June 21, 2018

Days until the 2018 Goodboys Invitational: 28
MyScorecard.com Handicap: 25.4 / Change: (+0.2)
Location: Papago Golf Course
Score: 45 / 50 = 95

Just to be clear, I’m not talking Charles Manson’s ghastly definition of “Helter Skelter”, I’m talking about Paul MCartney’s when he wrote that deep track classic for The Beatles’ “White Album” of 1968 – which is the Brit term for a roller coaster. How Charlie could have gotten it so wrong is beyong anyone’s guess, but that’s a discussion for another time.

I mean, how else does one describe a round that begins with not one, but two chip-in birdies to start, three holes in the back spent in the wilderness going triple bogey / quad bogey / triple bogey featuring a whiff and not one, but two shanks, then turning it back around to finish the round bogey / bogey / before a closing par on the #2 rated hole on the course? That, my compadres is a roller-coaster round for the ages.

Papago Golf Course is located only five minutes away from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, but you’d never know it – I think it’s actually on either Indian reservation land or land used by the Arizona National Guard – but its 18 holes winds its way through eucalyptus trees and desert scrub with views of some truly lovely buttes. For my money, it’s driving range is the most picturesque I’ve ever hit balls at. It’s usually my go-to spot for working on my game, but this year they’re building a clubhouse to replace the trailers, with a restaurant and patio that will overlook the 1st and 10th tees, so the range, chipping area, and putting green are temporarily gone, replaced by a construction staging area. Once everything re-opens this fall, I look forward to having an after-practice beverage or two on the clubhouse patio – it’s really going to be a thing of beauty.

I don’t recall the course being in as great a shape as it was today when I played nine holes one Friday many years ago. At that time I thought it was all kind of scrubby and claustrophobic with balls from adjacent fairways flying everywhere. Not today – the fairways were lush, the greens perfectly smooth and medium-fast in terms of speed. And with the temperatures already around the century mark when I teed off at 10 AM, the place was nearly empty. As it was, I played 18 holes by myself, and did it in 2 1/2 hours – the way golf should be played!

Without a practice facility there was no opportunity to warm up, so I took a couple of practice swings, stretched my back out a bit, placed an orange ball on the tee and promptly whacked one down the middle of the fairway. Hole #1 is a dog-leg par 5 that rounds a small pond. I had a great lie for a 5-wood, but I chunked my 5-wood (the first of several on the day – bad, bad 5-wood!), leaving me 180 to the pin. Grabbed my 5-iron and tattooed it, leaving me pin-high and short-sided, with a downhill, 20-foot chip to the pin. Which I promptly drained for birdie. Not a bad way to start.

On #2, a short par 4 of 311 yards, I put my second drive in the middle of a very narrow fairway, leaving me 94 yards to the hole. I yanked a sand wedge (shades of things to come) right of the green with a chip of perhaps five yards to the green with the pin uphill twenty feet from the fringe. And damned if I didn’t chip it in for a second birdie. I’ve done a lot of things in my golf life, but I’ve never walked to the third at -2 without a single registered putt. “Don’t get cocky, kid” I said to myself as I drove to the third hole.

After that blazing start I hopped a ride on the double-bogey train for a few holes as I found greenside bunkers on 3, 4, and 5. I’d never had to hit my sand wedge out of a real sand trap before, and it had been over six months since I’d ever put my golf shoes into golf course sand, so I was rusty. Took two to get out of the sand on #3, but I figured things out after that – and good thing, I would have plenty of opportunities.

I was starting to lose my driver after the second hole and fighting the yanks with both my driver and my irons. Nothing I tried to stop the over-swinging worked. Fortunately, my short game was, and it kept me in the round thereafter. I double-bogeyed both par 5s on #9 and #10, wasting two halfway-decent but short drives with chunked 5-woods. Not sure why I was so poor with the 5-wood today, guess I’m going to have to figure that out before I play for a second day in a row tomorrow – say, that’s redundant, isn’t it?

I temporarily righted the ship on #11, a par 3 requiring a 140-yard carry over a pond, stiffing a 6-iron that went over the pin, leaving me 15-feet for my birdie – not a great time for my first three-putt of the day. Things got even better on the short par 4 #12 where a decent-enough drive left me only 95 yards to the pin. I came off a sand wedge – hit it really poor – but chipped to one foot for a tap-in par.

Then the wheels fell off. Just like that.

Big push OB left off the #13 tee, then after a decent penalty drive, I couldn’t hit an iron to save my life. Poor chip, two putts, triple bogey. I quadruple-bogeyed the next hole as a result of some truly poor course management, for like the thousandth time violating the rule “when you get into trouble, get out of it”. There was a eucalyptus tree between me and the pin. Shoulda taken my medicine and just hit it out to the right, but thought I had a look to the left. Tried to get cute and whiffed my second shot. Third shot banged off the tree, and, well, that’s how you end up with a snowman on a 110-degree day. On the par 5 #15, I yanked a drive into the scrub right, and this time took my medicine. But once again, I chunked a 5-wood back into the scrub, and four shots later (two shanked) I dragged my double-bogeyed ass to the 16th tee.

It was getting hot, but I stayed cool after the last three holes. I hit a decent drive just off the fairway right, then slightly pulled a 3-hybrid 200 yards to just off the green to the right. Decent chip, two-putt for bogey. On the par 3 #17, a long, narrow hole with OB to the left (it was in no danger today!), I pulled the 3-hybrid from my bag and, yes, pulled it ten yards right and just short of the green. A chip and a two-putt later, I had my second bogey in a row. I was grinding, but that’s what The Great White Shank has gotten pretty damned good at (if I do say so myself). On #18, the second hardest-rated hole playing at 441 yards, I hit my best drive of the day long and straight (where did that come from?), leaving me 190 to the pin. I should have taken 5-iron and kept the bunkers protecting the green out of play, but I didn’t, pulling 4-hybrid instead. Luckily, I pushed it a bit, leaving it just in front of a big momma sand trap on the left. Another great chip on a day of great chips left me three feet for par, which I promptly drained.

Without that incredible start, I’d probably be looking at a score right around 100, give or take a stroke or two, so I can’t really be that happy with today’s round. The only thing I did consistently well all day was chip and putt (which is nice, of course), but all that jumping at the ball and over-swinging has got to be rectified before I play Superstition Springs tomorrow, another day where the temp is supposed to hit 110. Papago Golf Course doesn’t protect its greens like the Springs does, so you have to leave yourself in good places off the tee and hit good second shots. If I do there what I did today at Papago it will be a bloodbath. And I’ve got to figure out where the distance on my driver went – I think I’ve gotten into a habit of taking the club back too upright. We’ll see.

At least at the Springs I’ll have the chance to hit a few balls and try and get my s**t together before heading out. I guess it’s a sign of just how far I’ve come in the past fifteen months since rebuilding my swing from the ground up and then all the equipment changes – after all, if I’m saying I need to get my s**t together after shooting a 95 I must be making progress!

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 19:18 | Comments Off on Helter Skelter Golf
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