Today’s post focuses on a course near and dear to my heart, Mystery Valley.

Mystery Valley is a municipal golf course in Lithonia, GA–very close to Stone Mountain and to Southland Golf course, the subject of a prior PF review (see The course, nestled between majestic pine trees, plays 6700 yards around several lakes. Although not the longest test, Mystery Valley presents a fair challenge that rewards good shots and punishes bad ones.

Along with nearby Sugar Creek, Mystery Valley is the municipal golf course of DeKalb County, GA. The course opened in 1966 and has remained largely unchanged since Then. Although some landscape is different since when I started playing there in the early 90s, the layout is basically the same. The brother of famed Atlanta golfer Charlie Yates was the first head pro at the course. It is even rumored that Bobby Jones walked the grounds at one time.

However, none of this history is apparent when arriving at and playing the course. A long, winding drive previews the front 9 to the player as he drives into the course. A modest clubhouse with a chipping green, putting green, and substandard driving range greet the player.

At first glance, the course doesn’t look like much. However, it’s layout–meandering through the natural hills and elevation changes–provides a great test to the average golfer and some great opportunities for the advanced one. There are a good number of risk/reward shots for the long hitters as well as a number of bailouts for the average players. The fairways usually have nice green grass and are mostly wide and inviting.

Although not terribly fast, Mystery Valley is one of the few municipal golf courses in Atlanta that has not converted to bermuda greens. The bent grass is usually well-maintained but can become a little shaggy on certain days and after rains. And despite the work required for maintaining the greens, an average player can still walk on weekend mornings for under $30–plus, the course is especially easy to walk since it was built before carts were mainstream and is set up with tees in close proximity to greens.

Like all courses–and especially municipals–Mystery Valley has its drawbacks. There are several holes that border on unfair. For example, the par-3 second hole includes a green that is so severely sloped that certain pin placements are virtually unreachable. Bunkers typically lack sand and are very inconsistent if sand is included. Because it is a muni, weekends are typically packed, and 4.5-hour rounds should be expected; note, however, the course management takes their jobs very seriously, and only in very strange situations will a 5-hour round occur.

As stated, this course is very near and dear to my heart, as it is the place that I learned to play. If it were a private course located in the center of Atlanta–and if it had a little more length–it would be a likely spot for a tournament or at least a desired track. The enjoyment of the layout is comparable or superior to Druid Hills, East Lake, and Dunwoody Country Club, just to name a few. However, because it is municipal, it gets little credit for the true gem that it is.

There are many drawbacks to Mystery Valley–certainly. However, it is the course that I continually return to because 1) it is a fair course and 2) it is a fair price.

Layout: 9/10
Maintenance: 7/10
Greens: 8/10
Cost: 9/10
Value: 9/10
Practice Facility: 5/10
Proximity to Atlanta: 6/10

Overall: 8/10

NOTE: At the current time (July 2011), Mystery Valley is undergoing construction to repair drainage systems. Please be sure to call the proshop at (404) 469-6913 to ensure that construction is complete before your round.

For those PowerFaders looking to amp up their exercise routines, check out


I have tried each and every one of these exercises and believe they fit nicely into any of the routines that we have outlined previously.

Enjoy longer drives and more precise iron shots with a stronger core and legs.  Good luck!

Just Awesome

July 22, 2011

Certainly worthy of a POTW. However, this is in a different category. Enjoy PF readers.


Feeling it

July 22, 2011

A fortunate development at work occurred on Tuesday that allowed me to focus my energy on golf for essentially the rest of this week. I took my new found freedom to the valley course at coyote creek. Maybe it was just the sheer joy of being outside in summer time california weather instead of in an air conditioned office, or maybe it was all the Bob Rotella audiobooks I’ve been listening to, but it felt like something clicked. I played extremely well and felt as though I thought my way around a new course in a way that I have never done before. I’ve shot 80 on more than one occasion, but this time didn’t feel like it was an accomplishment.

Today, in extremely windy conditions, I managed to put together an 83 on “less than stellar” greens at my usual course.

I wanted to try to capture the feeling I had on the course during these two rounds for our readers, but honestly, the feeling is nothing. Though I’ve hit some of the best drives I’ve ever hit this week, my only thought has been to keep my head still and visualize a target. To hit a draw, I think “draw,” to hit a fade, I think “fade.” Pitching, chipping, and putting are all exercises in focusing on a target and visualizing a result. If I don’t hit the fairway, it’s no big deal, I’ll still have a shot. If I miss the green, I’m going to get up and down. If I have an 8 footer, well, that putt’s breaking 4.5 inches straight down.

My problem in the past was not enjoying it. I’d take the feeling as a sign I need to practice really hard so I didn’t lose it. While that’s not untrue, I never took the time to enjoy it. It’s fun to hit the ball long distances into the wind. It’s fun to feel like I can make any putt I look at. I hope it lasts, but the old saying is true: you can’t own golf, you just get to borrow it sometimes. At least I can appreciate it right now. Hopefully I can hang on to it long enough to break through the 80s and down into the single digits.

Fail of the Week 6

July 19, 2011

This week’s FAIL goes to our American golfers at the British Open, Phickelson and DJ. American golf has been hurting for the last several years (since Tiger’s surgery and subsequent tree-driving incident). We count on the big hitters, and they continually let us down.

Dustin Johnson has had chances at last year’s US Open, last year’s PGA, and this year’s British Open. But last year, he choked away the US Open with a final-round 82. Then he failed to read the rules and incurred a 2-shot penalty for grounding his club, taking him out of a playoff with headcase Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer, eventual winner. And this year, for some reason he just couldn’t keep himself from jacking his second shot OB to the right on a par 5 at the Open Championship, again incurring a 2-shot penalty and again losing a major for it. Although Darren Clarke definitely won the championship, DJ had a shot to put pressure on him; when the ball went out of bounds, Clarke was looking at a 4-shot lead with 5 holes, which is doable even for a hacker like me.

However, the bigger disappointment had to be Phil “Phickelson” Mickelson. Mickelson shot a five under par front nine of 30 (see He had birdies on holes 2, 4, 6, and 10 and an eagle on 7. He sat at -6 for the round on the 11th tee box when the lights went out. For some reason, Phickelson rushed his 2-footer for par 3 on the 11th and bogeyed, sending him into a tailspin, thereafter bogeying 13, 15, and 16 and failing to make birdies on some of the easiest holes on the course (14 and 17). It was like he was a different golfer after the 3-putt–and, really, for no reason other than his own head got in the way. For all the tournaments Phil has won, the old choker is still lurking in there.

Once again, American golf comes up short. So, to you Phil and DJ, you are this week’s FAIL.

Play of the Week 19

July 18, 2011

This week’s POTW goes to Darren Clarke, champion of the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s. Clarke fired a final-round even par 70 to capture the Claret Jug, winning in style by 3 shots of Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

The 42-year old Clarke was playing in his 20th Open. After losing his wife to breast cancer, Clarke was the sentimental favorite. He played very consistent golf all day long, smiling and laughing for much of a final round that, at times, was very tense. Even though American Phil Mickelson caught him at one point during the round, Clarke played cool and collected golf, hitting countless artful shots to save pars, capture birdies, and distance himself from the field.

Moreover, Clarke is the kind of guy golf needs. Rarely do golfers seem like regular human beings, but here is Clarke: 42 years old, drinking a Guinness at the post-championship press conference and talking about how the champs back in N. Ireland would be pissing drunk. When interviewed about the Irish Open, Clarke said “I may not be sober, but I will be in Killarney.” He’s not a physical specimen, he doesn’t hit the ball 3,000 yards, and he doesn’t wear a size 30 pants–in fact, after working out to get into shape, his agent told him he played better when he was fat! He’s a regular guy, and that’s something we can all get into.

So here’s to you Darren. Have a Guinness–or 100–and enjoy your trophy. You’ve earned it.

Also, the PF would like to give a mini-POTW shout out to Dr. Bob Rotella, sports psychologist. Dr. Bob is the author of several books on the mental aspect of the game of golf, including Golf is Not a Game of Perfect. LG and I have both benefited greatly from Rotella’s take on the game, and Dr. Bob was mentioned during the Open broadcast for his Wednesday conversation with Darren Clarke. It paid off. Here’s to you.

I think the only thing I can say is wow….(original answers published 7/13)

It’s that time again LG. Here we go…

Winner: Jason Day T-30, correct answer: Darren Clarke
Winning Score: -8 -5
Runner Up: Matt Kuchar m/c – correct answer: Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson
Low Amateur: Tom Lewis correct
“Unknown” in the Top 10: George Coetzee close, 15th – correct answer: Raphael Jacquelin
Last Year’s Winner (Oosthuizen) Will … (Win, Top10, Make the Cut, or Miss the Cut): Miss the cut made cut, T- 54
The Master’s Winner (Schwartzel) Will …: Top 10 T-16
The US Open Winner (McIlroy) Will …: Top 10 T-25
How many prior winners will be in the Top 10: 1 0
Will Rory blow the 54 hole lead? no correct
Will Tiger’s absence be referenced on Sunday? hopefully not wasn’t–amazingly
Will Monty’s absence be referenced at all? of course not at all
Will someone win it, or will everyone else lose it? Someone will win it. RSt.G is that kind of course. Clarke won it. Great round in great weather. He may have bogeyed coming in, but it was still his game.
What will be the biggest story of the tournament? Lost balls in the fescue nope–just darren clarke
Who is most likely to Tom Watson it? Stricker Phickelson (yes I did that on purpose)
Will you watch on Sunday? Only if it’s close I watched the whole damn thing

Winner: Luke Donald m/c
Winning Score: -6 -5
Runner Up: Angel Cabrera m/c
Low Amateur: Peter Uielein 2d low am
“Unknown” in the Top 10: Fredrik Andersson Hed T-57
Last Year’s Winner (Oosthuizen) Will … (Win, Top10, Make the Cut, or Miss the Cut): make the cut correct
The Master’s Winner (Schwartzel) Will …: miss the cut T-16
The US Open Winner (McIlroy) Will …: Top 10 T-25
How many prior winners will be in the Top 10: 2 0
Will Rory blow the 54 hole lead? Nope – He’ll lead after day 1 and probably hang around and be discussed by the commentators to death. not too bad
Will Tiger’s absence be referenced on Sunday? only if golf channel wants to improve its ratings they didn’t
Will Monty’s absence be referenced at all? who? correct
Will someone win it, or will everyone else lose it? Donald will win it coming down the stretch.  He will birdie 17. eh, not quite
What will be the biggest story of the tournament? Luke Donald finally winning a major nope
Who is most likely to Tom Watson it? No one.  Not going to happen this year. phil…and DJ
Will you watch on Sunday? If I’m not called into the office, definitely.  I love the Open Championship! uh, incorrect

Fail of the Week 5

July 11, 2011

This week’s fail of the week goes to John Daly/Big JD/The Lion/the skinny Lion/that guy shooting in the 80s. At the John Deere Classic last week, Daly recorded a 13 on a par 4. I’ve been playing golf a long time; I’ve never put a 13 on the card.

“I heeled it really bad way right, and I really was hoping they wouldn’t find it so I’d have to go back to the tee,” Daly said. “Because I got stuck on my first approach when they did find it, I’m going how can I get it left so I can take an unplayable, because where it was there I would have to go all the way to the maintenance shed, which would probably be out of bounds.

“So I hit it a couple times and then took an unplayable, couldn’t get it out, hit it again, took an unplayable, couldn’t get it out. Then I got it far enough left that I could drop, you know, and then get in the bunker and two-putted for a 13.”

It’s at this point that the reporters missed a golden opportunity to ask the Lion–”how in the world are you a professional at this?”

Daly is a major championship winner and a lovable icon on the PGA Tour. Many fans want to see him succeed because he has done so much. But Daly’s antics have become a blight on the tour. For example, Daly’s interview a few years back while playing golf without a shirt…[[WARNING!!!!]]

More importantly, Daly was the one who proved that the last person to make it in the field is capable of winning the tournament when he won the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick. Had Nick Price not dropped out of the tournament, we may never have heard of John Daly. When he shows up to tournaments like this, he keeps one player out who would have qualified otherwise. As a competitive golfer, I know how hard it is to “make it.” I can’t imagine being the last guy out so that John Daly could get a sponser’s exemption only to watch him shoot 81 with a 13 on a par 4.

So, to you, John Daly–we love you, but you are this week’s FAIL.

Read more, including a picture showing all of Daly’s shots:

(Late) props this week go out to Nick Watney who shot a remarkable 27 on the back nine on Saturday at Aronimink during this year’s AT&T National.  Yep. 27. 2. 7. That’s basically all we need to say.

What did Nick have to say about his remarkable play?

“For some reason the ball just — the hole looked really big on the back [nine],” he said. “The ball was going where I was looking, and by the time I looked up, I was 8 under par.”

It’s just that simple, folks.

P. S. – The PF humbly requests that Nick show some love to his original home course – The Davis Municipal.  Bring that trophy around, Nick!

It may come as a surprise to our readers, but I often spend some of the quiet time of my day reading golf magazines.  One feature that tends to draw my attention is the “what’s in the bag” piece that invariably makes its way into every issue.  This page tends to turn into an ad for whatever label happened to be sponsoring the winner from the previous week.  Occasionally though, these segments provide a little nugget of information about the player that you would otherwise never come across.  Some pros only play a certain number golf ball.  Some throw out a ball after it makes a bogey.  Some only mark their ball with a certain color pen.  These little nuggets help us learn a little more about the pro behind the brand and makes them appear more human.

Occasionally there is an equipment note that changes the way that I play the game.  For example, one pro said that he carries a couple of extra pairs of socks with him.  When he’s having a bad day he’ll switch his socks at the turn.   This tip blew my mind because I never thought that something that simple could impact the way that I was playing on a given day.  I tried this tip the very next I went out and let me tell you.  It’s awesome.  Whenever I play I always throw an extra pair of socks in the bag now to switch even if I’m having a good day.

With that background, I hope you find something interesting or useful as we look through all the junk that’s in my golf bag.

Let’s start with the clubs:

My putter is a 35″ Scotty Cameron California Series (Monterey).  All standard specs with a pingman grip.  I bought this headcover during my first trip to Pebble with JK.  We played Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay when we were working together as summer associates.  Though we didn’t end up playing Pebble then, we did talk about when we’d finally make it out there during a little lunch at the Tap Room.  I’d highly recommend their house ale.  (tastes like Bass).

My wedges are two of my favorite eBay purchases.  I won’t tell you how good a deal these were, but suffice it to say, I’ll never see another one like it.  All of my irons are 1.25″ over standard length (including wedges) with jumbo Lamkin tortion control grips.  These wedges meet the condition of competition requirement and are two of the best clubs I’ve ever owned.  Nothing beats a well-made forged wedge.  I built these myself with old S300 shafts from my previous iron set.

My irons are Mizuno MP-57s.  These were actually the first set of Mizuno irons I ever purchased.  I bought a set of MP-32s from JK that were an inch over standard to try out, but decided I’d like to rebuild these 57s after having played the 32s for a few months.  My main reason for the switch back was that these irons were in such good condition that it felt like a waste to have them in the closet.  The 32s had enough wear on them to justify getting rid of them before they got any worse.  I ended up purchasing some X-200 shafts on eBay for about $40 and rebuilding these to my exact specifications.  I also purchased some custom Navy and White ferrules to spruce up my irons.  Go Eagles!

My  Titleist 904F 3 and 5 woods are two of the best clubs I’ve ever owned.  It is a testament to how great these clubs are that they came out in 2004 and still find homes in the bags of several professionals.  Fairway woods tend draw emotional attachment for golfers more than any other club, and these make me understand why.  If I must find the fairway, I grab my 15* 3W and swing as hard as I can.  Both of these have X-100 steel shafts.

My driver is a 9.5* Titleist 909D2 with an extra stiff UST ProForce v2 shaft.  This is a relatively new addition to my bag, but the headcover has been around since my second year of law school.  Steve the beaver has probably seen more rounds of golf with me than any other piece of equipment I’ve owned.  People often tell me they think he’s a gopher.  Nope.  Sorry, Steve’s a beaver.  I recall liberating Steve from the pro shop at Bartley Cavanaugh golf course in Sacramento, CA after a particularly windy round on an interesting course.  The last two holes are (near) replicas of 17 and 18 at TPC Sawgrass.  The 17th played quite a bit shorter than the actual 17th, but that was no reason for me not to fist pump after hitting the green in 1.  (the three putt after deflated me a little though…)

As far as balls, I currently have TaylorMade Penta and Titleist Pro V1x.  Like certain pros, there are numbers that I prefer to play to others.  When I have balls with less than favorable numbers, I’ll mark them out.  I also put a line around the ball to help out with my putting.  This little device has probably saved me more strokes than any piece of equipment.  For those of you having putting issues, I recommend at least trying this on the practice green as it will give you instant feedback on the quality of your contact with the flat stick.  Thoughts, JK?

Now, for the rest of the bag!

At the moment, I have a Navy and White Ping Hoofer Voyage (likely to change soon) with the following items:

Bushnell Pinseeker 1500 Tournament
Alignment Rod (getting this was a story in-and-of itself)
Scorecard wallet
Protein Bars (gotta eat! – I also occasionally bring fruit or PB&J)
Sunflower seeds (gotta spit!)
Rubber tee
Athletic tape
Hand warmers/Waterproofs
The rules of Golf (mainly because I don’t know them, not to throw them at anyone)


The tools of the trade:

Camera – Unfortunately I couldn’t take a picture of my digital camera (obviously), but this little puppy goes with me whenever I go to a new course so I can do my best to report my thoughts in pictures to the fine people that read thepowerfade.  I am occasionally so lucky as to have a travelling photographer join me to take pictures on these golf related excursions.

Tees – the red one has actually been in my bag for quite some time.  For some reason I refuse to use this tee.  It may or may not bring me good luck, but mostly I think I’m just used to seeing it in the box of tees.

Pencils from my two courses in Davis: The Davis Municipal and Wildhorse.  These two courses are where I learned the game and have had the vast majority of my golf milestones.  I still remember my first birdie at the 7th hole at Davis Muni.  a 101-yard nine iron to 12 feet followed by a smoothly struck putt right into the center of the cup.  I still have that rock flight lying around somewhere as well..

Divot tools – one from Mauna Kea that was a very special present, and the other was the first item I ever found on a golf course.  I found this Lake Merced divot tool on the 18th hole at Davis muni while I was playing my first tournament – the Yolo County open.  I still remember shooting a 78-88 in the third flight on the par 67 layout.

Ball mark – a 50 pence piece that I picked up on my trip to the UK with my little brother.  Its always nice to have a positive thought while you’re putting, and that trip is one of my better ones.

I used to think I kept things simple, but now that I’ve had a little time to reflect on what I chose to carry with me on every round, I’m amazed by how much each item reflects some part of my personality.  JK, what’s in your bag?


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