, has moved up into the top 25, and is safely inside the cut line. That is a good thing as when my guy is near the cut line and playing in the afternoon wave, my Friday productivity drops pretty dramatically.

– Excited to play tomorrow at StoneRidge, the Bobby Weed designed course between Woodbury and Stillwater. It is basically the only really good public course in the Twin Cities that I have never played. Should be a good time.

– I have updated my Unique Golf Courses Played since 2002 list with four brand new courses so far in 2010 and 172 courses since the start of 2002. I would think I will add a few more brand new courses before the end of the year. I now need to write up some posts on courses I’ve played in 2010 — I’m at 11 currently and will be at 12 tomorrow.

Adjusting the bag for two shots?

As I have written about, the beginning of this golf season meant a change in my primary golf venue. The move has been very positive for me, but the golf course has left me fiddling with my bag.

Now, to be totally honest, I don’t need much motivation to make changes in my bag. As they would call it on golfwrx.com, I’m a bit of a club ho. I love golf clubs. I love trying new sticks to the point where I joke that I will replace a club before I get it regripped.

My new course has two holes that have left me looking around for the right club. The first, No. 7, is a 209 yard par 3 that plays a little bit uphill and there is almost a false front (you can have a front pin, but there is serious slope to get to the middle and the back). The second, No. 15, is a 200 yard par 3 with a bunker front left. When the pin is tucked behind the bunker, it can be tough to get to.

When this season began, the two longest tenured clubs in my bag were my 16 and 19 degree TaylorMade Rescue Dual hybrids. But as the season went along, those two par 3s were becoming serious challenges. Getting the 16 degree to No. 7 was very difficult unless it was dead calm or the wind was totally helping. I was cool with front pin on No. 15, but anything else was tough.

So I’ve been on the hunt for the right new hybrid that will give me a little more. I don’t need a lot more — six more yards would be great.

The first thing I tried was the new Adams Super Hybrid that was 17 degrees. It has more loft than my TM, but the shaft is a bit longer, which should allow for a little more clubhead speed and, in turn, distance. It has been OK, but I’m not sure it is the 100 percent solution. It has gotten me to the middle of the No. 7 green a few times, but the club isn’t quite as forgiving as I would potentially like.

At some point today, a box is going to arrive at my house that has a 16 degree Exotics XCG 3 hybrid in it. I had the original Exotics 3 wood and there’s little question that the little Illinois company has found a way to create clubs that generate serious ball speed. I scored the club on eBay and hopefully it will be the answer. While I haven’t hit it, I like that the clubhead is a little smaller than the Super Hybrid. Having one degree less of loft may help as well.

I’m not getting out tonight, but will play tomorrow evening. I’m looking forward to a little head-to-head comparison.

I’m guessing that by this time next week, I will have a winner and one of these bad boys will be on eBay or on the BST section of golfwrx. If I don’t have a winner, I’m not sure what I will do. I guess getting a 5 wood in the 18 degree range could be an answer. I’ve had great success with my current Callaway 3+ wood, so getting the 5 wood of that model might work. Not sure that I want to even go there yet.

Hopefully the Exotics will be the answer.

Hijacked by D-bags

The idea was pretty simple: Sleep in, have something of a lazy Sunday and then go out for some afternoon golf. Was going to try to work on some of the issues I had Saturday during an average (to slightly below average) round of golf, clear my head and enjoy the last hours of the weekend.

I logged on to our online tee time site a little after 2 p.m. and wasn’t overly thrilled with what I saw. Basically I needed to grab a 2:50 time or wait until after 5 p.m. And I didn’t want to wait that long.

When I stopped in the golf shop, I was told that a couple of guys had signed up with me. That was fine. I don’t know that many people at my new club yet, so I was hoping that maybe I’d meet some guys that were cool.

This turned into a 4-hour blind date that was totally awful.

Three guys rolled out of the bar and it was pretty clear they had been in there for a while. They were buzzed and loud and two of the guys had handicaps in the mid-20s range. One of the guys is a decent player (high single digit handicap), but he was pretty much wasted and the longer we played, the worse he got.

While I usually play the back tees, they wanted to play the white tees. I was cool with that, but it wasn’t my first choice.

Basically, this is what I was subjected to:

– Constant talking while people were about to hit or hitting.

– Awful cart driving. Is it really that hard to stay on the path? Do you have to park 18 inches from the tee box, rather than taking four steps from the cart to the tee box? And, no, you shouldn’t park that close to a green.

– Ball marks rarely were repaired and divots weren’t replaced.

– Two of the guys threw clubs – I haven’t done that since I was about 15 – and one of them broke the shaft on his driver. No lie.

– Screaming of profanity and tons of homophobic references throughout the round. One of these guys was also clearly still living in the past and thinking about those days in the early 80s, playing hockey at Bloomington Jefferson. Goodness.

– Me becoming more and more tired of it all.

I don’t think I’m a prude. I don’t think I’m that tightly wound. I like to have a couple of beers. I like to have fun and laugh. But I also want people to respect the game. I don’t think there is anything wrong with some etiquette and not acting like a fool.

Four hours later, I was done being hijacked by D-bags. I hit some good shots — I hit it within 3 inches on the par 3 third hole — but my concentration wasn’t where it should have been.

And I’m pretty sure I will try to avoid those guys moving forward.

Why I play at a private golf club

Today’s tee time was 8:10 a.m. There were three of us walking. We waited on a few shots, but never more more than a minute or two.

I put the pin back in on the 18th green at 12:02.

That, for the math challenged, was a round of 3 hours, 52 minutes.

The game wasn’t very good — everything seemed just off enough to make too many bogeys — but the pace was good.

I guess it was a consolation

As much as I love golf, I have kind of had a not-so-awesome relationship with tournament golf. It was like that for a while when I was younger and had reached the point where I had gotten there before. As a kid, I would get so worked up about playing in a tournament that I was almost paralyzed by the whole process.

I don’t think I was afraid of failure, but I cared so much that I kind of got in my own way. At some point, I kind of got over a little bit. At least that’s how I would like to remember it.

Before we go any further, let’s talk about the reality a little bit. I am somewhere between a decent and an above average golfer. I can shoot a score in the mid 70s, but I can also go out and shoot 83 or so just as quickly. I’m not going to win big state events — simply getting into the state amateur, for example, would be a great accomplishment — and I openly acknowledge that.

There’s part of me that enjoys tournament golf, especially tournaments where handicaps aren’t used. I like seeing where I stand — cue Ty Webb measuring himself against other golfers by height here. I like playing with different people or playing at different places. All of that is good.

But I had reached a point where I hadn’t played in a real tournament for a while. Some of it had to do with the quality of my play going south and my handicap going up over the past couple of summers. Part of it was the frustration of not qualifying for the state am enough times to kind of question whether it was worth spending the cash to try. Some of it was maybe coming to peace with the reality that I just wasn’t good enough.

All of that gets us to this past weekend’s match play club championship at my new course. It’s an event that wasn’t part of the tournament schedule at my old club. There was a season-long match play, but there were strokes involved and it just wasn’t the same. This format was simple: Play Friday afternoon, play Saturday morning and play Sunday morning. You had to win at least one match over the first two days to play on Sunday.

As I’ve written, I have found some new confidence in my game over the past month or so. I had no idea where I stood against other people at my club as I have played the majority of my rounds alone or with guests. I was hoping for the best.

Friday, however, turned out to be the worst. While I didn’t make immediate mistakes in my match — I parred the first two holes — the next seven holes or so were among the worst I played all year. I hit it in a bunker on No. 3, hit an awful bunker shot and made double. On No. 5, I had to punch out and then proceeded to hit my third shot on the par 5 off of a tree and out of bounds for another double. I followed that up with a 3-putt on No. 6. And it went on from there.

I was 5 down after the front nine and this match was, for all intents and purposes, over. I did win a hole on the back, but i think I made four or five double bogeys and was closed out after the 13th hole. If it was a stroke play event, I probably would have shot 85 or 86. I was, to be honest, pretty down that night.

Was I that bad under pressure? Was I simply uncomfortable? Was it/is it worth torturing myself this way moving forward?

When I got to the club on Saturday morning, I had a simple goal: I wanted to play well and really didn’t care if I won or lost. Now I wanted to win, but if I didn’t, I wanted it to be because my opponent played great. It turned out to be the beginning of two days of pretty good golf.

Saturday’s consolation semifinal began with a two-putt birdie on the second hole to grab a quick lead. Six holes in, I was up 3. I had a 2-up lead at the turn and quickly stretched that to 3 up with a birdie on No. 10. While I made a double on 11 — a PBF (post-birdie eff up) — I stayed in control of my emotions. I was 3 up through 14 and then I experienced the only real drama of the match. I got a bad break on 15 that led to losing the hole. On No. 16, I drove it into a fairway bunker and eventually made bogey. Suddenly I was only 1 up.

The 17th hole might have been one of the most satisfying experiences on a course in quite a while. I smoked a drive down the middle of the fairway that left me with 110 yards to the front edge. With the pin up front, I try to cut a little 9-iron into the pin. The result was pretty damn perfect. High with a slight cut, the ball landed just short of the pin and ended up about 18 inches from the cut. Nothing like a birdie to win the match.

A day later, I play nearly as well. My only birdie of the day on No. 4 put me ahead for the first time. I then string together five more pars over the rest of the first half. The combination of me hitting fairways and greens and my opponent struggling let to me being 5 up at the turn.

He did eventually cut the lead to 2 after the 14th hole, but I then won Nos. 15 and 16 to finish off the match.

While my play on Friday was awful, there was some consolation in how I played the rest of the weekend. I largely kept the ball in play. I avoided most mental mistakes. I putted well. And I stayed out of my own way. That might have been the biggest thing.

It was great fun. And I left the club on Sunday afternoon a lot happier than I did on Friday.

I’m becoming what I used to hate

Despite being a former journalist, I pretty much loathe the way the mainstream press equates coverage of professional golf to coverage of Tiger.

So despite Tiger finishing a million shots back and having not really been a factor on Sunday any any of this year’s first three majors, I’m going to give my blog reader (yes, you) two little items.

1. I’m pretty sure that this wasn’t what the folks at Nike Golf were hoping for this week. Much was made early this week about Tiger’s move to the Method putter. Well, that lasted less than a week. After three rounds, Tiger went back to his trusty Scotty Cameron. Can’t imagine that’s going to really push sales.

2. I don’t always know a lot, but I do know that Joe Posnanski might be the best sports writer of my generation. That’s why I certainly wanted to read his take on Tiger. In a nutshell, he says that it isn’t completely crazy to write off Tiger You can read it here.

Random style post

Remember when those short-sleeved mock turtlenecks were all the rage? The trend started by Tiger (who else) was accepted by all the cool kids.

After recently cleaning out my closet, I noticed that I have a few, but I don’t know when the last time I actually wore one in a capacity other than as a layering piece under something else.

I’ve kind of always been a collared-shirt guy. Just seems like a better fit.

I have several 2010 courses to post about. Hopefully over the next few days. Will also have a post on my return to competitive golf.

What I’m interested in seeing this week

I’m guessing the folks at the Nike Golf compound are both excited and anxious this week as they watch what I think is one of the most interesting storylines of the Open Championship.

While it was clear earlier in the week, it was still a little weird seeing Tiger Woods rolling putts this morning with the Nike Method putter rather than his trusty Scotty Cameron putter that he has used throughout his career.

I, as nothing more than an observer, am interested to see what happens moving forward. Let’s say Tiger plays well, putts well and wins. Does the Method then begin to fly off of shelves across the country? What happens if he plays well and putts well, but doesn’t win? Is there the same kind of bump?

I have seen the Method and putted with it on the inside putting green at Golfsmith and Golf Galaxy and have found the putter to be interesting. There does seem to something to the grooved face allowing the ball to roll off of the face, rather than bounce. I haven’t tried it on a real green, however.

If I was in the market for a new putter — I’m not as I am quite pleased with my Scotty Cameron Newport 2.6 that I purchased last summer at a good price — I would be open minded enough to try out the Method.

The interesting thing is that I have yet to know/see one person who is using the Method. And I think that is why this weekend is so interesting for Nike Golf. Because while the putter (or some version of the putter) was used by both Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink when they won majors last season, it seems to be priced in a difficult spot.

With a $250 price tag, the Method is cheaper than Scotty Cameron putters (most of which run for about $300). But if you’re going to spend $250 on a putter, it seems like it isn’t that much of a stretch to spend $300. And that has nothing to do with the fact that there are more Cameron options for putters. The Method is basically at the same price point as the milled Ping Redwood putter. And while those things look very nice, I don’t see many of them around either.

To me, it just seems like there are way too many really good options in the $150-$200 range for players. If I was in the market for a putter, I’d also consider both a SeeMore and a Rife — both of which are in that range.

So can Tiger’s putting push the needle on the Method? It seems like an interesting putter. But I’m guessing that the folks at Nike are hoping for three more solid days from their main guy.

A difficult selection

I sit here only a few hours prior to the beginning of the Open Championship and I have just recently put in my fantasy golf picks. I’m in two leagues. The first is a league on Yahoo when you have eight players on the roster, play four at a time and can change between rounds. The second is a league where you pick a golfer a week and you can only use each golfer once. Compounding that is that you pick two guys for major championships.

I’m currently in good shape in both leagues and would finish in the money if the season ended today. The pick one league is probably a bit more stressful. The last thing you want is a missed cut as it can drop you quite a ways in the standings.

For several weeks, I thought I was going to go Lee Westwood and another hot European player. But the closer I get to making my pick, the more I wonder about Westwood’s injured leg. While you want guys who are going to finish high, you have have guys who make cuts.

It seems like every guy out there has questions. I like Ian Poulter, but he’s been pretty average of late. Rory McIlroy has missed the cut in each of the first two majors. I’m a non-believer in Phil at the British. Els missed the cut last week. I think Steve Stricker will be out of gas after playing last week at the Quad Cities. I’ve already used Justin Rose and Padraig Harrington.

My picks: Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.

I know Tiger has been average at best, but I spoke with my buddy at the Washington Post who walked with him for 54 holes at Aronomink a couple of weeks ago. He said Tiger hit the ball great, but couldn’t make anything.

I realize it’s kind of a risk considering how poorly he has been. But I don’t see him missing a second consecutive cut at the Open Championship. And if he’s hitting the ball well, hopefully he’ll hit it close enough so his putting won’t be an issue.

The other guy I went with was Ernie Els. He’s been very strong in the Open, he played well at Pebble Beach, he knows the course. I’m not sure he’s good enough to win the thing, but I think he can probably at least make the cut. A guy I did consider was Retief Goosen because of his mental toughness.

I’ll save Phil for the PGA or the Tour Championship.
We’ll see how it goes. Looking forward to another major. Not much beats watching some golf before going to work.

Clearly I should critique my game more often

So less than 12 hours after I blog about par 5s and my ability to screw them up, they are my new BFF. Why?

Here’s a quick play-by-play:

No. 2: Shortest par 5 at my new course. It’s really about a par 4.5. Playing downwind, I pounded a very good 3-wood with a good draw around the corner. Ball is sitting on the left side of the fairway so the tree that overhangs the right side of the fairway at about 100 yards isn’t an issue. I had about 205 to the back pin. After waiting for the group in front of me to clear the green, I hit a decent 19 degree hybrid. I see it land just short of the green and wasn’t exactly sure where it finished. Walk up to the green and it is about seven feet left of the hole. Drain the putt right in the middle of the hole. Eagle.

No. 5: With a diagonal fairway, this is one of the holes that doesn’t always fit my eye. But I pipe a draw over the tree on the right side of the fairway and end up right in the middle. Hit a 3-wood to about 50 yards short. Hit a kind of chunky, crappy 53 degree wedge onto the green, but not close. Two putts for par.

No. 12: About 500 yards, but dead into the wind. Hit a marginal kind of drop-kick driver that probably turns out better than a deserve. Try my new 17 degree hybrid (a topic for another post later) and kind of leak it into the right rough. I have about 40 yards to the front of the green. My goal is to land my pitch just short of the green and have it bounce there to take some of the heat off of the ball, so it can snuggle up next to the pin. I hit pretty much the perfect pitch. It lands short, bounces again on the green and dunks into the hole. Another eagle.

No. 16: The longest par 5 on the course at about 565. Hit an average tee shot that ends up a little further from the corner of the dogleg than I would like — making the hole play longer — but it’s in the fairway. Hit an OK 3-wood into the wind that hooks a little bit into the first cut of the rough. Pin is on the front third and I have about 95 to the front edge. Factor in the wind and I’m thinking solid pitching wedge. Don’t know what the deal was, but the PW really carried and finished on the back fringe. Decent lag putt an a 4-footer or so for par.

The result: After butchering the par 5s for the better part of a week, I make two eagles and play the long holes at 4-under in an after work round. It certainly makes the game a little easier. Totals: 12 pars, 4 bogeys, 0 birdies, 2 eagles equals even par 72.

Now 4-under might be a bit much to expect, but taking advantage of the easy holes certainly helps.