Tag Archives: Sherwood

Re-Post: How Caddies Make the Game A Whole Lot Better

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Editor’s note: This is a re-post of something a wrote a year ago that pertains to the above post about caddies about Maderas. This piece captures what the caddie experience means to me.

For whatever reason, it didn’t dawn on me until about 10 minutes before we teed off at Sherwood on Monday that we’d have caddies. If it had, I would’ve been 10 times more excited than the 10 times more excited I already was than for a normal round of golf.

Caddies are such a great way to experience the game, and a luxury I’ve rarely been afforded, but one that I think would hook more people on the game if they got to experience it even once.

When you hire a caddie, you’re also hiring a tour guide, a swing coach, a greens guru, a motivational speaker, a cheerleader, a comedian, a personal assistant and more all rolled into one. In my experience, it’s a guaranteed good time, and an always memorable one, on the golf course when you have a caddie.

(And I realize that, for some people, we’re into issues of elitism here and some of people’s other pet issues with golf, but let’s suspend that for a moment, shall we?)

The first time I ever had a caddie was when I played in Jamaica, where Jamaican law requires you to play with a caddie. Our caddy’s name was Devon, and he looked like he could’ve walked right off the course from a 1970s Masters, white coveralls and all.

Anyway, I didn’t totally know what type of experience I was in for with him, but I got a pretty good idea on my first tee shot, which I hooked high into the palm trees on the mountain on the first hole.

Devon dashed off the tee box, shouting, “No worries, mon! I got it! Hit again!”

Cool! Throughout the round, Devon was basically a walking GPS, previewing holes, giving me yardages, reading my putts and at the same time, basically teaching beginner’s golf to my playing partner, all while cleaning our clubs. He balanced it all remarkably well.

Anyway, I recall it being a very relaxed round and so much fun that we went back the next day. And that’s when I hit the shot I recall most.

While playing a long par-3, I carved a 5-wood incredibly close to the hole, or so it looked to me from the tee. Doubt started to creep in though because my caddie, a man with a line for every golf shot under the sun, was silent. Finally, he approached me on the tee, took my 5-wood and handed me my putter.

“They always say the pro walks off the tee carrying his putter,” he told me, making me feel 10 feet tall walking off the box.

It turned out that the putt was much more than a tap-in, but I still saved par, and it was my hole of the trip, largely because Devon made it so.

So when a caddie named Bruce hopped into my cart on Monday, it automatically gave me a good vibe about how the round would go, regardless of the score. And, truth be told, at the beginning, it didn’t go well, but Bruce made that part memorable, too.

On the third hole, I hit a rare slice off the tee and way OB right into the backyard one of the multi-million-dollar homes. As I handed Bruce my club, he provided an interesting piece of course knowledge.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, that’s the backyard of Britney Spears’ old house,” he said.

“Hey,” I replied, “if you’re going to lose a ball, better it be almost famous, right?”

My round turned around on the fourth hole, where Bruce’s read of a tough uphill breaking putt helped me make birdie, and a great golf day ensued from there.

Sherwood was a spectacular, borderline surreal, golf experience for me, and undoubtedly one of the five best courses I’ve ever played. I would’ve enjoyed the day regardless of how I played, but my scorecard probably would’ve looked drastically different were it not for Bruce’s guidance.

I’ve come to think of a good caddy as being like a good personal trainer: they get that 10 to 15 percent more out of you that’s hard to get out of yourself.

That certainly happened on the back nine, where it felt like Bruce had seen me swing enough to that he knew how to club me and what shots to recommend. I hit an uncommon number of good golf shots over those nine holes, but none better than on the last two.

Our next-to-last hole was a 491-yard par-5 with a green fronted by a creek. The play off the tee was to hit the left side of the fairway and let it roll right. I hit my best tee shot of the day and actually carried it past the suggested landing area.

That left me 230 out, prime yardage to get home in two with my hybrid, and Bruce was giving me the green light all the way. And I was only too willing, largely because I’d botched a similar shot on a previous par-5 off a perfect lie.

This lie, however, wasn’t so perfect. It was a bit of a side hill and especially troublesome for me because it wasn’t conducive for the stanch I needed to hit my draw. Because of this, I couldn’t get comfortable over the shot.

That’s when Bruce stepped in and redirected me.

“Take it off the right side of the bridge,” he said, causing me to focus left instead of right.

This created a dilemma. Hitting where Bruce recommended meant playing a cut, an uncertain outcome from me. Part of the allure of playing right was a bail-out area, where I could still recover for birdie if I didn’t completely pull off the approach.

Seeing I was still debating, Bruce provided the closing argument.

“Trust the read, boss. Hit the shot.”

With that, I settled in on the recommended line, and when I planted my lead leg, it felt solid. And I’d now be swinging more with the slope than against it. I was all in. And I fired.

The ball shot out like a pin-seeking dart. Tracking at the hole all the way, it easily carried the creek, hit short of the flagstick and rolled 15 feet past.

“That’s the best shot you’ve ever hit in your life, bro!” Bruce shouted, and high-fives and fist bumps ensued.

On the green, Bruce guided me to a two-putt birdie and later blamed himself for costing me eagle.

“I should’ve backed you off 20 percent on that stroke. You were a little too amped up there.”

No complaints here, Bruce. That was no gimme.

Having pocketed two birdies for the round, I was more than satisfied with my play for the day, but we still had one hole to go – a 146-yard par-3.

The hole was playing longer because the pin was tucked on the back tier. I was thinking of playing safe, but Bruce handed me my 8 and told me to go right at it. So I did.

Six feet. Another round of cheers broke out, making me suddenly feel like I had my own gallery.

Bruce greeted me at the cart by handing me my Cleveland putter and on the green he provided me with a two-word read on the putt. Straight in. And it was. Birdie!

Four birdies in a round is my record, and it wasn’t on a course nearly the caliber of Sherwood. I walked off the last hole on a golf high and ready to play 18 more. But alas we were done, and it’s probably better that way. You don’t mess with walk-off birdies. That was a first for me.

Anyway, a day like that makes you ponder the possibilities for your game. What if I had a Bruce for every round I played? Dare to dream. Friday it was back to the reality of approaches that just miss the green and birdie putts that don’t quite find the hole.

As we parted in the parking lot on Monday, I joked with Bruce that I’d like to have him in an app. that I could just open and point at the course when I needed a yardage, a read, or even maybe just a little comedic a relief.

Only I wasn’t joking. Move over, Siri. I want Bruce.

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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How Caddies Make the Game A Whole Lot Better

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For whatever reason, it didn’t dawn on me until about 10 minutes before we teed off at Sherwood on Monday that we’d have caddies. If it had, I would’ve been 10 times more excited than the 10 times more excited I already was than for a normal round of golf.

Caddies are such a great way to experience the game, and a luxury I’ve rarely been afforded, but one that I think would hook more people on the game if they got to experience it even once.

When you hire a caddie, you’re also hiring a tour guide, a swing coach, a greens guru, a motivational speaker, a cheerleader, a comedian, a personal assistant and more all rolled into one. In my experience, it’s a guaranteed good time, and an always memorable one, on the golf course when you have a caddie.

(And I realize that, for some people, we’re into issues of elitism here and some of people’s other pet issues with golf, but let’s suspend that for a moment, shall we?)

The first time I ever had a caddie was when I played in Jamaica, where Jamaican law requires you to play with a caddie. Our caddy’s name was Devon, and he looked like he could’ve walked right off the course from a 1970s Masters, white coveralls and all.

Anyway, I didn’t totally know what type of experience I was in for with him, but I got a pretty good idea on my first tee shot, which I hooked high into the palm trees on the mountain on the first hole.

Devon dashed off the tee box, shouting, “No worries, mon! I got it! Hit again!”

Cool! Throughout the round, Devon was basically a walking GPS, previewing holes, giving me yardages, reading my putts and at the same time, basically teaching beginner’s golf to my playing partner, all while cleaning our clubs. He balanced it all remarkably well.

Anyway, I recall it being a very relaxed round and so much fun that we went back the next day. And that’s when I hit the shot I recall most.

While playing a long par-3, I carved a 5-wood incredibly close to the hole, or so it looked to me from the tee. Doubt started to creep in though because my caddie, a man with a line for every golf shot under the sun, was silent. Finally, he approached me on the tee, took my 5-wood and handed me my putter.

“They always say the pro walks off the tee carrying his putter,” he told me, making me feel 10 feet tall walking off the box.

It turned out that the putt was much more than a tap-in, but I still saved par, and it was my hole of the trip, largely because Devon made it so.

So when a caddie named Bruce hopped into my cart on Monday, it automatically gave me a good vibe about how the round would go, regardless of the score. And, truth be told, at the beginning, it didn’t go well, but Bruce made that part memorable, too.

On the third hole, I hit a rare slice off the tee and way OB right into the backyard one of the multi-million-dollar homes. As I handed Bruce my club, he provided an interesting piece of course knowledge.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, that’s the backyard of Britney Spears’ old house,” he said.

“Hey,” I replied, “if you’re going to lose a ball, better it be almost famous, right?”

My round turned around on the fourth hole, where Bruce’s read of a tough uphill breaking putt helped me make birdie, and a great golf day ensued from there.

Sherwood was a spectacular, borderline surreal, golf experience for me, and undoubtedly one of the five best courses I’ve ever played. I would’ve enjoyed the day regardless of how I played, but my scorecard probably would’ve looked drastically different were it not for Bruce’s guidance.

I’ve come to think of a good caddy as being like a good personal trainer: they get that 10 to 15 percent more out of you that’s hard to get out of yourself.

That certainly happened on the back nine, where it felt like Bruce had seen me swing enough to that he knew how to club me and what shots to recommend. I hit an uncommon number of good golf shots over those nine holes, but none better than on the last two.

Our next-to-last hole was a 491-yard par-5 with a green fronted by a creek. The play off the tee was to hit the left side of the fairway and let it roll right. I hit my best tee shot of the day and actually carried it past the suggested landing area.

That left me 230 out, prime yardage to get home in two with my hybrid, and Bruce was giving me the green light all the way. And I was only too willing, largely because I’d botched a similar shot on a previous par-5 off a perfect lie.

This lie, however, wasn’t so perfect. It was a bit of a side hill and especially troublesome for me because it wasn’t conducive for the stanch I needed to hit my draw. Because of this, I couldn’t get comfortable over the shot.

That’s when Bruce stepped in and redirected me.

“Take it off the right side of the bridge,” he said, causing me to focus left instead of right.

This created a dilemma. Hitting where Bruce recommended meant playing a cut, an uncertain outcome from me. Part of the allure of playing right was a bail-out area, where I could still recover for birdie if I didn’t completely pull off the approach.

Seeing I was still debating, Bruce provided the closing argument.

“Trust the read, boss. Hit the shot.”

With that, I settled in on the recommended line, and when I planted my lead leg, it felt solid. And I’d now be swinging more with the slope than against it. I was all in. And I fired.

The ball shot out like a pin-seeking dart. Tracking at the hole all the way, it easily carried the creek, hit short of the flagstick and rolled 15 feet past.

“That’s the best shot you’ve ever hit in your life, bro!” Bruce shouted, and high-fives and fist bumps ensued.

On the green, Bruce guided me to a two-putt birdie and later blamed himself for costing me eagle.

“I should’ve backed you off 20 percent on that stroke. You were a little too amped up there.”

No complaints here, Bruce. That was no gimme.

Having pocketed two birdies for the round, I was more than satisfied with my play for the day, but we still had one hole to go – a 146-yard par-3.

The hole was playing longer because the pin was tucked on the back tier. I was thinking of playing safe, but Bruce handed me my 8 and told me to go right at it. So I did.

Six feet. Another round of cheers broke out, making me suddenly feel like I had my own gallery.

Bruce greeted me at the cart by handing me my Cleveland putter and on the green he provided me with a two-word read on the putt. Straight in. And it was. Birdie!

Four birdies in a round is my record, and it wasn’t on a course nearly the caliber of Sherwood. I walked off the last hole on a golf high and ready to play 18 more. But alas we were done, and it’s probably better that way. You don’t mess with walk-off birdies. That was a first for me.

Anyway, a day like that makes you ponder the possibilities for your game. What if I had a Bruce for every round I played? Dare to dream. Friday it was back to the reality of approaches that just miss the green and birdie putts that don’t quite find the hole.

As we parted in the parking lot on Monday, I joked with Bruce that I’d like to have him in an app. that I could just open and point at the course when I needed a yardage, a read, or even maybe just a little comedic a relief.

Only I wasn’t joking. Move over, Siri. I want Bruce.

Highlight Hole: No. 18 at Sherwood CC

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I was fortunate enough to be included in a media tournament on Monday at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, where the field for Tiger Woods’ 2013 Northwestern Mutual World Challenge was announced. The tournament, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, will host 18 of the world’s top players, including Woods, Rory McIlroy and defending champion Graeme McDowell, on Dec. 2-8.  You can find the full field and ticket information here: www.worldchallengegolf.com.

This is the 15th year Sherwood has hosted the event, but Monday was my first time ever experiencing it beyond TV. It’s quite a place to say the least and would be well worth the trip just to bask in the beauty of the surroundings and appreciate Jack Nicklaus’ masterpiece course design, much less to experience elite golf.

I’ll be writing two or three Sherwood-related posts this week, but wanted to start with this because this is what you see first when you emerge from the clubhouse. What a glorious and impressive site it is, and in one snapshot, it captures all the elements that make this course a mesmerizing golf experience: spectacular mountain views, majestic mature trees, strategic use of visually stunning water features. You get incredible and awe-inspiring combinations of the three over and over here. Oh, and views of a bunch of multi-million dollar homes, too. Probably worth mentioning that.

Anyway, No. 18 is a downhill par-4 (we played it at 412 yards, but it’s 446 for the pros) off an elevated tee that plays to a severely sloped green accentuated by a waterfall on the left and fronted by a pond. On your second shot, if you’ve avoided the trees on the right, or the opposite fairway – No. 9 – you’ve likely got a long iron or more into a green that is sloped heavily front to back. The hole has Sherwood’s stately clubhouse as a backdrop. I went driver, 4-iron here and ended up peering down on a front pin with a long, slick downhill put, but I was only too happy to not be in the water. I three-putted, but that the didn’t spoil the fun of executing the approach shots.

No. 18 is a stunning finishing hole, whether you’re looking at it from the fairway or the clubhouse, and a marvelous way to end a truly unique round of golf. I can’t wait to go back in December and watch the pros play it.

Thanks to the folks at the Tiger Woods Foundation and Sherwood for being first-rate hosts, and thanks to my boss at Southland Golf for thinking to include me. My appreciation goes out to all of you.