A Humbling Sport Indeed

In financial forecasting while modeling future behavior, one of the most important factors is the past. Knowledge and understanding of the past can lead us to make more accurate predictions about the future – in many cases it is all we have. After back-to-back great outings, playing consistent, smart golf it was almost automatic for me to think that future rounds would yield similar or even better results. I was wrong.

After Bear's Best, I played Chicopee Woods (A-) – what I would have called my "home course" a year or two ago. The course was in great shape - well kept with were incredibly receptive greens. I hadn't played it for almost three years, but I remembered each hole as if I'd been there the previous day. I started off with a nasty 9 on a pretty easy par 5. My driver took a couple holes to come around, but when it did, I didn't look back. After all was said and done, I closed with the same score I had at Bear's Best – even despite the mentioned first hole and a snowman on a par 4. I was riding high and feeling pretty good about a scramble tourney that I had organized from my MBA class to take place the following. That was my mistake.

I showed up at the course feeling confident. The sun was scorching hot that afternoon. The field was packed and there were more than a handful of beginners on the course competing in the tournament. All I had to do was string another decent outing and my team (one of the only 2 threesomes) would have a good shot a winning some cash. Easy at it sounds, it proved to be near impossible. We played the Lakemont Course at the Stone Mountain Golf Club (B+). The course was challenging – the fairways were tight and the holes were long. Besides that, it wasn't in great condition. I wasn't really too impressed. To add insult to injury, my threesome was just not producing. We couldn't get off the tee, hit irons, chip or putt. To aggravate things even further, the field was completely backed up. A round that would regularly take about 4.5 hrs took all of 6.5. It was a long, miserable day in the heat.

Okay – one bad round wasn't about to derail my enthusiasm and optimism. A week after the tourney, just last weekend, I went up to the Ritz-Carlton in Reynolds Plantation – one of the most beautiful hotels I've had the fortune of visiting more than once. I arranged a round with a friend and some of his acquaintances at the The Oconee Course (A+). Although I was playing a lot better than the prior week, I just couldn't approach. My short irons must've grown some muscles in the bag because I was flying right past greens and into trouble. I was putting well. My long irons were working fine. My driver was a bit inconsistent, but mostly on. All in all it wasn't a disastrous outing. The course was unbelievable. It would've been a much better experience had we not been called in due to an approaching thunderstorm. We played 15 holes missing the final 3 which are some of the nicest the course has to offer (all bordering Lake Oconee).

As I sit here recalling those woeful afternoons, I am also planning to play again this weekend. There's no reason to get off the saddle. One thing is for certain: I am not confident or assured that a good round is due. All I can hope for is improvement and more consistency hole to hole. Despite everything, I still enjoy the sport and that's what matters. There's no reason to get an ulcer over a bad day (or a bad few days). It's all about having fun anyway… isn't it?

Created: 8/28/2007
Last Edited: 12/9/2007

Bear's Best Atlanta – My Best of the Year: A+

Record heat couldn't keep me away from a superb afternoon out on the golf course. And what a course it was. Bear's Best is one of the best courses I have played in a while. It made it a whole lot better that someone else was flipping the bill – especially since it's a pretty pricey course.

Over lunch three co-workers and I planned the wagers. We're pretty even in skill level and that made the betting much easier. We decided on 5 bets: front low score, back low score, total low score, Wolf front, and Wolf back (Wolf included an extra dot on "greenies"). We had equal money on four bets and a gift for the total low score. I felt pretty confident that I wasn't going to get to see any of the money I was throwing in the pot. I was wrong.

So despite the 100+ degree temperature we braved the elements and started our round at 1PM. We played with a forecaddie, which is not as nice as having an individual caddie (which I haven't had since I played back home), but it was pretty good considering I'd never played the course. It was nice having someone to point out course hazards and help with green breaks. I'd forgotten how nice it was playing with a caddie. "Often we don't value those precious things we have until they are gone," a deep statement applied to a shallow subject.

Consistency is key and it's usually where I falter. Not this time. I played focused and in control. I started with a par. A par three, a par four, and a par five were my worst holes with triple bogeys (all true scores – since we were counting low scores, we didn't cap holes at double-par or anything). I finished with one birdie, three pars, six bogeys, and the double-bogeys for the rest. Sure, 48 in the front and 48 in the back for a total of 96 is not a great score, but it's as good as I have played this year (I enjoy the game, but I'm no pro). I tied the front low and Wolf (splitting the pot on both), and won the back low and the total low scores outright. All in all, I cleaned up playing smart golf.

The course was immaculate considering a very dry summer. The greens were fast – as expected. The roughs were very much like anything you'd see in a PGA Tour Major – deep and thick. The bunkers were soft and powdery. It was not a particularly long course either – a fact I liked. The shtick of this and it's sister course in Vegas is that every hole is designed after one of Jack Nicklaus' favorite holes in the world, and the motif was executed masterfully. The course was worth every penny (even if I didn't pay out of my own pocket). So if you're looking to drop about $150, I highly recommend playing Atlanta's Bear's Best.

Created: 8/11/2007

Is it the Indian or the arrow?

Right after this season got underway and after another dismal round off the tee, I made a decision to upgrade my 13-year-old driver. Bought for me by my dad during a holiday trip while in Houston, TX on our way up to Steamboat, Colorado, the Callaway Big Bertha Warbird (11°) was never a close friend of mine. For some stupid reason I just had to have a graphite shaft (which at the time of purchase was very flex). For some stupider reason, my dad didn't object. And so began my seemingly eternal struggle to control the quickness of my swing to hold back some of the flexibility of a shaft that didn't like it.

After a decade or so of playing my second shot from neighboring fairways and other more frustrating locations, I gave up using the driver and started exclusively using my irons off the tee. Being a semi-long irons hitter, a 3-iron usually put me in a good position relative to the people I was playing with. This was of course only when I struck the ball perfectly – hardly a thing I did (or still do) consistently. It should be no revelation that a bad tee off with an iron makes for a very long hole – specially par fives. These were trying times.

So right after that cold March round, playing with my boss and a vendor at the Stonemont Course in Stone Mountain, I made up my mind to sink a couple Cs on a new driver. After a good bit of research on the Internet, I drove down to the PGA Tour Superstore close to my office. I had my swing speed measured and I tried a bunch of different types of clubs. When all was said and done, one of the pros recommended the Callaway Fusion FT-3, 10° loft with a draw compensation, and an Aldila NV 65-R shaft. I bought it on the spot – they had the best price I'd seen on it so far. As I walked to my car, club in hand and a little lighter on the wallet, I wondered if I had made the right decision.

My answer came shortly after. I went to a range and played a few rounds within a week's time. What a difference. I had never hit it off the tee so consistently and long. This truly makes for an enhanced golf experience. After years of struggle, I had found a club that really helped my game significantly. I usually don't believe in buying the latest equipment on the promise of game improvement, but there is a lot to say about switching from what is the wrong club (because of shaft length or flex, etc) to what is the right club for you.

Created: 8/3/2007

In the Bag

Callaway Fusion FT-3, 10° loft with a draw compensation, and an Aldila NV 65-R shaft

Other Woods:
Pro-Kennex graphite 5-wood – the last remnant of my first set, it needs to be replaced, although I never use it (I carry it because I have my tiger cover on it)

Taylor Made Burner Irons 3 to AW

Other Irons:
Maxfly LW 61° loft

Taylor Made Nubbins

Created: 8/3/2007
Last Edited: 8/3/2007

The painful birth

The year was 1993 and I had been out of high school for about a year or so. My family had become member of a country club and we'd begun going with some regularity. My dad and I had been playing tennis for as long as I could remember and we continued to do so there - they had some fairly decent clay courts. I also had a circle of close friends who liked to play tennis, so we often played singles or doubles there or in their respective clubs. That was the status quo.

One day, after a match with my dad, we enjoyed a cold beverage on one of the club's main decks. A young yet beautifully green and luscious golf course was impossible to miss from where we were sitting (or anywhere else in the structure's posterior side). Rows of newly planted trees outlined the first, ninth, tenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth holes – all visible from the clubhouse. There were a lot of water hazards. It was beautiful.

As things often happen, very sporadically and out of the blue, I told my dad I wanted to learn to play golf. He had while younger, but hadn't in a long time. Being a very social game, so important in business (not that he needed it), he saw perhaps an opportunity to get back into it. And so the wheels were set in motion.

I had "played" golf before… if you can call it that. Only a couple of times, in a different club and a different city, some friends and I had gotten a caddie and a borrowed bag of clubs and had violently hacked our way through nine holes. This took place at the end of the day when no one was there to witness the insanity. More than playing golf, it was pretending to play golf. Regardless, I enjoyed the heck out of it.

While my dad got us both clubs (this took a while), I borrowed a bag of clubs from a friend's dad, and hacked my way onto my clubs course. I bag of twenty used balls (all recovered from the lake and sold back by the club) was hardly enough to last me nine holes. The course was not that difficult – I was that bad. And of course I didn't quite bother getting lessons until much later. And of course I wanted to play, not necessarily just go to the range. It was a recipe for disaster, but right beneath that level of frustration at some point in time felt by all golfers was a layer of enjoyment that kept me coming back.

So my own golf bag arrived one day and my dad and I went to play together for the first time. He had also purchased a gazillion brand spanking new balls. I can successfully summarize the four-hour round with the immortal words that my dad muttered, trying to control his ire, at around the tenth hole. He looked at me after I had shanked perhaps the 20th or 30th ball into a water hazard, "You are an irresponsible golfer." There's no paraphrasing here. Those were his words verbatim.

That (mostly just golf) set the stage for a very dysfunctional period between us. A relationship that had hardly been there at all became necessary. Tennis is not a social sport. There's really very little need for communication. Golf forced us to interact. While there were a lot of good things that might have brought us together, the sport itself pushed us apart.

Those were the events that started it all. I'm much better now, but with a limited time to play I can't seem to get past the boundary from average and inconsistent to consistently good. It has been a long time since those days of fighting with my dad on the course, throwing clubs around after a bad hit, or ruining a good day in the course after a single bad stroke. There's a lot of maturing in golf and some of us start at the very bottom. Despite all the pain and anger and suffering (okay I'm way over-exaggerating) golf has brought me throughout the years, I still love the sport. I guess once I realized I wasn't going to be Tiger Woods, I stopped letting a bad shot, hole, or round mess me up. That was a simple realization and a great turning point for the better.

Created: 8/2/2007