It’s year 7(!) of the 10 I gave myself to play a round of golf in every state. We’re still at 50 states, because in spite of that 2016 election, the country is still in one piece. Unfortunately, in 2016 I only played golf in one new state, Minnesota. I did play in five states total, but four were retreads (AZ, CA, NV, UT). I did get to knock off one of my bucket list courses in Wolf Creek, well worth the trip.
The Ryder Cup closes with the singles matches at Hazeltine in Minnesota, giving me a nice alternative to the beginning of the NFL’s “PinkTober”. I’ll jot some picks and see how close I get.
I’m gonna give myself a point for picking the winner and an extra point if I nail the winning margin. This would be easier if there weren’t draws… Continue reading Ryder Cup 2016 Singles Picks
The Top 25 Golf Courses in Phoenix
The new Golf Magazine course rankings are out, so I’ve gotta update my map. Included are state-by-state rankings, from AK to WY, including AZ. I’ve been here in the stifling heat of Scottsdale for almost five years now and have played rounds at around 30 courses in the Phoenix area, so why not provide all you snowbirds and Spring Training visitors with a quick and easy guide on where to play. I’ve only played one private course here for one of those Golf Channel tournaments. The rest, such as Whisper Rock and Estancia, are above my paygrade and celebrity status. So unless you’re coming into town with some well-connected friends, stick to this list.
Best Course: Troon North – Monument, Scottsdale ($59-$295)
Ten years ago, I went on a road trip to every baseball stadium in the Major Leagues. I lived in the Bay Area then, so we started by going south to Los Angeles and all around the country before getting through Denver and back home. And after visiting all those stadiums, I found out that the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park is still the nicest ballpark on the planet. That’s a lot like Troon North’s Monument course is. It’s the first course I ever played in Arizona, and all these rounds later, it’s still the best. Beautiful scenery, fun holes and world-class service make it tough to top.
Runners up: We-Ko-Pa – Saguaro, Fort McDowell; Wickenburg Ranch, Wickenburg
Oak Meadows in The Friendly Skies
Tee Time: July 15, 2016, 6:08pm (scheduled), 8:28 (actual), 72 F, recirculated air
Playing Partners: Playing as Fred, who I pried from the clubhouse where it looked like he was flirting with another lovely golfer
Tees: Back, Par 72 (6,513 yards)
Stats: 83 (44-39); 36 putts; 12/14 fairways; 9/18 greens; 1 penalty stroke
I can only do so many crossword puzzles on airplane flights. Luckily for me, insie American Airlines’ free in-seat entertainment sits a golf game. I felt compelled to review it… and this might be my finest work yet… Continue reading Oak Meadows
After surviving a weekend in steamy New Orleans, I’ve reached the halfway point in my quest to play golf in all 50 states. Fortunately, in the 5 years or so I’ve been doing this, I’ve remained healthy, employed and the country hasn’t added any new states to the Union.
But what if something had happened, or will happen, and 25 is all I get? I mean, ice hockey does start up again soon. And that means possible broken bones, hematomas, concussions or even deep lacerations. No wonder the ladies dig us hockey players.
But I must see it through. I’ve come this far, gotta finish. I mean, look at some other things that just wouldn’t have been the same if someone had decided halfway was good enough. I’ve come up with twelve.
12. The United States: The country would look pretty small if we’d stopped after admitting the first 25 states. On June 15, 1836, Arkansas was admitted. That leaves just three states west of the Mississippi River and no West Virginia. Good thing they kept going, we all know the Pacific Coast is way better than the Atlantic.
A couple months ago I saw an ad for the Golf Channel Amateur Tour. I did some research and thought it would be something fun to try. Beating my regular playing partners gets old, you know? The price isn’t too bad considering all the work that goes into these events, and I will definitely sign up for more in the future. I’ve had fun in all three events so far.
I started with a T6 at the Corta Bella Invitational, where I lost to, among others, former Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz. That was interesting, but he’s a cool guy and it’ll be fun to get another round in with him. The I finished third at the Trilogy Power Ranch tournament, despite playing in a wrist brace. It wasn’t even my wrist’s fault. One four-putt and one bad chip were all that kept me out of first. Golf gets a lot tougher, but so much more rewarding, in a tournament setting where every shot must be holed out (so long, gimmies) and the rules followed to the letter. Out of bounds gets a lot scarier knowing you could be hitting 3, or even 5, off the tee.
Then last week, May 31, was the Grayhawk Open, on the Raptor Course. I had never played either course there. Luckily, the tour secured discount rates for the week to anyone who wanted a practice round beforehand. I took them up on the offer and headed up the day before at 3pm. It was a disaster. The temperature when I teed off was 107 degrees. This was the first extreme heat of the year, and that mild May that Arizona was blessed with did not have me ready for triple digits. I couldn’t keep a ball in play, hooking, slicing and topping drives. I don’t think I’ve topped a drive in like 5 years. I started the day with 10 golf balls in the bag and was flying around the empty course until the 8th hole. I skipped some foursomes until I found another opening, but kept losing balls and ran out after the par-3 16th. Continue reading I Won Something!
I watched the WGC Cadillac Championship this weekend, taking place at the famed Blue Monster at the Trump National Miami. After pumping in $200 million to renovate the course and put some teeth back into it, The Donald got his money’s worth as Patrick Reed’s winning score was a US Open-like 4-under-par. Only three players of the 69-man field finished in the red. Friday was especially brutal in the gusting winds. The average score was a 76 as no-one posted in the 60s while four golfers finished in the 80s. The winning score is currently the highest of any event in the 2013-14 season. I know some people get a kick out of this. To them, the scores still aren’t high enough. They want greens so slick you can putt into a water hazard, rough so deep the only way out is with a string trimmer and snowmen populating the scorecard. Some men just want to watch the world burn. I’m not that way. I love watching a second baseman turn a double play, a running back hit the hole at the perfect moment and a well-oiled San Jose Sharks power play score on crisp passing. I love watching the world’s top athletes displaying their talent, not suffering through some guy’s idea of protecting par: three-putts, evil bounces and general unfairness.
I know, sorry. Usually these preview editions and posts pop up before the new year actually starts. Well, I forgot. At least I’m beating Chinese New Year by a couple of weeks. So where do I want to play this year? And are there any goals I might have? Last year, which, in case you missed it, is detailed here, I made it to 6 new states. Meaning I’m ahead of my pace. Instead of July 2021 I think my new scheduled ETA is May 2021. Who knows, those two months could make all the difference. But now, 16 states in, things get dicey. There are 34 to go, and it seems daunting. Like when taking a long run (which my dog enjoys much more than I do) and you finish the first mile feeling fresh and think, “that wasn’t so bad” before realizing you’ve got 4 long, shin-splinting miles to go. I’ve still got to reach the four corners of the country: Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Florida. It’s over 2,000 miles from Phoenix to each of those states’ capitals. At least if I ever end up moving to Denver, Juneau, Augusta and somehow Tallahassee become closer. I still have yet to make a dent in the Midwest. I’ve gotten to second base with that region, skirting the edges in Colorado and Missouri. But soon I’m gonna have to dive headfirst into the Great Lakes, which is currently swimming in ice balls. Could get a little chilly.
Last year, my USGA index skyrocketed to embarrassing heights and I scrambled for excuses in this year end post of 2012. And then I played the same type of schedule in 2013 and dropped down to my pre-season goal of a handicap in the 8’s, finishing at an 8.8. So I guess all my logic from last year didn’t hold water. Out of about 35 rounds, at least 20 were on courses new to me and I shaved 4 strokes off anyway. Only five rounds crept into the 90’s, and two of those were in February when I only had one working wrist. But only two rounds snuck into the 70’s, one of which won me $200. So now I’ve settled into a low 80’s threat in the midst of what are supposedly my prime physical years (though at the moment I look more like the “before” pic). So then what changed?
Walking into the PGA Superstore these days must be like what a woman experiences at a department store sale. So many options. Where can you even start? Like cameras, computers and dogs, there’s literally something out there for everyone. The golf ball selection guide on the Bridgestone Golf website gets more personal than a Match.com profile. Just like the computer market, golf clubs have gotten to the point where as soon as you place a brand new one in your bag, it’s already out of date. You’d need to add a new wing to your house just to store all the now out-of-date drivers that TaylorMade has sold this millennium.