Golf in the Catskills

There is nothing better than meeting friends for a long weekend of golf. As I drove up Route 23 west, to meet my friends in the Catskills, it was raining and I wondered what the weather would hold for us over the next three days. Later that night a beautiful rainbow illuminated the mountain.

Rainbow in Windham NYI saw the rainbow as a good sign because the first course we were playing was the Rainbow Golf Club in Greenville, New York. The other courses we played were Colonial Country Club in Tannerville, New York and Windham Country Club in Windham New York.  One thing is for sure, the golf courses in the Catskills provide beautiful views of the spectacular mountain landscape.

My friends, who are great planners, emailed me a list of golf courses before our trip. I was the one that suggested we play the Rainbow Golf Club because the website had a photo of a beautiful island green. Well, it did have an island green but it certainly was not like the 17th at TPC Sawgrass. The Rainbow Club island green looked beautiful on the website but in reality the water surrounding the hole was cloudy and full of algae (or some green vegetation). Even though the hole was visually disappointing it was still an island green. I am happy to report we all made it over the water. Overall, the Rainbow course was fun and very reasonable in price ($35 w/cart). However, if I rank the courses we played, for me, I would put Rainbow in third place.

Colonial was a 9-hole course. As my friend described it, the course had “lots of moguls” (which seems fitting given the Catskills is famous for ski resorts.) My favorite hole was the 6th, par 3, 134 yards.  It was just a fun hole because it was an elevated tee (and I love elevated tees). We played the hole around six p.m. so it was very beautiful in the gloaming. I would rank Colonial second because of the beautiful views. I really didn’t mind the uneven lies in the fairway (probably because I wasn’t playing that well anyway so I wasn’t concerned about my score.)

6th Hole, Par 3, Colonial

6th Hole, Par 3, Colonial

The Windham Golf Club was the final course of the weekend. The course was a short drive from the Albergo Allegria Bed and Breakfast were we stayed for the weekend. If you go to the Catskills, I highly recommend you stay in Windham.

It was a beautiful day for golf and it was very exciting when we were told the owner of the course recently spend 2 million on improvements. It was a great course for women because if you were striking the ball well you could reach the greens in regulation. That is not always true with a lot of modern courses which can be very long for women. There was only one hole that was strangely long. The 8th hole was a 163 yard par 3 and given that the average women hits her driver in the air 150 yards, it seemed unfair to most women.

The big negative for the Windham was that the course had no signs. Yes, no signs. A well marked course is important to the enjoyment of the game from many reasons, including keeping players moving along because they know where to go and what yardage to play.  And with a course, like Windham, that is in a tourist town it seemed very odd for the course not to have signs. The young man in the Pro shop said the signs were coming but a groundsmen on a tractor told us the “owner doesn’t like the look of signs so he doubts there will ever be signs installed.” We managed to get around fairly well. Also, I guess we were just lucky that various grounds crew were working near by when we had a question on a hole location. The course was in great condition but they really do need to add signs to the holes.

My biggest pet peeve is slow play. My friends and I may be women but we play fast.  At the Windham course we were to tee off before a foursome of men but the scorecards they gave us did not have ladies yardage so one of my friends had to go back to the pro shop (it was the first time I have ever seen a separate scorecard for women).

To make a long story short the men went off the first tee while my friend got scorecards.  We did not mind because they said they played the course all the time. We thought “great, we can follow them since the course has no signs.” By the third hole were we so frustrated because the group in front was painfully slow. We were hitting to within 100 yards of the green and just watching them.  By the fourth hole they asked if we want to play through because “we were only three players.” We gratefully accepted. I am so glad we played through. By the 12th hole, they were two holes behind us. We were enjoying our lunch in the pub room when we saw the group behind us on the 18th green (40 minutes after we finished our round.)  The folks behind them must have been going crazy. If we were behind them the whole time, I might have actually stopped playing and asked for my money back at the pro shop. Here are my questions. Where was the ranger? Why were they allowed to fall so far behind our group? Yes, we played fast but still the group should have not fallen so far behind us. They were certainly playing much longer than what is acceptable for each hole. Anyway, I am thankful we played fast and enjoyed the final round of our golf weekend.

The courses we played would not be considered high-end. All were priced reasonably.  The only time I felt the price of something was too high was Mulligan’s Pub at the Windham country club. A burger was $12 (other burgers were $14 and some entrees went as high as $23.99) and they did not provide free refills on soda or ice tea. My guess, the owner has to recoup the $2 million in improvements somewhere. The food was good but skip the pub and go in town for lunch.

Even with “no signs” and an expensive food, I would rank the Windham course as the top course we played. It gets the top spot because of the fairness of the course for women, the great condition of the course, and the beautiful mountain views. However, if I had been behind the slow group for 18 holes, it might have been the down fall of the course. I hope they add signs and rangers to make sure pace of play does not impact the experience of golfers visiting Windham Country Club.

Perhaps there were other courses in the area that might be more high-end but high-end does not equate to fun. Playing with your best friends on a beautiful day on a course that is challenging but fair is what makes golf fun!

Next stop, North Carolina. Come back to my blog at the end of June to find out where I played!

La Cantera Glof Club, Resort Course – Long for the Ladies

San Antonio, Texas in April. I thought, how lucky can I be to get to go on a business trip (with golf) in April. I packed my bags and left behind the long cold winter of 2014 on the east coast. When I landed in San Antonio, Texas it was in the 50’s — what? The weather channel said mid-70’s to 80’s was normal. I was confident the next day would be better.  Boy, I was wrong. Cold and rainy for the first day of golf on the Palmer Course.

View of Palmer Course Club House from the 1st Hole Tee box.

View of Palmer Course club house and 18th hole from the 1st hole tee box

The starter said the Palmer Course was a hard course but my playing partners and I all felt it wasn’t bad considering it was rainy and cold. We played better than anticipated given it was the first round of the season. At the end of the day, we didn’t have a drink at the 19th hole to talk about how much fun we had during our round of golf. Nope. All anyone wanted to do was go back to their own hotel room and take a hot shower to try and warm their bones.

A few days later it was a bit warmer and The Resort Course, at La Cantera was the site of a 2-person scramble. By now I had a “wicked bad” (for all my New England friends) cold with a fever and sore throat. The morning was still cold by was sunny; and everyone said it would warm-up.

Again, the starter said The Resort Course was a hard course. The PGA Tour played the Texas Open on the Resort Course from 1995 to 2009. At the turn, there are stones engraved with winner’s names from the tournament.

At the Turn, there are a number of large rocks with the winners from the Texas Open

At the turn, Texas Open winner’s name on every large rock – Justin Leonard from 2000

All the women that I played with felt the course was very long for us (even from the forward tees) but it was also a very windy day and a lot of times we were hitting into the wind. I am not the longest hitter off the tee but my second shots and short game fit nicely with my partner, who did hit it long of the tee.

I love the internet today because you can see a whole course, hole by hole. The Resort Course has a good 360 view. There are two holes that I had memorable shots on — Number 5 and number 12. Hole 5 is a 432 Par 5 with a dogleg to the right for the approach shot (or over the trees to the green). My partner said she did not have “the shot in her bag to go over the trees” but I felt I could do it. My pro had shown me how to do that shot last summer. Well, I am proud to say I did it! I grabbed my 4 hybrid, put the ball slightly forward in my stance, a slight forward press in my hands and my swing thought was to swing down on the ball. I watched my ball sail over the trees. When we got to the green (130 yards away) there was my ball. All golfers know it takes just one great shot during a so/so or bad round that makes a golfer want to keep playing. That was the shot of the day for me. I was so excited I forgot to take a photo!

The other fun shot was on the 12th hole, a par 288 yard par 4. The approach shot onto the green is over a hazard. I think the course designer wanted a visual that would intimidate golfers (you know, get in your head — “ugh, I have to carry that stuff?”) Below is the view of the shot I had to make it onto the green. The flag is hard to see but sits just to the right of the trees in front of the bunker on the left.

La Cantera Resort Course, Hole 12,

La Cantera Resort Course, Hole 12, Par 4 – Approach Shot

All my playing partners missed the green (short and in the junk). It really surprised me because they all had great shots until this approach shot. I hit my ball onto the green and was very happy. My partner said that I was “smart” because I went for the shorter distance over the junk by going for the middle-right side of the green. They all went for the flag. Another shot that made me feel good about my game. That’s the trick, think only about your good shots.

We had a fun time and to my surprise my team came in 2nd place in the 2-person scramble, high handicap flight. Did I forget to mention I am a high handicap. It is hard to be a low handicap when you can’t drive the hole in regulation (but I am working on my length.) I learned something about my game in that scramble. I may be a high handicap but I am a great scramble partner because I have a good short game and sometimes hit great approach shots.

The bottom line — La Canter Resort is beautiful, the courses are hard but not so hard that you shouldn’t give them a try if you are in San Antonio.  The yardage on the scorecard is deceiving because the front tees seem to be reasonable.  But what makes it long for ladies is the wind and some of the carries. My only advice – just don’t get my luck and have the weather be cold and rainy because you might come away with another experience — a “wicked bad” cold.

 

Caddie Books – Two Good Reads

This year I had the pleasure of playing a few private courses and had a caddie on my bag.  I was nervous at first but after a few holes it was fun.  Yes, it was nice to have someone else provide valuable information, like when to layup or go for the hole.  It was a treat to have someone rake the bunker and all the other small things they do to make your round enjoyable. What really added to the “fun” was the personalities and story telling of the caddies.  And that made me want to know more about caddies.

I have read two books and both are worth reading if you are an avid golf fan.  The books are very different. The first book is “An American Caddie in St. Andrews” by Oliver Horovitz. The second book is “Loppers: A Caddie’s Twenty-Year Golf Odyssey” by John Dunn.

If I had to recommend just one book, I would tell you to read “Loopers: A Caddie’s Twenty-Year Golf Odysey” because it takes you on a journey to so many famous courses: Augusta, Bandon Dunes, Shinnecock, and St. Andrews.  I really enjoyed the variety of courses and Dunn’s description of the caddie’s life at each place he worked.  Also, Dunn is living a nomads life and there is a underlying struggle he has with the idea that he should get a “real job” and the struggle with his father’s view of his job.  As a woman, I was also surprised by some of the behavior of the caddies. The term “frat boys” is what comes to mind with some of the stories Dunn shares about his life with other caddies.  The book is great at balancing the romantic view we all of have of the caddie life with the realities of being a caddie, and the personality you must have to live the life travailing from course to course.

The book by Oliver Horovitz is also a great read but as the front cover of the book reveals the story is about a young man “Growing Up, Girls, and Looping on the Old Course.”  The best part of the book is the “secrets” revealed about the caddies of St. Andrews. The book takes place in two places —  at Harvard (where Horovitz is a student) and St. Andrews. The chapters at St. Andrews are what I enjoyed most (no surprise, I’m sure). Horovitz also shares his personal story including the time he shares with his Uncle Ken, who lives in the town of St. Andrews. It was a very lovely back story, but I was reading the book to get a peek at the job of a St. Andrews caddie and the old course.  I must admit one of my favorite chapters was about Horovitz caddying for Lydia Hall in a qualifying round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

Both books reveal that there is a pecking order in the caddie shack and it takes a lot of hard work to gain the respect of fellow Loopers.  However, the big difference between the books is that Oliver Horovitz is a student at Harvard and not living the “vagabond” life John Dunn experienced as a caddie. In some ways, Horovitz appears to be living the life of a privilege student just caddying for his summer job.  However, Horovitz, like Dunn, earns the respect of the seasoned caddies (no small feat at St. Andrews) and takes the job seriously.  Horovitz also has a wonderful understanding of the “once in a lifetime experience” playing St. Andrews is for most golfers and wants to make the round the best it can be for the golfer.

Both men have a passion for the sport we all love and reveal that if you are lucky you get to combine your passion with your job. Read both books and you will be exposed to very different roads taken in a very unique career.

The Spirit International – Watch if You Love Amateur Golf

The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship has been around since 2001 but many people that love golf don’t know about it.  The video below is a nice overview of the championship.

I learned about it because I follow Paige MacKenzie on Twitter and Paige is the captain of the 2013 United States team. Paige is also a former Spirit International competitor.  I watched the last hour of coverage on Thursday and Friday online and really enjoyed it. I wish I could have seen more but it is impossible to watch this type of event during a work week.  You can watch it Saturday (November 2, 2013)  via the live webcast at the Spirit International Website.

There are only four players for each country (20 Countries represented by 2 men and 2 women).  It may be a small field but the golfers are some of the best young players in the world and it is a nice preview of what we can expect to see in the coming years on the professional tours.  Past Spirit International competitors include US stars like Brandt Snedeker and Paula Creamer; as well as international stars such as Jason Day, Charl Schwatzel, Lorena Ochoa, and Ya-Ni Tseng. As they say, the list goes on and on.

The format is interesting because they have multiple competitions which include:

  • International Team- combined best ball of the men’s team and women’s team.
  • Men’s Team- Best ball of two players (four ball stroke play)
  • Women’s Team- Best ball of two players (four ball stroke play)
  • Men’s Individual- Most holes under par.
  • Women’s Individual- Most holes under par.

So you can cheer for your favorite country, men’s team, women’s team, and individuals.  I want the United States and Canada to do well because I have lived in the United States most of my life and feel an allegiance to the US; but I was born in Canada and I have a soft spot for athletes from Canada.  I hope that Brooke Henderson (a young Canadian golfer whose career I follow) does well. I am happy to report that as of the end of the second round Brooke is in first place for the Women’s Individual competition.

The United States is leading the overall competition. Check out the Leaderboard to see the other country standings. And if you can’t watch the live webcast then the next best thing is following the championship updates on twitter @thespiritgolf.

UPDATE (November 3 2013) – USA wins overall and Brooke Henderson wins Women’s Championship.  See all results at the Spirit Website.

“Lydia Ko goes Pro” video gets four stars

It has been many months since my last post because I have had a lot of life changes in the past nine months (no, I did not have a child).  I have moved to a new state for a dream job! As we all know with a new job and a big move other things fall to the wayside.  But now I am more settled in my job and new home; and of course fall is here (so less daylight hours to play golf), which makes it a logical time to focus on my blog.

I wanted to start with something light and fun!  And Lydia Ko’s announcement that she is turning pro is just the ticket!  I read that she decided to release a video rather than do a press conference and sure enough she tweeted out to her followers the link to the video on October 22.  Here is the video for your enjoyment:

I give the video four stars because it is entertaining (Lydia speed golfing) and shows her personality (e.g., she laughs a lot); and it certainly beats a boring press conference video.

I have said in a previous post that I am not a fan of the younger and younger players we see in professional events.  And that a player like Michele Wie is a cautionary tale because she is only 23 and struggles to find her game.  But, Lydia Ko seems to be a very poised and talented young women.  Ko has won a number of professional tournaments and made history winning the CN Canadian Women’s Open in 2012 and 2013. As the press has pointed out, Ko has left over $1 Million in money on the table as an amateur.

Now we just have to wait for the LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan, to approve her request to waive the rule requiring LPGA professionals to be at least 18 years old.  The waiver is a  “fiat accompli” given the popularity of Ko, the fact she has already won multiple professional events as an amateur, and Whan waived the age requirement for Lexi Thompson after she won an LPGA event.

As a professional, Ko will face a new kind of scrutiny because everyone will be watching to see if she falters under the “pressure” of being a pro. Time and time again a young amateur golfer is hailed as the next “Tiger or Annika” and seems to lose their talent (or maybe free spirit) as a professional.  Only time will tell if Ko is able win as much as a professional as she did as an amateur.

Hopefully, she will have a smooth transition from the “darling of the amateur ranks” to a regular pro on tour. Bottom line, I know I will be watching to see how she plays in her first tournament as a professional.

How to train for a marathon and get in a round of golf

Do you have friends that tell you the game you love is not a sport?  Are the naysayers in your life by any chance, runners?  You do your best to argue with the runners in your life.  You state the facts — walking 18 holes of golf is the equivalent of walking ten miles. You need a strong abdominal core, great eye-hand coordination and flexibility to play golf. The runner in your life just smiles, says golf is boring, and goes for a 10-mile run.  Well, now you can tell all the runners in your life about the golf game made for them —  Speed Golf.

CBS televised the inaugural Speed Golf World Championship from Bandon Dunes.  It was fascinating and exhausting to watch.  First, a 22-year-old won the competition, which was not a big surprise because of the energy a young person has to draw on in a sport that requires you to run between every shot on the golf course.  But what did surprise me is that the man who came in second, Tim Scott (a founder of Speed Golf International) is in his fifties and was diagnosed with eye cancer in 2012.  And, even more impressive (to me) was a woman, Gretchen Johnson, came in eighth place.  I was not surprised she participated because she is a runner and works at Nike, but what was surprising was that the only woman placed eighth in an elite field of fifteen professional male speed golfers.

Screenshot of Results of Speedgolf Championship

The scoring is simple — combine the total number of strokes with the total time.  The rules of golf have been modified, for example, you can leave the flag in the hole when putting out.  They carry a small bag with limited clubs.  Also, when a ball is lost, you are allowed to drop it anywhere along the estimated point from where it was lost back on the line of flight to where the shot was originally played.

Clearly you need to be skilled in golf and a great runner but it appears from the scores above that being fast is more advantageous than shooting a low score in this alternative golf game format.

Will I ever participate in speed golf?  No, I have never enjoyed running. Frankly, I love the social aspect of playing a round of golf and don’t see the enjoyment of running the course alone.  But I appreciate any alternative format of golf that might bring more players to the sport I love.

Weather impacts another PGA tournament

For those of us that live in the Northeast the weather has been snowy and cold this March.  Normally as a golf fan I can get away from the drab cold days of winter by watching golf and day dreaming about the coming summer golf season.  This year even watching golf to escape the cold is not guaranteed.

Today, I was hunkering down to watch the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  I was anticipating a great afternoon of golf with Tiger Woods (who I had picked for my fantasy team this week) and Rickie Fowler (one of the golf boys) in the final group.  But mother nature had a different plan in mind and the final round has been moved to Monday.  How bad was it?  Watch the video below…

Golf Analyst Mark Rulfing mentions in the video that it reminded him of Kapalua.  He was referencing the first tournament of the 2013 season, the Hyundai tournament of Champions, which was delay due to high winds (gusting 40 to 50 mph).  The Golf Channel has a great photo slide show of the windy tournament.

Another tournament impacted was the Farmers Open at Torrey Pines which was delayed due to Fog.  So rain, wind, fog all seem like expected reasons for golf to be delayed but how about snow?  Yup, the WGC Match Play in Arizona was delayed this year due to snow.  Snow in Arizona.  It was so bizarre that all the players were tweeting photos of it. Bubba Watson even posted a 30 second video of his snowball fight.

I don’t know if any other start to a golf season has had this many delays due to weather.  Certainly there have been memorable delays in previous years. Watch the PGA Tour “Top 10: Weather Interruptions on the PGA Tour” for their list.  One of my favorite golfers, Phil Mickelson, makes an appearance as he chips in the hail (2.35 second mark in video.)

Maybe I should be happy for the weather delay today because my fantasy pick for the Hyundai, tournament, Dustin Johnson, won.  So, if I were at all superstitious I would be thinking the weather delay is “a sign” that Tiger should win tomorrow.

Still I would rather have the final round played on Sunday so I could watch it live.