Yesterday I played a round of golf at one of my all-time favorite courses here in northern Utah, Valley View Golf Course. Valley View is a tree-lined course, always plush and healthy, with a lot of very interesting elevation changes. It’s a fairly difficult course as well.
I’ve been struggling so bad with my game lately that I’ve been fantasizing about quitting golf. As a (now former) 1 handicap I had some real struggles and couldn’t even break 80 for a whole month. Very frustrating, and I was beginning to feel like I was wasting my time on the course.
Then out of the blue yesterday at VV I shoot an even-par 72, including a double bogey on the par-3 16th. I made birdie on the 18th to get it back to even. The only other real booboo besides the 16th was making par on the par-5 2nd, when I was chipping from the back of the green for eagle, about 20 feet from the pin. A bad chip led to a par.
So I shot even par. I guess that means I won’t be quitting the game this week. I feel like the game knows your state of mind, and throws you a little tiny nugget at just the right time. It’s like gambling in Vegas. You lose your ass and that one small win keeps you there, giving you hope.
So I’ll be staying in the game this week at least but you can’t fool me, golf. I know what you’re doing.
This time of the year my game is usually as dialed in as it is all year long. By now I’ve overcome spring rust and had tons of rounds and range sessions over the summer to fine tune my swing and my feel. This is also the time of year I whine and snivel about the pending winter snow, and the following several months in which golf in my area (Salt Lake City) is closed or just too damn cold to play.
This year it is different.
My game is not at that fine tuned level this time around. I’m shooting my worst scores of the season, struggling to play to the level of a 15-handicap, not the usual 1-handicap I’ve been for a couple of decades. Despite feeling like I have as much power as ever and despite feeling like I’m hitting solid shots, I’ve been very disenchanted with my game. In fact, I’ve become disenchanted with the game of golf. During my struggles and rounds over the last couple of months I’ve found myself fantasizing about quitting golf, entirely. Forever.
In order to play at a level in which I can feel somewhat satisfied I need to play golf four to five times per week or as Tiger would put it, get in my reps. I’ve been fantasizing about all the things I could do instead of all that time spent hitting a ball with a stick–all the ways I could be more productive in my work or have fun with my family. I’ve been fantasizing about doing something different than golf, like my latest passion of building and flying drones and aerial photography/video.
This year as winter comes around the corner, I I’m welcoming it. I’m frustrated with my game and deep down know I can’t play any better than I currently do, given that I only have the time to play 18-27 holes per week. When I do play I become frustrated and emotionally fragile, with the smallest mistake or penalty able to crush what little confidence I have.
This year is different.
I’m at a crossroads in golf I feel. I’ve loved the game for many years but the realist in me knows the game can’t be mastered and it is not likely for me to get better without making a serious effort which I’m not sure I’m able to make. I’m also feeling a bit of a grudge toward the game. I’ve put so much into golf over much of my life, but the game relentlessly beats me up and will never ease up. I nearly walked off the course a couple of times in the last month or so, out of frustration. I’ve been close to selling my gear on ebay and shutting down this blog. 10 years has been a good for HOG run no doubt. I’m what I would call an “absolutist.” If the day comes that I do quit, that will be the end.
This weekend I had a small glimmer of hope, like the flat part of the golf course with the flag in it Robin Williams talks about, “just to give you hope.” I have some new irons which I feel better about and have tried to lower my expectations and accept what state my game, my psyche, and my emotions are in. I also have been trying to be less hard on myself for my mental mistakes and physical errors.
Right now I’m in a fog, or as snooty Californians call it, a “marine layer.” Perhaps the fog will clear, just in time for winter. Perhaps not. Maybe it will get worse. After all, in golf no matter how bad it gets, it could always get worse.
My frustration in the game has made it harder for me to get excited about blogging about golf. I must be interested to keep doing this. Plus, changes in Google and the SEO the big golf media outlets have implemented have knocked my revenue from this blog down to nothing. So I’m back to deciding whether I keep doing this for the “love of the game.” It sure as hell isn’t for the money.
Maybe the five-hour rounds, the difficulty of the game, and the cost are finally getting to me. Or maybe my golf fog is a reflection of my personal and work life frustrations. What came first, the chicken of the egg? Maybe it’s time for a midlife crisis and I should go buy a Porsche and get it over with. Hell. I don’t know and I’m not sure it matters. I’m golfing now almost out of habit, and wanting to still be with a couple of my golf friends who I normally would not see. Most of my competitive groups have dissolved. People have quit, died, moved away.
I’ve become very jaded and tired of the standard golf media as well. It’s an endless stream of hot tour wives and girlfriends garbage along with stupid initiatives to “grow the game” which will never work.
Gear wise I’m really tired of the equipment release cycles too, and “this is our longest driver EVER!!!” advertising campaigns. Really? Why don’t you tell me EXACTLY HOW MUCH LONGER IT REALLY IS then?
Just like my fantasy of quitting golf, I dream of unplugging Facebook and Twitter and turning off the endless drivel coming out of the golf world. I get as excited about a new “longer” driver as I get about a new brand of laxatives. In fact, at my age the laxatives might just be more interesting and are certainly more useful than spending $499 to gain 100th of a millimeter in distance.
10th Hole – RIver Oaks
Last Tuesday I played round one of my 2015 club championship, defending my 2014 title. I’ve been struggling the last few weeks and I struggled during the first round. The course was playing as tough as it can play with 20-25 mph south winds. From the tips of this mega-tight course and with those winds, big scores can happen, and they did.
It was a bizarre round to say the least. My normal group of players all could not make it, so I ended up playing with a group of players I did not know. They were all seniors and very high handicaps. While they were nice gentlemen on the course, it was a bit wonky for me to be playing two tees behind them, and watching them card nines and tens on holes while I was trying to grind out pars and an occasional birdie.
It got more weird.
The group I was playing with were only 9-hole competitors. So I headed to the back nine with nobody to play with. With nobody to play with, I was sure to card a hole-in-one on every hole. I was going to have to wait for a foursome of league competitors behind me to catch up in order to complete my round with league members. So it would be weird because I’d be in a five-some.
Then the pro shop sent out a league member to play with me as a marker. It was the player I’d beaten in the final match of the 2005 club championship. He proceeded to tee up no less than four balls on the 10th, spraying them all over hell. As he was there just to play some practice golf, he was hitting multiple balls all over the place. Near the greens I would chip on, then he would chip 3-4 balls. On the greens he was putting several balls all over the green. It made it hard for me to concentrate.
On the par-5 13th into a heavy wind I decided not to go for the green and to play a 6-iron layup. I pulled it into some very long grass left of the fairway. I searched for my five minutes to no avail. The marker sat in his golf cart on the other side of the fairway and did not offer to help. I ended up making a double-bogey on that hole, the easiest hole on the entire course.
It gets more strange.
Dissatisfied with his poor play of his 3-4 balls per hole, the marker decided he’d had enough and LEFT after the 15th hole. I was on the 16th tee in my club championship, playing by myself. This is messed up. I’d talked to the league president via text about it and he understood I had done everything I could do and that he trusted me to finish the round by myself. Great! 16-17-18 will all be aces! I ended up finishing par-par-birdie. Damn near aced the par-3 18th. Imagine how screwy that would have been with no witnesses?
As mad as I was, especially with making some horribly stupid errors on the course like losing a ball on a par-5 layup iron shot, I’m only TWO shots behind the leader with one round to go tomorrow.
I not only have a chance, I have a good chance. That is, if I find someone to play with.
I’ve said many times that match play is my favorite form of golf. Despite losing a quarter final net match today I still do. Today’s match was an uphill battle all the way. The best part of my game, putting, was essentially nullified by newly punched and sanded greens.
Making putts in these conditions is not about skill. It is about luck. I’m not good at taking a full swing with my putter and feeling the ball compress. Just don’t have the right feel for it!
My opponent was a very nice chap from Colombia of all places. We chatted about Bogota and my trip there was was fun. Gross I beat him by four shots and he won the net match 2-and-1. That’s what getting five shots will do for you. I hope he does well in the next round.
I’m not mad this time around. It just wasn’t in the cards, the clubs, the sky, the grass.
Oh yeah the rock, mentioned in the title of this post. On the 7th hole I was in the left rough but in good shape since my opponent had a lost ball. I hit pitching wedge and heard a horrid thwacking sound. The ball went about 30 yards. I looked into the divot and there was about a five inch rock underneath my ball. My new Mizuno JPX-850 Forged pitching wedge broke the rock in half and took some bad battle scars. That blows.
See ya next year match play.
Bonneville Golf Course – Aerial Photo by Tony Korologos
While I was playing a gross match in my men’s league Tiger shot 80 at the U.S. Open. I beat him by five shots today… Yes yes I’ll surely catch grief about how the courses we played are different. That is true. Tiger played a par-70 course and I played a par-72 course… 🙂
In all seriousness I have but a few comments about my gross match, which I lost. I don’t feel bad really. I was killing the ball today. Between the super hot conditions and hitting it pure, I was bombing shots way over the green. One uphill shot of 112 I hit my sand wedge 30 yards long, and no I didn’t blade it. On one hole I was 260 out and hit a hybrid over the universe. It must have gone 290.
The match today was between two players of almost exact same handicaps, so it should have been tight and it was. My crappy short game was to blame for losing a couple of holes and not winning a couple of others, but I still managed a 75. My opponent somehow did a Houdini impersonation, making pars from situations I would have guaranteed I’d make bogey.
The match was never more than one-up or one-down for the two of us all day, and the last four holes were all square. On the final hole I pulled my approach from 109 to a hillside left of the green, short-sided. I’m not sure even Phil Mickelson could have saved par from there, and I certainly did not. My opponent had an easy two-putt to win the match on the 18th hole.
I could be mad but I’m not. My achilles heel, short game, was the reason I didn’t win. Until I fix that, this is about as good as it is going to be.
Hitting those solid shots felt good, despite the loss.