The first hole is a par-5 that in my haste to get off the tee, sorta had me confused on what to do on my second shot :
|From the fairway of the first hole at Koasati Pines|
I didn't see another soul until the 13th hole, when I ran into a twosome. Unfortunately, they had run up against a fivesome so the pace of play came to a screeching halt. I eventually paired up with the twosome on the 16th hole and managed to finish the round just before 3:00, at which time I decided to play again.
Oh, you want to know how I did? I did pretty well, shooting 39-35=74 on a 6200-yard course that wasn't terribly difficult (69.5/120). However, that isn't the round that I really want to talk about. Yes, its a solid round by all accounts and I'd normally be quite happy to tell you all about it. That second round, yep, its the second round I really need to go into more details on.
Off we go! My drive to lead off the second round wasn't great but on this par-5 it was good enough. I learned from that first experience that the best play is to stay left of the hazard on the second shot, putting me here :
|The first green|
|The green of the par-3 third hole|
The fourth is a 404-yard par-4 that give me trouble both times I played it, making bogey each round. The first time I hit a good drive and then a really nice 6-iron that didn't hold the green and went over, where I failed to get up and down for par. This time I hit my drive solid but a little left, just off the fairway but still right of the fairway bunker. I nearly lost the ball, it took me three minutes to find it. The rough here is a crap shoot (no pun intended) as sometimes it'll sit up a bit and other times the ball will sink down to the point you are lucky to see the top of the ball.
In this case I hoped to hack it out and see if the ball could at least get to the front of the green. No dice. It shot off left and found the trap in front of the green. Now I had a long bunker shot that had to carry most of said sand just to reach the green, which I failed to do as the ball just checked up on the fringe and stayed there. My chip for par wasn't short either as the pin was in the back of the green. I caught the chip a little heavy and left it about 12 feet short. Like the second hole, I made that putt without realizing just how important it would be later on.
|The fifth green at Koasati Pines|
The sixth hole is another longish par-4 that I played similarly both times with different results. Since the flag was tucked on the far left side of the green just over a greenside bunker I tried to hit just a little right and long of the hole. The first time my 6-iron stayed out to the right and cut a bit, barely hitting the green just short of hole-high. I then three-putted from about 45 feet. The second time I managed to get closer, hole high but still 25 feet right. This time I nearly made the putt and came away with par. This is the first time I made a different score on a hole, it wouldn't be the last.
|The seventh green|
The eighth hole is a par-4 playing about 380 yards. The first time my drive hit the fairway but my 7-iron approach hit just right of the flag and bounced through the green, where I had a fairly simple up and down for par. The drive on the second round ended up a little right and in the rough but I drew a good lie. Again I had 7-iron and tried to go for the middle of the green, left of the hole. Despite that effort, the ball still ended up landing just right of the hole but bounced right, settling on the fringe but less than 20 feet from the hole. This little chip was not difficult at all, in fact its one that could easily be made... which I did! The shot came out exactly how I imagined it would.
This brings us to the par-5 ninth hole. Like an idiot, I forgot to get a picture of it (though that link up top might lead you to what it looks like if your curious). Anyway, the card says it plays 505-yards. OK, fine. I see water cuts the fairway down the way but it looks to be quite a ways to me. So, I hit a good drive, maybe a little left of my line, but I see the ball land and clear of trouble, maybe it'll be in the rough.
I never found it.
A ranger came up and told me that if I hit driver from the where the tee was placed that I was in the water as it was only about 250 yards from there. The rough short of the water wasn't really high at all, in fact it would have been about as good as the fairway. So, if my ball wasn't there, its wet. I wasn't happy about it but I drop another pellet and discover I'm only about 185 yards from the pin. My 4-iron squirted right and found the trap right of the green, where I hit a decent shot but missed a 12 footer for par to make bogey. Meh.
Knowing this, out comes the 3-wood. Perfect. I now have 210 yards to the hole, which was cut on the left side of the green. Perfect. Out comes the 5-wood. My ball lands about pin high, just right of the flag, and ends up about 30 feet past the hole for eagle. My first putt wandered a bit left at the hole but I made the four-footer for birdie to shoot 1-under 35 on the front side. Yay! I hadn't had an under-par nine holes yet and now I've done it two times in a row.
You might be asking if I've ever had a full 18-hole round under par. The answer is no. I've shot even-par a few times, though all but once were on courses like Water Oak in Lady Lake, Florida, a course well under 6000 yards and not terribly difficult. The most recent was at the now-defunct Rock Springs Ridge in my old stomping grounds, Apopka, Florida. I think I did this the day before leaving for a cruise in 2005 or something. We'll just say its been a while.
|A view of the par-5 tenth green from the fairway|
The putt was uphill and looked to break slightly right... or did it? My putt never moved right and glided right over the left lip, seemingly settling at about 10 o'clock. This is where I had my Justin Thomas moment. It wasn't near as dramatic nor did it take anywhere near as long but it looked like the hole had placed a tractor beam on the ball and drug it down into its depths, giving me three straight birdies! Now the game was on! I'm 2-under after ten holes? I've never been 2-under this deep into a round before, uncharted territory indeed.
On to the 11th hole, a shortish par-4 with water left of the fairway and fronting the green. The first pass I made a near perfect birdie, hitting a great drive, wedged up to about five feet and canned the putt. In the second round I nearly blew the fucking round up right off the tee. Easily the worst swing I made all day, an ugly duck-hook that I thought for sure was going to be in the hazard to the left. As luck would have it, the rough was a bit thick over there and the ball hung up short of the wet stuff. What a relief! Here's a look at the hole :
|From the FAIRWAY of the 11th hole|
The twelfth hole is another little par-3, though devoid of water this time:
|The short par-3 12th hole|
The 13th hole was another shortish par-4, but this hole had a dog-leg left around a hazard. The first time around I was 2-under on the back nine and hit a perfect drive, then had to wait for that twosome I mentioned. When they finally cleared the green I promptly laid the sod over the ball and ended up making bogey. This time my drive wasn't quite as good but I managed to get 9-iron to the green, landing about 20 feet left of the hole. I scared the hole a bit for birdie but left myself a stress-free tap in for par.
The next hole was another not-so-long par-4 that I made par on both times that I played it. Again, water was left but I had no issues with that either time. The first time I missed the green but got up and down. The second round I hit the green and had a decent look at birdie but took two putts without complaint.
|The 15th hole at Koasati Pines|
I decided to just try to hit my drive over the tree. Both times I pushed it a bit, going pretty much right over that trap but ended up in perfect position. Both times I hit a wedge up onto the green to about 20 or so feet and made par both times, though that putt on the second round looked awfully good for a really long time. If that had gone in I'd have been 3-under after 15 holes, which probably would have caused me to pass out. Probably a good thing I missed it then.
The 16th hole is a par-3 that was playing at around 140 yards. The first time around the wind was slightly in my face and my 8-iron ended up six feet short for a good look at birdie, which I would miss as I misread the putt. The second time around the wind was dead calm. For whatever reason, I could feel the nerves a little more now, enough that I thought about clubbing up. I elected against it, thinking that a full swing would hold up better than trying to dial down. This time I ended up about 25 feet long and slightly right of the hole. I left the putt short but by just two feet, so I was able to sweep that in and move on.
Now we come to the 17th hole. I have no picture, but this hole was much like the fourth hole. A dogleg right that was playing about 380 yards, I just didn't like how the hole looked from the tee. There were traps on both sides, but no water so that helped. Could I carry the trap on the right? I don't know, but I didn't want to block myself from a look at the green if I went too far right. So, I tried to go at the corner of one of the traps on the left.
The first time wasn't so bad, I missed the fairway left but drew a bad lie. I hacked it out and had to hit a long chip and run to the hole in the back of a long, narrow green. The chip was hit perfectly but my judgment of pace was off a little as the green broke away from the hole once the ball rolled by. I hit a good putt to try for par but the damn thing didn't break right for some reason.
So, for the second attempt I decided to try and go a little more right.... and drop-kicked it. I'm surprised I didn't simply throw up right then and there. The shot I hit on the 11th was better than this one due to the fact that I managed to hit the ball first on that one. My luck held up though as the ball stayed in the fairway, even if I was 30-40 yards further away than I should be. The problem now was that I had 195 yards to the hole.
I decided that 5-wood was the best play. I could try to go with 4-iron and just see if I could hit the front of the green and maybe it would roll back to the hole. I decided to go with 5-wood since I thought that I might try to swing too hard with the 4-iron and hit another over-the-top klunker like my drive. That would have been the end of the round right then and there, I know it. So, 5-wood away.
It looked good. It was right of the hole, which I thought would be fine. As it happens, there was a trap back there and my ball ended up in there. The shot was good, the swing felt surprisingly fine and my ball was maybe 25-30 feet from the hole. The problem was I short-sided myself in one of these firm bunkers. Oh, and the green was sloping away from me also. Great!
I realized that, unless I hit the pin, I was going to have a long putt for par. I accepted that. I didn't try to get cute with this bunker shot one bit. If I were 2-over instead of 2-under I might have been tempted to try and flop it just over the lip of the trap and see if I could nestle it close. Not now. I blasted out, saw the ball roll 30-40 feet away and lived with it. From there, I managed to get down in two for bogey, no drama involved. I wish the putt had reached the hole and at least given me a chance to save par, sure. On the other hand, I don't know how I'd feel about trying to make a downhill three-footer for bogey either. Probably not well. Lamenting my ill-timed errors, I proceeded to the last hole.
|A view from the fairway of the par-5 18th hole|
With the memory of my last drive fresh in mind, I hit some sort of toed-push weakly to the right. I missed the fairway but at least it didn't flair off somewhere awful. I didn't hit it well but at least I hit it far enough that I didn't have to be too worried about clearing the water as I fortunately had drawn a good lie. I had to use 3-wood to be sure I cleared the water, I couldn't chance being wrong and being short in the event I mishit it again. I put a good swing on it though and caught the ball clean, clearing the water and ended up about 120 yards from the hole. Very manageable! But I still had to reach the green.
By now I had noticed that if there was a breeze in the air I didn't feel it. The place was absolutely empty of everything. People? I didn't see any. Birds? Squirrels? Nope. I had the place to myself the entire time. The only things I saw now were my ball, the green and the flag. I knew I had to get said ball onto said green within reasonable proximity of said flag, since that was where the hole was. I had to get into that fucking hole in no more than three shots, even if I ended up dead after I did it. A good way to die if you ask me.
The club of choice was 9-iron. Its too much, but 120 yards is pushing the wedge right now and there was no trouble long. The pin was close to the middle of the green so I had plenty of room to go right at it, though I did hedge myself a bit left since there was a little more room on that side. After a deep breath, I just went into my pre-shot routine like I always do, nothing different, no changes there. I choked down a little in order to control the distance. We're ready. Go.
I made a solid swing. Contact felt a little weird to me, perhaps it was nerves, perhaps the ground was a bit firmer here. I really didn't give a shit at the time as the ball looked good in the air. Just left of the hole, now a little draw. Fine by me. The ball landed a little past pin high and eventually settled about 20 feet long and left of the hole. I was hoping for two feet again but twenty was better than a lot of other things that could have happened here.
I still had to get this damn ball in the hole. Two putts from twenty? Normally I'm not too worried, I'm looking to hopefully hole it. I tried to keep that same thought in mind. I want to make a normal stroke. My putting style is more a die-it-at-the-hole style anyway, so if I stick to that I should be fine as I've been good on my speed all day. Left to right, from this distance that is no big deal. Practice stroke, one time like normal. Line up. Follow the line from the hole to the ball. One more look to gauge distance. We're ready. Go.
The stroke felt better than I thought it would. I figured I'd stab or punch at it but no, it felt fairly normal. The ball looked to be on line for a long time but it stayed on the high side and rolled no more than about 12 to 18 inches past the cup. A tap in for par to shoot 71! Yes, I took a little more care than I would have on this one considering the circumstances, I didn't just brush at this one! Not today. We holed out and the task was complete. I leaked some oil coming home but I made it into the garage and it didn't kill me to do it.
In a Facebook post soon afterwards I said this was my best day ever. By simple score it is and by five shots. I'm not sure it was my best performance though. In 2002, I shot 77 and 73 on the courses at Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. I played from further back (Gold) on at least one of them and these courses are a good bit tougher than this one. I was playing my 4th and 5th rounds of the trip (6 rounds in 72 hours? In July? I'm an idiot) so I was probably close to heat exhaustion when I played here. I recall backing off several putts because I felt a little "dizzy". Yeah, pretty smart. But man, I played really well.
Whatever the argument for Best Day Ever is, nothing can replace the feeling of breaking par for the first time. Where that happens just doesn't matter, does it? I don't think so. Koasati Pines is no Water Oak, its a fine resort-style track that I would be happy to play again even if I had shot 91. The course was in excellent condition. The weather was perfect, even if it was a bit warm. I had the place to myself during that second round. No distractions. No waiting. Not every swing I made was perfect (actually, none of them were) but it was keeping me in play, unless I was choking under self-induced pressure. I've put in the time and it paid off, even if it might be for just one October day. I'll continue to put the time in as this inside path is doing something for me, no doubt. Full swing, chips, pitches, even putting has seen improvements.
Oh, I almost forgot the best part. This place has a 19th hole!
|The cute little 19th hole, possibly the best par-3 here|
Now, if I only could have been as lucky in the casino that night...