Today was perhaps the last “good” weather day here in Salt Lake. I got together with my regular Thursday buddies (yes it is Wednesday for those counting) Marius (sumi-g) and Arnie my long time golf buddy. We were joined by “Shanego” who is an old pal I’ve reunited with. Shane’s handicap is higher than the rest of us and I worry about him getting crushed and losing a bunch of money. That didn’t happen today.
The weather was warm as was my ball striking. I had a few wild shots, and the dry conditions meant lots of roll on the hard ground. Balls were going 20-30 yards long for me. I had a 200 yard 7-iron and I’m not Tiger Woods.
The intensity was high today. All four of us were playing fairly well, though my usually trusty putter wasn’t “on” as normal. I missed 3-4 putts which would almost be guarantees for me. That got to me, but I worked through it.
Marius started out the back mega hot with three birdies in a row. On #10 he topped my 1-footer for birdie on a hole which is almost never birdied.
On the 13th hole, Shane and I brought out the big guns. We brought out the secret weapons: Cigars.
The intensity was peaking the last few holes as Arnie and Marius had to start pressing me and my partner Shane. Shane and I “ham & egged” it perfectly. When one of us would falter the other would at least tie or even win the hole. Though my putter was not firing on all cylinders I made a clutch par putt on #16 from about 10 feet. On #17 when there are presses all over the place and a chance to put Arnie and Marius away, Shane makes birdie! Game, set, match. Forget my “1 out of 10” chip which ended up two inches from the hole, Shane’s birdie was awesome. The assistant pro even happened to be there to watch me running around and high-fiving Shane. He absolutely knew what that putt meant and had a great look on his face.
In the end Shane didn’t lose money. He won money and so did I. I won’t be retiring any time soon, but it was great to hear Marius squeal about losing $4 to me when he had the chance to bury me with all those birdies.
Great friends, cigars, great golf, intensity, birdies flying, competition, dollars flying…. THAT is what it is all about.
For those who wanted to get the flavor of my club’s Hell Day tournament, here’s a YouTube video below for your enjoyment. When I posted the 2008 video, YouTube killed the audio because I used a Disturbed song. To avoid that this time around the soundtrack for this one is some cuts from band called Spazz, which play the drums in…
The weather is changing here. The grass on the courses has slowed or stopped growing. When the courses aren’t covered in winter snow here in Utah and the grass is dormant, the lies in the fairways or anywhere there’s short grass, can be very tight.
Chipping with higher lofted wedges
I usually like to chip with my 56 degree wedge, put the ball back in my stance, close the face and hit a descending blow to get it running. If I need the ball to run less or carry more, I’ll use my lob wedge (60). But the tighter the lies and the rustier I get (from playing less due to the weather), the tougher these shots become to execute.
Chipping with mid-irons
Yesterday on the 6th hole (with my opponents pressing me I might add) I had one of these very tight lies. I had a tough tight lie and no green to work with. I was about 10-15 feet short of the green on this par-3, and there was a front pin. Having never even practiced this shot I grabbed my 8-iron and decided I’d just put a putting stroke on it. I figured the amount of loft on the club would get the ball in the air just enough to carry the ball over enough of the short grass, yet roll the ball like a putt when it got to the green. I assumed my putting stance and grip, choking down on the club to about where my normal putting grip would be on my putter.
My opponents watched in horror and amazement as the low shot bounced twice in the short grass, landed on the fringe and rolled just like a perfect putt straight to the hole. My pal Arnie dropped his putter on the ground and threw his hands up in the air as my 8-iron chip dropped center cut in the hole for birdie.
I turned to them and said “I guess I’ll be using that shot more.”
Later in the round on #11 I had a similar scenario. Once again I was just short of the green with a front pin. I hit the same shot with my 8-iron. I didn’t drain this one for birdie, but did leave myself an easy 1-footer to save par.
If the ground is smooth enough and you can roll the ball a bit around the greens, it may be easier to put a more pendulum-like stroke on a mid-iron rather than trying to make perfect contact with a higher lofted club. If you’re like me and sometimes have trouble chipping, try hitting some running shots with a lower lofted club and a putting stroke. It is very hard, almost impossible, to blade or hit this shot fat.
Today is the annual Hell Day Tournament at my local club. This is the last event of the year. The tournament was snowed out last week so today is the rescheduled day. I got this idea from a club I was in a few years ago. During Hell Day, we set the course up completely unfair, difficult, insane, nutty. As club president, I get to set the course up however I want. Very fun.
The tees can be anywhere. We’ve teed off of the front porch of the range shack, ladies’ tees, dirt roads dozens of yards from the regular tees, sidehill lies etc. On #10 every year we tee off in the grass by the clubhouse, about 175 yards behind the blue tees. It is a 350 yard drive to even get to the fairway and that landing area is 30 yards wide with trees on both sides. On #16 this year, we’re teeing off from a circle on a dead end street between 15 green and 16 tee. We bring in range mats for those sorts of lies.
Today’s tees include teeing off of #13 blacks to #12 green (par-3), teeing off #13 whites to #15 fairway (320 yards), teeing off #12 reds to #13 (par-5) etc.
On #18 today, a par-3, we’re putting two sets of clubs on the tee. Right handed players must tee off left handed, and left handed players must use right handed clubs.
Sometimes we’ll require players hit a pumpkin in the fairway before they can proceed to the green. We may require that their shots go IN a fairway bunker or greenside bunker before they can continue.
All of the greens have pins in the worst places possible, like in the middle of severe slopes. If you miss the putt, you’ll be 30 feet away. One year I 11-putted #14.
One green last year we made a hole which was about a foot wide. I heard guys saying they lipped out because they played their putts “right edge”??? DOH! On #15 the last few years we put several flags in the green. You can putt to whatever hole you want.
I’d like to play the whole course backwards one of these years. Every year we try to make it even more crazy.
I reaaaallly want to win this year. The trophy for the winner is mega cool.
I wish I could have spent a few hours writing up a great tribute to Payne Stewart, one which would do him justice.
Today marks the 10 year anniversary of his death in that strange accident on that private plane. I just spent a few minutes explaining to my lady who Payne Stewart was and darn near started crying as I showed her pictures of his fist pump and some youtube videos of him. I was especially somber when I told her about his 1999 U.S. OPEN win when he beat Phil Mickelson, then cupped Phil’s face in his hands and told him “you’re going to be a father.” Tissue please. Wow.
It would have been so great for Payne’s life and career to continue, rather than ending so suddenly. It would have been great to see how many more major championships he would have recorded in the last 10 years, and how many times he would have gone head to head with Tiger Woods. I doubt he would have succumbed to that fear other players had when they play against TW.