California Postcards – Aviara Golf

This year, we re-visited California for our winter golf vacation and spent a few days at the beautiful Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, CA.

The golf itself included lots of great holes-

#3 is a short, pretty par 3 over a pond;

#7 has this amazing drop and is all downhill;

#8 is big downhill risk/reward par 5, green guarded by water;

#10 could be a drive over the water feature for a chance at the green in 2;

#18 is a long par four with water in play off the tee and on the approach.

The golf was a difficult test with lots of elevation changes; dramatic water features; uneven lies everywhere; large undulating greens that welcomes 3 putts.  (2 putts for par feels like victory sometimes!)

Finally- some pictures.  There really are no words to properly describe it but it’s fair to say that the pictures doesn’t truly do it justice!

Looking back from #3

Top of the world at #7

Approach on #8

Looking back at the 10th teebox

Ho Hum, another typical par 3 (#14)

The 16th Green

Coming home on the difficult #18

Here’s a compilation from the 2015 LPGA Kia Classic with real pros showing us bogey golfers how to drive over the water on #10 and hitting the green on #16.

 

 

Cold Autumn Golf

 

It started out as a wet, cold, and chilly front 9 but then the skies cleared up and we had a wonderfully quiet and peaceful round on Thanksgiving Monday at the Broadmoor Golf Course.

 

You can see we’re losing most of our leaves in Northern Alberta already – here’s hoping we get a couple more rounds in next weekend before our Canadian golf season is over.

Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course

Stunning.

Jasper Park Lodge is really beautiful.  It is a little more secluded and less commercial than Banff and the course really works well into the land.

There are a good mix of really straight forward holes and difficult challenges where course knowledge really helps. But then again, even if you get distracted by your surroundings and miss a shot, the golf is still great, and the view is phenomenal so your golf attitude factor #GAF for JPL would be crazy high as one of my favourite golf blogger friend The Grateful Golfer would say.

Here are some shots from the weekend…

 

The par 5 10th

The typical tee box view

Hole#14 One of the toughest but more stunning holes

Wow!

Beautiful but tough par 3 #9.


 

After a pretty tough first round, I learned a few things for the second… I better jot down these notes as a reminder for possible future rounds.

  • Hole #3 is a blind tee shot so it was hit and hope the first round.  The way to go is to hit a straight drive over the first tree on the right corner, it’ll fly onto the dogleg right fairway and leave a short iron in for the approach.
  • Hole #8 is a tough one- a straight drive through a tight landing area leaves me with a long iron into the green.  It might make sense to just take an iron of the tee to make sure the ball is in play.
  • Hole #9 is a long downhill par 3, guarded by front bunkers.  It’s an illusion from the tee box that the bunkers are right on the front lip of the green- it’s actually quite a far ways off.  If you just fly over the right bunker, there’s actually a funnel of a fairway that should drain the ball down towards the green.  I found out by accident when I faded a 5 iron of the right hand side and found myself in okay position with a downhill chip.
  • Hole #12 par 3 is a huge green.  Don’t over shoot it, there’s a deep bunker behind.
  • Hole #13 has a blind approach to the green.  It’s probably further right than you think.
  • Hole #14 is the beautiful tee box over the lake onto the fairway.  I long straight drive will actually get you into the forest through the fairway so maybe a 3w or hybrid is smarter.
  • Hole #15 is the deceptively “easy” par 3 where you must hit the green.  Short and it funnels 15 yards back down the hill.  Left and it’s hazards.  Right and it’s deep bunkers.  It’s better to be longer and deeper in the green and be putting than too short.  The green widens up when deeper as well.
  • Hole #16- against my own actions, probably shouldn’t take driver and just land in the fat part of the fairway.  Must stay right on the approach because the lake cuts deep, protecting the front of the green.
  • Hole #18- No need to draw this, just hit the driver straight and the slope of the hill will bring everything back left.

Jasper Park Lodge Swing Clinic

We ended our golf trip at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge to take part in the 3 day spring swing clinic with two CPGA professionals.

Welcome to Jasper Park Lodge!

We were a group of twelve students ranging from beginners to club members.  In addition to sitting down together for breakfast and lunch (the food at the lodge was fantastic), we were lucky to play with 3 different couples during the three days and had a great time.

Day 1 – Putting and Chipping

Our instructor had a lot of putting drills and aids on the putting green for us to give a shot at.  Drills/aids include:

  • A mirror to check your eye line is directly over the ball
  • A block of 2×4 down the putting line to guide the putter head
  • A raised alignment rod to rest the putter shaft on, to again go down the line (this felt more natural to me than the 2×4
  • 4 tees set up in a block about 30 feet away as a lag drill
  • Alignment rods towards the hole to work on the stroke

I spent most of my time in the last station, putting between the alignment rods.  I got the chance to ask my instructor about how he fights the difference in the putting line from when you stand directly behind the ball and when you get into your putting stance.  I use a line on my ball and on my bad putting days, I know I’m fighting with my brain because the aim appears to be off when your perspective is from the side and above the ball instead of from behind.  He gave me a great tip to stand behind the ball and visualize the full putt rolling in first and trust that read before even setting up to the ball.

For chipping, we were taught the putting stroke chip with various clubs.  To be honest, I never practice ever with chipping with anything trusty 54* wedge- and very occasionally my 58* for this short-sided situations.  So here, I got a chance to use my A and P wedge and wow, does it ever roll out fast.  I’d need a lot more practice to figure out their roll- for now, I’m still chipping everything mostly with my sand wedge.  I tend to miss all my chips left and I learned that when I close my stance on setup, I also unconsciously close my shoulder line as well.  This little tip to re-align my shoulder square had me chipping alot closer to target immediately!

Day 2

Today was pitching and sand shots.  Probably the least practised element of my game.  My not-so-graceful pitching technique is to basically grip down as appropriate and take a full swing at the ball.  This leads to general inconsistencies- pulls, pushes and lots of fat!  I can’t tell you how many times I think back on my round about the thrown away shots from under 100y out.

Like chipping, we were taught to take a longer club and take a more controlled 9-9 swing with good tempo.  No rushing the shot.  For example, we were on firm ground hitting into a green with the flag at 50y away.  Usually, for me, this is some awkward grip-down-to-the-metal-full-swing lob wedge.  Instead, I found a soft controlled sand wedge flew the ball much more in the right line and would be at least be on the green even if the distance was a tad short or long.  I think I’ll try to incorporate this new idea into my rounds.

For bunkers, we did the usual “hit the lines and get the sand on to the green” drill.  I had a horrible season from the bunkers last year and made a conscious decision spend time in the practice bunker early this season.  These days, we are being taught to align square to the target and lower the handle to add loft instead of the old-school way of opening up your stance and cutting across the ball.  I still open my stance a touch to help with stable legs.  I seem to be able to get out of bunkers with much more confidence these days.  My thoughts are to basically hit a flop shot (open face, club face finishing facing me and high) but make sure to focus on splashing a particular grain of sand 2 or 3 inches behind the ball onto the green.  I used to think “pick” the grain of sand out but that had me thinning the ball.  The “thump and splash” thought works much better.

Day 3

Finally, we worked on irons and drivers.  I’ve been starting to have problems hitting irons and I’ve finally stopped hooking my drives this season.  Unfortunately, I’m starting to occasionally fade my irons and heavily slicing my drives.  During the session, the instructor told me that my tempo is too quick- I end up using my hands and arms instead of my body on the bad shots compared to turning through properly with the body on the good shots.  He gave me very good advice- to work on a smooth tempo and get consistency in the shot first before feeling comfortable and adding speed.  It made a lot of sense to me so for the last week, I’ve been on the range trying to work on tempo.

My Game

Fortunately, my hard work in fighting my hook has been won.  I even get the occasional dead straight balls. Unfortunately, I’m now also fighting a very obvious fade and slice with shorter distances and having to readjust my club selections.  It’s crazy to be fighting a hook for two seasons, be always aiming right and counting on the ball swinging back left, and then finally not having the club stuck behind me but now facing a slice.

I remember when I used to fight a slice and yearned for a draw.  Then I figured out how to draw but then snap hooked started happened and I wished like crazy to go back to a fade/slice.  Um, guess what?  I made it here and I don’t like it!  I’m going to work on strengthening my grip a touch again and see if I can at least keep the ball in play again!

JPL Swing Clinic Summary

You can find this package here:

http://www.fairmont.com/jasper/special-offers/hotel-offers/golf/springswingclinics/

Package Includes:

  • Three Nights Accommodation
  • Three Breakfasts
  • Three Lunches
  • Welcome Dinner with Golf Professional
  • Two hours of Instruction Per Day (six hours total) with Canadian PGA Golf Professionals
  • One Round of Golf Per Day (Three Rounds Total)
  • Golf Cart and Club Rental
  • Club Storage
  • Food & Beverage Gratuities

I have to say the swing clinic was just perfect.  I didn’t want to go into some swing de-construction and re-construction right now and the pros tried really hard to give every single student one or two important take-aways, customized towards their own swings.  For me, it was all about tempo and not rushing my transition.  For my wife, she learned that she sometimes “quit” on her 3w and need to follow through fully like her driver.  The 2 instructors made us feel really comfortable and the other students were great company.  The rooms were a little warm with AC but it was a comfortable quiet place to sleep.  We even had some wildlife visit us in our back yard-

The included food was in abundance and very good.

Finally, the JPL golf course is a great golf course.  The course is beautiful, surrounded by a mountain view every direction you look, and is fun and challenging to play.  Both my wife and I had a great weekend and thought it was the perfect end to our golf trip.

The highlight of my week was accidentally playing from the tips my first round(the silver tee box really looked like whites!) on number 13- I think it played to 608 instead of 540 from the whites.  I looked at my GPS and I still had 340 left!  I was thinking to myself “wow, this is quite the long par 5, even after a good drive with a tail wind”.  Took 3 hybrid to 150 left to a blind green.  Since this was our first round, we had no idea if my approach was okay or not.  It made it to the edge of the green and 2 putt out for the longest par I’ve made so far.  In later rounds, I discovered paring this hole was a pretty good score for me, even if playing from much closer tee boxes.

Look for more JPL pictures in a future post!

Banff Springs Golf Course

We continued our mountain trip to Banff Springs Golf Course.  Banff was ranked #6 in ScoreGolf’s top 100 courses in Canada for 2014.  Compared to Stewart Creek and Silvertip, this was a much flatter and perhaps easier course.  The course itself is very playable, complete with an occasional ‘wow’ hole framed by the mountains or by the Fairmont Banff Hotel.

We found Banff to be a nice balance between being tourist friendly and great views but to be honest, there are better deals/value for your golfing dollars just 20 minutes south of Banff in Canmore.  For a course that is just as interesting and playable, I’d recommend Stewart Creek.  In terms of pure visual sensory overload, you might want to check out Silvertip first.

Regardless, it was yet another excellent day of golf for the crunchy couple in the mountains!

Welcome to Banff Springs, a Stanley Thompson Design

This is the driving range backdrop

We actually had a huge storm brewing behind us all day long, chasing us all the way to the 18th and luckily, we finished just in time before thunder and heavy rain downpour got to us on the course.  *phew*

 

Silvertip, Canmore

Day 2 of our trip had us golfing the beautiful Silvertip golf resort.

One thing I’ll never get used to is the thin mountain air.  I didn’t grab the right club out of the cart on hole #10 greenside.  I thought I was 30 yards short of the green, but the ball was actually another 60 yards further back.  So that meant a hike back up the mountain (across the fairway) to the cart, then back down to 90yards out, then back up 90 yards to the green, chip on, putt out, then hike back up the mountain slope to the cart.  Wow, I was still trying to catch my breath for the next 2 holes afterwards from all that hiking!

Welcome to Silvertip!

A real pretty par 5. It doglegs right and then straight UPHILL to the pin

A fun par 4. I pulled my drive left of the tall single pine, hit the forest, bounced out and had 200y uphill left to the pin on the right! Hybrid to greenside in between the bunkers (phew), chipped on and putted out.

Looking back on to the tee box on the same par 4 hole

2nd shot on hole #18. We both landed on the right fringe from this area. Hard not to get distracted with the view instead!

Stewart Creek Golf Club

For our annual mountain golf trip this year, we decided to stay on the Alberta side of the Rocky Mountains.  While we love the BC side of things, there are a bunch of great courses right in our own back yard according to Score Golf’s top 100 courses in Canada.

Top 100 Canada

Top 100 Canada

So we started off with the #35 ranked course according to Score- The Stewart Creek Golf Club in Canmore, Alberta.

Stewart Creek Golf Club

Of all the mountain golf courses we’ve played, I’d rank this course as one of the most playable of the mounatins courses with great elevation changes.  Each hole is well designed with fair landing areas and interesting/challenging greens.  Oh, and like all other mountain courses, the views are absolutely spectacular!  My wife and I continued to reuse and overuse this word “Spectacular” throughout the week time and time again.

We did run into a little mix up that turned out to be quite funny.  The golf marshal came by to warn us about a bear on the 5th hole while we were teeing off.  However, he accidentally jumped into our cart with our clubs and drove off by the time we got off the tee box.  He finally found his way back to us after we let a group play through and thoroughly apologized for the incident.  It did break up our flow slightly but we definitely understand the need to try to both the bear and players safe from each other.

In the end, it was quite amusing and it made for a memorable round.

Now for some pictures…

Picture perfect opening hole

 

Pretty par 3. I ended up behind the back right bunker in some rough fescue. Was happy to just chip on and 2 putt out.

This might have been our bear warning hole?

Finishing our round on the beautiful downhill 18th.