Focusing on Greens in Regulation is a Game Changer for Me

I play in three ladies leagues and one league I specifically selected for the course. It’s not a long course for me because, in this particular league, the ladies play from the forward tees (4495 yards). I picked the course because of the topography which really makes the game “target golf.” You must know where to land it to take advantage of the slopes and stay out of trouble. And, the greens are very fast and very tricky (it really tests your putting).

When I first joined the league, I was playing well but then I hit a slump and over the weeks of frustrating play I just started to “hate” the course. One day I was playing with a golfer I really respect and trust, Nancy. I quietly admitted to her I was beginning to hate playing this course and could not understand why I went from playing well to so poorly on this track. She asked if I had the same issue at my other leagues and I said “No, not really.”

I told her I was stressing over approach shots and felt my putting was just awful and I never has so many swing thoughts in my head. She said “You have a great putting stroke, I love it when I can get the line off you because your stroke is so pure.” Wow, what a nice complement!! I was so surprised. She said to me “Let’s play a game on the back nine. I said “Oh great, I’m playing crappy and you want to add the stress of a side game.” Nancy said “It’s fun, all we are going to do is focus on getting on the green in regulation. You have the length to get on every green in regulation.” This was true, because as I mentioned it is not a long course.

So on the back nine all I did was focus on GIR and it was a game changer for me. What it did for me was to get all the bad thoughts out of my head. I wasn’t frustrated on every hole or thinking I must put the ball close to the hole to avoid three-putts. I just relaxed and had fun. My only thought was GIR and it got me just focused on one shot at a time. The proof was in the scores between the front and back nine – seven strokes better on the back nine with a 40. I thanked Nancy for her great advice. She said “Well, with your game I think you should easily break 80 on this course.” I love her positive spirit!!

It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve made GIR my main focus and I still have off days like any golfer but the focus on GIR has helped me mentally more than I could imagine. When I feel like things are going off track, I just remind myself to focus on getting on the green.

Watch College Golf

If you love to watch golf but don’t watch college golf, you are missing out. If you like watching stroke play – it’s got it. If you like watching match play – it’s got it. If you like team sports – yup, college golf is all about “the team.”

The other reasons I love college golf:

  1. Future Stars of Professional golf: It’s fun to see the up and coming golfers and then follow their careers in the top amateur events and then see who makes it on the professional tours.
  2. Relating to the College Golfers: Yes, their games are well beyond my skill set but they are still learning and I find I can relate to the ups and downs they have in their rounds. And they let you know how they are feeling because they are so expressive with their emotions.
  3. Big Moments: It never seems to fail that there is a big moment or a moment that you can tell changes a golfer’s life. One example, Haley Moore, playing for University of Arizona made the winning putt for the 2018 NCAA Women’s National Championship. That moment changed her life not only because of the winning putt but also because of the focused on her compelling “backstory” which was the focus of many articles, etc. She made it to the LPGA tour because of her talent but I doubt she would have PXG as a sponsor or be well known by LPGA fans if not for the moment created by that final putt at the NCAA championship and the focus on her personal story.

The college golf event that gets all the attention is NCAA Championship in the spring but thanks to Golf Channel’s commitment to college golf, you can watch the Maridoe Invitational (Men’s golf) today thru Wednesday (September 13 – September 15) on Golf Channel (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. EST). Maridoe is a course in Texas – side note: my favorite PGA Tour Player Jordan Speith is a member.

You can also read interesting articles at College Central on the Golf Channel Website. Also, Golf Week has a good college golf section. And I like to follow Julie Williams of GolfWeek on Twitter. I think one of the best college golf geeks is on Golf Channel, Steve Burkowski and he’s also on Twitter.

In 2021, Pepperdine won the NCAA for the men and Ole Miss won for the women. Both were a surprise. For me, especially Ole Miss because Stanford has an amazing women’s team. In fact, in 2022, I would be shocked if Stanford doesn’t win because they now have Rose Zhang as a freshman (#1 Amateur in the world rankings) and Rachel Heck is a sophmore (and as a freshman won the 2021 Individual NCAA women’s champion and is the #2 Amateur in the world rankings).

At a minimum you should watch the NCAA in the spring on Golf Channel. They televise both the men and women’s championships!

AIG Women’s British Open Purse Increase

AIG and The R&A “put their money where they mouth is” with a new record overall purse for a women’s golf major. The purse total is $5.8 million with $870,000 for the winner. And they announced they are committed to raising the 2022 purse by a million to $6.8 million. The purse increase announced by AIG and The R&A is great news for women’s professional golf.

At least for the majors, I’m happy to see in 2021 things are moving in the right direction. For example, back in 2012 the USGA’s purse for the U.S. Women’s Open was $3.25 million with $585K going to the winner and in 2021, the U.S. Women’s Open purse total was $5.5 million with $1 million to the winner.

I do find it interesting that sponsors for the women’s majors get to associate their name with the major. For example the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship versus the men’s PGA Championship. But if that is the price to pay for higher pay for the women the so be it.

The USGA has a history of having the highest purses for the majors and with Mike Whan, former commissioner of the LPGA as the new CEO of the USGA, I’m hoping that he makes a big statement for women’s golf in 2022. I would love to see the governing body be the first golf organization to have the men’s and women’s purses be the same amount — a girl can dream!

The chart below lists the purses for both the women’s and men’s majors for 2021. I do care about pay equity and wrote about it in my 2012 blog “The Gender Gap in Golf Prize Money”. I’m not going to go in to deep comparison because that would require looking at regular season tour events (as I did in 2012). My hope would be that perhaps one day sponsors will see the value of women’s golf equal to men’s golf and the money will follow.

I am providing a chart because I know readers (as I did) will wonder what the payouts were in 2021 so I did the research for anyone taking the time to read my blog.

Women’s MajorsTotal PurseWinner’s ShareMen’s MajorsTotal PurseWinner’s Share
U.S. Women’s Open$5.5 Million$1 MillionU.S. Open$12.5 Million$2.25 Million
AIG Women’s British Open$5,8 Million$870KBritish Open$11.5 Million$2.07 Million
KPMG PGA Championship$4,5 Million$675KPGA Championship$12 Million$2.16 Million
ANA Inspiration$3.1 Million$465KThe Masters$11.5 Million$2.07 Million
Evian Championship$4.5 Million$675K   

Golf Today No Substitute for Morning Drive

If you are an avid viewer of the Golf Channel you know that in 2021 big changes came with NBC moving the golf focused channel from Orlando, Florida to Stamford, Connecticut. One big change for avid viewers of Golf Channel was the end of Morning Drive. I loved the golf morning show. The question was, “Would NBC create a new morning show?” The Answer months later is clearly no.

Back when NBC announced the cancellation of Morning Drive they stated a new show “Golf Today” would be launching. My first reaction to the new show, Golf Today, was that it was flat because most of the show is two golf analysts discussing golf. Yes, the new golf show had similar topics as the morning show — recaps of golf tournaments, guest appearances discussing various industry topics, and periodically a golf playing tip. However, I would say that Golf Today is closer to Golf Central in style, format, and programming. This is not a bad thing but I find that I listen to Golf Today versus watching Morning Drive.

For me, NBC dropped the ball canceling Morning Drive. I would argue that Morning Drive was much more like “The Today Show” or “Good Morning America” with it’s lightness and entertainment. And that is what is missing with Golf Today. I enjoyed Morning Drive for the banter of four hosts such as Lauren Thompson, Paige Mackenzie, Robert Damron, and Gary Williams. I found the programming fun to watch – with the mix of serious golf topics, guests (often times, tour pros), tips on playing golf (whether it be showing a swing tip from last weeks’ tournament or Martin Hall from School of Golf or Nick Clearwater of GolfTech Coaches Series), reviews of places to play golf by Matt Ginella, and sometimes silly games. It had a lightness that was perfect for a morning show.

The current programming in the morning for the Golf Channel consists of reruns of Golf Central or a replay of a golf tournament; unless there is a European golf event that they can show live. It really is a shame that the leadership at NBC Sports lacks the skill to take the Golf Channel morning programming beyond basics. Instead of getting rid of Morning Drive they could have taken golf morning entertainment to the next level.

Bottom line, I rarely watch the Golf Channel in the morning now.

Tiger and Phil – 40 is the new 20

I was working on this blog post and then the unexpected happen — Jack Nicklaus tweeted exactly what I had been thinking.

Jack Nicklaus Tweet

Jack Nicklaus Tweet after the Valspar Championship

I almost decided not to publish this post but then I thought, “great minds think alike” and my take on this is slightly different from Jack’s tweet.

In the last few years, as a golf fan who loved watching Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods for so many years, it was both fun and sad watching the changing of the guard as Jordan Spieth and other young players won majors and began making their mark on the sport I love.  I do enjoy the young guns. Jordan Spieth is my favorite but it seemed odd to me to think of Phil and Tiger as “old” and to hear so many golf analysts write them off.  After all other professionals won in their forties. In fact, Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at the age of 46.

So as a fan of Phil Mickelson, I was thrilled to see him play so well in February and early March. As you can see from the chart below, he had a great run and won the World Golf Championship in Mexico.

Phil 2018 Record

Phil’s finishes in the last four PGA Tour events

Everyone knows about the turmoil (on and off the course) that Tiger Woods has faced the last few years. I will admit that although I was amazed by Tiger’s talent, I was never a Tiger fan. I was always a Phil fan. I guess it was partly because Phil seemed more approachable and nice to his fans but mostly I loved “Phil the thrill” because you never knew what golf shot Phil would try when he got into trouble.  That being said, I have now become a golf fan that hopes Tiger does achieve success in his comeback because it appears he is a changed man and everyone deserves a second chance. In his 40’s, Tiger appears grateful to be healthy and able to play golf again.

So my hope for the rest of the 2018 golf season is that 40 is the new 20! I hope Phil and Tiger contend at the majors and win. I would love to see Tiger win The Master and Phil Mickelson win The U.S. Open (the one that Phil has yet to win).

And let the summer of 2018 be a reminder to all of us that “age is just a number” and “golf is a game for life!”

 

Mink Meadows Golf Course on Martha’s Vineyard is a Gem!

If you ask most people how many golf courses are on Martha’s Vineyard I think they would say one. And if they could name that course, it would most likely be “Farm Neck” because Presidents of the United States (Obama and Clinton) have played Farm Neck while vacationing on the vineyard.

There are, in fact, four golf courses on Martha’s Vineyard. They are: Farm Neck Golf Course (semi-private), Vineyard Golf Club (private), Edgartown Golf Course (Private), and Mink Meadows (semi-private).

I played Farm Neck last fall and it was a beautiful 18-hole golf course. It was what one would expect from an ocean course —  a challenging course with beautiful views of the ocean, windy on the ocean holes, relief from the wind on inward holes that are tree lined. The course had its fair share of water hazards and bunkers. The post-round 19th hole atmosphere is great with a wonderful bar and restaurant. If you are vacationing on the vineyard and love golf you must play Farm Neck.

So you may be thinking, isn’t this a course review of Mink Meadows? Yes, it is but I wanted to give a comparison with the more well-known course on the island.  So how is Mink Meadows like Farm Neck? Mink Meadows and Farm Neck are both semi-private and the courses are both in beautiful condition and fun to play but that is where the similarity ends.

Mink Meadow is a 9-hole course with two sets of tees (or alternate tees for a back nine that allows you to play a full 18-hole round). There are no water hazards at Mink Meadows and only one ocean view (but it is a beautiful view).

8th Hole Mink Meadlow

View of the Ocean from the green on hole eight at Mink Meadows

Don’t let the 9-hole setup and no water hazards on this course lull you into a state of ease. It is a challenging course! It can be very windy too! If you drive the ball straight you will have an advantage because the fairways are lined with trees or wispy grass. However, if you do find yourself off the fairway, the grass is not too tall (at least not in June) so you could actually find your ball. The bunkers are strategically place and make you think off the tee. The greens are particularly interesting and even a perfect shot will roll off the green if you don’t know the slope. If you have the pleasure of playing with a member, you can soak up local knowledge about the best approach shots/landing spot on the greens when you play the front nine. And then you have that knowledge for the back nine. Or make sure to ask the Golf Pro for a few tips before you tee off. One tip – on the 9th/18th hole everything rolls right (towards the ocean even though you don’t see the ocean).

The first nine holes are perfect for anyone! Expert golfers will enjoy the challenging greens and beginner/intermediate golfers won’t feel overwhelmed because it is a bit shorter than the back nine. And when you play the alternate tees on the back nine you really do feel like you are playing a different set of holes. It was really amazing to me how different the holes felt off the tees. I played two rounds of nine and two rounds of 18 and enjoyed the course more and more each time.

The atmosphere is another plus! It is relaxed and everyone I met was friendly and welcoming. There is a nice practice range at Mink Meadow but there is a distance limit (165 yards) so if you hit your driver a long way, you won’t be using a driver on the practice range.The pro shop has a nice collection of clothing and snacks (for the turn) but there is not a fancy bar or restaurant. Mink Meadows does have a nice porch so you and your friends could buy a soda and snack in the pro shop and sit outside on the porch, rehash your round or watch the golfers on the 9th hole.

So let’s talk fees. The green fee for 18-holes at Farm Neck (in season, between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.) is $170 (includes cart and range balls). The green fee for 18-holes at Mink Meadow is $100; with “a la carte” fees for cart $18 and small bucket of balls $4.

My recommendation: If you are looking for value (a great course and price), play Mink Meadows. You will have a great time. And if you want a 19th hole “experience” — drive over to Farm Neck after your round and use the bucks you saved on green fees to paid for your meal.

Ryder Cup: My take on the pivotal moment might surprise you

This will be a short post because like most golf fans cheering for the USA, I am still shocked (or amazed) that the European team won the Ryder Cup.  The USA had a great lead going into Sunday (10 to 6).  Heading into the singles matches on Sunday the USA only needed 4 1/2 points to win and Europe needed 8 points to retain the cup.  Who would have thought Europe would get 8 points and win!

There will be many opinions as to what happened.  Some might say it is the fault of Ryder Cup veterans Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker (and Captain’s picks) because neither played their best.  Some might say it was because the pairing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker did not win.  Others might say it was the fact so few of the American players could deliver in the singles matches.  However, that doesn’t seem fair to players like Jason Dufner (in my opinion, the MVP of the USA team) who did win.  I’m sure the debate will go on for days on the Golf Channel.

Since second-guessing is part of the fun of being a sports fan I decided to give it a shot.  Here is my take on what was the pivotal moment in the 3-day event.  It was not a particular match on the final day but a decision by Captain Davis Love III to sit down the hottest American pair on Saturday — Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson.  The reason I believe this is the pivotal moment is that the momentum changed Saturday afternoon.  Yes, you can give huge credit to the European player Ian Poulter who won a critical match on Saturday; but I think the fact Bradley and Mickelson were not playing was a huge mistake.  It was a mistake because the success of Bradley and Mickelson inspired the USA team and ignited the crowed.

During the TV interview (after winning the Saturday morning match) Mickelson said that “statistically” no golfer that played all 5 matches in the Ryder Cup played well in singles so don’t be surprised if they (Bradley and Mickelson) sit out Saturday afternoon.  In retrospect that would sound wise if Bradley and Mickelson had won their singles matches but they both lost (that’s two points).  If the hot team of Bradley and Michelson had played the 4-ball Saturday afternoon and won a point — that might have kept the momentum on the side of the USA.  You can argue that my view is simplistic but I do believe in momentum.  Not to mention the fact that all the golf pundits said, in post round discussion on Saturday night, that 11 points would have been “insurmountable.”

The MVP of the European team is Ian Poulter because he was the catalyst for the European team’s belief that they could still win.  Poulter’s play during the Saturday afternoon 4-ball match was amazing with five straight birdies to win his match and inspire his team.

Final words — Congratulations to the 2012 European Ryder Cup Team.