Playing Updates

In other words, if you were to wake up this morning 30 minutes before your tee time, throw your clothes on, grab your clubs, and arrive at the first tee 5 minutes before tee time, what would you shoot?

Sure, you can’t really predict these things…maybe. But I like to call this your default score. It’s not good; it’s not bad. It’s just what you shoot on a normal day.

My default score is 81. I realized this last Saturday after playing 18 holes with my friends Tom, Lewis, and Chris at Forest Crossing. Other than my driver, my golf game pretty much sucked that day. I was +10 on the 18th green with a 50 foot birdie putt. As I stood over the putt, I thought, I suck. I’m about to shoot an 82. But I canned the ridiculously long putt. I shot an 81. Suddenly, I thought to myself, Okay, things are normal.

Is there really a difference between and 81 and an 82? Not really. Neither is that impressive, unless your looking to win the C flight of your club championship.  But, somehow, that 50 f00t birdie putt, and that round of 81, made everything okay–even though that was my only birdie of the round in miserable 90 degree heat.

So what’s your default score? If you woke up this morning and didn’t care how you played, what would you shoot?


This does not look pleasant. (Image: Benjamin Edwards/Flickr)

Today, the temperature is supposed to reach 40 degrees in Nashville. If my memory serves me correctly, this will be the first time it’s reached the 40s in about 3 weeks.

It’s been quite a winter here. We’ve had a four separate snow “events”–with the largest accumulation at about 5 inches. We received another 2 inches over this past weekend. The heat wave today should melt any of the remaining snow to reveal dead, matted down grass. Fun.

Golf has been out of the question here in Nashville. Every day on my way to work, I drive by the public course I call home. Yesterday was the first time in a few weeks that I could see mostly grass. Because of all the frightful weather, I’m guessing the golf games of most Middle Tennesseans are suffering. I can’t imagine what it’s like for those in Washington D.C., Philly, and throughout the northeast.

Anyway, spring is quickly approaching. I’ve been eyeballing my clubs in the garage lately, eyeballing the 8th green as I drive by it on my way home from work. I’ve never been much of a winter golfer, though I’ve always wanted to be.

I’m currently training for a marathon, scheduled for April 24, so that–of course–will affect my playing time. After running 18 miles on a Saturday, I don’t have time to play golf–nor do I feel like playing golf–so we’ll see how I can balance the two once the weather improves.

Anyway, I’ll ramble no more. Here’s hoping the weather in your area is “golfable.” Hit ’em straight.

My golf game reeks worse than a septic tank, a five-month-old stagnant port-a-john, a flaming pile of poo. My golf game sucks!

On the same day in which Y.E. Yang made history, chasing down The Great One to win his first major while becoming the first Asian-born player to capture a major championship, I beat my Titleist around 83 times to finish with a two round score of 164—bad enough to place 10th out of 16 golfers. How does 164 place tenth? Not a strong field, I guess.

ball in rough

Another wonderful lie in the rough. Round two. Eighteenth hole. (Image: Robert Bruce's iPhone)

If you would like to see the details of my destruction at the Music City Golf Association’s Club Championship, visit this site. Eight under (69-67) won the tournament by twelve shots.  Apparently, one guy was a player and the rest of us were pretty much hacks.

I’m certainly not going to be the shot-by-shot recap golfer, but I’ll simply say that, over the last two days, I struck my irons worse than in any other 36-hole period in my entire life. I hit nine greens in regulation over the two rounds of golf. Freaking awful.

Countless bogeys, two double bogeys and a snowman—that pretty much sums up my two days. I carded the snowman on the 14th hole yesterday. After knocking my drive out of bounds twice, I managed to make a nice up-and-down to save quadruple bogey.

The rough at Harpeth Hills is brutal. Miss the fairway by two feet and you are in the crap. It’s not that tall, but it’s extremely thick. I found said rough quite often over the weekend.

Golf is a fickle sport. On this same course, from the same tees, just a week ago, I shot 75. But I’ve never been a great tournament player, and I guess some things never change.

All that said, I’m taking a hiatus from golf. My half-marathon is in 47 days, and it’s been almost impossible to practice for this tournament while training for the half. I’m worn out. Matter of fact, the 83 shots I took yesterday made me more tired than the 8 miles I ran yesterday evening. Running is so simple. Golf is so complicated.

The blog will continue. But my game will not—at least for a couple of months. Who needs an 83 anyway?

I’ve always loved the practice green.

To me, there’s just something peaceful about it, something you don’t find on the driving range—crammed in between two dozen guys wacking oversized drivers.

practice green

(Image: Robert Bruce's iPhone)

The practice green is quiet. Most decent courses have larger greens, so I can find a corner, throw down a few balls, and practice five-foot putts for hours—literally. The “tink” of the ball off my Ping Anser puts me in some kind of Ben Crenshaw-induced trance.

In college, I worked as a cart guy at the same course at which I was a member. On Mondays, when the course was closed, I could still play because I was also an employee. I spent many a Monday evening in the summer lining up a perfect five-foot circle of balls around a golf hole.

On more than a few occasions, the superintendent scolded me for leaving deep footprints on the green. Yeah, when you practice the same five-foot-putt for two hours, that tends to happen.

Yesterday, I spent an hour on the green, practicing everything from two-footers to thirty-footers. There is nothing more definite and satisfying in golf than watching that small white ball disappear into black nothingness. Or something like that.

If you’ve just started playing golf, don’t let anyone fool you. Your short game is vital to your success on the course. Thirty to fifty percent of your shots will come from putting—even more when you include chipping.

Too many golfers fall in love with the driver, try to bomb everything, and spend zero time on the practice green. A five-foot putt counts just as much as a 300-yard drive—and, don’t fool yourself, you aren’t hitting 300 yard drives anyway (perhaps some foreshadowing to a future pet peeve?).

Spend some time on the practice green, and you’ll be amazed at how many shots you can save on the course. Since few golfers practice putting, you’ll find the practice green to be a peaceful, solitary place.

If Thoreau was a golfer, he would’ve been a great putter.

murfreesboro halfThe last three months have been an unusual balancing act for me. I’m a one-hobby kind of guy. So if I’m into golf, then I’m into golf. I have a full-time job. I’m married. I don’t have much time for anything else.

But, in May, I picked up a new hobby: running. And I’m not talking about a mile on the treadmill here, a mile on the elliptical there. I’m actually on a training schedule, preparing to run my first half-marathon (13.1 miles) on October 3. Five days a week, I’m doing something—either running in my neighborhood, running at the YMCA, or cross-training.

It’s been tough to fit golf into my schedule lately. This sucks. Problem is, I’m signed up for the “club championship” at my local golf course next weekend. I take any non-scramble golf tournament seriously. I want to do well. But it’s been amazingly difficult to train for a half-marathon while practicing on my golf game.

Basically, I’m playing and/or hitting range balls once a week. A typical day with running and golf looks like this: I go into work at 7, leave at 4, go straight to the YMCA, run 3-4 miles on the treadmill, go straight to the golf course, hit a bag of balls, and play nine holes if time permits. I get home around 9 p.m. on these days.

My long endurance runs are on Saturdays. So, next weekend, I’ll play 18 holes in the tournament on Saturday morning, return on home to see my wife and rest a bit, and then make an 8 mile run on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, I’ll likely awake with tired legs to play 18 again.

After this tournament next weekend, golf may take a backseat for a couple of months while my running schedule intensifies even more. I’ll still update the blog, of course. But, as the daylight shortens here in Nashville, it’s going to become even more difficult to practice on my game and train for the half.

I love golf. I always will. But I think I’ve found a new friend in running. I’m 33 with a family history of heart issues—so I’m going to take a wild guess and say that running is probably better for my physical well-being than golf. And, to my surprise, it’s quite addicting—not as addicting as golf, I’ll admit, but addicting nonetheless.

So with a tournament next week and a 13.1 mile run in about eight weeks, I’m about to find out how well I can pull off these two athletic endeavors. I’ll take a pair of 76s and 2:15 half-marathon time.

I’ll keep you posted.

One of the highlights of our annual vacation to Amelia Island last week was my golf lesson with Anne Cain.

golf magAs one of Golf Magazine‘s Top 100 Teachers, Cain’s tips and instruction are often featured in the monthly magazine. She teaches at the Golf Club of Amelia Island. Besides that, she played at the University of Georgia–which, if you’ve read much of this blog, you’ll know that makes her automatically cool in my book.

Her setup is quite technologically advanced and includes a small building with tons of video equipment, a golf tee that automatically tees up your ball, “hot lines” which make the tee drop into the ground when your swing gets off plane, and a lot of other cool stuff.

She is also miked up, which allows her to record the entire lesson. I took home a DVD of the lesson so I can watch the entire hour any time.

Cain uses Sam Snead’s teaching philosophy. Snead taught that ball position should be the same for every club—off the left heel. The stance should narrow with each club. So your stance with a driver will be much wider than your stance with a wedge, but the ball position will be the same for each. Jack Nicklaus used this technique as well.

My main takeaways from the lesson: 1) My setup was off. My stance was too wide, the ball was too far back, and my head wasn’t far enough behind the ball. 2) My backswing was starting inside the proper plane and was too long, which caused my downswing to be—you guessed it—over the plane.

 My downswing is way too steep actually—a problem that I hope to fix with Cain during my as-yet-unscheduled next lesson with her.

As I mentioned before, when your swing goes too far inside or outside, Anne has her equipment rigged so that the tee actually drops under the ground. It’s immediate feedback which helps you learn the proper “feel” quickly.

Anyway, I would highly recommend a visit to Anne Cain if you’re in north Florida or south Georgia. I haven’t watched my swing on video since my college golf days, so my experience was quite eye-opening.

Since the lesson, I’ve been bombing my driver but struggling with my wedges and irons. Funny how golf is: my best round in Florida–76–took place before the lesson. Afterwards, I shot 77 and 82. But my swing feels much more sound and compact–and the best part is that I now understand what I need to fix.

If I can figure out a way to get a DVD onto some type of usable online video, I’ll post parts of the lesson that include my swing. My technical skills are limited, so that may be doubtful.

par 3

The tightest 95-yard par 3 in the history of golf. (Image: Robert Bruce's iPhone)

Ever since I returned to golf last year, my wedge game has sucked.

In my past life, I was fairly decent from one hundred yards in, and even better around the greens. The 60 degree wedge was once my favorite club.

But things are different these days.

I headed out to a nearby par three course to work on my hundred yard shot. The nine hole course is a bit more than a pitch and putt, with holes ranging from 80 yards to about 175 yards.

The brief nine holes, which took a little over an hour to complete, was actually quite beneficial. I played two balls and practiced on a lot of shots that have been giving me trouble lately: longer pitches, flop shots, even one-hundred yard straight-away shots.

The highlight of the round was the tightest 95-yard par three you have ever seen (see photo). After placing my first ball about 30 feet right of the hole, I played a knockdown 56 degree wedge—under the trees and over the bunker—and managed to cozy the ball up to about three feet. But second shots are always better.

Anyway, I’ve always stayed away from par three courses for some reason. But yesterday helped me see that a day at the ole’ par three is actually not a bad idea, especially if you are struggling with your short game.

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