My writings on random games. Normally it is No Limit Texas Hold -Em but you might find the odd golf or other game represented as well. Lots of theory, examples of memorable hands, and other miscellaneous stuff that intrigues me.
I was really looking forward to this year’s Doubles Tournament. I felt like last year Molly and I had a real shot at winning until I started playing soft at the wrong time. We had a 1-0 lead in games, I was serving and up 40-0. I did not want to wreck this team, so softened my serve. I ended up getting broken in that game and we never recovered, losing I think 3-2 but it might have been 4-2. That couple went on to win the tournament.
Now, on the one hand, it really is not all that important…it was a charity tournament that is deliberately low-level. A 4.0 player should probably not show up for it, a 3.5 is at the top edge of the spectrum. On the other hand, knowing I lost it for us and cost us a shot at winning kind of stunk. Molly was playing super well and deserved a shot. Had I held up my end, we potentially would have won. So this year I wanted to play better.
On top of that, I am much, much better than last year. A guy who wrecked me at will at the time of the tournament no longer will play me because I just do not lose to him any more. My flat serve is faster, my spin serve bites more and is more accurate, and I am more consistent with my ground strokes. JJ actually thought Molly and I should be the favorites.
However, I need to play consistently to play well. Missing our Friday night game shot my confidence and then, to make it worse, I went out Saturday morning to spend some time on my serve. It was brutal. I started working a flat serve in the deuce court. I doubt I even got 15% of them in…and I was not exactly sending booming shots that would ace good players. These were quite modestly paced “get them in” serves”. Then I showed even less competence in the ad court, with maybe 2% of them getting in. I was all over the place; in the net, long, wide…and when I say long, I mean missing the court, not the service box.
Tried some spin serves into the deuce court, felt somewhat better, but still well under 50%. Started with spin serves into deuce court and got so discouraged I switched to basically lob “find some way to get the ball into the ad court inbounds” attempts…and missed a handful of them!
Finally had a successful set with about 80-85% of the spin serve, although much less bite than normal. Found a half speed flat serve into the deuce court coming back. Gave up and headed home, changed into my color coded tennis gear and headed off.
The thing is, my mindset was totally wrong. With JJ pumping me up and my own memories of last year, I really, really wanted to win…but the closer we got, the less I believed we could, especially in light of two things; 1, Molly had only played I think once all year and was not nearly at last years’ level and 2, my serve was so bad I honestly figured I would be double-faulting about 60% of the time. If we struggled to win even 50% of our own service games, we were going to be in deep trouble. Additionally, I really like to play a set before the ones that count as I seem to struggle in the first set but then hit my groove and my net shots start scoring. I had been unable to find anyone to play Saturday morning.
Got there early as is my wont and Molly was the next one there (besides Phil). We started hitting it back and forth and, as more people came, I managed to keep hitting. About 15 minutes before it started, JJ and I decided to sneak in a quick set. I beat him on his serve, then he broke mine and it was nearly at love! Not a good sign. Still, those two games were the difference for me for the day as I had the chance to come to the net. I hit the first couple out but then got into my groove and would have no net problems all day.
JJ asked Phil who the teams to beat were and he pointed out three teams. I had half-scouted them and figured there were probably 5 teams there that would be favored against Molly and I and 6 teams we would be favored against. So we were right about in the middle.
We were first matched up with Emy and Nick. Playing them gives me issues; Nick is very tall and a good net player so when he is at net I have to lob it…which is NOT my specialty. At the same time, Molly and I are a better team and in practice had pretty much wrecked them. Oddly, JJ and Emy had wrecked Nick and I, coming back from a 5-2 deficit to win the first set 7-5 and the second one something like 6-4. So there is plenty of talent with Emy and Nick does give me issues but Molly and I should win fairly easily.
We won the serve and, per pre-tournament strategy discussion, I would serve and receive first.
My spin serve was biting and Molly shut their returns down at the net, we held at love.
Emy was down 15-30 when the shot of the first match came up. We had a good rally going and Molly had advanced a couple steps toward the net after we had switched sides during the volley. Emy hit a beautiful lob to the deep corner. Molly was running back but it would be a bad angle 2/3rds backhand weirdness. She called “Help” at the same time I, flying back from the net, shouted “I got it”. I hit my patented double underhand backwards over my head skyball. It landed about an inch inside their back baseline and bounced over Emy’s head to give us the point and a commanding lead. Instead of them winning the point and pulling even, suddenly we were in the drivers seat and finished the game next point. From there it was smooth sailing as we built a 5-0 lead. Playing 20 minute sets…it was over. We let off the gas and they won the last 2 games. It was fun and a good warm-up.
Next to us JJ and Gina had a chance to win against Phil and the girl he was playing with, one of the teams I thought should be favored against Molly and I. The girl had a serve that looked the equal of mine and Phil is probably a better player than me. They beat JJ and Gina 3-2 after numerous deuces in each game. This counter-intuitively added to my confidence as Molly and I can beat JJ and Gina pretty handily, though in a few months that will no longer be true.
The next set was against a couple who had a bye in the first round. I had seen them play from time to time and knew we were probably in trouble as they both had some excellent serves and good groundstrokes.
Again I served first and now my spin serve was biting and my flat serve actually got in. We were up 40-0 before they had an effective volley that Molly did not put away off their return. Down 1 game, their guy felt pressure which was a break for us. He has a much harder serve than I do and had been getting them in while practicing with his partner. Now they were hitting the net and he double faulted twice. We ended up breaking his serve and Molly held serve. Up 3-0 in a 20 minute match is a good place to be. They won the next game, but then I held serve again easily. This time his serves were in and they won handily as well, but we held on for the 4-2 win.
In a full set I think Molly and I lose. When we won the first game, he felt the pressure to tie it in a hurry. I think he served a bit faster than he should have and that led to uncharacteristic errors. I think this was the team that won it last year. The girl was a very good player, the guy PROBABLY a better player than me…but playing fast led to unforced errors. Once we broke his serve they were in a deep hole and Molly served as well as I have seen her serve this year.
Next up was another of the teams I thought should be favored to beat us. This guy had the fastest serve I have ever personally faced and his partner was steady and had a nice forehand. They won the serve. He started with a double fault. Molly then got just enough on her return, he was not ready for that and could not get to it. Love-30. His booming serve I barely got a racket on. I struggled to see it as it was right in line with a tree limb and so fast that at the best of times I would be ecstatic just getting it back over the net. Pure self-defense put it right down the line just past his partner and we had a double break. He then double faulted again.
These were the first two double-faults he had all day. My first serve had unbelievable bite and he was not prepared for it. His partner was not particularly strong and had no answer for it either. He slid over to block my 30-love serve spin, so I hit a modest flat serve to the t, he had a weak return and Molly spiked it for a 40-0 lead. Feeling guilty, I lightened up on my serve and his partner put away an easy forehand return. He then hit a great cross-court return to make it 40-30. Remembering last year, I then put a super-spin serve that he tried to put past me cross-court, I was ready for it and put it behind him to give us the 2-0 lead. Then we broke the girl’s serve to go up 3-0. Molly then got broken. 3-1. He then showed why I thought they should be favored. His first serve I did not pick up until it had crossed the net. I thought it was about 2’ out but Molly never looked at it and since I got a racket on it and was too embarrassed to say anything they were up 15-0. Then he put an Ace past Molly. Then he hit another one I was positive was well long but Molly called in and it was another Ace and a 40-0 lead. Molly got a weak return but they crushed us that game to pull within 3-2.
This was the moment of truth. I was serving; if they broke me to tie it 3-3 we would be facing his partner. He was playing the net aggressively and I had been unable to lob it over him or hit a cross-court past him on my return and Molly had fared even worse. They were likely to win her service game barring something unforeseen. Having just been demolished by his serve, I was feeling pressure to A) win my game and B) get away from my control game into a power-bombing serve contest.
He confidently took up position to take away my spin serve. I tried a too-fast flat serve I thought was in but his partner called out. I then hit a soft second serve he crushed cross-court in front of me for the point. Now I was in the ad-court where I had struggled all day. Even though we had the lead, I thought we had lost…and suddenly all the pressure was off. I put in a beautiful spin serve that led to a weak return. Molly volleyed it, he volleyed back and she made a spectacular shot right at his feet. 15-15. Again he went to cut off the spin serve. I put more bite on it than I had all day and went right at him. This time I stepped up, cut off his cross-court shot and put it in the opening between them. Another spin serve/weak return and it was 40-15. Once more I reached deep, spun it hard, moved him out of position and Molly put down the winner to give us the insurmountable 4-2 lead.
We were now one of 2 undefeated teams. I had not seen the team we were now facing, but had seen the teams they had beat including Phil and his partner who had been getting stronger all day. Fortunately we moved over one court. I could not take another match trying to pick up the ball coming out of that tree. I was unable to pick up the ball off the racket and was struggling with my return.
They got to serve first. He double faulted to me twice, Molly was able to return everything, and we won with them at 30. I broke off more spin than I had all day and was up 40-0 before they could breathe. Up 2-0, his partner went to serve. It was a very modest serve. I went to flip a lob over his head and barely got it past the net, he slammed it and they were up 15-0. Molly did her patented serve and he lasered it into the gap. I again tried to lob, again fluffed it and they were up 40-0. We fought back to 30-40 but the hole I put us in with my weak returns was too much to overcome. 2-1. They then broke Molly and now it was 2-2. He was up to serve.
His first serve was a laser and I rocketed it right back past his partner. Fluke return, 15-0 lead. He ran to serve the next one and double faulted. He then got one I could not return. Then we had a great volley that ended when he dove for one of Molly’s shots and could not get it. He fought back to deuce. We had a couple break points, he had a couple. Whoever won this game won this match. Then came the key point.
I had been trying all game to include his partner. I was hitting the ball “light” when I hit towards her. Every ball even remotely close this guy took. She was there to provide a body, nothing more. (At this point I should point out…she won her service game, he lost his). Finally, he was up at the top right corner having hit a net shot. She was in the back left corner. I floated a soft forehand to her that I could easily have put away for a winner but was trying to include her too. He runs back screaming, “No, don’t hit it! I will get it!” and hit a backhand into the net to put it back to deuce.
Fair enough. If he wants to take every ball, not let her play, then there is no reason for me to keep playing soft. I spiked his serve out of his reach. He won a point to get back to deuce. Molly won us a point, he won a point. I returned one that drove him deep, took his return about 4’ from the net and slammed it right past his feet. Molly then put one out of his reach and we were up 3-2 when Phil called time.
Had he not rushed his serve so bad he might not have double-faulted 2 or 3 times. His second service game his serves were significantly worse than his first one. More to the point, his unwillingness to let his partner play meant he was playing one on two. He was almost positively better than me, potentially much, much better than me. But he was NOT better than Molly and I combined. He kept underestimating her and she played spectacularly at the net, putting away point after point. In the end, I won my service game, his partner won hers and the broke Molly…so his being broken twice meant the win for us.
And with us being the last undefeated team, we are the 2012 Lesser Portland Open Champions.
I cannot stress that last point enough. JJ asked what was the key to our win. I put it down to two key points.
Having me serve first and receive meant Molly was hitting her forehand all day which she is very confident in. We had the best chance of winning the early game on our serve. And, in fact, we never did worse than win the first 2 all day long.
I trusted my partner. I did not poach her shots, I did not try to remove her from play and she won us a lot of games. She was so good at the net it made all the difference. They kept thinking they could just hit it to her and score, and instead she kept scoring point after point after point. She played great. Had I not trusted my partner we would have lost in match 2, match 3 and match 4. The thing about doubles tennis is it is a team game. We played I think 3 teams where the guy across the net was better than me in singles. We played better as a team and Molly was better than 2 of the girls in the last three teams we played which really helped make the difference. Arguably the girls we played in two and possibly three of the games would beat Molly in singles (the girl in the championship match was admittedly one of the weaker players on the court in any set.)
It felt like many of the guys were there to win the games despite their partner. They believed…probably accurately…they were better than either player on my side of the net. There was a distinct strategy in play to pick on the perceived weaker player…but they were wrong. See, in singles, Molly might struggle against all but maybe 2 of the people we played, male or female. But she is a phenomenal doubles player who is thrice as good in doubles as she is in singles. In singles an opponent can take advantage of her sometimes slow lateral movement and front to back movement. Molly is not as quick as many people she would play.
But in doubles she plays such great position tennis that her speed is not an issue; she is always in the right place at the right time to cut off lanes. Then, when the ball is hers, she has such great awareness that she invariably selects the right shot. She moves her opponents around, finds the holes and hits it there. When she has a chance to hit a winner she does so a very high percentage of the time. She is so good at her job that I never lost a service game despite not scoring a single ace all day. I lay that success entirely at her feet; she cut off the angles, moved them around and hit it where they were not. What I am saying is this; when they were trying to pick on the weaker player, they were in fact picking on the stronger player. Yes, in singles I am better than Molly…but in doubles, she is much, much better than me. In doubles, she was the best overall player on either side of the net in every single match.
And guy after guy kept trying to win by pounding the ball at Molly. Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnttttttttttttttt. (buzzer sound). She was probably the best doubles player I saw on either side of the net all day, without exception. Most people served better. Some returned better. Some had better forehands, most had better backhands. Some were quicker. There might even have been one or two who were better at the net. But none. Not one. Were better all-around. She was the difference.
We, by contrast, did not hit to the girl, hit to the girl, hit to the girl…instead, we hit the correct tennis shot, hit the correct tennis shot, hit the correct tennis shot. It did not matter if that was hitting a ball that was the girls responsibility or hitting one that was the boys responsibility. It meant hitting the shot most likely to be an outright winner or force a weak, defensive shot we could put away for the winner.
We played position tennis, we played team tennis, and we won. Again and again. By the time they stopped trying to pick on her were were up 3-0 in three sets and 2-0 in the last one. Only when they figured out it was me that was the weak link would they win a game or two.
And I am ecstatic it worked out that way. On a day my serve was sporadic, my partner played so strong I was never broken in 8 service games. We broke the other guy regularly. Could not have done that without her strong returns. We trusted each other and found a way.
Thanks to a great partner for a great day of tennis and hopefully next year we will be back to defend our title. If she plays like that and people keep playing at her, it should be a foregone conclusion!
It had been a while since I played a “real” round of golf. Usually we just play best-ball, which I am not overly fond of but tolerate so I can hang with the guys. This time it would be long-time friend Alan and I playing my favorite course, Wildwood.
Wildwood is a challenging course with several holes that…well…I find nigh-impossible due to my unconventional ways. But it is gorgeous, has some fun tee shots and is probably the course I have played second most of any, behind St. Helens.
We got there super early which was good. After doing Ladder weights a few days ago I was still sore and in the tennis I took longer than ever to warm up. So I planned to putt for 10 minutes or so and spend a good 5 – 10 minutes more loosening my shoulders and legs. Instead they told us we could tee off straight away so off we went with no warmup.
Hole 1 is a par 5 that tees off from an elevated tee box probably 100’ above the valley floor. A tall tree protects the dogleg right, a creek protects the front of a slightly elevated green.
I love this hole, it is one of my favorites on any course. I will blast my driver, counting on carrying past the corner, then slicing to drill down the center of the fairway. I will aim straight ahead; if I go straight I will be in the trees past the fairway, if I fade I will be on the left side of the fairway and if I slice I will be either in the center of the fairway or the right of the fairway. I always fade or slice…then a solid 7-wood should land me 30 or 40 yards from the green. There I will try a sand wedge to carry the creek and hopefully land on the green, allowing a 2-putt for par. A poor chip is not unexpected, so realistically I think a bogey is more likely.
Well, I did not exactly blast my drive. It goes straight and maybe 230 yards. It ends up in the rough on the left side of the fairway. I then blast my 7-wood, a beautiful shot that lands me about 80 yards short of the green. I then yank my gap wedge left into the trees beyond the green, muff the first chip, am on in 5 and 2-putt on EXTREMELY fast greens for a double.
A surprisingly short drive was rescued by a great 2nd shot, but I then melt down, taking 3 strokes from 85 yards in to get on the green. I feel like I gave away 1 – 2 strokes on this hole.
Hole 2 is a par 5 that is flat for about 150 yards before heading up and to the right to a blind 2-tier green. A pond is on the right side of the landing zone, any shot up the hill will see the ball beneath your feet.
I have played this hole many times, many ways. In theory, I should tee up my 8 iron, land in the flat 150 yards out, then take a stiff 8-iron up to the green and try to 2-putt. However, I tend to overdrive the tee shot, then I am in the ball under feet to blind green protected by trees on the left, do not dare go right conundrum. So instead I blast my driver, planning to fade, then hit a pitching wedge to the green. I will probably miss the green, I plan to miss left as the right can send you to the bottom of a hill. Then I will pitch up close and 2-putt. Realistically I am playing for a bogey on this hole.
My drive is again brutal, maybe 180 yards and slices further right than planned. I muff my second shot, then stick a sand wedge uphill to a blind green about 3 feet from the cup. The cup is right on the pivot point of the upper tier. I breath on the ball and it rolls right past the cup, down the hill and now I am below the hole putting uphill about 10 feet. Whatever. I blast past the cup and take two more shots back to finish it.
My drive was fine for what I was trying to do. My muffed shot is best forgotten. The sand wedge was a thing of beauty and left me a par putt I probably should have made. When I missed, it went so far I was in deep trouble and what should have been a 4 suddenly turned into 7. I KNOW I have away 2 shots and really think I gave away 3. I am already at least 4 shots worse than I should be.
Hole 3 is a par 3 that tees from an elevated tee box dropping about 300’ to a green with water behind and to the right. I have seen people land short on the hill and have it bounce past the green into the water…
This is another fantastically fun hole, but I struggle with it. A soft swing with 1 club under the normal distance feels right, a large green should have me putting, a good lag will give me a reasonable shot at the par I should have had on 2.
My swing is a bit light and off, I drift the ball to the right and end up a few yards short of the green. I then have a weak chip that barely gets on the green. My lag putt leaves something to be desired and I end up 3-putting for a 5.
I should have taken a full swing. We were higher up than I have ever played this hole and I played a 150 yard club from 173 downhill…landing about 10 yards short. Then I wimped on the chip, leaving myself too much work to do. Poor choices on this hole mean I got the score I deserved.
Hole 4 is a long par 5 with a creek protecting the forest to the left, another protecting the landing zone about 80 yards short of the green, and lots of space.
Because of how broad the fairway is, this hole is one of the easiest on the course. It is easy to aim left with the driver and blast away. I should get a massive drive, a good second shot can clear the creek and a decent chip should give me a birdie chance. This hole allows me to get a bit loose and I have been known to reach the green in two.
I promptly slice my drive deep into the woods. I re-tee and…go even further into the woods. This one sliced so bad it looked more like a boomerang than a golf ball. Some people claim it sliced so bad it landed behind us. So now my par shot is still from the tee box. I manage all of 170 yards. With my driver. On the third attempt. And then old reliable, my beloved 7-wood goes straight into the woods. A drop. I skull my rain-making 7wood so bad it starts bouncing about 10’ in front of me and ends up behind a tree left of the fairway. I punch out. I move closer. Closer. And finally I am on…in 11 shots. About 35 feet from the cup. The way I am putting today, I am looking at maybe a 15? At least, until I roll the putt in. Probably the second longest putt I have ever made on the worst hole I have played in over a decade.
My driver was really, really bad. I aimed way left and still managed to A) be short, and B) slice so bad that on the roomiest hole on the course I twice went at least 150 yards right of where I aimed. Two of the most brutal shots I have ever hit followed by a distance so short I have been known to hit an 8-iron further than I hit my driver. Then my 7 wood betrayed me twice. I made 2 good plays on this hole; the punch out into the fairway was well planned and executed. Not that it matters when you are laying 8 and still almost 200 yards from the cup…This is a hole I start out planning to par every time. If I play it well I should birdie it, if I play it poorly I should bogey it. Instead I did worse than double par, but it ended in the most spectacular putt I have made in a long time. So even though it was horrible, it was cool. I gave away at least 5 shots on this hole alone.
Hole 5 is a tough par 4. If you slice or fade the forest on the right blocks you off from having a second shot at the green. A monstrous sand trap protects the elevated blind green.
This hole is tough. The perfect shot is to the right of the fairway right at the end. This gives you the cleanest sand trap-dodging shot to the most open part of the green. But if you are short or too far right, the trees give you no shot at the green and you end up having to do a punch-out shot…from the fairway. Go left and you have a long chip that has to clear the sand trap, not land on the steep hill behind the green and stick on a narrow width green. I have little control, so I want to stay left. I plan to be towards the left side of the fairway and try to flop a sand wedge with enough backspin to, if not actually achieve a backwards roll, at least stick somewhere on the green. In truth, I will probably land on the hill behind, try to chip to the half of the green the cup is on and 2-putt if possible. I am playing for a bogey here.
My aim is again off and I am more than a fade, less than a slice, ending up 20 yards below the sand trap. I missed my aim, but because I was playing it safely it played just fine. I then modified my swing, got the sand wedge to fly the green and stick. I lag nicely and have a 4-footer for par…which I lip out.
My drive was decent, checking in about 226 yards, although it does leave me a tough second shot. I am not confident in my ability to modify sand wedge shots, but this time it works out nicely and I gave myself an excellent shot at par. In truth, for my quality of play, it is not an upset that I still scored a bogey. I had a legit shot at par but not a confident one and, while there are days I make that putt, I am happy with a bogey.
Hole 6 is a tough par 3. You tee off from another massively elevated green. If you miss right by a foot from the rough the ball is lost. If you miss long by a foot the ball is gone. You can miss left by about 10 yards. The front of the green is protected by a massive tree that hangs partially over the right side of the green and a shorter tree to the left. Really, the only safe landing place is the green.
I want to drop a 9 iron anywhere on the green and 2 putt. If I miss, it will be left, hoping to get a reasonable chip. At my skill level I am honestly planning to miss left, chip and 2-putt, I am playing for a bogey.
My 9 iron drifts right but is almost pin high and sticks on the green, leaving me a 15’ putt. Now I feel good. I read the green to drift right to left with a slight downhill at the end of my putt. I am essentially lagging here with the hope of leaving myself a makeable par putt. I think I hit it too fast but it slows rapidly and is not turning at all. Just as it seems it is passed the cup, the break I read kicks in, the ball curls back and drops in for a birdie. YES!
Lost in my joy at being on the green and making a long putt I am unaccustomed to making, I am drifting right with my irons which is not usual. Driver, yes, but irons, not so much.
Still, I executed a shot that I struggle with off the tee, read the green correctly and made what is for me a putt I miss 99 times out of 100. I am very happy with this hole. I feel like I gained 2 strokes.
Hole 7 has trees just across a creek to the right the length of the dogleg par 5 hole. A creek crosses at the dogleg but never really comes into play. A large landing area about 200 – 240 yards out gives plenty of space, though if you over-drive that you are in another creek or the trees alongside it.
Aim left, drive deep, count on my consistent bend to give me great position. If I fade I have a longish shot to the green. If I slice I actually have a really good shot at, if not reaching in two, at least leaving a really short chip. Still, lots of things can go wrong. I want a par but will not be upset with a bogey.
My drive turns perfectly. The only problem is it is 50 yards short of where it should be as I crank out yet another 180 yard drive. This leaves me somewhat behind a tree and unable to clearly see where I am going. I blast my 7 wood, a beautiful, high-arcing shot that I think will put me in good position. Turns out I never find the ball and end up dropping at a place we assume is about right since there were people breathing down our back and it did not make sense to go back and hit another. (We were waiting to tee off on every hole and thus had groups waiting behind us as well). I then land my iron shot about 6’ from the cup and one putt for an ugly and cheap bogey.
I cannot believe how short I am hitting my driver. Seriously, it should be a minimum of 225 yards and more in the 240 – 250 range. I am consistently 45-70 yards light on the driver. And it is slicing harder than ever. Horrible. I would never have believed my second shot was not in great position. Losing a ball and having to drop was a bitter pill to swallow. However, a fantastic pitching wedge/putt to get up and down and save a bogey despite a horrific drive, a second shot that looked great and ended badly is something I am fine with. I believe I got a more than fair score for the way I played it, if anything with no driver on a par 5 I saved a shot.
Hole 8 is a pretty simple par 3, a soft 143 yard uphill to a gigantic green.
For some reason I always land short on this hole, so I will club up, aim left of where I want to land, and two putt. If I drift right with my iron as I have been doing all day, there is a good chance I will get a birdie opportunity, otherwise I want a good lag and hope for par.
I end up just short and at the bottom right tip of the green. Not really sure what happened. I felt like I put a good swing on it and actually was afraid I had over-driven the green. It felt good. It was not. My chip was nothing to write home about, a reasonable two-putt and yet another bogey.
The Post Mortem
The problem was not necessarily landing short. A half-way decent chip would have given me a good shot at an up and down. The truth is I am a pedestrian chipper at best and when I miss a green on a par 3, I am far more likely to get a bogey than a par.
Hole 9 is another favorite. Teeing off a cliff on a par 4 that descends to a valley, then up to an elevated green guarded on either side by bunkers. This one has massive room to the right, though if you slice badly you are likely on or behind some mounds on the valley floor and trying to fly the sand traps without over-hitting the green because the hill behind them is nasty.
Aim left, blast the tee shot 250, a short chip, a 2-putt.
The Execution: I actually got a 200 yard drive that was just right of the fairway. With a 65 yard uphill chip, ball just beneath my feet, I stuck it about 20’ from the cup, a fantastic chip for me. A gentle two-putt and I finally had a par!
A so-so drive, a great chip, and a decent lag allowing me to par made me very happy. A 52 on the front when I really feel I should have had a 43 makes me less happy…
THE BACK NINE
The first couple holes are similar to the front but shorter…and harder.
Hole 10 is a dogleg par 4. Go too far left and you are in the pond. Go right and you are either on an impossible hill or in the driving range. The fairway is pretty narrow so you need to be accurate.
Despite 9 holes of proof my driver sucking giant hairy underarm monkey pit sweat, I want to take it, swing gently and try for a straight shot a modest 200 yards or so, allowing an easy 8 iron into the green and a 2 putt. A poor drive should still let me scramble for a bogey.
My swing felt good. The ball disbelieved me and disappeared to the right, hitting the cart path. I hit a provisional which promptly makes the first shot hit awesome. Fortunately, we find both and my first one had planted itself maybe 85 yards off the green in the middle of the fairway. A nice gap wedge landed the back half of the green, the putt lipped out and I had the easy finish for par.
This got me feeling good. I had gone bogey-birdie-bogey-bogey-par-par over the last 6 holes since my epic meltdown. I was playing strongly. My chip was okay, my putting very strong…I felt ready to make a run.
Hole 11 is a dogleg par 4 with a landing area about half way to the hole. Go long and you are in the water. And/or behind trees. Go right and you are in the water. Go left and you are on a nasty hill. The “correct” way to play it is maybe a 150 yard drive, leaving you a 190 yard uphill blast to an elevated, blind green with noplace to miss.
I have no good way to play this hole so I wanted to unload with my driver, getting past the water and probably slicing badly to head up the hill. With luck I would be right of the water on the left, left of the hill on the right and sitting 100 yards from the green with the ball under my feet. I struggle to know how to select the right club for that shot so would probably need 2 or 3 shots to get to the green and a 2 putt…I want a bogey but would not be surprised with a double.
Well, it worked. Sort of. Except the shortness of my driver continued to plague me, the ball landing just past the water, well right, behind the trees with no sight to the hole. I thought I was closer than I was, picked the wrong club…I think the gap wedge…hit a sky-bomb directly over the tree but about 10 yards short of the green. I then blew the chip and ended up 3-putting for a 6.
My plan was fine. It was the short reach of my driver and my fear of going long on the second shot that doomed me. If I hit my pitching wedge instead of my gap wedge I am probably on in two despite the short drive. I feel like I gave away at least one shot here.
Hole 12 is a straight par 3 that tees off from elevation but, unlike the cliff-like tee boxes on 1, 3, 5, 9 and 10, this one has the hill gently slope all the way to the bottom. If you go long you are in the pond, there is room to the left but you will have no sight of the green, to the right you are likely to bounce off the hill into the pond…you can miss short and it will probably play well as the hill will give you some carry, but miss short and hard and I have seen shots skim all the way across the green into the pond.
Tee off the 8 iron aiming left of the flag but still on the green. If I fade I am still on the green and should not be in danger. 2 putt for par. Or chip close and get a bogey if I am off.
A decent but not strong shot, I end up a few yards short of the pin and miss right…but not enough right to be trouble. My ship does me no favors, getting me on the green but 25’ from the hole from whence I 2-putt for a bogey.
I erred on my tee shot. I should have put the tee off my back foot and swung a bit harder, putting backspin on the ball. I know how to do it, I have confidence I can do it, and it would have put me much closer to the pin and given me a better shot at par. My poor strategy cost me on this one as I was afraid if I hit it too stiff it would get wet. When I hit a club soft, I am starting to realize I hit it right. I need to speed up my swing.
Hole 13 is intimidating. A modest length par 4, it has a tight fairway bounded on the left by a hill steep enough that a ball hitting it can bounce all the way across the fairway into the creek that runs the length of the hole on the right. The green cannot be overshot as doing so puts you in the creek as well, and both sides are guarded by bunkers.
Put the driver in the bag. I cannot afford to go right. I need an accurate club here. Realistically, I should just tee off my 8 iron, knowing a good tee shot and a stiff 2nd 8-iron will reach the green. But it will not be in good position, so really I am playing for a bogey doing that.
I did not stick to the plan at all. I decided to do a controlled swing driver. I did manage to keep it to the left side of the fairway…about 150 yards out. I could have out-driven that with my 8 iron easily. I then decide to try to reach with the 7 wood and blast away, aiming left to avoid the creek. I manage to catch a tree on the hill and land in the rough on the hill, ball under my feet about 40 yards from the green. I decide to swing the 8 like a putter but the rough is tougher than I credited it for and I barely get off the hill. A half-way decent chip leaves me about 10’ from the cup. I lip out my putt and finish with a 6.
I should not swing a club I am afraid to swing. I would have been better off teeing up my 7 wood. Or even my 8-iron. I did not trust my driver, I swung half-heartedly, did not trust the direction of the 7-wood, was timid with my first pitch…I probably was fortunate to pull a double-bogey out of this abomination of a hole.
Hole 14 is deceptive. You tee off from about 10’ higher than the hole. The ground drops in between so it looks like you are teeing from higher than you are. To the left is trouble, though you can go pretty wide before hitting it, to the right is the creek but again there is plenty of room…there is really only trouble if you go long which will land you in the woods. All you need is any club that reaches the green and you can be aggressive knowing you have room to play left, right and short.
For some reason I always land short. I am going to go one club stronger than I think I should and take a full swing. I should be on or near the green. If near I want to chip close for a change but realistically will bogey. If I am on, I want that elusive par.
So much for clubbing up. I land about 30 yards short. I have absolutely no explanation. The swing felt good. It went straight. It looked awesome. I thought I had a shot at a birdie. And then it landed and Alan busted up laughing at how short I had hit it. And rightfully so was he laughing…I legitimately thought I hit a really great tee shot. Of course, his even shorter shot was way left…but…well, anyway, I was on in two, missed a makeable 9’ par putt and pulled a bogey.
I do not understand how, knowing I undershoot this green, I managed to club up, swing strong and land short. That was a disappointing shot.
This long, 522 yard par 5 is straight with huge amounts of room. There is a creek on the right and a fairway bunker threatening pathetic golfers who eschew the monstrous open spaces to the left and the unbelievably wide fairway to strike a 190 yard drive wide right, and the green is protected by an unplayable hill on the left and a bunker guarding the right.
Aim well left, swing the driver as hard as I can and plan to be 250 – 300 yards down the fairway. If I pull it as I occasionally do when I swing like this, it is gone into the forest but I would have to hit it straight as an arrow and a long way. If I fade I will have that 300 yard drive and be left of the fairway or at worst dead center. Even if I slice I should be somewhere between the middle and right of the fairway. Then a strong 7 wood will have a shot at reaching the green or at least leaving a short, easy chip. Worst case is a bogey. This hole covers my weaknesses.
Fight fire with fire. If the course is going to cover up my weakness, I am going to expand my weakness. The ball starts slicing even before I make contact. To adjust for the left to right movement, it decides to not travel far and lands in the stupid bunker that should never come into play. Yet another drive that stinks from the standpoint of both distance and direction. I cannot fully describe how awful this shot is as that bunker should not be in play from any standpoint; I should be 60 – 100 yards past it, and should be 40 – 80 yards left of it. Stunningly bad shot. I then pull off an awesome 7 wood out of the bunker that makes up all the distance I did not get with my drive and giving me a perfect setup about 60 yards from the green but still before the hill starts up. I of course cannot stand prosperity and my double-divot out-travels my “chip”. I then launch an awesome sand wedge that gets me on the green about 20 feet from the cup. Yet again my putt hits the cup but will not fall but I save bogey.
I have had bad stretches with my driver. But I have NEVER sliced this bad and NEVER hit it this short. That combination of no length and bad direction is crushing my spirit. But my sand wedge has been magic and my putting outpaced anything I have any right to expect so it is a mixed bag.
Hole 16 is a killer. Coming off the longest hole on the course, it is another long par 5, this one after climbing the hill to the teebox. This one doglegs right about 240 yards from the tee before straightening out, then a slight turn at the end of the hole. It tempers this by having a spacious fairway and the only hazards are some sparse trees to the right.
Still unconvinced at how bad my driver is, I want to blister it, carrying the corner straight and then slicing to set me up with an unfairly short 2nd shot. A well struck 7 wood has an outside shot of reaching the green and at worst will leave me a short chip. A par is not unreasonable here.
Ignoring all evidence to the contrary, I boldly announce, “This will be my best drive of the day”. I unleash a monstrous (by the days’ standards, anyway) 220 yard drive that slices around the corner as planned. I then chunk my 7 wood almost nowhere. Fortunately, my pitching wedge comes to the rescue, landing it on the left front of the green. A 2-putt later has my par.
It is not often I get a par and feel like I gave up a shot. Something is wrong with my swing. With a better drive I would not have pressed so hard with my 7 wood and really believe I could…and should…have reached the green in two. Still, I am always happy to get a par, so I will take it.
Hole 17 is a distinct switch. You tee off over a chasm bounded on the left by trees, no fairway until you clear the chasm, then a tight, left-turning fairway. Miss short and the ball is in the chasm. Miss left and it is gone. Miss right and you are in the trees, though they are sparse enough you might have a shot. Then the green is bounded on the right by a sand trap and trees and on the left by another tree.
Clear the chasm, land “somewhere” in the fairway, find a club to get close, hope for a good chip and try to two putt for bogey. This hole gets in my head. Coming off 2 very spacious holes with plenty of room for error, this one feels almost claustrophobic.
Banana peeler in hand, I slice my driver so far gone we almost cannot find the ball. With a tree in my way I break loose the hybrid 3 for the 3rd time ever. Alan runs away so as not to get hit by the anticipated ricochet, but I get the last laugh by planting it 2 feet from the green. I then chip to 10’, lip out one last putt and finish with a bogey.
For having no plan this went super well. I simply blasted away with the driver planning to see where it landed and then see what happened. I did not have a targeted landing zone, did not have any real plan for the hole beyond “clear the chasm, see how many strokes it takes to get to the green”. I hit an amazing rescue shot and did not deserve a bogey. I really think I picked up an extra shot on this hole.
Hole 18 is another deceptive hole. It looks easy. It bends slightly left to right but the fairway is wide enough to be fair, though you cannot miss to the right as that puts you in the driving range and left puts you in a canyon. But the fairway is plenty wide to avoid that. The green is unprotected, though going right means the ball rolls to the clubhouse and left or long is out of bounds.
Tee off with the 7 wood for accuracy. I should have a medium length 8 iron which is my most accurate club. I feel like this should be the classic par; fairway, green in regulation, 2 putt. A birdie if I get lucky with the 8 iron, a bogey if I miss the green are both in play.
My formerly reliable 7 wood feels good coming out of my swing. But we never find the ball which must have gone into the driving range. I drop, think I can reach with my pitching wedge, am on in 3, miss a makeable putt on my second attempt and finish with a 6.
I still do not know what happened with my tee shot. I have never used a tee on the 7 wood before, but the swing felt great like it does on those screaming, high-arcing 225 yard blasts I sometimes get with that club. It went short and surprisingly far right apparently. Both Alan and I were shocked that ball was gone. My pitching wedge felt good as well and then I melted down in putting.
For the round, it was a weird mish-mash. My “long” clubs were short all day. My short irons and wedges were 20 – 40 yards longer than before. My accuracy was non-existent, but I made more 10’+ putts in one round than in any other year and missed 3 or 4 others by inches, rimming out at least three times.
And after an epic melt-down hole, I still managed a semi-legitimate sub-100 round (the drop location on 2 balls was sketchy. But that is a product of not really knowing the rules and having people behind us)
Overall, lots of fun and reminds me of how much I hate best ball.