The Masters

 

#13 from fairway looking back toward tee

#13 Fairway Looking Toward Tee

 

I am thankful for the Masters. It is my, as well as most golfers’, favorite golf tournament for several reasons: 1) the beauty of the golf course; 2) the tradition; and 3) the difficulty of the golf course which seems to separate the winner from the also-rans. It is simply an amazing golf course. Designed by the famed Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, two great names in golf, this is the only Major which is played at the same golf course each year. During Masters’ week, I stay glued to the TV, or if on those years when I’ve been lucky enough…(read on)

 

Getting a ticket to the practice rounds on Monday-Wednesday is not that difficult. Anybody can register for a chance at their random drawing. I think I have won the ticket lottery three times and attended twice. The practice rounds are fun for a photographer because they allow unlimited photography on those days. But on the days of the actual tournament, only credentialed photographers are allowed on the course with their cameras. And don’t even think about bringing a cell phone! The first time I attended a practice round I was in heaven. Imagine how I really thought I had died and gone to the inner chambers of heaven when Jeannette, a relative from Augusta who was working as a chaufeur for patrons, got hold of a ticket to the actual tournament for me. I, of course, postponed my return home to walk those hallowed grounds during the actual tournament. It was simply incredible and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of mine. Another dream is to be able to play the course one day – although I’m sure I would have difficulty shooting a good score. But to walk those fairways, hitting golf balls in the footprints of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Sam Snead, and Arnold Palmer…just an incredible thought!

 

Everyone can see the perfect fairways and greens at Augusta National on TV but it is hard to visualize the steep hilly terrain the course sits upon unless you walk those holes. Just walking them must take a lot out of the golfers and probably adds another dimension to the difficulty of the course. And you have never seen greens like these. They putt so fast and break so much. I’ve seen professional golfers putting from below the hole on number 6 (par three) who end up putting up to the hole, not quite getting there, and then their balls roll down the green past the golfer and off the green. And the balls don’t stop there. They just keep going and going! So instead of a putt of a few feet, the golfer stares at a chip of about 50 yards. Hitting into those greens and then putting them has to take nerves of steel and a surgeon’s touch.

 

My favorite golfer, David Toms, is still tied for the record with Mark Carlcavecchia for the lowest 9 hole score of 29, which he shot on the second nine of the fourth round in 1998. He finished sixth that year and has recorded a total of three top ten finishes in the Masters during his career. The course was lengthed in 2002 and again in 2006, bringing the length from 6985 to 7435 yards. This makes it more difficult for golfers such as David, who is not long by comparison, but he always has a chance because of his accuracy off the tee, his deft iron play, and his smooth putting stroke. The course length argues against Toms winning a green jacket, but you never know. As a matter of fact, two of his top ten finishes occurred after the lengthening of the course in 2003 and 2007. Other short hitting golfers, such as Zach Johnson, have won the tournament since 2006.

 

The practice rounds are fun. They have things like golfers trying to skip balls off the water and onto the sixteenth green, not an easy accomplishment. And then there’s the par 3 tournament, which is played on an entirely different course on the same property. And it is just as manicured as the lush fairways and greens of the regular course are. And some of the holes are even prettier, if you can imagine that. It’s fun because the golfers have their kids, wives, and/or girlfriends caddy for them.  And there is a lot of clowning around.  But it all turns serious on Thursday.

 

brandt snedeker and wife mandy

Brandt Snedeker and Wife Mandy at Par 3 Contest

 

I took the photos for today’s blog during my last trip to Augusta in 2009. The top photo is of my favorite hole on the course, the par five 13th. It is from a different vantage point than is usually shown on TV because it is looking from the fairway near the landing area back toward the tee, which is to the right around the dog leg. In the background of the photo is the twelth green. The drive must avoid Rae’s Creek, seen to the right in the photo, which snakes around the left side of the fairway. The fairway slopes toward Rae’s Creek and rises up midhole to a plateau and then descends toward the green. Rae’s Creek follows the fairway the entire way and then passes across the fairway directly in front of the green and meanders around the right side of the green, which slopes up toward four pristine white sand bunkers, two directly behind the green, two to the left, and a sea of pink, purple, orange, and white azaleas planted around the trees on the rising ground behind the green. Just a beautiful setting! This is a hole where the gambling golfer can pick up one or two shots or more, or lose as many or more strokes after mis-hitting a shot or two. It is the site where many a green jacket is won or lost. The drama on the thirteenth on the last day of the competition is spectacular!

 

#13 green

#13 Green

green jacket

 

wish i had a green jacket

it would really have a nice feel

to wear on special occasions

such as the master’s champion’s meal

but the golf game is not there

chances for the jacket are blown

i suppose i’ll just have to

buy a green jacket of my own.

© rt tulley

Practice

 

 

I am thankful for practice. It is only through practice that we get better. And practice can be fun and not just drudgery and routine.

 

This photo was obviusly taken at the golf range, specifically at the Oaks of Sherwood Golf Course (previously called Sherwood Forest Country Club). It is the golf course I grew up playing with my father. Practice back then used to be so much more difficult because we had to provide and pick up our own golf balls. Nowadays, you just pay money and get a bucket of balls and they pick them up for you. It was free back then and gave you exercise but was much more dangerous as you attempted to dodge the balls being hit at you while you picked yours up. I have occasionally ventured back to the old days by going to a local school playground or football field (when there are no kids around) and hit there and then pick up the golf balls.

 

I really enjoy practicing golf by hitting golf balls at the range. When it becomes mundane, I like to imagine playing holes – I’ll pretend I’m playing each hole in sequence, start with the club I would hit on that hole, hit the ball, see where it went and then go on to pretend I’m hitting hit my second shot based on the result of the first shot, until I finish a few “holes”. Of course, I always do much better in these semi-imaginary rounds than I do on the course. I used to even practice my chipping game at home by playing nine or eighteen holes with the trees serving as targets for my chips. The trick is to hit the golf balls just hard enough to barely graze the tree but not so hard as to have the ball ricochet off the tree and hit you in the head! The fewer self inflicted wounds you have, the better you have done. rt

 

practice makes perfect

 

practice makes perfect

a wise man once said

sure it makes one better

but what was going through his head

perfect is not a word

that’s  in my limited vocabulary

i practice and practice and practice

and may be better by next january

but perfect?

naw not me it seems

i’ll be perfect one day

in my nightly dreams.

© rt tulley

Golf Balls

golf balls

I am thankful for golf balls. I know this sounds strange. I liked them before I even began playing golf. My dad had a shag bag of them he kept in the hall closet in our old home in Edinburg, Indiana. I couldn’t have been more than about 6 years old when I played with them. I rolled them down the hall and had contests between the brands of balls as to which rolled further. In my book, Titleist was always the winner. I remember telling my dad that I liked the “tit least” balls the best. He corrected me on the pronunciation explaining it was “title-ist”. I’m glad he rectified that serious blunder before I began playing golf. Can you imagine how the other boys would have teased me about that one? They didn’t need any more ammunition!

When I began playing golf, I found a new and better use for golf balls – hitting them long and straight at little targets made of shortly cropped grass, centered at a small hole in the ground, and imbibing the wonderful feeling into my very soul as the ball met the clubhead dead center (It’s an indescribable feeling that courses through the clubhead, up the shaft, into your hands, up your arms, and somehow makes its way into the pleasure centers of your brain).  And more often than I would like to admit, I also tested out how the golf balls responded when hit into water, out of bounds, or into impossible lies-which I did quite often!

Golf balls have been improved. Now they can go 300+ yards routinely, even approaching 400 yards (not at my hands, I promise, although I did hit one about 340 yards once but I was the beneficiary of a very strong back wind). There are golf balls for fast swinging golfers, slow swinging golfers, and in between.  Balls that go straighter, farther, or higher. It’s too complicated for me. With my swing, it doesn’t really matter what kind of ball I use. The results are pretty much the same. Forlorn.  

I went through a stage when Maxfli was my favorite ball. But I think that was the rebellious teenager in me at the time. Now, of course, tit least is the ball of choice. Of course. It rolls further down the hall.

wish i had a dollar

 

wish I had a dollar

for every golf ball

that i shanked

or hit into the water

or even a nickel

for every one

that ended up in a pickle

or subsequently failed to fly

or hit out of bounds

in sand or unplayable lie

buried in the ground

if i stayed out of the ditch

if only if

then i would be kind of rich

of course…

if i had not played golf at all

and erstwhile saved all my golf money

i’d be wealthy with

a disposition much more sunny.

(oh shucks but what the heck

i’m hitting the golf ball again

so you should hit the deck!)

© rt tulley

Black Bear Golf Course

My wife and I stopped by Black Bear Golf Course recently on our way home from Monroe, LA. Director of Golf, Eric Kaspar, allowed us to take a cart out on the golf course. Although this is December and nearly winter, and most of the green is gone from the fairways, I love the winter colors. They are muted but show a wide array of greens, browns, gold to yellows, with some tinges of reds. This is just a magnificent golf course. I just enjoy riding around on it. I also saw Black Bear Lodge for the first time. This looks to be nice and we discussed getting the family there in the spring for a get-together. It is a peaceful and beautiful setting. …And of course-GOLF!

Black Bear #1

Black Bear #1

 
Black Bear #2

Black Bear #2

 

Black Bear #18

Black Bear #18

 

Black Bear Lodge

Black Bear Lodge

 

Black Bear Lodge from #9 Green

Black Bear Lodge from #9 Green

 On the way out of town on our route home we stopped at the local Burger King for a bathroom break for my wife. I found this photo waiting at the back of the BK parking lot:

Delhi Watertower & Horses

Delhi Watertower & Horses

 

 

Top Golf Courses in Louisiana

I would like to start a new stream on the top golf courses in Louisiana. Your input is welcome. Some that I have played include:

Atchafalaya at Idlewild, Patterson

A well maintained, beautiful Louisiana style wetlands golf course. Plenty of mounding, a challenging but fair layout and oodles of wildlife make this one of the best Louisiana golf courses you will find. A member of the Audubon Golf Trail.

 Beaver Creek, Zachary

I recently played this BREC golf course and was very impressed. The course is a mixture of American Links style and Louisiana wetland course. It is very challenging, well maintianed, and each hole is different.

Black Bear Golf Club, Delhi

A nice layout featuring rolling terrain, plenty of water hazards, and trees. Just a beautiful and challenging golf course. One of my favorites! Keep your eye out for the black bears, which have been spotted occassionally on the property. A lodge is now open on the grounds for overnight stays. A member of the Audubon Golf Trail.

The Bluffs, St. Francisville

My wife, Bebe, surprised me on my birthday one year by kidnapping me and taking me to stay in the lodge and play golf at this Arnold Palmer designed golf course. What a beautiful golf course with plenty of water, hills, and trees, built on property that John James Audubon roamed in the creation of his Birds of America book! I have not played the course in a while but have heard that it is recovering from the economy. I love Arnold Palmer’s golf courses. He is never seriously penal but always challenging.

Carter Plantation, Springfield

This course, the first design of my favorite golfer, David Toms, is a true beauty. Tall pines and hardwoods combine with plenty of water to create a difficult but fair test of golf. Only 30 minutes from Baton Rouge, it is truly a lovely visit to the country. A member of the Audubon Golf Trail.

Copper Mill, Zachary

This is a well designed golf course. A little unusual in that it has three par 3s and three par 5s on each nine. But the course has plenty of strategy and is well maintained. I recommend it highly.

Country Club of Louisiana, Baton Rouge

I have played this Jack Nicklaus designed course only once. It is situated on perhaps the lovliest property in Baton Rouge. It was redesigned this year and I have not gotten any feedback on it. Please let me know what you think. I remember there being a few harsh design elements, such as on number nine there was a bowl like depression on the green. I ended up putting around and through it and my ball ended up back at my feet because I didn’t hit it hard enough. Another one was on the tenth hole where a series of traps with high banks prevented me from hitting anything out but a wedge back into the fairway. But hey, it’s not much different than hitting into water, I guess. Stroke penalty. At least you don’t lose your ball.

Cypress Bend Resort, Many

This Dave Bennett design is stunning in its beauty and elevation changes. Situated along the Toledo Bend Lake, this will amaze you with its beauty. While you’re taking in the views don’t forget to hit the ball!

Gray Plantation, Lake Charles

A nice Louisiana swamp style golf course situated on the Calcassieu waterway and member of the Audubon Golf Trail. This course has it all and is one of my favorites. One of my favorite par 5s in Louisiana is the number 7, double fairway hole. There are too many excellent holes to mention here.

The Island, Plaquemine

Another member of the Audubon Golf Trail, this Mike Young design is actually not an island, but is situated between Bayou Plaquemine and Bayou Jacob. Bayou Jacob makes the biggest impact, with at least five holes impacted by its sluggish waters. Number two is a wonderful par 5 crossing the bayou twice. Ten, eleven, and twelve also make heavy use of the bayou as a hazard. Very nice holes!

The Oaks of Sherwood, Baton Rouge

I had to include the course I grew up on, the previous Sherwood Forest Country Club. The course is now open to the public and still well maintained. The trees have grown since I was a young  pup and present tighter fairways and more of a challenge. A throwback to old traditional golf, this is a nice golf experience.

OakWing, Alexandria

A Jim Lipe design, this course sits on the former England Airforce Base. This course has varying types of holes and types of shots, making it a wonderful combination of Louisiana wetland course and American links styles. A nice golfing experience.

Olde Oaks,

This Hal Sutton design consists of 18 holes of rolling terain and 9 holes of American links style golf. The nines, called Cypress, Oaks, and Meadow offer a differing golf experience. The links course, the Meadow, is perhaps the most difficult. Plenty of water and/or wetlands, this course is beautiful and is home to a wide variety of birds.

Santa Maria Golf Club, Baton Rouge

My favorite Baton Rouge golf course. I was a charter member of this previously private club when it went belly up and I had to eat my $7000 deposit. When BREC (Baton Rouge Parks and Recreation) bought the property for a song, I thought it would become a goat ranch. Much to my joy and happiness, they have done an excellent job of keeping up this Robert Trent Jones gem. I wish the houses were a little farther away from some of the holes but otherwise, this is a truly outstanding golf course, with some undulations not normally seen in Baton Rouge. The fifth hole is the most difficult par three I have ever played. The green is narrow left to right and there are water hazards on both sides. There is no bale out place except in front of the green, and that in itself is a difficult shot owing to the narrowness of the fairway.

Tamahka Trails, Marksville

A Steve Smyers design, run by the Tunica Biloxi Tribe at the Paragon Casino Resort has only one lake on site but the strategically arranged high banked bunkers will reach out to grab you. Rolling fairways, plenty of trees, and oh yeah, did I mention bunkers? Number 7 is one of my all time favorite holes. A midrange par 4 dogleg right past a series of bunkers on the right, downhill to a creek, which snakes around the elevated green. I continue to shoot a bad score on this monster, but oh how I love it!

TPC Louisiana, Avondale

A Pete Dye creation, where the Zurich Classic is played annually. The familiar Dye elements of sand, pot bunkers, and railroad ties are all there. This previous cypress swamp is very nice. Tell them if you are a Louisiana resident so that you can get a discount on the pricey green fee. But to play a course you see the pros play on TV is a pleasure. Plenty of wildlife and some aligators. A member of the Audubon Golf Trail.

University Club, Baton Rouge

David Toms and Jim Lipe recently redesigned this Jim Lipe design. I have not played the course since then, however, I thought it was a first rate golf course before that. I expect that it is even better now.

The Wetlands, Lafayette

This Audubon Golf Trail course, run by Lafayette Parks, seems easy after the first few holes but it picks up pace and will bite you by the end. Designed by Landscape Frank Burandt, who used to work with Nicklaus design, this is one fine layout. The last three holes are among the best finishing holes you will find.

 

Courses which have received accolades but I have not played include:

Contraband Golf Course at L’auberge Casino Resort, Lake Charles

A Tom Fazio design.

English Turn Country Club, New Orleans

A Jack Nicklaus design which previously hosted the New Orleans Open.

Farm D’Allie Golf Club, Carencro

This Jeffery Blume designed golf course has made several top rankings in Louisiana.

Koasati Pines Golf Club, Kinder

In association with the Coushatta Casino. A Kevin Tucker design, this course has gotten very good reviews.

Lakewood, New Orleans

The former home of the New Orleans Open, this course was redesigned by Ron Garl and owned by the New Orleans Firefighters Pension Fund.

LaTriomphe Golf and Country Club, Broussard

A Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design.

LaTour, Matthews

A David Toms deisned links-style course.

Links on the Bayou, Lake Charles

An Alexandria public course designed by Mike Young, who also designed The Island. This course sits next to OakWing Golf Course.

Metairie Country Club

This course, built in 1922 by Seth-Raynor, is unique in that each hole is a replica of a Scottish or American golf hole.

Money Hill Country Club, Abita Springs

A Ron Garl design which has ranked number one in the state several times. The property consists of plenty of trees and rolling hills, as well as water.

National Golf Club of Louisiana, Westlake

 A Dave Bennett design.

Oakbourne Country Club, Lafayette

A Robert Trent Jones designed golf course, which has received good reviews.

Southern Trace Country Club, Shreveport

David Toms home course designed by Arthur Hills.

Squire Creek Country Club, Choudrant

A Tom Fazio design in Choudrant, near Ruston

I will update this list and comment on each in the near future. I welcome your input. -rt

 

David Toms at the 2011 President’s Cup

The Americans dominated the President’s Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia this past week/weekend to retain the cup. Fred Couple’s team was dominant. David Toms represented Louisiana golf very well by going 3-1 (3 wins and only one loss) in the four matches he played. In fact, he was so dominant that 3 of the 4 matches were won by the 14th hole. Toms’ record was matched by Phil Mickelson and only surpassed by Hunter Mahan at 4-1 and Jim Furyk at 5-0.  Both Toms and Mickelson voluntarily sat out Saturday’s four ball pairings. Therefore, Toms and Mickelson were tied for the Americans’ third best record of the twelve-member American team. Tiger Woods, who admittedly improved during the matches and got the media attention by winning the cup-winning point, had only a 2-3 record. Congratulations David!

-rt