I’ve officially made it as a golf blogger

So on Friday afternoon I made a very short post on this blog when I posted the Rory vs. the robot video below

On Friday night I did the very blogger thing and checked my traffic. The highlight was very simple.

At some point on Friday, someone somewhere typed the phrase: “why does hunter mahan wear that stupid looking hat,” into Google.

That in itself is pretty awesome. What’s even more awesome is that that phrase entered into Google let him or her here.

Put a curve in that bill Hunter. I won’t hurt you. I promise.

Yep, I did this

Obviously I took advantage of Titleist’s buy three dozen, get a dozen free deal. I do like good golf balls and I admit to being a golf ball snob, but a guy needs to save a bit of cash here and there.

Part of the deal, however, is that you have to get the balls personalized. My guess is that Titleist does it so people don’t keep two dozen and try to sell the other two or return the other two to a retailer. It’s also harder for two guys to split an order.

So what should a guy like me put on my four dozen ProV1x balls? A year ago, I got a simple, “JS” on the side. In red letters of course because I truly hope that red letters = red numbers.

This year, I decided to be a little more daring, which you can see below.


Yep, that’s my Twitter handle.

Yes it is random. And, yes, there will be some people who see these and will be totally confused about what it means. But that’s OK.

The longest winter officially ends

Today’s forecast calls for a high temperature of 43 degrees to go along with a 70 percent chance of rain. It would be a decent November day and a heck of a January day. For May 1, however, it is less than ideal.

But it is still one of the best/most important days of the year for me. Because after the longest of long winters, my club is again open for business.

A first day of the year round — or at least an after-work 9 — is usually a given. But I think I’m going to sit this one out. With the forecast the way it is, I’m not sure when the first home game of the season will be played.

I didn’t really know how to describe this spring of no spring. But I got a little clarity this afternoon when my club’s May newsletter arrived in my inbox. Our superintendent said this will be the latest opening on record, later than the April 28 opening in 1973. Considering the club has been around for about 90 years, that’s saying something. 

So this is, at best, the worst spring in a generation. I just hope it means that it is going to be an awesome summer.

Opening weekend report

While my club wasn’t open last weekend, I did finally get to play my first Minnesota golf of the year.

I was fortunate to get an invite to Windsong Farm for a Saturday round. Windsong was one of a number of private clubs that opened last weekend — I know Hazeltine, Golden Valley and Indian Hills also did — and it was in really good shape. There was a little snow in a few bunkers and there was still a little ice on some of the hazards, but the turf was really dry and the greens rolled with good pace.

I played like a dog, but that’s a story for another day. There were double bogeys, 3-putts and not enough pars. But the weather was great and the company was good.

On Sunday, I went out to an old early-season favorite — Loggers Trail out near Stillwater. It’s a course with a bunch of pretty good holes and it drains well. There are a couple of holes that aren’t great, but for $39 to walk, it’s pretty good.

Way behind the pace

Even with an early April emergency trip to Arizona (when it became clear that winter wasn’t going to end) and the past weekend, I’m ridiculously behind last season’s totals. In March and April I played a combined 457 holes of golf, a total that equals more than 25 full rounds of golf.

Right now I have played 126 holes.

I can’t imagine I’m ever going to get out of that hole. Not after the longest winter ever.




Sorry SkyCaddie, we’re officially broken up

The email arrived in my inbox the other day from the folks at Sky Golf. My SkyCaddie membership was expiring and the email was a friendly nudge for me to open up my wallet.

I was a pretty early adopter to the world of golf GPS units. I initially got a GolfLogix device in 2007 or 2008. It served me well until I managed to have it fall off of my push cart during a round at Woodhill, land screen side down and break.

That’s when SkyCaddie and I became tight. I needed my GPS fix and SkyCaddie was there for me. I’d load up my device, clip it to my golf bag and I’d get my distances. Each spring, I’d happily pay the folks at SkyCaddie my membership fee and we’d go steady for another year.

But every year it became harder to pay up. The membership fee felt more like a ransom. And I grew so very tired of going through the process of loading courses on the device. So last fall I had enough and I cheated on my SkyCaddie.

On Black Friday, I picked up this bad boy on sale at Golfsmith.


What is it? It’s the Garmin Approach S1 GPS. It isn’t the fanciest device — there are actually now two different Garmin watch devices with a couple more bells and whistles and a higher price tag — but it works just fine for what I need. I used it for several rounds last November in Phoenix and for four more rounds this week in Arizona and I’m certainly satisfied with the unit.

The best thing about the device is that there is so little pre-planning involved, it is very low maintenance. I simply show up at a course, turn on GPS part of the watch and magically the watch knows where I’m at. I don’t have to turn on my computer, pull up the synching software, find the courses I’m going to play, find the cord, hook it up and make the data transfer like it is 1997.

The information provided on the watch is admittedly not as complete as what I could get from my SkyCaddie. I get simply distances to the front, middle and back of each green. That’s it. There are no layup numbers, no distances to the water on the left or the bunker on the right. I don’t get an accurate rendering of the green.

But I can live without that information. I’m much more interested in the convenience.

When I was considering the device, I had some concern about playing while wearing a watch. I don’t remember ever golfing with a watch. While the GPS unit is much bigger than the watches I use on a regular basis, it’s comfortable and really only felt weird the first round or so. Now I don’t even notice it while I’m swinging.

I have supplemented the GPS watch with a used (and kind of beat up) Laser Link Golf Quick Shot unit that I purchased on eBay for about $30. The unit is so old school that it only works on pins with reflectors and is useless if if you want a distance to a tree or a bunker, but I can live with that. My home course has reflectors as do many nice courses (I’m currently 3-for-4 on this Phoenix trip).

I do realize that SkyCaddie recently launched their own watch unit along with a new handheld device. But that didn’t happen until I was moving into a new world. The Garmin watch works well and seems accurate (the only downside is that getting the charging piece properly attached can be a little tricky).

If you are looking to find a GPS unit that is easy and low maintenance, don’t be afraid to try a watch unit. It’s a good option and one that was good enough for me to breakup with my SkyCaddie without feeling guilty.

So sorry SkyCaddie, we’ve totally broken up.


What to make of TaylorMade’s early discounting?

The email that landed in my inbox on Monday morning caught me somewhat off guard. It came from the fine folks at TaylorMade and it was about discounts on the still-quite-new Rocketballz Stage 2 woods and hybrids.

The deal — which is now being offered at all sorts of internet and brick and mortar retailers — is simple: Save $50 on a driver, $30 on a fairway wood and $20 on a hybrid.

Even though TaylorMade has short product cycles — many people will say too short — this discounting leaves me with a bunch of questions. After all, there is a decent part of the country where the golf season has yet to start or is barely getting warmed up.

So why the financial incentive?

Are the sticks not moving? Were the initial prices too high? Was the hot 3-wood a 1-year wonder that ended with the original RBZ? Have people quit buying the distance claims? Is the Callaway X Hot line the (for lack of a better term) the hot club? Will the RBZ Stage 3 do to be released next week (that’s a joke, btw)? Or is TaylorMade simply doing this out of the goodness of their hearts?

I haven’t hit any of these clubs — I’ve tried hard to not hit anything new until there is golf to be played in Minnesota — so I don’t have an opinion on the clubs.

I just simply find the move curious.

Welcome to 2013

Sure it’s April 1, but it is essentially New Year’s Day for the blog. So Happy New Year to you as well.

Even with a warm weekend, I still have significant snow in my front yard. I stopped at my golf club yesterday and I’m quite certain that a dude will get a new green jacket long before we are open.

A year ago, I played my first Minnesota round on March 11. March Madness was as much about clubs opening as college basketball. And there was no need for an emergency trip somewhere warm.

Tomorrow will mark four months since I last played a round of golf. It only seems like it was a lot longer ago than that. Needless to say, I’m anxious to get out for the first time since putting out on No. 18 at Corte Bella, a housing development course that isn’t bad.

It was about two weeks ago when I realized an emergency trip was going to be mandatory this year. So I’m off to Phoenix on Thursday morning for a work/golf/family trip. By Thursday afternoon, I will be on the tee for the first of several rounds of golf. I have a couple of things lined up, but will largely see what GolfNow provides. While I have hit balls a few times over the past month, I’m looking forward in playing some actual rounds of golf and knocking off some of the rust.

I also need to get some of the rust off of my blogging. I’m getting settled into a new job and I’m finishing up some of my other writing, so I’m hoping to have more time to blog here.

There are plenty of questions that will be answered in 2013. Among them:

– Will I actually blog on a regular basis? I hope so.

Will I get new clubs? Which new clubs will I try, like and buy?

– What new courses will I play? I’m hoping for some good spots.

– How many times will I get to a new course and forget my camera at home?

– Will the July golf trip that’s on the books live up to expectations? I very optimistic.

– What will cause me to rant about something? Clearly something will.

– And how many new pairs of golf shoes will I buy? Odds are good that it won’t be zero.

The year is just beginning. Here’s hoping it will be a great one.

A chance to watch a course get a facelift

I’m a bit behind the curve on this, but just found a blog that will be interesting to watch over the next 18 months.

Superintendent Paul Diegnau is blogging about the renovation project at Keller Golf Course.

While the project, which will leave the course closed until 2014, didn’t begin until the fall of 2012, there are a ton of really interesting photos on the blog. I think the blog will provide a nice inside glimpse into what it takes to build/renovate a golf course.

It appears from the blog that the drainage work is complete or nearly complete. Despite the foot of snow that we received during the first weekend of December, construction work continued until Dec. 19. In addition, construction work on the new clubhouse and pro shop is underway.

I am of the belief that Keller is easily the best value among Twin Cities public courses. The original course — which hosted both the PGA and LPGA Tours for years — had great greens and interesting holes. I played there during the final week it was open and had a wonderful time.

I will be watching this site as we go through 2013. It will be fun to see the new course grow.

The worst thing about Twitter

It isn’t exactly a secret that I like Twitter. It has become my personal news service and sometimes even my personal soapbox.

But today Twitter is bumming me out.

Why? We’re in the middle of announcement season from the golf manufacturers. Callaway released pictures of their new X Hot line of drivers and fairway woods. TaylorMade is pumping up its new R1 driver and the updated RBZ line.

And they are all over social media. I can’t go on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram without seeing pictures of golf clubs that I want to hit.

That wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that it is currently 13 degrees in Minneapolis.

So I don’t really hate Twitter today. It is just reminding me of how anxious I am for spring.

I guess the good news is that we’re less than 100 days away from playing golf here again.

The final 2012 totals

My colleague Kristen asked me once how much golf I play during the year. I thought about it for a second, couldn’t come up with specific answer and could really only say, “A lot.”

I hadn’t really thought about it that way. I had never truly tracked just how much I teed it up in a year. So when 2012 began, I was set on changing that.

Using a very high tech method of writing down all of my rounds in a Moleskin calendar notebook, I set out to chronicle my 2012.

The golf year started on Friday, March 2 when I flew from Minneapolis to Houston, grabbed my clubs and a rental car and headed directly to 36-hole Cypresswood Golf Club and played the Keith Foster-designed Tradition course there before going to see the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets play that night.

Nine months to the day later — Sunday, Dec. 2 — I played my final round of the year. The finale was a nice walk at Corte Bella, a decent little housing development course in Sun City West, Ariz. It was a great year.

In that span, I played at least nine holes of golf on 126 occasions. At one stretch I played at least one of the weekend days on 31 consecutive weekends. I usually got out for some golf two or three nights a week after work, even if it was just for nine holes. I played 35 different courses in seven different states and only probably only two courses were bad.

Here are the totals:

126 days of golf

2,128 holes played

1677 holes were played while walking

407 holes were played while riding

78.8 percent of my holes for the year were played walking

Using a conservative estimate that 18 holes walking is equal to five miles, I walked a little more than 465 miles on the golf course. To put that into perspective, that is greater than the distance from my house to Chicago.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll chronicle some of the highlights of the year. But let’s just say it was a great year of golf.