Monthly Archives: March 2014

JC Golf: Carmel Mountain Ranch Joins the JC Golf Family

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The signature par-3 11th

          JC Golf is proud to announce the latest addition to its golf family: Carmel Mountain Ranch.

         Situated just 25 minutes from downtown San Diego, Carmel Mountain Ranch has been serving golfers from all over San Diego County and beyond since 1984. In the past, it has even hosted U.S. Open qualifying as well as a variety of other tournaments and events.

At 6,599 yards (from the back tees), Carmel Mountain is a mid-length course that requires a good deal of strategy but also has a fair amount of holes that allow big hitters to let it fly.

Prior reviews of the course have called it “a true shot-maker’s course,” and it is that, especially on some of its short par-4s, which take a few rounds to learn.

Carmel Mountain General Manager Kevin Hwang says the course has a reputation for being rough for first-timers.

“The course has a reputation for being tough, but we’re in the process of trying to ease that burden for people,” Hwang says.

That’s mostly by managing speeds on the course’s undulating greens. Hwang says the course’s tiered greens can yield a bevy of three-putts if not managed properly.

“The greens are a little tricky, which is why don’t let them run too fast,” he says.

The course has many unique holes, but the signature is the beautifully landscaped par-3 11th, which plays to 158 yards and involves a carry over a pond and waterfall. The pin was front right the day I played and I just missed having my tee shot pull back to the hole on the undulating green.

“It’s actually our shortest par-3. It’s a lot fun to play,” Hwang says.

The following is a look at few more things you can look forward to during future rounds at Carmel Mountain Ranch.

1. Great Driving Holes – If you’re striping it off the tee to start, you can really take advantage of the first two holes, both of which are downhill par-4s. You’re set up for a similarly strong start on the back with the downhill par-5 10th and then there’s another dramatic downhill on the par-4 14th.

The par-5 10th is most definitely reachable in two with a solid drive, and the wide fairway offers multiple angles of attack as long as you avoid the bunkers on the right. The large, receptive green makes a great opportunity to kick off your back nine with a birdie. This used to be the starting hole, by the way, until the nines were reversed. So if you haven’t played the course for a while, be aware of that.

2. Unique Views – Having beautiful mountain vistas as a backdrop is common in this part of Southern California, but what is a bit uncommon is how much the course’s design incorporates its surroundings.

For instance, on the drive to the par-4 14th, you’re greeted by a field of huge boulders and actually drive between two of them to reach the tee box. It’s stunning every time you experience it, but particularly the first time.

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You’ll find similarly sized stones in fairways and sand traps throughout the course.

Also unique to the area are the hawks and falcons you’ll see soaring and circling above, riding the breeze and giving you a glimpse of nature’s wonders at work.

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The par-4 7th

3. Unique Holes – Because the course was designed to maximize course exposure for the homes, many holes are set off in their own amphitheater.

The product of that design is an uncommonly unique layout.

“We’re definitely not parallel fairways,” Hwang says. “And you don’t see two holes that look the same.”

Two of the most talked about, and unique, holes on the course are two short and highly strategic par-4s.

The first is No. 7, which plays to 311 yards from an elevated tee. The number probably already has many of you ready to pull driver, but hold that thought.

There’s a huge boulder surrounded by a sand trap lurking about 280 yards out. If you don’t make the carry, your ball could hit the boulder and bound OB or leave you in some other tricky predicament.

An iron or rescue to a comfortable second-shot yard is the preferred play, but doesn’t dissuade many from going for the green.

Driver isn’t an option, however, on the 325-yard par-4 17th. Front by a sizable pond, this short par-4 is a true two-shot hole.

Carrying the water on the second shot has been many players’ undoing, Hwang says.

“There’s no running it up there. You’ve got to hit a shot.”

And to a somewhat smallish green. I played the hole 7-iron, 6-iron, which was more than I wanted on my second shot, but I still managed the land the ball on the fringe and make a two-putt par.

It may take you a few rounds to learn the best way for you to club No. 17, but you’ll find par to be a plenty good score there.

4. Practice bunker/short game area – As someone whose greenside sand game tends to be inconsistent, I find it a relief any time there’s a practice bunker available. Carmel Mountain Ranch has one is its sizable short-game area.

I practiced sands shots for about 15 minutes and it saved me a few strokes during my round. The bunker is a bit benign in that it doesn’t have steep walls, but it’s enough to get in some solid practice.

There’s a separate green designated for chipping as well.

All the pros say the fastest way to shave strokes is around the green. For your round, arrive early and make use of this valuable practice resource.

The course used to have a driving range, but a virtual range has replaced it.

5. The Clubhouse – As you wind your wind up Carmel Ridge Road, you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see a stately Colonial-style clubhouse.

The building gives a country-club presence to the course.

“We’ve got great curb appeal,” Hwang says.

Besides the pro shop, there’s a bar and grill/lounge area and an upstairs banquet facility with a patio.

Feel free to stick around after your round and relax with a beverage and join us in a symbolic toast to the newest member of the JC Golf family.

Carmel Mountain Ranch officially becomes a part of JC Golf on April 1, thus benefits for JC Players card members begin on that date. To book a tee time, please call 858.487.9224, ext. 1.

 

Highlight Hole: No. 18 at Aviara

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The view of No. 18 from last year’s tournament

         As finishing holes go in San Diego, few, if any, come much tougher than No. 18 at Aviara.

         This dogleg right par-4 wraps around a lake that runs along most of the fairway and to the green, providing a serene and aesthetically pleasing finish, but also one that’s been known to swallow a lot of golf balls.

This hole was a major factor in the LPGA’s KIA Classic last year and not just because it hosted the two-hole playoff won by Beatriz Recari. It played as the toughest hole of the tournament, averaging well over par.

Aviara Director of Golf Renny Brown says the hole plays unusually tough for the tournament because of a unique circumstance.

“From the fairway, the grandstand build-out blocks the wind, so the flag doesn’t move. A lot of girls were coming up short last year because when the ball would get above the grandstand, the wind would knock it down,” Brown says. “They had trouble gauging the wind.”

The wind on 18 blows off the Pacific Ocean and Batiquitos lagoon, making it play even longer than the 413 yards from the blue tees, which is what the Kia uses.

The tee shot alone is challenge here to say the least. Besides water on your right, you’ve got out of bounds and bunkers lurking on your left. With the wind blowing, this fairway can feel very small.

According to a review of Aviara at worldgolf.com, Arnold Palmer once described this as the toughest finishing hole he’s ever designed.

It quoted Palmer as saying, “You have the lagoon on the left and a pond and waterfall to the right. Even if you hit a strong drive, you have to think on the approach, because the fairway narrows to 20 yards.

“It took me a long time to realize you need to be safe and go for the back of the green (on your second shot) to stay away from the water.”

At the Kia media day, Recari offered her professional opinion on how to play 18 from the tee.

“You have to play to the right, just inside the bunker,” Recari says. “I usually hit driver, but I hit 3-wood there last year (in the playoff) because the wind was up.

“If you land it to the right of that bunker, you’ve got a good chance.”

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         Recari plays a draw, as do I, which makes a driver a nervous play here for me. I took Recari’s advice on media day and pulled 3-wood. I hit the best shot I’ve ever hit on 18 and, though a little too close to the lake, I had 160 to get home and a good lie. And then … yank. OB.

I’ve done this the last three times (grrr) I’ve had played this hole. I suspect the wind is at work, though it mostly factors in in that it leaves me one club longer than what I’d prefer – my 7 iron.

Therefore, unfortunately, I can’t speak to going for birdie or par here, but Brown has a tip about reading putts on 18.

“Forget about putts breaking to the ocean,” he says. “Once you’re standing on the green, look back toward the fairway and use that tilt to judge the putt.”

Speaking of putts, new this year is a plaque on 18 honoring where Recari hit her winning putt from the fringe last year.

As well all know, hitting Aviara’s helipad-size green is one thing; putting them is another.

And given how straight the female Tour players hit it, putting is everything at the Kia, Brown says.

“The winner out here is going to be someone who’s top five in putting,” he says. “The greens are so massive out here that it becomes a putting contest.”

While 18 has a fierce reputation, Brown says it’s actually the second of closing one-two punch for the women, given that No. 17, a par-5, is the longest hole on the LPGA at 565 yards.

That leaves the drivable par-4 16th as the best last stand for birdie. Because if it comes down to 18, you’re really going to earn it.

For my part, I plan to stake out 18 this week until I see a birdie, just to see what one looks like there. And while I’m waiting, maybe I’ll go see if any of my old approach shots are still buried beneath the brush on the Batiquitos trail.

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The Aura of ’08 Still Shines Brightly at Torrey Pines

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USGA and local officials celebrate the 2021 agreement

In a way, it’s still very much 2008 every day at Torrey Pines.

The mystique of the epic ’08 Open, site of Tiger Woods’ dramatic sudden-death victory over Rocco Mediate, now draws golfers from around the globe to tee it up on the South Course and walk what has become hallowed golf ground.

Merchandise with the ’08 Open logo still sells, stories of that week are repeatedly, and happily, retold and golfers mostly ask, “Hey, when’s that going to happen again?”

Now we know.

Torrey was granted its long awaited and much anticipated encore Tuesday when it was officially revealed “America’s Championship” would return to Torrey in 2021. City and USGA officials jointly announced and celebrated the agreement, passing out 2021 hats and having photos taken with a replica of the U.S. Open trophy.

The sentiment of recapturing the magic of ’08 was expressed by everyone, including the new mayor, using words such as “electricity,” “passion” and “excitement” in what they hoped to recreate in 2021. They’ll will be hard pressed to match the original, but we’ve now got seven years to ponder about how it could be topped.

After the announcement, I asked a few of the Torrey Pines staff members why it is that the 08 Open captured people’s imaginations in a way that few sporting events, not just in golf, rarely do. Think about it: Are people still talking about the 08 Super Bowl? The World Series? The Final Four? No.

Heck, people aren’t still talking about those things from a year ago.

Aside from the Hollywood-level drama, what’s different is part of what makes golf different.

“You can actually play the course where they played the U.S. Open,” says Torrey Pines Head Pro Joe DeBock. “Torrey Pines became very popular just for that fact. The course brings back those memories in a way that just going back to a stadium doesn’t.

“And it was one of the greatest championships ever.”

For comparison, you can try to recreate Christian Laettner’s iconic NCAA Tournament shot, but you can’t do it at the free-throw line of The Spectrum in Philadelphia.

However, you can walk to the 18th green at Torrey and recreate the 12-foot birdie putt Tiger drained to force the championship into an extra day.

And DeBock has. Many, many times now.

“I’ve recreated that putt so many times,” he says. “I originally did it for the media, but people still ask about it all the time.

“It’s a hard putt. If you get it too left, it stays left. It you get it too high, it stays high. It’s a tough putt to recreate.”

But it’s all part of the daily Open conversation at  Torrey.

“I talk about the U.S. Open in every lesson I give, and every tournament we have causes people to reminisce about it. It’s always a hot topic around here and will be even more so now.”

Possibly the only thing DeBock gets asked about more than the 08 Open is when there’d be another one at Torrey. DeBock said he’d been harboring a hunch for a while that it’d be back in 2021.

“When they announced Winged Foot (in New York) for 2020, I started to feel good about us getting it back in 2021,” he said. “When you look at the East/West geography balance, it made real good sense. And enough time had gone by.”

For those that don’t know, by the way, the 2019 Open is at Pebble Beach.

They opened the press event on Tuesday with a video montage of the 2008 Open and seconds later, Tiger was emphatically fist-pumping all over again.

“I still get chills watching that,” confided USGA Vice President Dan Burton. “And I know Rocco does, too.”

In a way the legacy and stature of 2008 has only grown since Tiger’s last putt fell, largely because that’s where his major march toward Jack’s record came to a historical hault.

For what will be six years now when Tiger tees it up at The Masters, Torrey has been the point of reference for his last major title in what still ranks as the most compelling storyline in sports.

Tiger will be 45 when June 2021 rolls around. Where his major odometer will be by then is anybody’s guess, but if he’s still in need of another to break the record, you’ve got to believe this will be coming too late in the game.

But that type of speculation led to a fun thought from Paul Cushing, the City of San Diego’s maintenance manager for golf operations.

“Who knows where the 2021 U.S. Open champion is right now?” he said. “He could be in high school. He could be in another country.

“It’s fun to think about it.”

It is. And we’ve got seven more years to do it. Let the game begin.

ImageFor $36, pin flags from the 2008 U.S. Open still sell

The U.S. Open Returns to Torrey Pines in 2021

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Just wanted to get something up about the big news of the golf day out here – the U.S. Open returning to Torrey Pines in 2021.

This is huge news and long anticipated, basically ever since Tiger Woods’ last putt dropped on his epic sudden-death victory in 2008, which, as we all know well, is his last major victory. I’ve got a post coming about the aura of the 2008 U.S. Open and how it still shines at Torrey every day, but for now I thought I’d give you a glimpse of the new hottest piece of golf gear in SoCal as of, oh, 1 p.m. today.

Traffic to the pro shop should be picking up any minute now. A great and well-deserved day at Torrey and for Southern California golf. Congrats to all the staff members who worked hard for years to make this happen for San Diego.

More thoughts on all of this to come.

I Survived Club Test 2014 – & Here’s What I Learned

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My Southland Golf connection afforded me a unique opportunity last Saturday.

I was one of about 15 or so golfers to participate in a club test for much of the latest equipment by the major manufacturers.

This was conducted at Oak Creek in Irvine, which was holding a huge demo day featuring TaylorMade, Callaway, Nike, Cobra Puma, Ping and Cleveland.

The task was to hit each company’s clubs in four categories (driver, fairway wood, hybrid and irons) and rate each 1-5 (five being the best) on performance in four characteristics – distance, control, feel and look.

If that sounds daunting, it’s because it is. Trying to be fair and thorough, it took me four hours to get through this exercise, which I didn’t completely complete (more on that later).

I’d never had a chance to test clubs en masse like this before, which is why I was eager to participate.

Through my work with Southland and my time at the Golf Academy, I was most familiar with the clubs from TaylorMade and Callaway and least familiar with Nike. I’d never hit one of their clubs before and couldn’t recall playing with even one person who had their driver.

Anyway, since equipment has become a bit of a writing niche for me, I thought this experience was essential to having me be properly knowledgeable.

I’m not going to divulge the results here (you’ll be able to find them in the April issue of Southland Golf), but what I wanted to do with this post is mostly relate the experience and relay some general findings. For now, the blog is going to avoid specific club recommendations/endorsements, but if you email me, I can help you the best I can. I’ve been getting more of these type questions recently as people are pondering purchases.

First, I should give you the set up of my bag, so you know my biases. My clubs have mostly all been fitted for me, and I consider my bag to be settled, save for a potential new driver purchase, although you’ll read later while I’m wavering on that.

So, my bag …

Driver/3-wood – the Stage 2 TaylorMade Rocketballz. Yes, it’s my driver, too, and the rock star of my golf bag. Golf friends of mine actually will get upset with me if I try to hit something else off the tee.

I actually have a Callaway Ignite 10.5 and only old TaylorMade 9.5 Steelhead I carry on occasion, mostly because they hit a straighter ball for me and my RBZ hits a great little draw – and a long way.

Hybrid – Nickent, 19 degree.

Irons – Mizuno JPX-825.

Wedges – Mizuno and Cleveland (56)

Putter – Cleveland blade that I bought used last year and love.

So this was the standard the new clubs were up against. Like I said, I feel this set up works for me and I’ve acquired nearly all of it in the last year, so I don’t feel much impulse to change at the moment.

That said, I was certainly curious to see how the new gear performs, especially after having written and read so much about it recently.

The first challenge I encountered was simply to set up a model for the test. I really wasn’t given one and wanted to come up with a method that was fair.

I decided not to judge a club’s performance until I felt I could hit five consecutive good shots with it. This allowed for some acclimation time with set up, tee height, etc., for various clubs. And of those five shots, save for driver, I wanted to hit some of them off the ground and a few off the tee to somewhat simulate a round.

Some quick math of the information provided will tell you this is a lot of golf swings. Too many, actually. Fatigue was the biggest factor. Figuring on that, I hit the least familiar clubs first, to give them my best shot, and saved the more known products for the back end of my session.

My swing hit the wall at least twice, but at times it was hard to tell if it was me or the clubs. I will say there was one manufacturer whose clubs I couldn’t hit at all, so in that case, I don’t have doubt – it was the clubs. Everything seemed to be off, to my feel and my eye, and I probably spent too much time trying to make their gear work for me.

After 20 minutes of futility, I moved on to more familiar equipment and the ball started jumping again immediately.

I got through three company’s sets and then broke for lunch. I then hit two more and while I was testing a TaylorMade driver, it finally happened – rip. Yep, I ripped open a blister on my pinkie finger. And I can’t remember the last time I got a golf blister.

Being a trooper, I Band-Aided it up and soldiered on, but I shortly thereafter DQ’d myself with one equipment company left to go – one I know well, so I wasn’t too concerned about not finishing.

I learned a lot about equipment and what works for me on Saturday. However, given how different swing profiles are, there’s no guarantee what works for me will work for you.

For instance, I seem to be the only golfer I know who can’t hit the mew Titleist driver. I have several friends who own it and love it. I’ve tried it a number of times now and even under optimal set up conditions on Saturday, I got ordinary results at best. I don’t get it because it feels good to me. I just doesn’t wow me after that. And, as I’ve said, I’m the outlier here.

Truth be told, most of the drivers felt heavy to me. This is partly why I favor my 3-wood. I like the lighter weight. I feel like all I have to do is pull it through and I get effortless distance.

That said, I was very curious to test the other 3-woods against my 3-wood, and I have to say they faired quite well. I was probably most impressed with the across-the-board performance in this category.

And that’s why I’m telling a lot of my friends who are inquiring about drivers, “How about a 3-wood?”

Nearly every one I tested seemed to pack a lot of pop for a smaller club. Actually, probably the longest ball I hit all day came off my first swing of a 3-wood. It launched low and was on the end of the range in a blink.

I would seriously look at this option, for performance reasons and a economic ones, before looking at making a biggest investment in a driver.

The other revelation was in hybrids. This is where I found the greatest disparity in performance, and you can really tell the difference from company to company just be looking at the them. The club head sizes ranged from tiny, and I mean the size of a candy bar, to those that were pretty plump, like a 5-wood almost. The size, for me, translated entirely to confidence in the ability to the hit the club. I couldn’t even get the smallest one off the ground. Some of the others, I hit and got surprising distance from.

If I were to make a change, adding a second hybrid is definitely something I’d consider. And as for purchases, I would definitely take your time with this one since there is such a noticeable disparity in what each company offers.

As for irons, I hit some very goods one – and found I got the best performance often with blades – but I didn’t experience anything that would prompt me to change, though I certainly know my next two preferences would be if I had to.

The only thing we didn’t test was putters, but I had my favorite conversation of the day about putters.

I was talking to a tester from LA who was lamenting not testing putters before concluding, “Ah, I always just go back to my old Ping anyway. I can’t rid of it. The thing makes putts.”

I feel the same way about the Cleveland I acquired last year. I don’t always make them, but putting and chipping are the two things I know I can roll out of bed and do every round.

But the LA tester and I got talking about how personal putters are.

“You have your most personal connection with your putter,” he said, and he’s so right. That prompted me to a realization.

When you hit a bad drive, it’s the club.

When you hit a bad iron or wedge shot, it’s the club.

When you miss a putt … it’s you.

Seriously, how often do you blame your putter. After a miss, it’s the green or the read or the stroke. The last thing it is is your putter’s fault. Maybe this is because putting can be just plain hard, but I think it goes back to bond. Our putter became our putter for a reason – at some point it made putts. Putts we obviously still recall and cherish and have endeared us to the club.

Drivers can be flaky, but for some reason, once we trust a putter, it’s considered to be the model of consistency. When it misses, we’re flawed. Maybe because it’s because we inherently hate change and changing putters is a scary thought for many of us.

Anyway, that probably should’ve been its own post, under “Ode to Putters” or something, but it just shows you that the people who tested Saturday take their equipment seriously.

I can tell you in the brief chat I had with a few other testers, we had fairly uniform consensus, so I suspect the results in the issue with be fairly declarative about what people liked and what they didn’t.

You can look forward to that issue in April, but, like I said, if you have questions feel free to email me and I’ll do my best to give insight.

For now, I can tell you Band-Aid brand is still the No. 1 Band-Aid. I’m typing this pain-free and ready for my rounds this week, same mostly reliable clubs in tow.

JC Golf: A Lesson About Lessons – 7 Tips for Maximizing Your Golf Lesson

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Photo courtesy of golfeneur.com

Before I left the house to interview Troy Ferguson and Paul Miernicki of Twin Oaks for this post, I did a quick Google search about this topic and it returned surprisingly little.

Could it be that for all the golf instruction information available in our connected world, the most under-taught part of a golf lesson is the lesson process itself?

For those who’ve never had a lesson, I think this information will provide insightful and highly valuable. But even if you’ve taken lessons for years, I still think there’s something to be gleaned here, especially toward the end when Troy and Paul talk about creating lasting change with your lesson.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. I know many who have reverted to old habits after a few weeks and didn’t muster the resolve for long-term change. I’ve been there myself.

Troy is the Head Golf Professional at Twin Oaks and Paul is the Director of Instruction. Paul has been an instructor for 16 years, 10 with JC Golf.

What follows are their combined thoughts on how to get the best results from lessons, meaning preparation, execution, review and, perhaps most important, post-lesson practice.

FYI: The base lesson is 30 minutes, so we’ll use that as our point of reference.

 1.   Know What You Want To Work On

It may seem obvious, but the first lesson of lessons is to know how to ask for one. Besides the general areas of full swing, short game and putting, it’s incumbent upon the player to be specific and honest about what needs to be addressed.

Mental issues that commonly come with the natural struggles of the game can even be a lesson, but a starting point has to be identified.

“The more specific the better,” Miernicki says. “And actually taking on one thing in a lesson is plenty.”

Ferguson says a good instructor will limit a lesson to one or two areas, but many players make the mistake of trying to overload the lesson.

“It’s 30 minutes and you can’t fix it all,” Ferguson says. “If alignment is your issue, for example, you need to work on a alignment for a week or two.

“If it’s your grip, you need to focus on your grip. There might be a multitude of issues that need to be addressed individually. That takes time.”

But Miernicki says there’s victory in merely striving for change, citing the mantra, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

That’s a change many golfers don’t ever embrace and play lesser golf because of it.

 2.   Disclose Any Health Issues or Known Physical Limitations To Your Instructor

Especially as players age, their swings are often limited by what their bodies will allow. These limitations are often obvious, but sometimes not.

To diagnose a swing properly, the instructor has to be able to diagnose the player. Being forthright about any ailments or issues assists both the player and the instructor.

“Body type often dictates swing,” Ferguson says. “Shoulder injuries in particular can be very limiting. But those also are some of the people that need the most help to be able to continue to play and enjoy the game.”

In some cases, the instructor may be able to recommend swing changes or adjustments that better protect the player’s health. Or sometimes therapies or stretching regimens can be recommended to assist with such issues as decreased flexibility.

In every case, full disclosure is best for everyone involved.

 3.   Have Realistic Expectations

A golf lesson is the start of a process, not a magic bullet.

Part of that process is realizing what can be accomplished.

“You can’t be a scratch golfer when you shoot 90 now and you have an hour a week to work on your game,” Ferguson says. “You’ve got to adjust your expectations.”

And this is where Miernicki is bluntly honest about what can be expected.

“If I’m asking you to do something really new, you’re probably going to get worse at first,” he says. “That’s just the reality. Guys seem to struggle with that idea more than women.

“Eventually you will improve. My ultimate goal is for you to leave happier than you arrived.”

Ferguson says a good set of questions to ask yourself before committing to a series of lessons are these:

1)  What do I ultimately want out of the game of golf?

2)  How much time do I have to commit to that goal?

3)  Given that time, are my expectations realistic?

“Expectations may not meet reality,” Ferguson says. “This game is hard. You don’t learn it overnight.”

 4.   Come Ready To Learn, and Trust the Process

Knowing what you want from your lesson is one thing. Telling the instructor what your lesson needs to be is another.

There’s a lot of information publicly available about the golf swing, but people sometimes misidentify or misconstrue what their source is actually telling them.

You come to an instructor to hear the truth. Now it’s time to listen and be prepared to hear it, accept it and provide feedback toward correcting it.

Trying to guide or override the lesson only hinders progress, Ferguson says.

“You need to trust what the instructor sees,” he says. “We’ll get people who think they have identified what’s wrong by reading Golf Digest or looking at a YouTube video.

“Often the issue they’ve identified, or the fix, isn’t their issue. You need to come in with an open mind.”

Ferguson likens teaching pros to other “pros” people commonly have in their lives.

“When your mechanic say it’s your radiator or your doctor tells you it’s a torn knee ligament, you don’t second guess them and say it’s something else,” Ferguson says.

“You’re welcome to a second opinion, but at the moment, this is your expert and your need to respect that.

“There’s no perfect golf swing and no perfect golf instructor, but they’re trying to find what will work best for you. Trust that.”

 5.   Relax. Lessons Are Fun. So Have Fun.

It’s normal for the first few minutes of a lesson to replicate first-tee jitters. Don’t sweat it, Miernicki says. Forget it and embrace the process. But above all, enjoy your time.

“You’re not here to be on Tour. Relax and let me entertain you. I’m in the entertain business. Let’s have some fun.”

Bad shots provide as much feedback as good one. Take the good with the bad, but Miernicki says the good shots are the ones that aren’t treasured enough.

“We all focus too much on our bad shots. Focus on success. Focus on fun.”

6.   Provide Feedback

Ideally your improved results will mostly be doing this for you, but Miernicki says perhaps the most important part of his lessons are the 5 minutes he specifically designates at the end for review.

He wants his client to verbally express what has been learned and how.

“If what I’m saying isn’t what you’re hearing, I need to know,” he says. “We might need another approach.”

Most important, proper review leads to retention, which leads to repetition and the player being able to replicate the results on their own.

“My goal isn’t for you to play golf for me,” Miernicki says. “My goal is for you to play golf for you.”

7.   Making It Stick

Ideally, what’s covered in a lesson should be repeated and practiced once or two on the range in the next week, or, as Miernicki prefers, in a nine-hole round.

Along the lines of limiting practice to a concentrated amount, Ferguson says the first practice done post lesson should be done with a small bucket – 35 balls.

Why?

“Practice is about the quality of practice, not the quantity,” he says. “You will value the shots more if you’ve got a small bucket. When people have a larger bucket, they tend to just beat balls.

“If you only got 35 balls, if you hit a bad one, you’re more likely to step back and try to self-diagnose and focus on the next one. That’s how you improve.”

Ferguson says the sure way to waste a lesson is to just “give to two minutes the next time you’re on the range.”

To that end, Miernicki says most golfers have been taught how to properly use their range time. Too many flail away with one club before just moving onto the next.

He says for most average golfers, the perfect number of range balls is 60.

“Think about it. If you shoot 100, that’s probably 40 putts. That leaves 60 shots. Practice those 60 shots, and that doesn’t mean hitting driver 10 times in a row. How often do you do that during your round? You don’t.”

Miernicki says the best practice is a simulated round, meaning replicating the sequence of shots played on the course.

Retaining learning from lessons and improving practice habits are two of the biggest keys to improving, Ferguson says, but it takes time and commitment for those things to become a habit.

“If you don’t make that commitment, you’ll just go back to doing what’s comfortable,” Ferguson says. “That’s not how you improve.”

To schedule a lesson with Paul at Twin Oaks, please call 619.368.2269.

Note: the first lesson is half price.

JC Golf: JC Golf Spotlight Hole – No. 15 at Twin Oaks

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One of the unique joys of establishing a long-term relationship with a golf course is the development of pet scoring strategies on certain strategic holes that, over time, almost become like secret recipes.

For instance, were I to give my scoring strategy for the dogleg-left par-4 15th at Twin Oaks in recipe form, it might go something like this.

Go easy on the rescue off the tee. Aim for the upper fairway and let the ball settle nicely into the lower fairway, just short of the pond. Then give it a full gap wedge with a dash of backspin into a receptive back-to-front sloping green. Finish with preferably one putt, but sometimes it takes two. Recipe can make birdie, but mostly makes par and the occasional bad batch – a bogey.

Just as tastes differ, so do strengths and strategies, but the beauty and fun is finding what works for you.

I had a wonderful opportunity during my round at Twin Oaks on Wednesday to sample the array of ways to approach No. 15.

For those who haven’t played it, this hole is a sharp dogleg left with a pond and two fir trees lurking on the left. The fairway is tiered with collection bunkers looming at the end, about 250 yards out.  The hole plays to 350 yards from the blue tees, 332 from the white.

The variable here is wind coming from behind the green, which we didn’t have on Wednesday. With that wind, no one’s getting home in one here.

But on our windless Wednesday, Austin, a strapping 20-something and the big hitter in our group, nearly pulled off the driver’s dream at this hole, which is risking the water and reaching the green with a power draw. His ball settled just below the greenside bunker on the left.

I faithly executed my tried and true, which left my playing partners fretting for a water ball, but my Titleist stopped short. Always does.

Then the two senior members of our foursome, Johnny and Peter, hit driver and 3-wood, respectively, from the white tees to both find the upper fairway with a bird’s-eye view of the green.

Four different approaches, three different outcomes, but each shot executed to each golfer’s optimal outcome. Easy game, huh?

Well …

I’d love to report four birdies. Or three. Or two. Or one.

Alas, regrettably, they all got away. Two pars, two bogeys and four golfers shaking their heads. Last names are being withheld to protect the innocent, save for Johnny Georgedes from Poway, who has played No. 15 for more than a decade and still professed an affinity for the hole post round.

“I like the fact the designer (Ted Robinson) designed it so you can play it with anything from a six-iron to a driver,” he said. “And as I’ve aged, that’s what I’ve transitioned to. I hit my driver about 235 yards now. I play it between the two center traps and then let the hill take it further. And if it doesn’t, I’m 135 out playing on a flat lie.”

Georgedes has a reason for preferring that second shot besides it being an optimal wedge distance.

“I just love the look of the hole from the up there,” he says. “It’s a really pretty shot looking down on the pond. It’s a very aesthetically pleasing golf hole, especially when you score well, but even when you don’t.”

Twin Oaks Head Professional Troy Ferguson says the versatility of No. 15 makes it one of the great strategy holes in JC Golf. Ferguson says the options even include, for those who play a fade, hitting it at the water.

“Take your 130- to 150-yard club and hit your pull-slice and you’ll end up hitting your second from a perfectly flat spot at a comfortable distance,” he says.

For some golfers, that would be eight- or nine-iron off the tee, which means everything above wedge truly is an option.

But Ferguson mostly espouses playing the hole straight away.

“Your best bet is to just hit it straight and long and let the contour of the course work for you,” he says. “ If you push it right, the hill likely will kick you into the upper fairway. If you hit the right fairway, you might end up on the lower left fairway. Either way, you’re set to go pin hunting.”

Players who decide to hit driver and go for the green need to weigh that decision, Ferguson says, in part based on how their round is going and factor in past success.

“Play to your strengths and build on what your game has been telling you all day,” he says. “Don’t expect to be able to hit a big draw around the corner if you haven’t been able to hit a draw all round.

“No. 15 offers you the opportunity to play whatever ball flight you have been playing all round.”

      JC Golf would love to hear your favorite strategies and success stories for No. 15 at Twin Oaks. Feel to post a comment and share your experiences at www.jcgolf.com.

MARCH 2014 SOUTHLAND GOLF

Highlight Hole: No. 18 at Dove Canyon CC

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I’m choosing one hole at Dove Canyon Golf Club partly because I’ve got a great photo of it and partly because of my unique experience there, but you really can’t go wrong selecting about any hole at this Jack Nicklaus Signature Design course in Trabuco Canyon.

Arriving at the tee at 18 brings about mixed emotions.

The high is that you’re about to discover the fabulous finishing hole you can see from the putting green of the clubhouse. The low is that an extraordinary golf experience is coming to the end.

Dove was one of my favorite Southern California golf discoveries last year for a host of reasons, which I’ll get into. I got to play there through my connection with Southland Golf Magazine.

I mention this because Southland Golf is presenting a unique opportunity for you to play Dove, a private club. Via something called the 2014 Southland Golf Series, you can play Dove on March 31st for $85, which includes a continental breakfast, a sleeve of balls, appetizers and raffle prizes. You can register at southlandgolfseries.com or by calling (714) 796.3620.

Besides a fantastic golf course surrounded by beautiful mountain surroundings, you also get access to one of the best practice facilities in the area. Hitting balls into a mountain backdrop at Dove is one of the best range experiences around, and it only gets better from there.

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The practice range at Dove  

Considering yourself warned: Dove is a tough course. I played reasonably well there partly due to being guided by the head pro for most of the round. On your own, expect to earn every par and birdie. In particular, Dove boasts the toughest par-5 I’ve played in California, the 557-yard 11th. Tight barely begins to describe this hole. The entire fairway feels like it’s being played in a four-lane bowling alley – with a tree in the middle.

Amongst the most memorable holes are two elevated par-3s – Nos. 10 and 17. No. 10 plays 198 yards (212 from the back tees) into the wind. I reached with possibly the best hybrid of my life.

No. 17 is a real showstopper and sets the stage perfectly for 18. The 17th plays 205 from the back tees and 162 from the blues, but doesn’t play nearly that long because you’re basically hitting it off the top of a five-story building to a green below with dramatic drop-offs on the front and back.

The view from the tee into the canyon makes you do a double take the first time you see it, and it’s a blast to play. I hit 8-iron to the back of the green, but should’ve gone with a 9 and maybe could’ve gotten there with a pitching wedge. The ball carries forever.

It included this hole in my list of the nine best par-3s I played last year.

You hopefully walk off with par or birdie on 17 to give you momentum going into 18, which is an aesthetically astounding finishing hole but hardly a bear to play.

Playing to 432 yards from the back tees and 389 from the blues, you simply want to avoid the tranquil pond on the right and give yourself a reasonable approach to a green backed by a gigantic waterfall.

My experience at this hole went to another level when I reached my second shot. There was a deer drinking from the pond. A look down the fairway revealed an entire herd, several of which were congregated on or behind the green.

The game at the point seemed to change from playing golf to not spooking the deer as members of our foursome took more shots with their camera phones than their clubs.

I have no idea what I scored on that hole, but I know I’ve got 20-some deer photos on my phone. It was an ending the likes of which I’ve never had on a golf course before and one I’ll always remember.

I, however, wouldn’t mind going back and going for birdie on a finishing hole that has rate with the best in the area. It rivals 18 at Sherwood for best setting for a finishing hole.

Mr. Nicklaus did a lot of great work at Dove, but 18 is truly a masterpiece. I hope you get a chance to experience it because I have a feeling you’ll walk away feeling the same way about it that I do.

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