Pop quiz: Is it possible to lose $21 playing golf with a $2.00 bet?
Answer: Yes, when you’re me and playing against the guy with the best short game in the world.
Yesterday was round 3 of the 2017 season for me. I have low expectations since I have now logged 3 rounds in 3 weeks and 3 rounds since November. It doesn’t even bother me that my rounds are getting worse. I know through many years of experience that it takes me a while to get my game back in the spring. That’s a great reason to move somewhere I can golf all year, but that’s a blog post for another day.
Yesterday’s round featured a match between the team of me and my buddy Arnie, and Dalton and Al. Al is a senior player closing in on 70 years old who I’ve played 100’s of times with. He has the best short game of any amateur golfer I’ve ever seen, and better than most pros. Man was that short game on display yesterday.
Al is not a long player, so he often misses greens he’s unable to reach in regulation. If he misses any green in regulation by 70 yards or less, I’d put his lifetime up and down percentage at around 75%. It was so amazing yesterday that I was hoping my putt from the fringe would be closer than his shot from 60 yards. By my calculations yesterday he failed to get up and down once out of around 14 times. That was on the 18th hole when the match was already closed out and it didn’t matter. Hehe.
At the end of the day Al had taken all the cash I had on me, $21. Nothing more fun than leaving the course with an empty wallet. But it was the cheapest short game lesson I’ve ever had and I learned a lot from him. He hit almost every shot low. Low runners. And unlike what a lot of short game experts tell you (to land the ball just on the green and have it release) he would land the ball short of the green and the ball would roll to the hole like a putt… to 1-2 feet. His release on those shots is pretty low and short too.
Inspired by Al’s short game I was able to get up and down three consecutive times on the back nine, probably a world record for me.
I must resist the lob wedge and go low and run my short games unless the situation forces a high shot. That’s a goal for this season.
I now have two rounds in the books for 2017 after a four-plus month break from playing. I did not hit a shot. After finishing last year’s handicap rounds with several scores in a row in the 70’s, and a final even-par 72, my handicap stopped at a 3. Here in northern Utah they turn the handicapping off from November to April. So my handicap has been a steady 3 since November!
My long time buddy/partner and I teamed up today in a match against two higher handicap players. We agreed to give them eight shots on the round, and promptly got our asses kicked. They haven’t played much golf either and that’s when it dawned on me. Net matches this early in the year favor higher handicap players. Hear me out.
As a rusty 3, this early in the season I’d consider breaking 80 an achievement. Shooting 75 this early in the year is not likely. I won’t be shooting mid or low 70’s for a while, until I get my my game back. So my handicap may be a 3, but I certainly will not be playing to a 3 for months. In fact, each spring my handicap usually blows up from low single digits to around a 6. Then as I card some lower rounds in the summer it goes back down.
As I witnessed today, at least in the case of the guys I played with, a higher handicap doesn’t seem to have the problem of shooting their handicap. They’re going to shoot high anyway. Odds are much higher IMO that an 18 will shoot 90 after not playing for months, than a 3 shooting 75.
So the “net” result is losing net matches early in the season until I can shoot my handicap. I don’t suppose I’ll be able to talk them into gross matches? LOL.
I just played my first round of golf for 2017. I played okay, considering I haven’t played since November. Four months. I did prove one theory I had, which is I can basically shoot 80 or break 80 will little to no practice or even not playing for months, simply relying on basic ability. I shot 80, including a double on the 17th after a plugged lie under the lip of the green side bunker. What does that mean? Not much. Many golfers strive to break 80. There have been dozens of books and training videos out there with the title “Breaking 80,” but it’s not interesting to me.
What Makes Golf Interesting, or Not Interesting to Me?
So what is interesting then about golf to me if breaking 80 isn’t? Breaking say, 76? 75? 72? Shooting in the 60’s? The fact is I’m going to probably do those things this year, even several times. While it’s nice to shoot a low number, I think feeling solid shots and being in control of what I’m doing is what makes golf interesting and fun for me. Or perhaps attempting difficult shots and having the ability to pull them off. Sometimes those things don’t equate to low numbers.
What of 2017?
So what am I doing? At the end of last season I had burned out on golf. I’d become frustrated about how stagnant it had become, and how the game itself is infinitely more difficult the better one becomes. Unlike other things that challenge me, like computer programming or building drones, golf is something that can’t be mastered. I can write a program and eventually get it to do what it is supposed to do. I can build a drone and make it fly. On rare occasion, I can put together all facets, or perhaps 3/4 of the facets of my game. Perhaps once or twice a year. Sometimes not even once in a year or two. When that happens is a mystery. One day it happens, the next day is a disaster. Unlike programming or building drones, which have incremental and tangible milestones, golf is fleeting.
I’m going to change some things for 2017. Shake it up. I went from thinking about quitting to buying a season pass to the Salt Lake City courses. I can golf any day, anytime now, even holidays on that pass. Also, I will not be renewing my membership in a club that I used to be president of for seven years, River Oaks. Things have changed there management wise, and I’m no longer able to contribute my services to the league and course in exchange for golf privileges. And probably most relevant, I burned out there.
A group I play with at my other home course is sort of dissolving. That group soured a bit, though I still enjoy playing with them once in a while, like today. I plan to try and hook up with a different group of golfers who are all very good. Loose your wallet if you don’t play well good. I also plan to use that city pass to spread my rounds across the seven courses, even the ones that
suck are lower end. I played one of them last year and it was short, quirky, and kind of ghetto for lack of a better word. It was actually fun.
Change of scenery I suppose is one of the primary focuses for 17. Changing clubs, groups, courses… and maybe it will all add up to a change in attitude.
If not, then I just dumped a bunch of money into a pass which will be a waste. I don’t like wasting things, especially money.
My long distance golf buddy John Duval from IntoTheGrain.com gave me some custom logo Bridgestone B330’s earlier this year. I love it when golf buddies are in town traveling and have to “leave” me great golf balls because they don’t want to pay the airline’s excessive overweight baggage fees. Thank you. Come again.
At the rate I’m using these balls they’re going to last me until 2019 though. This ball simply refuses to die, and I some how can’t find a way to lose it.
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.