It’s 6:43am Sunday the 4th of June. I tee off in about 2.5 hours for round two of the RCK Salt Lake City Amateur tournament. This is the tournament that’s most important to me each year. It’s an extremely well run tournament which is gross-only, and the format eliminates sandbaggers. The golf course, Bonneville, is always setup and manicured extremely well.
This season I’ve pretty much lost my iron game. I’ve been hitting sometimes as little as two greens in regulation for 18 holes, which is not where a supposed 3 handicap should be. Combine that with my short game struggles and it’s hard to score, though my putting is excellent. If I couldn’t putt I’d be shooting 95 instead of 85. I should be scoring 75, according to my handicap. I haven’t sniffed a mid-70’s round since last year.
So I came into yesterday with a small bit of hope and mostly low expectations. I started out less nervous than normal because of the low expectations. I kept it together on the front for eight holes with a couple of birdie chances that barely missed. Through eight holes I was +1 and began to think that I actually had it together. Then came the nerves.
The golf gods are funny like that. They allow you to have hope so they can crush it. My hope was crushed on the par-3 9th, rated as one of the toughest par-3’s in Utah. I pulled my 7-iron left and it hit the cart path, bouncing way up into deep fescue. I found 12 balls in that fescue, none of which were mine. My provisional tee shot missed the green and I ended up making a 6.
The back nine was a case of my typical round this year. Miss greens in regulation (missed 7 of 9), then struggle to get up and down to save par. The two holes I managed to hit in regulation were pars. My putting for the day was 1.78 per hole with no 3-putts. That’s a feat when they have the greens setup so bloody fast. But great putting can only go so far when you miss 12 of 18 greens in regulation and don’t chip well. I did make a couple of good chips like on 17, where my ball literally had a piece of sod stuck to it. I guess I chip better when my ball has gunk stuck to it.
On the back nine I started to have those thoughts like I did last year. The frustration and realization that playing to the level I desire may not happen again. It certainly won’t happen with my schedule of late, 27 holes of golf per week. When I was down to scratch I was playing 5x/week. That frustration and realization made me think that 2017 might be the last year I play golf.
Fist round score: 82.
Today I will give it my best once again. In A-Flight, handicaps 2-6, I can perhaps break into the prize money with a round in the low-mid 70’s. Haven’t done it in eight months, but that’s the goal.
Yesterday I had my regular Wednesday league, 9-holes. I played fairly solid up until I got in a bunker on the 6th and ended up turning that into a double-bogey 5. Score wrecker. The sand at Bonneville is very strange. It’s very light but also very large grains.
The front nine of 2:50 (lame yes) ended at 7:20pm. I headed to the back nine with my push cart knowing sunset is 8:30. I thought I’d play a few holes until sunset and bail. On the 13th tee the thought of finishing the whole 18 started to make sense, so I decided to jog some holes. Admittedly, I’m not in the best of shape. I could stand to dump a few extra LB’s and the most exercise I’ve gotten in the last 10 months is clicking a mouse button. I jogged three holes.
Par-3 15th at Bonneville – 230 yards
I actually played very solid golf on the back at a hurried pace, all by myself. My first bogey on the back was the 460 yard par-4 18th. But before I got there I did some practice bunker shots on the par-3 17th which has a bunker I’ve yet to get out of his year. Same weird large-grained poofy sand. I tried numerous clubs and techniques from blasting an open 56 or 60 to squaring up a 52 and chopping down. Either I would blade the shots because the club bounces so easily, or I’d poof completely under the ball and advance it two feet into the bunker face, where it would bury. After about 20 different attempts I tried a completely unorthodox theory.
I took my pitching wedge and squared up the blade. I put my feet close together like I was going to hit a simple pitch or chip. I did a small chip swing and voila, ball goes out of bunker onto green. I tried it again and got out again. Tried it a 3rd time and put it close to the flag. On the 4th time I made a video (very poor quality, sorry about that). By this time it was past sunset and quite dark.
I was very sore and dehydrated today after walking 18 on a very hilly course, and deciding to jog three holes in a row. But playing that back nine alone with the whole course to myself was quite a zen moment; the best time I’ve had playing this year.
Even with a stop to practice bunker shots I played the back nine in 1:20. That kind of golf I can get into. 5-6 hour rounds not so much.
Coming out of golf hibernation this spring has been hard. Having not touched a club for 4+ months put some serious rust on the game. The first round I played was the best of the short season to date, and scores have been progressively getting worse.
Today I tweaked my back somewhere between getting out of the car in the parking lot of the course and the first tee. I’ve been rubbing the lower back vigorously in the shower with soapy (thus slippery) hands to work the knots and inflammation. On the course I tried the same thing but didn’t have soapy hands and did it on top of my golf shirt. In a few seconds I’d done it so hard I took a half-inch wide chunk of flesh off my knuckle. So then I had back pain and a nasty flesh wound on my knuckle. Golf is tough.
On the range before the round a swing thought came into my head from out of the sky once told me by an old golf buddy who moved away years ago, “narrow your stance.” I tend to have a wide stance and it might creep wider and wider. I’ve been quite inaccurate with the irons this year, and hitting lots of fat shots and even 3 shanks. I’ve gone years without one shank. I narrowed the stance on the range and nuked a 4-iron almost to the end of the range.
On the course I hit the irons tremendously for the most part. Nearly jarred my 2nd shot on the 2nd hole. The greens were so bloody fast though, I missed the nearly gimme birdie.
As the round progressed I hit a lot of great iron shots, but started to fight the back spasms. Starting on the back every few swings was a bizarre “protect the back” swing, which doesn’t work well. Just ask Tiger Woods. I lost a few strokes to par because of those few swings, but managed 77.
77 for me normally is a mediocre round, but as rusty as I am, simply breaking 80 for the first time was a major step in the right direction. The number is somewhat a representation of the round, but is much less important to me than the feel of hitting solid irons and executing shots. That’s much more rewarding.
Positive thoughts at the moment, but the back is very, very stiff.
Sunday services today took me up Parley’s Canyon between Salt Lake and Park City, to Mountain Dell. There are two courses there, the Lake and the Canyon. I enjoyed a slightly brisk and quite windy round there, going through the process of resurrecting my dead golf game.
This photo of Rory McIlory sums up how I’m feeling about my golf game at the moment.
The word to best describe my golf game right now is probably the most-used word by President Trump: disaster. After four+ months of not even swinging a golf club over the winter, the golf game has gone into deep hibernation. Come to think of it, I don’t think I even looked at a golf club in four months.
I’m not sweating it too badly because I know every spring it takes a while to get my game back. I’m sure by the time winter comes and it’s time to shut it down again, my game will be getting close.