JC Golf: Carmel Mountain Ranch Joins the JC Golf Family

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The signature par-3 11th

          JC Golf is proud to announce the latest addition to its golf family: Carmel Mountain Ranch.

         Situated just 25 minutes from downtown San Diego, Carmel Mountain Ranch has been serving golfers from all over San Diego County and beyond since 1984. In the past, it has even hosted U.S. Open qualifying as well as a variety of other tournaments and events.

At 6,599 yards (from the back tees), Carmel Mountain is a mid-length course that requires a good deal of strategy but also has a fair amount of holes that allow big hitters to let it fly.

Prior reviews of the course have called it “a true shot-maker’s course,” and it is that, especially on some of its short par-4s, which take a few rounds to learn.

Carmel Mountain General Manager Kevin Hwang says the course has a reputation for being rough for first-timers.

“The course has a reputation for being tough, but we’re in the process of trying to ease that burden for people,” Hwang says.

That’s mostly by managing speeds on the course’s undulating greens. Hwang says the course’s tiered greens can yield a bevy of three-putts if not managed properly.

“The greens are a little tricky, which is why don’t let them run too fast,” he says.

The course has many unique holes, but the signature is the beautifully landscaped par-3 11th, which plays to 158 yards and involves a carry over a pond and waterfall. The pin was front right the day I played and I just missed having my tee shot pull back to the hole on the undulating green.

“It’s actually our shortest par-3. It’s a lot fun to play,” Hwang says.

The following is a look at few more things you can look forward to during future rounds at Carmel Mountain Ranch.

1. Great Driving Holes – If you’re striping it off the tee to start, you can really take advantage of the first two holes, both of which are downhill par-4s. You’re set up for a similarly strong start on the back with the downhill par-5 10th and then there’s another dramatic downhill on the par-4 14th.

The par-5 10th is most definitely reachable in two with a solid drive, and the wide fairway offers multiple angles of attack as long as you avoid the bunkers on the right. The large, receptive green makes a great opportunity to kick off your back nine with a birdie. This used to be the starting hole, by the way, until the nines were reversed. So if you haven’t played the course for a while, be aware of that.

2. Unique Views – Having beautiful mountain vistas as a backdrop is common in this part of Southern California, but what is a bit uncommon is how much the course’s design incorporates its surroundings.

For instance, on the drive to the par-4 14th, you’re greeted by a field of huge boulders and actually drive between two of them to reach the tee box. It’s stunning every time you experience it, but particularly the first time.

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You’ll find similarly sized stones in fairways and sand traps throughout the course.

Also unique to the area are the hawks and falcons you’ll see soaring and circling above, riding the breeze and giving you a glimpse of nature’s wonders at work.

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The par-4 7th

3. Unique Holes – Because the course was designed to maximize course exposure for the homes, many holes are set off in their own amphitheater.

The product of that design is an uncommonly unique layout.

“We’re definitely not parallel fairways,” Hwang says. “And you don’t see two holes that look the same.”

Two of the most talked about, and unique, holes on the course are two short and highly strategic par-4s.

The first is No. 7, which plays to 311 yards from an elevated tee. The number probably already has many of you ready to pull driver, but hold that thought.

There’s a huge boulder surrounded by a sand trap lurking about 280 yards out. If you don’t make the carry, your ball could hit the boulder and bound OB or leave you in some other tricky predicament.

An iron or rescue to a comfortable second-shot yard is the preferred play, but doesn’t dissuade many from going for the green.

Driver isn’t an option, however, on the 325-yard par-4 17th. Front by a sizable pond, this short par-4 is a true two-shot hole.

Carrying the water on the second shot has been many players’ undoing, Hwang says.

“There’s no running it up there. You’ve got to hit a shot.”

And to a somewhat smallish green. I played the hole 7-iron, 6-iron, which was more than I wanted on my second shot, but I still managed the land the ball on the fringe and make a two-putt par.

It may take you a few rounds to learn the best way for you to club No. 17, but you’ll find par to be a plenty good score there.

4. Practice bunker/short game area – As someone whose greenside sand game tends to be inconsistent, I find it a relief any time there’s a practice bunker available. Carmel Mountain Ranch has one is its sizable short-game area.

I practiced sands shots for about 15 minutes and it saved me a few strokes during my round. The bunker is a bit benign in that it doesn’t have steep walls, but it’s enough to get in some solid practice.

There’s a separate green designated for chipping as well.

All the pros say the fastest way to shave strokes is around the green. For your round, arrive early and make use of this valuable practice resource.

The course used to have a driving range, but a virtual range has replaced it.

5. The Clubhouse – As you wind your wind up Carmel Ridge Road, you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see a stately Colonial-style clubhouse.

The building gives a country-club presence to the course.

“We’ve got great curb appeal,” Hwang says.

Besides the pro shop, there’s a bar and grill/lounge area and an upstairs banquet facility with a patio.

Feel free to stick around after your round and relax with a beverage and join us in a symbolic toast to the newest member of the JC Golf family.

Carmel Mountain Ranch officially becomes a part of JC Golf on April 1, thus benefits for JC Players card members begin on that date. To book a tee time, please call 858.487.9224, ext. 1.

 

JC Golf: A Lesson About Lessons – 7 Tips for Maximizing Your Golf Lesson

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Photo courtesy of golfeneur.com

Before I left the house to interview Troy Ferguson and Paul Miernicki of Twin Oaks for this post, I did a quick Google search about this topic and it returned surprisingly little.

Could it be that for all the golf instruction information available in our connected world, the most under-taught part of a golf lesson is the lesson process itself?

For those who’ve never had a lesson, I think this information will provide insightful and highly valuable. But even if you’ve taken lessons for years, I still think there’s something to be gleaned here, especially toward the end when Troy and Paul talk about creating lasting change with your lesson.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. I know many who have reverted to old habits after a few weeks and didn’t muster the resolve for long-term change. I’ve been there myself.

Troy is the Head Golf Professional at Twin Oaks and Paul is the Director of Instruction. Paul has been an instructor for 16 years, 10 with JC Golf.

What follows are their combined thoughts on how to get the best results from lessons, meaning preparation, execution, review and, perhaps most important, post-lesson practice.

FYI: The base lesson is 30 minutes, so we’ll use that as our point of reference.

 1.   Know What You Want To Work On

It may seem obvious, but the first lesson of lessons is to know how to ask for one. Besides the general areas of full swing, short game and putting, it’s incumbent upon the player to be specific and honest about what needs to be addressed.

Mental issues that commonly come with the natural struggles of the game can even be a lesson, but a starting point has to be identified.

“The more specific the better,” Miernicki says. “And actually taking on one thing in a lesson is plenty.”

Ferguson says a good instructor will limit a lesson to one or two areas, but many players make the mistake of trying to overload the lesson.

“It’s 30 minutes and you can’t fix it all,” Ferguson says. “If alignment is your issue, for example, you need to work on a alignment for a week or two.

“If it’s your grip, you need to focus on your grip. There might be a multitude of issues that need to be addressed individually. That takes time.”

But Miernicki says there’s victory in merely striving for change, citing the mantra, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

That’s a change many golfers don’t ever embrace and play lesser golf because of it.

 2.   Disclose Any Health Issues or Known Physical Limitations To Your Instructor

Especially as players age, their swings are often limited by what their bodies will allow. These limitations are often obvious, but sometimes not.

To diagnose a swing properly, the instructor has to be able to diagnose the player. Being forthright about any ailments or issues assists both the player and the instructor.

“Body type often dictates swing,” Ferguson says. “Shoulder injuries in particular can be very limiting. But those also are some of the people that need the most help to be able to continue to play and enjoy the game.”

In some cases, the instructor may be able to recommend swing changes or adjustments that better protect the player’s health. Or sometimes therapies or stretching regimens can be recommended to assist with such issues as decreased flexibility.

In every case, full disclosure is best for everyone involved.

 3.   Have Realistic Expectations

A golf lesson is the start of a process, not a magic bullet.

Part of that process is realizing what can be accomplished.

“You can’t be a scratch golfer when you shoot 90 now and you have an hour a week to work on your game,” Ferguson says. “You’ve got to adjust your expectations.”

And this is where Miernicki is bluntly honest about what can be expected.

“If I’m asking you to do something really new, you’re probably going to get worse at first,” he says. “That’s just the reality. Guys seem to struggle with that idea more than women.

“Eventually you will improve. My ultimate goal is for you to leave happier than you arrived.”

Ferguson says a good set of questions to ask yourself before committing to a series of lessons are these:

1)  What do I ultimately want out of the game of golf?

2)  How much time do I have to commit to that goal?

3)  Given that time, are my expectations realistic?

“Expectations may not meet reality,” Ferguson says. “This game is hard. You don’t learn it overnight.”

 4.   Come Ready To Learn, and Trust the Process

Knowing what you want from your lesson is one thing. Telling the instructor what your lesson needs to be is another.

There’s a lot of information publicly available about the golf swing, but people sometimes misidentify or misconstrue what their source is actually telling them.

You come to an instructor to hear the truth. Now it’s time to listen and be prepared to hear it, accept it and provide feedback toward correcting it.

Trying to guide or override the lesson only hinders progress, Ferguson says.

“You need to trust what the instructor sees,” he says. “We’ll get people who think they have identified what’s wrong by reading Golf Digest or looking at a YouTube video.

“Often the issue they’ve identified, or the fix, isn’t their issue. You need to come in with an open mind.”

Ferguson likens teaching pros to other “pros” people commonly have in their lives.

“When your mechanic say it’s your radiator or your doctor tells you it’s a torn knee ligament, you don’t second guess them and say it’s something else,” Ferguson says.

“You’re welcome to a second opinion, but at the moment, this is your expert and your need to respect that.

“There’s no perfect golf swing and no perfect golf instructor, but they’re trying to find what will work best for you. Trust that.”

 5.   Relax. Lessons Are Fun. So Have Fun.

It’s normal for the first few minutes of a lesson to replicate first-tee jitters. Don’t sweat it, Miernicki says. Forget it and embrace the process. But above all, enjoy your time.

“You’re not here to be on Tour. Relax and let me entertain you. I’m in the entertain business. Let’s have some fun.”

Bad shots provide as much feedback as good one. Take the good with the bad, but Miernicki says the good shots are the ones that aren’t treasured enough.

“We all focus too much on our bad shots. Focus on success. Focus on fun.”

6.   Provide Feedback

Ideally your improved results will mostly be doing this for you, but Miernicki says perhaps the most important part of his lessons are the 5 minutes he specifically designates at the end for review.

He wants his client to verbally express what has been learned and how.

“If what I’m saying isn’t what you’re hearing, I need to know,” he says. “We might need another approach.”

Most important, proper review leads to retention, which leads to repetition and the player being able to replicate the results on their own.

“My goal isn’t for you to play golf for me,” Miernicki says. “My goal is for you to play golf for you.”

7.   Making It Stick

Ideally, what’s covered in a lesson should be repeated and practiced once or two on the range in the next week, or, as Miernicki prefers, in a nine-hole round.

Along the lines of limiting practice to a concentrated amount, Ferguson says the first practice done post lesson should be done with a small bucket – 35 balls.

Why?

“Practice is about the quality of practice, not the quantity,” he says. “You will value the shots more if you’ve got a small bucket. When people have a larger bucket, they tend to just beat balls.

“If you only got 35 balls, if you hit a bad one, you’re more likely to step back and try to self-diagnose and focus on the next one. That’s how you improve.”

Ferguson says the sure way to waste a lesson is to just “give to two minutes the next time you’re on the range.”

To that end, Miernicki says most golfers have been taught how to properly use their range time. Too many flail away with one club before just moving onto the next.

He says for most average golfers, the perfect number of range balls is 60.

“Think about it. If you shoot 100, that’s probably 40 putts. That leaves 60 shots. Practice those 60 shots, and that doesn’t mean hitting driver 10 times in a row. How often do you do that during your round? You don’t.”

Miernicki says the best practice is a simulated round, meaning replicating the sequence of shots played on the course.

Retaining learning from lessons and improving practice habits are two of the biggest keys to improving, Ferguson says, but it takes time and commitment for those things to become a habit.

“If you don’t make that commitment, you’ll just go back to doing what’s comfortable,” Ferguson says. “That’s not how you improve.”

To schedule a lesson with Paul at Twin Oaks, please call 619.368.2269.

Note: the first lesson is half price.

JC Golf: JC Golf Spotlight Hole – No. 15 at Twin Oaks

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One of the unique joys of establishing a long-term relationship with a golf course is the development of pet scoring strategies on certain strategic holes that, over time, almost become like secret recipes.

For instance, were I to give my scoring strategy for the dogleg-left par-4 15th at Twin Oaks in recipe form, it might go something like this.

Go easy on the rescue off the tee. Aim for the upper fairway and let the ball settle nicely into the lower fairway, just short of the pond. Then give it a full gap wedge with a dash of backspin into a receptive back-to-front sloping green. Finish with preferably one putt, but sometimes it takes two. Recipe can make birdie, but mostly makes par and the occasional bad batch – a bogey.

Just as tastes differ, so do strengths and strategies, but the beauty and fun is finding what works for you.

I had a wonderful opportunity during my round at Twin Oaks on Wednesday to sample the array of ways to approach No. 15.

For those who haven’t played it, this hole is a sharp dogleg left with a pond and two fir trees lurking on the left. The fairway is tiered with collection bunkers looming at the end, about 250 yards out.  The hole plays to 350 yards from the blue tees, 332 from the white.

The variable here is wind coming from behind the green, which we didn’t have on Wednesday. With that wind, no one’s getting home in one here.

But on our windless Wednesday, Austin, a strapping 20-something and the big hitter in our group, nearly pulled off the driver’s dream at this hole, which is risking the water and reaching the green with a power draw. His ball settled just below the greenside bunker on the left.

I faithly executed my tried and true, which left my playing partners fretting for a water ball, but my Titleist stopped short. Always does.

Then the two senior members of our foursome, Johnny and Peter, hit driver and 3-wood, respectively, from the white tees to both find the upper fairway with a bird’s-eye view of the green.

Four different approaches, three different outcomes, but each shot executed to each golfer’s optimal outcome. Easy game, huh?

Well …

I’d love to report four birdies. Or three. Or two. Or one.

Alas, regrettably, they all got away. Two pars, two bogeys and four golfers shaking their heads. Last names are being withheld to protect the innocent, save for Johnny Georgedes from Poway, who has played No. 15 for more than a decade and still professed an affinity for the hole post round.

“I like the fact the designer (Ted Robinson) designed it so you can play it with anything from a six-iron to a driver,” he said. “And as I’ve aged, that’s what I’ve transitioned to. I hit my driver about 235 yards now. I play it between the two center traps and then let the hill take it further. And if it doesn’t, I’m 135 out playing on a flat lie.”

Georgedes has a reason for preferring that second shot besides it being an optimal wedge distance.

“I just love the look of the hole from the up there,” he says. “It’s a really pretty shot looking down on the pond. It’s a very aesthetically pleasing golf hole, especially when you score well, but even when you don’t.”

Twin Oaks Head Professional Troy Ferguson says the versatility of No. 15 makes it one of the great strategy holes in JC Golf. Ferguson says the options even include, for those who play a fade, hitting it at the water.

“Take your 130- to 150-yard club and hit your pull-slice and you’ll end up hitting your second from a perfectly flat spot at a comfortable distance,” he says.

For some golfers, that would be eight- or nine-iron off the tee, which means everything above wedge truly is an option.

But Ferguson mostly espouses playing the hole straight away.

“Your best bet is to just hit it straight and long and let the contour of the course work for you,” he says. “ If you push it right, the hill likely will kick you into the upper fairway. If you hit the right fairway, you might end up on the lower left fairway. Either way, you’re set to go pin hunting.”

Players who decide to hit driver and go for the green need to weigh that decision, Ferguson says, in part based on how their round is going and factor in past success.

“Play to your strengths and build on what your game has been telling you all day,” he says. “Don’t expect to be able to hit a big draw around the corner if you haven’t been able to hit a draw all round.

“No. 15 offers you the opportunity to play whatever ball flight you have been playing all round.”

      JC Golf would love to hear your favorite strategies and success stories for No. 15 at Twin Oaks. Feel to post a comment and share your experiences at http://www.jcgolf.com.

JC Golf: What a Ball Fitting Is, and Why You Need One

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Bridgestone Golf will be conducting ball fittings for the first time this year at Golf Fest, March 14th & 15th at Oaks North Golf Course in Rancho Bernardo.

For those unfamiliar with what a ball fitting is and how it can benefit your game, we provide the following interview with Johnny McFarland of Bridgestone, who will be conducting the fittings at Golf Fest.

The reason for a fitting is simply to determine the best ball for your game to maximize distance and precision. People tend to underestimate the impact of the ball in this equation, McFarland says.

The fitting is done on a launch monitor that measures club head speed, ball speed and spin and then derives the best ball to optimize those conditions.

McFarland says the fitting begins with the player hitting a new ball with the brand he or she is currently playing. After five or six swings, the players switches to a comparable Bridgestone ball.

McFarland says that in 75 percent of cases, the Bridgestone ball – one of the eight the company produces – outperformers the players’ current brand.

“In the other cases, the ball is working and we’re happy to tell them that,” he says. “We’d love to have you as a customer, but we can’t improve much on what your ball is doing.”

Since Bridgestone switched from being Precept nine years ago, it has become the No. 2 ball in golf, behind only Titleist.

In that time, McFarland says the company has conducted more than 250,000 live ball fittings.

“We tested everyone from a 15 year old to an 80-year-old woman,” McFarland says, “and across all handicaps.”

That mountain of data is what the company uses today to help match players to their ideal ball, which is rarely Titleist, McFarland says.

“Titleist makes a great ball,” McFarland says, “but it’s not for the average duck. You have to have a swing speed of 104 mph or higher to compress the Pro-V1, and that’s not the average player.

“Yet 50 percent of players play a tour-grade ball.”

While Bridgestone has products to serve the pro player, it’s just as adept at helping the player with the 94 m.p.h. .swing speed, which is the average amateur, McFarland says.

What follows is a Q & A with McFarland about the benefits of ball fitting and what your game might be losing by playing a misfit ball.

Q. Let’s cut to what everyone wants to know: How much of a distance difference can a ball fitting make?

A. It can be as little as four to nine yards, but I’ve often seen it be 10 or more. It’s quite eye-opening when you get on the machine and do a comparison.

But when you’re swinging your own driver and wearing your own golf shoes, there’s no gimmicks. And you can’t deny the data. The results are often dramatic.

Q. How much do people underestimate the impact of the ball when trying to improve their games?

A. People still put a lot of time, money and effort into buying a driver when putting a little more money into the right golf ball is likely to give you more improvement. That’s just the way it is.

But I think people are starting to see the error of their ways.  And I also think they’re getting better at telling the difference in ball performance.

You can put all of our balls on an Iron Byron and they’ll end up about the same distance, but how they’ve gotten there will be totally different. Some will be high or low, or have a little more side spin, and that’s exactly what they’re designed to do.

People are coming around but it’s still very much a one-person-at-a-time education for us.

Q. What’s Bridgestone’s latest product advancement?

A. The newest thing is the B series, which has a rubber core, but in the formulation they inadvertently added water to the mixture and it changed how it reacts. The outer edges are 30 percent firmer and the center is 30 percent softer.

That takes some spin off the ball, which we all know makes it go further.

They’ve just started carrying these in the pro shop, but the pros on Tour already have them. They using will test a ball for two months before adding it to their bag, but they using these within a week. That’s how good it is.

We’re looking forward to a great year.

Q. How long does a ball fitting take? 

A. We can do it in about 10 minutes if it’s a busy day, but we’re happy to spend more time with people if they really want learn.

Q. What’s one of the most valuable things a player can learn?

A. We can tell you what your max drive is, meaning what’s possible for you to achieve with your swing speed.

For instance, I swing it at 92 m.p.h., so I’m never going to drive it 300 yards. We can determine what your max is and then fit you to a ball to help get you there.

That said, hardly anyone achieves their max. (Tour pro) Matt Kuchar’s max is 301 yards and he hits it 299, which is unbelievable.

We’re not so much interested in how far you hit it now but far you could hit and then helping you get as close as we can.

And we’ve done that for a lot of people now. That’s why our retention rate is so high.

Each person who participates in a ball fitting with get a free Bridgestone two-ball pack. For more information about Golf Fest, or to register, go to http://www.jcgolf.com.

JC Golf: First Impressions of Oaks North

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First Impressions of Oaks North

When I entered into this agreement with JC Golf, I had played all their North County courses except one – Oaks North.

I’d heard good things about the 27-hole executive course in Rancho Bernardo, and every time I drove by it always looked to be in fantastic shape, but I just hadn’t had the opportunity.

Well, that opportunity arrived last Friday, and I have to say that I enjoyed this course very much.

I’ll play an executive course on occasion to focus on my irons, wedges and short game. By that measure, Oaks North gave me everything I was looking for.

On that note, I thought I’d highlight the five things that made my round at Oaks North valuable and enjoyable.

 1.   Birdies Galore

You come to an executive course to make birdies, which I did, but the unexpected bonus was the amount of wildlife on the course. Song birds and water birds abounded. Having only lived in California for about 18 months now, I’m still amazed and amused by the variety of wildlife here.

The highlight of the round came on the third tee of the South Course at around 9:30 a.m. As we were approaching the tee, a white heron was on the box. Rather than be spooked by our approach, it lingered on the box for about 5 minutes before casually strutting off into the landscaping.

I very much value these small encounters with nature and think they add a great deal to the golf experience.

My first golf birdie came on the next hole when I drove the green on the 260-yard 4th and two-putted. I carded three birdies in my round but would’ve had twice as many I’d made a few more putts.

Which brings us to …

2.   The Greens

The greens at Oaks North were in great shape and provided just enough of a challenge to keep things interesting.

You don’t get any severe breaks or pin locations at this course, but you do get enough break in your putts that you’ve got to make a good read. These aren’t the no-break tabletop greens you find at some executive and municipal courses.

 3.   A Variety of Tee Shots

I only hit the same club on consecutive tee shots once. I had 8-iron on back-to-back  shots on Nos. 5 & 6 on the North, which might not have been the case with a different wind or another pin position.

Otherwise, the tee shots varied nicely and worked most of my bag. I played two holes that were over 300 yards, just enough to air out my driver.

There’s actually more distance here to work with than at a few other executive courses I’ve played in the area, which is nice.

4.   Frozen Snickers

I’ve been known to have a sweet tooth at the turn and frozen Snickers is my snack of choice.

Oaks North has them. I always think a little more highly of course that thinks to stock frozen Snickers. Well done.

 5.   A Great Walk

I did not walk the first time, but I will the next time.

I enjoy walking my rounds and wish I had more options in the area in that regard. Oaks North is an ideal place to carry your clubs, or grab a pull cart, and enjoy the walk and take in the scenery at a more leisurely pace.

Though it can be a brisk walk, too. There’s no reason you can’t get around here in 3 hours, which I think is something as Southern California golfers we can all appreciate.

JC Golf Spotlight Hole: No. 9 at Rancho Bernardo Inn

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Just as the classic short par-4 10th at Riviera Country Club in LA tests the pros on tour, No. 9 at Rancho Bernardo Inn offers its own set of temptations, options and risks.

The temptation is seeing the green 306 yards from the back tees and grabbing driver –  thus ignoring the sizeable pond and pine tree on the right – and going for glory.

Rancho Bernardo Inn Director of Golf Blake Dodson says this option has progressively paid off with time thanks to advances in club and swing technology. For the same reasons, the risks have also changed – for the golfer and the course.

(Note: the ninth green sits adjacent to the resort’s banquet facility.)

“With the modern equipment and the modern swing, it’s a very attainable golf hole,” Dodson says. “In 1962, the year we opened, the driving average on tour was 240-250 yards. You used to challenge the hole and the water would come into play.

“Now the Aragon Ballroom comes into play.”

Yes, a tee shot flying the green and ending up in the landscaping is a legitimate concern these days for talented and well-equipped players.

“A better player can get there with a 3-wood,” Dodson says.

The reward is a possible eagle or even birdie. The risk, for most of the recreational field, is a ball in the water and a sour end to the front nine.

“I’ve seen a lot of watery graves and good scores lost there,” Dodson notes.

But Dodson says there is a time and place for the driver play.

“When the pin is front left, that completely makes sense,” he says. “If you’re drawing the ball off the water, there’s a bail-out left and it plays into an easier chip.”

But he cautions about OB left.

“If it comes in hot (and turning left), it ends up in my cart barn. I’ve seen that, too.”

For his part, Dodson espouses a layup, especially after a birdie on No. 8, a very attainable par-5.

“You want to give yourself the best chance of that birdie/birdie finish,” he says.

That means playing to set up your most comfortable second shot.

“Some days I’ll take a 6-iron just to have a confident full swing on my second from maybe 150 yards,” he says. “I’d rather have the full swing and control the flight.”

And that avoids the most common predicament Dodson sees, which is a driver that doesn’t quite reach its destination.

“Then you probably have an awkward distance with your wedge,” he says. “ You’re at less than a full swing, which a lot of people struggle with.”

As far as Dodson is aware, no one has ever holed a tee shot on No. 9, but he says that’s only a matter of time.

“I expect we’ll see an albatross there,” he says.

However, that soon may become a bit bigger challenge than it is now. To help No. 9 stay challenging in today’s equipment environment, Dodson says the course is looking at lengthening it.

“That’s one of the few places on property where we can add yardage,” he says. “We’re considering it.”

Some golfers may not appreciate that, but the Aragon Ballroom and the cart barn certainly will.

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 The sand trap lurking behind the green at 9; you don’t want to be hitting out toward the water

Ask The Pro: Rancho Bernardo Inn’s Blake Dodson

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It’s always golf season in California, but for golfers in most of the country, this time of year is when their thoughts turn to their golf gear and making upgrades.

With that in mind, Rancho Bernardo Inn Director of Golf Blake Dodson touches on three equipment areas – driver, hybrid, putter – that deserve your utmost attention this spring due to changes in trends and technology.

How often should you upgrade your driver?

“If you’ve got a driver that’s more than three years old, you’re running on antiquated technology. The technology turns over so fast now that your driver is like your computer.

“For the golfer, life is too short to play bad golf. Get modern technology.

“If you’re a beginning golfer, there’s such a flood of second-hand technology out there that there may be driver a year or two behind that could be a real steal for you.”

How much more prevalent is it becoming to carry multiple hybrids?

“We’ll, I carry two. I used to hit 1-irons and 2-irons, but they don’t make those any more. But I’ve made the transition and you’re seeing people now carrying as many woods and hybrids as you are wedges.

“They’re easier to hit and you get a lot distance out of them.

“When you look at a look of college kids, they’ve been carrying multiple hybrids for years and you’re going to start seeing that evolve through the rest of the game.

“That’s the big shift in the make-up of people’s bags. Three-irons and 4-irons are becoming like the eight-track for a lot of people – outdated.”

The banning of the anchored stroke was the big putting story of 2013, but oversized putter grips seemed to be the next biggest. How much are you seeing this trend reflected in recreational players?

“It’s lighting in a bottle for people. My advice is to use one but to try the different sizes. The size of the grip needs to correlate to the size of your hands.

“It’s all about how the putter rests of your hands, especially if you have larger hands. And for those people, these grips have especially been salvation for them.

“You want to have an oversized putting grip installed professionally, so let your pro help you with sizing and make sure you get into the right equipment.

“The grips helps you have firm wrists and soft hands and takes the play out of your putting stroke, which is what we’re all after.”

JC Golf Spotlight Hole: No. 17 at Encinitas Ranch

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Photo courtesy of JC Golf

There are ocean views from 11 holes at Encinitas Ranch, but water – not the ocean – only actually comes into play on three.

The one hole where you get the most of both is No. 17.

Played against an expansive backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, and often into an ocean breeze, the par-3 17th lurks as potential stumbling blocking toward the end of your round.

Playing to 185 yards from the blues and 160 from the white, the large pond to the right has attracted its share of tee shots over the years. But with the large green to hit and the bailout area to the left, that doesn’t have to be you.

Encinitas Ranch General Manager Erik Johnson says people playing the hole for the first time make a common mistake that leads to bad outcomes.

“You don’t want to go at the right side of that green, even when the pin is over there,” he says. “That doesn’t allow enough room for your miss, and the next thing you know your shot is high, right and caught in the wind and you’re wet.”

(FYI: If your ball finds the lake, the drop zone is about 50 yards from the left front of the green.)

When I played the hole recently, I felt my felt my threesome had a fairly representative experience. My first playing partner’s tee shot met the fate described above. My other partner missed the green short and left.

Having my own history with this hole, I chose to club up and ignore the front pin and try to hit the middle of the green. My hybrid carried beyond the back of the green and right, where I discovered a collection area I didn’t know existed.

The two of us who stayed dry off the tee both got up and down for par. Our third impressively scrambled to save bogey.

We played the hole around 4 p.m., the time when Johnson says the hole is usually play its toughest.

“About 10 or 11 in the morning that prevailing wind kicks up,” he says. “It starts out as about one club and then can become two, especially when the pin is in the back. And people don’t factor in that as the day gets cooler, the fall doesn’t fly as far, so you might lose 10 yards off your 5-iron.”

And from the back tees, largely because of the wind, this hole is a long iron for most players, including Johnson.

“The best strategy I’ve come up with is to take a little bit more club, choke down and always play to the left-hand side of the green,” he says. “I’m going to resign myself to a two-putt or getting up and down if I miss the green.

“But that chip isn’t a gimme. It challenges people.”

No. 17 follows a short par-4 and leads into the par-5 18th. Johnson says there’s a chance for a strong close to your round -as long you don’t let it get away at 17.

“What you really don’t want is double bogey or worse,” he says. “Four is a pretty OK score on 17 and three can feel like a birdie.”

Tom Watson lamented on Twitter recently – yes, Tom Watson is on Twitter – that players who are smartly willing to lay up on tough par-4s and -5s, stubbornly won’t use the same approach on a par-3.

If you really struggle with this hole, that might be something to consider here.

Feel free to share your successes, struggles and strategies for No. 17, especially if you’ve ever made an ace here. JC Golf would love to hear about your experiences with this challenging par-3.

You can also find this post at jcgolf.com, where you can also book a lesson or a tee time at one of their six North County courses.