Course Review: Chambers Bay

IMG_0564 I had mentioned in previous posts that my wonderful wife had paid for me to play a round at Chambers Bay Golf Course, home of the 2015 US Open. I know that many people have had the chance to play on courses that have hosted Major Golf Tournaments like Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, Kiawah, Pinehurst No. 2, even St. Andrews. While playing these courses you can look back at how players have approached each hole and try to attack it the same way.

What is special about Chambers Bay, at least for the next year and a half now, is that it has not yet hosted the major championship and so the big boys have not yet played on it. I couldn’t help but wonder on each tee, “Would Tiger, Phil or maybe Bubba get aggressive on this hole or would they lay up?”

The course is set up like a Scottish links course. There is only one tree on the course behind the signature hole 15th green, but the tree never comes into play. IMG_0573

Most Washington State courses have deep rough and trees that you are dealing with if you miss the fairways. At Chambers, you are dealing with waste bunkers and fescue grasses. The fescue was not very deep and was pretty patchy but I have a feeling it will be deeper for the Open. One of the caddies said there are rumors they are going to make this the longest Open course ever at 8,000+ yards!

While that sounds insane, the fairways are hard year round and have a TON of roll. I think I averaged about 300 yards with my Driver, seriously! They are also pretty wide and forgiving, I actually hit 9 of 14 fairways on the day and was crushing the ball off the tee. Even my stray shots were giving me good looks at the greens or to perfect lay up areas.

The greens are lightning! And I can only see them getting faster for the Open. I have never putted on this type of grass and it showed. The greens blended right into the tight cut fairways so you didn’t know where one began and the other ended. It was like putting on slightly fuzzy cement. While my final total of putts for the round was an embarrassment (41, sorry Putting Doctor, only left 3 putts short the whole round though! I just kept hammering them past) my putting did improve on the back 9 where my only 3 putt was from 100 feet.

The greens that I have played have almost always been green. Even the fast greens have been just soft enough to get wedges to check up. NOT HERE! My sand approach from 95 yards on the first hole with a sand wedge landed on the front two feet of the green, rolled 30 feet past the pin in the middle of the green, and ended up in a bunker behind the green. Now I know how Tiger felt at the British Open when he hit a wedge from 100 yards, landed it 10-15 yards in FRONT of the green and it rolled over the back.

The sand traps were very soft and sooooooo easy to get the ball out. I never had a problem getting the ball out of the bunkers all day.

There are a couple of holes that I will love to watch when the Open comes in 2015. The par 3 9th hole will measure 230+ and guys will probably be hitting 7 and 8 irons because of a 90-100 foot drop in elevation. From the Sand Tees, (mid level tees) the hole was 200 yards with a 75 foot drop to the green. I hit 7 iron and put my tee shot in the middle of the green.

IMG_0572

The 12th is a drivable par 4 in which the green is tucked into a natural amphitheater. The green/fairway is cut up into the hills around the hole to allow shots to roll up and filter back down to the hole when it is playing in back. I hit a perfect tee shot that landed on the back of the green but got just hung up 4 inches into the first cut. Though it is hard to tell in the picture, the ball and my feet are at the same level as the flag on top of the pin. IMG_0574

Had it not gone so far up the hill it would have filtered right at the hole. I chipped to 8 feet and lipped my birdie putt. I can see some eagles on this hole happening at the open.

The 18th could either be extended to play as a 590 yard par 5 or left as a 530 yard par 4. You have to keep your tee shot right to avoid the waste bunker left in the landing area. (I just missed clearing it but ended up in the bunker.) IMG_0579

The lay up has to be thought out. The lay up area at 120 yards has a 13 foot deep bunker that has been named “Chambers Basement.”photo+(28)

Now honestly, it is really easy to avoid this bunker so I see only a few guys hitting it in there all week at the Open. When the pin is playing back, the green rolls up the hill, like on 14, to filter back down to the hole. I actually putted from below the hole and purposefully hammered the ball past the hole and up the hill so I wouldn’t leave it short. The ball rolled back towards the hole and rested 3 inches away!

I love this course and cannot wait to play it again. It does cost a bit, being the No. 1 public course in the state of Washington. If you love golf and have the chance to play this course, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE OPPORTUNITY! You will not be disappointed! Here are the greens fees for Chambers Bay.

Handicap Update

The time has come again for our bimonthly handicap update. The last update brought my handicap from 10.4 down to an even 10.0, so close to a single digit handicap! However, I knew it was not going to be much longer before I dropped my handicap down into those magic numbers. After a couple of rounds of 78 my new handicap is now:

9.3

It feels amazing to be in single digits now. This is a huge step for my game! I have been working hard on my ball striking and my putting, and the scores have proven it. My driver has still been a bit erratic off the tee lately, but I have been using my 3 wood and hybrids to keep the ball in the short stuff. (It worked for Phil to not even carry a driver at the Open!)

Speaking of the Open and links style golf, this next Monday is when I get to play Chambers Bay. This is the round that my wife got for me for our anniversary. I honestly do not know where I would be in this journey without her love and support and her pushing me along the way. I’ll make sure to give you guys the scoop on the site of the 2015 US Open!

Also, the focus of my game lately has been my putting. I have recently acquired a putting program from The Putting Doctor, Glen Coombe. This is a specially designed practice regimen for putting. Even in my first session I could see some improvement with distance control. Putting is so often left unpracticed because it is not as showy as a 300+ yard drive. However, they both count as only one stroke. I have realized that if I really want to drop my scores I HAVE to putt better. Check out The Putting Doctor yourself and see what he can do for you!

Hope you are all having a great summer and I cannot wait to update you on Chambers and my upcoming tournaments! Keep it in the short stuff!

Handicap/Mid-Season Recap

Once again, it is time for the USGA and GHIN to update handicaps! Last time we checked in, my handicap had dropped from 10.8 to 10.4. The latest revisions have just come in and my new handicap is…

10.0

So close to single digits! Well, it is still working its way down. I was only able to get one round of golf in during the last couple weeks due to a vacation for a wedding of some friends. Played at the Wilson course at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. It felt good to play from the very back tees and still shoot an 83 on a course that I have never played before. My iron play felt really good throughout the day. I just was not all that consistent off the tee.

The first half of this season has been quite a journey for me and my family. I know that my being away so much to practice and play rounds and tournaments has taken a toll on my wife at times. However, she continues to love me, encourage me, and push me to believe in myself and my dreams. For our anniversary this last week she purchased a round of golf for me at Chambers Bay Golf Course. This is where the 2015 US Open is going to be played! I could not be where I am today without her. She is a rock for me and more of a support than I ever could have imagined!

I had some specific goals for myself this year to help me start to focus my game:

Play in 4 Tournaments this year. So far I have played in one member’s Tourney at Willows Run. This next month I am playing in another member’s tourney as well as the two-day Washington State Mid-Amateur. There is also a possibility of the member’s championship at Willows in September.

Start getting more consistent off the tee and hit 60% of the fairways off the tee. That has been difficult this year playing with an entire new set of golf clubs. I have gone from hitting 51% of fairways last year to only 45% of fairways this year. I have gained some swing speed in the last couple months and can now hit my 3 wood and hybrids farther and with more consistency so I don’t have to rely on taking out my driver to try and get myself far enough down the fairway. That was evident in my last round at Griffith Park.

You have to improve GIR (greens in regulation – getting on the green in one shot on a par 3, 2 shots or less on a par 4 and 3 shots or less on a par 5 to have a birdie putt) in order to score well. My goal was to improve last year’s total of 29% of GIR to 40% this year. So far, for the year, I have hit 37% of the greens so far this year. Though I have not reached my goal yet, this is a vast improvement over last year. I look forward to improving this number even more so I can really start really shooting low.

Charlie Beljan and Henrik Norlander are, currently, the two players on the PGA Tour last in putting of those who average UNDER 30 putts a round. That puts them in a tie for 170th. I currently average 33.16 putts per round. My goal is to, eventually, get under 30 per round as well. If I was currently averaging 30 putts, it would bring my handicap to around 7!

My biggest weakness right now seems to be from about 75 yards and in, until I get on the green. While my putting has gained a LOT of consistency, less than full shot wedges, pitches and chipping have given me a little trouble. More often than not I tend to leave my chip shots short and outside of the 3-6 foot range (often closer to 10-15 feet) which can make it really hard to save par and keep scores from getting out of hand.

I also am not a very good sand player yet. Although, it always seems like my position in the bunker is like Phil Mickelson‘s at the Scottish Open where he had one foot up and out of the bunker and 18 inches higher than the other foot. I have not had many sand shots in the middle of the trap. However, I have been continuing to work at my local course’s practice facility putting chipping and working in the sand.

Overall, I am really excited about how the year has gone so far and am looking forward to the tournaments coming up. Time to turn it up a bit and see where the rest of this season will take me! I look forward to bringing the rest of you along on this journey as well!

Handicap Update

It is that time again folks! Another handicap update is upon us! As I have stated before, the USGA updates handicaps twice every month in order to keep things up to date for entering into tournaments and golf leagues. Any more often than twice a month would put quite the strain on a computing system with human oversight that they would never be able to keep up.

With the schedule my family has had lately it has been hard for me to keep up as well. (We are currently in Southern California for a friend’s wedding and to visit my wife’s family.) The latest USGA update was 9 days ago! Last time we checked in my handicap had fallen back down to 10.8, just above my all-time low of 10.7 from earlier in the season. Well, as of July 1st, my handicap is now…..

10.4

A new low!!! It has been nice to see the index going down consistently the last month or so. The difference from where I am now to having a single digit handicap is sinking one or two more 8-10 foot putts a round. Yup, that simple. You have to make the pressure par saves and birdie putts to score well enough to really bring down the handicap.

It has been tough the last couple of months to get out to play rounds of golf. Our schedules have changed, we have gone through some tough family circumstances, we have done some traveling, and our budget has not had the flexibility to let me get out very often. I have to do most of my putting practice on our little back porch, working on 3-8 foot putts, in order to get in the practice time.

This month’s golf budget was mainly eaten up in registering for the Washington State Golf Association Mid-Amateur. ($164. That is 5 rounds at my local club!) This is a two day tournament for amateur golfers at least 25 years of age by the start of the tournament. I am really looking forward to playing in a Statewide tournament!

Anyway, I hope you all are having a nice summer! For those that golf (even if it is Tiger Woods, lol), Keep your drives straight and true!

Tournament Results/Handicap Update

Happy belated Father’s Day to all you dads out there! I hope all of you dads and Grand-dads had a good day and a good weekend. It was wonderful for me.

To start, Saturday, being the 15th was a handicap update day. With only a couple rounds played in the last two weeks I managed to take my 10.9 handicap to……..

10.8

Another step closer to being single digits! It feels so close and so far at the same time.

This weekend I played in my first individual, stroke play tournament. With 44 guys we were split into 4 flights of 11 people separated by handicaps. My 10.9 handicap put me as the middle man in the second flight of handicaps between 8.4-13.4. I have to admit that I did feel a little bit of the jitters as we started out, but it felt like just a round of golf with a couple other guys after the first couple holes.

I finished my round with an 84 and considering the conditions and how the other 43 guys played, I am very happy with the result. My handicap took 11 strokes off my score to finish 3rd in my flight. With handicaps ranging from 6.4 to 20+, I managed to tie for the eighth best score of the day overall. Only two guys in the whole tournament managed to even break 80.

I feel pretty good about how I played. My iron play was pretty consistent. My tee shots were a little erratic but I only hit one ball out of play, the rest were very playable. The rough was not too thick so I was able to get my approaches close, if not on the green. My chipping gave me some issues. While I never sculled or miss-hit any chips, I had a lot of 8-12 foot putts to try to save par.

I had a couple holes that I could not have played any more perfect. On number 10, a 527 yard par 5, I launched a 327 yard drive down the middle, hit a 190 yard 6 iron into the green and made a solid two putt for birdie. On 18, another 500 yard par 5, I hit my driver just into the rough on the right, laid up to about 40 yards, and pitched it to 5 feet to finish my round with another birdie.

I have a few more rounds and a couple possible tournaments before I play in the Washington State Mid-Amateur in August at Suncadia’s Rope Rider course. It is a two day event and should be a lot of fun!

So, time to work on some more putting and chipping and preparing for my next few rounds!

Tournament Ahead

I am looking forward to this next Saturday. This will be the first individual score tournament that I have ever played in. I have played in a ton of Scramble tournaments for churches and companies in which I had to be the big hitter or the lock down putter. It is a lot of fun to play when your team already has a ball in good position on a long par 5 so you can take out a 3 iron and try to hit that power fade 245 yards around the corner to try to have an eagle putt.

However, this next weekend I have to play it safe. In honor of the U.S. Open, my home club of Willows Run has set up its Men’s Club Open like our national championship. They have cut the greens really short and let them get really hard. The rough has been grown out and the pin placements will be in tougher places. This is going to be a major test for my skills. I played the course last week and it is playing pretty difficult already.

I look forward to the test, to see how my game really stacks up with a little bit of pressure. It should be a lot of fun playing with guys I have never played with before. We shall see how it goes and give you guys an update next week!

Anchoring Ban

A couple of days ago I received my official letter/email from the USGA concerning the anchored putter ban that will start January 1st 2016. The USGA and R&A surveyed and collected insights from golfers and analysts all over the world and concluded that:

“Rule 14-1b was necessary to protect the essential nature of the traditional method of stroke and eliminate potential advantages that anchoring the club provides.”

Golf is a 600 year old sport that continues to try to keep to the traditions and legacies of old. This includes making sure that golf remains as hard as possible. Read through the rule book and you will see that almost every rule makes the game harder for the player. There are occasional exceptions for “free drops” but most of those instances are local rules concerning “ground under repair” and things of that nature. The USGA and R&A hold fiercely to the game’s homeland sentimentality to stubbornly stick to the “olde ways“. (Being both Scottish and Norwegian I tend to fall into that rank as well, just ask my wife.)

The USGA goes on to say, “. . .the essence of the traditional method of the golf stroke has involved swinging the club with both the club and gripping hands held away from the body, requiring the player to direct and control the movement of the entire club. Anchoring one end of the club against the body, and creating a point of physical attachment around which the club is swung, is a substantial departure from the traditional swing. Our judgement, based on tradition, observation and experience, is that anchoring creates an unacceptable risk of changing and reducing the challenge of making a golf stroke.”

This is another example of the Game’s desperate grip of the past while living in the future. It was not until just this past year that Augusta National FINALLY allowed its first female members. At the same time, equipment manufacturers are pushing the limits over and over and over again in terms of helping golfers hit the ball farther and with more accuracy. Again, a constant push-pull.

And now the sport’s governing bodies have decided to ban golfers from anchoring the club to their bodies. Note that the rule does not outlaw the clubs themselves, just the ability to anchor the club, hands or forearms to the body in order to stabilize the stroke. Golf Digest as posted the full statement from the USGA along with a slide show of examples of what is still legal in making a putting stroke here.

So, when this rule takes place in 2016, what will this mean for the weekend golfer, for those who do not carry a handicap, those who play for the enjoyment of the game, those of you like my father (and myself and brother even for a time) who do use long/belly putter anchored to the body? In my honest opinion, absolutely nothing! If golf is your way of escaping the rat race, the kids, to decompress from work or to get outdoors and enjoy the game – do not change a thing. You keep right on anchoring. In fact, if you have an easier time playing golf by cleaning your ball off every shot, moving it out from behind a tree, off a tree root so you do not snap a club, or even teeing the ball up in the middle of the fairway to help you make solid contact, you will receive no judgement from me! I will gladly welcome you into my foursome and hit the links with you and have a grand old-time.

However, I will not be so gracious to those who are playing with me in a men’s club event, an official tournament or even posting scores to reduce an official handicap. I am enough of a traditionalist when it comes to the rules that I researched all the clubs that I was building and only made ones that I KNEW were USGA legal as I have started working down my handicap to becoming a scratch golfer. I have a major respect for the game and its rules and do what I can to follow those rules because I am striving to be the best I can within those rules. The PGA Tour is no exception. Sorry Keegan, Adam, Ernie, Webb, Tim and all you others. I do not believe in bifurcation. The rules are the rules. Do I disagree with the way they may have come about, as an overzealous, traditionalist fight against 4 of the last 6 major winners, yes. But there was not enough objection to the rule to keep it from being put into effect.

There are days, that I just want to play around and  hit mulligans as I try new shots and work on things and have fun with out posting. Just fun. For those who play by that thinking and do not care about your handicap index or playing competitively you can go on and ignore the anchoring rule, the groove rule of 2012 and so on. Keep having fun!!