Wednesday, 28 November 2018

No Grousing Rule

Do you grouse? I know I do. I hit shots and even before they've stopped rolling I'm moaning that I pushed it, or hit it fat, or didn't hit it. And sometimes those shots that I've "groused" about turn out just fine. It's a bad habit that is likely annoying to anyone forced to listen to my pissing and moaning.

Today I played at English Turn in New Orleans with David, a good player from Detroit. On one hole, I hit a ten-foot birdie putt and, almost immediately, moaned that I hadn't hit it. Sure enough, the putt rolled in. 

David said: "You owe me two bucks for grousing."

He explained that this is a rule with the guys he plays with. It's a dollar if you grouse and the shot turns out okay. If it turns out really good, it's two bucks. I think it's a heckuva good rule. And it would soon teach me to keep my grousing to myself.

We had a great day on the course. after starting the day with a chip in for birdie on the first hole, David capped it off by making a great birdie on the 476 yard par four 18th--bookend birdies. His second shot on 18 from 208 yards into the wind ended up about five feet from the pin. The guy can play. As for me, I did manage to play the back nine in even par for a 77. But I played from the whites. David played from the tips.

Anyway, I'm planning on instituting the grousing rule next year when I tee it up with my buddies back home. Hopefully it will motivate me to keep my pissing and moaning to myself.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Hyde Park Golf Club

I must admit that I'm a Donald Ross fan. I love his golf courses whether they beat me up or not. This trip to Florida I've made my usual stops at the Ross munis in Palatka and New Smyrna. I wanted to play the Bacon Park course in Savannah as well, but they had a tournament scheduled for the day we headed to St Augustine from Murrells Inlet, just south of Myrtle Beach, so I had to just drive right by.

Of course, a lot of Ross courses are private. So, unless I'm prepared to drive to them and try to ingratiate myself with a member and get an invite to play, I'm pretty much out of luck. Them's the hazards of not being a man of means. But I discovered another Ross muni in Jacksonville, called Hyde Park, and Marvin and I played it the other day with two of his buddies, Elder and Mike.

The day was about as perfect as it could be. Around seventy two degrees, with just enough breeze to keep me from sweating too much and to make the southern boys think about putting on a jacket. Mike and Elder played the senior tees, but I decided to play with Marvin from the whites at sixty one hundred and change. Sixty one hundred doesn't sound like much, but it's plenty for an old cripple like me when it's a Ross design. 

Since I only drive it about two hundred yards these days, I was approaching most greens from around 150, which generally means I'm using my, usually trusty, five hybrid. But on this day my hybrid was not cooperating. A hook into the trees on the first hole led to a disgraceful seven, thanks to a fatted pitch and three whacking it on the green.

To make a long story short, I shot 43 on the front and, after a string of bogeys, 42 on the back. It wasn't pretty, but I did cap it off with a nice 4 hybrid shot to about five feet on the last hole that I managed to covert for my only birdie. As for Marvin and the lads, they got a little more band for their buck. Marvin was 97, Mike was 102, and Elder was around 107. But we had a helluva good time. It was my first time playing with Elder and he was a lot of fun. 

I can't wait to play Hyde Park again. It's got some terrific holes and it's my kind of place. I'm really a muni kind of guy. For now, though, it's off to the Gulf Shores, AL; and a week in New Orleans.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Coming Home in the Dark at St John's Golf and Country Club

My buddy, Marvin, and I played St John's Golf and Country Club between Jacksonville and St Augustine yesterday. We've played the course before and have thoroughly enjoyed it. The staff are friendly and accommodating. The course is well-designed and very "playable", with enough room off the tee, enough water, bunkers, and trees to make you think, greens mostly open on the front to allow you to run it up, and fast greens that can initially be a shock to your system depending upon where you normally play. (I four-putted the first hole.)

We had a 2:20 tee time, so beating the darkness was always going to be a challenge at this time of the year. The starter was good enough to get us off a little early by pairing us up with Randy and another Marvin, two brothers from Jacksonville. And it was quickly apparent that these two brothers, though grizzled veterans like us, could really play. They were not just pretty faces.

Suffice it to say, we had a grand time, making a few birdies and a few "others." But, as we feared, we ended up finishing in almost complete darkness. The strange thing was we played really well in the gloom. On the last hole we drove into total darkness, found our balls and the three of us--my man, Marvin had quit because he was freezing--hit our second shots to a green we couldn't see. Marvin suggested I aim at the left edge of a back bunker and gave me the yardage. My buddy, Marvin, used his phone to illuminate my ball and I flushed one into the dark. Randy said he flushed his as well. Marvin had made no comment on his, so we had no idea whether it was a good one or a stinker.

Upon arriving at the last green, we found all three of us on the dancefloor. Marvin was about twelve feet from the hole, slightly long and right of the pin. Randy was about four feet left of the pin, and I was three feet past the pin, directly behind the hole. I could have holed it for the same money. Just goes to show you that playing in the daylight might be slightly over-rated. Still, St John's is best enjoyed in the light of day.

We exchanged numbers and will hopefully get to play again sometime this winter. Those brothers were not only pretty damned good players, they were good company.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Golfer's Mind

Golf is a game of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. There is an ideal attitude for a golfer. Bobby Jones wrote about this. He wrote that a golfer must be prepared for the making of mistakes. Not only that, but a golfer must not be discouraged on the days when he makes more of them than usual.

When you are hitting it solid--and the putts are dropping--golf can seem almost easy. But, inevitably in this game, the wheels will start to come off. It happens to the best players. What defines the best golfers is how they react when this happens. The best golfers refuse to become discouraged; and they refuse to give up.

I've played a couple of rounds with my friend, Charlie, and his wife, Kathy, from Toronto. We are down in South Carolina, escaping the crappy weather in Canada. Riding with Charlie, we've discussed this attitude that is so important for golfers--this acceptance of bad shots and the refusal to give up. Charlie admits that he does not possess what he calls "the golfers mind." He is more apt to become frazzled after a poor shot, and, in that state of mind, often allows one bad shot to beget another.

Yesterday, playing the River Club, I went out in 39, which was okay given that I putted poorly. But, at the turn--which in our case was the first hole--the wheels suddenly came off. I couldn't find the center of the clubface and I couldn't chip and putt worth a damn. After four holes, I had dropped six shots to par. Charlie was having his own struggles as well.

I said to Charlie, after finally making a par on five, that we should try to play the rest of the holes in even par. Charlie just smiled, not convinced that such a thing was likely, or even possible. I made pars at six and seven--only by virtue of some scrambling. On eight, a nice par three over water, I failed to get it up and down for par from the front edge and needed birdie on the last to reach my goal of finishing the last five in even par.

Rather than become discouraged after missing an easy up and down, I announced that I was going to finish with a birdie. I hit a good drive, but thinned my approach into the front bunker. Now, I had to hole quite a lengthy bunker shot to make good on my promise. I focussed as hard as I could and struck the sand perfectly. I watched in amazement as the ball rolled right into the middle of the hole, not even touching the flagstick.

As crippled as I've become, my game is not likely to do anything but get worse. I can't change that. But at least I can keep working on developing that "golfer's mind" that is so important. It's amazing what you can overcome if you don't give in to discouragement, and refuse to quit.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

The People You Meet

One of the great things about golf is the people you meet. The game is all-consuming when you are playing it; so, for four hours or so, you can forget your troubles and just worry about making the damned ball behave. You are generally playing in pleasant surroundings, with birds and various critters sharing the park-like setting with you. But it's the people you meet in your golf travels that really makes it special.

This week I arrived in Murrells Inlet, SC and, as a single, was lucky enough to be paired up with Richie and his nephew, Henry, at Indian Wells; and with Mike, from Cornwall, Ontario, at Wachesaw Plantation East. 

Richie is 81 and claims he played at a six when he kept a handicap. He drove it by me all day and had all the shots, and confessed that he made a lot of money playing as a six. I know I wouldn't have wanted any of his action. Henry struggled a little with his game, but was also great company on the course.

Mike is a five and, at 62, still bombs it. We played the senior tees and he generally had little more than a flip wedge to the par fours. The first time we played at Wachesaw he shot 73 with a double on the last hole. I shot 43 on the first nine, so my 35 coming in did little to prevent me from being thoroughly whipped.

Today I managed to arrange a skins game with Richie and Mike. Henry had to leave for Virginia. Richie and I played the senior tees at just shy of 6000 yards, while Mike had to play the whites at 6300. After nine holes, we each had one skin. Mike and I won ours with birdies, while Richie won his with a par on the tricky third. Richie went out in 39. Mike and I were one shot better.

Mike announced on ten tee that it was now "game on," and wasted no time in winning another skin with an impressive birdie from the right trees. I birdied 12 and 14 for two skins. Mike made par on 15 for a skin after Richie and I failed to get it up and down from the apron. I won another skin on 16 with a par and headed to 18 with a one skin lead. 

Eighteen at Wachesaw is rated as the second or third toughest finishing hole on the Myrtle Beach grand strand. It's a beast. But as luck would have it the senior tees were about fifty yards ahead of the whites today. Mike hit a perfect drive, right in the middle of the fairway, that, unfortunately for him, had about two yards of roll. He was left with about 160 yards into the wind. Richie and I hit good drives leaving me about 120 yards and Richies about ten yards less. 

Mike hit a solid shot that didn't draw for him, leaving him about 30 feet for birdie. I hit a punched 8 iron to about 20 feet, and Richie hit it onto the back apron after the wind layed down on him. When they both missed, all I needed was a solid two putt for the win. However, there is nothing worse than needing a two putt on the last to win, unless it's needing a one putt from thirty feet, downhill
 and breaking left to right. Anyway, I stood over the putt and announced to the boys that I just needed to hit a solid putt. Sure enough, it went straight in the hole for birdie. 

I never birdie 18. Oh, I birdied it once by chipping one in, but birdies are few and far between on that hole. It was a great day with two really nice guys and two pretty damned good players. Mike shot 75 and hit the pin twice without the ball going in. Richie shot 79, breaking his age again. Something that was obviously no big deal to him, given how solid a player he is.

I managed a 73. I've shot 73 at Wachesaw atleast half a dozen times. But I can never seem to shoot par on this track. We're scheduled to play again tomorrow if the weatherman is wrong about the projected thunder storms. The great thing about golf is the people you meet.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

It's Still All About How Many

At our course, we don't really have a driving range. We have a tee box where you can hit as much as a seven or eight iron to some patchy ground with a couple of markers; but that's pretty much it. We have a small practice green where it's hard to find anything close to a straight putt. But at least you have a view of the lake.

Ours is not really a club for those who love to practise. We all generally head from the car to the first tee wondering what we've brought that day. We might hit a few practice putts, and maybe even a few chips, prior to teeing off. But that's about it. Funny, when we go elsewhere to play, or compete, we often have the opportunity to hit balls first. But I'm not sure it helps an old cripple like me. I'm usually aching before I tee off if I do. So I prefer to just focus on trying to find the best way I can to get the damned ball in the hole.

I just arrived in Murrells Inlet last night. Bright and early this morning, I was on the porch enjoying a coffee and my pipe, and watching two guys get ready to play. My porch overlooks the practice tee and the practice putting green at Wachesaw East. It's a really good course that hosted an LPGA event for a number of years. 

One of the guys headed to the practice tee and hit one shot after another, with barely a pause before raking another ball over and whacking it. He was done in about seven minutes and announced to the other guy, who was on the putting green, that he hadn't hit one decent shot. 

The other guy had started putting four footers; making the lion's share of them. Then he practised hitting lag putts; putting them all out. And finally he hit some chips and pitches before heading to the first tee. It looked to me like he had a really decent short game. And he seemed calm and ready to play.

I don't know about you; but I'd have been willing to put a fairly substantial wager on the guy with the short game. But, who knows, maybe the rapid-fire guy can putt like a demon. In the end, it really is all about who can get it in the hole in the fewest number of strokes.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Old Age and Treachery

Golf is becoming a challenge for me. Actually, I guess I should say it's becoming more of a challenge for me. I began the season as a three handicapper, crippled with a bad back. I'm now an eight. The game is tough.

But the other day I played a match with Levi. I was giving him the gears about how he must be so discouraged, being two down after ten to an old cripple. Levi responded by winning twelve, fifteen, and sixteen, to go one up. Suddenly, I wasn't quite so cocky.

On seventeen, we both missed our drives left. Levi was in jail in the trees. I was in the rough and blocked by the trees on the corner. To hit the green, I needed to play a thirty yard hook with a five hybrid out of thick rough. Somehow, I pulled it off and found my ball on the front edge of the green about twenty feet from the hole. Meanwhile, Levi had to pitch out and missed the green with his third. Two putts for par and I was back to all square.

Levi and I made par threes on 18 and decided to go extra holes. We both hit it over the back into thick rough on 18. We then both chunked our chips. Levi played his third about six feet past the pin, and I stood over my chip and told Levi I was going to make it. Sure enough, I did--not the first time I've managed to do that to Levi.

Golf is becoming increasingly difficult for me with this damned back. Most of the guys I play with, including Levi, drive it forty yards past me. I'm hitting hybrids where they are hitting nine irons and wedges. But I still absolutely love this game. And sometimes old age and treachery can beat youth and skill. Not always, but sometimes it can. Sorry, Levi.