June 8, 2019

Target Handicap: 20.0
Location: Trilogy Golf at Power Ranch
Score: 51 + 51 = 102
MyScorecard.com Handicap: 26.8 / Change: (+0.8)

The last eighteen-hole round of golf here in Arizona before Goodboys Invitational weekend, and my head is still shaking after a day of missed opportunities. No way did I think I had another 89 in me (as I shot last week) when I teed it up at Trilogy Power Ranch on a warm Saturday morning, but I also didn’t think I would shoot such a disappointing score after having arguably my best driving day of the year.

Golf is a funny game. Two weeks ago I had those “infield fly rule” pop-ups creep into my driver, and I never thought I’d ever be able to hit that club ever again – that’s how lost I felt. Today, I hit eight fairways and just barely missed a few more. But the number of fairways hit doesn’t tell the story. You know what tells the story? The fact I had seven – count ’em, seven – green-in-regulation opportunities (meaning, I’m standing in the fairway with an iron in my hand and the opportunity to hit the green in two on par 4s, or in three on the par 5s). Seven opportunities to make birdie at best, par most likely, or bogey at worst. And how many did I convert? One.

It’s so frustrating. Last week at Kokopelli, I drove the ball OK but it was my iron play that really made the difference. This week it wasn’t until the 17th hole – a softly-faded 6-iron into a crosswind from 147 yards – where I hit an iron onto a green. Before that, I couldn’t hit an iron to save my life. And the same with my Cobra 4-hybrid, which is about ready to be consigned to the deepest recesses of my garage closet to join his brother 3-hybrid. I can’t toss my 6-iron out because it’s a beautiful club, but today I couldn’t hit it. Couldn’t hit any iron, for that matter – everything was thin or skulled. I think I figured out way too late that I wasn’t staying on top of the ball and turning my hips, but who knows? It’s just damned disappointing to have so many chances at GIR and perform so poorly. I played those seven holes +15, including two quad bogeys and two triple bogeys.

The first missed GIR, on the short par 4 #2 wasn’t so bad – my 170-yard drive left me dead center of the fairway and 146 yards to the pin. I skulled a 6-iron to 60 yards, but couldn’t get a pitching wedge on the green. I two-putted for a double-bogey six. But it was on the 364-yard #5 that things went beyond absurd. A blistered (for me) 214-yard drive left me with 150 yards left-center of the fairway. I pulled 6-iron again and pushed it short and left of the green. I then yanked a sand wedge (another club that is causing me grief) into the sand bunker right. It took me three tries to get the ball out before two-putting for quad-bogey snowman. (BTW, I’d also push another 6-iron from a perfect position in the middle of the fairway on #9 into a pond left, leading to a triple-bogey seven.

What was frustrating about all this is that I couldn’t identify the problem and fix it. Which was too bad, because all day I hit my driver and 5-wood very solidly – perhaps the best I hit both clubs all year. My short game wasn’t as tight as it was last week at Kokopelli, but I’ve come to expect that there will be good days and bad. The 34 putts I made wasn’t awful, but once again I missed two putts from a foot out – something that has plagued me all year.

The back nine was a carbon-copy of the front nine. I was in GIR position on a four out of five hole stretch (13-17) and made triple, par (on a long par 5, no less), quad, and another par. The quad was especially offensive: after a 240-yard drive (best of day) I had 6-iron (again) in my hand. I skulled it into a waste area of deep grass, got it out of the grass but was left with 60 yards to the pin. I skulled my pitching wedge over the back, duffed my attempt to chip back on (my only real poor chip of the day then three-putted (the last a foot-long). You can’t shoot good scores if you’re going to play golf like that – it’s the worst kind of sloppy golf, and after a while it just beats you down.

That’s looking at the glass half-empty. On the glass half-full side of the equation, the fact is that I gave myself all those GIR opportunities to begin with. Which tells me I am in a much better place than where I was even at the start of the year. The fact that I’m no longer satisfied with a pair of 51s tells me that I know inside I’m capable of so much more. Others may disagree, but that’s just the way I’ve come to see things.

I’ve played a lot of golf over the past two months, and with the real heat now here I don’t expect to do more than perhaps hit the range or play nine holes between now and Goodboys Invitational week. It’s been a roller-coaster ride: these changes I’ve committed to with my swing have their good moments and their bad. It’s just tough to go out and play and not know what parts of your game are going to be working and what ones aren’t. I still like the changes I’ve made and remain committed to them, but a day like today – an OK enough score that could have been so much better – still leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 21:03 | Comments (0)
May 31, 2019

Target Handicap: 20.0
Location: Kokopelli Golf Club
Score: 42 + 47 = 89
MyScorecard.com Handicap: 26.0 / Change: (-1.0)

OK, I have to admit I didn’t see this one coming. I wasn’t even on planning to play, but a doctor’s appointment left the rest of my day wide open so I headed back to Kokopelli Golf Course, that sporty track where I shot a 109 a couple of weeks ago. The course was pretty empty when I arrived, so rather than warm up with a small bucket (with a high of 98 the day was going to be plenty warm enough as it was), I grabbed a cart and headed for the first tee.

While waiting for the twosome in front of me to clear the dogleg right (#1 is a 489-yard par 5) I committed myself to my plan: stick to what I’ve been working on, and no over-swinging. That was it – the goal was to let whatever happened, happen. A solid driver and equally solid 5-wood left me just thirty yards from the pin, and an all-too-familiar three-putt from sixteen feet led to a bogey. But after that I just felt myself fall into a quasi-groove, and I made par on five of the next six holes:

* On #2 (par 3, 184 yards), an OK 4-hybrid just off the green left and two putts for par.
* On #3 (a short 319-yard par 4), a pushed 5-iron left followed by a thinly-hit 3-hybrid to twenty feet and two putts.
* On #5 (373-yard par 4) caught a fairway, 5-iron over the green, chipped on, one putt.
* On #6 (184-yard par 3) pushed a 4-hybrid left, chipped on, one putt.
* On #7 (340-yard par 4) caught another fairway, 9-iron to twelve feet, two putts.

I bogeyed both #s 8 (a long 552-yard par 5) and #9 (missed a two-foot putt for par) for a 42, matching my all-time best nine-hole score. The biggest difference from the last few times out? My short game showed up and I made some putts for a change – only 13 on the front – an indication that I was chipping well. My ball-striking was OK enough, I just played smart and didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes.

There was no one in front of me when I teed off on #10, so before I hit got my iPhone out and asked Siri to queue up my surf music mix. Anytime you can have a beautiful day and an open golf course in front of you, I mean how good is that?

I started the back nine with a bogey five on #10, then on #11 (a tight 331-yard par 4) my drive was pulled right but I executed a 7-iron off a bony lie to six feet. Missed the birdie putt but made par. On #12 (a 407-yard par 4) I caught another fairway and hit an 8-iron to twelve feet. Missed that birdie putt but made another par. On #13 (a short 324-yard par 4) I made my first real mistakes of the day. I had only 112 yards to the pin and pulled a 9-iron way left. Chipped on and missed a four-footer for bogey. Then, on #14 (175-yard par 3) a 5-iron left me twenty feet for par. Got my first putt to three feet, then proceeded to three-putt from that distance for a double-bogey five. Ouch! My play on #s 15 (a 505-yard par 5 with water all down the left) and #16 (a pedestrian 345-yard par 4) was rather sloppy, but I grinded out a bogey and double-bogey, respectively before a rocking-chair bogey on the par 3 #17 and double-bogeying #18 for a 47.

Two weeks ago I played the same course and shot a 109. So how does one improve their score by a whopping twenty strokes in that time? It’s just golf. Clearly, I did everything today just a little bit better than I (obviously) did two weeks ago. Without a doubt, my short game (with the exception of that four-putt on #14) was a whole lot better, and that helped out immensely. It might sound strange, but even though I hit seven fairways today, I don’t really feel as if I hit my driver all that well – I could never really catch a feel. And the same held true with my irons – while I hit a number of quality shots, I never felt like I was in any kind of a groove. And it’s also true I got some very good bounces today, but that’s what happens, I think, when you’re playing fairly well.

There’s still work to do, most especially hitting my irons and hybrids off a tee – for some reason I just have a propensity to over-swing. That’s something I’d like to see improvement on before Goodboys Invitational weekend. But any time I can break ninety, boy, I’ll take it! It’s just not something I’ll count on seeing me do anytime soon. For The Great White Shank, all the golf stars have to be in alignment in order to do that. Today they were, which is why I call it “sucker golf”.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 21:35 | Comments (0)
May 24, 2019

Target Handicap: 20.0
Location: Stonecreek Golf Club
Score: 53 + 55 = 108
MyScorecard.com Handicap: 27.2 / Change: (+0.1)

There is golf the way it should be played on a bright and sunny, unseasonably warm (i.e., not hot) Friday in May, and there’s golf the way it shouldn’t be played – in fact, avoided at all cost. One would think Friday would be a perfect day to get a little work in, close up shop early for the day, and go out and play 18 before you get past three o’clock in the afternoon and beat the rush hour drive home.

One would think.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen today, as I was paired with a couple of women who played as fast I like to, yet proceeded to slog through a 5 1/2 hour round behind three foursomes of hackers doing a bachelor party weekend. Not only did they suck, they fu**ed around all day and were friggin’ slow as molasses. How bad was it? When you arrive at a par 5 after a par 3 and find the foursome in front of you hadn’t even teed off yet. Needless to say, this didn’t help my disposition much, and none of us could really find a good rhythm in our games all day. The ranger? He was nowhere to be found after the third hole after he wished us all good morning and good luck out there. He knew what was going on and didn’t want anything to do with it.

I’m not going to make that an excuse for a horrible day golf-wise, because it’s been a while since I’ve felt so lost out there on a golf course. I literally had no idea where the ball was going to go at any given time, which is truly sad because until yesterday I was feeling pretty darned optimistic about the changes I’d been making with my swing.

Today’s problems actually started yesterday afternoon at the Superstition Springs driving range where, after last Friday’s round at Kokopelli, I thought I’d work on my driver to try and square up at address a little more to try and get rid of that loopy push-fade (is there such a thing?) that had me missing fairways at “the Koke”. I bought a small bucket and found my favorite spot at the far left side of the range where there’s a natural twenty-yard wide “fairway” between the 100-yard marker and a big hill separating the range from an electrical building and the first hole. I took a couple of practice swings, then hit my first drive, a towering infield fly rule ball that landed next to the 100-yard marker. I looked down to see my tee, decapitated just under the head, the stick standing there like some lone soldier in no man’s land.

I laughed, casually wiped the stick out of the way with my foot, and teed up another ball. The same thing happened. And again. And again. And again. A dozen times. I was perplexed, to say the least.

I reached into my bag and grabbed some tees, only to find that if I didn’t get this resolved – and pronto – I wouldn’t have any more tees. See, you have to understand that this predicament came clear out of the blue – The Great White Shank doesn’t hit tee balls like that. Oh, I’ll yank drives and push drives and skull drives, and even hit drives straight from time to time, but there are three things The Great White Shank seldom, if ever, does off the tee:

He doesn’t hook the ball.
He doesn’t slice the ball.
And he doesn’t hit 70-to-100 yard infield flies to first and second base.

I’ll admit, I started to get rattled. I took practice swings over and over, trying to feel my way out of this mess, to no avail. A half-hour later, the bucket was empty, I was out of tees, and the area I had been hitting was littered with tees, all decapitated in the same way. I really didn’t know what to do, so I went over to the chipping area and tried to clear my head. That turned out to be a disaster as well, because, no matter what I did every chip was sculled across the green.

I paused for a bit and tried to think things through. Clearly, I was out of sync in every way, and perhaps both the driver and my pitching wedge were responding in the only way they knew how. And knowing I had a tee time at a tough golf course in just eighteen hours filled me with a dread I hadn’t felt for a long time. I wasn’t mad, but I was certainly depressed to have this happen after all the friggin’ work I’d been putting in the last two months.

What to do? As soon as I got home I hit the computer and searched YouTube for “skying driver”. I found a British chap who told me that what I was doing was taking the club back outside the plane, thus causing the club to hit down on the ball when with the driver you should be hitting the ball on the upswing. All well and good, but my question was why. And maybe this was just like getting the shanks that appear from seemingly out of nowhere. All I knew is, all the positive feelings and thoughts of tempo and transition I had been working on were now out the window. I knew I wouldn’t have a whole lot of time on Friday morning to work this out on the driving range (and, frankly, when you’re getting ready to play a round of golf you shouldn’t be trying to “work” anything out – you should be getting ready to play), so it was going to be hope for the best and cope with the rest.

Friday morning came. I only had a chance to hit ten balls before my name was called to the first tee. The range was ugly – clearly, Thursday’s range session had eaten deep into my psyche. I was so all over the place, I couldn’t remember the last time I headed to the first tee so lacking in confidence. I told myself to just try and slow everything down and deal with whatever happened from there. Any thought of shooting any kind of score was out the window, this was going to be survival golf.

Strangely enough, my opening drive was pure, straight down the middle. Followed by a crushed 5-iron that left me twelve feet for birdie. How about that: a green in regulation! A two-putt for par, and I was hopeful that maybe this was something I could build on. But that feeling evaporated quickly on #2 with an infield fly to third base (unfortunately, third base being OB on the other side of the net separating #2 fairway from the driving range) and a yanked mulligan into the pond right. Great, I’m thinking, now I have a two-way miss to deal with.

And that’s the way the front nine went. I could feel my irons starting to get away from me – a shanked 5-iron on #3, a ballooned drive left on #4 with a 3-putt for double bogey. On the par 3 #5 I saved bogey after chunking a 5-iron off the tee with a dandy pitch to three feet (missed the putt, something I would replicate several times from the same distance going forward). The infield fly came back on the #6 tee, landing in a waste area that took two tries to get out of before I dunked a 8-iron from 120 into the pond right (quad bogey). After hitting a good drive on the par 5 #7 I pushed my 5-wood way left but recovered sufficiently to three-putt from ten feet for double bogey.

…you get the picture.

The back nine was the same, except that I was now so uncertain as to where anything was going I could barely function. And if I happened to get on a green in somewhat decent shape, ol’ mister three-wiggle would rear his ugly head. I missed so many three-footers that I just gave up even thinking I was going to make anything. Compounding the misery was having to wait ten minutes on every friggin’ tee box before you could even hit. Even the ladies I was playing with were checking their watches – they obviously had places to go and better things to do.

And then, finally, came the par 4 #18. Not only did I hit a perfect drive off the tee (I marked it at 220 yards), I followed it up with an equally-perfect 5-wood that landed on the green, albeit thirty feet away from a pin tucked way back. Good first putt to three feet, missed the par, made bogey and actually felt like I played the hole well. That made it two well-played holes – #1 and #18. In between? A mess.

The final numbers were ugly: two greens in regulation, four fairways hit, ten lost balls, and 38 putts for a round of survival double-bogey golf. Geesh, I should just mail in my scores. All the work I’ve put in, and I’ve made no progress whatsoever. In fact, I’d call it a step backwards. And tomorrow I’ve got a very tough course waiting for me with lots of water to boot.

This is most certainly not the way I planned things to go. And to think, just last week I was complaining about that fade that was causing me to miss fairways right. I’d kill for that swing right now. And, while it’s most certainly not at the top of my list of concerns, I’ve got to do something about my putting – I don’t know why, but it’s terrible right now.

I think after tomorrow I’m going to take a nice, long vacation from my clubs. They deserve better.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 20:47 | Comments (0)
May 17, 2019

Target Handicap: 20.0
Location: Kokopelli Golf Club
Score: 53 + 56 = 109
MyScorecard.com Handicap: 27.1 / Change: (-0.1)

Even though it’s just a quick 10-minute hop up the street from me I hadn’t played Kokopelli Golf Club in, like years. Primarily because (regardless of what the website makes it look like) there really isn’t anything scenic about Kokopelli, given that it winds its way through the El Dorado Lakes subdivision and is bounded on two sides by major roads – the east/west Guadalupe Road splitting the course in two. What I had never really realized about Kokopelli is its fairly ample 129 slope rating, putting it amongst the top five toughest (if you consider slope to be a weighing factor of a course’s difficulty) courses I’ve ever played since I began tracking my scores at MyScorecard.com almost seven years ago.

It makes me wonder, because after reacquainting myself with Kokopelli on an unusually cool (80 degrees in May??) day, I consider both Stonecreek Golf Course (128 from the gold tees) and Superstition Springs Golf Course (120 from the green tees) far greater tests – at least as far as The Great White Shank’s golf game is concerned. I’m sure Kokopelli’s tight fairways and typically dry conditions which create a ton of roll off the fairways on drives with any kind of sideways roll, and the number of greens which slope back to front (I can speak from personal experience that you don’t want to be above the holes at Kokopelli) contribute to the slope, but, again, I find both Stonecreek and “the Springs” far sterner tests.

Sure, it would be easy for someone to call Kokopelli’s slope contributory, but in all honesty I feel it wasn’t. Sure, there were a few tough holes out there (the par 4 #4, par 5 #14, and par 5 #18 are all pretty tight off the tee, but the holes themselves weren’t that bad (even though I played the three holes 10-over) – I just made poor decisions after getting off the tee OK and then screwed the pooch. Truth be told, I think this was my best round of the year at least as far as ball-striking is concerned – I counted only two fat hits all day. Unfortunately, as has been the case since I started my 2019 season a month ago, there was some very sloppy golf played out there, and sloppy golf equals double-bogey +1 golf.

My goal today was simply to play aggressively, hit the ball hard, and keep hitting it hard no matter where it ended up going. I had decided to jettison the whole idea of easy 3/4 swings with my irons and my upright takeaway a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve really worked hard at the range on flattening my take-away and making as full a turn as I’m comfortable with while still staying in control. The driver is still a work in progress, but I’ve found my irons going longer and straighter – most especially when I succeed in hitting the ball flush – something I did on numerous occasions today.

The problems today were myriad – on the front nine I had no distance control with my short irons and found myself long and off the green and above the pin on virtually every hole. And zero touch with my short game. Hey, when you make a one-putt for a double-bogey six as I did on the par 4 #4 you know that there were problems getting it to the green. And when I did get myself on the green and in decent shape, I’d three-putt the green as I did on the par 3 #6 and the par 4 #11.

The numbers don’t lie when your card is marked as no pars and only six bogeys all day. Three fairways hit, and a ghastly 35 putts. The numbers don’t lie when you make a triple bogey and two quad bogeys over the last five holes. But I’m not going to blame course difficulty on what happened on those holes because it was all just stupid golf. On the par 3 #14 my 6-iron dropped short of the tee. Thinking it was just on grass, I grabbed my pitching wedge and putter, only to find that my ball had rolled into a deep bunker that I hadn’t seen from the tee. Too lazy to walk all the way back to the cart for my 60-degree wedge, I tried hitting a very-open face pitching wedge, caught it too clean and hit it OB. Chip back on and two-putt for an ugly triple-bogey six after a decent hit off the tee.

I didn’t hit the fairway on the tight par 5 #15, but I was in a good spot just off it. I duffed a 5-wood off the hard pan to get to 200 yards out with a stiff wind in our faces. Were it not for the wind, I probably would have hit 5-iron just short of the green, chip on and at worst two-putt for a bogey six. Instead, I grabbed my 5-wood again and, from a perfect lie in the fairway hit a huge push way left of the green in no-man’s land. Tried to get cute with a pitching wedge from an impossible lie, duffed it into deep casual water, then flew the green with another pitching wedge, duffed my chip and two-putted for my quad.

Similarly ugly was the par 5 #18. I hit a decent drive off the tee that just missed the fairway left, but made the mental mistake of pulling a 5-wood off a bony lie when a 5-iron kicked out long and right would have been the better decision given all the water along the left side. I pushed the 5-wood OB left, then, with my drop, tried to play the hero shot with a 6-iron over the water. Instead I duffed the 6 (only my second truly poorly hit iron of the day) into the water, then, mistaking my 8-iron for my pitching wedge, went long and left into the water behind the green. A lovely chip to a foot, and I saved yet another quintuple bogey.

I guess you could call the day what has become typical Great White Shank golf. It’s a little infuriating to me that my short game is so poor right now, but I like the way I’m hitting the ball. I had a lot of fun out there taking my full swings and working on compressing the ball, which is what I was trying to do. My driver remains a bit of a work in progress (although I’m much further along than I was, say, my last time out at Trilogy Power Ranch). My iron play was much more solid today, but there’s room for improvement there as well. With a little more work and convinced that my short game is bound to come around, I’m looking forward to playing two very tough courses next weekend while the twins are in San Diego – Stonecreek, a true second-shot course, and Ocotillo, with water water everywhere. It will be a stern test for my game, but, today’s score aside, I like where I’m trying to take my game right now and believe it’s all going to come around, and soon.

If you build it, the scores will come. And the numbers won’t lie then, either.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 21:35 | Comments (0)
May 4, 2019

Target Handicap: 20.0
MyScorecard.com Handicap: 27.2 / Change: (+0.2)
Location: Trilogy Golf at Power Ranch
Score: 53 + 50 = 103

Another enjoyable round of golf played with complete strangers (including, BTW, my first interaction with a true PXG devotee, a Marine who came wearing black-and-silver clothes to match his black-and-silver golf clubs and black-and-silver golf bag – these guys are truly the Oakland Raiders / rebels /pirates of the golf world!), another disappointing round that will be looked back on as “one that got away”, and in a big way.

I’d like to think that I’m not that much of a would/coulda/shoulda guy when it comes to my play, but Lawdy Miss Clawdy, there were opportunities galore out there that I just frittered away. I actually went into the round feeling pretty confident about where my game was headed: I was really enjoying the new devil-may-care attitude with my driver (I knew it was still a work in progress and there would be some shaky holes out there – which there were), but I had been hitting my irons really well of late with my 3/4 take-away. I hadn’t been doing a whole lot of work on my short game, but I figure that’s always the last thing that comes around because you just can’t simulate game conditions around some dopey practice green. Besides, while I hadn’t exactly lit up Superstition Springs with my short game two weeks ago, it wasn’t that bad, especially considering how the Springs uses lots of faux mogels and around its greens.

Boy, what a stupid I turned out to be! On the front nine I can’t recall the last time (and I’m talking years here) that I’ve hit my irons so poorly. And it didn’t matter where it was – off the fairway, around the green, or off the tees. I can’t explain it, except to say that I was so out of sync I just couldn’t function. Johnny Miller would be saying that I was choking every time I would try and hit an iron, and I’d have a hard time arguing with him there – it was that bad. How bad was it? Try being +7 on the three par 3s on the front. +7! I don’t normally count strokes as lost because, by and large, things usually even out with good bounces and shots that one might normally make, but, reviewing the first nine holes I counted thirteen shots that were completely tossed away. I’m not counting, say, putts I think I should have made (although that 8-inch miss for bogey on the par 5 #7 hurt), and I’m not talking about chips that, say, ended up above the hole when they should have been left below the hole. I’m talking about true wasted shots: taking two or sometimes three chips just to put it on the green. I’m talking about sand wedges from, say 20-30 yards that I couldn’t get near the green in one try. Take away half of those and you’re looking at a fairly respectable mid-40s nine and I’m a most happy fella.

It was on the par 4 #12 that I finally hit a decent iron, nailing a 9-iron from 114 yards out to twelve feet left of the pin to raucous applause from my playing partners. And while I three-putted for the double bogey, I then went par (5-iron from 166 yards), bogey (6-iron from 151), bogey (8-iron from 132) that steadied the nerves a bit before I duffed yet another sand wedge (shit!) leading to a double-bogey on the par 5 #17 and chunking a pitching wedge into the pond on #18 that was followed by yet another duffed sand wedge (the fifth of the day) leading to a triple-bogey seven.

To say that I’m perplexed by this would be an understatement. I can’t remember such a poor performance (and I’ve got an elephant’s memory when it comes to these kinds of things). While there were a couple of years somewhere like 6-7 years ago that my short game rocked (when most every other aspect of my game sucked), I’ll admit my short game has always its ebbs and flows, but nothing even close to today.

…which is too bad, because I hit my driver with abandon all day and enjoyed doing so. I only “officially” hit four fairways, but there were plenty of times I wasn’t off by much. As the round went on I became less enchanted with an increasingly-high fade traj that began costing me precious yardage, but I couldn’t fix it. So there’s clearly work to do there, but it was sure fun not being afraid of where my drives would go.

Hopefully today was just an aberration. I’m not sure what else to do except get out there and try and play as much as I reasonably can. Keep working on my driver, keep working on those 3/4 takeaways with my irons, and let the damned chips fall where they may. But that doesn’t mean what happened on the front nine today isn’t going to haunt my psyche for at least a little while.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 20:00 | Comments (0)
April 22, 2019

Target Handicap: 20.0
MyScorecard.com Handicap: 27.0 / Change: (0.0)
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 46 + 59 = 105

It has been 4 1/2 months since I last played a round of golf with my Goodboys pals last December in Las Vegas. Between having to wait for my right hand to feel strong enough where I felt I could make it through a whole round (which it did, although it’s a bit sore and stiff as to be expected) and the lack of practice I’ve been able to put in, it felt great just to be out there on a warm and breezy Saturday morning amongst golfers and to feel the excitement of being able to tee it up once again.

It’s funny the things you miss by not playing: I love hearing all the golf chatter, the sounds of club and ball making contact, the feeling of getting your golf self together before heading to the practice range – glove: check; tees and ball markers in left-hand pocket: check; prescription sunglasses exchange places with your sunglasses: check. And the smell of green grass, and, yes, even the occasional whiff of a cigar being smoked. The folks gathered ’round the putting green and chipping area. I had missed it all. And for a moment, when I heard my name mentioned with the twosome I was playing with calling us over the loudspeaker to the first tee, it wasn’t nervousness I felt, just excitement at being alive, free, and able to recreate in this way. And as I strode to the first tee to shake the hands of my playing partners that day I filed the feeling away for future reverie when circumstances might be a little (or perhaps not so little) different.

It’s only been in the last week and over two small buckets at the range that I’ve implemented what I plan to be the very last tweaks I’m ever planning on making in my golf swing – which is, everything at 3/4 – both my takeaway and my follow-through. It’s been something my Goodboys pal “The Funny Guy” has been preaching for, like, years, but it’s taken me this long to realize this is way I want to play it from now on. Would it have been nice to have a few more sessions working on this (for me) major change? Sure, but I was really looking at getting out there and see just how much rust I had to shake off.

I started out h-o-t hot, only three over after five holes. I immediate put my brandy-new 3 hybrid into use after a wayward drive on #1, sticking it to ten feet where I then two-putt for par. Not a bad way to start a new golf year! And truth be told, I had no business double-bogeying the par 5 #6 – my best drive (as it turned out) of the day and a crushed 5-wood left me only 145 yards from the pin, but my first poor iron swing of the day followed by two chunked chips (a common sight on the back nine), and a three-putt (the last from less than a foot) resulted in the first crack in the dam. I followed that up with decent-enough bogeys on the par 3 seventh and par 5 8th (helped by a 24-foot one-putt) before a lousy drive on nine (OB left) and yet another chunked chip resulted in a double-bogey six and a lovely 46. Still, not bad for my first nine of the year!

The back nine started OK enough but a chunked chip and a missed two-footer resulted in a double-bogey six. On the par 5 #11, a decent drive and a decent 5-wood left me only 100 yards from the pin, albeit in a somewhat tricky position due to a palm tree partially obscuring my view of the green. I still don’t know what happened to that pitching wedge shot – I caught it flush (probably too flush) but we never found it. A drop, two chunked chips, and a four-putt (the last from a foot out) resulted in a crowd-pleasing quad bogey nine. And, like the horse that gets spooked by some unexpected sound, it was all downhill from there.

No question my swing started getting too long and my ball position too far forward – you’d think by now I would be able to rein in these tendencies, but the game started moving a little fast on me. The Springs’ back nine requires concise drives off the tee, and after wayward drives right I found myself out of position on every hole the rest of the way. I held it together enough with bogeys on the par 3 #12 and the par 4 #13, but an admittedly poorly-conceived approach shot on #14 (I tried for the green from an awkward downhill lie over water when I should have kicked it out to a safer place) cost me dearly and led to a double-bogey. After that the wheels came off, resulting in a double, quad, double, and another quad bogey to finish things up.

The numbers don’t lie: six fairways hit, two greens in regulation, 32 putts (not that bad!), only eight holes at bogey or better. The sad truth is, given my hot start I should never have ended up with a score in triple digits. To be thirteen strokes worse on the back than on the front is really unconscionable, my playing partners and I enjoyed a good time and the margarita and Mexican food afterwards tasted pretty damned good. Sure, there’s stuff I need to work on (the fact I hadn’t even touched my short game since December is something I can fix easily enough), and I’m confident that the 3/4 swing strategy is a good one since it served me so well on the front nine.

Maybe I’d be feeling a little more distressed were it, say, May or June, but for now, just getting out there and kicking the year off feels good enough. I did some good things but not nearly enough, and I’m looking forward to improving on those aspects of my game before my next time out.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 01:05 | Comments (0)
December 6, 2018

Target Handicap: 20.0
MyScorecard.com 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 (0)
November 24, 2018

Target Handicap: 20.0
MyScorecard.com Handicap: 27.0 / Change: (+0.1)
Location: Stonecreek Golf Club
Score: 54 + 59 = 113

What is it about Stonecreek Golf Club that troubles The Great White Shank so? Sure, there are a few tough holes where thinking and course management is essential, several holes with water, and a few holes that are tough, no question about it. But the course can be had – I just don’t know why it won’t have me.

I’d been hitting the ball so well over the past few weeks, both in practice and during my last couple of rounds that I just didn’t see today coming. Actually, it was a tale of two rounds: the first five holes, and the rest of the round. I only hit one really bad shot in the first holes – a 5-iron I’ll admit I didn’t commit to that went OB left when a 7-iron would have left me just short of the green for a chip and two-putt. Instead, two chips to get on (that would become a regular occurrence) and two putts (ditto) for a triple-bogey seven. On #2, after a serviceable drive and decent-enough 6-iron left just off the green left, it took another two swings to chip it on the green followed by four putts from twelve feet (sigh) I made quad-bogey eight. But I then went bogey / par / par on holes 3-5 and thought I had found myself a rhythm.

Hole #6 is the #1 handicap hole on the course – a tight par 4 with water left of the fairway, a long sandy waste area on the right side, and a pond protecting the front and right of the green. While my drive wasn’t great, I measured 185 yards to a big sand trap on the left side of the green which is typically my target. I thought about the shot a lot – everything from leaving a 5-iron just short of the green, to an easy 7-iron that would leave me even shorter of the green but on the fat “bridge” between the water left and water right, or a 4-hybrid aimed right at the big sand trap. I’d been hitting my hybrids so good in practice and my last time out at Trilogy Power Ranch that I pulled the 4-hybrid but yanked it on the ground into the sandy waste area. I had 150 yards over the pond to the pin – a shot I thought I could make, given how packed down the waste area was, but chunked the 6 -iron only fifty yards to the front of the waste area. I was now 100 yards from the pin. Surely, I could make this, right? Nope, I chunked that shot as well, dumping my pitching wedge into the pond. Which I then proceeded to also do with my drop. Quad-bogey blues.

After that, I just lost my way and fell into too many old, familiar bad habits: setting up too open, playing the ball too far forward in my stance, and swaying backward and finishing off on my back foot. It’s amazing just how quickly one can lose one’s confidence out there. And then my short game just fell completely apart – not only was I leaving all my chips short, but I never got anything close to the hole. Hence, lots of two putts, a couple three-putts, and zero looks at one-putts. All sense of touch and tempo gone like the wind.

The quintuple-bogey ten on the par 5 #16 sealed my fate: after a decent drive just off the fairway left, I yanked my 5-wood far right but just short of what go by woods around these parts. I did a good job laying up with a decent 5-iron to 124 yards just shy of a large pond protecting the green, but then yanked an 8-iron into the pond. After another occurrence of needing two tries to get on the green, I three-putted from ten feet. Funny how all those strokes add up.

There’s not much left to say. I’ll probably take a few days off before hitting a driving range somewhere to try and find my lost groove. Which I’m sure I can find. I also need to work harder on being more aggressive with my chipping – I was babying everything during my round at Stonecreek. Sure, the greens were fast, but I have to learn how to chip better if I want to score better. And the 38 putts I took today just has to be dealt with. Chipping better and closer to the pin would certainly help, but the fact is my putting technique is just poor right now – I have to make time to work on my putting, and pronto. Gee whiz. Too many facets of the game that need work right now.

Perhaps it’s better to just chalk it up as a bad day at the office.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 20:36 | Comments (0)
November 10, 2018

Target Handicap: 20.0
MyScorecard.com Handicap: 26.9 / Change: (-0.6)
Location: Trilogy Golf at Power Ranch
Score: 48 + 50 = 98

So there we were, my Goodboys pal “Killer” Kowalski and I, toodling around at the Golf & Ski driving range in Hudson, New Hampshire on a late Saturday afternoon in September. It was cool and cloudy, the range was chewed up all to hell, and you really had the sense that the season was getting ready to close in on itself. Killer was doing some chipping (something he has always excelled at), and as I had been struggling with my short game all year, I asked him for some help. He told me to make sure there was no lean in my shaft at impact, and to play the ball in the middle of my stance (as opposed to back in my stance as I had been doing). Voila! all of a sudden I was getting some loft in my chips, which made me very happy.

I didn’t play very well the next day when we played a round at The Overlook in nearby Hollis, and I played OK enough a couple of weeks later at TPC Scottsdale (but much better around the greens thanks to Killer’s advice). Still, I was still struggling with my hybrids and 5-wood as I had been all year long. One night, while enjoying a soak in the tub, it suddenly hit me that the same advice Killer had given me for chipping around the green should also apply to all my clubs, no matter what kind of shot I was hitting. And so, last weekend I hit a large bucket of balls at the range with only one thought in mind: make sure the club was perpendicular to the ground at impact. What I found out seemed pretty cool: 1) in doing so I was allowing my arms to have a wider swing arc, 2) it made me stay on top of the ball longer instead of falling back as I was prone to do, and 3) it helped keep my shoulders quieter and thereby reduce my tendency to yank my irons. It seemed to work pretty well at the range, so I was eager to try it out under game conditions.

It was Chamber of Commerce weather at Trilogy Power Ranch – light winds, plenty of sun, temperatures in the mid-70s and I was bringing with me a plan of attack that I can’t remember ever bringing to a golf course before: I was going to hit all my clubs, and do so without fear. Playing from the blue tees at 6,350 yards and on a course with plenty of wide fairways and bail-out areas around the greens, it was a perfect venue to try out my approach.

The results speak for themselves: while I got credit for only four fairways hit I was pretty much on or just off them all day. I converted three of five greens-in-regulation opportunities. One par, twelve bogeys, three doubles, a triple, and a quad. But the quad was the only hole I let get away from me following one of only two real poor drives all day. I made bogey on all five par 3s, and played the four par 5s four-over. Most importantly, whenever I had the opportunity to hit my 3 & 4 hybrids (and there were a half-dozen) I hit them beautifully – the best I can ever remember. Same with the 5-wood.

Cases in point: # 7 is a dog-leg left with a pond at the elbow on the right. While the shot demands a 5-wood or hybrid as a second shot, I was always fearful of yanking either of those clubs into the pond, so I would always play it as a par 6, basically. Today I grabbed the 5 and smoked it as far as I could hit it. Got it on the green in three but three-putted from sixteen feet for bogey. Oh well. The 175-yard par 3 #8 has sand bunkers and that same pond from #7 pond on the right. Previously, I would never attempt a hybrid here out of fear of pulling it right. But I pulled the 4-hybrid and hit it purely straight, leaving me just off the left side of the green. Chip on, two putts, walked away happily with my bogey four. And then on #18: another pond on the right. Because even a good drive would leave you a fair distance out I would always lay it up and try and get within pitching wedge distance. Today, my drive left me in the fairway a good 185 yards out. Pulled my 3-hybrid and hit it dead straight just off the green left. Another chip, another two-putt, another satisfying bogey.

And there were no yanks with the short irons from 125 yards in, either – in fact, I think I got back those 5-10 yards I mysteriously had lost right around the time of Goodboys weekend in July. On #2, just off the fairway left with 135 yards to the hole I picked 8-iron since I didn’t want to leave myself above a left-front pin. Previously I’d be concerned about a yank right where a sand bunker protects that side of the kidney bean-shaped green. Not only did I hit it straight, it went all the 135, leaving me just off the green in back. On the #13 par 5, I had only 112 to an uphill pin in two after a solid drive and another big 5-wood, then flew my 9-iron 125 yards to another zip code at the far back of the green. But I still got my two putts for my only par of the day.

So it was a good day, with much progress made. I played from beginning to end with a confidence in all my clubs – something I don’t recall having too many times, if ever. While I wasn’t totally happy with the 34 putts, there was no sloppiness around the greens that had been my forte all year. But unlike even rounds where I shot a better score than today, I didn’t shy away from any shot I wanted to attempt. And it gives me quite the sense of accomplishment and the confidence to give the same approach a try on a course that offers a sterner challenge. We shall see what becomes available in two weeks’ time.

Thanks, Killer – you “da man”!

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 19:48 | Comments (0)
November 7, 2018

It feels different this year.

Maybe it’s because of the past year and all the crap I went through with “The Client Who Shall Remain Nameless”. Or maybe it’s my dad’s move to retirement living and seeing what the next stage of life holds for those of us who have entered our ’60s. Or maybe it’s just the result of time spent kicking back on the back patio while nursing a Hemingway daiquiri or glass of Pinot Grigio and ruminating in my mind a picture of what retirement might look like for me if I’m able to hang with my present occupation for another four years. More likely, it’s a combination of each. At any rate, this is the first year that I’ve truly started to think about life after retirement and how I want to spend it.

Lone Tree Golf Club, Chandler AZ

Sure, there’s a lot to consider as far as our finances go, and I think we’re doing a very good job in that regard – or at least we have these past few years. But this post is about a more whimsical, though not unimportant, aspect of what my retirement might look like, and that’s my golf game. What is it, exactly, that I want to get out of it? In the past, subconsciously or not, I’ve always arranged my golf calendar around Goodboys Invitational weekend (the third weekend in July). I would set a goal for where I would like my handicap to be come that weekend, start working on my game in, say, March or April, then after Goodboys, take a break until perhaps November and then work on my game a bit in anticipation of a Vegas weekend in December. Then, after that, give the clubs a break until the next March or April and start the hamster wheeling turning all over again.

Raven Golf Club, Phoenix AZ

Of course, following such a lurching forward then stopping approach to my game has made it hard to develop any kind of consistency. On the other hand, I don’t see myself becoming like the father figure on “My Three Sons” and have a weekly Saturday morning golf game with the fellas down at the country club, either. I think what I’m looking for is a balance between wanting to improve and setting a general goal of a 20-handicap over time, not something to achieve by this date or that date.

Stonecreek Golf Club, Phoenix AZ

Now that my dad is in digs where I can’t just come and go as I please, the reality is that I’m probably not going to be able to make visits back to Massachusetts longer than a weekend here and there. Which means, more than anything else, it’s time to commit myself to being an Arizona golfer and embrace the game the way it is played here in the Valley of the Sun. But how? I’ve played enough courses around here to know which ones I like and which I don’t, and I don’t think I could ever see myself belonging to a club where I’m playing the same damned course over and over. And now, with the uncertainty of when and where Goodboys weekend is going to be played (not to mention my lack of enthusiasm for anything that doesn’t involve New England and the third weekend of July), I need to find a new way to challenge myself in a way that I can enjoy the game and mark my own progress.

Superstition Springs Golf Club, Mesa AZ

So here is what I’ve come up with as an idea: just like the PGA Tour, The Great White Shank is going to play his own version of a wrap-around season. The season will start this Saturday, November 10, with rounds of golf played every 2-3 Saturdays at venues I’ve come to enjoy playing. I’ve chosen six courses for their variety of play, esthetics, and level of difficulty:

Superstition Springs Golf Club, Mesa
Raven Golf Club, Phoenix
Papago Golf Club, Phoenix
Lone Tree Golf Club, Chandler
Trilogy at Power Ranch, Gilbert
Stonecreek Golf Club, Phoenix
Ocotillo Golf Club, Chandler

Papago Park Golf Club, Phoenix AZ

These courses will serve as normal stops on my Tour. Trips to Vegas or Massachusetts will be considered my “majors”. Regardless of what the Goodboys ultimately decide, the end of my season will be the third weekend of July (historically, the weekend of the Open Championship and Goodboys Invitational weekend). And that weekend, whether it involves Goodboys or not, will be set aside for a special weekend similar to the FedEx Cup playoffs, but condensed into a single, three-day weekend. If I’m not playing Goodboys, it might be a trip to New England or perhaps San Diego or Vegas or some other interesting locale. Either way, it will be the close of The Great White Shank’s golf year, with a break until Arizona winter sets in and the golf courses around here are readied for winter play.

Ocotillo Golf Club, Chandler AZ

Throughout the year, the only goal will be to enjoy my rounds and track my progress towards my 20-handicap goal. If I make it, fine, if I don’t, all well and good. And to keep it low-key, I’ll be playing my orange balls and ditching the golf shoes in favor of sneakers. (Out here in Arizona you don’t really need them, anyways.)

Trilogy Golf Club at Power Ranch, Gilbert, AZ

I think it will be kind of interesting to watch the season ebb and flow in the way I will have set it up to go. You see, just hitting balls and playing golf here and there, while enjoyable, isn’t interesting enough for someone as internally competitive as me. I need highlights along the way to anticipate, goals to shoot for, progress to track. And in this way, I can chart a golf season out with a goal to strive for that has a finite beginning and an end. I’m kind of looking forward to it.

Hopefully, if I can get myself a tee time, a new golf season starts this Saturday. And, whether y’all like it or not, Goodboys Nation weblog readers will be able to experience it all, the highs, the lows, the “where the %$#&^ did that one go?” right here.
I can’t wait!

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 01:03 | Comments (2)


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