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Five & Five


For all the things that 2020 wasn’t – and there were lots of things that were lacking about the previous year – I’m here to tell you that it wasn’t all bad.

Call me optimistic if you want, but I can see celebrating 2020 as a year I got to enjoy in many regards. Keep in mind this is coming from a guy who takes aim at the flag even when it might be prudent not to, but I’d be willing to stack my pluses from the previous 12 months up against anyone else’s and be happy with the outcome.

I got to play some great new-to-me courses, made a return to special place, and decided to take my on-course health in my hands (or perhaps in my shoes). But for all the looking back I’m going to do in this blog, I’ll balance it out by looking ahead at 2021 and sharing what I’m hoping for this coming golf season.

FAB 5 OF 2020

In my mind, there’s no other place to start this list than the decision I made to … buy a new golf bag. Yes, the belated birthday present I gifted myself turned out to be the best thing I did in 2020. It’s a sharp-looking Titleist Players 4 StaDry bag in white with very comfy shoulder straps. The divider took some getting used to, but I was happy to do it. Why does this rank at the top of my look-back list? Simple: it was the logical next step for me when I decided that I was going to forego golf carts in favour of walking each round.

When I made the decision to take my health more seriously and walk every time I played golf (or at least as much as I could), it was a choice I made for two reasons: 1) I wanted to feel more energy while I played, and that wasn’t happening in a cart, and 2) Carts simply weren’t worth the price. I added up the total cost from my 2019 season and realized that cart costs accounted to roughly 35% of what I spent playing – that alone was enough to make me at least think about other alternatives. Factor in a desire to get in better shape (with a polite nudge from my doctor) and choosing to walk instead of ride made far too much sense to ignore.

Coming in at #2 on the list is a bit of a mixture: getting to play two courses I have been wanting to visit for years. The first of which, Fire Rock Golf Club in Komoka, had been at the top of my wish list for a while because it seemed like almost all of my regular golf buddies had played there (without me, I might point out) and told me I was going to love it. Turns out they were right, as Fire Rock proved to be the best new track I have experienced ever. That’s right – ever. The only thing that could’ve made my experience better would have been playing the course mid-season instead of early on in the cold with plenty of rust showing in my game.

New track #2 was Copetown Woods, and I have to tell you that putting Fire Rock over this Hamilton-area gem was tough. We’re talking by maybe 1% tough. There was nothing about Copetown I didn’t like … well, the rain could’ve held off while I was there … and there was the twosome that The Thinker and I got paired up with. But I can’t fault the course for that… right? Right.

Seriously, I was so thankful to play both of those courses in 2020 and it makes me smile to know that the anticipation was rewarded with high-quality experiences in both places. I plan on going back to both as soon as I can, and I would tell you to add them to your list if you’ve never been.

Next on the list is a place I hadn’t played before but a property I had visited for a round a long time ago. I’m talking about my September visit to Legends on the Niagara, as some friends and I braved the stupidly-high winds to take on Ussher’s Creek. The wind was the victor on the day, as none of us played it particularly well, but I still savoured the experience since it was my first visit there since I played the Battlefield course with my late friend Norm Woods some 20 years ago. I took a moment to look over at the closing holes of that course as we teed off on Ussher’s #1, and then took the rest of my round to enjoy the property’s other challenging course. Take the wind of it and Ussher’s Creek is a fun track to play, as all three of us agreed our games weren’t nearly up to playing in British Open-esque conditions. Perhaps under slightly more benign conditions, we can get more than just a few laughs at each other’s expense.

And now, the putter.

Yep, you had to know I was going to bring up my new flat stick. Once again, I can’t tell you how great the guys over at T Squared Putters are at putting vision into reality. The putter model I gamed this year (Ts-713i mid mallet) helped me turn out my best season of putting since I took up golf. My average number of putts in a round went from 37 down to 29. You read that right – I shaved eight putts per round off my game on average, and I attribute 100% of that improvement to the new putter. The feel is buttery soft and the added length of the shaft (36 inches long, compared to 35” of my old one) gave me a little better mechanics which translated into a lot more confidence. Now, if I can only convince them to whip something up that is reminiscent of the Scotty Cameron Concept X CX-02… yeah, I know. A guy can dream.

Finishing off the list of ‘Best 5 of 2020’ was my decision to swap out my usual choice of golf balls and try something new (at least for me). I had gone back and forth between Callaway, TaylorMade and Bridgestone for a few years, usually making my choice based on which was on sale at the time I needed a sleeve. Instead, I gave VICE Golf a try and I wasn’t disappointed. I opted for their Pro Plus model in the neon green/lime colour, going with that shade of ball to help me keep visual contact after impact. The ball didn’t disappoint at all, giving me great feel at impact and as much control as I could want on touch shots. While my driver swing speed wasn’t quite what they recommend for that ball, I still found great satisfaction in my results. And yes, the price – even in American dollars – was great. Paying about $32 for a top-quality ball is just fine with me! I suggest you surf over to #vicegolf and check them out for yourself.

LOOKING AHEAD FOR 5

I’m going to keep this part pretty simple, mostly because who knows what 2021 is going to bring all of us golfers!

#1 – Finally getting to play Otter Creek. Friends have been telling me for years now that I’m going to love teeing it up at Otter Creek, and based on their ravings I feel plenty of anticipation for making that happen. I won’t make it my first stop for a round in 2021, but it won’t be far from the top.

#2 – Exploring my #2 fairway metal some more. I’d wondered for a while what it would be like to swap out my #3 for a deuce … and the early results were more than promising. In addition to picking up more yards from fairway hits, I gave myself an über-reliable club for the tee box should the driver and I be having a disagreement on the direction of my ball. So, more to come on this!

#3 – To spike or not to spike, that is my question. To close out my final few rounds of 2020, I reverted back to a pair of Adidas spikes I’d had for years but were residing in my parent’s basement. I made that switch when my FootJoys began leaking like my right shoulder on a wonky chip shot. Needless to say, I’m thinking about what will be on my feet in 2021 and I have to admit I’m more than a little curious about going spikeless.

I’m curious to know if I can still get the stability I need with a spikeless shoe (like the Adidas CODECHAOS or maybe even the PAYNTR kicks I recently shared on my Facebook page), or if I should stick with what I know (Nike’s Air Zoom Infinity or Footjoy’s TOUR X model). Whatever I decide, I just hope I’m not kicking myself in the end.

#4 – Breaking 80 on a consistent basis. This is likely a lofty goal, but I think it’s worth stating up front because there’s nothing wrong with wanting to go low more often. The challenge will be doing so in a limited number of rounds, as I have other ventures that may take time away from my life on the links. But my plan is a simple one – make a pre-round mental check-list of things I know I need to do to put myself in a position to succeed, and remind myself of those goals often enough that I make it a routine. I have my wife, Tracey Mitchell, and her work as a life coach to thank for helping me making that mental adjustment, so I will keep you posted on how this works out.

#5 – Add at least 3 new courses on to my ‘Played There’ list. I know I already mentioned Otter Creek as a top priority, but there are so many more great courses out there that I haven’t had a chance to experience yet. That list includes but isn’t limited to Cobble Beach, The Club at Lora Bay, Taboo, Port Carling, Copper Creek, Grand Niagara, Galt Country Club, Caradoc Sands, the Ambassador Golf Club and the St. Thomas Golf & Country Club. There are more, but I don’t think you want to read through six more pages.

So there we have it. I’ve begun to map out the golf year in front of me – hopefully we cross paths (and not tee shots) on the course!

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