Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A tough day at Falcon Point.

In the category of "two steps forward, one step back" I present my round at The Club at Falcon Point. Sometimes when you try to break old habits and form new ones the old habits not only win out but they take revenge. That's kinda how I feel about some of what happened here.

After hitting some range balls to warm up I went to the first tee feeling somewhat fine about how things might go. My biggest concern was hitting it left with this stronger grip I've been adjusting to but for the most part I thought things would work themselves out. However, once I teed the ball up I felt a little uncomfortable with the way the hole looked to me :

The view from the first tee at Falcon Point
The water didn't bother me too much, but I wondered just how far into the fairway it might come back around. What bothered me even more was the houses on the left, especially with my previously posted corcern. For whatever reason they just looked too close to the line I thought I had to play. Naturally, I hooked it right into said houses. My second ball was right and I thought for a moment it could end up being wet but when I got to the ball it was actually in perfect position on the right side of the fairway. I had more room than I thought. I ended up hitting the next shot short, shanked a chip but then managed to nearly hole out the next chip and took a triple bogey. Great start.

The second hole is a little par-3 that has a double green shared with the fourth hole :

The second hole, complete with double green
 Playing no more than a pitching wedge, I still managed to miss the green short and right. I don't think it was a bad swing, more horrible alignment. The hole was cut in a ridiculous spot though. I don't think it was more than six feet from the back fringe, perched on a little hill with a tiny plateau. At least I was chipping nearly straight up that hill... except I shanked that one too. I ended up on the green, though whether it was considered to be on the second or the fourth green is up for debate. For this angle I had zero chance of getting the ball to settle close to the hole. I then missed the ten footer for bogey and walked away five-over after two holes.

I hit my first decent shot of the round off the tee on the par-4 third. The 6-iron approach was decent but caught thin so I ended up a little short of the green. I proceeded to only semi-shank that chip and from there got down in two for a bogey. We're gradually getting better! The trend continued with a par on the fourth hole as I hit a good drive and a decent 7-iron to the green. Two putt pars are welcome at anytime, especially at this point.

We then come to the screwy par-5 fifth hole, shown below :

A look at the fifth green from the fairway
The hole is short for a par-5, granted. However, the view you see is from where I hit my drive off the tee... with a 4-iron. Another ten yards and I'd have been in the hazard. From here, its 210 or so yards to the green protected by traps and water short. Since I was blessed with a downhill lie I figured there was no way I could hit a fairway metal high enough to clear the water so I laid up with a punch 7-iron to the peninsula there. I had 67 yards left to the hole, I'm thinking my lob wedge should be perfect here since the pin was back and I shouldn't be able to hit it long. So, I hit it long, right over the flag. The chip was difficult since I now short-sided myself but I at least executed it probably, just landing a little short and sticking on the fringe. I still only had about 10 feet left and made the putt for par.

The sixth hole at Falcon Point
The wind was starting to pick up a bit more by this time but I managed hit a good drive at the sixth. I had about 135 yards left and figured I'd need to play it more like 150 so I hit 7-iron. Finally I felt a solid iron shot and ended up about 15 feet left of the hole. A near miss for birdie gave me a solid par and hopes that maybe I could salvage the day yet.

The par-3 seventh hole
A solid 5-iron that ended up being pushed by the wind about 20-25 feet to the left of the hole on the par-3 seventh led to my fourth straight par. The eighth would end that string as I hooked my drive left and I was lucky to be able to punch out close enough to the green to give myself a short pitch and a chance for par, which I missed. Bogey wasn;t bad from where I ended up off the tee though.

The ninth is a par-5 that doglegs left around a water hazard and also has water short and right of the green. I forget to get a pic of either view (in fact, I forgot to take a few pics on the back nine also). I hit a great drive, however it ends up that it was 20 yards too far and it went through the fairway. Luckily I had a shot back to the fairway, though I had to clear the hazard to get to it. My shot came out lower that I hoped but I cleared the water, wedged onto the green and gathered in a par to shoot 43 on the front, which I guess could have been quite a bit worse.

I then showed signs of further recovery on the back nine by parring the first three holes. The tenth hole had another strange hole position, cut into the side of a hill that gave you a near zero chance of ending up close to the hole without hitting it or something. I managed to coax my 8-foot par putt in on that one though. On the 11th I hit another wedge, this time a sand wedge, right over the flag but over the green. The chip was good but ran a little longer than I thought it would but I made the putt there also. I hit what might have been the best drive of the day on the par-5 12th as I had a 5-iron into the green. I pushed it right into the trap, then blasted it out of the wet sand across the green. Good shot, I just misjudged how much the sand would affect the shot. My chip hit the flag and I had a tap-in for par.

The wind was swirling around the entire time but by now it was getting pretty strong. I mis-clubbed on the par-3 13th and failed to get up and down and took my first bogey on the back side. From here, things started to fall apart. I hit my next drive solid but left and found myself among a bunch of bushes of some type, I have no idea what they are called. I found the ball and had a blind shot to a green protected by water left. I hit it solid but one of the bush-thingys grabbed it and deflected it short and left. I pitched up from there and two-putted for bogey.

The 15th played back into the wind and my drive wasn't too solid. I couldn't see it immediately after I hit it but I have to assume I got under it a little bit as it only went about 180 yards, leaving me about 210 yards into the green. I tried to get there with 3-wood but it tailed off to the right and found another one of these bush-thingys... and disappeared. This thing wasn't far off the edge of the fairway, in fact it was a bit short of the green and probably doesn't normally come into play. Today, it did. After a few minutes of poking and prodding I located my ball, managed to advance it sideways about 10 feet, pitched on and two putts later had a double bogey.

The 16th hole is a par-5 that has water in play at the end of the landing area for the drive and protected the left side of the fairway up toward the green. My drive was solid but hung out right just enough to catch the edge of the fairway bunker. I was only about 220 yards from the green but I had no chance of trying for the green due to the lip of the bunker. I hit a decent shot out with a 5-iron, wedged onto the green and just missed the putt for birdie.

We then come to the 17th hole, an uphill par-3 that played into the wind :

The par-3 17th hole at Falcon Point
With the wind and being uphill the hole turned from a 9-iron into a 7-iron. Unfortunately I left it out to the right and found yet another one of those bushes, which you can kinda see past the bunker on the right. I was pin high but dead as I was under the bush like I was on the 15th. I manged to move it about 5 feet, pitched up and missed the bogey putt. A promising start to the nine was being wasted.

The 18th is a par-4 that was playing into the wind and at 410 yards posed a problem on the second shot. I hit a good drive but still had about 185 yards to the hole. The green was protected by water to the right and in front, but by how much I wasn't completely sure. The pin was in the front left of the green but due to the wind and the water I felt it was too risky to try to get there. So I laid up with a 7-iron, nearly going too far and into the water. From here I could see that I had more room left than I thought and the water didn't come in front of the green quite as much as I suspected. Despite that, laying up was probably at least a coin flip compared to going for it. Anyway, I pitched on but missed the 12 footer for par to shoot 43 on the back and carded an 86 for the day.

In hindsight, yeah, maybe I didn't have as many bad swings as I thought. The ones I did have certainly found bad places though, which to be honest they really haven't done so all that much lately. The start I had didn't exactly put me in a confident mood. The wind played into it and some of the hole positions didn't help either. Overall, I liked the course. While it does have some quirky things about it, like how they use and set up some of those weird bushes, I tend to like quirky stuff (which is why I love course by Mike Strantz, like True Blue in Myrtle Beach).

Since playing here on Sunday I've messed around on the range and stuff and I think I figured out the shanking of the chips. I think its a matter of how I've been moving my shoulders into the ball, which is something I tend to do incorrectly on full shots, which leads to those weak leaking shots that fall off to the right. On the full shots I guess I have enough time and hand-eye coordination to recover with my hands enough to sometimes hit the ball somewhat straight, on the chip it ends up clanking off the hozel instead. So now I've been trying to correct that issue with all my swings and, so far, things look promising. I feel like I'm coming over the top, but not exactly... I'll never be able to explain it. I'll play again on Saturday so we'll see if we can make some progress on these issues. If not, we'll have to try using sorcery again to post a decent score.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A post-Harvey replay at Cypress Lakes.

Enough about Harvey. Obviously it wiped out one weekend of play and has flooded who knows how much area as we sit here typing this. The only course that I knew that was high and dry was Cypress Lakes so I decided to go back there, especially since its about five minutes away. This time I played a tee further back as the two guys I was paired up with were playing there. Fine by me.

Since I just played here I had at least a little bit of an idea of what to expect so that helped a bit. Also, one of the guys I was playing with was definitely a quality player (he'd end up shooting 40-35=75 on the day with borrowed clubs) so that was helpful, even despite the fact that we were firmly entrenched behind a fivesome all day. The day was a little slow but at least it was possible to find a rhythm.

No pictures are in this one since we saw the course last time. I will mention the one thing I did try to change with my swing... well, really it was my grip. I strengthened my left hand to the point that it definitely felt awkward. I hit the range the day before so I was at least familiar with the feeling but it was certainly a noticeable difference. The main reason I did it was that I felt I would have the temptation to lift my arms so much as opposed to turning my shoulders. That seemed to do the trick on the range, now I had to see if I could do it on the course and still hit the ball somewhat in the direction I wanted it to go.

My first few drives were all hit solidly, I could tell a difference compared to what I was doing. The first three were a bit left, then on the fifth I left it a little right. None were grossly offline, I had shots to the green each time. The biggest surprise was how well I hit the irons, which has been my biggest issue (or at least the one I mainly complain about). I hit four of the first five greens, the one I missed was a knockdown wedge on the par five that I hit the fringe with. The best thing about them all was they were all LONG, one of them was a 5-iron that was at least 7-8 yards past the hole. I hope I keep that up, that would be really helpful.

I parred all five of those holes and then hit the fairway with a good drive on the sixth and left myself with about 125 yards to the pin. My first mistake today came when I decided to try to hit wedge instead of the 9-iron. I wanted to force it, I wanted to see if it would go the little bit further. Nope. Instead I kinda reverted back to the old weak leaker and ended up short-siding myself to a front pin. Then the shanks happened.

Yep, I cold shanked the pitch. It wasn't an easy shot, but a shank? I wasn't happy at all about that but I just assumed it was due to the type of shot I tried to hit from a semi-tight lie. I then shanked the second try. Now I'm worried. I'm still not on the green and I now have a chip going downhill to the hole that must carry the fringe in order to get rolling. Fortunately I pulled that one off and managed to at least score a double bogey but that really ruined a great start.

On to the seventh, the par-3 that was playing 167 yards today. I chose 6-iron, thinking that if I don't get that extra five yards that I was getting from the previous shots I'll be fine, under the hole and still looking at 15-20 feet for birdie. I hit it 166-1/2. Nice bounce back birdie there, the swing felt really nice too.

I then parred the eighth and butchered the ninth in a similar fashion as the sixth. This time my drive missed left and though I had a line to the green the lie wasn't too good. I either caught the ball a little heavy or I get could get it to go anywhere and left it a bit short. I then shanked another pitch, though this one at least decided to roll onto the green. I then three-jacked from about 40 feet for another double. Again, I was simply perplexed by it all but what could I really do? On to the back nine.

On the back I hit every fairway but one, the one I missed was hit really solid but a shade left on the par-5 14th. I parred the 10th, bogeyed the 200-yard par-3 11th (but I pulled off a really nice pitch, so I can do it!), bogeyed the 12th when I tried to hit less club that I should of again, parred the 13th and the 14th and bogeyed the 15th, a par-4 that was playing 433 yards. This was the one drive I didn't catch solid, which figures since it was the longest par-4 on the course.

On the 16th I hit a good drive and then hit another really nice 6-iron that landed right near the hole and rolled about 10-12 feet past. Too bad I missed the putt, which was again the status quo on these greens. My putting was pretty good as far as getting the speed right, even the three putt on the ninth wasn't awful. I just never made anything of any length. Maybe the third time I play here, whenever that is, will be the charm.

SO after parring the 16th I had a 9-iron on the short par-3 17th. I didn't hit it terrible but it was more like the weak leaker than what I had been doing earlier in the day. However, I was still only about 25 feet away but I had to pitch over the fringe to a pin cut somewhat close to the edge of the green. Again, I pulled it off as I had been the entire back side, nearly chipping in for birdie. I was feeling better about myself again.

So I stroll to the 18th hole, today playing at 425 yards. I'm sitting at 6-over on the day so I've definitely played pretty well overall, despite the disasters around a couple of the greens on the front side. I hit what was probably the best drive I hit all day, really solid with a slight draw that follows the curve of the fairway. I have 166 yards left to the hole, so that means I get to hit that 6-iron again. Good for me, right?


I'm really not sure what happened but I hit it a bit fat and lost it well right. It ended up closer to the green than I thought it would but it was easily the worst full swing of the day. I'm not sure if I had an uneven lie and I missed that fact or if I just tried too hard to hit another solid 6-iron after than weakish 9-iron on the 17th. Anyway, at least I had some green to work with.

I get to my ball and its not good, its sitting down in the rough to where I could only see the top third to half of the ball.Since I have some space to run it up I just figured I had to get the ball out and have it carry far enough to reach the green, where it would run out by itself. OK, I've done that plenty of times before.

I shanked it again.

Maybe it was the lie. Maybe not. I really think I tried to stab at it too much and too fast. I don't know but it shook me a bit, so much that I did it again on the next try. I'm just baffled, I have NO IDEA what was going on, especially after I just hit three or four quality pitches and chips on the previous eight holes. Somehow I managed to hit another one of the quality shots to within two feet and made the putt for double. I have to admit that I felt embarrassed by those shanks, I really did. I shot 80 and shanked five shots. Five. I lost at least three shots there, maybe more if I make a putt or two.

Feeling a bit pissed off I rode over to the chipping area that they have there. I shanked the first one. I didn't do it again after spending about 15-20 minutes there. I even holed out two of them. I still don't know what I'm doing to cause it though I suspect its that stab-like motion that I felt on the one attempt earlier. Instead of turning through with the shoulders I guess I suddenly decide to go at it with my hands and arms. Or something. I don't know.

I went back to Cypress Lakes today to practice but the chipping area was crowded so I hit the putting green instead. As I was leaving I went over there with my wedge and hit five shots... all of them were near perfect, no issues at all. The one thing I did try to change was not being so open with my stance on those shots. That seemed to make it feel a little easier to do what I wanted. We'll see if it helps on the course next time.

Anyway, I'll take an 80 om a 6566 yard track even in spite of the peculiar short game issues. Overall I hit my driver solid all day and hit quite a few really solid iron shots. Yeah, I still had a few stinkers but even those weren't all that bad. I'll see if I can improve on it some more and see if its something I can repeat more consistently.

As far as where I'll play... good question. Irma killed the plan to fly out to Jacksonville for an extended golf weekend with my good friend Bill, a plan that had included a round at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. So much for that idea. What was $215 for a round would now be $499 as the twilight rates go away later in the month. We've rescheduled the trip for the end of September and we still have plenty of quality place to choose from so don't cry for us... I've already done that.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Cypress Lakes Golf Club.

Last weekend I had the good fortune to play as Paul Willner's guest at one of his home courses, Cypress Lakes Golf Club. I've used the putting green and the chipping area a few times since I've been here but this will be my first trip around the course. We were to go out around 10-ish but we were paired up with another twosome and got to go out a bit earlier, which may have been a bad idea. More on that later.

The first hole was simple enough, a straightaway and short par-4 then I tried to screw up with a semi-chunky 3-wood off the tee. My 7-iron to the green was good though and two putts gave me par. The second hole was a little more visually appealing :

The par-5 second hole
After a pretty decent drive down the right side I elected to take a shot at the green, over the water, with a 5-wood. I hit it solid but a shade left and ended up right on the edge of the trap. My stance was a little awkward but I was able to get to the ball without much issue. To my surprise, the ball jumped a little bit and ended up a bit long and left, leaving me a downhill putt for birdie. I grossly misjudged the speed of the putt and ripped it about 10 feet by the hole. I missed that also for what has to be a bad bogey. Taking four shots from where I was, bad stance or not, isn't very good.

I didn't get any better for the rest of the day, at least it didn't feel like it. I hit a decent drive on the par-4 third but my 6-iron approach was another one of those weakish leakers than I had avoided the last time I played. My 7-iron on the par-3 fourth did the same thing and found the bunker. I bogeyed both of those holes as my pitches and putts were good but not great. We then come to the fifth hole :

The view from the tee of the par-4 fifth
This is a cool little hole, especially now that I know that the water around the green actually comes down the right side of the fairway further that I thought. I hit my drive right and caught the bunker that you might just be able to see in the picture above. I'd say that was a break as the water isn't all that much further than that. The traps were damp but I had a clean lie. My 9-iron was solid, actually it was too solid as I went long. Another pitch seemingly defied gravity and failed to roll out down the hill, leaving me to miss another par putt. See a theme here?

I did manage to par the sixth hole, I think driver/wedge/two putts did the job. The seventh is a par-3, as shown below (I think, my memory today is sketchy at best):

This is where I could tell that things just weren't going according to plan. I hit the green, though I did pull the 7-iron a little left, leaving me about 30 feet or so for birdie. Now, the two guys we were playing with were playing from the tips as one of them was practicing for an upcoming qualifier of some sort. The problem was that he was having an awful day. His friend had no business playing from there at all. Regardless, with those two playing from a different set off tees from us made the play choppy at best, especially when they were constantly looking for balls and other stuff.

Anyway, once everyone was on/around the green I got ready to putt since I thought it was my turn. I go through my routine and just as I take my last look at the hole and pull the trigger I see a ball rolling up to the hole. I don't know whose ball it was and it doesn't matter, but it threw me off today. Normally, I'd just start over, no big deal. I could have been wrong in thinking I was away. However, the day was taking long enough with these guys and I just didn't want to take more time. So I tried to simply restart without stepping off and hit my putt too hard. Not horribly long, maybe 4 feet or so.

That wasn't the mistake. The mistake was feeling hurried and proceeding to hit the next putt as if I was taking a gimme. As I did that I realized that it was waaaaay too long for a gimme but I still didn't stop and missed the putt. Now, nothing says if I did things "right" that I would have made either putt, I know that. However, it bothered me that I didn't have the discipline to just play my own game and not worry about taking a extra few seconds, even if I felt we were taking enough time as it was. So, I marked down a bogey and moved on.

The par-5 eighth hole
I did bounce back and parred the par-5 eighth, shown above. I don't really remember it but I think I burned the edge of the hole for birdie on this one. I know I had a few putts miss that I thought I had made and something tells me this was one of them. Anyway, I bogeyed the par-4 ninth by simply hitting a bunch of average shots. My drive was right but not terrible. My wedge to the green was on line but just short of the green. The chip was also short and weak and the putt for par went wanting. With that I ended up with a 42 for the front nine despite hitting five greens. Needing 19 putts doesn't help.

Even making the turn took too long. We were going to go ahead without the other twosome (they said they were going to eat) but they pulled up to the tee just as we hit our drives so we waited for them. I don't think they would have cared but it just felt like it would have been a dick move to simply leave them like that.

I started off the back nine decently enough. The 10th is a par-5 that doglegs right with water in play down the left side in several places. I had a decent shot at birdie but could only give the hole a scare. The par-3 11th was a simple looking hole from what I recall. I hit another weak leaker and left myself with a fairly long chip across the green. I thought I hit the chip about perfect but the damn thing just kept creeping past the hole and ended up about 8 feet past. Naturally I missed the putt for par.

The 12th is a par-4 that seemed fairly simple as well. I hit my drive left and found a bunker. The ball was below my feet but was sitting clean and far enough from the lip to not give me an issue. I pulled the 9-iron a little but ended up about 15 feet left of the hole. Naturally the putt wasn't an easy one, being downhill and left-to-right. I didn't make it but I left myself a tap-in for par.

The came the 13th. Its a short par-4, maybe the traps making the hole seem like it had a slight dogleg left. Since the wind was in our face I decided to use driver instead of going with 3-wood. That wasn't the mistake. The mistake I made was I had forgotten my glove in the cart. I've been using a glove for a few weeks now and its become part of the routine. Well, I didn't want to go back for it and I decided to go ahead and take a swing.

Out of bounds right.

The club slipped, of course. The day was humid, I've been sweating pretty much the whole time and using a towel after every shot. Considering that was the very reason I decided to start wearing a glove again you'd think I'd know better. Maybe on a different day I would have but not on this day. Like before, I felt a little rushed... well, not rushed, but the timing of the foursome was awful. To me it felt like we were playing in two different twosomes, just playing the same hole at the same time.

Anyway, I went back for my glove and a new ball and promptly did almost the exact same thing. I was lucky enough that the second ball stayed in bounds. From there I hit what has to be one of the best shots of the day, hitting a 9-iron from an iffy lie about 20 feet past the pin on the green. I missed the chance at bogey and pretty much waved the white flag at that point, marking myself down for a double-bogey and moving on.

I played the par-5 14th hole fairly well overall, so it was a decent recovery from the mess on the previous hole. I went for the green in two and ended up in the greenside trap. It was a fairly long shot to the hole however and I left it about 20 feet short for my birdie putt. I missed that but made par. The 15th is a par-4 that was unusual due to the trees along the fairway. Its as if the hole was cut through a small forest or something. I hit my drive solid but into the group of trees left. I was lucky to even find a path between the trees to get back to the fairway. I then hit a slighty chunky 8-iron on the green and two-putt for another bogey.

On the 16th hole I hit my drive to the right but managed to get away with it. I then proceeded to hit another 7-iron to the right as I had been doing seemingly all day. At that point I was getting pretty annoyed with myself and I let the course know it with a vile word or two. The shot wasn't awful, I was on the fringe pin-high, but that feeling that I had regressed back to where I was a couple of weeks ago just irked me at that point. I've still hit 8 greens out of 16 holes so it wasn't all bad by any stretch. Perhaps I was expecting too much, I don't know. Anyway, I couldn't get up and down (again) and made bogey.

Maybe I've said this before but I actually like letting myself vent after a bad shot or whatever. I learned from my time playing poker that holding on to even a little bit of anger can just make things worse later. I prefer to let myself get angry, whether its with a choice word or two or maybe a quick slam of the ground with the club doesn't matter. The point is once I do that, I'm done. From that point I'm already looking forward to the next shot. Even on a day like this day, that was the only time I felt the need to do that. Sure, I probably said something after the drive out-of-bounds and other shots along the way, but this one time I just felt the need to really get it out of the system.

Did it work? Maybe. I came to the 17th tee and saw a cute little par-3, shown below :

The short par-3 17th hole
The shot required just a gap wedge on this day. I hit the green but again it wasn't a great shot. Two putts later gave me a par though so I couldn't really complain a whole lot. That brings us to the closing hole, the par-4 18th :

The look from the tee at the 18th hole
I think the hole was playing a little shorter than usual, either that or I hot my drive nearly 300 yards since I only had about 110 yards left into the green. Either way, the drive was probably the best one I hit all day, it actually had a little draw on it. I then finally hit an iron shot online and put my ball about 5 feet above the hole... a legitimate birdie opportunity! The putt was downhill, of course, but not horribly so, and it looked like it had a slight turn from right to left. Certainly doable.

I missed that one too.

I swore it had to go left. I could see where the water rolls off the green, I saw the spot there. I started the ball exactly where I wanted to, exactly where I thought I had to start it. Nope. In fact, I think the putt actually ended up going the other way, which still perplexes me now. Maybe I'm blind, maybe it was grain, I don't know because if I did know I'd have seen it and made the damn putt. But I didn't and ended up with a par for an 83.

Now, I realize that I'm not going to shoot 74 every time. To be honest, 83 feels about right for the way I thought I played. Surprisingly, it was the putter more than anything. I had 37 putts and I didn't make a single thing outside of a tap-in the entire day. I thought I made quite a few when I hit them but for whatever reason they failed to drop. I probably hit the ball about as well as I had when I was shooting 74 and 76 at other places, however here I found more trouble (out of bounds or trees) and didn't make those putts.

The course was fun, even if some of the holes could be considered a little ordinary. The track does have some interesting holes and everything outside of some of the bunkers was in good shape. I'll have to give it another go sometime soon and see if I can't manage a few of those holes a little better than I did on this round.

Sometime will not be this weekend, however. As I type this I'm holed up in my apartment while riding out the start of the weather event dubbed "Harvey". Where I am it won't be the winds that causes all the issues, it'll be the mega-fuckton of water that'll get dumped on us over the next week. Who knows when I'll get to play again.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A solo run at Meadowbrook Farms.

This past Sunday I decided to play another course out toward Katy, Meadowbrook Farms Golf Club. I was originally set up to play with three random people but the starter said I could go it alone if I was ready to it the first tee, so I took advantage. This enabled me to play in just about three hours, which was great considering that I took my time in the heat. Whether it was using a towel to dry off, putting a glove on, using the rangefinder or taking pictures there are some things that take a while to do. The best thing was I wasn't waiting for anything but myself.

After a routine par on the first hole we came to the second, which actually wasn't much different from the first, maybe just a little longer :

The second green at Meadowbrook Farms
I hit a great drive, maybe about 250, and then hit a wedge about 15 feet past the hole. I misread the putt for birdie but the tap-in gave me a par. So far I've hit four solid shots and I'm quite happy with the swing keys I'm using today.

The third hole is a par-4 that turned into a crosswind from left to right, not my favorite. My drive was pushed a bit and missed the fairway to the right but fortunately not so poorly that I was at risk of finding the hazard :

The third green as seen from right of the fairway
 I had about 165 yards to a back pin so with that crosswind I elected to hit 5-iron. From what I could tell I think my ball landed about pin-high or maybe a little past, however it didn't hold and I ended up long. My chip was too strong and two-putted for bogey. The 5-iron swing felt really nice though so I wasn't unhappy about it overall.

I then butchered the par-5 fourth. I was just left of the green in two and then semi-shanked a pitch. Another underwhelming effort left me on the fringe where I managed to get down in two for a bogey. I still haven't figured out why I do that, its kinda like rolling a 1 on a 20-sided die with those shots. Its irritating for sure.

After a solid par on the par-4 fifth I came to the first par-3 of the day at the sixth :

The sixth at Meadowbrook Farms
With the wind coming in at a decent clip from the right and maybe slightly into my face I went with an 8-iron for this 135-yard shot. I pulled it left a bit and the wind made it worse. I ended up above the trap to the left somewhere, effectively short-siding myself. Unlike the episode at the fourth, I hit a great pitch here and tapped in for par. I felt as if I redeemed myself as I moved on to the seventh hole :

The seventh green, as seen from my position from the fairway
My drive here was solid as well, giving me an outside shot at going for it in two... or so I thought. After checking the card I realized that the hazard in front would prevent any reasonable chance so I laid up and wedged on to about 10-12 feet for birdie. I missed that one also but easy pars are always welcome. On to the eighth hole, a par-3 thats exposed to the wind :

The isolated look of the eighth green
No bunkers but water hazards surround an elevated green that is out in the open. That open green made the wind more prevalent here, which today was dead in my face. I guessed 8-iron again but this time I guessed right and nearly jarred it, landing about a foot past the hole and ended up maybe 18-inches away for a kick-in deuce. That swing felt very solid, in fact all of the irons I've hit so far have felt better than most anything I've hit in the last few months.

I then hit my worse drive of the day on the ninth, weakly flailing it off to the right into the wind. I then hit a solid 4-iron just past the green, staying on the fringe. I was still about 40 feet left of the hole and had to chip over about 15 feet of said fringe as I was at an odd angle with the back of the green. The chip was decent but not that great and I missed the putt and made bogey. However, I shot 38 on the front, a score I'll gladly take.

I forgot to take a photo on the tenth but it was an odd short par-4 that dogleged right. I could figure out what to hit off the tee for the life of me. I tried 5-wood and hit it well but went through the fairway anyway. I was lucky enough that I still had a shot to the green. My wedge was a bit long but I managed to get down in two putts from about 35 feet for par.

On to the eleventh, another shortish par-4 that had me wondering what to do. I considered just hitting driver but the water down the left side looked as if it would come into the fairway a bit so I went with 3-wood instead. I snapped it left, over the trap and into some tall weed-like grass. I hacked it out toward the green, pitched up to about 5 feet but missed the putt. That would have been a nice save but it was not to be today. Next up is the par-5 twelfth :

The 12th hole. as seen from the tee
This hole wrapped back around the same lake as the previous one. My drive was solid, though it ended up hitting the fairway and kicking a bit right and ended up in the rough. I had a good lie so going for this green was possible. While it was uphill (one of few shots that had any noticeable elevation changes) I only had about 230 yards to the green from what I could tell so I took a shot at it with my 3-wood. I caught the ball a little heavy though and left myself about 45 yards to the pin. Partial wedge shots can be pretty iffy but I managed to get this one right, putting the ball about five feet away for birdie. I made this one and had my second birdie of the day.

After a par on the par-4 13th hole (where I hit yet another really solid-feeling iron shot) I came up on a foursome that until now hadn't been in my way. Fortunately they waited for me on the tee and let me play through immediately on the par-3 14th, shown here :

The 150-yard par-3 14th at Meadowbrook Farms
The pin was up and the wind seemed down so I selected a 9-iron. I pulled it a bit but still ended up on the green, slightly past the pin. I left the 40-foot birdie putt about 5 feet short but I was able to make that for par, keeping myself at even par for the back side. I then came up another short par-4 at the 15th, but it was playing REALLY short, like 240 yards short, as seen here :

The driveable par-4 15th at Meadowbrook Farms
Well, the card says its 260. The GPS in the cart said it was 239 to the middle, though the cart wasn't next to my tee box. The wind was coming off the left but wasn't hurting so I said "fuck it" and grabbed my driver. I ended up here :

See the white dot in the right-middle of the lower left quadrant? That's where my drive ended up on the 15th hole
From what I could tell my ball landed on the green somewhere around the hole. I forgot to look for a ballmark (shame on me!) but the ball bounced and/or rolled off the back of the green. The chip wasn't easy but I could have done better than eight feet, I wasn't too pleased with it to be honest. All was forgiven after I made the putt though! I'm now one-under for the back and just one-over for the day.

Another good drive led to a solid 7-iron approach into the par-4 16th, where I two-putted from 20 feet for another par. The 17th hole came next :

The short but somewhat dangerous 17th hole
The card has it at 125 yards but the front pin had it playing about 112 yards, an awkward distance. The wind was from the right so that wasn't helping matters much. I definitely can't get gap wedge there so I had no choice but to choke down a little on the pitching wedge and give it a go. This was my worst iron swing of the day, at least as far as contact goes. I caught it a shade heavy and ended up short but on target. The chip was fairly simple but I didn't hit it quite hard enough and left myself about four feet for par. The putt was uphill and I was able to handle it and escape with par.

That brings us to the closing hole, the par-5 18th. I hit another strong drive, the wind helping from the left. The problem was that I hit it too far and ended up through the fairway, leaving me with a downhill and sidehill lie from here :

The view of the 18th green
The bottom of the picture didn't quite catch it but there is a creek running across the fairway. I'm on one side, the rest of the hole is on the other. A lateral hazard is in those tress you see to the right. The good news was that I only had about 210 yards to the flag and I had plenty of room left and long. I decided to be aggressive and go with a 3-wood. Realizing that I'd be losing loft I figured I'd need the extra club to get up to the elevated green. There was only one problem.

I suck at downhill-sidehill lies with my 3-wood.

I was lucky to get over the creek. I don't know if I hit it heavy or if the ball just shot itself down into the rough on the other side and just stopped. Well, it did manage to bounce out far enough to get into some manageable grass but I was now about 165 yards away. I still had a chance to hit the green with 5-iron, thinking the wind, the lie and the elevation pretty much cancelled out. There was only one problem.

I hit the damn thing too well.

I might have hit the green on the fly but I think it actually landed on the fringe and then kicked into the rough over the green. It wasn't an awful shot, in fact I was only about 15 feet left of the hole so the line I took was pretty good. I wasn't grossly over either, I was still only about 25-30 feet or so from the hole, maybe. The swing was good, I guess I only needed a 6-iron on this one. If that keeps up it'll be a good problem to have.

The chip wasn't easy. I had a downhill lie. The green was uphill to the hole but just past it the green sloped away again. I had to hit the ball into that hill and have it just run up with just enough speed so it could settle around the hole before it could scamper away. I figured my best chance to do that was with my lob wedge, which is a shot I commonly like to hit around the greens anyway. The was only one problem.

I couldn't spin it enough to check up.

I had to hit it pretty firmly so that I'd get the ball to check up, the problem was with the downhill lie and the iffy lie I couldn't catch it cleanly enough, or so I suppose. I think I also hit it too far and landed the ball too far up on the hill. Naturally it rolled past the hole about 12 feet or more, leaving me an uphill putt for par. I still had a chance but of all things I left it short. I think I would have missed left also but to leave that putt short irked me. I thought I hit it firmly enough but I really should have been sure to get it there.

So, after that disappointing bogey finish I shot even on the back for another 74. Again, the course wasn't long but it was a decidedly "better" 74 than the one last week. The main reason I say that was because of how I hit the ball, everything just felt so much more solid than it had been. I don't know if I hit it that much further but everything was definitely higher, which for me has always been indicative of how well I was doing with the irons.

What did I do differently? Good question. I tried to change how I took the club back in an effort to get myself a little more inside. The bigger deal was on the way down though. I tried to make a concerted effort to lead with my hands to the point that I felt I was getting the handle to the ball first, leading the clubhead into the ball with my hands out in front more instead of flipping my hands at impact. Meh, I'll never explain it here. All I know is that I felt I was able to use my shoulders more and not simply try to hit the ball with arms and hands alone.

Yesterday (which was Tuesday) I went to the range and really tried to get this same feeling. I came away pretty happy by the time I finished. I don't own it yet, far from it, but I was able to repeat and maybe even improve on what I did on Sunday when I did it right. I still hit some of those flailing drifters at times but at least I feel like I have an idea of what I'm trying to do. I'll try again tomorrow or Friday and then see if I can bring it to the course on Sunday. Either that or I'll go down in flames and crawl back to the drawing board. Tune in next week to find out!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The short and long of it at Longwood Golf Club.

I kept it local once again and took the short drive over to Longwood Golf Club right here in Cypress. The have three sets of nines here so I just let the course randomly select the two that I would get to play. I ended up going out on Pine for the front side and finished up on Palmetto. I'll have to come back another time to see what Post Oak has in store.

The day started off with a thunderstorm that popped up just as I finished up with some range balls. After about a 20 minute delay I joined my three playing partners over at the tee. Not really thinking much about it I simply teed up where they were at, which was the Middle tee. On Pine that wasn't a big deal, the Middle plays to 3054 yards while the next tee back is 3311. The Palmetto was quite a bit shorter though (2696), if I could I would have played the Back tees to at least bring the round to over 6000 yards. As it ends up the rain made the course play a good bit longer so in a sense it sorta worked itself out.

The first hole on the Pine nine was a pretty nice place to start:

The first green on Pine
After a good drive that nearly plugged in the fairway, I missed the green just short right. It wasn't an awful shot, the downhill lie caused it to slide off a little more than I thought. I hit a decent chip and made the putt to start off with a par.

A good drive and a 5-iron on the second gave me another par, bringing me to the par-3 third. This hole was playing up and only took a wedge to get hole-high. I made the 15-footer for birdie and suddenly I was 1-under par in the early going. Considering how wet and humid it was I was pretty happy about that.

On the par-5 fourth I hit probably the worst drive of the day, leaving it out weakly to the right. I hit a nice cut 4-iron around a tree and back into play, wedged onto the green and make par. That brings us to the fifth hole :

The par-4 fifth hole on Pine
I hit a solid drive that just ended up missing the fairway left, right next to that trap you see there. I'm not sure what happened on the second shot. Maybe it was the wet grass, maybe I tried to hit it too hard but I pretty much topped-skulled a 7-iron. Weird is the best explanation I have for it. I was lucky to do no worse that bogey here but it took a good putt to get that.

The sixth is a par-4 that plays 375 on the card. I hit what I thought was a pretty solid drive down the left side, however I was slightly blocked out from the left side of the greenm where the pin was. The other thing was I still had 170 yards left. There is no way I hit my drive only 200 yards so I have to think the tee was back at the 415-yard tee box. Anyway, I missed the green right, pitched up but missed the putt for par.

I then missed a 5-footer for birdie and the short par-3 seventh (but I made a good stroke, I just can't read greens). I hit a really good drive on the par-5 eighth, one of the very few holes where I actually got a little bounce and roll. The hole is short (425 yards) and I had just a 5-iron into the green from a slightly ball-above-my-feet lie. I missed the green left but not quite far enough left to hit it in the water that guards the green. A pitch and two putts gives me par.

The closing hole is the long par-4 ninth :

The green of the ninth on Pine
Again, I hit a good drive into a fairway that could have been considered casual water over the entire hole. I still needed 4-iron to reach this green, which I failed to do as I caught it a shade thin. The ball hit just about the left side of the bunker and rolled back in. I blasted out of the hard-packed wet sand and took two putts for a bogey. I still ended up with a 38 for the nine, which I'll take every time. While it sucked to go 3-over on the last five holes I was happy with the way things were going.

Moving to the Palmetto nine, the first hole was a short par-5. I hit a solid drive down the left side and had only 190 yards left to a front pin, however I had a fairly steep downhill lie. I went for the green with a 5-wood anyway, hoping that any low shot would have a chance to scamper up to the green. The plan almost worked, the problem was the slope in front of the green really needed a shot hit with a draw to get up the hill, I can't hit that shot from that lie. Still, I was in front in two and hit my best chip of the day, close enough that I tapped in with my wedge for birdie. Another good start!

However, another storm was closing in. We teed off on the second, a short par-4 with water right, shown here :

The second green on Palmetto
I had about 85 yards left when me and the guy I had in my cart decided that we'd better haul ass back to the clubhouse. Its a decent ride between the first green and the second tee so I marked my ball and boogied back as fast as we could. The wind was howling, the clouds looked ugly and leaves were blowing everywhere... but it never rained. Maybe it did on the course somewhere but at the clubhouse it stayed dry. We waited about 20-30 minutes or so, decided the worst was over and headed back out.

The problem was that the other two guys I was with played on. The guy in my cart wanted to catch up with them as they were all together. By now they were on the adjacent 4th hole so we drove to the tee there and played on. I wasn't too keen with the idea but someone else was already on the fairway at the second so I figured that I'll just come back later, hoping no one would pick up my tee in the fairway where I had marked my ball.

So, the fourth is another short par-5, just 400 yards in length. The thing is, the fairway is nearly cut off right at about 220 yards from the tee, driver is a no-go unless you can thread the needle down the left side. With that, I hit 3-wood/3-wood onto the green and two-putted for another birdie. Yep, I'm 2-under par after two holes completed and even on the day. Here's a look at the hole from the tee, you might barely be able to see where the water comes into play to the right of the trap :

The really short that doesn't play so short par-5 fourth on Palmetto
The next two holes are really short also. The fifth is a 296-yard par-4 that has a sharp dogleg right. Not having any idea what to do I decided to just hit driver over a set of trees. I hit it very well but the ball ended up about 15-20 yards too far, through the fairway, pretty much giving me visions of a hole at Huntington in Florida. Luckily I had a shot to the green, though that shot was one that had to go over/around a tree with a sand wedge to a front hole location. I pulled it off (somehow) and made par.

The next hole was even shorter at 250 yards but it was straight on, quite simply a driveable par-4. Those are fun to try so I honestly have no issue with it, even us shorter hitters should get the chance to hit a hero shot. This is where my second-worst drive of the day was hit. I was nearly pin high but quite a bit right, not awfully so but enough that I had to pitch off of some watered-down hardpan dirtlike stuff. The hole was cut pretty close to the edge of the green and I did well just to get my ball 30-35 feet past the hole. I nearly made it. I hit the back of the hole but it was running downhill and had a shade too much speed to stay in. Still, another par is always good.

Then I blew it on the seventh. Its the longest par-3 of the day and was even playing back a tee. I had 5-iron to this green but pretty much bladed it, better than the one earlier but the wet grass in front of the green just ate it up. My pitch from about 20 yards short of the green was pretty darn good, I had a chance to save par but I missed a six-footer and took my first bogey on Palmetto. Ugh.

After a nice drive on the par-4 eighth I stupidly under-clubbed my approach to a front hole position. I should know better by now. I wasn't short by much at all, maybe a yard, but the ball backed down the hill a bit in the soft conditions. My chip was decent since I was able to take advantage of said soft conditions and got it to check up quickly (probably too quickly) and made the putt to save par.

The ninth is a mid-length par-4 that played a little uphill to the fairway. I hit another good drive and now had 8-iron to a back hole location. I hit it solid but hung it out to the right, catching the green and leaving myself about 25 feet or so for birdie. I coaxed that birdie putt up close enough to knock it in for a par. Now, I just had to kick the old fella out of my cart at his car and run back out to finish the other two holes!

My tee was still in the ground when I got back to the second fairway. All I had left was a full sand wedge and I hit that shot pin-high, just about 5 feet left of the hole. Too bad the ball came back down the hill about 15 feet. Still, I had a makeable putt for birdie that would get me back to 2-under for the side. Nope. Not today. Par is always good so we'll take it and move on!

My final hole of the day ended up being the short par-3 third :

The par-3 third hole on Palmetto
I was in-between a gap wedge and a pitching wedge as the hole was about 110 yards from the tee. Pitching wedge it is then! I hit it clean but I pulled it a little, which caused it to fly a little further than I wanted, which means I ended up in the trap over the green, left of the hole.

I was dead.

The sand in the trap was wet, packed down, and even had grass growing in it. The pin was just a few feet from the edge of a green that was running away from me. I was back in the trap as the ball rolled on the wet sand after popping out of its pitch mark. The only way I was hitting this close was if I hit the flagstick.

So I tried to hit the flagstick. I tried to get some spin on it with my 60-degree but there was no way I could get that ball to stop on that slope. I thought I did well to get it to about 20-25 feet past the hole. There was no way I could chance leaving it short so I had to make sure I was past the flag. Could I have hit it closer? Yeah, I think I could. Give me 10 tries and I believe I could hit the shot with enough precision to clip it just right and have it stop within 10 feet. I just couldn't do it on the first go.

Anyway, I gave the putt a decent run but hit it a little too low and a little too weak to really have a chance. With that bogey I ended up even-par for the side and a 74 on the day. Yeah, it would have been nice to shoot an under-par 9-hole score for the first time in, hmmm, ten, maybe twelve years? I'm pretty sure I can now say that this is the first time I've ever had nine fours in a row. At least I can check off that novelty, right?

OK, the course was only 5750 yards. True, it was playing longer due to the conditions. For a course that short I hit quite a few long irons into some of those greens, especially on the Pine side. On the other hand I had legitimate chances at hitting three of the par-5s in two, one with a 5-iron in hand, and three of the par-3s were no more than a pitching wedge. But a 74 is still a 74, I don't care where you card it. The rating for the course wasn't silly easy (68.0/120) and some of the par-4s are more than sturdy enough. While I didn't have much issue with them this day, the course has a fair amount of water hazards and the trees bordering the fairways are plentiful. My playing partners easily proved that the course isn't some pushover.

I am by no means overpowering anything despite how well I've scored lately. This is all still being down with smoke, mirrors and maybe a little guile (and luck?). The courses I've played haven't exactly been long and that has helped me. I'm still not getting the distance on the irons that I'm hoping for. The course was so wet that I couldn't get a true read on my drives but for the most part they seemed to be solid, though it would have been nice to see where they'd have ended up under more normal conditions. I hit the ball fairly high as it is so I don't get as much roll as some other guys might but I'm sure I lost out on at about 10-15 yards on most holes.

Am I hitting good shots? Yes, obviously I'm doing something right with whatever it is that I'm bringing to the course on any given day. At worst, my bad shots are just not as bad as they could be and that could very well be the biggest difference. Who knows, maybe this is all I have nowadays and I just have to live with it. I can't help but imagine what I might be able to do with some stronger iron shots, shots that I know I still have somewhere inside me. A club shorter into every hole might not sound like much but it could make a difference over the course of a round.

Anyway, the rain has continued through Monday and into today (Tuesday), so much so that we've had flood warnings and such. The courses I like to practice at here were all closed up and it could be more of the same tomorrow for all I know. If I want to get some practice in I might have to hit up Top Golf after the dentist appointment we have tomorrow. Hmm, that sounds like a good idea...

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Heading North at BlackHorse.

This week I decided to take on the North course at BlackHorse Golf Club. I enjoyed the South a good deal (not just because of my score there) so I figured the North couldn't be too far behind. I went out at around 1 PM and the heat and humidity were in full force. Even hitting balls on the range was enough to just soak my hands in sweat. I could tell this was going to be an issue.

The first hole was straightforward but pretty long for an opener. My drive wasn't great, I pulled it left and sorta mishit into a fairway bunker. I still had nearly 200 yards left to the green so I decided to try to hit a 5-wood out. I think I hit it solid but a little low, catching the lip of the bunker and almost ended up on the range and out of bounds. I had no shot due to some trees so I pitched out, finally hit the green and took two putts for my double bogey. Not a good start.

The second hole was a short par-3 over water (which I forgot to take a picture of as I was too busy trying to towel off my hands). I didn't hit that incredibly well either but did manage to get the ball pin high and on the right fringe. I got up and down for par easily enough. At this point I knew that this towel shit wasn't going to cut it, I could already tell I was more concerned with just holding on to the club rather than where the ball was going. Fortunately I still had a glove in my bag and decided that it would be best to use it. I have no idea how old this glove is but it seemed to be in good shape.

You might wonder why I make a big deal out of the glove. I just never have liked wearing one, just like some hitters in baseball don't use gloves, neither do I when I play golf. For whaever reason I have always felt like my hands were different on the club, like my grip position was off, and I'll usually start hitting the ball left. When I was in Florida I usually managed to go without one but there were times I had to break down and put one on. I guess I'm going to have to do the same here in Houston.

So, glove on hand, we headed to the par-5 third. I hit a pretty solid drive down the right side of the fairway, so much so that I had inside 200 yards to the green. I didn't notice while on the tee but I'm assuming the tee had to be up as the yardage on the card was 488 yards. I really don't think I hit that ball 290 yards. It was downwind but not 30-40 yards worth. I had about 190 left and decided that with the slight downwind breeze I was going to take a swing at a 4-iron and try to get it there. It worked, though I was a bit left I caught the green and had about 40 feet for eagle. A good two putt earned a birdie. So far so good for the glove idea.

Next was the par-4 fourth, shown below (with what I have to assume is either a drop of sweat or a finger):

(Most of) the view of the fourth hole from the tee
 My playing partners, who both proved to be worthwhile guides, warned me about the hidden water over the bunkers on the right so I hit a near-perfect drive just left of them. The hole on the card is 352 yards and yet I still had about 140 to the middle of the green. I'm sure the tee had to be back. All this means is I wasn't paying enough attention. Anyway, the pin was back so 7-iron was the play. I leaked it right but it held the fringe and a chip and a putt made par.

The fifth was another par-4 that came back around the other side of the water feature on the fourth. I drove the ball well again but then half-skulled the 6-iron from the fairway. Fortunately I hit it fairly straight and ended up on the left side of the green and had about 25 feet for birdie. Two putts from there gave me another par. So far the glove isn't giving me any issues, in fact I could even say its helped me forget about any problems with the sweat on my hands. This could be why I felt like I was finally making more aggressive swings.

The sixth is another par-3 with water, I have a picture this time :

The par-3 sixth hole
The pin was up so it was merely a 9-iron but I caught it slightly fat. We had to wait a while before playing this one as the cart girl took plenty of time to serve the group ahead of us and, naturally, our own. I pitched up to about five feet and made a tricky little downhiller for par. I was quite happy about that one.

The seventh is a shortish par-4 with a severe dogleg right :

A look at the seventh hole
I figured a drive just to the left of the trees would work fine, so instead I pushed it even further right. I didn't push it very far right, just another one that leaked away, but I hit it solid and cleared the trees, ending up in the fairway about 100 yards from the green. I pretty much accidentally hit the perfect shot. What wasn't perfect was the wedge to the green, it was not a solid strike and I left myself about 50-60 feet short to a back hole location on a long, narrow green. Of course, I made it. Birdie. Easy game, isn't it? I'm pretty sure that's the longest putt I've made since I've started back playing again.

The eighth is a par-5 that doglegs to the left a bit. Nothing special to report, just three solid shots and two good putts netted a par. So, I head to the ninth at even par for the round. Of course, I forgot to take a picture but the hole is a par-4 that has water left near the green. I crushed a drive, slightly left of my line but still well within the range of the landing area... or so I thought. Little did I know that the water kinda jutted out a bit, hiding in a valley of land. The water starts about 100 yards from the front of the green and I found mine 99 yards away, but wet. I was not pleased. Well, not pleased that it was in the hazard. I was pleased that I hit that fucker about 260 yards to get there. Anyway, I dropped, hit a wedge to about 7 feet but just missed the par putt to shoot 37 on the front nine. Considering the start I had I'm calling that a win.

The back nine started with my first pulled drive of the day. As luck would have it I had a shot over some shortest trees to the green after taking a drop from the cart path. It was here that I made the swing that felt like a solid iron strike. Maybe it was something about the way I set up to the ball for this shot, I can't explain it. Maybe that glove made me feel I could take a firm swing without worrying about losing control. Whatever it was I almost hit the ball over the green. I was still losing it a little right but it was staying in play. I had another 60 footer for birdie but the odds evened themselves out and I three-putted for bogey.

The par-5 eleventh was a disappointing bogey. My drive was decent enough, the layup was fine, my mistake was on the approach. I didn't take into account the uphill lie I had. I took a solid swipe at it but hit the ball a mile in the air and ended up short. I know better, I should have taken one more club. I hit a little chip that seemed to nearly stop in its own pitch mark and missed the putt. The bogey train was moving along strongly now.

The par-4 12th hole
On the 12th I hit a really solid drive, probably about 250 or so off the tee, leaving me with about 85 yards to a front hole location. I decided to go ahead and try hitting sand wedge, again forcing myself to take a strong pass at the ball. I hit it about 88 yards and slightly left, a good shot that left me about 15 feet or so for a birdie. I nearly made it, in fact I really thought I had it. After several curses I tapped in for par and moved on.

I nearly made a huge mess of the 13th. After another solid drive I ended up leaking another iron shot right, this one was a little more than I had been. However I was past pin high and left myself with a bit of a tricky pitch. The real issue was the lie, the ball decided to settle down in the grass and take a nap. I had a shot but I executed poorly and hit a shitty little semi-shank and left myself with a short pitch to the hole. Fortunately the lie was better and I nearly holed out for par and saved the bogey.

We then came up to the par-3 14th hole, shown here :

The short par-3 14th hole
The hole was playing at about 115 yards but with a crosswind that was starting to freshen up a bit, perhaps even turning into our face a little. I hit pitching wedge and tried to let that wind push it from left to right but naturally I started the ball more at the flag than I wanted and ended up about 30 feet right. Still, two putts for a par gives me a three and I'll take a three on any hole.

The 15th hole is a long par-4 playing with that same left-to-right breeze. Good fortune was with us this day as the tees were up, turning a 417 yard critter into a more manageable 383. I hit my drive solid but left, however it cleared the bunker on that side but settled into the rough. I was left with about 155 yards to a front pin that I knew I would never get close to without having the ball land short of the green and bouncing on. I thought about hitting 7-iron but figured the rough would make it tough to make clean contact so the 6-iron it'll have to be. Again, I was dead-set on making sure I took a lash at it just so I could get to ball out, if anything. I caught it clean, surprising well in fact. I flew the ball to the middle of the green and it ended up in the back, leaving me with another 60 footer. I got down in two for par and left the hole satisfied with that result.

The par-3 16th hole with its sucker-pin on the left of the green
I hit another leaking push with a 5-iron on the par-3 16th, shown above. My ball landed pin high but caught the side of the fringe and bounded away, down a hill and under the branches of a tree that you can barely see on the right side of the photo in the background. Not good. The pin was back left on the green so I wasn't even sure I could keep the ball low enough under the branches and still hit it firm enough to land on the green. Somehow I pulled it off, in fact I managed to put more spin on it that I realized and left the ball short of the hole. I missed the par putt but a bogey there seemed just fine considering where I was earlier.

My drive on the par-4 17th was also a little right but not terribly so, however I thought I might get blocked out by some overhanging tree branches. I managed to get past those and had about 120 yards left to the hole. With that wind now in my face I knew I needed an extra club so out came the 9-iron. I finally managed to not hit that leaker to the right, instead I pulled it slightly left and missed the green, though I was pin high again (a welcome change from being constantly short like I had been recently). I had another iffy lie but at least I managed to get this one up and on the green, in fact I'd say it was a pretty good shot. I still had about 8 feet left as again I somehow got the ball to spin a little. I made that putt and went to the last hole at 5-over par for the round.

The 18th hole is a short par-5, only 440 yards on the card, but much like the 9th hole it has water around the green that come down the right side of the fairway. How far I was not sure at the time (though today I was out there and it looks like it starts about 240 yards from the tee) but I knew it was there. I aimed down the left side of the fairway and hit the best drive of the day. I ended up hitting that one about 270 or so and it felt gooood. I finally finished turning through the ball and hit the damn thing without it wanting to leak out right. The pin was on the front part of the green and I have only have around 155 yards left (I think the rangefinder said 157). With the slight tailwind we now have a decided that 7-iron was the best way to play this shot :

The only issue was that the ball was a little below my feet, which normally causes the ball to go a bit right. That is NOT what I needed here, all the trouble is right as you can easily see. Still, I've been hitting the ball solid most of the day, even if a good bit of them were drifting right, so I just aimed toward the left side of the green and tried to allow for it. I just had one main thought in mind : FINISH YOUR TURN THROUGH THE BALL.

The shot came off about perfect. I started the ball just left of the pin and it started to gently work  toward the pin, landing about 10 feet short of the hole. I don't think I could have imagined it much better than that. Maybe I caught it a shade low on the club, I could have hit it a little further if I didn't have that ball-below-the-feet lie. Maybe. Whatever. I now had 10 feet for eagle, slightly uphill with a bit of a right-to-left break to it. A very makeable putt.

I missed.

I thought I had it, I really did. I hit it what I thought was firm enough. I thought my line was high enough. Obviously one of them was wrong as the ball curved right in front of the cup at the end. To be honest I was in a bit of disbelief as that ball looked like it was center-cut for a long time. After a few more curses I picked up my putter and tapped in for a birdie to shoot 76. I'm not about to complain about that score on a day that started with a double bogey. Nope. Not gonna do it.

I thought about playing more but decided I probably shouldn't. The elbow was fine and it wasn't an issue but I could tell it was a little sore. Could I have played? Probably. Instead I found a few balls on the range and tried to concentrate on two things. One was to keep duplicating the feeling I was getting with how I was setting up. I can't really explain it but I feel as if my hands are at a point where I can clear them easier, that doesn't make sense in words but its all I can come up with. Second was to finish that turn all the way around so that I can square that clubface up with my body turn, at least that is how I feel it. I guess its more around than up and down, like my hands go more inside after getting through the ball. In a way both points are connected, the setup helps give me the feeling of where my hands need to go when I make that turn. Anyway, I tried it out more today (Tuesday) and I can definitely tell a difference compared to what I had been doing. I'm hitting the irons with more power again, like I did on the back nine on Sunday. I just hope I'm doing something correctly.

So this coming Sunday I'm going to head out to another local course called Longwood. They have 27 holes so I might be tempted to play more than 18, even if its just an extra 9 instead of a full round. I just hope I can build on what I started this past week, it was nice to finally hit some irons solidly again. We'll hit the range again on Thursday and see what happens.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Replicants everywhere at Tour 18 Houston.

For my latest round I ventured out toward Humble to play Tour 18 Houston, a course that has "simulations" of holes that can be found on other famous courses in the country. Unlike Golden Ocala Golf Club, the holes here are not quite as detailed and they don't copy any holes from other places in the world. Still, it was an interesting course concpet and its the kind of setup that I find fun to play.

The course starts with the 18th at Harbour Town Golf Links, which to me seems like a hole to end with, not start with. Their version looks like this :

The 1st hole at Tour 18 Houston
I butchered it like it was the real thing though. I hit a good drive on this 420 yard monster of an opener. I then chunked a 4-iron into the junk short of the green. I found the ball and played it out, wedged on fairly close but missed the bogey putt. The green seems awfully small though, maybe the real thing is that small but for such a long par-4 I'd have thought it would have been a bit larger.

Next we have their rendition of the 6th at Bay Hill. Interesting that they chose this hole as the 18th would have been the common choice. I'm not sure many people would know of this one but having been to the Arnie Classic a few times I thought it did a reasonable job of keeping the terrifying carry over the water front and center in your mind, especially if you are prone to missing left :

I hit three good shots here and walked away with par. The threesome that I was paired with did not do so well. If I remember correctly they combined to shoot 34 on this hole. Yeah, it was a slow day and I haven't mentioned the fivesome in front of the foursome that was hacking it up in front of us... oh, wait, meh, more on that later. Maybe.

I birdied the next hole, which is supposed to be the 3rd hole at Pinehurst #2. It's kinda closeish, though from what I could tell a trap was missing from around the green. Hey, I didn't know it at the time so I really shouldn't complain after carding a 3. I promptly gave that birdie back with a 3-putt bogey on the 5th, the copy of the 18th at The Inverness Club. Now we get to some of the fun stuff at "Amen Corner", or their version of it :

The 11th at Augusta National, portrayed by the 5th hole at Tour 18 Houston

The 6th hole is an attempt at Augusta #12

The 7th hole posing as #13 at Augusta
I parred all three holes. On the 5th I hooked a drive left and left myself about 170 yards to a front pin, not exactly ideal for this hole. Even better was that my ball with perched on a tall patch of grass that was even taller than the tee I use for my driver. I managed to pick it clean and had about 15 feet for birdie, a putt that I would miss on the high side.

I hit the green on the 6th hole but it was well to the right, a common theme for me lately. I was happy the ball was dry as I wasn't sure it would make it across the creek. I hit a good drive on the 7th but I was just a little too far back to have a good shot at going for the green in two so I laid up. I didn't hit it well and left myself about 130-135 yards to the hole. I hit 9-iron that I thought was going to be good, and I guess technically it was, however my ball landed at the top of the ridge in front of that back right part of the green and it rolled back down. I did well to take only two putts to get my par.

So after a double bogey start I've now hit 6 straight greens in regulation and remained at 2-over for the round. I was driving the ball fairly well also, the only bad one was that hook on the 5th. The iron shots were kinda iffy sometimes and I was still hitting them shortish. I was getting around somehow though. On the 8th, which is allegedly the 4th hole at La Costa's Champions Course. The thing is, that hole is a dogleg left, this one goes right. Anywho, I hit another good drive but came up slightly short on the approach. I didn't hit a great chip but I had a decent chance to save par, but missed.

We now come to their version of the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass :

The famous island green, in non-facsimile
All four of the fellas playing ahead of us found aqua, so their up there at the drop zone, chipping for par.I managed to get my ball a little past pin high to the right, leaving myself a downhill 20-footer for birdie, which I missed high on. Again, I was happy I was dry and made par for a 39 on the front.

After somehow making par on the 10th hole (which was the 10th at the old Desert Inn), we moved on to the 11th hole, a copy of the 6th hole on Disney's Magnolia Course :

The 11th hole, complete with a weak attempt at The Mouse's Ears
How close a copy this one might be is lost on me, I've never played the Magnolia Course (surprising, I know, I've hit all of the others). I coaxed my ball onto the front right of the green and made a par. From here it was mostly downhill though as all of the mirrors I've been using started to crack from side to side.

I bogeyed the next hole, which was tailored after the 3rd at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. I don't have a picture of it (its not that visually appealing) but they set up the hole poorly here. The hole is loooong and doglegs to the left, but they have houses just off the fairway at the bend of the dogleg. The tee aims you that way a bit also and it is VERY easy to hit a drive through the corner and into a beer that is sitting on some dude's patio table. In fact, another hint might be that many of the houses had buckets hanging on their fence full of golf balls, free to take at your leisure if one desired.

The 13th hole is one from Pebble Beach. Don't get too excited. Its not the 18th, or the 7th, or the 17th, or the 9th, or whatever else you can picture in your head. Since Texas seems to be missing part of the Pacific coastline they had to use the par-5 14th, an uphill beast of a hole. Again, this is Texas so our copy is dead flat. I hit a good drive but as the hole is playing 553 yards we're not thinking about reaching it in two. I hit 3 wood well but it went a little left. I had to knock down my third shot under some branches in an effort to get to the front right side of the green but I hit it just a little too hard and it rolled into the bunker. Could have been worse though. I hit a decent shot from there but misjudged the speed of the par putt and knocked it by about 6 feet. I then missed that one too and took a bad seven.

I followed that debacle up with a bogey on the 14th, which is the 3rd at Oakmont Country Club, complete with an attempt at the church pew bunkering. I managed a par on the next hole, which is supposed to be the 8th at Shinnecock Hills. We then arrive at the 16th hole, a rendition of the 11th hole on the East Course at Merion Golf Club :

The approach at the 16th hole at Tour 18 Houston
The tee shot was downhill and less than driver was called for. I hit a poor 3-wood to the left and into the hazard down the left... well, actually I was on the other side of it as it was just a little stream of water. I pitched back to the fairway and had a chance to at least hit the green and try for par. Instead I half-skulled a wedge over the right side of the green. I managed to get up and down after the drop for a double bogey. Quite a shame as I kinda liked the setup of this hole.

The 17th hole is fashioned after the 8th hole at Oak Tree National :

The par-3 17th at Tour 18 Houston
I'll admit I took a mulligan here. The club nearly flew out of my hand on my first attempt and I wasn't too thrilled about it. Perhaps it was because it was so hot and humid. It was probably more because I was getting a little tired at waiting on every shot while waiting for the fivesome and the foursome to get the hell out of the way. I could have played it, I kept it dry and it would have been a fairly simple pitch from just in front of that bunker to the right but I really wanted to see if I could make a better iron swing. I did, it wasn't great, but I did get on the green and make my par.

The last hole is admittedly well chosen, the 18th at what I would still simply call The Blue Monster at Doral. I hit a good drive but maybe a little more right than I should have since I left myself with 166 yards to the hole. Or I think I did, I'm not sure. I hit a 5-iron and I actually thought I hit it solid. It was a little left, which isn't good, but I thought I'd still catch the left side of the green. Nope. I didn't even clear the water. Being left didn't help, if it was on the line I wanted to be on that ball probably stays dry. That should have been plenty of club, even if I am hitting my irons a bit on the short side. That lead to another double bogey, closing the back side with a 44 to shoot 83 on the day.

The closing hole at Tour 18 Houston
I knew that eventually the band-aids would fall off and cost me some shots but I somehow still managed to hit 11 fairways and 11 greens on the round. Most of the drives were hit fairly well, one or two more so than the others, but the irons are still a weakness. Yeah, I managed to take an extra club often enough to get on the surface and stuff but I'm not really giving myself great chances at scoring when I do. Needing 35 putts didn't help but I didn't feel like I was awful, I just didn't have many that I really could expect to make. Yeah, I missed a couple of six-footers and I had two three-putt greens so maybe it really was as bad as it sounds.

I still killed the guys I was playing with though. I will say that despite a 5-hour-plus round I managed to handle all the delays really well, I can't say it affected me at all outside of the one slip I had on the 17th (and I probably could have gone back to the cart and toweled off my hands again). I'm surprised the course allowed a fivesome to go out on a Saturday morning right behind a tournament and in front of two other foursomes. One of those five was playing barefoot, maybe it was Jim McMahon... I should have asked for an autograph.

Back to the drawing board for that elusive iron swing again. I think we'll go back to BlackHorse and play the North Course this weekend and see what that one has in store for us.