It’s 6:43am Sunday the 4th of June. I tee off in about 2.5 hours for round two of the RCK Salt Lake City Amateur tournament. This is the tournament that’s most important to me each year. It’s an extremely well run tournament which is gross-only, and the format eliminates sandbaggers. The golf course, Bonneville, is always setup and manicured extremely well.
This season I’ve pretty much lost my iron game. I’ve been hitting sometimes as little as two greens in regulation for 18 holes, which is not where a supposed 3 handicap should be. Combine that with my short game struggles and it’s hard to score, though my putting is excellent. If I couldn’t putt I’d be shooting 95 instead of 85. I should be scoring 75, according to my handicap. I haven’t sniffed a mid-70’s round since last year.
So I came into yesterday with a small bit of hope and mostly low expectations. I started out less nervous than normal because of the low expectations. I kept it together on the front for eight holes with a couple of birdie chances that barely missed. Through eight holes I was +1 and began to think that I actually had it together. Then came the nerves.
The golf gods are funny like that. They allow you to have hope so they can crush it. My hope was crushed on the par-3 9th, rated as one of the toughest par-3’s in Utah. I pulled my 7-iron left and it hit the cart path, bouncing way up into deep fescue. I found 12 balls in that fescue, none of which were mine. My provisional tee shot missed the green and I ended up making a 6.
The back nine was a case of my typical round this year. Miss greens in regulation (missed 7 of 9), then struggle to get up and down to save par. The two holes I managed to hit in regulation were pars. My putting for the day was 1.78 per hole with no 3-putts. That’s a feat when they have the greens setup so bloody fast. But great putting can only go so far when you miss 12 of 18 greens in regulation and don’t chip well. I did make a couple of good chips like on 17, where my ball literally had a piece of sod stuck to it. I guess I chip better when my ball has gunk stuck to it.
On the back nine I started to have those thoughts like I did last year. The frustration and realization that playing to the level I desire may not happen again. It certainly won’t happen with my schedule of late, 27 holes of golf per week. When I was down to scratch I was playing 5x/week. That frustration and realization made me think that 2017 might be the last year I play golf.
Fist round score: 82.
Today I will give it my best once again. In A-Flight, handicaps 2-6, I can perhaps break into the prize money with a round in the low-mid 70’s. Haven’t done it in eight months, but that’s the goal.
The latest terrific course visited in the HOG World Tour is The Country Club (of Salt Lake City). The Country Club is an 18-hole private golf and country club located in the heart of the Salt Lake Valley. SLCC is known for its great location, course architecture, tons of bunkers (ugh), and very high quality and conditioned golf holes.
The hole above is the beautiful and very tough par-4 11th. It looks very Augusta-esque, hints of the 13th at Augusta National Golf Club.
Above is a panoramic shot showing one of the many incredible views of the “Wasatch Front” mountains, which are seen from most of the holes.
And speaking of great views, here’s a drone shot I captured of the course a couple of years ago.
Salt Lake Country Club
I had a great time and struck the ball well. One problem I had was testing out new wedges in rain compacted sand. That was a score wrecker. On non-bunker holes I was even-par on the day. Bunker holes, 7-over. Boo.
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.
This is a painful post to have to write, but I’m compelled to do it. I was horrified to see heavy equipment in operation this past Saturday at the fabulous Bonneville Golf Course. Bonneville is a municipal course which was designed by William Bell and has been providing the public great golf and fantastic greens since 1929. It’s really a gem and is an extremely popular course. “Bonney” is the first real golf course I played as a beginning golfer many years ago.
Unfortunately the heavy machinery was not there to level out the uneven tee boxes, work on improving the greens, fix the bad bunkers, or rip out the crumbling cart parking strips by the tee boxes. I was shocked to find equipment and workers digging out new cart paths. Lots of them.
One of the great things about Bonneville was its LACK of cart paths. Lacking cart paths makes a course much more aesthetically enjoyable. Plus, with no cart paths by the greens, errant approach shots aren’t bounced into the next county. That’s over. The ironic thing is that having cart paths is what makes specific parts of the course shabby and downtrodden. The paths basically force cart riders to enter and exit in the same places and cause a ton of damage to those areas. With no paths cart traffic is spread across a wider area and less damage is done to the course. I know, I’m talking crazy talk, right?
Apparently those who are making the decisions want Bonneville to look like some resort course in Orlando, rather than wanting it to be a great golf course. Seriously, WTF are they thinking? Not only that, we keep hearing about how Salt Lake City courses are losing money faster than John Daly loses alimony. Somehow they scraped up the money for cart paths though. Got it.
Below are a few photos I captured with my phone during that round, showing a few places they’ve begun work on the new paths. I hope this is all, but I doubt it. Under each photo are my comments. If you disagree, I’d love to get your opinion.
Above is the look from the snack shack which is by the #2, #4, and #11 tees. You can see two paths not very far apart. Yeah great idea to lay down two times the amount of pavement. Wouldn’t it be smarter to lay down less pavement? I know. Crazy talk.
Above is a view of the par-3 17th green with the new path just a few steps right of the green. Pop quiz: Do you know where most amateurs miss? You guessed it! Where that new cart path is, to the RIGHT. Strategically that cart path is great. If players miss right and hit the path, their ball will either bounce over to the 11th tee and kill someone, or bounce down the path to the ROAD and hit someone’s car, causing them to swerve and hit golfers coming off of of #1 green. Brilliant.
Above is another view of this great new path which runs from the 17th tee to the green. You can see the rest of the hill where many thousands of carts have come down over the years. No damage of course. No cart path needed.
Above you can see a photo of the par-4 14th green. Some 5-10 steps left of this green will be a new cart path. This is such a great strategic placement. You see, right of this green is a hill with some trees which can eat balls and never give them back. So the “default miss” for people who bail a little bit on this hole is left. Now if someone goes left, their ball will bounce on the cart path into trees, or toward the 15th tee. The ball likely won’t reach the 15th tee, but will give the golfer an enjoyable impossible flop shot from a downslope over trees. I’m sure that’s just what William Bell had in mind.
Wow isn’t the photo above beautiful? The view back up to the par-3 15th green from the 16th tee used to be the great green Bonneville bent grass. Now it’s this God-awful “Y” shape of future pavement. Fantastic! This is another strategic blunder too, but even worse than the one by the 17th. This is a 230 yard par-3. Players are always missing this green, mostly right. Yes, new cart path will be right. There will also be path to the left, for those who double cross themselves. And finally, path long for those who over club. Congratulations! You’ve just created a 230 yard version of the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, but instead surrounded the green with pavement instead of water!
Not Likely to be Final Thoughts
Some of the greatest golf courses in the world have no cart paths. The world’s two greatest courses come to mind: Augusta National Golf Club and the Old Course in St Andrews.
Somehow the 87 year-old Bonneville Golf Course has managed to be the most popular course in the state for decades without cart paths. Despite having golf carts, Bonneville’s great drainage, resilient bent grass, and hard ground has meant carts do little damage to the course. So why the change? To me it reeks of someone making decisions who knows nothing about golf, or perhaps doesn’t care. This is someone who doesn’t “get” the experience and authenticity of this great old golf course. This is someone who spends their time sitting at a desk, not walking the golf course. Their vision of golf is carts, cart paths, and cart fees. This isn’t some Disney course in Orlando. This isn’t a country club. These new paths are an unnecessary expense which will make the course less appealing visually, and produce all sorts of problems from a playability standpoint.
If you disagree with me and think adding cart paths will improve Bonneville, I’d love to engage in some conversation with you. I mean it.
Last year Salt Lake City Golf Division allowed the Arthur Hills airport course Wingpointe to close and has been looking to close another course called Glendale. Now they’re messing with their cash cow Bonneville. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
What will Salt Lake City Golf Division screw up next? Perhaps the best thing for them to do would be to continue to own the courses and bring in a management company to run them and make the decisions they’re clearly not smart enough or equipped enough to make.
On the bright side, Top Golf is opening soon in Salt Lake…
UPDATE May 5, 2016
A week later… They are putting in nice looking new sand into the bunkers. See instagram photo below:
I have to give credit where credit is due. Good so see them improving the bunkers, which were previously just dirt with rocks.
Last week I was happy to play my first round of 2016 at one of my home courses and favorites, Bonneville Golf Course. Bonneville is the most popular golf course in the state, home of some of the best greens around.
Last season they switched from manual/hand watering and installed a controversial automated irrigation system. That’s all done now and a byproduct of said irrigation system is a change on the first hole. The first is a very reachable par-5. I’m usually approaching this green with anything from 9-iron to a 5-iron depending on conditions. Just short of the green is a very steep slope which historically has had very deep grass. That deep grass typically ate balls up, keeping them from bouncing up to the green. It also made chipping a challenge.
Shot taken with my phone, so not the best quality. This is the slope which is now cut short.
That long grass is gone now. Apparently one of the reasons for the long grass was a watering issue. Now that there is a better irrigation system, that grass can be, and is cut short like the fairway. I’m not sure how this will play out yet. It could mean many more 2nd shots will bounce up onto the green. It could also mean that short shots and bad chips which don’t make the green may roll back anywhere from 10-30 yards.
It’s going to be interesting to track the scoring and analyze my approaches on #1 this coming season and see how what seems to be a minor change affects the outcome.