December 6, 2018

Target Handicap: 20.0 Handicap: 27.0 / Change: (0.0)
Location: Royal Links Golf Club
Score: 61 + 56 = 117

Location: Angel Park (Mountain)
Score: 54 + 57 = 111

Two days of golf in Las Vegas, two days of mixed results. There’s obviously still work to do, but there were some hopeful signs as well. After all, you play two courses with slope ratings over 130 and come out without a higher handicap, I think that’s about as good as I can expect at this stage, where I’m, like, for what it seems like the 3,067th time in my golf life, in between swings.

Let’s start with Sunday, a sunny, breezy, and chilly day. They call Royal Links the closest thing to true Scottish links golf there is without having to hop across the pond, and maybe that’s so – after all, there were real pot bunkers everywhere. But as with just about everything in Las Vegas with its Paris and New York, New York casinos and strip clubs full of chicks with fake boobs (not that I’ve ever been to one, that’s just what friends tell me :-)), it’s pretend Scottish golf masquerading as just another Vegas-style, high-desert course. Not that they don’t try: every hole is supposedly modeled after a classic British Open hole and with an accompanying story to tell, but without the sea and the people and the authentic landscape something still gets lost in the translation. Oh, the greens were fast and tricky, to be sure, and you had all those cool pot bunkers (cool as long as you didn’t find one!), but too many holes looked and played alike.

I really didn’t play well at all that day. I never got comfortable with my driver and sprayed the ball all over the place, and my iron play was surprisingly bad (chunking the ball over and over). But I put together enough decent shots and chipped and putted the ball well enough to play at least close to double-bogey golf. Down the stretch I finally found a bit of a groove and hit enough good iron shots to make my back nine somewhat presentable. And the match my Goodboys pal Killer and I played against The Funny Guy and Doggy Duval stayed tight right to the end. Between the chill, the wind, and the all the ball-hunting it felt like we were out there forever (we finished with barely enough daylight) but it was still a great time, and there was, of course, still a Las Vegas Sunday night waiting for us. Doubt we’d play the course again, but I’m glad we gave it a try.

Monday was a much better day for golf – sunny skies, light winds, just a bit of a chill in the air. Angel Park’s Mountain Course we’ve played several times so we knew what we were in for: tough pin placements, deceptively tricky holes (especially on the back), and a layout that demands good course management. Once again, I struggled with my chunky irons until mid-way through the back nine – between Sunday at Royal Links and through the first twelve holes I don’t remember ever chunking so many irons in my life. I felt like I was throwing away at least a stroke a hole, and what frustrated me the most is that I couldn’t feel what I was doing wrong.

But there was a lot of good that also happened out there: once again, I chipped and putted the ball as well as I have in a long time. And I drove the ball with as much confidence as I ever had – most especially down the stretch with four tough driving holes that close out the back. To know I have the ability to drive the ball like that will help me big-time down the line. And unlike on Sunday at Royal Links, I hit my 5-wood well on the par 5s when needed. But my hybrids let me down both days – something I thought I had worked out – and my course management left much to be desired (one of these days I’ll actually look at a golf card to check the layout around the green!). Like Sunday’s round, however, I found my irons around the 13th hole and made some real quality shots with my 5, 6, and 7-iron under pressure during Killer’s and my stirring comeback against TFG and DD. Which made the Mai Tais we celebrated with back at The Mirage taste all that much better!

What I take from these two rounds is the fact that I hung in there long enough on both occasions to see my game come around on the back nine. That may not sound like much to y’all, but the days of falling into a bad stretch and allowing it to color my entire round are over. I kept on fighting, kept on trying to follow my strategy of getting my club perpendicular and my arms more extended at impact. I sense (especially with my irons) that my swing might have got a little too upright (hence the chunking), and I do want to work on not having my shaft so angled at address as it was – I think that will improve my overall ball contact. But I’m excited at how well I chipped the ball and putted both days.

So now I get a few weeks off, and I’m glad for it. The clubs have worked hard, so they’ll get a good soak and cleaning this weekend. Besides the holidays, I have a procedure on my right hand scheduled for next week that will likely curtail golf activity for a good month or so. But I know what I want to work on, feel good about it, and hopefully will be ready to resume normal golf activity around Valentine’s Day. At this stage of my golf year, I’d like to be less than seven strokes from my goal of being a 20-handicap, but I know I have it in me, and I look forward to getting back to it in 2019.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 23:04 | Comments Off on Treading Water
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