Blackwolf Run Hole #7, Kohler Wisconsin

Rules of Golf Gets a Facelift

On the 5th hole of last years’ US Open at Oakmont, Dustin Johnson had begun to move his putter behind his ball; before addressing the golf ball, it rolled slightly back. Seeing that the ball had moved they ended up bringing in a rules official and because Dustin had not grounded his putter addressing the ball, they came to the decision that there would be no penalty assessed. Upon finishing his round, they brought Dustin in to review video footage of the ball moving. Even though Dustin continued to state that he did nothing to make the ball move, nor did he address the ball, officials decided the putter was in the vicinity and deemed Dustin caused the ball to move. They assessed him a one-stroke penalty. Even with this one-stroke penalty, Dustin still won the tournament by three shots.

Under newly proposed rule 9.2, if the ball or ball marker is accidentally moved there is no penalty incurred. This is one of many proposed rule changes just released by the USGA and R&A. The goal of these changes is to make the rules easier to understand and apply. I also feel there is an underlying attempt at speeding up the pace of play. Reading through the proposed rule changes to take effect in 2019, many of which we have just come to accept. I am very excited about what the USGA and R&A are refining.

I was definitely on the bandwagon of people who hated what took place last year with Dustin Johnson at the US Open. So the changing of that rule seems to be a long time coming, as it has been an issue in way more cases than just last year’s US Open.

Other proposals that I am impressed they are taking on:

  • Being able to repair almost all damage on the greens (exceptions being aeration and natural damage). No longer are you going to have to putt over spike marks. But in all seriousness, come on people, either don’t wear golf spikes, learn how to pick you feet up when you walk, or fix your own marks when you create the damage in the first place.
  • Removing the yellow hazards and marking all penalty areas in red with lateral relief. The amount of times I’ve found myself in yellow hazards has been minimal, but when it’s happened I’ve been unsure what kind of relief I’m entitled to.
  • Others may not agree with me on this one, but the allowing of distance measuring devices. As of now they are stating they would be allowed, and local rules could be put in place to not allow. I am all for this; I feel this has really sped up pace of play. It would be interesting watching the next PGA Tour event, seeing caddies no longer stepping yardage off from the closest sprinkler head.

Interesting rules I never really thought of being addressed:

  • Dropping the ball must take place at least one inch above the ground, no longer from shoulder height. Personally I feel like this takes some of the game of golf away, as it will now be much easier to drop in a wanted area. Gone would be the days of dropping and having it roll into the six inch deep rough a foot away.
  • No longer being penalized for hitting an unattended flagstick while putting on the putting surface. An interesting first take on this one is that if you choose to not take out the flagstick, putt your ball, and it hits the stick and doesn’t go in, you have still not finished the hole and will have to count that stroke to hole out. You are still better off taking the flag stick out when you get close than trying to use it as a backstop.

Rules that I think are going to get some backlash:

  • Search time for a lost ball going from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. I have been part of many a search where we have found it within the 5 and would not have inside of 3. I am okay with this change but we will see how others address this.
  • Suggested no stroke should take more than 40 seconds. I am not sure how this rule will come to fruition. Will competitors be calling this on each other? That could be an issue. As of right now it’s written as recommended but it will be interesting how this gets written in the official rules. The intent of this rule is understood, reducing the overall pace of play, which is needed.

Funniest rule change:

  • Allowing the use of a damaged club. All I can think of when reading this rule is Woody Austin rapping his putter against his head after only getting a 40-foot putt half way to the hole. Just last year, Zac Blair also bent his putter while banging it against his head and was disqualified for then using that putter to finish the hole. In all seriousness the rule this is addressing is quite complicated and if you’re actually still able to use the club you damaged, it does make sense.

These are just a few of the newly proposed rule changes. You can find all of the new rules at:

http://www.usga.org/rules-hub/rules-modernization/text/major-proposed-changes.html

The USGA and R&A are also asking for people to give their feedback. This is so great that they are asking the people that play the game every day for their opinions. You can find that survey at:

https://www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=148674720575

Winter Rules golfing in snow in Wisconsin

Winter rules still for us here in Wisconsin

Accuracy is key, fairways and greens!

Course Review: RTJ Golf Trail at Ross Bridge (AL)

This past week, I had a work conference in Birmingham, Alabama, at the renowned Marriott Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort.

My wife, Kelly, worked in public relations for Porsche when she lived in Atlanta, and she was a tad envious when I told her the conference was at Ross Bridge. She had been to a number of events there and said it was a great resort with good food and excellent service. Her favorite story about the Ross Bridge involves Secret Service agents who were asking about Porsche and gave her an SS pin. She went in her closet and found the pin pretty quickly.

Our conference went well on Tuesday night, and I had the morning’s first tee time on Wednesday to make sure I could enjoy the course before my 3 pm flight home to Wisconsin. I expected it to be a well needed respite from the cold Wisconsin winter, but was actually able to get out on the courses around here beforehand to slap the ball around sans putting complexes.

I got new Mizuno JPX-850 forged irons during the off-season, and they feel phenomenal. I was really excited to hit in to actual greens with them, and I finally got my opportunity down in Birmingham.

The Ross Bridge course is the premier course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. It is really easy to see why the second you arrive at the first tee.

Ross Bridge is the premier course on Alabama’s RTJ Trail, and it’s also the fifth longest golf course in the world (second longest in the United States). Tipping out at 8,191 yards, it’s a beast of a track with out-of-this-world contouring.

ross-bridge-scorecard

The course offers a very nice practice facility, including a range with sand traps and a couple of really nice practice greens. I don’t like to practice often, which is probably why my handicap rarely dips below a 9, but I did roll a few putts to get the speeds and recall a little of my muscle memory and short game instinct.

IMG_6248.JPG

IMG_6252.JPG

People say Robert Trent Jones built golf courses with “Heroic opportunities,” which is one of many things I enjoyed so much at Ross Bridge. The first tee reminded me of the opening drive at a home course called Morningstar – I could look out and know that the left side was dead, but from the on-board touch-screen GPS system knew anything over or right of the central sand trap would get a great kick forward down the fairway.

img_6259

Hole 1: Par 5 (620/573/543/511/463)

The entire fairway past that middle bunker kicks left toward the water, but my drive was perfectly fine and left me a carry of 200-plus yards over wetlands. This course isn’t that tough 😉

img_6263

Hole 1: Par 5 (620/573/543/511/463)

If the shear length of the par five first hole – 620 yards from the tips and 543 from the orange tees I was playing – isn’t enough of a challenge then surely the two green-side traps beneath the elevated green will catch your attention. This first hole is far from a friendly handshake, but one that’ll make you feel really good if you can card a four or five.

img_6267

Hole 1: Par 5 (620/573/543/511/463)

The previous day’s rain made for a cart path only situation on Wednesday morning, and I have to say that this is a fairly tough course to manage from the cart paths – it would probably have been more enjoyable to have just carried my bag. I enjoyed the hell out of the round, either way.

The Ross Bridge course hosted the Regions Charity Classic from 2006-2009, and I’m told was transitioned away partially because of the challenging walk. Being a tough course to walk may have been disheartening for veteran PGA Champions Tour players, but for me the dramatic changes in elevation that permeate the course were enthralling.

The first of those enthralling elevation changes is on the par four second hole.

I have seen a lot of golf holes playing from elevated tee boxes. The par three 17th at Hawks View Como Crossings in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for example, was at one time a ski hill. The 17th at TimberStone in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is probably the greatest elevated tee box I’ve ever seen.

The second tee at Ross Bridge isn’t quite as spectacular as those, but it’s close. Maybe most impressively, it’s probably not even the most dramatically elevated tee shot on the course.

img_6269

Hole 2: Par 4 (467/430/395/322/278)

The second hole plays downhill, giving golfers the impression they can maybe carry 300-plus yards over the sand traps that line the left side of the fairway. The green here is fairly small for the Ross Bridge course, and anything long will find the water past it. Anything left probably will, too, while anything short will find the beach.

IMG_6271.JPG

Take a good look at the third hole from the first hole tee box. You probably won’t get a better look again.

img_6264

View of the 3rd hole from the 1st hole fairway

The course’s starter, Houston, told me that morning that if I couldn’t see where I was going to aim well right, especially on three. I was a bit toey off the tee on three, leaving me right in the middle of the fairway and about 225 yards from the green. The green was completely blind, though, and the hillsides right of the fairway otherwise imply that hitting over them will lead to good fortunes. Not true – turns out you want to play the ball well right. I tried to hit well right and hit just right (in general) – I found my approach shot ten yards below the green complex and was happy in general that it didn’t roll further down the hill in to the water.

Continue reading

Product Review: Callaway GBB Epic

A couple of months back there was a lot of talk around Rory Mcilroy. And it wasn’t about breaking off an engagement or winning another tournament. It was about him hitting a new piece of equipment from a brand that not many people expected to hear Rory moving to. He had been seen last fall hitting the TaylorMade M2, just like Tiger was. With Nike going away from the golf club business, their tour players were all up for new club deals. There seemed to be many tour pros going the route of TaylorMade. But another top pick by many of those ex-Nike staffers was Callaway. To the general public, we knew the brand was Callaway; that was the most we knew about the new driver Rory and others were testing. Then came some Instagram posts and a new commercial… with two bars and the sound of something banging against metal finished by the slogan “Something Epic is coming 1.27.2017” and Callaway’s logo.

Callaway’s new driver, the Epic Great Big Bertha (GBB) has two titanium rods behind the face, that they call jailbreak technology. The Callaway engineers came across this technology when they designed the gravity core in the Big Bertha Alpha and Big Bertha 816 Double Black Diamond drivers.

The gravity core was attached to the sole and crown of the driver; this changed the performance characteristics of the face. This stiffened the sole and crown, so they didn’t bulge as much on impact. The added weight of the jailbreak technology meant there needed to be weight saves elsewhere. With a titanium exoskeleton and a triaxial carbon crown and sole, the crown only weighed 9.7g. This allowed them to design a driver with an extremely high moment of inertia (MOI) and forgiveness. The jailbreak technology stiffens the crown and sole, and then transfers more energy back into the face…translating into higher ball speeds. Because jailbreak technology isn’t reliant on swing speed, Callaway says that the golfers’ club head speed doesn’t matter, all swing speeds will benefit from this new technology.

Other technologies found on the new Epic are the speed step on the top of the crown and the perimeter sliding weight (found only on the GBB Epic not in the GBB Epic Sub Zero model). The speed step is a similar technology to last years’ Callaway XR. For the XR, they brought Boeing in to help design a driver with greater aerodynamics. The perimeter sliding weight found on the GBB Epic model is said to be able to change direction up to 21 yards. On the GBB Epic Sub Zero there are two weight ports that hold a 12g and a 2g weight. There is one port closer to the face and one closer to the back, allowing you to have more forgiveness with the heavier weight in the back, or less spin with the heavier weight closer to the face.

When you hear such great things from pros testing the Epic and read about all this new technology, it makes you want to go see how it performs for you. I did just that. From the first swing of the Callaway GBB Epic Sub Zero driver, I fell in love. The feel off the face is something everyone needs to feel. It’s really hard to explain. It’s very solid, losing a lot of the flex you get from other drivers. While at the same time, it’s so soft it feels like you are able to feel the ball flexing along with the face…those few milliseconds before it springs off. The soft feel may have a little bit to do with the type of ball I have been hitting. I have hit the Epic with the new TaylorMade TP5, Titleist Pro V-1, Pro V-1X and the Callaway Chrome Soft, all premium level golf balls. Immediately I saw average gains of 3 MPH more ball speed and roughly 10+ yards of carry distance. All of this testing being in Wisconsin was done on a launch monitor originally. It wasn’t until our amazing spring warm up this past weekend that I have been truly able to see accurate carry distances outside. Even though it’s warm enough to golf, the ground is still very soft and there is no roll; most of the time the ball plugs. This makes it very easy to laser range carry distances. The soft ground also negates the extra roll you can get from a draw ball flight over a fade. With this club, my carry distance has increased by at least 10 yards. I can’t wait to hit it in regular conditions, since this driver has brought my spin down on average of 500 rpm.

There are a bunch of premium shaft offerings from Callaway at their $500 Epic price point. Their stock shafts are the Diamana M+ Green 40, Project X HZRDUS T800 55, Aldila Rogue Max 65 and the Fujikura Pro Green 62. There are many other premium shafts offered at no up-charge. I loved the feel and performance of the Aldila Rogue Silver 70 so much in my previous driver, that I have the same shaft in my new Epic. This is a low spin, low launch shaft that allows me to keep the heavier weight in the back of the head for more forgiveness, as my spin is already very low with this shaft head combination. So not only are my distances up but my accuracy has improved as well.

Like I mentioned earlier, Callaway has made the Epic in two different head designs. I chose the Epic GBB Sub Zero for myself. This decision was made from slightly better numbers and a better feel. Both of these things are per person. I would suggest testing them both, and depending on swing type and feel, you should see one of them perform and feel better for you. The reason the feel is so different, is the sliding weight track in the back of the Epic GBB. It leads to a different layout of the club head from a weight distribution aspect. I preferred the feel from the Sub Zero model. Anyone looking for more customization options should look at the Epic GBB since there are many more settings to help dial in the ball flight. All of this is similar to what TaylorMade is doing with their M1 and M2 club heads.

With most drivers coming out having technology we have all seen before… and for the first time in a long time TaylorMade not really even coming out with a new driver, the Epic is a driver you need to try.

In my first article I gave you all a brief description of myself and what I am currently playing. In my next article I will take you on a deeper dive into my bag and review how I chose the rest of my current set.

Accuracy is key, fairways and greens!

Meet the Writer: John Ziemer

[By new WiscoGolfAddict author, John Ziemer – equipment reviews and commentary on everything golf]

There are so many people out there who love the game of golf. Golf is not a cheap game, whether you are picking up a bag of clubs from a rummage sale, or going out and buying all of the latest and greatest technology. Every single year, sometimes a couple of times a year, major golf companies release new technology. With the time 18 holes can take and our busy day-to-day schedules, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to then go out and test all the latest equipment. Hopefully I can help save you some of that time, by giving you my unsponsored opinions.

I have been playing golf for 18 years, since I was 14. I’ve played many different sports.  When I was young, baseball filled the majority of my non-snow months in Wisconsin. I had swung golf clubs here and there and taken a couple of YMCA golf classes, but golf didn’t start consuming me until just before high school. My grandfather used to replay a par 3 at our local Muni in Appleton. Playing that hole over and over with him is where the love I have for this game grew. My first full set of clubs by Dunlop (driver through putter) lead me into tryouts for my high school team. From then on, the competitive game of golf has consumed me.

A little run down of my current equipment and what it replaced:

CURRENT                                                                        PREVIOUS

Driver – Callaway GBB Epic Sub Zero 9.0º            Driver – Titleist 915 D3 9.5º

(Shaft – Aldila Rogue Silver 70 X)                            (Shaft – Aldila Rogue Silver 70 X)

3 Wood – Callaway 816 GBB Alpha 16.0º                3 Wood – TaylorMade SLDR 15.0º

(Shaft – Aldila Rogue Silver 70 X)                            (Shaft – Fujikura Speeder 77 X)

Hybrid – Callaway Apex 3 20.0º                                Hybrid – TaylorMade SLDR 21.0º

(Shaft – Aldila Rogue Silver 70 X)                            (Shaft – Fujikura Speeder 82h X)

Irons – Callaway Apex Pro 4-PW                              Irons – Mizuno: 4,5 – MP-53; 6-PW MP-63

(Shaft – Project X 6.0)                                                 (Shaft – Project X 6.0)

Wedges – Titleist SM5 50º, 54º, 58º                         Wedges – Titleist SM5 50º, 54º, 58º

(Shaft – Project X 6.0)                                                 (Shaft – Project X 6.0)

Putter – Scotty Cameron Select Newport 2.5        Putter – TaylorMade Ghost Spider S

Ball – Callaway Chrome Soft                                      Ball – Callaway Chrome +

Shoe – Footjoy DNA                                                      Shoe – Footjoy DNA

I am always looking to be a better player. Although equipment doesn’t make you a great player, it can help you be a better player. I love to test new equipment for look, feel and also what kinds of numbers it produces. But if it doesn’t improve where I am, then I’m not buying it. All golfers have different swings, feels, and looks. Hopefully my equipment reviews will help you find a good place to start, based on what type of golfer you are.

Like Paul told you in a previous post, and as you can see (above), my current driver is the new Callaway Epic. My next post will be a more in-depth look at that driver. In my initial testing, my carry distance increased so dramatically I knew it had to go in my bag. The feel off the face was the best I have ever felt. More to come soon!

North Hills “Cross-Country Club”

This weekend’s been surprisingly warm in Wisconsin, and the near future looks like it will heat up even more with sun and 50’s next weekend.

Could this be the start of the 2017 golf season? For my friend John and me, yes. I saw several guys walking the course with clubs yesterday, and today a few out for leisurely walks. North Hills sets up “winter greens” before the first snow, which involves converting one of the least used tee boxes on each hole to a temporary putting surface to keep players off the greens in case the course becomes golf-able during the off-season.

The wind was howling today! While my weather app told me it was 27 mph from the west, I’m sure the gusts were much stronger. John and I met up at my house, walked to the sixth tee and mapped out potential cross-country holes. When greens are off the menu, it’s all about finding hole layouts that will be as interesting as possible, and I think we did a great job with that.

According to the Wisconsin State Golf Association’s BlueGolf website, the longest a single consecutive hole can be at North Hills is 1,458 yards if starting from the fifth tee and going to the ninth green. We started on the sixth, though, and played to the right-side sand trap of the second hole.

We chose the second hole as our first destination for several strategic reasons:

  • There are four possible routes over the Menomonee River, making strategy for how to cross key
  • The cluster of trees behind and along the second tee that requires you to hit your approach up three or down 16

While our first hole was only 1,063 yards as the crow flies, it played more like 1,085 if going up the third fairway, or 1,107 if going up the sixteenth fairway and then over the trees behind the second tee boxes to the bunker right of the second green.

6-to-2

Our 1,063-yard par 8-ish first at North Hills “Cross-Country Club”

We both teed off hoping to hit huge, high cuts over the tree line right of the sixth fairway, but the wind got the better of us and pushed our drives down six. We both then played great fairway woods over the tree lines toward the fifteenth tees, and played up that hole. We were both hitting great cross-wind shots and each played up the sixteenth fairway before heading straight right toward the second green.

img_8571

John’s third shot from in front of the 15th hole tee boxes

John got me by a stroke or two, so he got to call the next hole. For the second hole of the day, we played from just off the second green to the blue/white tee box on eleven. The shot here is over trees no matter which route is taken, and I hit a gem over several tree lines with a long, high cut. John hit the dreaded straight ball, setting up an interesting angle in to a tight temporary green. We both took fives on this 346-yard par four.

2-to-11

The par four 2nd hole at our North Hills “Cross-Country Club” – 346 yards with all kinds of tree trouble

My favorite cross-country hole at North Hills has always been this one: The black tee box on eleven over the tree line that separates the tenth and 18th holes up the 18th fairway. This sets up an awesome “Road hole,” goading players to bite off as much of the tree line as they can with the risk of hitting the woods if it’s not carried.

11-to-1

The North Hills “Cross-Country Club” Road Hole

With the eighteenth green off-limits, we chose the tiny alternative tee box to the side of the first hole tees. If the greens at Old Macdonald average 14,600 square feet, this one is closer to 150. I hit a solid approach shot and won the hole 4 to 5.

img_8583

The minuscule green on our par four 3rd

Our next hole was our first par three from just left of that temporary green to the temporary green that is usually the women’s tee box on ten. John lasered it at 131 yards, with one really big, really tall tree to carry – and, again, a green that was less than 200 square feet.

The wind was at our back, and John hit a beautiful high fade that sailed over the green in to the ninth fairway. I took note and hit a gap wedge that hit the up-slope of the tee box/temporary green and bounced all the way over the green! It was an easy, short next shot, though, and both John and I hit our approaches close and took threes.

1-to-10

Par 3 from the alternative tee on one to the ladies’ tee on 10


img_8585

Our 131-yard par three fourth

Here’s where the round got interesting…

The course’s distance almost maxes out if going from this temporary green to the women’s tees (small and elevated temporary green) on five, measuring around 1,341 yards.

10-to-5a

The par 10-ish fifth at North Hills “Cross-Country Club” – only 1,341 yards

The distance is nothing compared to the challenge of finding a route to that green! The fourth hole at North Hills, a short, picturesque and narrow 490-yard par five, is only made tighter by having to find a way in between the tree lines that doesn’t begin at the fifth hole tee box.

John’s tee shot from the tenth went toward the first hole, while mine had a sharp cut and stayed in the tenth fairway. It would have been a remarkable tee shot if we were playing the tenth, but we weren’t.

John and I were taking completely different routes for a few minutes – he was playing toward the third hole tee boxes and down that fairway, and I was playing down the tenth, across the seventeenth toward the sixteenth, then across that tree line to the third where we finally met back up.

img_8596

My options for crossing the Menomonee River (completely blind) from just right of the 3rd hole fairway. See a shot you like? I don’t!

In case you want an idea of how difficult a shot it is crossing the Menomonee River from the third fairway over the fourth tee box:

shot-from-3-4

I hit a low punch just left of the fourth tees, leaving as clean of a shot as can be hoped for over the river, up the hill and toward the fourth hole green area that leads to the fifth hole tees.

I hit my first bad fairway wood shot of the day, topping it in to the river from position 1-point-something. Ouch.

John kept hitting big three-woods and then a great chip shot under the trees and on the green. Meanwhile, I hit two trees dead-center before hitting a lower punch shot to the fringe. Here was my path:

10-to-5

My shots from the ladies tee box on ten to the ladies tee on five – great start, poor finish!

Our final hole of the day was from just left of the ladies’ tee box on five to the women’s tee/temporary green on six. The wind was perfectly at our backs, so the plan was to aim toward the half-way house behind the thirteenth green, hopefully leaving a clean wedge between the trees.

5-to-6

Our sixth hole at North Hills “Cross-Country Club” – 300-yard par four


img_8605

The par four 6th hole cross-country tee shot

John got a little snappy, then hit a ridiculous shot over several tree lines that wound up just past the temporary green. I hit an amazing drive, then hit a crappy wedge that wound up just left of John’s nearly perfect shot. A +2 handicap, he somehow found a way to beat me on our last hole even with my dramatically better tee shot! Some day I’ll beat him…

All good times to come to an end. John forgot to take the baby seat out of his car, and my wife had Johnsonville bratwursts in the slow cooker. It was time for us both to go home.

John, a graphic designer, put together this diagram of our hole layouts for the day, including each of our [circuitous] routes from tee to green:

crosscountrygolf-1

Our 3,593-yard six-hole layout at the inaugural North Hills “Cross-Country Club”

One of the best things about playing at a private golf club is the pace of play, and today was fantastic – “we practically had the course to ourselves.” We did, although we saw a handful of folks out hiking the cart paths.

I came in to the day with the tee shot from the eleventh tee heading toward the 18th green being my favorite cross-country hole, but I think now my new favorite is from ten to five. There are so many demanding shots that I can’t wait to try it again.

Cross-country golf is great, but I’ll admit I’m most excited for the regular season to get here.