I had a few pleasant surprises this past week that were very much welcomed and appreciated after 2-months of personal pain and turmoil.
8-days after arthroscopic knee surgery, my follow-up appointment pronounced me clear for all normal activity thus canceling all of the prescribed PT appointments -- woot!! I would hit six full-shot 8i into my backyard net later that afternoon, so excited by the swing, ball-striking sound, dispersion, and most importantly, no pain.
Just 8-weeks ago, if I did any of that with zero nice-sounding ball strikes, the knee would immediately swell and I was left hobbling. I decided to test my good luck and hit a small bucket at Button Hole with that 8i, PW, 5 hybrid, and if all was still a "go", yes, the Driver.
When I returned from the practice session, I called Hazelton for an early tee time for a single, and they accommodated me for 8:30am. When I arrived early, there was a huge gathering of seniors waiting in their carts or on the practice green. Fortunately, the Pro Shop let me tee off immediately. I ran up against a senior couple playing ahead, but they eventually let me play through on the 5th hole.
I had that familiar feeling inside of me while playing here with no one in my line of sight. You see, I started this game here (June 1987) from my father's suggestion that Sun Valley was a good place for a beginner, because it was a wide open "cow pasture" that didn't lack in hole distance. Sun Valley had a very modest customer base, so it was very easy to drive up and just play, without calling ahead for a tee time.
My father believed you had to learn how to hit the ball as far as you can first, then learn how to manage the game later. And typical from my Dad, he would point out repeatedly that his lackluster skill in putting was something that would only transform itself once he got "old". Um, okay, so hit the ball far, go find it, play it where it lies, keep count of all of my strokes played, got it. Golf is simple, not easy.
From the first tee shot to the last putt, my body's health did not factor in my mind nor on my golf swing. Like those early days, my focus was solely putting a good swing on the ball from its lie and for the yardage it was asking from me. I had my ups & downs with that, and on any other course, I know a few wayward shots would have translated to a more dire result.
Unlike when it was Sun Valley, Hazelton was in very good condition. The setup felt like it was made special for the seniors behind me, not that I minded any! Some of the Blue tees were up in their boxes and I noticed some the White tees were tenants with the senior & lady tee boxes. The pins on every green were either RED and tucked behind a sand trap or BLUE sitting near its fall line's edge. A bit nasty for my liking, but it made for a good test.
An example comes from #3. My lay-up approach was only 30 yards from the BLUE pin. In retrospect, it would have been better to chip it halfway and only onto the front-right of the green for 2 putts. What I did was pitch directly to the hole, and had it gone perhaps a foot further, it might have settled within 5' -- instead it would roll mercilessly away left, then down the slope to 40' away. Ugh, the 3-putt bogey ensued.
After making a Par-saving putt from out of the green-side bunker on #9, I recorded the "4" on the hole without once looking at the scorecard view. The thought of it flashed by, but I tucked any curiosity away and replaced it with the "What's Important Now" thinking and happily know, too, that I did not make any BIG mistakes so far.
My Driver was working for me for distance, mostly straight, but falling off the fairway. I caught breaks from a small hook on hole #7 that was a foot away from going into unplayable brush and also two block & cut tee shots on #14 & #15 that still allowed line-of-sight approach shots. The three Fairway metal tee shots were all on line, but each were just a little long to finish on their fairways. In all, I had only 2 tee shots (#1 and #2) find the fairway, ha!
After returning the golf cart and getting into my car to change my shoes, I pressed End Round to save the scorecard below... wait, what? 79?
Blinking in disbelief and checking it to make certain I scored EVERY (haha) hole, yup, it was complete and correct. Chuckling to myself, oh, I am going to have to hear from the trolls about another unattested scorecard from Hazelton.
another clean scorecard and shot 79
We had two foresomes playing this late summer morning on a relatively easier course and from their white tee box. But their front 9 greens were going through an aeration process and they were soaked for our early morning tee time. "Scoring" was going to be a challenge.
That proved to me to be a correct assessment as I watched four putts on holes 2, 5, 7, and 9 go by wanting: I think those total length of putts made were only 14 inches!
Still, I salvaged the front 9 scoring 44, avoiding sand traps and penalties, and despite tee shots just wandering off the fairway to find the rough. But, what would unfold on the back 9 is the story.
I remained aggressive off the tee, not allowing for the shorter par 4s to take Driver out of my hands, heh. That is because after I read Every Shot Counts, its data concluded that longer but not necessarily accurate tee shots yield better scoring percentages. Certainly, there are golf, course, and weather situations that could dictate when a shorter club is better suited, but clearly not today and not here at a wide open venue in Exeter Country Club.
We found the back 9 greens in much finer shape and also they dried up some by the sunshine and mild breeze. I almost chipped in for birdie on #10 leaving it 1" off its lip, laughing to myself that whatever my final score became that it would be the highest I could shoot today.
My LW approach on #12 out of the rough settled nicely just left and slightly above the hole. A perfectly rolled putt tumbled right-to-left to find the hole for a Birdie -- wow, I got a meaningful one to fall!
I continued to scorch my tee shots but found the fairway on the next two holes to make conventional Pars, making -1 after 5 holes played. I reminded myself that a lot of golf remained.
Then came my worse tee shot on #15 -- a big miss left into the woods. I've been there before and kept a good eye on it. Its lie was decent considering where it finished, leaving me with two options to get back onto the fairway: pitch it relatively sideways leaving an approach (at best) 130yd, or shoot through a more narrow opening toward the green. Of course, I took the risk-reward shot, using a 5hy to split the two trees 60 yards ahead and tumble through to reach the end of the fairway ropes. It left a short 45yd pitch shot. I simply struck my AW "too pure" causing higher backspin; it checked up immediately & mercilessly 25 feet short of the hole. The expected 2-putt Bogey followed dropping me back to Even par. I reminded myself, "Considering where that tee shot finished ... "
I pounded my Drive off the handicap #2 hole, easily clearing the top of the tall tree at the end of the lake, but it remained just off the fairway on the sidehill rough, for about 140yd uphill approach to the center of the green. While I was planning to hit a safer 7i, my playing partner in Scott observed that the blue flag was indeed planted way in the back and the real distance to it was closer to 155yd. I didn't want any 40' or longer putt and the sidehill lie convinced me that I could choke down on a 6hy and not bring over the green into play. I tagged the shot with that pro-style draw I possess and it made a bee line to the pin.
Well, Scott was right about the flag being all the way in the back, as it was only 3 paces from the edge. My ball finished inside 1 of those paces -- wow -- leaving the formality of a tap-in Birdie to bounce back to -1.
"Feeling it" on the long Par 3 #17, I hit an aggressive 5hy at the tucked right pin. I thought it was perfectly struck and flighted, but it would bounce off the green, hole-high, into the "exit" rough -- ugh!! I knew I could not Sir Nick "dolly it" (get cute) out of that lie. The chip missed the pin and rolled out leaving a 14' comeback. Sigh, another near miss. Is that a bounce back Bogey for us weekend golfers?
Despite another bombed tee shot down the right side of the fairway, I slightly blocked an aggressive 4hy approach shot catching the left edge of a tree limb. Another bad break, as it grabbed my ball and somehow slinged it into the right rough -- blocking the line to the right pin. I casually made the short pitch shot left and hole high of the pin for another conventional Par, to shoot Even on the back 9 and score 80 for the round. Nice!
Not as "clean" of a scorecard and certainly not as "sexy" as the 80 shot from the Triggs' Blue tees posted below. But as I predicted earlier, it was the highest score I would shoot today. Heh.
P.S., I would beat Lou's 83 shot from the other group and cash-in on the $40 pot for low round. Heh.
best Exeter scorecard shooting 80 with 2 birdies
I decided to "Play 9" but also "Tee It Forward" since everyone else was scared off the golf course because of the pending rain storm coming that night. It would be the first time I ever played from the senior Gold tees on my favorite golfing venue.
My scorecard posted below was the result. I played it in 62-minutes, walking, under very easy course conditions and with nearly every pin near the middle of each green. A hole-by-hole account follows:
#1: Driver finished just right off the fairway with 165yd to hole. 6hy approach bounced twice onto green finishing hole high on the right. 1st putt finished 2' past hole, leaving a tap-in for Par.
#2: Driver finished long down the middle of the fairway with 129yd to hole. 8i approach was dead on pin finishing 8' below the hole. Putt dropped for Birdie.
#3: Driver off the White tee (oops, 71 yards further than the Gold) down the middle of the fairway with 225yd to hole. 3W approach hit thin bleeding right off the fairway leaving 83yd to center. SW pitch to 2', tap-in for a Par save.
#4: 5hy off the tee for 170yd hole high to left-center of green. 1st putt finished 2' past hole, leaving a tap-in for Par.
#5: Driver finished just right off fairway with 77yd to center. This was the one exception where the pin was all the way in the back which I did not factor. SW approach finished front of green leaving 69' to hole. 1st putt finished 10" right of hole, leaving a tap-in for Par.
#6: Driver finished long down the middle of the fairway with 262yd to hole. 5w approach hit well but right of line catching top of trees and dropping down with 99yd in rough with limb trouble. Punch 8i approach onto green. 1st putt finished 3' past hole, made comeback for Par.
#7: 7i off the tee for 145yd hole high to right-center of green. 1st putt finished 5' well past the hole, but I made a tricky comeback for Par.
#8: Driver finished well right of fairway, short of cart path with tree limb and sand trap trouble ahead leaving 78yd to center. Punch 9i carried to green nearly one-hopping into the hole and finishing 10' above it. Downhill putt lipped out leaving a tap-in Par.
#9: Driver down the left-side of the fairway (a gust of wind blew and a broken tree branch crashed next to the tee box as I was winding up, but luckily it did not break my concentration) leaving 140yd to center. I selected 8i over 7i thinking I could not hold this green if I went anywhere near the left flag. The 8i approach finished short right on the green. I would drop another ball and hit 7i to test if I was mistaken. The shot hit deeper into the center of the green and did not hold rolling just off the back into the primary rough. I was so happy I did not second-guess myself! 1st putt was 1' past hole leaving a tap-in for Par.
The Starter saw me walking by and exclaimed, "That was a quick round!" I nodded in agreement replying, "Yup. I shot -1 from the senior tees."
lifetime best 9 scorecard shooting -1 (Senior tees)
I had been playing well after making a solid par on #14 to follow-up on my second sand save in the round. I have a lifetime 1:11 average for par saves out of a bunker. Then came some real trouble.
My driver at this point of the season was not a weapon, and from the Blue tee box, I had to keep good discipline to find more than my typical 43% fairways hit. A straight but poor line off #15 could not carry the waste area. I took the lateral drop and dumped the approach into the fairway bunker, ugh. Made a nice recovery out for the layup. My wedge play and yardage control was stellar to this point; but now was not the time to get heroic lying 4. I took a conservative line through the middle of the green for the tucked left pin.
I recall moaning inside that I was about to make my first double-bogey of the day. I replaced the negative outcome with all the memories I have had on this green over the decades, dropping many improbable putts from every spot to every hole location on it. This one will be no different. When the quick 16' downhill slider to the left dropped, I let out a "Bogey!" victory cry and fist wave.
That was when I peeked at the scorecard to see I was standing at only +6 for the round. I thought I can handle #16, but the closing 2 holes would be a big challenge. A little pumped, I airmailed the green on #16 and missed a good look at a par saving putt.
I needed a bomb off the tee shot on #17 and the pull draw found its way down into the "valley of death" rough. A nice blind recovery out followed by an Approach Wedge shot which nestled nicely to 2' from the pin (pictured above) to save par on the #2 handicap hole!!
I had my chance on #18. Almost the same circumstances repeated, but I cut the tee shot right and had a tree blocking my line toward the green. I could either layup to around the 150 yard marker, or hit a low draw 4 iron around the tree to leave a shorter pitch shot. I pulled off the riskier shot and was rewarded with a similar pitch on 17. My heart raced and I thought, "Hit it stiff."
When the ball took off from the shot, my playing partner observed, "You nailed it", and it looked dead on the pin. It would settle a solid 11' short of the hole; still a good look. What followed can only be described as a "choke" -- I could not clearly see then nor remember later the putting stroke -- as it came off as an absolute whiff that pushed the "wish" hole high, but an awful 2' off right. I'd make Bogey to shoot 80, still chuckling at the faint-of-heart try.
I'll be mindful of this memory if I find myself in a situation like this, so not to repeat that and grind out a better attempt. Onward!
lifetime best scorecard shooting +8 with 0 double bogeys