Archive for May 2012

Shortly after my poor round at St. Andrews, I started to think a little more about my game, both my physical game and my mental game. Sure, we all know about the physical game of golf… grip, stance, posture, swing plane, back swing, downswing, follow-through, etc. But if you actively played golf, even for a short amount of time, you’ll at sometime hear something or someone, either an advertisement, a round partner, or an instructor, say something about the mental game of golf.

My most recent, notable discussion (or rather, examination) about my mental game, aside from the last round of course, was during my lesson with Greg Baresel. One of the first things he asked me, before I even took one swing of the club, was “How’s your mental game?” I, probably smugly, said something along the lines of “Pretty good. I’ve previously played competitive table tennis, so I think I’ve adapted a good mental game from that.” Well, I’m here to say… I was wrong.

So, here’s some background: Prior to this starting this project, I played competitive table tennis. Not so much on a national level, but more of a local competitive level, more than your average basement player. I started playing in the early 2000’s, and by the mid-2000’s, I was practicing and training many times a week, sometime up to 10 or so hours a week. Back when I was really into the game, I played around 10 tournaments a year, which is about the same for the average competitive table tennis player. I’ve had a lot of highs and a lot of lows. I’ve both won tournaments, or walked away win-less. When I first started playing, one of the top players in Indiana once told me “You’re going to lose a lot of games”, and he was so correct. Throughout my time playing, there was many times, both during practice and tournaments, where my mental game was tested. I’ve broken paddles (and shamefully left bruises) because of my mental game.

It wasn’t until 2010 until I really started to see my mental game improve. After a bad shot, I could keep my mental game intact. Sure… I could get mad, but the game continues. The point is over, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Move on, and get your head back in the game. One of the things I felt I got really good at was being able to keep a cool head during a match, while on the opposite side of the table, my opponent would show their emotions. I played off their anger, and I loved every minute of it. Anytime I would see an opening in my opponent’s weak mental game, I would try to take advantage of it, and many times, I was successful. If you haven’t noticed up until this point, I’m competitive. By nature, many, if not all of us, are. We want to win, and we’ll do anything to get that feeling of winning. Sure, Mr. “Indiana Top Player”, I’ll lose a lot of games, but, oh man, those wins… they’re sweet.

I stopped actively training and competing in table tennis tournaments last year, primarily because of the time commitment. My most recent rating is 1653, which puts me about average amongst the nation’s active competitive table tennis players. Think about a bell curve, with the scale going from zero to 3000, and around 1700 being the highest point. For someone who trains 2 or 3 times a week, going up the bell curve is easy. Going down though, that takes some time… and a lot of practice. I personally didn’t have the time or motivation to get where I wanted to be. I wanted to be around a 1900 player, but getting to that point would mean training 3-4 times a week for 3 hours each day. That’s a lot of time on the table. If I would practice any less than that, I wouldn’t get to that level.

Switching now to my golf game, I really started this project to (1) improve my game, (2) meet new people, and (3) have fun. So far, so good… I’ve done all three. But recently, I’ve notice my mental game is not where it should be. How did this happen? Over the course of this project, I’ve grown accustom to poor shots. It’s really the nature of any beginner. Much like playing games of table tennis, when you start out, you’re going to make a lot of bad shots, but, oh man, those good shots… they’re sweet.

Fast forward a couple years, where you might not make bad shots all the time. Your handicap is starting to decrease, and you’re making good shots and solid impact. At some point in time, you start expecting your shots to be decent. They might not be perfect, but at least you’re hitting the ball and making forward progress.

So what happens when, being in that mindset, you make bad shots when you don’t expect it, or when you make bad shots one after the other? You can probably guess. A quick search on YouTube shows even the pros get overly frustrated at times:

A good chunk of that poor round was due to my mental game. My mental game was so determined to make good, solid, long shots that my physical game failed to produce, then making those bad shots one after the other, from hole to hole, took a toll on my overall game. I let my mental game get out of control, and as an effect, my physical game suffered, and I shot one of my worst rounds within the last year or two. Trent tried his best to keep me in the game, either by offering advice or trying to switch the topic to something other than the round, and I tried everything I could to not worry about the past and think about the future, but in the end, I was so determined to get to that level where wished I was, instead of actually playing at the level where I should have been. Along the way, I made many, many mistakes, both mentally internal and physically external.

Sure, we’ve probably all been there at some time. Like I said, by nature, nearly everyone is competitive. So “losing it” mentally, for those who don’t know how to control it, will happen. It’s really up to you to be able to control it. Golf is a very individual and personal game. The only way your opponents will ever affect your game is if you allow them to affect you mentally.

Not only does a poor mental game affect yourself, but it also affects the people around you. I’ve played many rounds where the people I play with have poor mental games and get angry quickly (some of those people are my good friends too). It’s really no fun to play with someone when they are at that point mentally. I’m sure everyone can agree with this.

I personally think it’s difficult to train or instruct someone on how to develop a better mental game (both with golf and table tennis), and the last thing I’d ever want to do is give advice on how to improve your mental game. I can’t really even be sure that these products, books, or instructors who teach the mental game of golf will ever have the end-all-be-all fix to this aspect of the game. It really just comes down to the individual… how they control their thoughts, how they react to situations, and how they move along to the next shot.

At this point in time, I don’t think being competitive in this sport is good for me or my game. Sure, I’m meeting a lot of people playing in the league, but as I mentioned above, I also started this project so I can improve my game. I feel that when my mental game gets out of control, I’m actually taking a step back from improving my game. And that, my friends, is just not fun.

The last round for me during this long Memorial Day weekend was at St. Andrews Golf & Country Club in West Chicago, Illinois, approximately 33 miles west of downtown Chicago. St. Andrews features two 18-hole championship courses: the St. Andrews #1 course, a 6,920 yard par 71 course, and the Joe Jemsek (Lakewood) course, a 6,770 yard par 72 course that was built in 1929. For this round, I played the St. Andrews #1 Course, which was designed and built in 1926 by John McGregor of the Chicago Golf Club.

The course features four par-3 and three par-5 holes for a total par 71 at a length of 6,920 yards from the back tees. The rolling fairways are generally open and surrounded by large trees. You’ll find slight dogleg lefts on the 1st hole (a 351 yard par-4) and the 5th hole (a 402 yard par-4), and slight dogleg rights on the 16th hole (a 445 yard par-4) and the 18th hole (a 404 yard par-4). All of the par-3 holes are more than 170 yards from the back tees, while the par-5 holes average around 500 yards from the back tees. Water touches four of the holes, but really only come into play on the 18th hole, where a pushed or sliced tee shot will surely find the water. You won’t have to carry water for any of your shots. Bunkers are found on all holes except the 18th and the 12th (a 237 yard par-3), either near the fairway, the green, or both. The large undulating greens are challenging for all levels of play, and played about average speed.

For this round, I met up with Trent, who I haven’t seen or golfed with in almost a year, as well as John and Uziar, the same two Windy City Golf League flight members from my round at Fox Run.

I played a really poor round. I wish I could say something a little more positive about how I played, but everything about my game during this round seemed to be the worst it’s been in a while. I had many issues with my tee shots, both with my driver and my irons. Throughout the round, I really only had two good tee shots: on the first hole, which ended up in the sand, and on the last hole, which ended up in the water. All other tee shots in between were either mishit, pushed right into a tree, or sliced into another fairway. By the back nine, I was mentally begging myself for a good tee shot. This obviously led me to a lot of recovery shots with my fairway wood or my hybrid, which sometimes pulled through a decent shot and other times were poor. My iron shots were generally made with poor impact, and didn’t have the distance or accuracy as I expected. My wedge shots were very random, either leaving me way short or way long. And my putting was all over the place. What went wrong? Well, I definitely think I was overpowering my shots. And after a couple bad shots, it took a toll on my mental game, which just led to more bad shots.

I ended up shooting a 117 for the round (46 over par, 59 on the front nine, 58 on the back nine). This consisted of three bogeys and all others worse. I didn’t have any 1-putts, 3-putted eight times and 4-putted once. I really don’t think this was a difficult course. I just played really badly. John, who also had some troubles along the way, though not as bad as me, ended up shooting a 109. Uziar shot a 92, and I’m starting to think he doesn’t belong in our league flight (Trent agreed with me).

Normally, a round like this would warrant a future redemption round, but I don’t really see that happening this year. If I don’t have a good reason to replay this course, I’m not going to replay it. Like I said, I don’t think this is bad course, I just played really badly.

Before I end this post, I’m should also mention (because Trent would mention it otherwise) that we believe the ranger(s) on the course made a bad decision that directly effected our game. Prior to teeing off on the first hole, the starter specifically told us about the cart path from the 8th to the 9th hole. The issue is that many people incorrectly follow the cart path going away from the green of the 8th hole. Doing so would take you to the tee box of the 13th hole instead of the 9th hole. For sure, some foursome ahead of us did just that. To get them back on the correct hole, the ranger put them in front of another foursome ahead of us, which greatly slowed down the pace of the back nine. We calculated that for the front nine, we finished in around two hours. After the turn, it took us an hour just to get through the 12th hole. Did the ranger make the correct decision? Who’s to say… but the fact remains that by doing so, he slowed down many people who were on the correct pace. Overall, it made for a very frustrating back nine.

St. Andrews Golf & Country Club – St. Andrews #1 Course – Scores & Stats
Course length: 6,418 yards (white tee boxes)
Course par: 71
Course rating/slope: 70.2/120 (white tee boxes)
My score: 117 (46 over par)

St. Andrews Golf & Country Club
2241 Route 59
West Chicago, IL 60185

Edgebrook Golf Course

Posted by cjsharp1 on May 27, 2012 in Courses 0 Comments

Starting off the long Memorial Day weekend, I took a short trip up to Edgebrook Golf Course, located approximately 10 miles northwest of downtown Chicago. Edgebrook is part of the Forest Preserve Golf courses, which operates ten golf courses throughout Chicagoland (including Joe Louis, Chick Evans, Billy Caldwell, Indian Boundary, River Oaks, and Meadowlark, six other courses I have played so far). Of the ten courses, Edgebrook is the shortest of the eight 18-hole courses. Like all other Forest Preserve Golf courses, Edgebrook is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

The course features six par-3 holes, with no par-5 holes, for a total par of 66 at a length of 4,567 yards from the tee boxes. There are technically two tee boxes for each hole: the back mat tee box and the forward grass tee box. The fairways are wide open, fairly flat, and mostly straight. Only the 3rd hole (a 352 yard par-4) has a 90 degree dogleg right. The longest par-3 hole is the 2nd, at a length of 229 yards, and the longest par-4 hole is the 13th, at a length of 371 yards. Water hazards touch three of the holes, all of which you’ll need to carry over a small creek or a small pond. The par-3 5th is the shortest hole, at a length of 84 yards, and your tee shot much carry a small creek up to the green, which sits nearly 50 feet higher than the tee box. There are no bunkers throughout the course, though in some areas it looked like there could have been a bunker at some time. The greens are a decent size with consistent slopes, and played very slow, probably because the grass on the greens was a little high.

For this round, I played alone and started in the late afternoon, so I could take advantage of the twilight rates. I think that anyone who’s going to play this course should do the same. I don’t think the cost of the standard rate is worth the quality of this course. It’s bad enough to have mat tee boxes, but then the grass tee boxes were in horrible shape. The fairways were what you would expect from a Forest Preserve course, with many areas in need of repair. And if they would cut the grass on the greens, the greens would actually be halfway decent. I think this might be the worst-maintained course that the Forest Preserve oversees.

Though, if you’re learning to play golf, this course could be perfect for you, but save your money and play a weekday twilight (you could save even more money and just walk the course also). If there isn’t much traffic, you shouldn’t have any issue completing your round in less than two or three hours, which should put you back in the clubhouse before the sun goes down.

By looking at my score, it seems I played well, but I feel I could have done a little better. On the front nine, many of my tee shots were with my 3 hybrid or an iron. I didn’t pull out my driver the 8th hole (a 289 yard par-4). I had some troubles throughout the round with my tee shots, but they were generally straight or pushed right. My irons were decent, and were mostly good when I would actually follow through with my swing. I didn’t hit with my long irons throughout the round. My wedges could have seen some improvement, as could my putting, but I’ll just blame the slow greens for that. I 1-putted twice and 3-putted five times.

I ended up shooting an 80 for the round (14 over par, 40 on the front nine, 40 on the back nine). This consisted of seven pars, eight bogeys, and three double bogeys. Seven pars in one round technically meets a goal for the year, but I don’t feel comfortable crossing that goal off the list with this course.

Edgebrook Golf Course – Scores & Stats
Course length: 4,567 yards
Course par: 66
Course rating/slope: 61.2/88
My score: 80 (14 over par)

Edgebrook Golf Course
6100 N. Central Ave.
Chicago, IL 60646


Fox Run Golf Links

Posted by cjsharp1 on May 26, 2012 in Courses 0 Comments

Last weekend, I headed out to the northwest suburbs for a round at Fox Run Golf Links in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, approximately 26 miles northwest of downtown Chicago. Fox Run, which opened in 1984, is the only golf facility that is part of the Elk Grove Park District.

The course features four par-3 and two par-5 holes for a total par of 70 at a length of 6,287 yards from the back tees. Even though the name implies this is a “links-style” course, it’s more of a traditional golf course. The fairways are somewhat narrow, surrounded by medium-sized trees and rolling hills. In some cases, the fairways require you to take more of a “target golf” approach, meaning your tee shot on a par-4 or par-5 might not be with a driver. Accurate shots and distance control are necessary. Water hazards touch 11 of the holes. I feel that the water in the drawing of the course layout is a little misleading. Sure, there is a lot of water, and you’ll need to carry your shot over the water many times (eight times by my count), but the amount of water and the distance you’ll need to carry is definitely not as bad was what they show. I went into this round thinking I would have a lot of issues with the water, but that wasn’t the case. Bunkers are found on all but two holes, either near the fairways, the greens, or both. I found the 13th hole (a 384 yard par-4) to be interesting. All the way down the fairway on the left side, you have trees and out of bounds, and on the right side, you have a water hazard and a long bunker, and the fairway was very narrow. Like I said, accuracy is necessary. The greens are fairly large with consistent slopes and challenging breaks. The speed of the greens was random throughout my round.

For this round, I met up with two other flight members of the Windy City Golf League, John and Uziar, neither of which I have played before. I thought John played around my level, and he had some pretty straight drives, though not as much distance. Uziar, a leftie, played really well… almost too well.

I, on the other hand, didn’t play as well as I wished. Much like my previous rounds, I struggled on the front nine and played better on the back nine. My drives were random, but mostly pushed right. I did happen to have a couple slices, but I generally recovered from them by using my hybrid or long iron. I didn’t really hit well my hybrid well until the back nine. My iron shots were pretty random too, and I wasn’t getting the accuracy or distance I was hoping. I tried to focus on getting my stance and posture correct when hitting with my irons. I took some of Markus’s advice from the last round, and I think overall it helped me keep a more consistent swing plane from shot to shot. My putting could have also been better, though the speed of the greens really messed with my shots. I ended up 1-putting twice and 3-putting five times.

I ended up shooting a 107 for the round (37 over par, 55 on the front nine, 52 on the back nine). This consisted of two pars, three bogeys, five double bogeys, and way too many triple bogeys. John ended up beating me by 1 stoke, shooting a 106. Uziar played really well and shot a 94.

Fox Run Golf Links – Scores & Stats
Course length: 5,935 yards (white tee boxes)
Course par: 70
Course rating/slope: 68.4/115 (white tee boxes)
My score: 107 (37 over par)

Fox Run Golf Links
333 Plum Grove Road
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

Billy Caldwell Golf Course (Round 2)

Posted by cjsharp1 on May 22, 2012 in Courses 0 Comments

Shortly after our round at Chick Evans Golf Course, Markus and I took a short trip over to Billy Caldwell Golf Course for a quick nine with the Chicago Co-Ed Golf Meetup Group. Since I played this course almost two years ago, I’m not going to go into great detail on the course. I can say is that after playing at Chick Evans, you could tell that this course is better maintained. The water level was a little low in the small pond that touches the 5th hole (a 317 yard par-4) and the 7th hole (a 376 yard par-4), which made the course look a little less appealing (and also revealed a lot of golf balls). For this round, Markus and I joined six other golfers from the meetup group, and were paired up with Avrom and Scott, both of whom played around my level.

I feel I played a decent round, though it could have gone better. My drives were either straight or pushed right. I think I drove the ball better because I was a little more relaxed, which is something I need to remember for my league matches. I had the most issues with my irons. I felt like I was making decent impact, but I just could keep my shots straight. Markus hinted on a change I could make, which involves stepping a little further away from the ball and bending my wrist down more (so my arm and club is a little more flatter). I think this is a good idea, because it should help me keep a more consistent swing plane. This is something I’ll work on at the range in the coming weeks. My wedges and putting was random, probably because I wasn’t really focusing. I was really just playing this round to socialize and have fun.

I ended up shooting a 52 (17 over par), and 3-putted twice, with no 1-putts. My score consisted mostly of bogeys and double bogeys. That’s two strokes worse than my first round at the course, but during that round, I made two pars. So this round, I played better on some holes and worse on others. Isn’t that how the game goes?

Billy Caldwell Golf Course – Scores & Stats
Course length: 2,941 yards (white tee boxes)
Course par: 35
Course rating/slope: 68.0/112 (white tee boxes)
My score: 52 (17 over par)

Billy Caldwell Golf Course
6150 N. Caldwell Ave.
Chicago, IL 60646

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