This past week I experienced a bit of an embarrassing learning experience while golfing with fellow golf blogger John Duval of IntoTheGrain.com. We were playing at Soldier Hollow Golf Course here in Heber, Utah, which had been getting pounded by rain and even hail. The bunkers (known by some as sand traps) had been compacted and not maintenanced. So that meant the sand in them was extremely hard and even had a bit of a crusty layer on the top.
On one of the six, yes six, par-3’s on the Silver Course, I had trouble getting out. I kept blading shots and line-driving them into the lip. Luckily for John the lip stopped one of them, or my ball might have killed him, or at least caused severe eye damage. Inside joke there. Like the extremely intelligent golfer I am, I kept trying the same shot and getting the same result, blading shots into the lip. After a few of them I picked the damn ball up with my hand and threw it at the hole. That was the shot of the day.
A couple of holes later on yet another par-3 I was again in a greenside bunker. This time a bunker quite short of the green, about 20 yards. Instead of sand wedge I chose lob wedge. I got out of the first bunker no problem, but went into the 2nd one. Lob wedge again from the 2nd one was no problem onto the green.
The Reader’s Digest version of the lesson was that out of crusty, hard, compacted sand my lob wedge was a better choice than my sand wedge. Why? The design between those two clubs in my particular bag is quite different.
My sand wedge, and the majority of most sand wedges has a lot of bounce. The bounce comes from the sole of the club, or the bottom line which is what touches the ground when a golfer is holding the club in position before a shot. This area of the club head can be flat, rounded, v-shaped, or custom ground into all sorts of shapes. The shape of bottom of the club produces a certain amount of bounce. Most common in sand wedges is about 10-12 degrees, quite a bit of bounce.
Why a lot of bounce? In regular sand which isn’t hard like the sand I described above, a club will go into the sand and dig or burrow in. This can stop the club or severely slow it down. A club which is decelerating in sand will not produce a good shot. This is why most amateur golfers hit fat shots in the sand, and the ball only goes a foot or two, leaving them another sand shot. The bounce of the sand wedge helps the club deflect off the sand and prevents it from digging in. This way the club travels through quickly and gets the ball in the air and out of the bunker.
Bounce and hard sand? So if the sand is extremely compacted and hard, the design of the sand wedge will make the club bounce far too much. The club will not go under the sand. Instead it will bounce up and the leading edge of the club, or blade, will hit the ball. This is called “blading a shot” and is what produces the line-drive shots I was hitting into the lip.
Lesson one is that clubs with a lot of bounce are generally not a good idea in hard sand or on very hard ground.
My current lob wedge has quite a different design or “grind” on the sole of the club compared to my sand wedge. Rather than 10 degrees of bounce, it has only four. This is not a lot of bounce at all. When I switched to the lob wedge in the 2nd trap, the club did not bounce in the sand. It went under the ball without going back up too soon from impacting the sand. Therefore I did not blade the shots. The first shot didn’t travel far enough because of the loft of the club and how hard I swung it, but the ball got out of the crusty sand with no problem at all.
Conversely a lob wedge or club like mine with a small amount of bounce may not be a great club selection for an average golfer who is hitting out of soft sand. The club will not bounce off the sand but will dig in, producing a fat shot which will come up short.
Lesson two is that clubs with very little bounce are a good idea for compacted sand or very hard ground.
Left: 56 degree sand wedge with 10 degrees bounce | Right: 60 degree lob wedge with 4 degrees bounce
Look at the image above. Left is my sand wedge and right is my lob wedge. The green line shows the leading edge of the face. The pink line shows the bounce. You can see that the sand has much more mass and the angle of the sole (between the pink and green lines) is much higher. That’s the bounce!
Lesson three from this experience which I learned, probably re-learned, is to not be too lazy to go get the right club. Once I hit that first bouncy bladed sand shot into the lip I knew the ground was too hard and the sand wedge was the wrong club. I should have gone to my bag and gotten my lob wedge before taking another swing. Instead I was too lazy to go get another club. The result was a big number and loss of hole.
If it were a tournament or important situation other than a casual round, I would have changed clubs.
Next time you find yourself in a bunker, look at the sand and get a feel for it with your feet. Is it hard? Is it soft? Now you may have a better idea which of your clubs is the best choice. If by chance you choose the wrong club, don’t hesitate to take a few more seconds to grab the correct club and save some strokes.
I had a wild hair up my shag bag to take in the experience of a course I haven’t played in probably several decades, Nibley Park. We often refer to it as “The Gib,” which is short for The Gibley. That comes from “Nibley Gibley.” So I affectionately said that I was “flogging the Gib.” I’m glad to clear up the confusion on that now.
This course is a 9-hole par-34 which measures
a lengthy 2,895 yards from the blue tees; the tips. The only par-5 is 453 yards and I hit an 8-iron into that one on my 2nd shot. Yes I made birdie.
Play is slow. So people do cartwheels in the fairway to keep themselves entertained…
The Gib is a bit of a beginner’s course, and one which is on the low budget end. It clocks in at a whopping $11.00 to walk 9-holes. That’s a price I can live with. The crowd is, shall we say, more working class than higher end courses in town. That’s part of the experience I was looking for. Plus I’m trying to get used to new Miura irons, and new shoes.
I played with two guys who were playing their 2nd round of the year. I doubt they even have established handicaps. I had fun playing with them, and watching their match which was 25 cents per hole. I think 75 cents exchanged hands at the end. One of the guys was pitching it better than me with what appeared to be a pitching wedge hybrid. See below.
That P-Hybrid has “internal sole weighting.” I can’t imagine what external sole weighting would be.
The other guy was a lefty and bragged that he got his TaylorMade driver for $10.00 on eBay. I said, “if you only knew.” He got his entire set of clubs on eBay in fact, and said the most expensive club in the bag was his driver. Most of his clubs were $5.00 or less. As I wielded my brand new shiny Miuras I couldn’t help mumble “if you only knew (my rants about golf product release cycles).” Later in the round he told me he had seen a set of irons like mine before, when some guy was pawning them. He said he knew the guy had no business with irons like that. English translation, they were stolen. That’s my guess.
I enjoyed playing a more casual round on an easier course, especially one where my rusty spring game didn’t cost me more than my green fees. Low pressure. I tested some new shoes, a new ball, and got another round in with the new irons.
Post-round I practiced low running chips and short game. I practiced so long my back was tweaked the next morning. It took half a day to get myself straightened out.
Game Still MIA
I’m hoping my missing golf game will reappear soon. I’m thinking the more spring rounds I get in, the closer I’ll get to my game’s return. Until then my handicap is blowing up and my confidence is like a house of cards.
This year’s goal is to enjoy the walk. Regardless of the score, that’s what I’m trying to do. Most of the time I’ve gotten it done.
Yesterday I posted that I saw a glimmer of hope in my golf game and I’m happy to report that the glimmer is shining more brightly today. I know I know. The golf gods will give players this hope so they can be crushed, and I expect that to happen but I also expect to rebound quickly from it next time.
Year’s First Eagle
Today’s round was 18 holes, the front 9 being my Wednesday league. After a very good drive on the par-5 first, I hit an 8-iron onto the green for my second shot and had a slick downhill 12-foot putt for eagle. Nailed it.
Re-Learning Things I Already Knew
I had a decent front nine but two bad holes (doubles) and shot +4 on the front. One of the doubles was a total and complete tactical error. I know on the short par-4 7th that I can’t hit driver because I’ll leave myself with a 1/2 a lob wedge into a green which requires spin. I flubbed the half lob wedge and left myself and even more difficult 3rd, then 3-putted. Had I hit a hybrid off the tee I would have had a full shot into the green and a much better chance at par or better. Sometimes in golf we have to re-learn by making mistakes we should not make. I re-learned I hope.
On the back nine I shot a decent +1 for a total of 77. 77 isn’t where I want to be (low 70’s or even the upper 60’s is my happy place), but it’s the first round under 80 this early season. This season I’m trying to shake off a lot of rust having not even swung a golf club from October to probably March, about half a year.
Another thing I accomplished today is walking the whole 18 holes. This course is very hilly and walking up to many shots the heart rate is high and breathing heavy. That feeling is a lot like the nerves I feel in big tournaments.
One of my aims this year is to walk far more. First I can save money. But most importantly I’m trying to get some kind of exercise. The only exercise I get is clicking a mouse button all day. I don’t think that’s strengthening my core.
The reason for this focus on walking is two-fold. First I could stand to get in better shape, so why not hit a golf ball around while I’m working out? Second, I have a trip to Scotland coming up in July. That’s 36 holes per day minimum, for 8-9 days. Over 100 miles of walking. I need to be ready for that.
I’m on my way to being ready for Scotland, and well on my way to playing some better golf. I can feel it.
Cue the Robin Williams “hope” discussion involving golf… The temperatures warmed up today and so did my game, mainly the quality of shots I was hitting. In my 9-hole Tuesday league I started out with three solid pars and then a birdie. Then managed to get to the 9th hole at +1 until I made one bad swing. On this course, one of my three home courses, one bad swing means big numbers. I tripled the last hole. Buggah, but I see positive in being +1 through eight holes.
Trying to stay positive. Trying to stay positive. Trying to enjoy the walk. Trying to enjoy the walk.
It’s a darn good thing I’m a web developer by trade and not a golf professional. Otherwise my family and I would have starved to death long ago…
I nearly quit golf several times last year. I actually dreamed of quitting. Fantasized really. I struggled last year, and didn’t find I was really enjoying my time on the course. I felt more like I was wasting time.
So this year I have one main goal: Enjoy the walk.
Today was possibly the worst nine holes I’ve shot in the last decade. Highlights included four 3-putts, drives sliced into the next county, and a shank into a hazard on the 9th hole. I’m chalking this one up to spring rust, a brutal schedule, no sleep, negative energy, lack of transgender bathrooms at the golf course…. anything but lack of talent and lack of practice.
During today’s round I didn’t get mad. In fact, I laughed a bit and did my best to stay positive. I did for a split second have that feeling of wanting to bail on golf. I reminded myself about 2016 and what it is supposed to be for me, enjoying the walk.
I actually feel pretty good about my game, despite the fact that I’m not scoring well or scoring close to my handicap. Most shots feel solid and I’m driving it very well. If I was not hitting it solid I’d feel pretty lost. I know it will take some time to shake off the spring rust and be able to put together some better golf. Until then the handicap will be blowing up like it does every spring after six months of not swinging a club.
There are a few upcoming events by which I hope to have the game rounded into shape for. First is the Salt Lake Amateur tournament, one of the few tournaments I play in each year (great anti-sandbagging setup). Then it will be my club championship, and finally a trip to Scotland.
Today was an aberration. I didn’t have “it” and “it” was nowhere to be found, even in my whole group.
I signed up for a tournament this Saturday. I’m looking forward to feeling that feel of real competition.