Golf & The Art of Business

The beginnings of a book by David Gilroy

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My day out at the William Hunt Trilby Tour at Trevose

Yesterday was my second time playing on the William Hunt Trilby Tour at Trevose and I have to say, it was just as much fun as last year.

As a reasonable 8 handicap player, it’s about as close to what I imagine a proper Tour event might be like. Look, they even have a great big scoreboard!

William Hunt Trilby Tour scoreboard at Trevose

William Hunt Trilby Tour scoreboard at Trevose

I chose to stay over the night before and travelled down with my Caddie in the late afternoon. The closer we got to Trevose the better the weather became and by the time we pulled up in the car park we were in bright sunshine. This did not bode well for the next day unless you believe the “red sky at night” theory. That said, the forecast wasn’t “that” bad for Thursday, cloudy all day with some chance of rain.

So, we jumped out of the car, I changed into my “Trilby gear”….yes, I brought my own hat and jumped onto the first tee. A few limbering up swings with a 6 iron, down with the tee, ball on top, out with the driver, into my pre-shot routine and bang. Surprisingly the ball went straight down the middle, a hint of draw (helped by the right to left breeze, well barely a breeze) and we were away. If only I could feel that relaxed when my 8am tee time arrived the next day.That reminds me, what the hell did I do wrong to get given an 8am tee time William?

We played the 1st, 2nd & 3rd, drove off the 4th and then played back in on the 7th, 8th & 9th. Last year I played a whole practice round by myself (Caddie came down the next morning) and had a ‘mare and it really affected me in my real round. Top tip, never play a full practice round, most Pros don’t. The only exception I guess would be if you’d never played a full round on the course you were playing.

The first challenge that evening was where to eat. I forgot to book a table in the clubhouse restaurant so it was down the road to The Cornish Arms part of the Rick Stein empire in and around Padstow. Excellent food and a couple of small glasses of wine as a “loosener”.

The next challenge was setting an alarm. My phone battery had died, no alarm clock provided in the Trevose Flat we were staying in. So it was my Caddie’s phone and one on my computer as backup.

6am came round pretty soon and ten minutes later I leapt out of bed, straight in to the shower to start to warm up my 49 year old bones. Got dressed in my Trilby Tour gear and it was off to breakfast.

A 20min warmup with some chipping and then it was off to the 1st tee to check in with the Starter. Whoa betide anyone who did not check in with the Starter ahead of time. We were only the fourth group off and one of our three did not show and so was summarily DQ’d at 7:50. I suspect he just did not make it to Cornwall….what a waste of £250!!

The Trilby Tour does a pretty mean 1st tee I can tell you. Loads of banners in a u-shape behind and to the sides. A Sky Sports cameraman off to the right, the Starter up in an umpire’s chair and at least 20 or 30 people all around the tee, even at 8am in the morning.

Down with my tee, ball on top, you heard it earlier. Way more nerves than yesterday, but I remembered to “stay back on my right side” (something my teacher @PaulMitchGolf and I have been working on), keep my head down and swing hard. Straight down the middle to a rewarding ripple of applause.

Oh, I forget to mention earlier that my Caddies was my teacher, Paul Mitchell from Bristol & Clifton Golf Club. If you are in the Bristol area and want an excellent, excellent teacher, Paul is your man. I’ve been with him for the whole six years I’ve been playing golf and learn something EVERY time I go and see him.

I won’t bore you with a description of every hole! A quick summary. 19 points on the front nine. Bogeyed the 3rd, birdie on the 4th and a double on the 7th. Two over. 26 points after after 12 holes and even without doing my own scorecard I was doing well. But that was it for good scoring. I scored all the way in, but bogeyed all six closing holes from 13 to 18 resulting in a disappointing 33 points. It could have been so much better. But, having Paul by my side was great and the diagnosis on the way home was very useful.

Here’s my scorecard, done using http://golfshot.com

My scorecard

As we were the fourth group, for some while over lunchtime I even featured on the scoreboard. However as soon as their were two scores in at 37 and a 35 I realised that the top four was never going to happen and a top ten would be unlikely. So, it was into the car and off home we went. Roll on 2013 and well done to William and his whole team for another great event.

 

My club yardages

I had an hour & a half with my teacher, Paul Mitchell from Bristol & Clifton, this morning.  Here’s the result of trying to hit him with close to 100 balls!

Club/Shot Distance Club/Shot Distance
52 grip down 36 yds 7 146-153 yds
58 grip down 30 yds 6 155-160 yds
52 3/4 66-70 yds 5 165-172 yds
58 3/4 50-55 yds 4 174-181 yds
58 full 76-80 yds 4r 190-195 yds
52 full 90-95 yds 3r 195-205 yds
Pw 118-122 yds 3w 200-210 yds
9 129-133 yds Driver 225-235 yds
8 138-146 yds

What we found was a big gap between my 5 iron and my 4 rescue.  But we found my 3 rescue and 5 wood were very close.  So I took the 5 wood out of my bag and put my original 4 iron back in.  We’ll see if that helps to close the gap tomorrow when I play.

The Club at Seven Canyons

What a FABULOUS golf course.  From the minute you leave Sedona, drive north on Dry Creek Road (off US89A) and pass though the gated security checkpoint you have an inkling this The Club at Seven Canyons is going to be something a bit special.

The course is set in the Coconino National Forest, a beautiful area. It’s set within the confines of a residential complex with beautiful homes close to many of the holes but not so it felt like you were playing in the middle of a housing estate.

MrsG and I pulled into the car park and what I now call “cart boy” pulled up within a few seconds.  The clubs were whisked onto the cart, cleansed with a damp towel and a few dollars changed hands (see my post on comments on playing golf in the US).

We then had to drive to the pro-shop/practice ground/restaurant area.  And it was a bit of a drive, a good 3-4 minutes.  Doesn’t sound long, but just picture it in your head.  Just stop what you are doing, imagine you’re in an electric golf cart and driving along a road for 3-4 minutes, you can get quite a long way.  However there was a good reason for this, which became clear later.

We checked in, we tried to “shop” but failed and we hit some balls.  You know how sometimes you stand on the range before a game of golf and just cannot seem to connect with the ball, it was one of those days.  Bearing in mind I had already decided to play off the Champion Tees, which measured 6,509 yards, I was not in good spirits as we drove to the first tee (back the way we’d come for another 3-4 minutes.

A clean drive down the left hand side, a 9 iron to the green and two putts later and I walked off with an opening birdie.

I won’t bore you with descriptions of all 75 shots in the round, but at 5 over with three 3 putts on the back nine was my best round of the trip so far.

At 4,000ft above sea level one of the hardest things for me, even having played at the Sedona Golf Resort a couple of days before, was the club selection.  Drives were going 300 yards, my pitching wedge was carrying over 130 yards, it felt like it was a bit of a lottery.

The course was a fabulous layout doing real justice to the landscape and was sympathetic of the needs to “fitting in” the course as well as the requirements of the commercial development.  Much as I prefer to walk” a course, a cart was a must around here, not only to get to the pro-shop/range, but there were a few very long green-to-tee stretches and more than one challenging hill.  Bearing in mind the temperature was well into the 80s riding was the order of the day.

The name Seven Canyons is derived from the way the course winds through various canyons/valleys and this is what the range is so far away, it would have been a complete waste of some gorgeous terrain to put in a range where you could have put a golf hole.

There were two highlights to my round.  The first was driving the ball 300yds onto the fringe of the green of the 305 yard par 4 12th.  The hole is a slight dogleg left and we could not see the flag…or the foursome who were still on the green.  This could have gone either way but as it was I got a very nice wave of appreciation from the group in front rather than any angst!

The second was the drive off the par 5 15th hole, the 4 rescue to 6ft above the flag and the resulting downhill putt for an eagle three.  Shame it was sandwiched between two three putt bogeys!!

I had never considered golfing in northern Arizona but when I saw Seven Canyons mentioned on a golfing website am very glad that we changed our plans and drove there from Palm Springs before heading to Las Vegas.

Seems like Phoenix & Scottsdale get all the attention when it comes to golf in Arizona, but don’t forget this beautiful course if you have the need/appetite to go looking for golf in northern Arizona.

Playing at Sedona Golf Resort (Arizona)

Our US golfing odyssey continues. We’re staying in Sedona now for a few days before moving on to Las Vegas.

Today we played at The Sedona Golf Resort which is part of the same complex at the Hilton Sedona Resort hotel in which we are staying.  It’s been nice to be able to practice every day as they have good facilities here.

The course? Well, it’s fabulous. Situated at 3,600 ft and rising to 4,200ft altitude made club selections somewhat interesting, MrsG in particular found the par 3s difficult as they are VERY short (e.g. 95 yards & 111 yards on two of them) and she kept over-clubbing!

Off the blue tees the course is par 71 and measures 6,646 (Rating/Slope 70.6/128) but with the altitude doesn’t play anything like that long. I shot a 7 over which I was pretty happy with although the two double bogeys were not good, but were offset by two birdies.

David & MrsG on the 10th tee at Sedona Golf Resort, AZ, USA.

David & MrsG on the 10th tee at Sedona Golf Resort, AZ, USA.

Here’s a photo from the course taken on the 10th tee. The 10th is a 210 yard par three. A good tee shot with my 23 degree 4R and a 20ft putt later I was walking off with my second birdie of the day.

In the background you can see the “red rock” which is prevalent in this part of Arizona and provided such a stunning backdrop to the golf course.  Almost all the residential homes around the course were single storey so they did nothing to spoil the view.

Playing in the USA. Rating/Slope system

USGA logo

One of the interesting things about playing golf in the USA is the Rating & Slope system run by the USGA (http://www.usga.org). The basic aim seems to be to even out a players handicap based on the relative ease of their home course compared to other courses.

Take the table below for the first five courses I’ve played in the last week.

Course Course Length Rating/Slope Course Hcp Score
Presidio 6,414 72.3/136 9 +10
Crystal Springs 6,212 70.3/125 9 +11
Blackhorse 6,533 71.4/136 9 +11
Poppy Hills 6,559 73.0/141 10 +19
Indian Canyons North 6,482 70/5/123 8 +6

Bearing in mind my exact handicap at my home course (http://www.henburygolfclub.co.uk) is 7.7 this shows how that would vary if it was a USGA handicap. Now, of course, my home course does not have a Rating or Slope so it’s not a true comparison, but the interesting thing is the relative differences between just these five courses.

Look at my scores. Poppy Hills by far and away the worst. I had at least one double bogey on every course and a treble on at least two of them, so in terms of my “game” it was all pretty consistent. The obvious exception is Indian Canyons. This course was “flat”, so if this qualifies for a 123 I’d hate to see how flat a 55 slope is (the range is 55 to 155).

So, my question. How would this system work in the UK in terms of levelling out handicaps even more. For example, a couple of my friends play almost all their golf at Burnham & Berrow (http://www.burnhamandberrowgolfclub.co.uk/) a fabulous links course in the South West. Their low teens handicaps would clearly be lower at other, easier courses.

For more information on Rating/Slope calculations see the USGA website.

Today’s round at Poppy Hills GC (Pebble Beach, CA)

How difficult is Poppy Hills (http://www.poppyhillsgolf.com)? Well, my 19 over gross should give you some idea. Everyone told me that Blackhorse (http://www.bayonetblackhorse.com) was going to be the toughest course in the Monterey area, but boy were they wrong.

The problem was not so much getting the ball on the fairway off the tee, that was OK today, the problem was then getting it on the green and then in the hole.

My short game got me out of trouble a couple of times but most of the time I was getting my club selection wrong on my shot into the green and missing the green most of the time. Then I really struggled to get the ball close to the hole with my short game and struggled with my putting.

If you get the chance to play golf on the Monterey Peninsula then I’d highly recommend Poppy Hills to REALLY test your golf game.

However, at $200 a round as a out-of-state/country visitor, it’s a bit pricey. I was lucky to play there with a friend who is an NCGA (http://www.ncga.org) member so I got on for $100.

Just so you know it was not just me though, Mrs G shot 27 over gross which is about as bad as my score bearing in mind the difference in distance off the ladies tees.

Golf at Cumberwell Park

Cumberwell Park GC clubhouseI had a great day out at Cumberwell Park today, it’s the first time I’ve been there and have to say that the course was in GREAT nick.  Bearing in mind the previous Sunday it had been shut as it was covered in snow, the ground staff have done a great job in getting back in shape for play.

Sure, it was a bit wet in places, but apart from links courses, isn’t everywhere at this time of year.

I played with a friend of mine in a Poplars Society Day that he is a member of.  The day didn’t start well with me driving out-of-bounds from the first tee, but things got better from there.  Well apart from the Stroke 1, Par 4 8th hole, where again my driving let me down and I drove into a red-staked hazard.  A drop, a good 3 rescue and excellent chip & putt, meant a 6 for one point to keep my score going.

The highlight was driving the green on the downhill 285 yard Par 4 10th hole.  I thought it was in the bunked which short & right so it was a nice surprise to find it 12 feet from the hole.  A single putt later I was walking off with an eagle & 4 points to start the back nine!!

The rest of the back nine went pretty well and I came in with 38 points, with two 2s on the card.  The problem was, as I was a guest of the Society I was not allowed to “win the day” so I had to make do with 2 x £5 for each of my 2s.

All in all a good day out.

Golf Monthly “Play Your Best Challenge”

Golf Monthly/PING Play Your Best Challenge logoI’ve just entered the Golf Monthly “Play Your Best Challenge” sponsored by Ping.  Looks like a really good competition. The two have joined forces to launch the competition with the aim of helping four golfers break through their personal scoring barriers this year.

I’ve entered the “Break 70″ category.  In the second round of our Club Championships last year I shot a 75 but that is my best competitive score ever.  I’ve played a couple of shots better than that in casual rounds, but those don’t count for this competition.

I’m even prepared to forgo a game of golf I already have in my diary on the 22-May in the Wessex Amateur Golf Tour if I get selected.

There are more details on the Golf Monthly website.

Saunton West round today

I’ve been fed up with practicing in the freezing cold these last couple of weeks here in the UK and the courses all being frozen that today I went with a friend to Saunton (he’s a member there as well as our place) and we played the West Course (course plan below).

Although it was a bit mizzly when we arrived, by the time a bacon roll and cup of tea had been consumed it had stopped. It stayed fairly grey for the whole morning with a tiny bit of watery sunshine and not that cold.  Best of all it was dead calm, and I mean DEAD calm.

Saunton GC West Course plan

We teed off just before 9am and it was a full hour before we caught up the four ball in front of us, who kindly let us through immediately.  Then we practically never saw anyone else, and never caught anyone up.

My round?

  • Score = 78 (+7) – my handicap is 8
  • Driving = Average – only one wild miss
  • Irons = Pretty good
  • Short Game = average – couple of poor chips
  • Putting = brilliant – 29 putts with some fantastic six foot plus par saves

The most disappointing bit was two double bogeys on par 3s.  I won’t bore you with the details, they were just rubbish holes.  It could easily have been 5, 4 or even 3 over round….next time!

A golf poem

If this is yours, or you know who’s it is, please let me know as I’d like to give you credit for it.

A Golf Poem

In my hand I hold a ball,
White and dimpled, and rather small.
Oh, how bland it does appear,
This harmless looking little sphere.

By its size I could not guess
The awesome strength it does possess.
But since I fell beneath its spell,
I’ve wandered through the fires of hell.

My life has not been quite the same
Since I chose to play this stupid game.
It rules my mind for hours on end;
A fortune it has made me spend.

It has made me curse and made me cry,
And hate myself and want to die.
It promises me a thing called par,
If I hit it straight and far.

To master such a tiny ball,
Should not be very hard at all.
But my desires the ball refuses,
And does exactly as it chooses.

It hooks and slices, dribbles and dies,
And disappears before my eyes.
Often it will have a whim,
To hit a tree or take a swim.

With miles of grass on which to land,
It finds a tiny patch of sand.
Then has me offering up my soul,
If only it would find the hole.

It’s made me whimper like a pup,
And swear that I will give it up.
And take to drink to ease my sorrow,
But the ball knows … I’ll be back tomorrow.

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