Finding Trouble Off The Tee


Posted by Dexter Francois | Posted in , , , , , | Posted on Thursday, December 1, 2011

Arizona Grand Spa & Golf Resort is one of my favorite courses to play here in the Phoenix area. That's one of my favorites when I am playing well and hitting the ball straight. My last round proved to be, not-so-fun due to the fact that I couldn't find the fairways for the life of me.

Arizona Grand has a gorgeous layout with elevation changes that showcase a beautiful desert style course nestled into the rocky ridges of South Mountain. While the scenery can be breath taking, ending up in the desert after a golf shot spells disaster for any chance at scoring well.

Trouble for me started on the first. The tee shot calls for a blind shot up and over a hill. At the top of the hill, on the right hand side, sits a little pond, that if it is your first time playing the course, you have no idea it's there. I aimed way left of the pond but ended up slicing it right into the drink which led to a double bogey.

I actually hit two great drives on holes 2 and 3 which lead to pars. Again, if you keep it in the fairway on this course, you give yourself a great chance to do well. I only managed to hit two more fairways for the rest of my round and found myself having to drop because of multiple unplayable lies. Instead of playing for birdies and pars, I was often playing for bogeys and doubles.

Looks like I need to get back to working on my long game again. Mike Southern of Ruthless Golf wrote an article about which is more important, the long game or the short game. We often hear teachers say that amateurs need to work on their short game because that is the part of the game in which the pros excel. Mike, however, has a different take on it.

In my case, Mike would tell me to work on my long game. Off the tee, I did not give myself a chance at getting onto the green in regulation(if you don't know what this means, Mike explains it fully in his article). The short game is a very important part of golf, but if I'm still off the green after my third shot on a par 4, now I have to chip in just to save par.

So, for me, I'm going back to the beginning. I only had three pars during this round and no birdies. When I was able to play more frequently, I was averaging nine pars and at least two birdies a round. My greens in regulation had climbed from 17% to around 45%. This is why I was shooting in the high 70's-low 80's.

I'm not too worried. It will come back to me. Whenever my game gets a little sketchy, Mike gives me a little advise and reminds me that "I am close." In recent weeks, Tiger has been saying this a lot, because he knows, now that he is able to practice like he used to, it's the subtle tweeks in his game that are getting him back to the player he once was. Like Tiger, I'm close and now that I know what I need to work on, I'm even closer. Have a great round and always hit your target.

Photo found here. – Book Your Tee Time Today!

Something To Be Thankful For


Posted by Dexter Francois | Posted in | Posted on Thursday, November 24, 2011

I am thankful for all of you who have taken the time to share in my exploits on the golf course. Your comments have been an encouragement to me and they push me to keep moving towards my goals. Have a great Thanksgiving Day everybody.

Photo found here. – Book Your Tee Time Today!

I Need A Full Time Caddie


Posted by Dexter Francois | Posted in , , , | Posted on Monday, November 14, 2011

I was watching an episode of Golf Channel Academy today which featured Greg Norman and some of things he does on the golf course to be successful. The segment that caught my attention was when he was talking about visualizing his shots. Visualization and picking specific targets are aspects of the games that separate us as amateurs from the pros.

We have talked about visualizing our intended shots before and I do all I can to stay focused on the course, but sometimes there are just too many distractions that lead to poor shots. Norman talked about how amateurs see all the hazards and everything that can go wrong before a shot. Pros, on the other hand, have tunnel vision. It's like they have those horse blinders on. They don't see the trouble. I've heard pros say that they sometimes narrow their focus to something as minute as a leaf on a tree as an aiming point. We, however, see the entire tree.

The greatest advantage that professionals have over us in my opinion, is that they have caddies to help them stay focused on their targets. Caddies are meticulous when mapping out yardages and gaining overall knowledge of the course (s)he and their player are navigating. If I had a caddie, I would probably be a scratch golfer by now.

As I thought about it, my best rounds have been when I played on courses I had never played before, but was paired with someone who played it regularly. I remember playing at The Phoenician with Patrick Gibbons one afternoon, and even though I had played it once before, I couldn't remember how all of the holes played.

On one particular hole, like a caddie, he told me where I needed to hit it to have the best look into the green for my approach shot. I stepped up to the tee and hit exactly where he had told me to. He commented, "must be nice to hit where you're supposed to."

On another day, I played at Silverado Golf Club for the first time and  I was paired with a gentleman who knew the course like the back of his hand. He guided me through the course for the whole round and I produced some of the best shots I had ever hit in my career.

There was one par 4 that had a blind tee shot over trees in order to get to the fairway. My playing partner pointed out a pole that everyone used as an aiming point. He told me that if I hit it long and just right of the pole, I would end up in a good position. Again, I hit it just as I was instructed to do and was left with an 80 yard shot into the green.

If I always had someone telling me where to hit it, my scores would drop dramatically. It's almost like I didn't have to think about the shot, I just had to execute it, and I think this is a luxury that the pros have. Caddies take a lot of the guess work out of the game. They keep their player in a positive state of mind which translates into better quality shots.

I love when the producers mic a professional during a tournament and we get to hear the conversation that takes place between caddie and player. They talk about what they want to accomplish and it always ends with, "I like that shot" or "I feel good about that." After all the calculations have been made, they know exactly what they are shooting at and in their mind, they have already executed it.

Sure professionals hit poor shots from time to time but more often than not, they are dead on with what they wanted to do. While it is still on the player to hit the shot, a good caddie can be the difference between a shot ending up on the green or ending up in a hazard. This is why I want a full time caddie. Any takers? Have a great round and always hit your target.

Photo found here. – Book Your Tee Time Today!

I Can't Feel My Fingers!!!


Posted by Dexter Francois | Posted in , , , , , , , | Posted on Monday, November 7, 2011

When I woke up for my round at Apache Creek Golf Club yesterday, it was a balmy 48 degrees. Brrrr. There is a low pressure system that is making it's way down from the Pacific Northwest and we are beginning to feel the effects of a cold front that is sweeping through the Phoenix Valley.

I have been very spoiled in the fact that I have lived in places where I can play golf year round. I have always been treated to great weather and have never really had to play in uncomfortable conditions. In Miami we had to deal with rain and high winds, but for the most of the year it was still warm.

The tee time was set for 6:50AM by J.B. whom I had met through this blog via Facebook. We had been trying to set up a time when we could get in a round for months but something always came up whether it was work or family related. J.B. whom I soon found out can hit the ball a country mile, is a morning golfer. During the summer when the sun rises earlier, he is often the first one on the tee for a 5:30 start.

Keeping true to form, we were the first golfers at the course, arriving before any of the employees. It was still dark and for me, very cold. I just kept looking towards the eastern horizon, hoping for a glimpse of sunlight. As we chipped around the practice green with glow in the dark golf balls that J.B. had which were pretty cool, my hands began to get numb. I was beginning to wonder how I would be able to hold my clubs.

After checking in at the pro shop, we headed to the driving range to warm up. Except there was no warming up for me. I had no feeling in my hands and it was hard for me to keep a handle on the grip. It reminded me of my days playing baseball in New England during early March. Mishits with an iron felt like the stinging sensation you get when you hit the baseball off the wrong part of an aluminum bat.

My drive from the first tee tailed off to the right which left me with a long approach of about 205 yards into the green. I hit hybrid and fell short and right of the green. I chipped it pass the hole about 20 feet and was left with a downhill putt. I held the putter as best as I could, let my shoulders swing, and drained it to save par.

Great start. Unfortunately, my hands could not warm up and I missed every fairway on the front nine. When you miss the fairways at Apache Creek, you are at a huge disadvantage. This is a true desert style course and golfers are penalized severely for wayward shots. Having to play many of my shots off of a hardpan lie led to four double bogeys on the front.

It wasn't until the turn that I was finally able to feel my fingers again. The sun had come out, and even though it was still in the low 60's, because of the bright sunshine, it felt a lot warmer. It showed in my tee shots. I hit four out of the seven fairways on the back nine and my iron shots into the greens were a bit more accurate.

I wasn't pleased with my overall performance, but I didn't expect much since I hadn't played in almost a month and a half. While much of my struggles were due to the weather, some of it had to do with being mentally rusty as much as mechanically rusty. When I look back on the round, I made decisions that I know I wouldn't have when I was playing three or four times a week. When I was playing regularly, my golf IQ improved as well as my swing which led to better scores. I just need to get out more and I'm sure it will all come back.

I have a new found respect for professional golfers when they have to compete in less than perfect weather. This past weekend, The Champions Tour held their season ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship at TPC Harding Park GC in San Francisco, California. The temperature was similar to what I faced and on top of that, they had to deal with windy conditions. Yet many of them were still able to shoot par or better. They are that good.

It looks like I'm going to have to invest in some warm golf mittens especially if I'm going to be playing more rounds with a "crack of dawn golfer" like J.B. The cold front is supposed to remain for a while and I would like to have some "feeling" in my shots. It's either that or wait for it to warm up again, but for me, that might take too long. Have a great round and always hit your target. – Book Your Tee Time Today!

My Clubs Are Dusty...


Posted by Dexter Francois | Posted in , , | Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2011

...literally. I finally got out to the driving range yesterday. I hadn't touched touched my clubs since my last round on September 28th when I played at San Marcos Golf Club. Nearly a month has passed and when I pulled the clubs out of the garage they were covered with a layer of dust.

It felt good to pick up the sticks again. I wasn't expecting too much out of the practice session, but I was pleasantly surprised when I started hitting good shots. I didn't want to think too much so I only kept two swing thoughts in my head.

1.) One piece takeaway - If you have read this blog before, you know that I have been working hard on the one piece takeaway. It was taught to me by Mike Southern because he noticed that I was twisting or rotating my forearms as I took the club away from the ball during the backswing. This was causing me to start my swing on too flat a plane which forced me to come over the top on my downswing.

2.) The second thought has to do with this image from a recent post that Mike did called The Top Of Your One Piece Takeaway.

Diagram showing what a properly-done one-piece takeaway looks like

The bottom picture is what caught my attention. Although I understand the one-piece move, I sometimes get a little out of whack after the club passes waist high. This birds eye view gave me a good mental picture to take with me to the driving range. Once I was able to repeat this position, the rest of the swing fell into place.

I ended up hitting around 300 balls. The golfers around me would hit half a bucket and leave. I was happy to pick up where they left off and finish the already paid for bucket of range balls. Needless to say, I am extremely sore today. My shoulders, back, and abs feel like I just finished a CrossFit workout. Even my right hamstring is tight from bending over so much to tee up my ball.

Work has still been hectic and a lot of the courses are continuing the over-seeding process. I'm dying to get back out there. It's a wonder that I have been able to survive without playing for so long.  In any case, I am pleased with the way I hit the ball and hopefully it will carry over into my next 18 holes. If not, oh well. At least I'm on the golf course. Have a great round and always hit your target.

Top photo found here. – Book Your Tee Time Today!

Taking A Little Time Off During The Fall Series


Posted by Dexter Francois | Posted in | Posted on Monday, October 17, 2011

I'mmmmmm baaaaaaack!!! With the onset of the Fall Series on the PGA Tour, I decided to follow in the footsteps of some of the upper tier professional golfers by taking some time off. This is the time of year when the games best take a month or so to recharge their batteries. Which sounded like a good idea to me.

Some players are fighting for their playing cards. Some are trying to get into the top 30 on the money list, which nets them an automatic invite to The Masters. Some, like Webb Simpson, are trying to win as much money as possible. Not that he's greedy. Quite the opposite. He is in a tight race with Luke Donald for the title of Top Money Earning on tour. For those who have secured their cards for the 2012 season, this is a time to catch up with family and friends. The PGA Tour schedule is very hectic and juggling both worlds can get kind of dicey.

My wife and I celebrated our 6th month together on the day I wrote my last post. Since then and now, we were able to spend some quality time together. Both of our schedules had become so busy. We were finally able to relax for the first time since the wedding day.

We took a trip to Las Vegas. Sensory Overload! I'm not much of a gambler, but there was enough sites and sounds to keep me occupied and up all night. I saw The Beatles, Love, my first Cirque De Soleil show. That was spectacular. Looking forward to seeing a few more. We also caught up with some friends we hadn't had a chance to hang out with in a while.

My clubs have been collecting dust during this time off. I'll probably get out at the beginning of next week. I'm anxious to see what kind of shape my game will be in. Currently, I am sitting at a 10.0 on the handicap index and my goal is to get down to single digits before the end of 2011. I'm a little apprehensive because if I am rusty, it will effect my handicap negatively.

I'm hoping that muscle memory will take over and I will be able to pick up from where I left off. Either way, it will be good to get back on the course. This is the time of year when most of the courses in the Phoenix area do their over-seeding. So in reality, I timed my little hiatus perfectly. My favorite courses should be just about ready for play.

Lastly, I'd like to thank those of you who have been following my progress. The Facebook fan page for this blog is nearing the 1000 mark and I m getting good feedback from others who are trying hard to improve as well. Hears to strong finish to 2011 which sets us up for more success in 2012. Have a great round and always hit your target.

Photo found here. – Book Your Tee Time Today!

Practicing The 60 Yard Pitch Shot During My Round


Posted by Dexter Francois | Posted in , , | Posted on Saturday, October 1, 2011

During my last round, I took the advise of Jordan Caron who publishes a blog called Peerless Golf Experience. After I wrote a piece about the dreaded 40-60 yard pitch shot, he had a few suggestions for me.

His first suggestion was simply to avoid the shot if at all possible. His belief is that if I layup to a more comfortable yardage, I will not have to worry about it. I can totally agree with that and I would attempt to do so except for one thing. I have a difficult time hitting my 3-wood. I'm either going to hit driver which sometimes puts me at this awkward yardage, or I'm going hit hybrid and be left with a long iron.

He mentioned that the pros always layup to a distance that allows them to hit a shot they know they are confident executing. That's why we always hear the announcers say, "(s)he's pulling something less than driver to avoid trouble or to leave him(her)self with a shot from 100 yards or so."

Mike Southern has giving me some things to work on as far as my 3-wood is concerned, but I just haven't had the time to practice them. Work and the heat of the Phoenix summers have kind of put my practice sessions at bay. I hit balls before each round, but that is not the time to be learning and trying something new. The weather is cooling down so I will be able to give my fairway wood the attention it deserves, but for now, I just have to get better at this in between shot.

The second suggestion Jordan had for me was that if the course was not busy, go back and hit a few shots from this distance. Going back to my last round, I had a long wait once I arrived at the 17th. For someone reason, there was a three group wait, so after I finally finished the the par 5, 17th and was waiting to tee off on the last, I went back to about 60 yards and hit a bunch of shots.

There was no one behind me, so I had all the time I wanted. If you decided to do this, just make sure you refill your divots and move around a little so that you don't leave a patch like you would on the driving range. Your course superintendant will truly appreciate it.

During this little mini practice session, I was able to hit some good shot. Some of which checked up nicely and ended up near the hole. Mike wrote this article about the fact that there are many ways this shot is taught and just as many ways to play it. This is a great read if you are struggling with this shot.

I just need to get better at hitting this shot so that I can keep lowering my scores. Mike once told me that if I can keep my driver in the fairway, then by all means hit driver. If this is going to be my philosophy then other parts of my game need to be in sync as well. It's a constant work in progress I guess. Have a great round and always hit your target. – Book Your Tee Time Today!

When Back 9's Attack


Posted by Dexter Francois | Posted in , , , , | Posted on Thursday, September 29, 2011

I have to thank The Doctor for the title of this post. We played at The Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort and after I told him my scores for my front and back nine's, he aptly stated, "when back nine's attack."

I had a great front nine, shooting a three over 39. I had two doubles on the front but I was able to get a couple back as I birdied the par 5 fifth hole as well as the par 5 ninth. The only other blemish was a bogey to begin the round on the first. The other four holes resulted in pars.

On pace for a round in the 70's, everything went haywire, and my round quickly went south. The major problem was with my tee shots. I only hit one of seven fairways which led to lots of approach shots from the rough.

San Marcos is more of a traditional course as opposed to the desert courses I had become accustomed to playing. The rough on a desert course and the rough at San Marcos are completely different. On desert courses, everything is perfectly manicured. If you find yourself in the rough, in many instances, you will still have a good chance to get up and down.

The rough at San Marcos however is unforgiving. I lost a couple of balls because the grass was so tall and gnarly. On top of everything else, the crew had just finished mowing and there were clumps of loose grass everywhere(See picture on the right). There were a few times when I was hitting a ball, I could barely see.

So back to the back nine. I began with a double, quadruple, double bogey, and bogey through the first four holes. From three over to twelve over just like that. The quadruple came as a result of a bone head decision on my part. I drove it into the opposite fairway and had a tall tree between myself and the green. I was only an 8-iron away but the tree was tall and the sensible play would have been to pitch it back into my fairway and play for par and at worse bogey.

Instead I went for it and hit the ball fat because I wanted to see where the ball was going to end up.  I then hit a poor pitch back into my fairway and had a shot over a bunker to get to the flag. It wasn't a tough shot, but I was still thinking about had just happened. I lost focus, and put it in the bunker. The bunkers were horrible. They looked nice but they were hard as rock. I actually putted it out of the bunker and then 3-putted to finish with an eight.

I completed  the back nine with a 48 which netted me an 87 for the round. Despite such a poor effort on the back nine, I managed to stay in the 80's. One of my goals for the second half of 2011 was to keep my score in the 80's and lower. There was a time when 87 would have been, "drinks on me". Now it's like, "I need to go straight to the range."

On a good note, I am currently on pace to having a 10.0 handicap average. The day before this round, I played at Club West Golf Club. The 81 I shot that day put me at the 10.0 mark. Despite my 87, the course was a little bit harder with slope of 122 and a rating of 70.7, which I suppose kind of evens it all out.

Another solid round should put me in the single digits and I will be able to cross off another one of my goals for the year. The key for me now is making the right decisions. My quadruple taught me a valuable lesson. It's better to take my medicine and play the smart shot. I would have salvaged the hole and kept myself in a good state of mind. It's better to just give myself a chance. Have a great round and always hit your target.

***This is one of those shots from the mowed rough. You can't see it but there was a tree in front of me. Double Whammy! Hit it fat, but at least got it back in play.

Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The Crowne Plaza (San Marcos Golf Resort) Tees: Championship, Slope: 122, Rating: 70.7

San Marcos Golf Resort Front Nine
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


5 4 5 4 4 6 4 3 4

Putts 2 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1

Back Nine
Hole 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18


6 8 6 4 4 5 4 5 6

Putts 2 3 2 2 2 1 1 2 2

Birdies: 2
Pars: 7
Bogeys: 3
Doubles: 5
Other: 1
Par 3 Avg: 4.3
Par 4 Avg: 5.1
Par 5 Avg: 4.8
FIR: 6 / 14
GIR: 5 / 18
Putts: 28
Putts per GIR: 1.6
Scrambling: 4 / 13
Bounce Backs: 5 / 8 – Book Your Tee Time Today!