Weather and Other Thoughts

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Hail on the greens and fairways of Bing Maloney Golf Course.

Where were you yesterday, May 16, 2018, when lightning flashed, thunder rolled, and a common spring shower turned into a deluge and then into hail?  My guess is that you were not on the golf course.  But your Northern California course rating team composed of  usually practical and intelligent men and women headed out from the Bing Maloney clubhouse to do their scheduled rating of the course.  Apparently, like the Postal Service, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow will keep us from our appointed rounds.  You will appreciate this work ethic when we come to rate your course.  Let’s just hope all the fireworks in the sky didn’t distract us from an accurate rating.

On a more troubling note, we read in yesterday’s newspaper that William Land Golf Course, one of Sacramento’s most venerable courses, is facing an uncertain future.  First Tee of Sacramento operates the course and needs some budgeting help from the city to keep the facility up and running.  We golfers need to let the city know how valuable a nine-hole course within the city limits is, not only to golfers but to people who appreciate the Land Park history and ambiance.  Please see our blog “Play Nine” at Land Park from September 26 of last year to see just what we thought about our experience there.  (Use the search key to find “Land Park” among the blog articles.)  And go play this wonderful, little course.

Finally, we remember Dorothy Trevethick who died in March at the age of 98.  She gave so much back to the game through her many hours of volunteering at golf events and her work with the Sacramento Golf Council and the USGA.  We will miss seeing her on the course; we all benefited from her knowledge of any and all things golf.

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The Nines at Haggin Oaks’ Arcade Creek

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Mary on Safari at Arcade Creek’s Blue Nine.

If I were investing in real estate, with my hypothetical millions of dollars, I would surely look at buying a nine-hole golf course.  In this day and age with the numbers of golfers on the decline and the fast-paced, technological lives we lead on the rise, nine holes of golf is very attractive.  It appeals to beginners and older players with physical limitations as well as golfers in the primes of their lives and those who are just short of time in today’s busy world.  Mary reminds me that nine holes is also perfect for those who are simply too irritated with themselves to face another nine!

We recently played, on separate occasions, each nine-hole layout of the Arcade Creek Golf Course at Haggin Oaks.  Dressed in its spring finery, the courses provided us with excellent early season practice and much needed 2-hour exercise as both courses are super walkable.  The terrain of both nines, the “red” nine being the front nine and the “blue” nine the back, is quite flat, but the lush and green rough of spring proved to be an obstacle to be avoided at all costs.  The ambiance was a study in contrasts with a profusion of wildlife all around but the serenity of the course often disrupted by low-flying planes from McClellan overhead and the roar of car engines from nearby I-80.  On the plus side, if you need to buy a car, Rapton’s is a baby 8 iron away.

Nevertheless, we played each nine in under two hours walking – a pleasure for any golfer.  Most women should prefer the “tan” tees at 5,535 yards (70.5/114) or the shorter “green” tees at 4,591 yards (64.7/102).  The choice of lengths is limited; the next longer tees are 1,000 yards longer, making the course too long for most women.  The “red” nine is slightly shorter than the “blue” nine which might affect your choice between the two.  I always like to play the “blue” nine because of its last hole, a par 5 which requires a player to cross water twice, negotiate a sharp dogleg to the left, and putt out on a picturesque, sharply sloping green.  I go home either full of a sense of accomplishment or tearing my hair out and minus at least one golf ball.

Playing the two nines at Haggin Oaks proved to be a trip down memory lane for us.  As teenagers we played the courses when they were fairly new and immature (as were we!).  We remember taking shortcuts down the rough line which lacked turf and mature trees.  We remember playing holes barefooted at sunset with a putter. We remember the great junior golf programs sponsored by Tom LoPresti and Kenny Morton.  And we remember playing our hearts out in the Tournament Of Champions there.  For many reasons playing the nines at Arcade Creek is worth the time and effort – even if it is only to catch one of Tom’s jokes at the starter’s desk and to grab a “reject” pencil just to see which world-renowned course had it’s name misprinted.

The Last Hole on the Blue Nine at Arcade Creek.

Spring Golf: Pros and Cons

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The Bachelor’s Club looking good at Mather Golf Course.

It’s Spring!  The birds are singing, the gardens are blooming, and the golf courses are filling up with players eager to tune up rusty swings and try out all those new swing thoughts they came up with over the winter.  We approach spring with renewed enthusiasm and an extra “spring” in our steps (sorry!); however, along with all those positive aspects of spring golf, a few negatives are always lurking behind the scenes.  Just take a look at our first two weeks of spring golf as an example of its ups and downs.

Our first course rating this year at Morgan Creek presented us with a new system under the auspices of NCGA and with new co-ed teams of raters.  Although getting used to the men’s system is a challenge, the rating went along smoothly until the spring skies opened up and thunderstorms rolled across the course.  We always enjoy playing the course after rating, but we will wait to play Morgan Creek another day, knowing that lightning and golf clubs just do not mix.

Spring was really “rockin'” the course on our next outing three days later.  We played in a delightful guest day tournament at Mather Golf Course (see our earlier blog describing Mather in detail).  The company was wonderful, the game was fun, and the food was good; but the course itself, in all of its spring finery, was the star.  It was hard to concentrate on a golf game when the course was in beautiful, green, spring condition and the wildlife was out in force.  On this day the turkeys were doing their spring thing – the males tirelessly displaying their good looks and the females either eating nonchalantly or running away.  To top it off we won the tournament lottery at lunch after play.  Ultimately, our golf skills brought us crashing back to earth.  Our team finished DAL in our flight even with four mulligans!  Kudos to Mather tournament chair Karen Biscaha for a well-run, fun event and to our buddies Mary and Nancy for inviting us.

Our next venture out (Did we become recluses over the winter?) was to play with the Tuesday Women’s Club at Ancil Hoffman (see our earlier blog describing Hoffman in detail).  They have a reputation of being a fun group, and they did not disappoint.  We were welcomed warmly by the women – not so much by the golf course.  Although we walked 18 holes and enjoyed every minute of the beautiful spring conditions, we were reminded that Ancil Hoffman is a tough course, no matter what tees you play there.  The Tuesday Women generally play from the black tees at 5,413 yards.  Our rusty spring swings just didn’t hold up.  Again, golf brings us back to reality.

We hope our spring enthusiasm for the game lasts all summer long.  We can’t wait to tee it up tomorrow.  How about you?

“Come out, Come out, wherever you are.”

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Bluebird(?) boxes surrounding the pond on #10 at Ancil Hoffman are just another sign of spring.

Navigating Our Blog

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A little golf love from Harvey Penick. This plaque is located by the first tee at Sunrise Golf Course.

You Golf Girl is beginning its second year of blogging.  It has occurred to us that you experienced readers may have missed some of our stunning and descriptive blog posts from last year, and any newcomers might want an idea about how our blog works.  As the new golf season of 2018 begins, here are some reading tips for both new and faithful followers.

If you receive our latest blog post on Facebook, you may be missing out on the rest of the blog website.  You might want to go directly to the website at https://yougolfgirl.wordpress.com.  There you can scroll down from the latest article to other fascinating articles in reverse chronological order.

An even better way to use the website is to click on the categories listed under “Topics” located to the right of the most recent blog post.  We currently post under the 5 following topics:

  • Course Rating 101 – What obstacles make a course easy or difficult.
  • Courses – Descriptions and evaluations of area courses
  • Critics Corner – Every once in a while something makes us mad (or happy)
  • FYI – Comments on golf-associated ideas in general (like shopping)
  • Practice Facilities – Places to go to hone your talents

Again, you may have to scroll down from the most recent blog post under the topic in order to locate a post that was written earlier.

Finally, click on the “Search” button to type in the name of a specific course or topic in which you are interested.  We have about 50 articles from our first year saved on the website – each one of them more fascinating than the next.  Thank you for reading our blog.  We hope your interest continues in this new golf year.

Practice

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A driving range – not beautiful, but necessary.

It is the morning after.  I have my first serious golf “hangover” of the season.  Why didn’t I exercise regularly over the winter?  Why doesn’t my golf swing come back to me naturally and quickly the way it did in my twenties, even my thirties and forties?  I stretched for at least 2 or 3 minutes before I hit my first shot.  Why is every muscle in my body crying out in pain today, the day after my first practice?

In between raindrops last week, we hustled over to our neighborhood driving range, Mike Griggs Driving Range (see blog entry under “Practice Facilities”), to try to find our golf swings after an extended winter hiatus.  Mary brought only her driver as she hates to hit iron shots from mats.  I, on the other hand, had predetermined that I would start with wedge shots, move to a seven iron, and end with my driver.  What a mistake!  I worked on a new set up that I had observed on TV, but I quickly reverted to the old one when my back complained strongly about the change.  Apparently this set up is for young people with limber backs.  As Mary pumped out drive after beautiful drive, I struggled through quail-high wedges and mishit 7 irons, never even making it to my driver.  Finally, my practice devolved into a series of shanks – over and over again.  Enough was enough!  I declared the practice session over.  Mary reminded me how difficult it is to hit irons from mats.  I agree.  I have to blame my nightmare practice on something.

The fact that I let my game go for so long, the fact that I am older, and the fact that I am not a pro have all contributed to my sore muscles and deflated ego.  Armed with a more positive attitude, my next practice session will be on grass.

 

 

 

Obstacle Course Part III: Green Surfaace

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A group of very serious-minded course raters tests the surface of a green at Empire Ranch.

The most often-heard criticisms of a golf course have to be “the greens are too slow” or “the greens are too fast.”  Do we even know what it is about the greens that we are criticizing?  Since the putting game is so important to women players – no, to all players – we really should pay more attention to green surfaces and the problems they produce.

First, green speed is measured by a medieval-looking instrument known as a Stimpmeter.  It is designed to uniformly roll golf balls across a green.  Choosing a level area of a green, a course rater rolls several balls using the Stimpmeter and measures the average length of the roll.  If greens are “stimping” at 10, balls are rolling 10 feet.  Greens in our Sacramento Valley Area generally stimp faster than 10 – closer to 11 feet on average.  Greens are considered on the slow side at less than 10 feet and faster above the 10-foot measurement.

Secondly, the severity of the slope or tilt of a green and its contour also determine how difficult it is to putt.  The slope or tilt is measured by comparing Stimpmeter readings for downhill versus uphill putts.  Raters also consider the contour of a green – the number and severity of knolls and swales that will cause a ball to break.  One of the biggest mistakes we golfers make is to look at a relatively flat green and think that it will not be fast or difficult to read.  Many courses in our area have greens that slope severely from back to front (think about the old greens at North Ridge or mountain greens like Cold Springs), making for extremely speedy downhill putts and extremely slow uphill putts.  Mother nature (or over-zealous greenskeepers) can also put a literal damper on putting speed.  Rain-soaked or over-watered greens will slow everything down, including putts judged at normal green speeds.

Golfers will always complain about or comment on green speeds.  Knowing a little about green surfaces in general might help us to cope with those 40-putt rounds and maybe even avoid them in the future.

Quivira: A Cabo Adventure

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Quivira Golf Club from the 16th tee toward Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach and the Pacific.

You may have noticed that You Golf Girl has been on hiatus this last month or so.  We can blame bad weather, the holidays, the Olympics, etc., but our absence is largely due to our annual stay at Pueblo Bonito in Cabo San Lucas.  Yes, we are proud timeshare owners.  Our “ownership” comes with playing privileges at Quivira Golf Club, although we are sure it is open to anyone who is willing to shell out the rather exorbitant greens fees (or has a coupon of some ilk).  We met two of these types in the forms of a rank beginner and a man who bragged on the first tee that “I haven’t played for 15 years!”.  The course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, sits on the Pacific Ocean and features jaw-dropping views and many other percs that make it a unique experience.

We have played Quivira only twice, once by ourselves and once accompanied by the above mentioned “ilks”.  Both experiences proved to be both an exhilarating and frustrating experience for us.  When we first purchased our timeshares 10 or so years ago, our salesman proudly told us the course would be ready for play in a year or two.  We got the same story each successive year until two years ago when, lo and behold, we looked to the north and a golf course had magically appeared.  Of course, we brought our clubs the next year and fully experienced the highs and lows of women playing Quivira.

The course’s layout is spectacular but perhaps a bit too extreme for the average player.  The clubhouse and practice areas perch on the edge of the beach (great for watching sunsets at the end of a 5 or 6 hour round if you have ilks in the group).  There are also wonderful “oases” with spectacular views, great food, and cocktails that are integral parts of the the round of golf at Quivira.

After a long cart drive where a wrong turn could have led us into the Pacific, we arrived at the first tee.  The holes leading away from and back to the clubhouse, #’s 1 – 4 and #’s 16 – 18, were enjoyable; the fairways were well-defined and in pristine condition.  Their difficulty lay in the desert rough and fairly extreme contouring.  However, we decided that the middle holes that came next were where Jack may have lost his mind (or experimented with the local peyote).

The climb up the mountain from #4 green to #5 tee is not for the squeamish as you travel from sea level to nosebleed heights.  Luckily, almost at the top, is a refreshment station where a golfer can have a complementary drink (margaritas, cervezas, double martini?) and a snack.  The views of the Pacific, Pueblo Bonito properties, and Pedregal to the south were breathtaking from that height.  On #5 we soon discovered that what went up definitely came down.  We were presented with a par 4 that doglegged sharply to the left and traveled back down to the seaside (cliff side) green that we could not see from our tee. Rumor had it that it could be seen from the back tees. It didn’t really matter though since neither of us could hit a drive that stayed in the fairway – 4 tries, 2 lost balls. Both landed on the far right, high side of the fairway,  in “perfect position,” one ball unplayable in the long grass that is 3 feet off the right side of the fairway and one ball in the 12-foot deep fairway bunker on the left side of the fairway by the sea cliff.  We never did hit a  ball to that green.  Although Mary almost had a hole in one on #6 one day, it wasn’t enough to compensate for our frustration.

After our complementary delicious lunch of sliders, grilled up for us as we played the 8th hole, the next few mountainside holes were a blur; on most of them we settled for enjoying the views of the ocean since we never had views of our landing areas from the tees.  It was like playing blindfolded.  The height of our frustration came at hole #14, a sharp dogleg right, the green (of course) not visible from the tee but also not visible from the approach shot.  A large striped pole on top of a sand dune gave us a vague clue as to the the direction we needed to take.  The first day, we hit shots over the pole resulting in two lost balls; the second day, we hit shots over the pole and had two birdie putts.  Both results were completely frustrating for us not knowing how our golf balls arrived where they did.  (Every day there was a falcon sitting on that pole; coincidence?).  We found great relief coming back down the mountain on #16 both days so that we finally could see where we were going.

The real problem for women players at Quivira, other than being paired with golfers who are rank beginners, is our lack of tee choices.  Course length ranges from 7,139 yards (back, black tees) to 4,326 yards (forward, red tees).  We played from the white tees at 5,598 yards, feeling that length was appropriate for us.  As we discovered, these tees left us with too many blind shots, in several cases making holes nearly unplayable (see #5).  The red tees at 4,326 yards, however, often were placed at the ends of fairways (almost as an afterthought). Because these tees are not elevated, players simply cannot get a sense of the course.  For example, the problematic par 4, number 5 hole is easily reachable from the forward tees, but its length is reduced to 202 yards – really a par 3.

In spite of our frustrations, our two days at Quivira gave us much fun and enjoyment.  If you choose to experience this resort-type golf, go for the food and ambience: complementary drinks, snacks, and lunch on the course with unsurpassed views of coastal Baja, wonderful flora and fauna and even an old lighthouse.  Falcons and roadrunners accompanied us the whole way; if only they could fore-caddie!

For a virtual tour of Quivira, go to their excellent website at http://www.quiviraloscabos.com.  Check out the precipitous cart path climb to #5 and Mary in action (?) below.