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2011 July | ChicagoGolfNoob

Archive for July 2011

Inwood Golf Course [Field Trip]

Posted by cjsharp1 on July 26, 2011 in Field Trips 0 Comments

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To wrap up the hot weekend, I played a round at another Joliet Park District course: Inwood Golf Course in Joliet, Illinois. I ended up playing this course because I found a great price on a tee time, and I actually didn’t realize it was a ‘field trip’ course until I started heading toward the course. In either case, I thought it was fitting to play this course, because the previous day I played Woodruff Golf Course, another JPD course. As I mentioned in the post about Woodruff, Inwood Golf Course is one of three Joliet Park District courses (the third being Wedgewood Golf Course). Inwood is the ‘middle child’ of the three courses, both in age and course length, and is located about 10 miles west of Woodruff.

The course features five par-3 and four par-5 holes for a total par of 71 at a length of 6,196 yards from the back tees. If you play from the front tees, the length drops to 4,678 yards, and the par drops to 70 (the 11th hole is a 500 yard par-5 from the back tees and a 335 yard par-4 from the front tees). The fairways are mostly straight and wide. Medium-sized trees surround the fairways on nearly all the holes, while a couple holes on the back nine have large trees along the left side of the fairways. Some of the holes have a slight dogleg left or right, while the 16th hole, a 366 yard par-4, has a near 90 degree dogleg left. Water hazards touch ten of the holes, many of which you’ll carry over on your tee shot. Probably the most notable water hazard comes on the 2nd hole, a 327 yard par-4, where the fairway doglegs slightly left before an island green (similar to the 17th hole of Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass, but smaller and far less maintained). Sand traps can be found on every hole, mostly near the greens. The greens are mostly flat, and didn’t seem too challenging.

I ended up playing this round by myself. I wasn’t really expecting to be paired up with anyone either, since the temperatures were in 90’s, resulting in a course that was almost empty. I somehow got stuck behind an impassable twosome for most of the round, but I ended up finishing the round in about 4 hours.

I felt like I played another good round. I kept with my new practice swing routine, and it seemed to still be working. With it, I’m still not slicing as much as I have in the past, and for this round, I was actually pulling more shots left than pushing them right. I was still trying to use my fairway wood and hybrid more, and I’m starting to see those slowly improve. Actually, if it wasn’t for my fairway wood, I wouldn’t have shot par on the 8th hole, a 502 yard par-5 (I missed birdie by about an inch too). Anytime I can make par or bogey on a par-5, I’m happy (I actually shot triple-bogey on the other three par-5 holes). I felt that my approach and chip shots were pretty good, and I was making solid shots with my irons. My putting was about average. I probably should have slowed down a little more on my putting to try to make more 1-putts, but I was mostly just trying to get out of the sun. I ended up 1-putting once and 3-putting twice. Not too bad.

I ended up shooting a 99 (28 over par), which breaks 100 again. The triple-bogeys on the three par-5 holes didn’t help at all, and I think more practice with my fairway wood and hybrid will help make those holes easier. I actually ended up making four pars on this round, which is another goal for the season! Aside from that, I made four bogeys, six double-bogeys, and four triple-bogeys (way too many double- and triple-bogeys). I probably could have made more bogeys if I focused more on my putting, but I’m still happy I walked away with a 99.

Inwood Golf Course – Scores & Stats
Course length: 5,890 yards (white tee boxes)
Course par: 71
Course rating/slope: 68.7/122 (white tee boxes)
My score: 99 (28 over par)

Inwood Golf Course
3200 West Jefferson St
Joliet, IL 60435

Woodruff Golf Course

Posted by cjsharp1 on July 20, 2011 in Courses 0 Comments

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As temperatures in the Chicagoland area reached into the 90’s, I decided to brave the heat and venture down to Woodruff Golf Course in Joliet, Illinois. Woodruff Golf Course is located approximately 30 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, just a couple miles from the edge of this project’s circle. Woodruff is owned by the Joliet Park District, which also owns Inwood Golf Course and Wedgewood Golf Course, both of which are outside the circle. Of the three courses, Woodruff is the oldest course, opening in 1926 (according to their website; other sources say 1922). Inwood opened in 1931 and Wedgewood opened in 1970.

Woodruff is also the shortest of the three JPD courses. The course features four par-3 and no par-5 holes for a total par of 68 at a length of 5,670 yards from the back tees (Inwood is a par 71 at 6,196 yards, Wedgewood is a par 72 at 6,836 yards). I didn’t really see much of a difference between the back tees and the middle tees, usually only a difference of 5 – 20 yards. The par-3 holes average around 190 yards in length, and the par-4 holes average around 350 yards in length. The fairways are different between the front nine and the back nine. On the front nine, the fairways are very straight, flat, and open, and surrounded by small- to medium-sized trees. On the back nine, the fairways are more hilly and narrow in some areas, and surrounded by large trees. You’ll also find a lot more water hazards on the back nine, which provides most of the challenge. In many cases, the water hazard, usually a small stream cutting across the fairway, will be around 200 – 250 yards from the tee, right about where most beginners will place their tee shots. Water hazards touch three holes on the front nine, and seven holes on the back nine. Sand bunkers are not very common (only near the greens when you find one). You are more likely to find a grass bunker, which is something I haven’t seen before. Greens are average in size, and didn’t seem to challenging. The speed of the greens were a little inconsistent, but that could have been because of the heat.

Two notable holes are the 11th hole (a 379 yard par-4) and the 12th hole (a 194 yard par-3). The 11th hole is a dogleg right, and if your tee shot is more than 220 yards, it’ll end up in thick brush (which you won’t find). Also, if you slice your tee shot right, expect to find it in the yard of a nearby house (who will gladly sell it back to you). The 12th hole’s tee box sits on top of a hill, and your tee shot is through a narrow opening in the trees. Your tee shot must be straight, otherwise your ball could be lost in the woods.

This course reminded me of two other courses I’ve played in the past: Glenwoodie Golf Club and Frank Govern Memorial Golf Course. It reminded me of Glenwoodie because of the differences between the front nine and the back nine. Glenwoodie also has a very flat and straight front nine, and a hilly back nine with a lot of water hazards cutting through the fairways. It reminded me of Frank Govern Memorial because of the tee shot on the 12th hole, where you have to hit your shot over a narrow opening in the trees and over a water hazard. You see that tee shot a couple places at Frank Govern Memorial.

For this round, I was paired up with another player, Rick, on the first hole. Since the temperatures were high, and it was somewhat later in the day, the course wasn’t too busy, so we were able to complete the round in about 4 hours (we got slowed down on the back nine by a threesome of beginners in front of us).

A couple days prior to this round, I spent an hour or so at the driving range, and I started to feel something different about my drives. Ever since I started playing this game, I’ve always been worried about hitting the ball (so I don’t top, shank, or duff the ball), and not so much about where the ball went after I hit it. I think I’m past that point now, and I’m starting to feel like I can keep my driver on the correct swing plane and hit the ball a very high percentage of the time. I personally think this is a great feeling, and it allows me to focus on other things now, like any small changes to my swing to correct my [usually consistent] slice.

In fact, in the same session at the driving range, I think I might have figured out the first change to fix the slice. During my practice swing, I take a couple 1/4 swings (halfway up my back swing, then down to the ball, and repeat). Doing this a couple times, allows me to remember when to turn my wrists so the club-face is square at the impact of the ball. I do that 1/4 swing a couple times, then take a full swing. When ready, I step into the ball, take a couple 1/4 swings, then take a full swing to hit the ball. Most times, my wrists will be in the correct position from the practice swings, and the ball will travel on a straight path.

Lastly, I’m working on driving through the ball, which means I’m working on properly shifting my weight from my back foot (right foot for right-handed players) to my front foot. This is something that I’ve been told and heard that I need to do for a while, and I’m just now really able to understand and put it to use.

I took this new weight-shift and practice routine into my round, and I feel I had more success with my drives. My drives were a lot straighter, or if anything, just pushing to the right. In some cases, I’m actually starting to pull my drives to the left, which is something I rarely do. I felt that my drives got longer too (around the 220 yard range), and I looked forward to those 320 yard par-4 holes, where my 2nd shot would be an easy pitch. I also worked on the weight-shift for my iron shots, and those seemed to straighten up a lot. Another big change for me in this round was I started to hit with my fairway wood more. I’ve always had issues with my fairway wood and my hybrid, usually topping the ball. I’m slowly getting comfortable with it, and I’ve been trying to practice more with it at the driving range. My approach and chip shots were decent, but nothing spectacular, and the same goes for my putting. I didn’t have any 1-putts, and I 3-putted just three times.

I ended up shooting a 93 for the round (21 over par), which breaks 100 again, but the course is a par 68 and just 5,412 yards from the blue tees, so I’m not really making a big deal of it. I made two pars, nine bogeys, five double bogeys, and two triple bogeys. Making nine bogeys was nice, and having a long, straight drive on 350 yard par-4 holes helped me out tremendously. All-in-all, I’m happy with this round. I think I’m starting to make good advancements in my drive, and getting that fairway wood to work properly for me is a nice feeling.

Woodruff Golf Course – Scores & Stats
Course length: 5,412 yards (blue tee boxes)
Course par: 68
Course rating/slope: 66.3/116 (blue tee boxes)
My score: 93 (21 over par)

Woodruff Golf Course
621 Gougar Road
Joliet, IL 60432

Champions Pointe Golf Club [Field Trip]

Posted by cjsharp1 on July 18, 2011 in Field Trips 0 Comments

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I’m a bit late on this post, but a couple weekends ago, I traveled down to southern Indiana, and while there, I got a chance to play Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville, Indiana. Champions Pointe, located approximately 20 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky, is one of two courses designed by Fuzzy Zoeller, the other course being Covered Bridge Golf Course, which I played back in May of 2009. The course is very new, opening in 2007, and the neighborhood around the course is slowly being built up. As a result, many areas of the course look like a “prairie style” design. I think over time, the area around the course will build up, and some areas feel much more like a standard course that wraps around a neighborhood. Much like Covered Bridge, Champions Pointe is a beautiful course that has a lot of potential.

The course features four par-3 and four par-5 holes for a total par of 72 at a length of 7,174 yards from the back tees. The fairways are mostly open, straight, and wide, which give you a lot of options on where to place your tee shot. Water hazards and rolling hills shape many of the fairways, which gives the course it’s challenge. Water hazards touch ten of the holes, including the 16th hole (a 597 yard par-5) and the 18th hole (a 451 yard par-4) where you must carry water hazards twice on your way to the green. Bunkers are found on all holes, usually both near the fairways and the greens. The greens are a decent size with consistent slopes and challenging breaks. Overall, the course is pretty challenging, yet still very fun. You have many options to get creative with your shots.

I played this round with David, Heather, and Stephen. I actually played this course in the middle of June with David also, but I didn’t want a write a post on it because I wasn’t putting all my effort into playing a good round, and I knew I would be coming back to play this second round.

I felt like I played a decent round. My drives were a bit random on the front nine, and a little more straighter on the back nine. My iron shots were good, although some of them were inaccurate, but at least I was making solid contact. My approach and chip shots where still pretty good, usually setting me up for a 1-putt or a 2-putt. I almost played the round without 3-putting, but on the 2nd hole (a 181 yard par-3), I ended up 3-putting after hitting a solid tee shot with my 7 iron (it was 152 yards from the white tees). I 1-putted four times and 3-putted just once.

I ended up shooting a 107 (35 over par), which was a 52 on the front nine and a 55 on the back nine. This consisted of 2 pars and a bunch of double and triple bogeys. Stephen shot a 118, which he said was one of his worst rounds of the season, and David and Heather didn’t keep score. To compare with my first round, I shot a 108 (54 on both front and back nine), and David shot a 112. I was hoping to play a better round the second time around, but I’m still happy I didn’t shoot more than 110. It really is a challenging course, and I should be happy walking away with a 107.

Champions Pointe Golf Club – Scores & Stats
Course length: 6,484 yards (white tee boxes)
Course par: 72
Course rating/slope: 71.3/130 (white tee boxes)
My score: 107 (35 over par)

Champions Pointe Golf Club
1820 Champions Club Lane
Henryville, IN 47126

Windy City Golf League: 2011 Spring Season Wrap-Up

Posted by cjsharp1 on July 11, 2011 in News 1 Comment

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This weekend marked the end of the 2011 Spring Season of the Windy City Golf League. I thought I would speak a little on how I played throughout the season, and also what I liked and what I disliked about the league.

Throughout the 12-week season, I played 8 matches during 5 rounds, and finished with 1600 points, which put me tied for 4th place before going into the end-of-season Arghe Isle Cup Tournament. The person in 1st place had 5700 points, while 2nd and 3rd place had 2675 and 2400 points, respectively. Out of the 8 matches, I won 3 of them, with an adjusted scoring average of 111. I decided not to play the Arghe Isle Cup tournament, because I was way too far back in the points standing to jump into 1st place even if I beat everyone in my group, and I had an out-of-town event that would have been hard to work around.

As I mentioned in my introductory post to the Windy City Golf League, the main idea of the league is its flexibility: you play matches wherever you want with whomever you want in your league flight for as many times as you want throughout the season. While I still think this concept is a great idea for a golf league, I definitely see that it has a couple of drawbacks. First, your matches are controlled by other people’s schedules. If your schedule doesn’t match up with someone else’s schedule, you won’t be able to play matches. In fact, the person who took 1st place played nearly all of his matches during the weekdays, and that’s just something I couldn’t do. Second, a lot of people who signed up for the league didn’t play a single round throughout the season, which limited the number of people who would actually play rounds (I would say only 60% of the people who signed up actually played, and 30% played regularly). These two drawbacks make me want to try a regular golf league, because when I have time (or scheduled time) to play a round, I want to make it count towards the league. Throughout the season, there were many weekends where I had an opening to play a round, but no one else was available to play.

So coming off of my first golf league, I have mixed feelings towards it. I think if I had a more flexible schedule where I could play rounds during the week, then I would have enjoyed it more. I love the flexibility to play different courses around my schedule, but playing in a league where the time, place, and opponent are scheduled would probably appeal to me more, just so I can get in more matches. All-in-all, I had a good time, met some nice people, and knocked a couple courses of the list along the way.

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The thought of breaking 100 for any beginning golfer seems like a difficult task. For a lot of new golfers, it’s hard to consistently make good, long shots from tee to green, and then turn around and do it 17 more times. Over the last two years of working on this project, I’ve put a lot of thought on what I need to do to break 100, and I’ve practiced many hours trying to make those shots that will get me there. So I thought I would take a little bit of time and talk about some of the things I focus on during my practice sessions at the driving range and my rounds on the golf course.

Of course, and I understand, it’s all easier said than done. But, let’s get started.

How your score actually adds up to 100

First of all, before you play your next round of golf, take a little bit of time to think about what’s actually needed to score a 99. On a typical 18-hole championship course, the par is 72, and a score of 99 equates to 27 over par. Think about that… that’s a lot of shots over par. You have 18 holes to accumulate 27 more strokes than what the course thinks you should make.

Break down 27 over par for 18 holes… that’s 9 bogeys and 9 double bogeys. If you happen to make par on just one hole, then for the other 17 holes, you’re allowed 7 bogeys and 10 double bogeys. So if you are a golfer that consistently makes bogeys and double bogeys, you’re already very close to breaking 100 (just make sure the number of bogeys made versus double bogeys stays close).

I used this thought many times during my rounds. If I make a couple double bogeys, I don’t think the goal is lost for the round. I have many more opportunities to catch up with where I need to be to break 100.

It’s all about course management

I’m going to credit this thought to my friend and fellow golfing buddy, Trent. Trent carries a single-digit handicap, and previously played golf for his college. While playing my rounds with him, I’m constantly being taught about course management. In my interpretation of course management, there are two main ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Play the shots you can make – If you are more strong and consistent with a 4-iron compared to your fairway wood or hybrid (like me), then use the 4-iron, and skip the risk of topping or duffing a shot, only because you want to hit it an extra 20 yards. If you can hit a wedge straighter and more accurately than an iron, then play the wedge, just to keep your ball in play and out of the rough. Moral of the story: don’t play a shot you are not good at, just because you are trying to score low. By playing those shots, you could actually hurt your score. Work with your strengths, and practice on your weaknesses at the driving range.
  2. Play the safe lines – When you watch the pros play on TV, you will see they take a lot of risks in order to shoot those low scores. We (as in, us beginners) are not professional golfers. We are not trying to win tournaments for a living. So don’t take those risks if you don’t have to. For example, and you’ll see this many times, when you approach a green where the pin is protected in the front by a bunker, yet there is a small section of green to the side of the bunker. It’s far better to aim for the visible green and putt 20-30 feet, than to aim for the pin, because a short shot could end up in the sand than on the green.

(Once again, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, I am still a beginner. If you have a handicap of 20 or better, then either you know of these ideas, or you are just that good. If you disagree with my thoughts on course management, oh well…)

Your approach and chip shots matter

As important as it is to make long, straight tee shots and solid iron shots, the one shot that will start to allow you to finish the hole is your approach and chips shots. While at the driving range, don’t forget to practice your iron and wedge shots. When I start a session at the driving range, I start with my 7-iron, and a large percentage of my practice time is with the 7-iron or a similar club. So many of us beginners go to the driving range and just hit with the driver, because if feels so good to smash a ball 200+ yards.

Take some time at the range to hit with your irons and wedges. Your main focus (as usual) should be to hit it straight and consistently at a certain distance for each club. When making approach and chip shots during the round, you’ll want to give yourself the best chance to 1-putt or 2-putt (3-putt at worst). A consistent approach and chip shot should always give you that chance.

At all costs, avoid 3-putting

Moving right along from the last thought… do whatever you can to not 3-putt. The one extra putt on a couple holes can hurt your score… big time. Spend a lot of time practicing putting from 3-4 feet (I’ve heard that Phil Mickelson has a drill for this). If your first putt starts from more than 10 feet out, do whatever you can to get the ball in that 3-4 foot “circle” for your second shot. You should feel comfortable making 3-4 foot shots.

Looking back at my goals for this year, I actually find the thought of not 3-putting kind of… funny. My main goal of the year was (of course) to break 100, but further down, I made another goal to “Play a full round without 3-putting”, then right after that, I said “This probably will have a direct correlation with breaking 100.” In my mind, I think not 3-putting during that round had a huge effect on me breaking 100.

Wrapping up

By all means (and it’s easy to see from my posts), I’m not an expert at this game, and I don’t claim to be, nor does finally breaking 100 just a week ago, and only doing it once so far, actually warrant me the requirement to talk about how I accomplished the feat. I just felt that I should pass along the things, whether they are common sense or not, that helped me reach my goal. If you currently find yourself in the same situation I found myself over the last two years, I hope these tips provide some more help and encouragement for you to reach your goal of breaking 100.

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