I’ll always look back at this memory and smile.
I’ll always look back at this memory and smile.
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.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:
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.
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:
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.
Ever so slightly, I am starting to sour on the PGA tour. Where I am finding enjoyment on
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Winter Golf in Canada
December 21 ushered in the first day of winter. Not a day most Canadians consider golfing unless you’re a snowbird in Florida or Arizona, or are fortunate enough in live on Vancouver Island with a 12 month season. However, the fall of 2014 in Southern Ontario was one which saw little sunshine and just as little snowfall. Bare grass and milder conditions (I’ll call 2c mild for the first day of winter) invited golfers to explore courses which remain open and I was one of the hearty few.
Hidden Lake in Burlington, ON is a two-course operation which has recently been acquired by ClubLink, a larger multi-course conglomerate which owns and operates many high-end courses like Glen Abbey and Rocky Crest (also a public course), as well as Glencairn and King Valley (only open to ClubLink members). The new management has not changed the courses’ philosophy around access to public golf and with little to no snowfall; Hidden Lake remains open for public play. With recommended forward tees and mandatory temp greens the courses continue to allow golfers a chance to keep the swing loose and enjoy a refreshing walk.
I ventured out and played their old course. According to my iPhone camera I was able to play 18 in 2 hours 8 minutes. The putter never came out of the bag as the temp greens provided me a chance to hone my chipping skills. Winter golf is not a time to talk about scores; it is a chance to talk about being able to get out to play. Preferred lies, a two-shot limit on the greens and a mental note to put the yellow balls are in the bag are the important items to share.
I love winter golf. It is the golf equivalent of being able to tell fishing tales. At the 19th hole or at the water cooler the temperature gets a little colder, the roll of tee shots a little longer and the fingers felt a little warmer. It was days like yesterday where I can ensure my number one goal from golf is met: have fun.
Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season. Keep it in the short grass and I hope 2015 is a golf-filled year for you all.