Saturday, September 4, 2010

A day of weird golf tales: groundskeeper drowns in hazard, duffers find charred body on course, and wayward shot starts a brush fire

Saturday was the day for bizarre news on golf courses, it seems.

First there was the 18-year-old groundskeeper at a course in Lakeville, Mass. -- 40 miles north of Boston -- who drowned when he drove a lawnmower into a water hazard and got trapped beneath it.

For my non-golfing friends, we're not talking a lawn-size riding mower here. This is more along the lines of small farm equipment. And it's a little surprising that things like this don't happen more often. I play a lot of golf at sunrise and while I'm in the parking lot in the dark putting on my shoes and loading up the push cart (I walk, I don't carry), there are a lot of course employees out there in the deep dark, navigating the course with just the headlights on their tractors.

In England -- at a course in Brighton, East Sussx -- a mutilated and charred body was found on a seaside golf course, hidden in the brush. According to the tabloid newspaper The Sun, one foot was missing and the body was so badly charred that police could not even determine its gender.

Golfers found the body just before noon, The Sun reports, between the 17th and 18th holes. I am assuming they were looking for a stray ball.

A golf shot started a brush fire at the Shady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine, Calif. Apparently the wayward shot came to rest on a rock. When the duffer played the ball instead of moving it, his iron struck a spark that immediately started a fire in the surrounding tinder-dry brush.

The fire consumed 25 acres before it was extinguished ... by a crew of 150 firefighters and 38 trucks.

And finally, the last oddity of the day -- Tiger Woods played a bogey-free round at TPC Boston.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Thanks, Earl, for leaving Hampton Roads courses intact!

Nuther Duffer's preparations for Hurricane Earl this past week included make two tee times for Sunday -- one in Virginia Beach, and one well inland, just in case.

Looks like we'll get to take the short drive.

Thanks, Earl!

We're going to try Honey Bee Golf Course again, which seems a little odd, or ironic ... or maybe like a little karma payback.

We got rained out of Honey Bee two weeks ago, when the weather was supposed to be pretty decent. This week we're supposed to have a hurricane and ... go figure.

I'll report on current conditions at Honey Bee -- and probably report one more experience with SkyDroid  -- come Sunday.

So Namaste, y'all ... and hit 'em straight!

Tiger Woods Deutsche Bank update: 8 holes played, 11 shots behind

The players getting started early in Boston probably had an advantage -- they got out in still conditions before the weather went south and led to a short delay because of lightning.

That said, Tiger (starting on the back nine) bogeyed four of his first six holes, has but one birdie, and is at 50 percent in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation. (I have to keep returning to the leaderboard to double-check those figures -- seems like they just can't be correct. But they are.)

His 3 over par leaves him tied with Dustin Johnson for the worst score currently on the leaderboard.

The leaders are Zack Johnson and Jason Day, who both shot 8 under before the ghost of Earl arrived.

It's official: Nationwide ends sponsorship of the Nationwide Tour

The Associated Press just reported what Paul Azinger reported a few hours ago, and what the PGA then danced around a short while ago: Nationwide Insurance will stop sponsoring the Nationwide Tour when its contract expires in two years.

The good news, in addition to Nationwide agreeing to sponsor the Memorial Tournament, is that the PGA has those two years to find a replacement.

If the economy rebounds, that shouldn't be a problem.

If the economy doesn't rebound, we'll have far worse things to worry about.

Nationwide to sponsor Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament

The PGA just announced that Nationwide Insurance has signed on for a six-year run as presenting sponsor for Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament, held each year at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

Here's the full PGA announcement.

Nowhere in the announcement is there mention of Nationwide ending its sponsorship of the Nationwide Tour, as Paul Azinger's earlier tweet suggested (or maybe as Nuther Duffer inferred). There's just this roundup of Nationwide's support of golf over the years:

"Over the past two decades, Nationwide Insurance has maintained a long-standing high profile relationship with the PGA TOUR as one of the game's most passionate supporters. From 1991-2000 Nationwide sponsored the Champions Tour's Nationwide Championship near Atlanta. Since 2003 the insurance giant has sponsored the Nationwide Tour, making Nationwide Insurance the longest running umbrella sponsor in that Tour's history. It also has sponsored the Tour's Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational in Columbus since 2007."

*Emphasis added.

 Does that phrasing suggest that the Nationwide Tour sponsorship is over?

PGA losing Nationwide as a sponsor, Azinger says

Paul Azinger just tweeted that the PGA is losing Nationwide as a sponsor after an eight-year run.

An announcement is coming later today, he says.

Is this the end of the Nationwide Tour? Is there a replacement sponsor waiting in the wings?

TaylorMade taking a page from Apple's marketing book

Once or twice a year -- most recently on Wednesday -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs gathers together the Mac media to launch or update a new product or two. The events are anticipated and discussed like upcoming football games.

What will the new product be? What will Jobs say? What should the new product be and what should Jobs say?

Then there's the live webcast followed by media recaps and product reviews. It's an incredible round of free advertising that Apple has capitalized on for years.

And now, it seems, TaylorMade has decided to follow suit. The golf equipment manufacturer plans to hold a "worldwide Webcast" at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 9, so consumers can participate directly when the company unveils "a remarkable new TaylorMade product."

"We think what we show will instantly become the most sought-after product in the marketplace," said TaylorMade marketing VP Bob Maggiore.

To watch the webcast, go to at 3 p.m. next Thursday. The company says the announcement will last about 10 minutes.

Between now and then, check out the TaylorMade site for the big red countdown clock.

So what's it going to be? Another new driver? Putter? GPS unit?

Nuther Duffer's cone of uncertainty

Nuther Duffer's cone of uncertainty

Oh no! Not another rules of golf thing!

A 14-year-old Wisconsin golfer disqualified himself and handed in his medal after winning a junior Wisconsin PGA tournament, the Associated Press reports, because he realized two hours after the tournament ended that he had one too many clubs in his bag.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says Nash won the 13-14-year-old division of the Milwaukee County Parks Tour Invitational by shooting a 77 at Dretzka Park (a heck of a course, if Nuther Duffer remembers correctly from his Milwaukee days -- ND would have been satisfied with a 97 on that course).

Zach and family then headed to Rivermoor Country Club to show the club pro, Zach's instructor, his medal. The instructor noticed a stray five wood in Zach's bag. "Who's club is this?" he asked.

Turns out Zach had played with a friend the day before and someone the friend's club ended up in Zach's bag. That put Zach at one over the 14 club limit.

It gave him a four-stroke penalty (taking his score to 81) and, more importantly, a signed card with an incorrect score -- and that's a DQ.

Zach talked the situation over with his dad and uncle, called the tournament director, and put the medal in the mail.

Good kid.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Looking to trade in old golf clubs? Get an extra $20 from Callaway

Callaway announced the other day that it's offering a $20 bonus (or credit or rebate or whatever you want to call it) if you trade in old gear worth $100 or more at its online shopping site.

To be clear: The 20 bucks is good only toward a purchase of new Callaway equipment. 

Callaway offers decent trade value on a lot of clubs. Let's say, for example, that you have a set of 10-year-old Ping irons that you're thinking about replacing. You go to the Shop Callaway Web site, click on "Trade In, Trade Up," and then on "Printable Rate Card." The PDF will tell you that your 10-year-old Pings are worth $110 with steel shafts, $130 with graphite.

Add the $20 bonus and you've got $130 or $150 toward your purchase. (You do have to ship in your old clubs on your dime.) Buy a set of clubs and after Callaway receives and accepts your clubs, they send you a check. (Be sure you also read the section on "Unacceptable Clubs.")

So let's say you're looking at a 5-PW set of Callaway X22s. List price for the set, with steel shafts, is $449. Less trade and bonus, we're talking $319 for new clubs.

Shipping is free. The deal is good till the end of September.

By way of comparison, offers a 3-PW set of Callaway X22s for $429. They don't offer a rebate, but if you want those 3 and 4 irons instead of paying extra for or keeping your old hybrids....

RockBottomGolf also offers free shipping.

Namaste, y'all ... and hit 'em straight!

To get back to that spoiled walking meditation....

It wasn't really spoiled, of course, it was ... a learning experience. Or a re-learning experience.

First, the SkyDroid learning experience.

Sorry, SkyDroid, I'm about ready to give up. Again this morning, this Droid golf rangefinder app was all over the map on distances. Clicking on the GPS strength/accuracy button gave me accuracy readings that ranged from 9 yards at its best to 30-some yards at its worst. Neither of those are really acceptable, and at times I don't know what it was reading ... it was off by 200 yards.

And this was before any clouds from Hurricane Earl arrived. (It's still sunny here, by the way, for my non-Hampton Roads readers, but the westbound lanes on the interstate are starting to fill up with people evacuating the Outer Banks.)

After five holes of fidgeting, checking and rechecking distances, gauging satellite signals, and pacing back and forth to check the shot tracker, I gave up. I clicked out of the app, put the phone in the bag ... and immediately noticed how beautiful the sunrise was.

Then came the "golf is zen" experience.

With the app safely out of sight and mind, I was sure my game would improve. I was incorrect.

Golf is a game of the mind, and if the mind is not on the game....

No longer distracted by trying to decide whether SkyDroid was working, my mind was free to focus on my golf swing -- on every little twitch, turn and tilt of my golf swing. A train wreck of thoughts as I stood over the ball:

Am I lined up correctly? Is the ball too far forward in my stance? Am I about to turn my shoulders at the proper angle? Am I keeping my right leg still and my head more or less motionless? Is my left wrist flat? My right elbow in? Am I about to swing inside to out so I can hit that delectable draw I keep dreaming about? Am I gripping the club too tightly? Do I have it lined up across my fingers and not my palm? Is the end of the club pointing at my belt? Am I in an athletic posture? ("Is Nuther Duffer ever in an athletic posture"? is a question for another time. Caddy Whack: "Another time? You mean another age.") Maybe I'm giving up on the SkyDroid too soon --

Stop it! Just swing! Just swing right now!

And then with a jerk and a lunge the club head flees from and returns to the ball ... and sends it spinning off into the pond lining the right side of the fairway.

And I am reminded, yet again, that golf is a game of feel, of zen ... of using muscles without narrating the motion.

That the best swing thought is no swing thought.

That much of the beauty of the game lies in the silence. That in silence, there is grace.

So Namaste, y'all ... and hit 'em straight!

Bridgestone Golf really, really loves Matt Kuchar

And can you blame them?

I know there is a "trend" of players mentioning their sponsors' products, thanking their sponsors for their help and such during the victory interview, but at The Barclays on Sunday, Matt Kuchar did an especially fine job of singing his sponsor's praises

Kuchar hit a phenomenal 7-iron shot to within a couple of feet of the cup on the first playoff hole to win the tournament.

In his post-victory interview, Kuchar did his sponsor right when he said, "I still can't believe what that Bridgestone ball can do."

Way to go, Matt. I believe you've earned a contract for life.

The only thing that surprises me is that it took Bridgestone until yesterday to send out a congratulatory e-mail ... and a link to the "Bridgestone ball" segment of the interview.

Oh, and the e-mail does point out that the 7 iron used on that phenomenal shot was a Bridgestone J38.

Nuther Duffer, by the way, proudly endorses the Bridgestone e6 golf ball, several of which he has hit onto fairways.

(Attn Bridgestone Marketing Dept: Forget everything I wrote yesterday about those Ping clubs.)

A good walking meditation spoiled ... twice

Had to get in nine more holes this morning before Hurricane Earl arrives. It was a very (forgive me, golfing Buddhists) enlightening walk.

First, some lessons learned and/or remembered:

...Sunrise is even more beautiful on the day a hurricane is supposed to arrive. Clouds Monet.

...Canada Geese may be the wildlife equivalent of a motorcycle gang, but they have sense enough to get out of town before a hurricane arrives. Usually there are hundreds on Ocean View Golf Course in Norfolk. Today there were none. Zero. Now, OV has hired a local guy to come in and walk the course with his pit bull in the morning, but that dog has been there every day for a while. So have the geese.

...It's easy to overlook things like the sunrise and missing geese if you're focused on a cell phone app.

...Golf is zen.

More beckons.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fantasy Golf choices for the Deutsche Bank Championship

It's that mind-wracking time of the week again ... time to choose players for this week's PGA/Yahoo Fantasy Golf team. (And Corey Pavin thinks he has it tough.)

How it works: You pick 8 players, two from the A List, four from the B List, and two from the C List (and I have no idea how they decide who goes on which list -- Matt Kuchar is still a "C List" player?). Each day, you get to start four players and you get points for each depending on how he performs. You get a bonus if your player wins. You get diddly if your player misses the cut.

So here's Team Nuther Duffer for the Deutsche Bank Championship, round 2 of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

A List

Bubba Watson and Ernie Els.
We like Bubba cuz he's not afraid to cry at press conferences (we are Stricker fans, after all) and cuz he hits the ball a long way (see the comments on Ping in an earlier post).
We like Ernie cuz earlier in the year, he really did look like the Ernie of old and that makes him better than most of the people on the list.

We didn't choose:
Steve Stricker, cuz he's the defending champion and he's already repeated as a defending champion once this year (at the John Deere). Tough to do that twice.
Phil Mickelson, cuz there's too much going on in Phil's world for him to concentrate on golf ... all of it stuff you can feel sympathy for him about.
Tiger Woods, cuz there's too much going on in Tiger's world for him to concentrate on golf ... none of it worthy of sympathy.
Vijay Singh, cuz Is he still playing this year?

B List
Jim Furyk, Padraig Harrington, Kevin Na and Nick Watney.
We like Furyk because if there is such a thing as karma, he's a lock.
We like Paddy cuz now that he's on the Ryder Cup team he has to play like he deserves to be.
We like Kevin cuz ... Na!
We like Nick cuz he reminds us of a puppy we had when we wuz a kid.

We didn't choose:
Dustin Johnson, cuz he's been kicked one too many times this year.
Camilo Villegas, cuz he hasn't played well since he cut his hair.
Rory McIlroy, cuz we chose him so many times already that he has too few "starts" left. Maybe next week.
Sean O'Hair, cuz we keep confusing him with Nick Watney.

C List
Paul Casey and Justin Rose.
We like Paul and Justin cuz they both want to show Monty that he made a big fat mistake not picking them for the Ryder Cup. Call it the grudge list.
We didn't choose:
Anyone else, cuz we really like our reason for choosing Casey and Rose.

So what do y'all think? Like the team? Who would you pick, and why?

The problem with new golf equipment is ... I want it

My Ping i3s are 10 years old.

I love everything about them. An inherited set, they even have sentimental value.

But they're 10 years old.

And now Ping has this new K15 hybrid/iron set available. Along with the K15 fairway woods. And the K15 driver, which comes with "Straight Flight Technology" -- "SF Tec," to be cool. I could use me some SF Tec.

But I'm sure my 10-year-old irons will last another year. Or two. Maybe just new grips.

Bubba Watson plays Ping. He hits the ball a long way. So does Lorena Ochoa, for that matter.

But my clubs have served me very well. For a long time. A long, long time.

I could put one or two clubs from the old set into a shrine-like wall display (especially the one I hit the hole-in-one with)....

Then there's just the matter of coming up with the, um, investment....

I'm going to have to run this past the Golf Buddha. And the accountant.

And did I mention the hole-in-one?

Course update: Go play Ocean View before Hurricane Earl messes it up
App update: SkyDroid is looking better

Course update for Ocean View Golf Course in Norfolk: Go play. Right now.

The Norfolk City Amateur tournament was over the weekend, so the course is in the best shape of the year. And if Hurricane Earl does bring lots of wind or rain (and keep the maintenance crews off the course), it's going to deteriorate in a hurry.

But right now, it's gorgeous. Stop reading. Leave work. Go.

Rangefinder was off
SkyDroid update

Meanwhile, an update on SkyDroid, the Droid rangefinder app that I've been test-driving on my Droid Eris:

I wrote a couple of days ago that SkyDroid was accurate at Sleepy Hole in Suffolk, but off by a lot at Ocean View in Norfolk. That was not the case at Ocean View this morning (except for that putt in the photo).

SkyDroid and the Bushnell Laser Rangefinder agreed to within three or four yards on just about all of the distances this morning. On the one hole where there seemed to be a discrepancy, the SkyDroid told me it was 145 yards to the front of the green, 165 yards to the middle. The Bushnell told me it was 169 yards to the red flag, indicating front of the green. Turns out the wrong flag was flying.

I did pay attention to the GPS satellite signal strength this morning and it stayed about mid-range. Presumably that means it gets more accurate when it gets a better signal. I'm guessing that for whatever reason (clouds?) I was getting a better signal this morning than when I last tried it out on Ocean View. There is an "accuracy indicator" that I didn't think to check ... next time. 

SkyDroid does not seem to be an extreme power drain on the phone. I kept it on for all nine holes (which I played in about 90 minutes -- another benefit of sunrise golf) and it used about 25 percent of my phone's charge, according to my battery monitor widget. So I'd estimate that a full round of four to five hours would leave me with a 40 to 50 percent charge on the phone -- not bad, but I'm glad I have a car charger.

If you decide to try out SkyDroid ($1.99 on the Droid Market), and you're a Nuther Duffer, there is one feature you'll want to avoid -- the "shot tracker." You'll feel a lot better about your game, and yourself, if you keep using the eyeball method of estimating the length of your drives.

A pre-Hurricane Earl round of golf and walking meditation

It's 5:38 a.m., my Local on the 8s is suggesting that Earl is bearing down hard, and I'm off for some sunrise walking meditation at Ocean View Golf Course ... while it's still there.

OK, the Norfolk flood map says that OV isn't in a flood plain at least through a cat 2 hurricane. (It says that Nuther Duffer's house should be safe also, which is a bit odd, cuz the folks across the street aren't so lucky. Ah well, maybe it will stay in their back yard.)

Let's hope the winds and storm surge stay low, that everyone comes through all right, and that the courses are dry by the weekend!

Namaste ... and hit 'em straight.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

PGA rule that led to Furyk being disqualified is suspended

Golf Blogger reports that the PGA has suspended the million-dollar-fine-for-oversleeping rule that kept Jim Furyk out of The Barclays this past weekend.

The rule, for those of you who missed it, calls for disqualification of any player who misses his appointed time in the pre-tournament Wednesday pro-am, where pros play a round with sponsors. The rule went into effect in 2004 in response to an increasing number of players blowing off the meet and greet.

Last Wednesday, Furyk's cell phone alarm didn't go off, and he showed up too late for his tee time.

He was disqualified for the weekend, which may have cost him a whole lot of money. First of all, $1.3 million or so went to the winner (and hell, 21st place paid $75,000). Then there's the damage done to his standings in the $10 million FedEx Cup competition. Furyk was in third place before The Barclays; not playing, he dropped to eighth.

You do have to hope that if Furyk has a sponsorship deal with his cell phone company, he's being treated very, very well for not revealing the brand name.

Cuz the PGA apparently isn't doing anything to make it up to him.

Titleist debuted 910 series fairway metals and hybrids at The Barclays

Update (9/23): Titleist says the 910 driver will be available in November, fairway metals and hybrids in February. Here's the new post.
Titleist's new mashie, er, hybrid
I'm sure all of the Titleist fanatics picked up on this over the weekend, but I have to confess that it slipped Nuther Duffer's notice that a number of Titleist players ("ambassadors," as they are known) had some new clubs in their bags at The Barclays.

Titleist used the opening event of the FedEx Cup playoffs to debut its new 910 series hybrids and fairway metals.

(Style note: Nuther Duffer really wishes we could all agree to continue calling them "fairway woods," no matter what they're made of. But then, Nuther Duffer still refers to CDs as "albums."

(Or perhaps we reach further back and call them "brassies" and "spoons." That would also allow us to trade in the cyborg sound of "hybrid" -- and the embarrassment of "rescue club" -- for the comfortingly lyrical "mashie."

(Caddy Whack: "You gonna use your rescue club to try to hack your way out of that rough?"

(Nuther Duffer: "Why no, Whack -- I rather thought I would feather a mashie."

(But back to Titleist.)

The 910 fairway metals and hybrids follow the lead of the 910 driver -- all prototypes being tested on tour. They apparently aren't ready for public consumption yet, but to get your mouth watering, the company points out that Rickie Fowler "used his new 910F 13.5 fairway metal to hit a 274-yard second shot at the 594-yard, par-5 17th hole to 5 feet. Fowler sank the putt, recording one of only three eagles made during the week at No. 17."

Got your credit card out yet?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Update: Now about that goose at Sleepy Hole

An exhaustive Web search (keeping in mind that Nuther Duffer tires easily and has a short attention span) suggests that the goose seen sitting on a log in a pond next to the 16th hole at Sleepy Hole Golf Course in Suffolk on Sunday was something called a "pilgrim goose."

 If you can make out the credit on that photo, you'll see that it's from something called ""

It seems that Nuther Duffer's goose was on the lam, as I can find no reference to it that include things like "preferred habitat" or "migratory range."

No, all the links I find for pilgrim geese have to do with farms and, um, recipes. Rather than "majestic," or even "nuisance," I came across descriptors like "nice temperament," "soft down" and "excellent meat."

Instead of being recognized by their markings, "pilgrim geese are recognized for their value and flavor," according to Greener Pastures Farm.

My hunch is that the pilgrim goose I saw Sunday had found her greener pastures because while "geese are vegetarians," the farmers point out, their keepers ... well, not so much.

Cell phone app report: SkyDroid has promise as a GPS rangefinder

I really want to like SkyDroid -- the $1.99 Droid app that aims to be the SkyCaddy of golf GPS systems for your cell phone.

SkyDroid's main screen
It has a friendly look there on your cell phone screen (works well on my Droid Eris, anyway), it reportedly has thousands of courses at immediate disposal and lots of handy features. You can't beat the price, and you have to love the enthusiasm of the Droid Marketplace commenter who wrote, "Great app. Made me a scratch golfer overnight."

Five stars? There aren't enough stars in the firmaments for an app like that.

I've used the app twice now in a testing mode -- comparing the distances SkyDroid gave me to my trusty Bushnell laser rangefinder. And so far, the results have been uneven.

As I said, I like the way it looks on the phone -- simple, clear, intuitive and (a real plus for aging duffers) numbers that are big enough to see without reaching for the reading glasses. It toggles easily between the yardage mode and the overhead camera view, which comes directly from Google maps. It has an easy-to-use shot tracker for those rare times (for us duffers) when we actually want to know how long our drive was.

And one important note: It doesn't seem to be a battery killer. When I first tried using golf GPS apps on my Eris, they killed my battery after about 10 holes. I've run SkyDroid over two complete rounds, both of which went over four hours, and still had enough power left on the phone to get me through the day.

I've used SkyDroid at two municipal courses -- Ocean View in Norfolk and Sleepy Hole in Suffolk. It performed far better at Sleepy Hole, regularly nailing distances to within a yard or two of what I was seeing on the rangefinder.

Ocean View was all over the map. On one hole it would be dead on, on the next hole it would be off by 20 or 30 yards.

That really put a ding in my confidence, and I need to go back and keep a closer eye on another helpful feature: a GPS strength/accuracy meter.

I'm going to continue using SkyDroid for a while, and will continue to double-check distances (apologies to those groups waiting behind me!).

So for right now, the grade is something like, Incomplete, but hopeful.

Need new golf gear? Here's one cheap route to a whole new feel for the game

I've been looking at my sad old worn-out grips for a while now and telling myself that its time for replacement.

And GolfBlogger has a great how-to, including video, for putting new grips on in your home workshop.

He did overlook one possibility, though -- take them to the pro shop or golf shop and have someone else do them. The job gets done correctly -- not a sure thing in the hands of Nuther Duffer! -- it's not tremendously expensive, and most of the time it can be done while you wait.

Or while you shop.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Course conditions: Sleepy Hole in Suffolk beautiful, challenging ... and under repair

Sleepy Hole in Suffolk is truly one of the great municipal golf courses. Beautiful, challenging, reasonably priced.

The par3 16h should be easier
Any of a number of holes could easily be signature holes at far pricier golf courses. The par 3 16th is 150 or so yards uphill and over a wildlife refuge of a pond. Today's menagerie included Canada geese, an egret, a snake of some variety and a goose that I'm going to have to look up. It's a good thing there are all those diversions ... they keep your mind off the challenge of getting the ball over the water, up the hill and over a trap that guards part of the green.

Some fun! Two members of our foursome parred the hole (yes, that would be two other members of the foursome).

There's the 90-degree dogleg right par 4 sixth, where you're tee shot is perfect if you can hit a 200-yard fade. Pay attention to the sign pointing out that you're not allowed to try to cut the corner and go straight at the green ... because you would have to also fly it over the seventh green and anyone who might be playing there.

It's a course with many memorable holes ... and, if you're a Nuther Duffer, with many holes that you really believe you should have played better. It's a golf course that you want to come back to.

And there have been a few significant changes since I was there last.

Don't be surprised by this new pond next to the 5th green
On the 440-yard par 5 fifth hole, there is now a small hidden pond to the left and just short of the green. It's new enough that it isn't on the course map yet. And if you're hitting from more than 100 yards out, you won't see it ... you'll think you've hit the nice safe shot that you remember from years past. Devilish, that.

 After making the turn, and picking up one of the best clubhouse hotdogs in the area, you'll find a lot of ground under repair on the par 5 10th hole. Most of it is well out of the way, unless you're almost out of bounds left. (Yes, dammit, it came into play. Twice.)

The next place where construction comes into play is on the 18th. Work is well under way on turning the old Obici house into what is going to be a stunning clubhouse. Right now, it just means you have a little less room to bail out to the right when you get close to the green.

The Obici house
Judging by the rendering of the clubhouse on the signs, I would recommend playing Sleepy Hole now. Fees will have to go up to pay for that new building.

As much as I love the course, I'm forced to report that it is in pretty mixed shape. The fairways are for the most part lush and green and well-kept. But the greens have gone gnarly. Lots of dead brown patches, and many have that weird sort of slick, mossy or moldy feel. They were watering on this Sunday afternoon, so some of the greens were really fast, others were dog slow.  And fellow Duffers, please ... fix your ball marks. Don't drag your clubs, or shuffle your feet, along the green. And when you're pulling the flag, lie it down, please, don't just toss it aside.

Two things Nuther Duffer (and his friends) have been known to complain about. Taxes and course conditions. Want to play nice municipal courses at reasonable rates? We all gotta help.

One last item in the "overall experience" category: Don't believe what the website tells you about the rates. We had a 12:06 tee time, chosen because the rates -- according to the website -- drop from $52 to $40 at noon. When we checked in, we were told we actually could have started earlier ... that the rates go down at 11 and again at 2. But we paid $42. Not a deal breaker, but still.

I'll gladly pay it again ... just as soon as I can ... after I spend some time on the range, and read a little more of "Fearless Golf."

Sleepy Hole 9th

Beautiful day, but fear is winning!
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Getting ready for Sleepy Hole!

Off to Suffolk's Sleepy Hole GC in the morning, a Nuther Duffer favorite.

To prep, I've been paging through "Fearless Golf" by Dr. Gio Valiante.(Isn't that Italian for "great courage"?)

It's an appropriate read, cuz Sleepy Hole does have some fear-inspiring holes.

What does the good doc recommend?

Among other things, preparation. So I'm pretty well screwed there. See, one of the things that go into the making of a Nuther Duffer is a lack of time.

Nuther and Fluffer Duffer
Nuther Duffer did not spend Saturday at the driving range. He spent it giving his little dog, Fluffer Duffer, a flea bath. And bombing the house. And spraying the yard. And vacuuming rugs.

So instead of practice, Nuther Duffer will have to turn to the Golf Buddha and rely on meditation and karma.

I think that'll turn out OK.
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