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Kew Golf Club

A drizzly Melbourne day, greens recently renovated, and I chose to play at Kew Golf Course.  It was just a week since the renovation, and the greens were slow, with a little bit of sand evident on most green. Despite this they putted truly. All the fairways were well grassed and the bunkers were all well maintained. On a fine day it would be a great place to play golf. In the conditions on the day it was still a good place to play golf.

One view of the approach to the 15th green

An easy par 5 if you don't go for the green with your second.

The view from the elevated club house reveals a little bit of water, but most of it does not come into play for well it shots.  Tree lined fairways, well placed bunkers, and well shaped par 4’s and 5’s place a premium on the tee shot.  A trio of interesting holes complete this course – a reachable par 5, the longest par 4, and then a 165 metre par three up the hill towards the club house.

 Without the usual warm up, and using borrowed clubs again, the start was positive – my 3 wood of the tee split the fairway and set up my approach.  An overshot approach, a short chip and missed putt set the tone for the next few holes!  When the driving went off I started to hit the greens. Twelve stableford points for the front nine was not encouraging. With 20 putts, three missed fairways, and only 3 greens in regulation a good score was out of the question.  It looked like this round was not going to be counted for my handicap as I was 8 over at the turn.

A delightful finishing hole.

18th green and clubhouse at Kew

A regulation par on 10 was followed by a shocking tee shot on 11. It was not looking good.  Seven holes later I finished the back nine with 22 points – one under the card – after missing a 1.5 metre birdie putt on 18. What changed?  Just my swing thought – and the result was all six fairways hit and eight greens in regulation. Two one putt greens completed the story.  I signed for 34 points – and was happy to do so.

I look forward to playing Kew when their greens are running at their normal speed.

Statistics:

FIR: 78%  GIR: 61%  Putts: 36  PPGinReg: 1.9

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Ratho

One golfing goal for 2010 has been achieved. Today I played Ratho Golf course, the oldest course in Australia.

Located just outside Bothwell, Tasmania, the course surrounds a working farm. New holes have been added and the greens and bunkers are not original, but the course has been on the same piece of land since 1822. With six new holes added (with plans for a further three to complete the eighteen) the course well grassed, well cared for, and offers a good variety for a short course, and a number of interesting – perhaps even novel – challenges.

Too much trouble to go for the green off the tee

Risk is high, reward is low at the 6th

The first few holes are relatively flat and straight with a drainage channel crossing the second, fourth and seventh.  The short 260 metre fourth is a dogleg right with a blind landing area. Rough left and right means the wise choice is to lay up and rely on a 120 metre approach. The risk factor is high here, and the reward is low.

Hole 6 is a shorter  par 4, just 220 metres! The tee shot is over the crest of a hill and a drain/channel snakes across the fairway dividing it neatly into three sections. Again discretion is called for, and I chose an 8 iron for safety. Even though it was a wise choice poor execution on my next two shots left me a 7 metre putt for par. It didn’t drop.

The six new holes include some remarkable challenges and one excellent par 3, the 180 metres 11th.   Ten starts near the road and requires a tee shot over a mustering yard. The green, some 500 metres from the tee, sits precariously on the edge of the  river. It does not pay to hit a long wedge to this green, but a short wedge means the putt must traverse a small valley to get into the hole.  A few paces from this green is the 11th tee. The river is just metres away for the entire length of this long par 3, a danger for slicers, while too far left will leave the ball in deep rough.

View from 15th tee at Ratho

Make sure you clear the hedgerow - and watch the sheep around the green!

On 13 and 15 a hedgerow stands between tee and green, and a poor tee shot can be disastrous. On the 197 metre 15th sheep provide a further hazard. While local rules allow a replay if the ball hits a sheep it is hard to see the contacat through the hedgerow!

The Ratho course does not make the top 100 courses in Australia, and never will. As a keen golfer it was good to play on the oldest course in Australia (and the third oldest in the world).  How do I rate the experience? On my scoring, just OK. For enjoyment and interest – Very Good.

If you are a golfer, and are in Tassie, make sure you visit Bothwell and play the oldest golf course in Australia.  While in Bothwell, take the time to visit the Australian Golf  Museum as well.    For an all up cost of $20 it is great value and affordable golf.

My statistics:

FIR: 8/11  = 72% GIR: 10/18 =  55%  Putts: 29 Score: 71  (4 over) 6 birdies, 6 bogeys, 1 triple bogey!

Progress toward the goal

A social round at a new course with borrowed clubs was an opportunity to test out my game – technically and strategically.  For most of the day things worked well, but some poor course management and a couple of slight lapses my thinking and concentration hurt on the score card.

My stats:

FIR  38%   GIR 41%  PPG  1.61 (29 Putts) Score 79  (8 over)

A well trapped green.

The par 5 8th is reachable in two - if you can hold a three iron on a well trapped green!

The driving stats don’t look good, but most of my drives were close to the fairway when they missed. Only one drive left me with chip out, and that was caused by lack of course knowledge.  GIR isn’t great either. From good fairway position approaches often came up short – and that might be attributed to failing to adjust to the strange clubs.

Three holes cost badly. Three putts on two of the par 5’s were  major blemishes, and a double bogey on 6 hurt on the scorecard. The double bogey came after missing the green from 70 meters. Without a lob wedge the recovery shot was almost impossible, so I took the soft option and accepted the double.

My other learning experience for the day came in the sand.  A wide sole on the club is not helpful when there is little depth to the sand. All three bunker shots were long by at least 1o metres! Not good when the pin is six metres from another bunker.

Overall I was happy with my ball striking and course management  despite it being my first outing on the course and my first use of this particular set of clubs.

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Greenacres….

Other commitments had me in Melbourne for the weekend, and time was made for a round of golf.  Fortunately reciprocal rights made access easy, and with borrowed clubs I made may way to Greenacres GC at Kew.

First time on the course, strange clubs…and a magnificent day for golf. 

Greenacres Golf Club.

Greenacres 1stLocated on the floodplain of the Yarra River the clubhouse is at the highest point of the course and offers views over the first and ninth. Most of the holes are on the flat,  with only six of them working up or around the hill. 

With a few dams on the course, the river as a course boundary,  and plenty of large gum trees on the course there are enough challenges for the good golfer.  While short by todays standards (three par 5’s with maximum length of 460 metres)  many of the greems are well bunkered, and require thoughtful and confident approaches. The greens held well and putted truly. 

Trees are the major hazard on the course, but with no rough of consequence under the trees errant shots are not punished unduly.  My one concern was the spike scuffs and spike marks that appeared around the hole.  This seems to be the result of the nature of the greens, and lack of care by a few golfers ahead of us.  Despite this the greens putted truly and their speed was consistent across all 18 holes.

With good company and the course in good nick it was a delightful way to spend a few hours in Melbourne.

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Close … but not there yet

A magnificent day in Hobart, no breeze and a little dew adding a layer of moisture for the first five or six holes. Perfect for golf.

After the normal warm up the game got under way.  On the practice fairway things were good, and the first drive split the middle of the fairway. Five shots later my first double bogey was on the card – not a good start in a stroke round. 40% of my handicap gone with 17 holes to play. 

A birdie putt on 11 (my second hole) was on line but just short.  Blast!  Then followed a birdie, only to give the shot straight back with a three putt bogey. Four pars followed before bunker hopping to a bogey on 18. Three over at the turn was OK.

Splitting the fairway on one was followed by a slightly mishit 3 iron, and a one meter putt for a birdie.  From two metres my birdie putt didn’t even graze the hole on  4, and the next two holes yielded two double bogeys.  A shocking drive precipitated the first double, and the next was poor course management par excellence.  Five shots were given away in just three holes. A fortunate bounce off a tree left my ball on the fairway at 7, and after a good aproach the putt dropped for a birdie.  That shot was  given back on the next hole after my chip landed on the putting surface instead of  the fringe and my four metre putt lipped the hole.  Six over with one hole to play. On the 9th (my last hole) one centimetre was all that stood between playing to my handicap or not. Right on line is no good if the putt stops short of the  lip! 

The result was a 78, nett 73 – and my handicap went down 0.1 as  this round replaced a 7 over round in my top ten.

Statistically:

FIR: 57%  Driving distance 237 metres*

GIR 72%  PPG 1.833 (32 putts) Average first putt distance 22.39 feet.

 * Driving distance is based on two holes going in opposite directions as per PGA tour stats. Average drive distance for all open driving holes was 223 metres. Monthly medals are played off the back tees, and distances to the green are marked on sprinkler heads.

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Baddeley and O’Hern

Aaron Baddeley and Nic O’Hern are in a tie for 10th at the Verizon Heritage Classic on the PGA Tour. They are just three shots back of leader Jim Furyk.

A look at their stats is interesting:

O’Hern: Driving distance 257 yards, acuracy 100%, GIR 55.6%  Ave Distance to pin 30 feet, PPG 1.6. Score = 205

Baddeley: Driving distance 282 yards, accuracy 64% GIR 78% Ave Distance to pin 24 feet, PPG 1.714 Score = 205

It’s good to see two Aussies doing well, and just shows that there is more than one way to shoot a good score.

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A matter of degrees

Is a 5 iron really a 5 iron?

My first golf cub was a Slazenger Bobby Locke 5 iron.   Some time ago the shaft and head went there separate ways, but it is still possible to pick up some similar clubs in opp shops.  That club, along with many others of the era, included details of the loft and lie.  Today research is needed and some details can be found on the web but for others you might need to check with the pro or the golf shop.

Slazenger Bobby Locke 5 iron

Check the loft and the lie!

My first 5 iron had a loft of 34 degrees.  A five iron today will have a loft of around 25 to 27 degrees.  And not all 5 irons are the same either!

Some comparisons:

What does this mean?

In practical terms:  Very little really because all players get to carry 14 clubs in whatever configuration they choose, as long as they conform to the rules of golf.

In marketing terms three things have resulted:

  • The sucker marketing line that says “Our clubs play longer than any others”.  One way to make sure your 5 iron will travel further than the oppositon is to decreae the loft.  Todays five iron travels further than my old Bobby Locke 5 iron – but I’m not so sure that the equivalent club (Precept 7 or 8, Callaway 7, Lind 8 iron) will.
  • A gap has opened up beyond the sand wedge that has been filled by wedges of varying degrees. A pitching wedge was once 48 degrees and a sand wedge 56 degrees. A pitching wedge is now closer to 45. Now gap wedges are made the narrow the “gap” between wedges.  These clubs are increasingly including the loft as part of their sales pitch.
  • Iron sets are often 4-PW (rather than 3-SW). Additional clubs and additional cost are to be anticipated.

How should a golfer respond?

Find a set of clubs that suits your swing,  then make sure there are no large gaps in the distances you hit each club.  Just don’t get sucked into claims of extra distance from any club maker.

BTW – I suspect that the LIE angle of clubs has been reveresed – measuring from the horizontal line rather than the vertical  line. The lie of most standard clubs is now around the 60 degree mark, compared to the 29 degrees on the 40 year old Slazenger! Check our The Science of Golf for more information.

Signs of hope

It worked on the golf course, but not on the scoreboard!

Extra efforts over recent months to raise my game to the next level are bearing fruit.  A slight correction yesterday (shortening my backswing) made a huge difference on the course. It certainly did improve my score.

Statistically: FIR  64%  GIR 50%  Putting 1.67 = 30 putts.  Score = 75  (3 over)

This is my best round on this course by three shots. As always, it could have been much better. Three shots were dropped in the last three holes. A 115 downwind approach was pushed right at 16, and compounded by an overhit bunker shot, an ordinary chip and a missed 5 footer meant a double bogey, and a short chip on 18 added to my pain.

Highlights: Four birdies (including three of the four par 5’s).  Most satisfying was the driving, with only two holes where I needed to shape my second shot to get to the green. Both of those however resulted in bogeys.

Lowlights: Three putts on the par 3 4th, and a bogey on the short 5th put a halt on a promising start.

Summary: I am on my way to better golf and a lower handicap is just around the corner.

Work areas this week: Bunker play – 3 greenside bunkers but no up and downs

BTW: 38 points on my card did not translate to 38 points in Golflink, but that story is for another day!

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St Helens Golf Club – Tasmania

St Helens GC Mural

Club House Mural

When family or friends come to visit golf takes second place.

It did not stop a quick visit to St Helens Golf Club during a drive up the magnificent east coast of Tasmania. Nestled in a valley back from the coast the course is short, and relatively flat, but includes some interesting holes.

StHGC

Ninth green