May 25, 2017

Days until the 2017 Goodboys Invitational: 49
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 52 / 48 = 100
Handicap: 23.9 / Trend: 23.7 (-0.2)

A warm, breezy, and dusty day out at Superstition Springs, my go-to course whenever I need a gut-check as to where my game is. Where better, then, to officially open my preparation for the 2017 Goodboys Invitational weekend? Considering the new clubs and the first time in combat with them, today’s 102 wasn’t a bad start to the 2017 golf season. Could I have played better? Yes. Did I leave a bunch of strokes out there? Er, not that many. But considering the fact that 90% of my work to date has been on my iron play to the detriment of everything else (my short game especially) I’ll take it. Anytime I can play a 9-hole stretch at the Springs in the 40s, well, that’s not bad work.

Let’s start with the positives, because there were actually quite a few. I only hit five fairways all day, but my new Cobra F6 driver was a joy to hit all day. It’s not only long, it’s much more forgiving than my old Callaway RAZR-X. That doesn’t mean I can jump at the ball and over-swing – after all, the longer the ball travels, the farther it can go OB if I’m not careful. My iron play overall was OK. Had a few thin hits but no shanks – always a good thing. Would have liked to have had a couple swings back, but what 24-handicapper wouldn’t? But it works both ways.

Two examples come to mind: I had pulverized my drive on the 338-yard par 4 2nd (“Flat Iron”), leaving me just 118 yards to the pin set in the front of a long, thin green protected by trees on the left. Just off the fairway right, my 3/4 8-iron was pushed just enough to hit the green and dive into a bunker on the left side. I haven’t practiced sand shots in a year, and I hit it over the green 40 yards. I didn’t want to hit it long and end up back in the same bunker so I hit my pitch shot too easy, leaving another chip to the green then three-putted for an 8. That, my friends, is what is called throwing away shots.

On the other hand, I’m on the always nasty, always difficult (at least for me) 386-yard par 4 14th (“The Jungle”) which is nothing resembling a jungle. What it does have, however, is water to the front and right, and further out, water left all the way to the green. And a fairway that at its narrowest point is just twenty yards wide. I didn’t mean to, but I smacked my drive further left than I wanted to be, leaving me 140+ to the green with a large tree in front of me. I figured the longest club I could hit and get over the tree was a 7-iron, but I chunked it under the tree to a bare spot 80 yards from the pin. I didn’t want to wreck my new pitching wedge and should have just picked it up and dropped it a little further back on some grass, but I chose to try and pick it instead. It chunked off right, but fortunately hit the hill protecting the green on the right just right (no pun intended), then rolled to ten feet where I two-putted for bogey. The golf gods giveth as much as they take away.

On the not-so-great side was my short game and anything to do with my hybrids and my 5-wood. As far as the former went, that was to be expected, since I’ve hardly chipped or putted anything since Vegas back in January. My putting was especially atrocious on the front nine (19 putts) but I found a little something with my stroke I had forgotten doing on #8 and had three one-putts thereafter. Same thing with my chipping, which improved steadily on the back as I started getting used to the lightning-fast and fickle Superstition Springs greens. Clearly, however, there is still much work to do as far as my short game goes.

More alarmingly was thee way I hit (or didn’t hit) my hybrids and 5-wood. I got away with a thinned 4-hybrid at the par 4 fifth (“Billy’s Bend”), but the rest of the round the 3-hybrid and the 5 cost me dearly. On the first three par 5s I was sitting pretty long and in the middle of the fairway only to top, squib, and chunk (in that order) my second shot with the 5-wood. I can honestly say I’ve never hit a 5-wood so bad as I did today. Same goes with the 3-hybrid. Hopefully, now that I’m starting to get more comfortable with my irons I can spend a little quality time trying to figure that 5 and the two hybrids out.

The big thing is that I’ve taken the new clubs out and started to learn how to use them under game conditions. Hitting balls at the range and playing golf are two different things. The Steelhead XR irons are heavier than my old RAZR-X irons were; heavier than I remember them being when I was testing irons out at the PGA Tour Superstore, so it will take some time to get used to playing half and three-quarter short irons when the distance is less than 100 yards to tricky greens. But that’s half the fun of it: learning to play shots with new clubs.

I still have things to work on: continue tightening up those irons and trusting my swing, and the never-ending battle against jumping at the ball and maintaining my tempo, but today was a good enough start. A foundation to build on in some cases, the recognition that there is much work left to do in others. But it felt good to hit balls in a way that counted, and it felt good to grind out there on the back nine – I wasn’t striking the ball as well as I did on the front, but when I’m grinding and making bogeys instead of doubles and triples it means I’m playing with some focus and making and taking advantage of the breaks. A decent start, and looking forward to getting back out there again soon.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 16:00 | Comments (0)
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