Forget the Wii, forget the Helio Drift, I want this putter

The Dixx Blu putter from South Korea’s Infinics looks amazing, despite the unfortunate name. I doubt it's legal, but it looks like a great training device.

Hmm, it's supposed to run US$832.

Posted on Wed, 20 Dec 2006 15:18 by Seni Sangrujee (1650 day(s) old)

Spring Valley Golf Course Review

Spring Valley, Milpitas, CA

Weekend Rate: $54
Occasional specials at GolfNow under CA-South Bay

I play this course a few times a year and just went back there last weekend. It's a little tricky to get to in the Milpitas Hills east of I-680 near Ed Levin park.

The shortgame area and practice green are excellent and set away from the clubhouse and first tee. I've only used the driving range once, though, it has mats and is pretty narrow. There's also a secondary practice green near the lower parking section.

The course itself is pretty easy, I would consider it one of the easiest in the Bay Area. It's short, not very crowded and par is only 70. If I knew someone trying to break 90 (or 80 or 100) for the first time, I'd take them to this course for the confidence boost. It's also not a bad course to walk since it's not extremely hilly (unlike nearby Summitpointe).

Most of the holes are short and narrow, you're probably better off not using driver on many of them. Conditions are about average for the area. There are some serious backups on holes #2 and #11, both par 3s, but other than that, the course flows pretty well.

Memorable Holes: (there aren't that many, it's a fairly non-descript course)

  • #10 Dogleg right par 5. This is a fun hole that can play short if manage to cut off the dogleg successfully, but you're also risking OB off the tee if you go too far right. I've always been in a group that's had to wait for the green to clear on this hole because it's laid out so that when you're finished on this green, you have to backtrack walking through this fairway to get to the next hole.
  • #13 Dogleg left par 4. This hole isn't anything special, and it's very similar to the 12th hole right before it. But the green has one of the biggest slopes I've ever seen anywhere. Every time I've played it, someone in the group has 4-putted it. At this point, I try to put my approach short and left near the fringe so I'm below the hole and can escape with a two-putt.
  • #17 Downhill par 5. This hole is only remarkable because it might be the shortest par 5 I've ever played. These days it's not a big deal for me to reach par 5s in two, but this was the first hole where I ever accomplished that. I was also playing with a friend that got his first eagle on this hole.

Posted on Thu, 26 Oct 2006 14:31 by Seni Sangrujee (1705 day(s) old)

Playing Torrey Pines as a Single

I got a chance to play Torrey Pines in La Jolla last Friday and thought I'd blog about it since I wasn't able to find a lot of information while researching this before my trip.

I'm sure it's worse trying to play on weekends, but the whole experience wasn't as difficult as I was expecting. I went into this expecting a scenario like the folks camping out in their cars overnight just to play Bethpage Black, but that was fortunately not the case.

Part of the confusion lies in the misleading websites out there which form some sort of cottage industry around tee time reservations at Torry Pines, which masquerade as the official site, and will obtain a tee time for you for a nice fee. The real site appears to be this one, which mentions the automated phone reservation system you can use to get a tee time and shows the actual rates.

I decided to forego the phone reservation system since I was a single and too lazy to call in advance. I have no idea if my experience is indicative of a single trying to play on this course, but from talking to others in line, it seemed like a typical day.

The night before playing I watched the local weather report and noted that sunrise was to be at 6:56am. After a tough night trying to sleep I got out of bed just before 6 and showed up at the course at 6:45am. Walking around to the clubhouse I see a huge line of golf bags lined up and behind that about 25-30 people in line. I stop in the clubhouse and they tell me that line is for both checking in and for getting on the waitlist. Oddly, they mention something about getting a cart in the pro shop, but getting the tee time at the outside window. I'm walking so I don't pay much attention.

So I get in line and look around. It's one of the stranger lines I've been in. I've waited in line for movie premieres, concerts, and electronics launches, but this is, by far, the oldest line I've been a part of. Since it's a weekday, almost everyone looks like they're retired. Strangely, almost everyone seems to know each other, as if this is a weekly ritual for them.

Scattered among the regulars are the tourists like me who are trying to figure out what's going on. It turns out the rate for a non-resident like me is $115 walking. The single in front of me used an online reservation site and said he paid $150. Two other guys booked their tee times through their hotel and were charged $175 and $185, respectively. I have no idea if these include cart or not, but my guess is that they do.

There are a couple of tournaments on the South course later in the morning, so a lot of people get to the counter and request the North Course to get a better chance of getting on. One guy says that a lot of the regulars prefer the North Course because the South is too tough. I came for the South Course, so that's what I pick.

I didn't find this out until later, but apparently, the official tee time reservations start at 7:30 at this time of year and all these people in line are heading straight out on the course in the small window between sunrise and when the real tee times begin. When I get to the front of the line at 7:30, I put my name down thinking there's a huge amount of people in front of me and get ready to settle down for a long wait. So, instead of waiting around for my name to be called, I decide to get some breakfast. I stop in the restaurant trying to get something quick and they tell me the breakfast burrito is fast. So I order one, not realizing there's a stack of muffins right next to me, which would have been a better move.

After a long wait for my food, I get back to the line and my name gets called immediately. It's only 7:45 and I'm to join the group on the tee next. Rats, I hate getting rushed. So I take a couple of bites as I run to the tee and by the time I get there, my group has already teed off. With no warming up and juggling a burrito and coffee in each hand, I probably didn't make the best impression on my playing partners and quickly triple-bogied the first hole. Luckily I dumped my food mostly uneaten on the second tee and settled down a bit after that. The round went by too quickly and we were done before noon.

As for the course itself, it's pretty nice, but it was very foggy that day and I missed out on the vast panoramic ocean views. It was almost painful at times because sometimes there would be a slight break in the fog and you got the sense of what a spectacular hole you were playing. Oh yeah, and everything they say about the length is true. It's long. Damn long. Not a good day for my fairway woods to fail me. I didn't break 100. :(

It's 6900ish from the whites, but not too narrow. The rough is difficult even in non-tournament conditions, but I only lost 1 ball and that was from airmailing a green. There aren't any tough forced carries or blind shots on the course. Conditions were excellent. Pace of play was great, we finished in 4 hours. I'd heard about 6 hour rounds here, but maybe that's just on weekends.

Posted on Wed, 26 Oct 2005 11:52 by Seni Sangrujee (2070 day(s) old)

Golf Courses around DC, MD, VA (cont.)

(course reviews continued from here)

Maryland National Golf Club Middletown, MD
online tee times at Maryland National

What a course! By far, the best course I played on this trip. The service was outstanding, the conditions impeccable, the GPS excellent. A course of superlatives, even the practice facility was a notch above everywhere else.

The greens were in great shape, fast, but fair. A really great mix of hole designs, with lots of elevation changes. The tee shots were pretty wide-open, but the challenges were mainly around the greens. Several times I unleashed a monster drive and thought I was set, only to end up with a double-bogey.

Memorable Holes:

  • #2. A great par 5. Huge elevation drop with great views of the area. A massive lone tree stand in the middle of the fairway like giant golem protecting the green from being reached in two.
  • #6. Downhill par 3. Oops, I should have paid more attention to the GPS. The creek runs along the whole left side of this massive green. Next time I'll just play it safe and aim for the massive tree to the right and count on my short game.
  • #10. Short, easy par 4, but damn, that target looks small. The green is very narrow, and you do not want to be short, long, or left.
  • #14. Nice short, downhill par 3. It reminds me of a hidden meadow because it's surrounded by trees and almost excluded from the rest of the course.
  • #18. Great finishing hole. It's all about the approach shot. Left is a nasty bunker and short is a hazard. Actually, now that I think about it the green was nasty, too.

Musket Ridge Myersville, MD tee time discounts for Musket Ridge

Fun course, not as difficult or tricky as some of the others on my trip, but an intruiguing layout nonetheless. Conditions were great.

Memorable Holes:

  • #6. Downhill par 5. This hole was interesting in how you get tantalizing glimpses of the green as you get closer. The green really drops off and is hidden behind a hill, so there's a sense of mystery unveiled as the hole unfolds.
  • #12. Double dogleg par 5. Not long, but bunkers galore. Lots of options on how you want to play this hole.
  • #15. Huge downhill tee shot that can roll and roll if you hit it right. The green is severly sloping from back to front, so the approach shot is like throwing darts at a dartboard.

Northwest Park Golf Course Wheaton, MD
online tee times for Northwest

The golf trip took a turn for the easier and cheaper at this point and we played munis. There's not a lot be said about Northwest. On paper, I was intruiged because it's 6809 yds from the middle tees and 7376 from the back tees. But distance does not equal interesting as this course is extremely flat and straight-forward. You've pretty much got a straight path to the green on every hole.

One nice thing is that the course was empty. The greens were really slow, though, the grass unusually long, comparable to the fairways on other courses.

Memorable Holes:

  • #18. Hmm, they all kind of blend together, but I do remember #18 just because it's a drivable par 4. Uphill, slight dogleg right, it seemed much longer from the tee box, but next time I'd try to reach the green.

Needwood Golf Course Rockville, MD
online tee times for Needwood

Needwood is a pretty fun course. Not especially long (6254 yards from the back), but has a good layout. We ran into a lot of singles and people just playing 9 holes.

The greens were pretty slow, though, and tough to adjust to. After coming up short on numerous putts, toward the end of the round I finally decided to just not play much break and slam the ball toward the hole. This worked suprisingly well.

I found the back nine more interesting than the front nine. The front nine is burdened by two pretty dull par 5s back to back that aren't very difficult.

Memorable Holes

  • #14. Short par 4 with a downhill tee shot. Fun risk-reward hole. The smart move is to take an iron or hybrid off the tee, but hitting driver successfully would make this a nice birdie opportunity.
  • #16. Great par 4. Uphill tee shot, still can't see the hole from my second shot. The green is way downhill with a slight dogleg left.
  • #18. Excellent closing hole. A good tee shot gives you a good shot at the uphill green over the water. A bad tee shot means you should probably layup in front of the pond. Green slopes severely from back to front.

Posted on Tue, 4 Oct 2005 00:59 by Seni Sangrujee (2092 day(s) old)

Golf Courses around DC, Maryland, and Virginia

Well I think I've sufficiently recovered from my golf trip to get back to blogging. It was a blast to golf on the East Coast again. For the last few years I've been playing a lot of windy, coastal, links-style courses around California, so it was cool to go back to the woodsy, parkland-style course of my youth. It also brought back memories to experience all the humidity, summer rain, and bugs again.

Here's a brain dump of what I thought of these courses around the DC/Maryland/Virginia area:

Virginia Oaks Gainesville, VA
tee time discounts at Virginia Oaks

In hindsight, it was probably a bad idea to play this course after not getting any sleep on the red-eye flight from CA the night before. It also probably wasn't the best idea to leave late and get stuck in traffic, so as to rush through check-in and tee off without warming up. Still I had a blast.

This P.B. Dye design on the other side of Lake Manassas from Robert Trent Jones Golf Club (where they were holding the President's Cup) was described to me as beautiful and didn't disappoint one bit.

I'm used to bone-dry conditions in the summer, so I was surprised by damp fairways and greens, but I was told this was due to lots of the rain the previous days and wasn't normal.

Great layout, though. It's a testament to the variety of the holes that I have trouble describing the course. More than most courses, it kept me guessing as to what club to use off the tee (driver, utility, 3-iron).

Memorable Holes:

  • #4. This is probably their most-photographed hole as it's right along the lake and has a beautiful peninsula green with a Robert Trent Jones hole mirroring it from the other side of the lake like some sort of Bizarro parallel golf course ("Me not layup. Me want to cry.")

    My buddies told me that right is deadly, so I drove it way left. A little too much as I ended up just beyond the tee of the next hole, in the trees. Ah well, at least it was dry. After a long punchout, I was left with a partial wedge to the green. I probably dodged the toughest part of this hole with my screwup, though, which is the approach shot, since the green is surrounded by water on three sides. Long is bad, left is bad, right is bad. In dry conditions I bet the green is nasty, as it's a tough read ("it breaks toward the water" "Um, which water, there's water everywhere") But that day, the greens were damp and forgiving and I escaped with a bogey.
  • #9. An island par 3. Not very long, but located in full view of the practice green and the clubhouse for additional pressure. I don't know what happened here, it's not a tough shot, but this hole got the best of me. First ball, totally chunked and not even close to clearing the water. 2nd ball from the drop area, a simple little pitch also chunked into the water. My only consolation was that I managed to screwup my opponent that followed me into the water both times. :)
  • #10. 600yd+ par 5. This isn't a hole, it's an epic journey. A double-dogleg, uphill tee shot, downhill 2nd shot, uphill 3rd shot, houses left, woods right, long grass left, random trees middle. I'd love another crack at this hole now that I know how it plays.
Cross Creek Golf Club Beltsville, MD
online tee times at Cross Creek

I should have realized what was in store when the driving range said "irons only". A second clue would have been that the Creekside tees are only 6,035 yds but the course/slope is still 70.3/128. And the blacks are 6,356 yds with 71.5/129.

This course is short and narrow. I think I only used my driver a couple of times, and I probably should have just left all my woods at home. I usually enjoy narrow courses, and I really like courses that have a good risk-reward option off the tee, but Cross Creek pretty much takes any decision away from you.

The condition was ok. Greens were a little bumpy, but tolerable. Still, the layout left me disappointed and I probably wouldn't return.

Memorable Holes:
  • #9. Short par 4 with lots of water to the right. This is only memorable for me because it was cartpath-only and I was playing with a couple of faders and I had a draw that day. This meant an easy GIR and par for me with a quick hop from the cart and everyone else either had to lug a bunch of clubs the entire hole or make a bunch of trips back and forth to the cart.
  • #15. Really long par 3 with all carry. Only 1 of our foursome didn't lose a ball here. It sets up for a 200 yd draw, which was perfect for me that day so I went for the green, but I overcooked it and went left into the woods. Next time I'd just take try a 180 yd shot to the landing area short and right.
PB Dye Golf Club Ijamsville, MD
online tee times at PB Dye

Ah P.B. Dye...where to begin. I had been warned about this course months before this trip. I've played some Pete Dye courses before and I got a taste of a P.B. Dye design a few days before at Virginia Oaks, but this course is like nothing I've ever played before.

We actually played this course twice during my trip, which completely changed my opinion of the course. The first time I played it I felt completely beaten down, as did the others I was with, even though they'd played it before. But after playing it again, now knowing the layout and the spots to avoid, I began to appreciate it. I'm curious how I would do playing it a third time.

If you only get to play this course once, I'd say to stay away as it might totally demoralize you. But, in hindsight, the beauty of the design is that it brings out a masochistic part of you that makes you want to keep coming back and see if, just once, you can take on P.B. Dye.

There are two things that make this course like no other. Now I've played tough courses before, but normally you can identify the dangers from the teebox or there is GPS or some words of warning to steel yourself. But this course is full of misdirection and hidden dangers. This is the first course where I understood the "tricked-up" moniker that gets tossed around, where you can envision P.B. Dye cackling evilly as he was laying out the hole.

The other thing is the greens. On most course I've played, there's usually one or two greens that really stand out in your mind. Often a two or three-tiered green where a 4-putt is possible that can make or break your round. The type of green where you're already thinking ahead about it 3 holes before you play it. The kind of green that, reminiscent of Miniature Golf courses, you just hope that your putt stays on the green. This course is full of these types of greens.

After the first time I played this course, we were swearing at the course designer by the end of the round, and I was just going through the motions on the 18th trying to put an end my misery. I was ready to give this course two stars for taking the fun out of the game. But the second time I played the course we were still swearing at the architect by the end of the round, but I've bumped it up to three stars, having seen a different side of the course.

Damn, I can't wait to play it again. ;)

Lots of Memorable Holes:

  • #3. Fun par 5 with an interesting tee shot, 2nd shot over a creek, 3rd shot uphill with a big bunker to suck up anything short, and a multi-tier green.
  • #5. Deceptively hard par 4. No bunkers and fairly wide-open, but a nasty green to hold. It slopes front to back this hole gave us fits both days.
  • #9. Short par 4. Not a long approach shot, but not a big target with the lake, bunkers, and clubhouse. We scored pretty well on this hole both days. Lots of GIRs, but no one made their birdie putts.
  • #10. Parred this hole both days I played, from the left side and the right side. I found I had an easier view of the green from the right side of the fairway.
  • #12. Par 5, blind tee shot, small creek, and what a green! The first day the pin was on the bottom tier, so it was nothing special, but when the hole is cut on the top tier, this is truly a putt-putt green.
  • #13. This hole really got under my skin. On the first day, my approach shot landed in the bunker just right of the green. But I was terrified of blading my bunker shot and overshooting the green into the water. It really messed with my mind and I went from just missing a GIR to a blowup hole. The second time I played it, I wanted to just play it smart and layup short with my approach shot.(that's good) But there's a hidden creek that I hadn't noticed before.(that's bad) Wait, the creek was dried up and there were only rocks (that's good) But I still couldn't find my ball among the rocks, maybe it took a big bounce. (that's bad)
  • #15. Handicap 2 hole with a crowned green. Not sure what it was about this hole, but I parred it both days while my playing partners blew up on it. Didn't get the GIR either time, but managed to get up and down on a tough green both days.
  • #16 Lots of railroad ties on this hole. Don't end up right on your tee shot. The approach for this hole is where I finally understood the role of railroad ties on a golf course. I thought they were just for show, but now I see how they will amplify any sort of mistake. The railroad ties on this hole are angled so that any shot that's short or left will bounce off putt-putt-style and get funnelled into the array of bunkers.

    In the middle of all the bunkers and railroad ties there's a tiny pot bunker that's the nastiest of them all. This is where I found myself the first time I played this hole. The smart move would have been to pitch out backwards and just take my lumps. But by that time, my round was already shot so I was curious to see if I could get enough height to get on the green from there. Bad idea. Several strokes later, as I holed my putt for a smooth 11, I looked at the sky and yelled "You win, P.B. Dye"...

  • to be continued (Maryland National, Musket Ridge, Northwest, and Needwood)

Posted on Tue, 4 Oct 2005 00:47 by Seni Sangrujee (2092 day(s) old)

Home on the Range

Wow, I'm full of energy today! I think I'm finally past this cold.

I did a lot of spackling in the morning and got bored waiting for it to dry, so I went to the driving range for the first time in many months.

I spent most of my time in the short game area and on the putting green before finishing up with some full swings. I experimented with a grip change on my right hand while doing some lob wedge practice and got some great results. Really consistent contact. This new grip effectively lightens my right hand influence and makes the club release feel much less hindered.

I ended up trying this same change on some full swing mid and short irons and hit some really flush shots. My irons are generally shorter than most people I play with, but this grip tweak has given me some great contact and added distance. I don't want to get prematurely excited about this change, yet, so I'll see if it still produces favorable results next week. I've been fooled by temporary improvements before.

Finished up with the driver and didn't see the same improvements. I brought along my Swing Speed Radar and swing speeds ranged from 98-104 with most around 99-100. I was averaging 103 mpg before my long hiatus, so I've got some work to do to get my speed back.

The Driving Range was empty and quiet, so it was a great time to just think with no one around, especially since my head is feeling much clearer now. I've been neglecting that fishy Event Planner recently because of my cold, but my motivation is back to add some more enhancements as well as work on some mobile projects I've been keeping on the sidelines. Huzzah!

Posted on Fri, 8 Jul 2005 17:33 by Seni Sangrujee (2180 day(s) old)