Mr. Big Shot

There is snow on the ground now, but this past weekend managed to be wonderful for golf.

Going in to the weekend, I had to get ready for Sunday’s annual “Car shamble” at Muskego Lakes Country Club.  
I bought a new driver on Friday during North Hills’ pro shop sale – $149 for a brand new TaylorMade R1 with a stiff shaft was simply too good of a deal to pass up on. Saturday morning was my chance to try it out at North Hills, and it did not disappoint: I had six good drives and five that were not lost. I can work with that! 
Sunday was the annual Muskego Lakes car shamble, which is maybe my favorite end-of-the-season tradition. My friends Justin, Jimmy, Jeff and I teamed up and were hoping for a good finish. 
One of the great things about the car shamble is that, regardless of how your team places, there is almost always a chance to win something. Following last year’s event, our team finished much better and was chosen for the post-tournament 18th hole shoot-out: A 100-yard shot uphill against 19 other competitors. I choked, badly, hitting my attempt fat. I had the second worst shot in the entire competition, and have to admit that my mind has gone back to it too many times in the past year.
What I consider to be my “Funny story” about last year’s car shamble involves the event’s follow-up: While on the course, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel golf writer Gary D’Amato met up with us and hung out for a few holes. We talked extensively about golf writing and Wisconsin/Midwest golf, and he told me to make sure I check out the article the following day.
“‘It’s kind of weird,” said Paul Seifert of Menomonee Falls, “But it’s pretty cool.'” That was my principle quote used for the article, making me wonder: “Am I not as smart as I think I am?” Seemed likely.
This year, our team played horribly, shooting +12 and finishing in thirteenth place. The good news: The first, fifth, seventh and thirteenth place teams were slotted to be in the shoot-out. Finally, my shot at redemption!
Jeff and Jimmy preparing for our shoot-out on 18
As the worst qualifying team in the shoot-out, our team led off. I chose to start, and with an inward wind and the green uphill, was between clubs with a pitching wedge and 52-degree. I chose the 52-degree, and took a couple of practice swings, to which the course owner said, “We’re not planning on being here all night, guys.” I shook it off and swung hard. The ball came out unbelievably high and straight at the pin. It faded a bit, and landed what looked to be about ten feet right of the hole. 
There were some claps from the crowd, and I was told I should at least take my hat off to acknowledge the cheers. I did, but didn’t think the result was THAT good.
All four of our team members hit the green, and another guy looked like his approach actually hit the hole and rolled around it before coming back down the front. It turned out he put too much back-spin on the ball, having landed just inches from the pin. One of the ladies, in blue jeans and a Packers Starter coat, hit her shot really tight, and two of the other jean-wearing ladies in her group looked to be just as close. 
When all was said and done, and the crowd “Swarmed” the green to measure the shots, I was somehow second closest, pin high and about eight feet right, to split the pot of $380. 
Finally, I can forget about last year’s choke, and in pressure situations start thinking to myself, “Okay, Mr. Big Shot, let’s put this tight.”

23 Months "Achieved" – Today’s Round at Currie Park

Currie Park is not officially open today, but as I was on my way down to Muskego Lakes Country Club to get out on this beautiful January day, I noticed a number of players walking around Currie off of 45-South.

If you ask me, playing Currie is the same as playing any course at this time of the year – it’s about getting on the course and finding out how my swing has survived the off-season so far, and about finding out whether or not my new swing is as good as it has been at the driving range.

To answer those questions: The game’s not too bad – my short game hasn’t missed a beat (and I love the new wider grips on my wedges and putter), and 150 and in was as good or better than most of 2012. The straight and consistent driving that I’ve seen on the range, though, did not translate to the course. I typically found myself in the trees, and hit only one fairway in nine holes (the ninth hole, of course).

So the streak continues. I would love to know if there is a record in this state, because I’m guessing I’ve got to be getting close.

2011:
March: The Preserve at Deer Creek
April: 10+ rounds
May: 12+ rounds
June: A lot of rounds
July: A bunch rounds
August: 9+ rounds
September: 7+ rounds
October: 6+ rounds
November: 5+ rounds
December: The Bull at Pinehurst Farms

2012:
January: The Bull at Pinehurst Farms
February: Missing Links (par 3)
March: 13 rounds
April: 11 rounds
May: 22 rounds
June: 16 rounds
July: 18 rounds
August: 20 rounds
September: 10 rounds
October: 8 rounds
November: 4 rounds
December: Mee-Kwon Golf Course

2013:
January: Currie Park

As a side note, what is up with the green on the sixth hole at Currie? On a course with relatively level putting surfaces, the sixth is crowned highly in the back, with the slope falling quickly on all sides. I had a great approach shot on this hole with a five-wood from the rough, only to three-putt for bogey. Ugh. I’ll take a 46 on January 12, though 🙂

Hole 6: Par 4 (391/368/350)
 
Turkey on the 7th hole

Hole 8: Par 3 (137/114/94)
 

22-Month Streak in Jeopardy?

To this point I have played golf in Wisconsin for 22 consecutive months, which is a streak I intend to continue.

With a recent health issue, though, and the cold weather and snow on the ground, I’m starting to worry about my prospects of getting out this month.

January golf at The Bull with my friend, Adam
 

Here is how my streak has gone so far:

2011:
March: The Preserve at Deer Creek
April: 10+ rounds
May: 12+ rounds
June: A lot of rounds
July: A bunch rounds
August: 9+ rounds
September: 7+ rounds
October: 6+ rounds
November: 5+ rounds
December: The Bull at Pinehurst Farms

2012:
January: The Bull at Pinehurst Farms
February: Missing Links (par 3)
March: 13 rounds
April: 11 rounds
May: 22 rounds
June: 16 rounds
July: 18 rounds
August: 20 rounds
September: 10 rounds
October: 8 rounds
November: 4 rounds
December: Mee-Kwon Golf Course

2013:
January: ?

I’m sure I’ll find a way to get out at some point, but I’ll have to seize whatever opportunity comes up. Happy New Year, everyone, and thank you all for your readership!

“It’s Kind of Weird, But it’s Pretty Cool”

Yep, that was my quote in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about yesterday’s “Turkey Shamble” at Muskego Lakes Country Club:

We were blessed this past weekend with beautiful un-Winter-like weather, and my friends and I were excited to take advantage of the high-sixties temperatures by participating in yesterday’s event.

What makes the Turkey Shamble different from other golf events? For one thing, it is held in mid-November during normally frigid Wisconsin weather. Most notably, though, it is the only area event that allows golfers to drive their own cars on the course. Except for on the par five sixteenth hole, Muskego Lakes has a continuously running cart path that when followed will keep cars and carts off the grass entirely.

Our team consisted of two of my best friends, Jason and Jeff, and friend and golf consigliari, Nelson. Jeff is a member at Muskego Lakes, an excellent driver of the golf ball and consistent short game player. Nelson is a student at UW-Milwaukee and manager of a local Golf Galaxy. His help with club-fitting and my overall game over the past year has been invaluable. Jason is a consistent player and excellent putter. We figured to have a pretty competitive team.

Nelson texted me the night before that the winning team on Saturday finished at -22. I relayed this information to Jeff, who responded, “Well sign me up for a good time, then.” Deal.

Jason and I got to Muskego Lakes at 8:15, hoping to get in a few swings. The driving range was out of commission, though, as it would be used to set up cars for the day’s event. We opened the tailgate of Jeff’s Honda Pilot and laid all four bags in with the clubs facing outward. Our super-charged golf cart was prepped and ready to go, so we hit the putting green and got a feel for the speed, which was pretty quick for November 11.

We were briefed on the rules prior to heading out: For the shamble, each player hits off the tee, and the best tee shot is then played (like in a scramble). From there, all four players hit their own ball and record their own score. The team’s best two scores are used on par fours and fives, and the best three scores are used on par threes. For rules on shambles, as well as a variety of other golf games, feel free to check out this article from April:

Our round started out well when my tap-in eagle on our first hole, the par five dogleg left twelfth, had us on pace early for a final score of -36. I somehow avoided tweeting this fact, and we moved on to our second hole of the day.

Opening hole tap-in for eagle on hole 12 (par 5)

The par three thirteenth is 165 yards and played straight in to a 25-plus mile per hour wind. Hitting long irons, no one was able to get near the green and we carded three bogeys, bringing our score up to +1 and above par where we would remain for the day.

Long-time Milwaukee Journal Sentinel golf writer, Gary D’Amato, caught up with us on the tee box at thirteen, which was a bit of a thrill for me as a fellow golf writer and reader of his articles for many years. He joined us for several holes, asking questions about the event, talking about Wisconsin golf and, of course, the Packers who were on a bye.

The strong, swirling winds at Muskego Lakes seemed to be directly in to us on every hole. On most tee boxes, someone would say, “Well at least we’ll have the wind on the [seventeenth] hole.” Nope, straight at us again.

The wind would prove to make for an incredibly challenging day of golf for our team, as we finished in tenth place at +7, but a great time was had by all. The winning team on Sunday finished at -8, while the team who shot -22 the day before (including Nelson’s dad) finished at -7.

The car shamble at Muskego Lakes is a unique opportunity to enjoy November golf in Wisconsin, and an even more unique opportunity to drive regular cars around a golf course without getting kicked off. For these two reasons, I think if you were to ask anyone at the event, “What’s it like playing golf in cars?” I think eight out of ten would agree: “It’s kind of weird, but it’s pretty cool.”

It’s cool enough that I’m looking forward to making the Muskego Lakes Car Shamble an annual event in my own golf season.

Looking Forward: Not Looking Forward To It!

Well all of you Wisconsin golf enthusiasts, as I look at the weather.com forecast it looks like we have tomorrow and Thursday left of our season.

Tomorrow will supposedly be in the 70’s and sunny in Green Lake, where some friends of mine and I are planning on spending a day off of work in shorts and short-sleeves at the legendary Lawsonia.

At Chambers Bay, a guy I played with recommended the website GolfClubAtlas.com. If you have not heard of this, I recommend checking it out. What makes it interesting is that it examines courses from the viewpoint of a course architect/designer, so it explains what makes a course like Lawsonia special. Here is their review of Lawsonia’s Links course:

For the remainder of the season, $65 will get you rounds at both the Links and Woodlands courses. We will be playing the Links in the morning, and the Woodlands in the afternoon. After a warm but potentially stormy Thursday, Friday should drop in to the 40’s with no more occurrences in the 50’s or higher in the foreseeable future. 
If you’ve got PTO available, my recommendation is to use it tomorrow (Wednesday), or maybe take your chances on Thursday.