I must preface this by acknowledging that this is a first world problem or a golfer problem. This is not a real problem in the least.

Today, I am scheduled to play at one of the more difficult private clubs in the Twin Cities for this guy to access. I have been there a couple of times and while there is certainly significant money there, it isn’t snobby or snooty. It is just a place where I don’t really know any members and a place that isn’t exactly the normal place for a guy from Willmar to hangout.

The golf course is great. The place has great history. The whole deal.

The bad news? There is pretty much a 100 percent chance of rain. While I don’t always believe the forecast and I think that they tend to exaggerate the chance of rain, when they are in the 90- to 100-percent chance range, they are pretty darn confident.

Will I play? Probably.

I’m tougher than I used to be when it comes to bad weather, but I’m still not exactly a murder. I don’t love the idea of four hours under an umbrella and usually avoid it. It is probably part of the reason why I haven’t gone to Bandon — I don’t love the idea of playing with rain coming down sideways.

I have rain gear. I have rain gloves (a must for wet weather). I have some layers since it is going be in the mid-50s. I’m simply hoping for sporadic light rain. My fear is steady, pretty hard rain with bursts of really hard rain.

But when you have limited opportunities to play somewhere really good, you take them.

My round two years ago at Bethpage Black was in the rain from the first tee to the 18th green. I played Interlachen in snow flurries. I will suck it up today.

I’m just hoping that if it does rain — and the weather forecast is accurate — that it is of the light-green-on-the-radar variety and the yellows and reds stay away.

Winter is a dangerous time for this golfer. It is cold, there is snow on the ground, my world in Minnesota is not conducive to a life outside. That combination means too much time on the internet and too many weekend afternoons looking around in golf stores.

The obvious disclosure here is that I like golf clubs. I like looking at them, I like trying different clubs, I like reading about clubs online and I like to find good deals on clubs. I read and post on GolfWRX, I’m always on the hunt for a good deal on eBay.

And putters have become a weakness. We are in a time when many putters have are a nice combination of quality craftsmanship with a little bit of art. This winter, I coveted and eventually purchased a Bettinardi Studio Stock 12. I liked that it was a near center-shafted putter, I liked that it was milled in the USA, I liked that it was a little deeper from face to back, I really liked how it looked.

The problem is that I’m very much a straight-back, straight-thru putter (SBST) and this putter has a bit of toe hang. It wasn’t a good match. But in the middle of the winter, I’m just dumb enough to think I can make things work. I should know better.

After using the putter for one round in Minnesota, I brought the flat-stick with me on a recent trip to Alabama. I was arrogant enough that I didn’t even bring a second putter on the trip. It took about two rounds to realize that was a mistake. While I used the putter for the rest of the trip, it was mentally on the bench long before I was back in Minneapolis.

I need a face-balanced putter and I need a putter that is easy to line up. I simply make more putts that way. I used a face-balanced blade putter for a good part of last season, but I have recently picked up a new face-balanced mallet putter. While they can land a bit on the ugly side of the spectrum, they work for me.

I need to realize this. I need to accept this. And I need to realize that making putts with an ugly putter is way better than missing putts with a good-looking putter.

I don’t always remember this. But I need to.

I realize that the 2014 golf season has long been completed. I also know that I have already played 11 different courses in 2015. But before fully moving on to ’15, I wanted to look back at ’14.

It was a really good year. I didn’t always play the best, but for a kid from Willmar, I’m doing great when it comes to being able to play some cool places. I’m very fortunate and thankful for the ability to have met as many great people and seen as many great places as I have through golf.

I’m also very fortunate to have a great job in which my work travel can provide a chance to spend a few hours on a golf course. I don’t play golf on all of my work trips and don’t play on even half, but sometimes you can take a day off on front or back end of a trip and see some cool places. One example of this came about a year ago. I had meetings in Vancouver, BC on a Monday and Tuesday, so I took a vacation day, flew out on Friday and covered my own expenses for a couple of days. I was able to play Chambers Bay on Friday afternoon before playing Vancouver gems Capilano and Shaughnessy over the weekend.

A couple of other times, I was able to play evening golf and tee it up after spending the day in meetings. I’d certainly rather chase the sun on a golf course than just sit in my hotel room.

All of that said, here are the numbers/anecdotes:

Courses played: 35

States in which I played golf: 12 states plus two Canadian provinces

States where I had never played golf previously: 2 (Washington, Virginia)

State where I have now played golf in my lifetime: 33

New courses for me this year: 18

Different courses I have now played since 2002: 242

Major championship venues: 4 (Chambers Bay, 2015 US Open; Champions, 1969 US Open; Flossmoor, 1920 PGA; Keller, 1932, 1954 PGA).

Ross-designed courses: 3 (Dunedin GC, Beverly, CC of Buffalo).

Best 36-hole day: I don’t play many 36-hole days, but the early July day that featured a round at Flossmoor CC in the morning and Beverly CC in the afternoon was easily the best. Two golden age courses with interesting holes and green complexes is always a great way to spend a day.

Other courses of note: I thought Kinloch outside of Richmond lived up to the hype. Clovernook, a Langford/Moreau design in Cincinnati, has great green complexes and cool bunkering. I had a wonderful fall Saturday with a morning round at the very strong Eugene CC and the afternoon at the Michigan State at Oregon football game.

It was a great year. I’m a lucky guy.

So I recently picked up a GoPro camera. I’m certainly a rookie with it, but thought it would be a cool thing to try out.

I brought it with me on my recent trip to Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash. The course, which will host the 2015 U.S. Open, has some remarkable views out into the Puget Sound.

I’m not totally sure how the U.S. Open works there, but that’s probably content for another post. But the views are pretty cool.

Take a look and enjoy.

 

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As I start this post, I have exactly 1 hour, 40 minutes to complete this before 2013 is over and 2014 begins.

I haven’t teed it up in probably seven weeks or so, but the year is now officially over. Here’s a look at my season:

Courses played: 28 (full list can be found here)

States where I played golf: 10

States where I had never played golf previously: 2 (New York, Oklahoma)

States where I have now played golf in my lifetime: 28

New courses for me this year: 15

Different courses I have now played since 2002: 224 (list is here)

Major championship courses played in 2013: 1 (Bethpage Black)

Donald Ross designs played: 5 (White Bear Yacht Club, Cedar Rapids CC, Exmoor CC, Hillcrest GCC, Northland CC)

A.W. Tillinghast designs played: 2 (Bethpage Black, Golden Valley GCC)

Seth Raynor designs played: 2 (Midland Hills CC, Metairie CC)

Other architects of note: Tom Doak (Ballyneal); Coore & Crenshaw (Colorado GC); Langford & Moreau (Wakonda); Pete Dye (Des Moines North); Perry Maxwell (OKC GCC).

Rounds played: No idea as I didn’t track it as I did in 2012.

Complaints on my quality of golf in 2013: Zero

It was a few weeks when I was taking a morning flight from Detroit to Chicago Midway airport. As the blue and orange Southwest plane descended over the South Side of Chicago, I was able to see far northern part of Beverly Country Club. I could only see a couple of holes — a par 3 that runs to the southwest and a dogleg par 4 that runs along the northern border of the course.

It was a quick glimpse of a Donald Ross course that is supposed to be quite good and the sight of the course allowed me to think about golf for a few minutes instead of the fact that a delay out of Detroit meant I wasn’t going to make my connecting flight.

A few days later, I was in Fort Worth, Texas and I spent a little bit of a Sunday afternoon trying to see how much of Colonial Country Club I could see from the road. With a couple of hours to kill, I drove around the perimeter of the Perry Maxwell course that I had only previously seen on television. The fence around the perimeter didn’t allow me to see much, but it was worth a shot.

For me, 2013 was the year I got back on the road. During my days as a sportswriter, travel was a big part of my job. For at least part of the year, I was one the road on a near weekly basis. But over the past six years or so — when I transitioned to being a metro reporter and then moved into the PR world — there was nearly zero work travel.

With a new job that started in early 2014, I again hit the road. I think I made 10 work trips over the final nine months of the year, trips that included the following stops: Dallas, Phoenix, New York, Miami, Houston-Austin-San Antonio, Dallas-Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Memphis-Little Rock, San Antonio (again), Detroit, Dallas (for a third time).

I certainly didn’t play golf on every trip, but I did tee it up on four of the trips. But I probably included a little bit of golf on nearly every trip. As was the case in Fort Worth, I’m a bit of a golf course stalker. If I’m staying near someplace cool or even if I’m nearby, I’m probably going to at least give a course a drive-by. Sometimes I look from the perimeter, sometimes I’ll swing through the parking lot. I checked out the parking lot at Oak Hill CC in San Antonio, a Tillinghast that was hosting the Texas Mid-Am when I was there. I drove around the perimeter of TPC Southwind in Memphis, a course that hosts a PGA Tour event and was basically right next to my hotel. We have a store right near Chenal CC in Little Rock, so I drove by there. When I stayed in New Jersey, there was a double — I stayed near Ridgewood CC (a classic Tilly that hosted a Ryder Cup) and there was a PGA Tour Superstore where I found a bunch of sweet logo Pro V1s from clubs including Chicago Golf, Butler National and Southern Hills.

Being on the road did allow me to actually play a little golf as well. In addition to the biggest surprise of 2013 (a topic for a separate post), I got an early start on my season in Phoenix, played my first ever Perry Maxwell course during a trip to Oklahoma City and spent a lovely afternoon on a Seth Raynor design outside of New Orleans.

A couple of the highlights:

Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club

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While I had been fortunate to play courses designed by most of the the Golden Era architects, I had never played a Perry Maxwell course until I had an open late afternoon in Oklahoma City. After a morning of meetings and visits, I rolled to the course and teed off about 3 p.m. It was a lovely afternoon, there weren’t many people around and I played in about three hours.

Here is a good breakdown of OKCGCC from Golf Club Atlas with lots of photos, etc.

I’m not going to give a hole-by-hole, but will simply say that the routing is really good, there’s great use of the rolling terrain and the greens are super interesting. When I walked off the 18th green and headed to my rental car, my biggest takeaway was that I wanted to see more Maxwell moving forward.

Metairie Country Club

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In early November, I had a couple of days of meetings in New Orleans. I had to be in place on Monday morning, so I had travel on Sunday. With that being the case, my strategy was to fly immediately in the morning and play golf in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon. Throw in the ability to play a Seth Raynor design and this was a total no-brainer.

Metairie is an interesting golf course. Before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Metairie was a course that had too many trees and the word is that there were places where you could be in the fairway and not really have a shot thanks to overhanging branches (one of my least favorite things).

After Katrina hit, much of the course was under water and hundreds of trees were lost. The golf course is pretty cool. There are some interesting holes and some good greens.

Below is a picture of the punchbowl green. I only had a pitching wedge into this green, but that didn’t make it a lock that I was going to make birdie. You have to hit a good shot or it is going to take you more than one putt.photo(3)

All told, it was a good year of being back on the road. The result was being able to see some cool new courses. The reality is that I had never had an ability to play golf in Oklahoma City and who knows if or when that might be an option. It certainly wasn’t out of the possibility that I would be back in New Orleans, but who knows when that might have happened.

The takeaway: Golf makes business travel better.

 

 

The letter has kind of become an endangered species in my life.

While I get mail on a near daily basis, most of it from people who want me to buy something. I pay bills online, I read magazines on my iPad and most of my communication with others is done via call, text, email or tweet.

So when I received a letter envelope from the business owned by one of the other members at my golf club, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. When I opened it, I was very pleasantly surprised.

The letter, which was sent to all of Western Golf Association Par Club members at my club, told of how one of the caddies at my club was selected to receive an Evans Scholarship at the University of Minnesota. He has a great ACT score and wants to study physics. And it means that next fall, our club will have three Evans Scholars on campus at the U of M.

Now I’m not someone who takes a caddy on a regular basis. I like to carry my bag, but I believe in what the Western Golf Association is trying to do — they get kids into college. So I happily contribute a small amount through payroll deduction at my office and I have another small amount billed to my Amex each month.

Having previously worked in higher education and having seen students transform during their time on campus, I probably have a bit of a soft spot for education and, as a result, the Evans Scholars program.

So this was a great letter to receive.

Sometimes you stumble upon some wild stuff on Twitter.

Today’s find was this story from Golfweek about Shattuck-St. Mary’s new on-campus indoor golf facility.

I find this pretty interesting. Shattuck is a fancy expensive prep school about an hour south of Minneapolis in the town of Faribault. The school has become something of a hockey power as current NHLers Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise all attended the school.

Now the school has spent north of $500,000 on a golf practice facility. Details from the story:

The facility includes a 2,800-square-foot turf room with a putting and chipping green, a 550-square-foot video and putting analysis room with JC Video software and TOMI putting system, a 700-square-foot study room, locker rooms and offices.

“Our whole goal was to mimic some of the top facilities in the Midwest, look at their facilities and try to emulate as best as we could those things they have and what would give our kids the best opportunity to practice and call a home,” Higdon said.

The program has players from all over the world. And the coaching staff features a PGA pro/former DI college coach and a former Big Ten women’s golfer/mini-tour player.

The team plays golf nationwide and it appears that the players are going to get regular good instruction. To say this is different than the high school golf experience I had would be a huge understatement.

 

The sad reality has arrived: Barring something extremely surprising, there will be no more golf in 2013 for this guy.

It ended a week ago when I didn’t take my clubs on a work trip. When I booked a trip to San Antonio for the weekend before Thanksgiving, my plans were simple. I was going to work on Saturday morning and then spend the afternoon teeing it up in the afternoon before flying home on Sunday morning.

I was going to potentially try to weasel my way onto Briggs Ranch, a pretty good Fazio design. Maybe I was going to try to get on Oak Hill, a cool Tillinghast that I drove around on my last trip to San Antonio.

The problem, however, was a cold front and temps in the low 40s. Not exactly standard Texas weather. As a result, the Club Glove travel bag stayed in the basement and I didn’t make a trip to my club to get my clubs out of storage.

Throw in the fact that a parental visit to Arizona would wait until early 2014 and the season is over.

My feelings on the end? I’m OK with it. It was a good year. I played 28 different courses in 10 different states. I played 14 courses that were new to me. I played a U.S. Open venue in steady rain. I played my first Maxwell. I had a great weekend trip to Ballyneal for my first Doak experience. And I had two wonderful days playing my two favorite courses in Minnesota.

It was a good year despite my lack of blogging. And I’m looking forward to an exceptional 2014.

At least Rickie Fowler can make fun of himself.

 

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