Yesterday I completed round one of my two round club championship at my home course, River Oaks Golf Course in Sandy, Utah. This course is a par-70 track which is very underrated. I call it a “tee shot course” because it is not tough if you can successfully get off the tee without knocking your ball into a hazard. And hazards there are many. Nearly EVERY hole on the course has a sliver of rough outside the fairway which is then bordered by swampy hazards. Miss the fairway and most likely you are hitting your 3rd shot from the tee or from where your ball entered a hazard.
I started off the round nervous but focused. The toughest stretch of the course is holes 1-4, which have all sorts of trouble.
1: I played solid golf on the first hole and barely missed a birdie putt of about 12 feet.
2: On the par-4 2nd, 468 yards, I missed the green right and short-sided myself. I hit a very good chip which had to land on a down slope, but it did end up about 10 feet left of the hole. I made the putt for a clutch par.
3: Had a tail wind on this par-3 over the water, about 163 yards. I hit 8-iron, ignoring the wind figuring I’d be long of the front pin. Instead I ended up on the front of the green with about a 15 footer for birdie. The wind didn’t help, it knocked the shot down. Thankfully I didn’t hit the 9-iron. I left the birdie putt about 2 inches short in the jaws.
4: This par-4 hole is tough. Miss-hit a tee shot and you are looking at a double bogey. I split the fairway with a 5-iron, then knocked a pitching wedge to about 20 feet (long). Once again missed a make-able birdie putt.
5: Gagged my driver right into the right rough on this par-5 into the wind. 2nd shot 5-iron was solid but leaked into right rough again, about 120 out. I hit PW over the green onto the back fringe. The pin was back but the putt off the fringe was super fast. Once again, barely missed the birdie and had an easy par. If I could make anything I could easily be -4 at this point.
6: Par-3, 180 yards. Hit 6-iron to about 30 feet right of the pin. FINALLY made a putt. Birdie and now at -1.
7: Short par-4. Hit a very solid 4-iron to the 150 marker. Then the first gag swing of the day happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. I shoved a 9-iron into the greenside bunker. The ball hit the front lip and bounded to the back edge. Failed to get up and down out of the wet sand. First bogey of the day, but at even par after 7 holes. I wasn’t complaining.
8: 183 yard par-3. But now the wind has kicked up to a good two clubs. I hit a very bad 5-iron right of the greenside bunker, flirting with the OB fence. It took a while, but my buddy Bryant who was my marker for the day, found the ball in 10 inch rough. I had to blast out of it with my sand wedge and hit a fine shot to the middle of the green, but on the wrong side of the tier. Two putts, bogey. But thankful I didn’t lose a ball. It could have been worse.
9: After two bogeys in a row I was a bit steamed. I hit driver into the wind on this par-4, to about 80 yards from the green. I punched a lob wedge which landed on the fringe left of the front pin and spun onto the surface. I had a 10 foot birdie opportunity, but it was super fast downhill. Another miss, but this time I had to make a five footer to save par, which I did. So many missed birdies on the front.
10: Now into a 2-3 club wind I split the fairway with my hybrid on this tough dogleg right with a narrow opening between trees and hazards. That tee shot had been worrying me but I did well. My pitching wedge to the green hit at nearly pin high, but spun back about 20 feet. Not cool. Wrong tier and putting into the wind I gagged the first putt very short and missed the long par putt. Bogey.
11: My nerves now are really killing me. 11 is an EASY par-4. Iron off the tee and wedge to the green. I hit a 4-iron terribly, barely reaching the fairway and leaving me a 7-iron to the green. Normally I’m hitting sand or lob wedge. I hit a very solid iron though, and ended pin high left about 18 feet. Missed another make-able birdie. Par.
12: Fun par-3 over water. This one is perpendicular to the south wind, so a 2 club wind blowing the ball left. I hit a solid wedge which started right of the pin and finished about 12 feet above it. Once again, came within inches of a birdie and made par. At this point I’m going nuts with the missed birdie putts.
13: Now dead into a 2-3 club wind on this reachable par-5. I hit a very solid driver straight down the middle. 210 out I hit hybrid, but pulled it onto a hillside left of the green in long rough. I made a very good chip which ran over the tier to the back portion of the green. Downhill birdie putt from 12 feet barely missed, again.
14: Now with the wind I tried to drive this par-4. I was two yards short on a severe upslope to a very slanted surface. I hit a good chip to once again birdie range. The downhill putt did not drop. Tap-in par, again. Kill me.
15: This par-4 is the toughest hole on the back nine and is dead into the wind. I hit a solid drive, leaving me 180 yards to the middle pin, uphill. I completely choked on a 6-iron, which finished short right in deep rough. I hit a terrible chip this time, barely getting it onto the green and leaving about a 50 foot putt for par. I sent the putt by 10 feet and missed the bogey putt. Terrible double. I’d been so close to birdie for so long, the double hurt bad.
16: Now hurting bad I needed to suck it up. 16 is a short par-4, iron off the tee. I hit 5-iron to the 100 yard marker. I then hit lob wedge to the middle of the green. This time though, the putt was hardly one I’d expect to make, with about a 20 foot break running downhill. I managed a solid par.
17: This is a short par-4 which I usually hit a nice solid hybrid off the tee. 3-wood or driver are too much. At this point the heat and moisture got to me, as well as the nerves which made my arms feel like wet spaghetti noodles. I completely gagged the tee shot into trees left of the hole. The ball crossed the hazard about 170 out. I picked 7-iron for my 3rd shot and flew it over the green. Made a solid chip to about 10 feet but the putt was very tough with a lot of downhill break. Another double. I haven’t had two doubles in a round in two months. But this is the club championship, when nerves can really affect me. They did.
18: Now at +6 I’m very disappointed. But I thought about the wind conditions and that they could cause some high scores. I figure I’m behind the eight-ball, but not out of it. At least that’s what I hoped. 18 was playing short, but the south wind from left to right would make it tough to figure yardage and get the right line. I decided to punch an 8-iron. I hit the shot of the day. It came in low to the center of the green, curving to the back right pin. The ball looked close to going in, settling in to about 14 inches. I made the birdie and got back one of the bad shots on the back.
So here I sit at a disappointing 75 for my first round, which could have been so much lower. Two three putts and two doubles on the back and a ton of missed birdies.
I anticipate that the low round is probably somewhere around par-70. I’m probably five shots back going into round two Saturday’s final round. It is not over by any means, but I’m going to need to keep the nerves in check and make some of those birdie putts to have a chance.