Reflections from my first Club Championship

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As Bob Rotella writes, “Play to play great”.

Last year I had a chance to play in the Ontario Public Player Championships and got my first real taste for competitive play.  I wrote about how I’d love to experience that again.  This year, having joined Hidden Lake Golf Club in my new hometown I welcomed the chance to participate in the three-day club championships over the August long-weekend.  Leading up to the weekend, and for most of the season truthfully, I had not been playing good golf; my index had risen over 2 strokes and I struggled to get the ball in play consistently off the tee.

So with expectations firmly set, I arrived on Saturday to face one of the windiest days of the season.  Winds of 40-50 km/h made scoring challenging for all in the Championship flight, my A flight and the Women’s flight.  Playing in the A Flight, my 84 was not only below my average for the season, it placed me in 5th place (after adjusting for my index) and in a good position, also giving me some much welcomed confidence heading into the next two days.

Sunday was a much nicer day, calmer conditions prevailed the players moved onto Hidden Lake’s Old Course (a tighter layout but with smaller and easier greens).  Another strong round, an 82, placed me a tie for third and only 6 strokes out of the lead.  Most notably over these two days was the fact I had one hole each round with a triple or worse.  If I could manage the large scores I felt I had a chance to improve.

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Formerly Lake Medad, many years back, Hidden Lake has two courses available for golfers

Monday was another nice weather day and a later tee time meant I had time to ease into my day at home and take my time warming up.  I was nervous and excited and welcomed the challenge of the day.  Not ever really getting comfortable with my swing was that challenge, and the result was a scrambling effort of 88, including yet another hole where I had a very high score.  After 54 holes, I finished T-6 in my flight, and while it was not the result I was looking for, there were many takeaways for me:

  • Every shot matters. And while this sounds cliché the process of being present, focused and playing all shots purposefully can make a good round great or a poor round good.  I did well here but understand my course management has opportunity for significant improvement.

 

  • Bob Rotella’s point about accept the challenge of the day was spot on. Monday was challenging; I didn’t have my ‘A’ game but for 14 holes had scrambled and scored as well as I could have.  Even after a tough hole in the final stretch I battled to close strong.

 

  • Like an examination, competitive play will expose parts of your game and like an exam; practice and preparation will build confidence for the tournament. I am already looking forward to next year and developing a plan in the off season to build on my weaknesses.  Improving on my three bad holes over the three days would have had a significant impact on my positioning (but I am sure others could say the same).

 

  • Have fun. My tour earnings or world golf rankings were not impacted by this event.  For someone who’s had challenges with anxiety and is prone to take myself too seriously sometimes I loved the chance to meet new people, try my best and savour the experience.  Of all the aspects of my game, my attitude was the best (putting a close second) and I am very proud of that.

 

  • I would like to experience more competitive play. Even if just to help manage the nerves, but truthfully it such a fantastic way to embrace the game of golf.  Next year I am going to sign up for individual Match Play at the club as well.

 

  • There is some disappointment. I had a very good chance to place well and even win my flight.  I have the capacity to play better golf.  Part of this post and the reflection from last month’s championships is to assess the strengths and weaknesses of my play so I can build myself into a better competitive player.

Congratulations to the winners in the A Flight, Women’s Flight our Championship Flight.  The Championship Flight saw our Junior Champion battle our 7-time Club Champion (who’s also played in the Canadian Open before).  Lars Melander won his 8th Club title with a strong closing round 1 under par 70.  John Kawiuk and Tommy Williams shared medal honours for the A Flight and Sharon Labbett is the Women’s Club Champion for 2017.  Lynn Mercier won the Women’s Net Championship.  Congratulations to all winners and participants.  Thanks too to the staff that worked hard to serve and support us and had the courses in excellent condition over the three days.  As for me, time to get to work in preparation for 2018.

 

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Time on Golf’s Disabled List

Avid golfers over the course of their time playing the game may likely encounter some pain or discomfort caused by playing which will force them to stay off the course for a while.  In some cases it is a brief stint but for others it is a more extended break.  Following a stretch earlier in August where I played10 rounds in 13 days, I have set the clubs aside until the end of the month.  A break of two weeks should alleviate a mild case of golfer’s elbow (self-diagnosed, mind you).  Of course, most Canadians need to put the clubs in the garage come late fall and wait out the winter.  This weather induced off season will certainly help me get my body and mind feeling better and re-energize me to get back to regular practice and play.

A break from the game, especially when forced, is not easy but the first key for me is acceptance.  Looking longer term, a two-week break will allow my elbow to feel better and, perhaps more importantly, get me into a better mind set for the game.  The extended stretch of golf I played in August had some competitive components to it (more on this in upcoming posts) and while I love the challenge of competitive play, it does help me to relax and enjoy the game as much I wish it would.  Compounded to all this is the fact I have not been playing well.  Again, this can happen and over the course of a season most players will experience the peaks and valleys around performance.  But my play was getting steadily worse.  Proud that my attitude remained positive, I will admit it’s much easier to take a break from golf when the scores have been higher than expected.

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Over this time – I am in the middle of my two week self-imposed stint on the disabled list – I am not watching much golf, allowing myself time off true time away from the game (even blogging, which I apologize for).  Giving the mind a break may be just as important for me as the body.  The elbow ache may or may not have had a correlation to a ballooning index and higher scores.  But I plan to come back at the end of the month rested, refreshed and energized to play, practice, have fun and seeking to get better.   It’s been an odd season for me in the sense of a new routine of play, stretches of extended and intensive play and now a new and nagging injury to address.

My time on the disabled list so far has given me an important and appreciated break from the game.  I am going to consider during the off-season a regular break every summer moving forward; it’s helping me to reflect and re-energize.  It’s the first time I have ever had to deal with an injury and given my age and how often I play, I feel very fortunate about that.  I understand not everyone has control over their time on golf’s disabled list.  I am very lucky in that regard.  I’ll be back soon and am eager to tee it up again.  Wishing you all good health, happiness and success on the course.  I’d love to hear from you around how you’ve coped with any golfing injuries.

Impressions of the 2017 Toronto Golf and Travel Show

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I’m losing count but my guess would be that this is my 7th Toronto golf show in the past 8 years.  My motivation for attending has changed considerably over the years.  Gone are the days when I would show up early and line up to access the quality free golf giveaway (which still exists and creates significant buzz).  Now, I am interested in building and maintain relationships.  I have been fortunate to make friends in the golf industry in Canada and this event provides me a regular touch point to connect with key people in golf in Canada.

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Meeting golf ball inventor and legend, Dean Snell.

Let’s not kid ourselves here…there is an energy and buzz to this show which gets any golfing enthusiast excited for the season ahead.   Add to it exhibitors keen to share information on their products, courses, services and organizations and I was no different than the multitude of attendees.  So as I reflect back on the Golf and Travel Show, here are my impressions:

  1. There is something for everyone.

There really is.  Whether its discounted retail outlet shopping; numerous jurisdictions providing information on golf and travel escapes; access to local, national and international golf with strong promotional offers; chances to try new equipment; access to lessons from CPGA teaching professionals; draws and giveaways; speakers; and more.  The Toronto International Centre is sufficiently big enough to host an event of this magnitude and organizers had things clearly marked inside.

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Such a pleasure to meet and chat with Jim Burton.  For those active on Twitter, you’ll know him as The Grateful Golfer (@TheGratefulGolf)

  1. Make time to meaningfully engage.

The crowds are such that some people feel they should only spend a brief moment and gather information.  But I have learned that it is possible to strike up a conversation, ask questions and learn more about courses, organizations and golfing regions.  Carve out the experience you want from the show.  I appreciated the chance to meet The Grateful Golfer, a fellow golf blogger who does exceptional work (and possesses an exceptional golf game).  I spent time with my friends at Snell Golf Canada.  Highlighted here was the chance to meet Dean Snell, inventor of Snell golf balls and whom I most recently interviewed.  The booth got busier as the afternoon went on and I was happy to share my positive experience with these golf balls with attendees.

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It’s an annual tradition for me to head over and visit my good friends at Golf PEI.  Appreciated that Mark McLane could take time to talk and share insight on new initiatives.

I spent some time talking with my friend Mark McLane from Golf PEI and learned about some of the new golf initiatives happening on the gentle island.  It was a pleasure to meet Graham Hudson from Highlands Links who was at the Golf North booth.  Graham was excited to share some of the great developments happening on the course.  I met an old friend from grade school who heads up the On The Tee magazine.  And I had a chance to connect briefly with Jay from the 36 Golf Company, an amazing golf apparel company based in Canada.

I met and networked with many others.

  1. Grab now, read later.

I like to learn about new getaway destinations but I also like to learn about what courses in my area – the western part of the Greater Toronto Area – offer in terms of early season specials and promotions.  This approach of gathering as much information as possible truly helped me plan for my 2015 PEI golf trip and I find that once I am back in the quiet of my own home I can sift through the materials I have gathered and identify new courses to play, destinations to consider and products to learn about.  Along with making a direct connection with someone, I love this part of the golf show.

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As with any trophy, it’s only to be touched when you win it.  The base of the RBC Canadian Open trophy is being extended to allow for more winners to be added.

4. Shopping for Golf Gear

This part appeals to me less than others listed above.  The Golf and Travel Show has expanded over the years to include retailers offering discount product.  Often models which are older, there is value to be had but people need to be discerning in looking at product.  And if you can imagine it, they sell it.  Carts, bags, training aids, clubs, balls and apparel are all available.  I counted three separate discount retailers this year.  I grabbed a new putter grip but that was all.

  1. Education and Youth Engagement

This part excites me as the Golf and Travel Show works to engage junior golfers.  Being there on a Friday I did not see many kids (as they’d be in school) but understand that allowing kids to enter free and offering a real hands on experience in terms of contests, trying clubs, lessons and more, will provide people (kids of all ages) with a great opportunity to learn about the game and engage more within it.

I attended the Dean Snell talk and he provided a true master class on ball fitting which contradicts many approaches companies utilize today.  I learned a great deal from Dean during his 30 minute talk, including Q & A.   The speakers line up was diverse and impressive.

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Crowds were large and lineups long.  It moved steadily fortunately.  Great to see this kind of excitement.

The timing of this show is perfect, as it happens late enough in winter and before the Masters to truly pique the interest of golfers.  Based on the lineups and the large crowds on the first day, this is an event that just keeps growing and getting better and better.

Looking Ahead to 2017

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Mid-January but always dreaming of getting in 36 a day!

We’re well into 2017 now and while the golf clubs continue to sit idly, except for indoor dome or simulator action, I know it’s only a few months now until the season begins.  But I am not spending of the off-season quietly sitting and waiting for spring’s arrival.  A new year brings optimism but also a plan and a commitment to improve.  So here are some thoughts, projections and plans for the year ahead:

  1. Getting my mind and body fit.

Reflecting back, I don’t think I’ve looked at my off-season preparation for golf in a truly holistic manner.  I’d try to hit balls as often as I could and workout every now and then but it never was truly effective.  A late summer move to my childhood hometown has helped me get into some more healthy habits.  Combined with a couple health apps on my smartphone and an investment in new exercise equipment I am giving 2017 a chance to be more healthy, happy and successful on (and off) the golf course.

Better sleep, better diet, an exercise regime which will focus on my heart and my overall flexibility are already helping me feel better.  I am reading more often – golf and non-golf books – and am starting to learn French.  All this to say is that my view on improving my golf game is being viewed physically, mentally and emotionally now.  I am continuing my golf lessons over the winter months and feel once I get to the middle of April I will be ready to build on my successes of last season.

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I can’t golf every day.  But like this sign says, at Eagles Glenn in Cavendish, PEI, I can have a good day and make choices to help me get better.

  1. More Champions and LPGA golf, less PGA Tour

Ever so slightly, I am starting to sour on the PGA tour.  Where I am finding enjoyment on

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I feel like I’m the only one not scoring 59.

TV is through the PGA Champions and LPGA.  Here I see players who hit it only slightly farther and play courses closer in length to what I do.  It is increasingly difficult for me to relate to PGA stars that hit the ball so far and are seemingly automatic around and on the greens.  I understand on TV we see the leaders play and those are the players who are playing the best.  But seeing pros dissect 500 yard par 4’s with driver and 9 iron just doesn’t appeal to me.  Maybe part of it is that in 2017 I become eligible for the Champions Tour (age-wise anyway. Yes, it’s a milestone year).  Don’t get me wrong, like you I’ll be glued to the Masters and all the important tournaments and I’ll still get more than my share of PGA Tour viewing in.  But with weekly scores of 59 or 60 now, and tour players’ relentless commitment to training the game is not what it once was to me.  My issue is not the players, it’s the ball…but that’s another rant for another day.

  1. Business Travel Plans

My 2017 business schedule is locked in.  I have extended visits to Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal lined up.  I certainly plan on tacking on some time out west to play Sagebrush and maybe one or two others on my Bucket List.  I have yet to explore the options (time or courses) for Ottawa or Montreal but the clubs will be coming with me and my habit of mixing some pleasure after business will continue.  I will do my research but not hesitate to put a call out on Twitter or FB for recommendations of places to play to help build my itinerary.  I’ll be hard pressed to match my success from the 2016 season which had me play in British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick.  There, I was able to knock off 5 courses off the Bucket List as well as play two others.  This year I’d like to knock off just as many on my revised list.

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No trips to Cape Breton planned for 2017…yet!

  1. Membership has its privileges

It’s possible I’ve buried the lede here but I have joined Hidden Lake Golf Club in my hometown of Burlington, ON.  As an associate member I can control the value proposition for myself but still get all the benefits of belonging, including the chance to play in the Club Championship in August.  The membership structure is such I can still make a commitment to play public courses in the area from time to time (I will not abandon my pursuit of my bucket list) yet have access to practice and playing facilities close to my home and at a fraction of the cost of other area courses.  It’s been over 35 years since I was a member at a club so this will feel new but will also be exciting.  I expect to wear out their short game practice area over the year.  But even in terms of rounds played, 20 rounds is simply not going to cut it (that was my total for 2016, one of my lowest numbers in some time).

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Christmas Eve 2015 – Hidden Lake Golf Club

  1. Practice with purpose. Play more competitively.

My index is currently 9.6 but that is not consistent throughout my game.  My weakest parts of my game are irons and short game (I’m more a 15).  I’ve worked hard to become an average putter and my long game/tee game has vastly improved (here, I’m closer to a 5).  So, to get better I feel I need to focus 3/4 of my time inside of 150 yards and most of that inside of 50 yards.  My new course will provide me great access and space to do so.  Through my instruction with Brian McCann I will create a plan to review and address areas of my game which are weak.  I love practicing and get much from an hour or two on the greens, range or short game area.

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OK, maybe this is extreme, but I do plan on making a greater commitment to practice in 2017.

Also, I am hopeful to play more competitive golf in 2017.  I wrote about my experience in 2016 at the Golf Ontario Baka Public Player Championships.  I won’t be eligible for that this year and will need to focus within my new club to get the competitive experiences I now crave.  An August Club Championship and weekly Men’s night will be a good starting point.  I’ll explore other options too as I love the competitive nature of golf.  But even with that, my filter for golf will always be to have fun.  It’s an amazing game.

Like New Year’s resolutions (which I no longer make) I don’t want to set a firm goal for 2017.  I strive to be a scratch golfer and break par regularly.  I have never broken par, my best round +3.  However, if pressed on the issue I’d like to see if I can get my index down to 5.0  This is a milestone I am seeking to achieve.   I have much work to do to get there…we’ll see how things go!

It’s going to be a fun 2017 golf season; I hope it’s an enjoyable and successful.

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Here’s to many great days for us all in 2017.  Play well friends.

 

2016 in Review – Top 5 Posts

2016 in Review – Top 5 Posts

I want to thank everyone who follows and supports my blog.  Three years now and I am still enjoying the opportunity to share reviews and travel information on interesting and wonderful public golf courses in Canada.  Expect more of the same in 2017.  It was a great year of golf for me, with chances to play in British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick and Ontario.  I was able to play some amazing courses, meet great people and see parts of the country I have never experienced.  As is often the case there were some hidden gems and I tried hard to make a commitment to improve my photography skills and share more of these experiences with you.

Meeting and playing golf with fellow bloggers, venturing back into competitive golf after a brief absence and being able to maintain a single digit handicap are all things I look back on fondly.  Canada really is an amazing country to play golf in.  I find it so rich in golf courses that I recently increased my Bucket List of Canadian public courses from 74 to just fewer than 100.  Canada has well over 2000 courses so I have done some research, listened to Twitter followers and went with my gut in a few cases but added over 20 courses to my list.

In 2016, my top 5 posts all have an eastern Canada connection.  My 2015 PEI trip was legendary and I have written extensively on it.  Four of the top five posts were course reviews from this trip which I staggered as new blog entries over the winter of 2016.

#1. Stanhope Golf Club

Easy to walk, relaxed in nature and offering an incredible underrated and stunning back nine, Stanhope offers high marks for fun.  A benign opening nine gives way to an amazing stretch of golf holes on the back that are both challenging and awe inspiring.  Playing on an afternoon following a tough weather morning at demanding Crowbush Cove; Stanhope was a perfect course to cap off an epic day of 36.

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Not everyone gets to play golf with their best friend but at Stanhope it’s encouraged.

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#2 Oh, The Places You Will Go

Fairways Fund CEO, Tiffany Chaisson is someone I am proud to call a friend.  She also brings this amazing marriage of golf enthusiasm with unbridled passion for the game (making my own passion for the same seem pedestrian).  The opportunity to meet my Twitter friend in person, over a round of golf, came in July when we were fortunate to be hosted for a round at the incredible Ladies Club in Thornhill, ON.  The Ladies Club has a rich history and an amazing story of its inception that both Tiffany and I wanted to learn about.  Head Professional, Paddy Kelly hosted us and joined us for a round at this Stanley Thompson design which is a shorter course, but long on beauty and challenge.

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Ladies Club Head Professional, Paddy Kelly; Fairways Fund CEO, Tiffany Chaisson; and me!

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#3 Green Gables Golf Club

Sticking to Stanley Thompson, his work in Cavendish, in PEI, was my third most popular post in 2016.  Recent renovations by Tom McBroom helped bring this course back to its original lustre and an early morning fall tee time helped show off all its beauty.  The iconic Anne of Green Gables home, Oceanside views, classic Thompson design…it was there to enjoy.

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Anne’s house.

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#4 Eagles Glenn Golf Club

Practically within walking distance from Green Gables, still in Cavendish, is a more recent design.  Eagles Glenn, as I look back, is an outstanding golf course which is well framed by the rolling countryside and the design brilliance of Graham Cooke.  Superbly conditioned and on a stunning fall morning, this was a consensus favourite by our entire group.

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The Cartners won the last hole and were ready to tee it up.

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#5 Glasgow Hills Golf Club

This club of all the 10 played on our trip to PEI invoked the most discussion.  Stunning, immaculate in its conditioning and incredibly demanding, it presents a back nine which I really enjoyed.  With the most elevation changes of any course on the Island it demands accuracy and length.  But spend time before and after the round in their amazing clubhouse and restaurant and you’ll only focus on the great shots and the great views.

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This view from the patio of the clubhouse at Glasgow Hills is the best.

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2016 in Pictures – Banff Springs (part 2)

In an effort to step up my photo game this year I am pleased to share 10 of my favourite golf images over the past year.  With a healthy layer of snow already in southern Ontario I hope this brings back good memories from your 2016 golf season and stokes the fire of anticipation for 2017!

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The story:  Given that these are two pictures of the same hole I don’t feel like I am breaking the rules too much.  The third hole at Banff Springs is my second favourite par 5 I have ever played (Highlands Links #7 gets top honours) and these views give you a good idea why.  While the 4th hole (see Banff Springs – part 1) gets proper accolades this is a highly underrated golf hole.  The sheer magnitude of the Rockies set against the expansiveness of this par 5 was incredible to experience.  I was blessed with a perfect morning for pictures and took full advantage.  The top image looks back from behind the green and the lower image was taken as I rounded the subtle dog leg and could see the green.  This courses is what bucket lists were meant for.

To all my readers, a very Merry Christmas, joyous and safe holidays and my best wishes to you and yours for a healthy and prosperous 2017.

In friendship, Mike

 

2016 in Pictures – Tobiano

In an effort to step up my photo game this year I am pleased to share 10 of my favourite golf images over the past year.  With a healthy layer of snow already in southern Ontario I hope this brings back good memories from your 2016 golf season and stokes the fire of anticipation for 2017!

The story:  My day of golf at Tobiano was simply amazing.  This course is well positioned in Top 10 lists of public courses in Canada.  My experience was somewhat solitary, as I seemed to bring in some stormy weather in my drive north from Surrey.  The dramatic effect of the weather in the distance set against the beauty of Kamloops Lake and the pristine condition of this course made it a real favourite of mine.  I was able to get 27 holes in before the weather won out.  But rest assured, I’ll be back and eagerly await a chance to play this very special course again.

Click here for my full review of Tobiano.