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|
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|
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|
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|
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 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.
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 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...