From Scotland to French Lick to Spanish Fork, Utah. The HOG World Tour’s latest course visit was the extremely fun Spanish Oaks golf course at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon, about an hour south of Salt Lake City.
Fall is most definitely here, and we had been getting rain for roughly two days straight. Right as my lads and I reached the first tee the rain stopped, the temps rose, and we loved it. The combination of the lush green grasses with the low clouds on the mountains, with the leaves turning colors… wow.
Spanish Oaks is a very fun course. It’s not long, but it gets quite tight as it progresses. There are some short, risk-reward par-4’s which can reward well executed aggressive shots. I wish I wasn’t so far from this course or I would play it much more often. The greens were great, even after being soaked for two days in the rain.
Somehow I managed to shoot an even par round. Three birdies, three bogeys and the rest pars. What a fun day.
Bonneville 12th Green
It was my first “senior” tournament this past Saturday. I still don’t understand how I’m a senior golfer but don’t get senior discounts at burger places… Anyway..
I get to the range and start pumping balls over the fence at the back of the range. I’m killing it. I get to #1 tee and hook the ^&$@ out of my tee shot. Somehow I make birdie anyway. On the 2nd hole I hook the @#$%* out of it again and hit an OB fence, bouncing back in play 60 yards. I still make a triple-bogey 7. I haven’t made a triple in a tournament since, well maybe 3-4 years ago.
Later in the round I’m putting for eagle on the par-5 5th and I feel an itch on my shoulder. I itch it and feel a bump under my shirt. It’s a wasp. He stings me. I try to get him out of my shirt and he stings me again. I rip my Dunning shirt off and run around while my players watch me wondering WTF I’m doing. I make birdie.
The rest of the round I had a hard time hitting any kind of drive. I hit such a horrid drive on the par-4 7th that I put a sky mark in my driver. Never done that before, ever. It went about 200 feet straight up and forward about 30 yards. When the ball was at its apex, a guy in my group said, “oh my God.” All I could do was laugh.
I shoot 79 and can barely keep a driver in play the whole round. Strange because my driving has been fantastic all year. I’ll chalk it up to being a senior and try to forget about it.
Amateur golf tournament season is winding down here in northern Utah. I’m playing one of the last tournaments of this year a little later this morning. It’s the club championship at Bonneville, one of my home courses. I didn’t realize it was club championship weekend and I didn’t plan on playing in the 36-hole, two-day championship because, well, I’m not going to shoot two rounds of 66. So I’d just be donating.
But my buddies signed me up for the “Saturday” portion of the event. I came to find out the club also has a “Senior Championship.” I qualify now, at 50. So “what the hell?” I’m thinking. I’m not going to beat the 22 year old flat-belly college scholarship guys on the University of Utah golf team, but maybe I have a chance against the old farts.
Bonneville Golf Course Aerial Photo by Tony Korologos
Bonneville Golf Course Aerial Photo by Tony Korologos
Yesterday I played my 3rd round of net match play for the 2016 Bonneville men’s club. Any rounds at this point are gravy since I’ve gotten my entry fee back. Today’s match was against a very good player, a 1-handicap. After blowing at 8-iron over the green on the par-5 first hole in two, I went one-down with a par. On the 2nd I 3-jacked (not normal for me) to go two-down. If I didn’t get my ass in gear this was going to be the world’s quickest 9-hole net match…
Fortunately I made two good shots to get to about 15 feet for birdie on the tough par-4 3rd. Made the putt to go 1-down.
My opponent, knowing I was getting a pop on the 4th hole, made about a 40 foot bomb for birdie to tie my net birdie. Still 1-down.
On the par-5 5th my opponent made an impressive par after hitting his drive in the lateral hazard to the right. My net birdie put the match back to even.
I screwed up on the par-3 6th. My opponent missed the green and made bogey. I ran my birdie putt by too far, too aggressive. Missed the downhill come back putt. Still even. Should have been 1-up.
On the par-4 7th I hit a killer approach right at the pin from 125. Hit landed, went up to the hole, then spun back about 25 feet. Bad luck there. Opponent makes birdie and I go 1-down.
On the short par-4 8th (about 330ish?) my opponent actually waited for the green to clear before teeing off. He made it to just short. I don’t have that shot in the bag so I hit my best shot of the day, a solid 4-iron. I hit an okay approach to about 20 feet and said “Houston, we have a problem.” A player as good as my opponent should make birdie from so close to the green and that’s just what he did. My birdie putt to extend the match just missed.
In the most entertainming moment of the match my opponent shook my hand and said, “nice match, Troy.”
He realized the name mistake and apologized, but not after I gave him some grief.
On the 9th, playing for fun, I made birdie. Of course…
I shot even par for the nine holes and lost 2-down. My opponent shot 3-under. I don’t feel too bad. That’s some damn good golf being played.
Even though I lost today, match play is still my favorite form of golf.
Not much time to think about this match. This afternoon I play my gross match, against a pro who is one of the best players in the association.
At the time my handicap was the absolute best I was playing with a group of eight guys, none of whom was higher than a 5-handicap. In the group there was a zero and a bunch of 1’s and 2’s. It was a tough group. If you didn’t bring your A-game, you had to make sure you brought your A-TM game. I really loved the competition level and intensity of those years, and I think playing in that group helped me improve and play at a high level, for an amateur. I was playing 4-5 times per week as well, which I’m sure helped. My handicap got as low as a 0.9.
Unfortunately that group dissolved. I still play with some of those guys, a time or two a year.
Fast forward 10-15 years to now. Because of where I am in life (translation: day job, wife, 3-year old, limited time), I can’t play 4-5 times per week. I’m only able to play two times, and perhaps a 3rd time if I’m lucky. Yes it sounds crazy that I say “only,” because many amateurs play once a week, once a month, or maybe a few times a year. I realize despite a 50% drop in rounds, I play more than probably 90% of amateur golfers. Playing less does not help my game. Winter around here in northern Utah hurts the game as well. Nothing hurts your feel and crispness as much as a six month frost delay.
But now that summer is here I’m past the spring rust phase. I’m also playing quite a bit right now. It’s not cold either. Many of the reasons or excuses I could use for not playing well are not useable. Up until about 1.5 weeks ago, I’ve struggled to break 80 with many rounds around 85. Why? If I knew that, I would fix it.
The last week and a half though, I’ve finally seemed to turn a corner. Rather than mid 80’s, I’ve got a 74, 76, and two nine hole rounds that come in at -2 and even. What happened? Did I suddenly become a better golfer? Did I change swings? Did I put a new driver into play? What?
So what is contributing to the better scores? I don’t feel like I’m hitting the ball much better, but I’m scoring better. I don’t feel like my abilities have suddenly changed. What has changed is my “playing environment.” I’ve changed from the casual buddy group to the more intense competitive match play and tournament rounds. Also played 18 with a different group a couple of days ago, all who hit the ball as far or farther than me and could clean my clock on any given day if I don’t bring the A-game. It seems that perhaps for a while I’ve been in a playing rut due to the group I’ve been in. All good chaps for sure, but I’ve gotten too comfortable in the group. I’m not focused. There are higher handicap players in the group as well. Perhaps there’s a bit of “playing to the level of the other players” going on. Perhaps being around a higher handicapper for round after round has caused me to lose focus in my own game. Try not to interpret that as an arrogant comment. Think of another individual sport like tennis. A high level tennis player may not improve or keep his skills in top shape playing an opponent who is not at the same level. Yes one could argue that another player’s game should not affect one’s own golf game and there could be some truth to that. But I’m generally the kind of player who plays better if I’m around better players.
So where does that put me if the above analysis is true? Part of what makes golf enjoyable is the camaraderie of playing with friends. Perhaps the approach should be to keep the serious golf on the schedule, and play the casual and less intense rounds with the buddies now and then too.
Or maybe all that is a bunch of nonsense and I’m just playing better now. It could just be the phase of the moon or because I put my left sock on first instead of the right one this past week. Wait, I think maybe the better play is because of better underwear scripting…