The golf season is about to start in Toronto (2009). I’ve been playing since I was 10. Long time. You’d think I would be better at it than I am, but age takes its toll. I ended last season with an index of 5.8, about the same as where I started. My putting improved, but my drives got worse. So, my index didn’t change much. As always, I’m hoping to put it all together this year.
I’ve been playing at The National Golf Club of Canada for the last 22 years. Quite a place. It is usually rated the top course in Canada. A few years back, I had the opportunity to review golf courses across Canada for a major daily newspaper. While it was a blast and I played many, many great golf courses, none came close to matching the difficulty at the National. It’s not really a fun course to play, unless you happen to play extremely well.
Here are a few examples:
The 17th hole at The National (par 4), as viewed from in front of the 18th green. This hole plays long and narrow, with trees and out of bounds on the left and water all along the right. Requires a very straight and long tee shot, leaving anywhere from 140 – 200 to the well trapped, elevated green. A tough par any time.
After 17, you’re faced with this monster of a hole. The tees are way back, tucked in an elevated clearing in the trees behind the 17th green. The shot is over as much of the water as you can handle. This used to be a par 5, now we’re expected to do it in 4. The second shot is long and uphill to a narrow, elevated green, surrounded by deep traps. A stunning end to an amazing golf course.
One of my favourites. This par 4 can be tough. There’s a large sloping hill on the right that catches a lot of balls, leaving an almost impossible shot to the green. Unfortunately, in the late summer, you have to aim at the hill in order to keep the ball in the fairway, as it slopes into the creek on the left. The green is well guarded front and back. The ones in the front are the worst. One of my buddies took about 10 tries to get his ball out, before conceding the hole. Treacherous green if you’re above the hole.
May 2009 Update
Haven’t played to my potential, yet. Problems with my grip, which I think I sorted out on the range last weekend. We’ll see. Putting stroke is as good as ever. Good thing, the Opening Day Tournament was rained out earlier this month, so it goes this weekend.
Update: Turned out to be a fun day with my team. We finished in the middle of the pack, respectably under par.
My game is starting to come around. Grip changes are working, and I am finally hitting my irons at mid-season form. I’m taking the game on the road this weekend to see how it stacks up at an easy course. Hopefully, I’ll get it into the low 70s before returning to the National.
Late September Update
It has been a busy season. May, June and July were awful, weather wise in Toronto. August got a bit better, except for the Tornado that went through our course (not much damage). September has been wonderful for golf. The course is in superb condition. My best round, so far, has been an 80 off the Black tees (6,800, 74.2 rating, 149 slope). I’ve been able to play a few very good public courses around southern Ontario, too. Here are a few of the highlights:
Timber Ridge – played with the pro and had a great time
Black Bear Ridge – played it twice, because it was such a great track. Shot 77 & 79.
Copper Creek – shot 75 – fabulous, fun course to play
Osprey Valley Hoot & Toot – great courses in the Caledon Hills, NW of Toronto.
Hawk Ridge – Played both courses 74 (Meadow Nest) and 77 (Timber Ridge)
Silver Lakes – 77 – great course about an hour north of Toronto.
St. Andrews Valley – awful score, but played with good friends!
Unfortunately, there weren’t enough good weather days to get all of the great courses in this year! Hopefully, next year will be better.
Golf game is coming along, just in time to put away the clubs. This year, I’m going to go to the indoor range at least once a week, so that it won’t take until August to hit the ball reasonably well. With a little luck, we’ll get back to Puerto Vallarta in the winter for a few rounds in nice weather.
That’s it for now.
May 2010 Update
Practicing and playing during the winter never happened. Too much going on apart from golf. It’s almost mid-May and I haven’t played a round yet. I’ve practiced one day at the club with fairly impressive results, despite pretty severe back pain. Had to bend my knees a bit more than usual to accommodate the bad back, but this added quite a bit of stability, leading to more consistent shots. Guess I’ll stick with that!
Went to our new Golf Town to check out new clubs. Got a new fat grip for my putter. Practicing indoors, it’s like magic. We’ll see how it is once it gets to real grass. If it still works, this could shave 4 or 5 strokes off my game.
Planning to play a few public gems this year and maybe a few tournaments, if the back holds up.
June 2010 Update
The weather has been great all spring, and my back has been getting better, particularly if I take muscle relaxants prior to the round. Had a few rounds in the low 80s at The National (and a couple in the low 90s). The new putter grip is definitely helping me score better. I’m only taking 30-32 putts per round, instead of 36+. On the days I’m able to keep from over-swinging, my drives and irons are excellent. It’s getting more consistent, and it’s happening a lot sooner in the golf year. Only problem is my short game, which is usually a strength. So, most of my practice will be on that over the next month or so.
Played Otter Creek (1.5 hour drive west of Toronto) with a group from the Toronto GolfNuts (a local bulletin board for real golf enthusiasts). I shot 83 and 91 (2 rounds). We were all getting pretty tired during the second round. It’s a nice course, but fairly new. So, the greens were like pavement and the pins were set up for a professional tournament that had just been played. The 83 was a pretty good score, considering I had four double bogies.
Played Redcrest at the Cardinal Golf Club (1 hour north of Toronto) the next day and shot 1 over (72). That day, my drives were near perfect, as was my short game. A couple of bogies from the sand and one birdie made for a very consistent day of golf.
Played Mystic (Ancaster). Shot 86, because my drives were pathetic on the front nine. Hit perfect drives on the back, but my irons went missing in action.
The National is reaching mid-season form. The fescue has grown considerably during the last couple of weeks and they’ve rolled and shaved the greens, making them lightning fast. The new Hybrid-Long tees (6,600 yards) is proving to be a very good length for many of the members. The Blacks were getting to be too long for most (6,800), and the Golds (7,200+) are just plain stupid, for all but the pros. It’s a good thing my game is coming along, because the course will only continue to get harder, as we approach the Club Championship in July.
Here’s a collage of the 12th hole at The National (par 5). The tee shot is relatively easy. As you can see in the second picture, the hole doglegs to the left. Unless you can hit your tee shot long enough to get to the corner of the dogleg, the smart play is to aim your tee shot to the right of the fairway. This gives you an easier second shot, not requiring you to hook it around the trees. The third picture is a shot from the right side of the green. This is a very narrow, wide green, with a raised triangle plateau in the centre. There’s a creek in front and to the right, trees left and long, and one of the nastiest traps you’ll ever come across. With a good lie, you’ll need to execute a perfect blast to stay on the green. With a downhill lie, you have little chance of staying out of the creek, let alone getting it on the green. It is a spectacular golf hole!