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.