March 22, 2013

A Great Blue Heron swooped in front of me.

A rabbit insistent upon marking his territory stopped in front of me to pee not once, not twice, but three times.

A family of prairie dogs skittering around my feet.

It wasn’t nature alone that was wild on 544-yard, par 5 sixth hole at Bear Creek Golf Course, a sun-drenched track on the southern outskirts of Chandler, AZ. If we roll the tape you’ll see a sequence of shots my golf instructor Alex Black certainly didn’t have in mind during our lesson last Saturday:

1. Duck-hooked 3-wood into water right off the tee (penalty)
3. 3-wood shanked left into adjacent fairway
4. Duffed 5-wood traveling no more than twenty yards
5. Duck-hooked 5-wood into trouble right, ball perched inside a wild acacia bush
6. Pitching wedge out of the bush twenty feet straight, prairie dogs scatter in every direction
7. Pitching wedge pushed into trouble right
8. Miraculous pitching wedge onto green to three feet
9. One putt for a crowd-pleasing nine

They say the first round after a golf lesson is the worst, but I honestly thought I would be the exception. I wasn’t afraid of playing the blue tees at Bear Creek (in terms of yards and layout the course actually sets up very similarly to Passaconaway Country Club in Litchfield, NH, a course I’ve played many times). On the driving range before teeing off I felt really confident – a small bucket of crisply-hit wedges and solidly-struck irons. OK, the 3-woods and drivers seemed a little flaky – I can’t remember ever shanking a 3-wood or driver (that privilege has historically been reserved for my irons), but I chalked that up to nerves, which for some reason I had a case of. Even after pushed my opening 3-wood far left into desert scrub I still wasn’t concerned – especially after chipping out to 163 yards and crushing a 5-iron to sixteen feet before two-putting for a bogey five.

The 346 yard, par 4 fourth at Bear Creek is the second-easiest hole on the course. My first ball shanks left and hits the grill of a minivan passing by to our left. Taking my mulligan, I do the very same thing, except this time there’s enough loft to bunny hop into the strip mall on the other side of the street. Dropping three I proceed to do the very same thing with a 5-wood. Lynn, trying to be as patient as she can, suggests I aim further right and I do, dunking my 5-wood into the pond right. Seven minutes later, I’ve one-putted for a quintuple-bogey nine (no Goodboys double-par rule for me anymore!) and suddenly realize I’ve forgotten how to swing a golf club. Mere mortals who have said, “sod it” an gone back to their old comfortable swing, but The Great White Shank has lab work to do. I soldier on, solidly bogeying the par 3 fifth.

And then came that sixth hole.

I know what you’re thinking: The Great White Shank fell apart like a cheap bridge table the rest of the way and put up a big number. But I didn’t. I hung tough for a 51 going out – a 51 with two nines on the card. Not bad for yours truly.

Starting out on the back nine I decided to give the 3-wood a rest and grabbed driver. Alas, whereas my tee game suddenly came into form I lost my putting game and racked up two straight three-putts followed by an embarrassing four-putt from twelve feet on ten, eleven, and twelve for a 7-6-7 before settling into five straight rocking-chair bogies. That snowman I make on 18 is a pure throwaway – my de facto golf shrink Dr. Bob Winters would be horrified to learn that once I realized I couldn’t break 100 I gave up the chase and just hit shots I wanted to play for the hell of it.

While the numbers (51 + 52 = 103) don’t lie, there are still a lot of positives to take away from today’s round at Bear Creek. Sure, those ten putts on three holes (36 total, seven more than Alex Black would approve of) were ugly, but I did have three one-putts and came within two whiskers of five. I also reached a season-high total of nine holes at bogey or less, showing some serious Great White Shank resilience after those nines on four and six. Like that old Timex watch commercial went, I can now take a licking and keep on ticking. With my new Alex Black move I hit my irons consistently better than I ever have in years, if ever. How do I know? On the five par-3s I was a total of five over. That’s how you keep your scores down. Last year and before, a round like this on a 6400-yard course would result anywhere froma 105 to a 115; today, I shot a 103 and left a dozen or more shots out there while playing a round of golf for the very first time in my life by mechanics, not by feel.

The numbers, of course, don’t lie, but there will come a time (and it’s not far away) where a good five or six of those shots won’t be left on the course anymore. You can do the math; I’m not far away at all, and rounding into where I need to be for this year’s Goodboys Invitational right on schedule.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 21:23 | Comments (2)
  1. 51 with two nines is actually pretty impressive

    Keep on truckin

    Comment by Killer — March 27, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

  2. Thanks Killer!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — March 27, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

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