October 1, 2020

Target Handicap: 20.0
Score: 50 + 47 = 97
MyScorecard.com Handicap: 25.7 / Change: (-0.3)
Location: Lone Tree Golf Club

It was time to get out.

So much has happened this year. The last time I actually played a round of golf (back in late October of last year) I was gainfully employed and a Goodboy. Golf was just a form of recreation g to try and clear my head amidst all my other innumerable obligations, professional and otherwise. So it felt weird to be driving out to Lone Tree Golf Club on a hot Thursday morning when there were no e-mail to check ahead of time, and no e-mails to worry about responding to after I got off the course.

I’ll admit: it was a very weird feeling.

The only reason I went out today was because I needed to get in at least one round of golf before I headed back to Massachusetts later in the month in order to hopefully play some fall golf with my Goodboys pals. You see, here in the Valley of the Sun we’re already entering that bizarre 2-3 week period known as “The Great Arizona Golf Course Shutdown”, where all the golf courses shut down in order to make the transition from Bermuda to winter rye grass. My original plan was to sneak a round in at nearby Kokopelli G.C., but 10/1 was their closing date. Since Lone Tree wasn’t closing until 10/5 and I have fond memories of playing there (I shot a career-best 87 four years ago), it was the course I chose for my re-entry into Great White Shank golf.

Going into today’s round my expectations were low. You see, last Saturday, on a whim, I headed to the Kokopelli driving range to hit balls for the first time since early February, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As to be expected, I was all over the place, but it was especially distressing to see the dreaded “two-way miss” from 2019 carry over: if it wasn’t a ballooning banana ball off to the right it was a big pull to the left, and nothing I did seemed to have any effect. Then yesterday I headed over to the Papago Park driving range and things started out just as poorly. I was trying everything to remediate what was nothing short of a disaster to no effect.

So I took a time out, had a nice walk around the premises, and took stock about what I was trying to do. I knew my weight shift was off, but where was it coming from? I returned back to my clubs and the scattering of yellow balls waiting to be hit, and went back to as basic a swing as I could possibly come up with: stay on top of the ball, focus only on compressing the ball and taking a divot (irons) and sweeping up at the ball (5-wood and driver), focusing on my weight shift. Nothing good was happening. And then there was a click.

Keep in mind The Great White Shank is not a technical golfer. For better or for worse, I am what they call a “feel” golfer”: meaning, I need to recognize and remember a particular “feel” when I’m hitting the ball correctly. So when, all of a sudden, my driver lost its two-way miss and started going straight and long, I was skeptical. But after a dozen balls and then replicating same with my 5- and 6-irons, I knew I had found a “feel” worth trying out.

I picked up the phone and scheduled a round at Lone Tree.

I deliberately chose not to hit a bucket of balls before before today’s round. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe it wasn’t. But on the first few holes I felt like a blind man feeling his way around a crowded city sidewalk. I double-bogeyed the first hole without a single good shot, but then, on the par 3 #2 just missed a 5-iron that went straight enough that allowed for an ugly chip and two-putt for bogey. But starting with my tee shot on the next hole I could feel the “feel” coming back. All that was missing was my short game, but I wasn’t going to worry about that too much – after all, you don’t go almost a year without playing and expect your short game to be anywhere.

By the time I got to #6 I was starting to feel my oats. My putting sucked, but I had plenty of opportunities to make good scores. I actually made par on that #1 rated hole (a long par 5) where I made the fairway with my driver, hit a wonderful 4-hybrid to 110 yards, then chipped to a distance where even I couldn’t miss.

On the back nine I could really feel my game coming together: I made par on three of the first five holes (including the 140-yard, island green #12 – 7-iron so pure I vogued until it stopped twelve feet from the hole), before my only true ugly hole where I got a little out of sorts and made snowman on the par 4 #13. But I recovered to make par on the next par 3 (featuring my first solid chip of the day). Then, after an unnecessary double-bogey on the #15 par 4 where I over-cooked a 6-iron approach (hit it too good!), I made another par with a pro-worthy 9-iron approach from 112 yards that split two bunkers protecting the green. Then, following my best drive of the day on the par 4 #17 (out-driving both of my playing partners for the first time!), I butchered a 6-iron from 152 yards – my only real bad iron shot of the day – leading to a double bogey.

We arrived at the long, long par 5 #18. I check my card and see I’m lying 40. So, in my Great White Shank mind I’ve got nine strokes to kill in order to still break 100. Perhaps that’s not the correct mindset here, but ya gotta understand I hadn’t played a round of actual golf in a long, long time, so I’m feeling like I’m playing with the house’s money, OK? After both my playing partners found the water running along the right side, I blistered yet another drive that found me 220 yards from the pin. To go for it would have been stupid (the hole takes a sharp dog-leg to the left and is well protected by a pond in the front), but I hadn’t hit my 5-wood all day – it was the only club in my bag I hadn’t hit – so I thought it might be fun to try. All I wanted to do was take a little off and keep it just right of the narrow fairway between the pond and the subdivision on the right.

I thought I took a little off, but the last I saw of my ball it was taking a high arc beyond the end of the fairway making a bee-line to John and Sally’s 4 BR/ 2 bath. “Shit!, I yell to one of my playing partners, “I hit it too good!” Riiiight. Anyways, I take a drop, butcher a chip beyond the green, then mangle a couple of putts for a double-bogey seven.

Not a bad piece of work for the day.

I have to say today’s round exceeded my expectations. If you had told me I’d shoot a 97 after being away from real golf for nearly a year I would have told you I’d be very satisfied with that. Which I am. As for the numbers, I hit eight fairways (not bad), made 35 putts (not as many as it seemed), converted two of five green-in regulation opportunities (need to improve my opps!) and had seven holes with scores of no more than bogey. I’m pretty pleased with that.

I doubt there will be much golf to play before I head back to Massachusetts later this month, but now that I’m sort of retired (at least for now), I plan on making plenty of time to work on my “feel” a little more to turn that into a true “move”. I also want to work on my short game. For that, my old digs at Superstition Springs is just the ticket. Between that and the bike rides it will do me good to get me out of the house and into the fresh air, which is something I know I will need.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 21:04 | Comments (0)
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