Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Brain Work

My game has really been in the toilet lately; especially my putting.  Try as I might, I can't seem to see the line, even on my home course--especially on my home course.  It's like I have a mental block.  I played Shelter Valley Pines last week and managed to shoot a respectable score, making most of the putts I should make, and a few that I probably shouldn't have.  But, suffice it to say, this game is no fun if you can't putt--and lately, I just can't putt to save my life.

After another miserable day on the greens yesterday, I just headed out to ten on my own and, finding a gap, just fooled around, hitting two balls and trying different shots until I caught up with Brian, who was also a single. We played the rest of the way in and then I met up with Spiros, Steve, and Big Bob for a late afternoon game.  

After the first hole, where Spiros made a nice putt for par and I, once again, lipped mine out, I decided to change things up.  I told them I was going to play against their best ball using just a six iron and a putter.  Not only that, I suggested that they should prepare themselves for a serious ass-kicking.

Spiros is a former soccer player, who emigrated to Canada from Greece and took the game up late in life.  He plays to about a 14 handicap, with a swing that makes you wonder how he could ever break 100.  But Spiros just loves to compete.  He's a different guy when there's a match on.  Steve is also about a 14, but usually makes lots of pars and bogeys with the odd birdie and one or two "dreaded others" thrown in just about every round when he suddenly, for no apparent reason, loses his mind.  Big Bob is a salt of the earth character who also took up the game late in life and is happy just to make doubles with the odd bogey or par thrown in when he least expects it.

Big Bob made a nice par on the par three second hole, and the boys were suddenly two up after two when I missed yet another makeable putt for par.

We played another couple of holes with me using the six iron and putter with no further blood spilled. Then Steve decided to also use just his six iron.  Spiros soon followed suit, as did Big Bob.  Actually, Spiros used his seven iron, because he had already shown up to play with a short set and didn't have his six iron.  We played along with me gaining a hole back, then two.  We were all thoroughly enjoying the challenge of using just one club and the putter.  We were playing quickly and managing, for the most part, to avoid the rough and the trees.

Steve made a nice par on the par five sixth for the win after I duffed a shot and eventually made bogey.  Spiros then won the par five eighth, when he bounced his fourth shot up the bank between two bunkers to the elevated green ending up about six feet from the pin.  He was tickled with his shot and said, "This is real brain work."

Both Steve and Spiros found that having to fabricate short shots around the green and from inside 120 yards with the six or seven iron forced them to use much more imagination and feel than they were used to using, especially for Steve, who struggles with hitting anything but full shots with his irons.  Big Bob was also fast realizing that any distance he sacrificed by using the iron off the tee was more than compensated for by the improved accuracy of his tee shots.  

I won the tenth hole to square the match.  Then, with daylight running out, we cut over to the par three fourteenth.

They have put in new tee boxes on 14, so we were using a temporary tee that gave us a shot of about 115 yards.  Steve, Big Bob, and I all hit it left of the green pin high.  We were short-sided, with the green running away from us and we had to chip the ball through some juicy rough.  Spiros, meanwhile, had hit it on the green about thirty feet past the pin.  Steve hit a reasonable chip to about twenty feet.  Big Bob and I tried to get cute and left our chips in the rough, still short-sided.  I had made the mistake of trying to bounce the ball through the rough with cut spin.  Note to self: draw spin goes through the rough much better than cut spin. 

Spiros then stood up and drained his breaking putt, which slid into the cup like a mouse into his hole.  He gave me "the look," followed by a tigeresque fist pump.  The boys were one up with two to play, since we had already planned to quit after sixteen.

After squaring the next hole, the boys were dormie and my back was against the wall.  I hit two decent shots on the par five sixteenth, and had about 130 yards to the pin.  We had played from the red tees because it was cold and we were, after all, using six irons.  Meanwhile, Steve had yanked his third shot left of the green behind a bunker, and Big Bob had hit three or four stinkers and was pretty much out of it.  Spiros had also duffed a shot and was about 115 yards from the pin in three.  

Feeling confident, I tried to hit a cutesy little cut shot, over-cut it, and found the right bunker.  Spiros stood up and hit his fourth shot, sweet as a nut, to less than a foot.  I asked him how in the hell he had managed to hit that shot.  He smiled and told me he had opened up the face of his seven iron to make it like a wedge.  "Simple," he said. 

Simple, or not, it was all over but the crying.  The boys had prevailed, two up.  It was a fun match.  It was also really fun to play with just one club and a putter.  If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend it.  I think the boys are now sold on the idea as well.  It really challenges you to use your imagination and develop some feel.  There's nothing like hitting bunker shots and shots from inside 100 yards with a six or seven iron to test your imagination and touch. 

Back in the sixties, we had an old pro named Fred Purcell.  That fine old English gentleman routinely played the course with just a five iron and a putter, and, believe me, he was a match for just about everyone.  It's amazing what you can learn to do with just one club.  Just ask Spiros.