UK Golfing Adventure – Part 2

 

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On the bridge at Northwood Golf Club

My golfing adventure in the UK was very exciting. As stated earlier, I had a fantastic time and was treated like royalty by my best friend. While my stay was short, we did pack plenty of golf in the four days. We spent three days trying to conquer the Northwood Golf Club, my friend’s home course.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing the Northwood Course! Besides the historic aspect of this fun track, the course itself was in fantastic shape. Despite the torrent of rain it received leading up to my arrival, the course was extremely well maintained, the greens were in great shape, and the staff were first-rate. Overall, I would rate my experience as a 4.5 out of 5!

Northwood Golf Course does not play extremely long (6473 yds). Most of the par 4s were easily reachable and the par 5s on a dry day were in play as well. But, do not let the aspect of being a shorter course lull you into a false sense of confidence. The fairway bunkers were strategically placed, the green side bunkers were deep, and the elevation change between holes ensured that course management was vital to scoring low.

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Approach shot to a Par 3.

Most of the greens were elevated, protected by bunkers, or the has a patch of rough to play over. Most of the hazards were fair and provided that touch of excitement to every shot. More importantly, choosing the correct club off the tee cannot be overstressed. Choose poorly and the complexity of the approach shot increased.

As you can see, there is nothing easy about the approach shots. The Par 3 was a 7 or 8 iron depending on the day and the pin was always up front. The slope of the green was from back to front making all putts from the back of the green very difficult. Also, the elevation change of 50 feet added to the difficulty of the tee shot.

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Approach shot on Number 10.

The number ten green was the most challenging. What you cannot see is the green. It is kidney-shaped and that bends from right to left. The green narrows towards the back and the 15 feet of elevation on the approach shot was just enough to affect your club selection. Of course, we cannot forget the two deep bunkers on the left side. Anything short and left easily added an extra stroke to your score. The bail out area appears to be to the right, which was the correct play, but the rough was deep and wet. Overall, this was one of the most difficult approach shots on the course!

My Northwood Golf Club experience was excellent. I could go on describing the intricate aspects of the course, but I think you have gained an understanding of just how fun this course is to play. I looking forward to the opportunity to play Northwood once or twice more! If you want to see more pictures, I loaded them on my Facebook page: The Grateful Golfer.

I am a grateful golfer. See you on the links!

UK Golfing Adventure – Part 1

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Waiting in the Cold at Heathrow Airport!

Arriving at Heathrow Airport on 30 Oct at 7 am was the start of my thrilling four-day golfing adventure with my best friend, Kirk. The arrangements were made and he was at the airport (with coffee in hand), waiting to pick me up. Have you ever heard the saying,  “don’t change the plan!”, well if not, then let me explain!

Foolishly, I left the arrival area thinking I could help the situation by going to the car pick area. Yup, I left the arrivals and went…. I bet you can see where this is going! After two hours of standing in the cold, my phone rang and it was my buddy questioning where I was. He was in the lower level and I was at the upper level of the same terminal waiting for each other. There is little question I was to blame for “changing the plan” and everyone has had a great laugh at my expense since. I will again apologize to my friend for being dopey!

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Borrow Clubs at the practice range!

After a rough start, things went famously. We quickly visited his darling wife to say hello, hit a few balls at a range and then headed to the Northwood Golf Club. I was borrowing his son’s clubs (and golf balls) while I was on my adventure which worked out better than expected.

The next day we headed to Hampton Court Palace Golf Course. After playing 18 holes on Henry the VIII old hunting grounds, I was a bit overwhelmed by the majestic nature of my surroundings! Having dreamed of playing in the UK (and other parts of Europe) for ever, I was finally crossing this off my bucket list! Kirk told me I was going to get the “royal treatment” and he was absolutely right!

The next two days were spent golfing and hanging out! Having been to London before, I enjoyed exploring the Middlesex area by looking at the old architecture and relishing in the local colour. We ate at the local restaurants, drove by places like Moor Park Golf Club, and just enjoyed hanging out!

The Royal Treatment!

The Royal Treatment!

On the last day it rained, but this did not stop the competition for the duck. I wrote about that earlier and will recount some of those adventures later. But, let’s just say I am still the holder of “the duck“!

Over the next few articles, I will provide more details of my UK Golf Adventure. These adventures will include a couple of course reviews and more tidbits of my awesome time in the UK.

Thanks Kirk for “the royal treatment”! I look forward to repaying your kindness very soon!

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

Playing It Different In Golf

Hitting to the second green from 150 yards out!

Hitting to the second green from 150 yards out!

Playing to win at golf is no-brainer. It is not a profound statement, but carries many “ah-ha” moments. Avid golf pundits suggest that course management, playing the ‘smart’ shot, or avoiding a hazard at all costs will lower your golf score. In some cases, the logic of playing it safe is a solid approach to golf, however it cannot be the default approach to play winning golf.

As always, when my friend and I get together we talk about our golf game. We talk about the recent changes to our swing, new techniques we discovered and how we play certain holes on our home course. We both find the conversation very interesting and sometimes very enlightening. Last night was one of those conversations where I experienced an “ah-ha” moment.

He described his double bogey on a short hole, just over 300 yards, at the Northwood Golf Club, Middlesex, UK. His shot off the tee only has to carry about 190 yards to clear a sand trap. He suggested that it is narrow past the trap and playing for position was the ‘smart play’. Never seeing the hole, I agreed that it seemed like a logical approach. He says that hitting a 5-iron off the tee puts him into  a safe position and clears the traps without any real problem. Recently during a career round, he approached the 17th tee and started to think. After a ‘angel verses devil’ conversation in his head he took out his 6-iron. He wanted to flop the ball just over the traps to play it safe and to protect his score! Well as expected, the ball did not carry far enough and lodged itself just below the front lip of the sand trap! Five-strokes later he recorded a double-bogey!

This situation has happened to us all! Instead of riding the wave of success, we try to protect our score. This phenomenon is common in golf because most players count their score when playing well. As a result, our decision-making is impaired and more times than not the results are not what we expect. In my friend’s case, playing it different did not work to his advantage.

Another situation of interest during our conversation focused on greens in regulation or GIR. As stated before, I believe GIR is the most important statistic in golf. If a player has a high GIR percentage, they are likely to score very well.

Our discussion turned to playing a shot from 180 yards from the green. He said that often he will play a shot 160-170 yards up the middle of the fairway to make sure that he is in play. He would then rely on his short game to get up and down. Further inquiry gleaned that he uses this approach for two reasons: he is confident with the shorter iron and to protect from pushing his ball left or pulling right into trouble. He stated that this approach works for him and has helped lower his score in the long run.

Well his approach is definitely playing it different to what I would play. At 180 yards I would still recommend going for the center of the green if you can carry the ball that far. My friend unquestionably has the skill to do so and I would recommend that he start being more aggressive. It is possible that this change in tactic may not positively affect his score, but in the long run I believe it would be better for his game. A by-product to my approach is an improved GIR stat and given how well he putts, a lower score.

The interesting point about our conversation was that there are no right or wrong answers. Each golf shot should be played at the moment after taking in all the prevailing factors. There is little question that my friend’s approach works for him and has produced the results he looks for, however it is not the approach I would take. No matter how we look at golf, everyone has an opinion that suits their game and playing it different in golf is whats makes it fun!

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

Golfing In Ireland

Golfing in Ireland is on my bucket list! Ireland, Scotland and the United Kingdom hold a special place in my heart as places to golf. Until I have the opportunity to play in these three countries, and it will happen, this dream will stay alive and be fulfilled one day. In the meantime, I live vicariously through those who do golf in the promised land. My friend Kirk details his play at his home course of Northwood Golf Club in the UK. Also, he recently kept me spell-bound as he explained his round at St Andrews Old Course. Both sound amazing!

Ireland was the only country left of the three where I did not have any connection….until seven days ago. Through the power of social media, I was fortunate enough to talk to Patrick Mc Laughlin and Gary McLaughlin. (They are brothers, however spell their last names differently) It all started when they posted a picture of the signature hole at the Slieve Russel Hotel Golf and Country Club,  Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan, Ireland.

After answering this challenge, the conversation was on. He said that the Slieve Russell Golf and Country Club is a great place to play! In fact, he and his brother were playing there the next day and I asked them to send pictures. This is what they sent.

Playing the 11th hole - Heron Haunt

Playing the 11th hole – The Haunted Heron

Pactrick Mc Laughlin - 2nd shot lay up from bunker at 13th

Patrick Mc Laughlin – 2nd shot lay up from bunker at 13th

Patrick mc laughlin ‏@lochlainn1 Protected Tweets  Jul 23 @TheGratefulGolf 12th tee shot, hit driver and 52* to 6ft but missed :( pic.twitter.com/gxJLZ2mKsA

Patrick Mc Laughlin – 12th tee shot, hit driver and 52* to 6ft but missed 😦

Patrick Mc Laughlin - 13th drove into bunker across the fairway

Patrick Mc Laughlin – 13th drove into bunker across the fairway

Not to be out done, the Slieve Russell Hotel sent this picture and comment along!  

Patrick Mc Laughlin and Gary McLaughlin both agree that the course is in awesome shape. The greens are fast and true and the fairways immaculate. The brief encounter with these two golf fanatics further increases my desire to play in Ireland. Actually, The Slieve Russell Hotel Golf and Country Club has made my bucket list.

I want to thank Patrick and Gary for taking the time to send me these awesome pictures. I am grateful you took the time and effort to share your experience on The Slieve Russell Golf Course.

If anyone wishes to use the pictures sent by Patrick and Gary, please contact them and ask permission as they have the sole rights to duplication.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!