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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.

This is the forth post in a multi-post series on golf course maintenance from an interview with Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”).

In this post, we talk about ball marks, divots, and other golf course maintence issues.

CGN: Are there any other things you’d like to say in regards to what players can do (beginners and non-beginners alike) to help keep the course in good shape? What are some things players do that you [as a course manager] really appreciate? I’d imagine replacing divots or filling them in with divot mix is a major one.

BE: Most courses are ‘judged’ by golfers on the condition of the greens more heavily than other areas. If left unrepaired, a ball mark could take 2-4 weeks to resolve the damage on it’s own. In my experience, 1 out of 5 golfers repairs their ball marks. Therefore, I ask each of our regulars to try to fix 4-5 ball marks on each green when they play… I tell them the ‘Putting Gods’ will be watching and be more kind to those who fix ball marks. If a golfer only did one thing, replacing ball marks would be on the top of the list. The course benefits, but the golfers benefit more.

There are differing opinions on replacing divots. When you take a divot, you haven’t killed the grass… the roots will regenerate the foliage. Replacing a divot is beneficial in leveling the surface and may prevent someone else from having to play from a hole, but a ‘dead’ divot will sometime impede the new growth from the roots (divots don’t regenerate from the ground down). That’s why some courses offer sand or divot mix… it levels the surface and allows the new shoots to come through.

Divot mix is tricky, and some courses have stopped using it. Some courses have bent grass tees, blue grass fairways, and blue/rye roughs. When divot mix is filled in a portable container, it may contain blue grass, but an unknowing golfer may take a divot on the bent grass tee, fill it with blue grass divot mix, and think they did good. Instead, they just introduced an undesirable grass into an area it doesn’t belong. If there is divot mix on a par 3 tee box, using it is greatly appreciated, as the course will have mixed the right blend.

The other often overlooked maintenance issue most amatuers aren’t aware of… in a greenside bunker, the highest part is often closest to the green. After hitting a shot, golfers often try to climb out of the bunker at the highest point, closest to the green, often damaging the edge of the bunker along the way. Entering and exiting a bunker at its lowest point is not only more beneficial to the course, but more comfortable for the golfer (even though it may require a bit more raking).

This is the third post in a multi-post series on golf course maintenance from an interview with Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”).

In this post, we talk about cart rules and the factors that effect general cart traffic.

CGN: Speaking of motorized carts, let’s talk about that 90 degree rule. Courses try to enforce it, but more times than not, players don’t adhere to it. How exactly does that rule help you? How long do the side effects of players not adhering to the 90 degree rule effect the quality of the course? What other motorized cart rules can you try to enforce?

BE: Cart rules generally fall into the scatter (go anywhere), rough only, 90 rule, fairway only, cart path only, or no cart rules.

Scatter and no carts are obvious. Rough only may be applied when a course doesn’t have continuous cart paths, wants some cart revenue, but it’s pretty wet and they don’t want golfers to damage the more important fairway turf. They’re usually acknowledging that some damage will take place in the rough, but the cost/satisfaction/benefit ratio is positive and the rough can be fixed. Some courses have excellent fairway drainage and/or divert the stormwater into the rough, so they’ll mandate fairways only because the turf there is drier and less likely to become damaged. Cart paths only means you could damage numerous areas of the course and the course invested in all of those cart paths so the golfers are going to use them and not damage any of the turf. 90 degree rule usually means it’s wet in the fairways, but severe damage isn’t imminent and we’re trying to keep satisfactions levels somewhat high. However, wet turf is more susceptable to compaction, and compaction is bad for turf… so the less traffic we have in the fairways, the better. 90 degree rule is the hardest to police because we’re not necessarily restricting fairway access… we’re simply ‘hoping’ to get as much cooperation as possible from our guests to minimize turf wear and tear.

Of course, there are other factors for each of the above than just stormwater… balancing traffic patterns to avoid overuse in some areas, chemical applications that need to dry or settle, high levels of play when grass is weak or susceptable, turf disease or conditions favorable for disease, recent aerifications, etc. could all have an impact on where the course would prefer carts to go and not go. For instance, pythium is a disease that can wipe out the turf on a golf course in 48 hours. If disease is present or favorable, having carts transfer the disease from one area of the course to another so multiple areas become infected isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

This is the second post in a multi-post series on golf course maintenance from an interview with Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”).

In this post, we talk about water drainage and general course management in regards to the up-keep of the course.

CGN: What other things can happen that will change the normal activities that players do during a round of golf (in regards to the up-keeping of the course)? For example, I’ve played on courses that received a heavy amount of rainfall, and all that was done was not allow motorized carts. That’s understandable, as the course managers don’t want to turn the fairways into a mud pit. At what point do you make that call to not allow motorized carts?

BE: Every course is different, and every course has different drainage characteristics. For instance, some golf courses (typically municipal courses like Village Greens of Woodridge) actually serve as stormwater retention for neighborhoods and businesses surrounding the property. Therefore, when we get rain, we’re often taking water on 24 hours after the rain stops, and sometimes golfers don’t understand why the course is still closed or carts aren’t available even though it’s sunny and 80 degrees and the rain ended 24 hours earlier.

Some courses have very expensive and elaborate drainage systems to get water off the course quickly so as not to interrupt business operations. Private country clubs and high-end public courses (like Cog Hill #4 “Dubsdread”) have great drainage systems and you wouldn’t know it even rained 3-4 hours after a one inch rainfall.

Other things [that could change the normal activities] are aerification of greens, tees, and fairways, topdressing, chemical applications, and simply letting a course ‘rest’ for a day (like private country clubs do on Mondays).

Every course weighs those actvities which are required for acceptable turf conditions vs. budgets vs. rounds played vs. customer satisfaction, and tries to blend it all together at times when weather is favorable. It’s a delicate decision to weigh short term financial gain, customer satisfaction, and long term course damage/restoration, and there’s often no clear cut answer. Additionally, some courses allow different people to make the decisions… a grounds superintendent’s job is to keep the turf as nice as possible, and they’ll obviously be much more conservative in their decision making. Golf managers are charged with generating revenues and are the front-line for customer service issues, and they’ll be more aggressive in decision making. This is often why golf pros and superintendents don’t get along at some facilities… there’s always a ‘winner’ and ‘loser’… and this routine takes place 100+ times per year as conditions constantly change.

In my previous post, I mentioned that there was a long wait to tee off because of a frost delay. Being still fairly new to the sport (and usually only playing during warm weather), this made me wonder about the exact meaning behind a frost delay and the problems it could cause to a golf course.

I reached out Brandon Evans, General Manager & PGA Certified Golf Professional at Village Greens of Woodridge (and self-imposed “Director of Fun and Entertainment”). Brandon was kind enough to offer some insight into various topics of golf course maintenance, including frost delays, water drainage, and cart rules.

This is the first post in a multi-post series on golf course maintenance. In this post, we talk about frost delays.

CGN: It’s obvious was causes a frost delay, even though I didn’t really think it got that cold the night before my round. What’s the reasoning behind preventing play when there’s frost? What does the frost do to the course? How is this any different than playing during the winter or early fall? How often do frost delays actually happen?

BE: Frost is one of the most frustrating and somewhat unpredictable issues we deal with. Frustrating because nobody wins… the course has to delay golfers from teeing off, which only causes aggravation and irritation for the golfers, especially those accustomed to teeing off early and getting home early. In many cases, the golfers simply can’t wait and they cancel their tee times, resulting in loss of valuable revenue. Even if they do stick around there’s often confusion and chaos in getting everybody onto the course once the delay ends. NOBODY has fun on frost delayed mornings.

Believe me, there’s a very good reason we prevent golfers from going onto the course when there is frost present… it would be a lot easier to simply let everyone out to play than to try to mitigate our guests’ frustration if the consequences weren’t that severe.

First of all… frost is tricky. Without going into details, frost is obviously frozen water, but because the temperature you see on the Weather Channel is taken several feet off the ground and cold air is more dense and therefore ‘sinks’, there could (and often is) frost on the grass when the ‘temperature’ is above freezing. Additionally, it takes frost a while to melt, depending on the severity and density, so by the time you’re driving to the course it may read 37 on your car’s dashboard but when you arrive at the course the greens are frosty white. Lastly, frost will settle and be more severe on shorter grass, which is why your yard may not show frost but a putting green will. Alternatively, humidity levels and other factors are involved, so it’s entirely possible to have overnight lows in the 20’s without frost being present in the morning, yet other mornings when the overnight lows were 35 and there’s a heavy frost.

A blade of grass is 80% water and therefore very pliable or flexible. When that water freezes, and/or a layer of frost covers the blade, the blade of grass becomes rigid and fragile. When someone then steps on it or drives on it, the blade of grass will break, crack, or otherwise become damaged. In the short term, it will cause very bumpy greens (imagine walking through newly fallen snow leaving footprints… a putting surface will look just like it). A few days later, grass may show signs of ‘bruising’ from it’s injuries… we’ll literally see brown or black footprints all over the grass, and those areas won’t grow as evenly, resulting in poor playing surfaces. If the frost was heavy enough and the crown of the plant was frozen, the entire plant will die and the course has some serious problems at that point. We’ve all seen greens with dead ‘footprints’ all over the place.

Bottom line… as much as we hate frustrating the golfers and losing the revenue, the alternative of bruised or dead fairways and greens is less appealing and has longer term consequences.

We typically see frost in March and April, October and November. At some point, the grass goes dormant. Once it’s dormant, it’s more difficult to damage the blade of the grass, which is why some courses allow ‘winter’ golf. However, there are other ways to damage the playing surface in the winter and most course don’t see a positive cost/benefit ratio for winter golf.

What’s CGN?

I'm a golf noob. Living in Chicago.
Playing every course in Chicagoland.
There's a lot.

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