The Duck Stays in Europe!

Duck Challenge

The Duck Stays in Europe!

After three years and on the fourth attempt, the duck finally changed hands. Last Thursday, my friend Kirk and I went head to head to determine who is the lucky person to carry the duck for the foreseeable future. Still giving him 2 stokes aside and using his son’s clubs, I finally put together a game that beat him on his home course at Northwood Golf Course in Middlesex.

As we teed off at 10 am, the sun was shining, it was dry and the wind was not a factor for the entire round. The course was in great shape, especially the greens. Overall, the outcome  would be determined by how we would play and not by the conditions of the course. Fortunately for me, my wife as able to walk the course with us and witness my eventual triumph!

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Making a tough shot!

During the first 9 holes, we battled back and forth. After six holes, I had eked out a 2 hole lead. But, in true golfing fashion he easily won two of the last three holes to even the score after nine holes. By his own admission, he thought that being tied after 9 holes and finishing so strong down the stretch was going to be my downfall. But, Kirk was not playing his best and he was having trouble finding the fairway off the tee.

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Deep in the bush!

Well, as we started the back 9 something changed. I started to hit the ball in the fairway and Kirk continued to spray off the tee. I am not sure what happened, but he found every difficult spot on the course and my confidence started to grow. He made some amazing recovery shots from the bushes, behind a tree and out of the sand, but eventually his inconsistency got the best of him. It definitely was atypical of Kirk’s game and as a result I closed him out on the 15th hole – 4 and 3. As we walked toward the 16th tee box, Kirk, in true gentlemanly fashion, shook my hand and congratulated me on the win.

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In the woods!

I was surprised that I won 4 of the first 5 holes on the back nine. However, when I looked at the scorecard after the round, I realized that I shot a 39 with a double on the 11th hole (we halved it).

More importantly, the duck will stay in Europe. It will travel around seeing different courses that most golfers only dream about! It took a few attempts, but I finally won a match against Kirk. After losing on three previous occasions, I was beginning to wonder if I was every going to beat him. But as fate would have it, last Thursday was my lucky day.

So the ball is in his court to carry the duck back across the pond for another challenge. Regardless of the future results, at least for now, the duck stays in Europe!

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A visitor from Canada!

The duck challenge is always fun. We joke about it often, but more importantly, we both realize that the bragging rights is the real prize.

On a side note, another friend made its way to visit Kirk, just to keep the big prize company! I wonder if he found it in his house yet?

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

First Round of the 2015 Golf Season Complete

My first round of golf for 2015 is in the books! Before everyone asks how the conditions are at my home course of Rondel Glen, let me stop you right there. This year my first round of golf was played at the Northwood Golf Course at Middlesex, London, UK. 

I am on vacation with my darling wife and we are visiting our awesome friends in the UK. As always, Kirk and I take the opportunity to play a few rounds when we are visiting each other and this time things are no different.

Overall, my round was very satisfying and I am very happy with the overall results. I am using borrowed clubs and shoes, but the intent of my round was more about playing golf, than actually scoring. To my surprise, I was able to do both. My score of 78 with 2 doubles and 1 birdie was pretty solid for the first time out.

Northwood was in excellent shape. The greens were freshly cut and rolled. The fairways were in good shape for this time of the year and the sand traps, many were recently reworked, were in awesome shape. I have talked about this course before and it is worth the 28 pounds it cost to play.

For the first round of the year, with no practice yet, I wanted to manage my expectations and make the round as fun as possible. The little bit of rain during the first 6 holes did not dampen our spirits. So as I approached the first tee, I had two thoughts in mind: keep your head down and widen my stance when driving the ball. As it turned out, these were perfect things to think about.

I had 9 chances for birdie. Four of those were within 10 feet. I only made one. This is not surprising because I have not putted on grass since last year. My chipping was on and off, but my driving was very good. I was able to keep it in play the entire round! 

I did have one poor hole. It was a par 5, 480 yard dog leg left, reachable par five, if you are in the fairway off the tee. As it turned out, I hit the ball into the fairway bunker on the left side. Confidently, I walked into the sand, pulled out my 5 iron and hit the front lip of the trap. Classic rookie mistake. To make things worse, the ball came to rest beside the front lip. So, grabbing my shovel…. I mean my sand wedge, I hit the ball again and to my surprise, it landed 6 feet behind me IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRAP. I cannot remember the last time, if ever, I was still in the trap after 2 shots! Taking no chances, I hit my third shot about 25 yards up the rough.

   
Now here is a lesson for us all, on my third shot out of the trap, I lost my mental focus and did not consider my upcoming shot. I just hit the ball and did not care where it went. So now I am lying 4 behind the trees with no shot to the green. Next time (well actually I hope there is never a next time) I will remain focused and remember that course management is always in play!

So, on to my fifth shot. After three poor shots in the bunker, I executed the best shot of the round. I hit a 3 hybrid in Bubba Watson like fashion around the trees with a big hook and landed 10 feet from the green in the fairway. It was spectacular! A quick up and down, I walked off smiling with a smooth 7! 

With those exciting times over, I responded with a par on the next hole. My first round of golf was nothing but fun. I started with a bogey, ended with a birdie, and now have been bitten by the golfing bug. I finished the 2014 golf season and started the 2015 golf season in the UK with one of my best friends! How grateful am I!

I hope to play a couple more rounds while on our vacation, but in case that falls through, my 2015 golf season has started on a high note!

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

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!

Golfing at a New Course

Golfing at a new golf course can be daunting. The unknown is always challenging and can have detrimental effects on the mental aspects of golf. Most amateurs will fill their minds with self-doubt once the excitement of a new adventure on the links runs it course. Personally, I love playing new golf courses because of the challenge it provides my overall golf game.

In a couple of weeks, I will be playing golf in the United Kingdom with my best friend. We plan on playing at his home course at the Northwood Golf Course in Middlesex, UK. I am excited to play there and I am mentally preparing myself for an awesome time on the links!

To prepare to play at a new golf course, I use visualization, positive thinking, and research to help shoot the best score I can. Since my golf season is over in Canada, I will need to focus more on the mental side of my game to ensure the rust of inactivity does last very long.

There are a few aspects I like to focus on before playing a new course. These things help me score low and enjoy my time on the course.

First, I play a bit more conservatively than normal. I focus more on course management, try to leave my approach shots at around 100 yards, and do not challenge hazards. By playing more focused golf, I tend to score better.

I spend a bit more time on the putting green. Most of the time, the most strokes are lost on the greens. By learning the roll of the green, the length of the grass, and some subtile aspects of the breaks of the greens, my scores stay relatively consistent.

Lastly, I focus on hitting off the tee. Using my driver is not always the smartest play when faced with unknown shots. However, I try keeping the ball in play more than normal and sometimes that means using a different club than driver off the tee. It is important to park my ego at the clubhouse.

Playing a new course can be both challenging and fun. Personally, I like both aspects when playing a course for the first time. I will have that chance soon and I will let you know how it went! Do you like playing new courses?

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