Friday, April 29, 2016

Round Reflections: Much Improved, Still More To Do

Five shot improvement from last time, as I was more accurate off the tee and my new 60 degree wedge helped me in the tight lies around the green. I really felt good about this round! I hit 100% more greens (up from one to two, haha), without really working on my swing that much. I've been doing a lot of chipping practice in preparation for this week to try to scramble a little better, and indeed I did do much better in that area.
But putting got the best of me again today. Three-putted SEVEN of NINE holes! That's seven strokes I might not have taken if I had sunk it in two. Total score killer. The greens were a bit slower from aeration but that's still no excuse. To fix that I'll up my practice to twice a day just to get the feel of hitting it solid and accelerating through. Even 10 more minutes each day will be good for that.
Saw a fox on the third hole too which was kind of exciting. One of the things I love about golf is the connection it gives me to nature. I also loved the weather today, strangely. It was cool and damp and a teeny bit drizzly, but not windy. Mentally I was in a good place too. I had a little more pressure on myself when we started, but once I settled in and relaxed things started to feel better.
One more round till the league sets my handicap! I know it will be recalculated every month but I still really want to be in as high of a flight as possible. But all I can do is stick with the process and not worry about that outcome!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

SMH, Golfsmith.

So today I took a club to Golfsmith to get it regripped, toddler in tow. He loves that store, lots of things to grab and space to walk around. The sound it makes when I hit a ball in their demo area is hysterical to him.
I headed straight to the back of the store and was waiting (and waiting, and waiting) to be helped, so much that I had already picked out the grip I would need (basic black, undersized, no wraps). Finally an employee who was escorting a different customer to the tech area found me. He left them and I alone to go get another guy since he didn't "do grips."
After I had finally gotten the help I needed, I spent some time wandering the store with the kiddo so he could run out some energy (and I could peruse the merchandise!).
Kiddo was getting in the way of a third customer rolling some putts on the green. I tried to wrangle him when the employee exhales, "OH, you're with him!" I look over and he's pointing to the customer putting. It's as if now my presence made sense, the conundrum finally solved to his relief.
No, we're not, I tell him. "Oh," he says.
I get that I must look a little funny shopping at a golf store with a toddler, but surely this man has seen women even without children shop in his store, right?
I see some Hank Haney chipping nets on sale and decide to grab one to give a try, since right now I use the kiddo's wagon and some other toys for targets (#momlifegolf). Still in the area, the employee comments that I've found a great item. "Will it be used indoors or outdoors?" he asks, eager to talk about it.
Mostly indoors, I say, my hands full as I try to keep the kiddo from knocking over an entire row of putters.
"Well it's great for that," continues the employee, "does he have any of the plastic yellow balls for indoor chipping? He would need those, they're really great for him to practice short game!"
Wait, he? Who is he? Obviously not the baby, right? And we've clarified that that other man is not part of my party...
Ohhhhhh, this guy wants to know if the man he assumes I'm shopping for needs anything else.
No, I have some already, I say, emphasis on the I, and head to checkout.
There was nothing more I felt like needing to be said. He wasn't rude, per se, just ignorant. It wasn't insulting, just disappointing, and actually I was a teeny bit embarrassed for him. I was wearing a golf hat, for Pete's sake. I had picked out an undersized grip for a women's hybrid iron, which he saw me carry in. The clues weren't super obvious I guess, but definitely there.
SMH. Let me say that I don't feel like I've suffered a ginormous transgression or have been discriminated against. This is obviously a #firstworldproblem, just annoying.
But on the plus side, it kept me from spending much more money, because I was about to drop some dough on full-price new polo styles, and maybe a cute gingham print visor. Dodged one there!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Getting Back my Back after Baby

Do you have a hobby you love so much it's more like a passion?
I do, it's playing golf.
Do you ever wonder how you can feed that passion within the logistical constraints of the realities of your life?
I do all the time. And that's why I've started this blog.
I'm Becca, a devoted wife and mom who coached college golf for five years before a cross-country move shifted my profession from coaching golf to being our baby's primary caregiver (I still haven't found a version of "Stay at Home Mom" I like, but that's what I am now I guess).
I love being with the little guy (he's amazing!), but golf is constantly on my mind. As a coach, I had ample resources to play lots of golf but little time to do so. Now, I have ample time to play but little resources to do so. For several months I wallowed in a pool of self-pity until one day I couldn't stand the thought of driving by another course and wondering, "why can't I be out there?" I put a plan together and decided this summer was going to be the start of me balancing life and golf.
As a coach, I led a team to many major accomplishments. It was amazing to coach such a talented group of athletes and I grew a deeper love and understanding of the game. Now, I'm going to try to coach myself - which might be the biggest challenge of all.
I won't give up on my love of playing this game. It's just harder for me to do so now, and that's OK. I've begun this blog as a way to document my experience of trying to be the best I can be within the real, but not insurmountable, constraints of my new lifestyle. I also will explore anything about golf that makes me happy.
Thanks for joining me on this journey!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

So what do you do with the baby while you golf?

I push him in his stroller while I carry my bag. It torches calories. In no time I'll lose those last pesky pounds of baby weight and I can go shopping for new skinny jeans and bikinis for summer! I dress him like one of the caddies at Augusta and it's SO cute. He really enjoys the scenery and it's so much fun to spend time together.
Just kidding. Sort of. I have definitely thought about doing that. When he was younger, like around 6-8 months, he would easily nap in his jogging stroller and was never very vocal. So had my back been healthier (pregnancy does a number to you!) and had I had not spent my time moving cross-country, he would have been the perfect playing partner.
But now, at 16 months, he's movin', shakin', and vocally, vehemently,  against sitting for longer than an episode of Sesame Street (the HBO kind which is shorter than PBS). So while I can't wait to get him out on the course and show him all that entails, that's going to have to wait.  (And I'm still very serious about the caddy outfit).
I write this fairly boring post to hopefully illustrate how tough it is to secure quality child care for anything, let alone something as non-serious as golf. Although there are some fancy schmancy clubs with daycare rooms, we can't manage those kinds of luxuries -- so hourly care it is. A full round of golf can take up to 5 hours at some courses (or more, 9 holes a few months back at a local public course took four hours alone!). Depending on where you live, childcare can easily be $15 bucks an hour or more, and that's for just one kiddo. Tack that on to ever rising greens fees and it can easily wipe out a family's budget. But I'm not willing to wait until he (and whatever future nuggets I may have) are school-aged to get in some rounds.
I looked at the websites like Care and Sittercity. On top of what I would have to pay the sitter, there is a monthly fee, and I wasn't entirely confident in the reviews concerning their background checks.
But over the past several months of living in our new city, we've gotten to know our neighbors very well. I'm very good friends with one who also stays home with her daughter who is just a bit older than mine. She's an artist who has a home studio, and we talk often about our interests and work as a core component of our identity and how we so much miss being able to do those things full time and yadda yadda yadda a little bit of self pity and whining about stay at home mom life with a confidant. She's also GREAT with my kid, and knows how hard I've looked for a babysitter being new to this city. So, she did me a huge one and offered to help me by watching him while I golf!
We've worked out a trade of sorts. I am paying her for each hour, but we deduct any hours that she might need. So last week, she watched mine, and this week I watched hers. Win-win.
And the bonus is that a morning with a playmate gives my little guy an EPIC afternoon nap. For which I can get in more practice...
Thankful to have made some friends and earned a bit of luck in this department!

Monday, April 18, 2016

At-Home Practice: Equipment that works for me (and what doesn't)

  When I made the decision to commit myself to playing regularly this year, I knew that at-home practice would be key to my success and enjoyment. Financially and logistically, there's not much I can do to get to a "real" course daily. Right now, I make time to practice during the 1-2 hours I get to myself while the little one naps. Today I'll share with you what I've found that works for me as well as what gaps I believe I still need to fill in to get the best golf practice possible at home.
Disclaimer: I was not asked to review these items by any of the companies listed. I have no affiliation with them. I purchased them with my own money after doing my own consumer research. The links provided are not affiliate links; I will not earn anything from readers purchasing the items or even visiting the links. These opinions are entirely my own, and are just that: opinions. 
I chose to go with the SKLZ brand of golf training tools. In my last season coaching the college team, we invested in a number of their items and I found that they held up very well the course of a year, even with 20 athletes sharing them and using them 3-5 times a week. So I felt confident in the investment, and didn't really shop around too much for comparable brands.
Our deck is spacious, leaving enough room for full swings with a net. I picked the 6x6 foot Quickster Net, which assembles and disassembles in mere minutes. For someone of my height (5'6") and strength level (slow-to-medium swing speed), it's more than adequate for taking hits with wiffle balls. If I weren't in a town home with the windows of my neighbor's homes around me, I would totally try to stake it down and hit with real balls, but the practice balls work fine. I purchased them several years ago and they can be found at many major retailers. On a side note about practice balls, I wouldn't over think them. If you use the net, you won't get to see how they fly anyway. SKLZ makes nifty foam ones that we used which were nice because they had lines you could aim with and they held up very well, but I'm doing just fine with my wiffle ball version.
SKLZ 6x6 Quickster Net (image:
Next, I purchased the Glide Pad for my hitting surface. What I like about the Glide Pad is that it is designed to give a little to simulate what it is like to hit a divot off real grass. My players loved this because it doesn't feel like the mats you hit off of at driving ranges, and those with wrist or elbow injuries didn't need to hold back. My only gripe is that to use it, you must grip down a little on your clubs because the mat is a little higher than the ground. SKLZ makes a Stance Trainer that allows you to stand at the proper height for the Glide Pad, but I passed.
SKLZ Glide Pad (image:
For putting, I bought the Accelorator Pro Compact putting mat. This is a smaller version than the one my team used, which had a nifty little ball return. But, I like this one better. It feels a little more durable, and honestly how often will I putt completely straight flat putts outside of 3 feet anyway?
SKLZ Accelorator Pro Compact (image:
The last thing I bought was a three-pack of Eye Line's Ball of Steel. Five times the weight of regular golf balls, these are fantastic for drilling in the feel of accelerating through the ball with a square face. I love the feedback it gives and how quickly I can correct errors myself.
Eye Line Golf Ball of Steel (image:
I'm happy with these tools and how quickly I can get going after little one hits the hay, but my practice does have some inadequacies. These include:
  1. Proper chipping practice. I feel like chipping to a net or basket is good for drilling proper impact, but honestly you really need to see how balls land and react on greens to develop your feel. Chipping is such an essential scoring skill!
  2. Bunker practice. Again, nothing compares to the feel of sand beneath the club head.
  3. Long putts. Not to be super repetitive, but its hard to replicate the feel of lagging a breaking putt on a real green. SKLZ does make a long putting mat to try to answer this problem and I used it with the team, but we never really liked it and it is pretty bulky to store and takes a little longer to set up. I also don't think it's as durable as their other products.
So there you have it, a run-down of the bare necessities of my home golf practice set-up. It all fits easily in the corner of a closet when not in use, and should last me several years so the cost will be worth it over time.
Do you have any at-home practice tool that has been essential to your game? Share with us!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Round Reflections: A long way to go

Well, round one of my first time in a ladies league is in the books. I had such lofty hopes for how it would go – I dreamed that I would be the obvious contender for League Champion, a stylish newcomer hitting every green and sinking putt after putt. My, oh my, did I get a helping of humble pie. I loved everything about my morning, but my game just needs some improvement. And because I trust all of you not to tease me too much, I'll be open about my score.  In my first competitive round in four years, having played maybe 10 times total between then and now, and after recovering from the journey of birth, I shot a fabulous 23-over par. Eek.
I learned from the teachers at Vision 54 that the best way to analyze one’s round is to ask yourself three questions: “What went good? What could go better? How do you do that?” They call it “Good/Better/How.” At first the list of things that can get better might be longer than the things that went well, but if you make a conscious effort to track it over time you might find that your list of good things gets longer and longer. It also helps to make a positive light on even the most frustrating parts of a round and frame things in ways that feel more actionable.
I took care of all the tiny things well before this morning so that I could make it as easy as possible to simply wake up, get myself and the baby dressed, make breakfast, walk the dog, and take the kiddo to my neighbor’s house since she is graciously babysitting for me this summer so I can play. Several days ago I set aside my entire outfit for today down to my socks and underwear. Yesterday, I cleaned out my bag of extraneous items and repacked only the things I needed. I’m glad I took these meticulous steps, because the ease of my morning helped me get into a good mental and emotional state to play.
I also did not let bad shots get me down today. I felt like I was in a good place in terms of wanting good golf to happen but not “needing” it to happen. I allowed myself to be disappointed but I did not get super worked up about anything, which helped me keep my focus on the next shot. Some rounds feel like a roller coaster but today just felt pretty even keel.
I missed quite a few short putts today for tap ins – to be exact, I three-putted five times. I could have saved 5 strokes simply by not missing within 3-6 feet! I knew my lag putts might be an issue, but since I have a putting tool at home, I felt more confident than this at short ones. (How I’ll improve: I’ll work more with my weighted ball and putting mat to make sure my form is in shape)
My wedge game could also use improvement. This course is not too tough, but man were the pins in tight places! Somehow I seemed to find all the tight lies. This illustrated to me that I desperately need to get myself a sand wedge and lob wedge for these tough situations.
Let’s pause for a moment, because you’re likely wondering if you read that last statement correctly. Yes: I, someone who coached a college team and who myself wants to play as competitively as possible, do not have a sand wedge.  I know excuses are like assholes, but here’s mine (excuse): I was not fit for one when I got my set many years ago (long story), and because the frequency of my rounds decreased so drastically, I just never got around to replacing it. I’m actually pretty good with my pitching wedge out of the sand if you can believe it, but I also work to avoid sand at all costs. However it’s impossible to think that a pitching wedge can work for the tight lies I’ll encounter this summer on this course. I also know my scoring can improve drastically simply by playing the right clubs. (How I’ll improve: I’ll invest in some new wedges – maybe even a completely new set of clubs if I’m lucky. I’ll also practice the shots I think I’ll need from tough lies).
 Also, I felt that my swing was very fast today. I even whiffed a drive because I swung too hard. Classic hacker mistake! (Since momma didn’t raise no hacker, I’ll work on tempo and control so that I don’t lose strokes being a muscle head.)
Lastly, I wish I had asked the starter if the groups were on schedule. I arrived in time to putt and chip for a few minutes before I was set to tee off, but then incorrectly assumed that all was on schedule. By the time I had learned that they were so far off pace, I had waited by the tee in the morning chill for 30 or more minutes. At that point I only had 10 minutes left which wasn’t enough time to even wait in line to buy a bucket to hit. I ended up making nice conversation with other players, but I wish I was more warmed up (To avoid this mistake next time, I’ll definitely make sure to ask!)
I loved everything about today though, even in light of my errors. While my score wasn’t great, at least I have two more rounds before my handicap is set to improve my chances of getting in the best flight for my abilities. I am also so thankful for a number of things today: that the weather was ah-mazing, that my playing partners were so nice, that my pre-baby golf clothes fit, that we budgeted some money for me to get to play this year, and most of all, that my friend and neighbor offered to watch the kiddo so I could play. All in all, a great start to the season.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Golf as an Identity Project

I read an article recently that reviewed some research done on inner city kids about the factors that led them to a more successful life later on. one of the biggest contributors to success was whether they had an "identity project." this was essentially a hobby, but one that ran much deeper into the core of the child, and exploring this hobby lends to greater confidence and better outcomes in other parts of their lives. It's really a fascinating concept, and immediately I realized that that is EXACTLY what golf is to me: my identity project.
For a little backstory: I did not fully appreciate my love of the game until after college (played four years for an NCAA DIII), when I was fortunate enough to have one of my FOUR part-time jobs be to coach the very high school team that gave me my start. The three hours I got with those athletes every Tuesday and Thursday were the best hours of my week. We even won the first tournament I coached with them, which also happened to be my birthday. (BOOM).
Then what feels like sheer luck, I landed what would be the coolest job I could have ever dreamed: coaching a men's and women's college team. To this day, I'm still like, how the hell did I get so lucky? And I LOVED doing it, every minute. It was challenging early on, but so wonderful, especially a few years into when I really assembled my team from freshmen to seniors with student athletes who fit with my style. The only drawback to this dream job was that the time for ME to actually play, practice and compete was basically nothing. It was all about the players getting better (as it should be), managing the administrative side (travel, budget), and recruiting (a 24/7/356 grind). But I loved it. Even when we welcomed our sweet baby into the world, it was the dream working mom's gig.
It came to a bittersweet end after five great years (or hopefully this is just a break!), when my spouse's job (he's pretty awesome btw) offered a promotion too sweet to pass up. The cross-country move meant that suddenly I was a stay-at-home-mom. The irony was that before, I had ample resources yet no time; now I had ample time but no resources. C'est la vie. Fortunately, I have the support of my husband to start playing for my own pleasure again. I've signed up for a league, and I'm damn anxious to play.
Which brings me back to how this is an "identity project" of sorts. I believe that personal interests should be nurtured, and everyone deserves the opportunity to do what they love, even for a small part of their week. Fortunately, my husband agrees and thus is being supportive and encouraging.  From my years of coaching, I also believe that anything worth doing in life should be documented -- whether that's playing stats, or just the enjoyment of the game. With that in mind, welcome to the blog where I will ramble to no end about my experience.
Are there any other golf-fanatics out there who get me? Would love to hear from ya.