Tuesday, May 18, 2004

A round of golf, analyzed

Here's why I'm a mediocre player, in a nutshell:

Today's round was played at the Salem muni course with two of my friends from my old company (Linda and Mary). We teed off around 4.

Hole #1: My tee shot is from an elevated tee into a fairway that slopes right. I catch the ball a little high and hit a shot that stays low - thanks to the elevated tee I still get about 180 yard out of it, though. It's on the fairway just at the point where it turns to an uphill green about 150 yards away. With the hill, it plays more like 180, though, so I take out my Tight Lies fairway wood and try to take a little off it. It works, and I'm on the green about 12 feet below the pin. The putt is dead on - birdie! My first of the year. Score so far: 3.

Hole #2: Another downhill - this time a 245 yard par 3 - the "signature hole" of the course. It's a blind green at the bottom of a double slope. My tee shot is bulled dead left, it appears - somewhere on top of a hill that rises above the left of the green. I'm figuring woods. And I get to the bottom and find it almost dead center line, just a couple of yards short of the green. I got a real good bounce and roll off the hill, it turns out. I chip short onto the green, and just miss a 25-foot putt for par. I settle for a tap-in bogey, which is pretty good on this hole. Score after 2: 7.

Hole #3: This one is a 350-ish level hole with some open space to the right, and a lot of wet marshy rough on the left edge. I've been hitting long and left so far this year, with a manageable but messy shot awaiting me afterwards. This time I try to fade the ball a little to avoid that (my weightlifting has so far granted me more power than I had last year, and slightly better club control), but send it too far right. I have to play a safe punch out from the base of a shrub, then knock an 8-iron to the green's edge. A chip and a 2-putt later, I've got a double-bogey 6 and a score of 13 after three holes. Not too bad, considering.

Hole #4: The one that got away. The only par 5 on the course, it's at least two shots to the top of a hill that then gives you a 160-yard shot to a small green. The fairway home from there is narrow, sloping severely into rough on either side. My tee shot is decent but unspectacular - a screamer low that carries about 210 yards. From there I hit my Tight Lies just a hair fat, putting it just short of the hill top. The shot from there is blind, with a slight uphill lie - I hit a 5-iron to compensate for the angle and hit it perfect. On the green in three. From there I have a long, 40-foot putt to try and make birdie. I'm really just trying to get it to within 5 feet or so.

I failed spectacularly - hitting it way too softly. Now I've got 15 or so feet for par, and it's tricky. I miss that one, and the comebacker too, winding up with a double-bogey 7 on the hole. A four-putt. Yuck. Now I'm at 20 after four holes.

Hole #5: More hills. An elevated tee hits over a brook to a fairway that slopes heavily from left to right. That goes up again to a green about the same height as the tee. After a short wait for the players in front of us (who are a threesome also, but they're slowing down) I hit a poor tee shot that's low and curving right. I wind up on a few rocks next to a hornet's nest, and my fellow players give me a free drop to get a few feet away. My next shot is just short of the green - I chip on easily and two-putt. Bogey 5, and a 25 after five holes. I could break 50 if I keep it up!

Hole #6: Elevated tee, dogleg left. About 370 yards total. But I make it about 400 by slicing (again) to the back of the fairway's throat. I recover nicely with about 190 yards out of the Tight Lies from the rough, leaving me a 75 yard wedge to the green's edge. From there, another chip and a two-putt to get a 6 - I'm now at 31 with three holes to go.

Hole #7 is only about 290 yards. But it's up over a hill into a small, dome-shaped target green that is real difficult. After cooling my jets for almost five minutes waiting for the folks in front, I finally misplay my drive only about 100 yards or so. It's in rough. I punch out badly for another 90 yards or so, then hit an iron to the right. A bad chip, a few putts - triple-bogey 7 and I'm now at 38 for the round.

Hole #8: Okay. The next hole is the last par 3 - only 125 yards today, but steeply uphill. At that distance it plays more like 140 to me. The waiting is really getting to me. When I finally tee off, I pull a 7-iron way left, and finally locate it in rough in front of the ninth tee. Yech. I punch out, chip on, and three-putt. A triple-bogey 6, and now I'm at 44. But a decent score on the last hole could redeem me.

Hole #9 (finally!): More waiting. More fuming. When I finally tee off, I blast a drive that went 300 yards if it went one. But it was so far right I can't find it. Pissed off and hurried, I take my drop and hit it just short of the green. Then I chip over. Then I chip back way past the hole. Then, finally, I just swipe it a few times with my putter while cursing under my breath about the horrible things I want to do to the golfers in front of my who helped me ruin my concentration. The snowman leaves me with a 52 for the round.

The beer afterwards tastes good, though, and takes my mind a little bit away from potential mayhem. The summary of my game:

- When I can play briskly and concentrate, I can play reasonably well.

- Slow play really hurts me more than it hurts a lot of people.

- The difference between me and a good golfer - I make occasionally spectacular shots to get out of trouble. Good golfers may not make the same kind of impressive-looking shots, but that's because they avoid trouble in the first place.

- My driving is still a work in progress. I have pretty good power, but until last year I usually sliced. Changes to my swing and more arm/shoulder strength have affected that, but I'm still getting a handle on it.

- Despite my score, I'm looking forward to next week's round anyway. Sucker.

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