May 17, 2019

Target Handicap: 20.0
Location: Kokopelli Golf Club
Score: 53 + 56 = 109 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 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 Off on Numbers Don’t Lie
May 4, 2019

Target Handicap: 20.0 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 Off on Coming Up Short
April 22, 2019

Target Handicap: 20.0 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 Off on A Tale of Two Nines
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
November 24, 2018

Target Handicap: 20.0 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 Off on A Bona Fide Ass-Whipping
November 10, 2018

Target Handicap: 20.0 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 Off on Thank You, Killer
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)
October 3, 2018

Target Handicap: 20.0 Handicap: 27.5 / Change: (+0.3)
Location: TPC Scottsdale – Stadium Course
Score: 53

Welcome to the Golf Quest – The Next Generation. You might note that, unlike previous Golf Quest posts, I’m no longer arranging my Golf Quest around prepping for the next Goodboys Invitational weekend. First of all, I have no clue as to when that weekend will be (a change of venues might be in the wind). Secondly, no matter when that might be, I’m admittedly on the fence and taking a wait-and-see attitude as far as my future participation goes. Given my age and my stage in life, it feels far more comfortable to have a target handicap I can work towards without having to worry about getting my game together within some predetermined time schedule. Now that I’m nearly 63 and (hopefully) four years from retirement, I’m much more comfortable making being a 20-handicap golfer a larger target in my overall golf experience. No pressure, just play whenever I can and see if I can make inroads towards that magic number.

It was with that mindset that I decided to try and play nine holes at TPC Scottsdale’s legendary Stadium Course this past weekend while Tracey and I were spending a couple of nights at the nearby Scottsdale Princess to celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary. It was Saturday, and Tracey had lined up a message and assorted activities at their spa, so I grabbed my clubs and took the shuttle down to the TPC to see how I might amuse myself for a few hours.

The golf shop folks at TPC were the most accommodating and gracious folks I’ve met at any golf shop, anywhere. Told them I had a few hours to kill and what would be the most cost-effective way of doing it. Was told I had my choice of spending $80 for an all-day pass with access to their driving range, chipping area, and putting green, or I could pay $112 for 9 holes at the Stadium course were I willing to wait an hour until the twilight rate kicked in. That was no-brainer – I could hit the Toro restaurant grill for a beer, then go out and work on my game for half-hour or so.

A beer and my own cart later, I’m at the driving range with unlimited balls to hit and the chipping and putting area just across the cart path. It was cool to think a hacker like The Great White Shank could be standing and hitting ball in the same exact place as any number of tour pros would be doing at the Waste Management Open. I felt relaxed and then reassured when I didn’t shank or skull the first few pitching wedges I hit to limber up. I felt even better when the first few drives I hit seemed to lack that friggin’ dipsy-do, right-to-left push/slice that had cropped out of nowhere when I played with my Goodboys pal Killer a few weeks ago.

I had been hitting balls for maybe fifteen minutes, just focusing on tempo and slowing down, slowing down, when Aiden, who had been so nice in escorting me to the driving range and showing where everything was, drives up and asks me if I want to get out a little early. Five minutes later, I’m standing on the first tee at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium course placing my orange Wilson 50 on a tee with my playing partners, a couple vacationing from China who spoke no English and some dude with tattoos all over his body just off a place from Vancouver, watching.

The course was absolutely gorgeous, a Tom Weiskopf design that you have to play to believe. A course with every hole laid out so beautifully. No 2,000 yard carries like at the tricked-up Foxwoods course we played during Goodboys weekend this year. Just a thinking man’s course where you can see the entire hole laid out in front of you, look at the little orange ball in your hand, and think about how best to get said ball into said hole in four or five strokes. The greens were perfect – you didn’t want to be above the hole, ever. And if you were below the hole you still had to give the ball a whack. But they rolled pure from beginning to end. And the sand trap? Like white powder – several of which I found myself in. Unbelievable.

The first tee has been a problem for me all this year.
This time I slammed a drive center-cut 230 yards smack-dab in the middle of the fairway.
We were off.

But this is The Great White Shank standing in the fairway, just 111 yards from the green. I grab my 9-iron and try and focus on taking an easy swing. I yank it 20 yards right, one bounce off a hill, and into someone’s back yard. Took a drop, chip and two putts for a double-bogey 6.

The Great White Shank can play double-bogey golf in his sleep.

But it was the triple bogey blues that got me on #s 2, 3, and 5. Three putts on two and three after chunking a 5-iron on #2, skulling a 5-wood OB on #3 (after another beautiful drive, no less), and on #5 after my drive trickled into a big and beautiful fairway bunker ending up just under the lip. All I could do was laugh at where it ended up and try and power it out backwards. Which I did, but then, after a majestic 7-iron fade to twenty feet, ol’ Mr. “Three Wiggle” got me again. But it couldn’t have been any more fun. You could just see the grins on our faces as we tried to navigate our way into good positions on each hole. It was golf the way it should be – multiple ways to play each hole, choose your risk and reward. In some ways it reminded me of two of my favorite courses, Passaconaway and Portsmouth – courses with character and your challenge laid our right in front of you.

I made a few mistakes out there, left (I’m guessing) six strokes out there, putted really poorly – 22 putts. But overall, it was just an enjoyable round. Finished bogey-bogey-bogey the last three holes which was very satisfying. The sun was setting low and the last 100-degree day of the year was working its way towards dusk. The Pinot Grigio in the Toro lounge afterwards tasted great as I drank in one of the great golf experiences of my life. Would have been nice to play 18 and the stadium par 3 #12 (without the stadium, which is put up and taken down every year), but nine holes was good enough. And a fantastic Mexican restaurant at the Princess was waiting.

I’ve still got a lot of work to do to get to a 20-handicap – besides working on that 3/4 swing my Goodboys pal “The Funny Guy” keeps encouraging me to do, I’ve got some work to do on the angle of my take-away and getting it less flat. But the short-game tip Killer gave me a few weeks ago is really paying off, and I’m confident my putting is going to come around. Sure, my handicap now stands at a whopping 27.5 (!) but I’m confident that with work 7 1/2 strokes isn’t going to be that hard to shave off.

But that’s my goal: 7 1/2 strokes. Whenever I can whittle them down. Could take me a year, could take me two. But it’s a nice goal to have. And when I finally achieve it, I’ll look back on an early fall Saturday afternoon at TPC Scottsdale with a sense of wonder and pleasurey. Paired with lodging at the Scottsdale Princess just down the street, it’s a golf destination combo that’s pretty damned hard to beat.

The Golf Quest is on…

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:13 | Comments Off on No Reason To Panic
July 4, 2018

Days until the 2018 Goodboys Invitational: 16 Handicap: 26.0 / Change: (+0.8)
Location: Stonecreek Golf Club
Score: 55 / 54 = 109

July 4th golf in the Valley of the Sun. Get there, get your round in, get out before the afternoon “witching hours” set in. My goal today was to adhere to the same three principles on every shot: 1) take a 3/4 swing; 2) keep my lower body quiet; 3) finish up on my back foot big toe. It’s all about trying to eliminate my tendencies to over-swing and yank the ball with an over-active shoulder turn. While the score wasn’t insignificant, I’m in Goodboys Invitational weekend preparation mode, so it was all about swing and target visualization, taking practice swings, and adhering to the three principles.

By and large, I’m pretty happy with my goal achievement today. While I only hit four fairways all day, there were only two drives I was unhappy with: an over-swing on the par 4 #6 which I pulled into a fairway bunker, and the par 4 #10 where I not only hit my drive, but my mulligan OB into the condos on the left with a big balloon push by not finishing my swing.

What killed me today was – surprisingly – my short game. Which, admittedly, I haven’t worked on at all, but it hadn’t been a problem until today. Today it was a huge problem. The 27 putts weren’t outrageously bad, but the three 3-putts on the back nine didn’t help. To be truthful, I never really gave myself much of a chance on the greens today – my chipping was awful. But it’s not something I’m going to worry about because: a) I was playing around with chipping with an 8-iron in anticipation of the grasses and greens back in New England, and b) I’ll work on my short game in earnest when in back in Massachusetts for Goodboys Week.

What really killed my round was a ghastly stretch of four eights in a span of five holes. On the par 4 #6 it took me two tries to get out of the fairway bunker, then I flared a 9-iron from 122 yards into a greenside bunker on the left, then had to take two tries to get out of that. On the par 5 #7, it took me 5 strokes to get the ball into the hole from 70 yards out. I messed up two chips before three-putting on that devilish green. After bogeying #8, I hit a decent drive on the par 4 #9 that left me 187 yards to the pin from the center of the fairway. Here I hit my first truly awful iron of the day, chunking a 5-iron, then yanking a 7-iron into a greenside bunker right. It took me two tries to get out of that bunker and then three-putting from twelve feet to earn that snowman. And then on the par 4 #10, lying three after my drive and mulligan OB, I chipped out into a good spot, then shanked a 9-iron from 120, then chunked a sand wedge into a greenside bunker.

….Ahh yes, my sand game. It killed me today. How many strokes did it take to get out of the eight – count ’em, eight! – bunkers I ended up in today? If you guessed 14, you’d be right. But seriously, I’m not going to worry about it or even lose sleep over it. And I’m not going to commit myself to standing in a sand trap for two hours on a blazing hot July afternoon to work on my sand game. The easiest way to deal with it is simply to try and avoid them at all cost.

At this point my round could have gone either way, but I regrouped on the ride to the eleventh tee and re-committed myself to what I was trying to do out there. And while my scores didn’t reflect it, I kinda sorta did pull it together the rest of the way in. Outside of the two par 3s – #12 and #15 – where I yanked two five irons into the water right (I do plan on working this out!) – I actually hit a number of quality shots until I got around the green. Threw a lot of strokes away with my short game down the stretch, but my ball-striking was pretty darned good. I hit my 5-wood consistently well all day, and I even tossed in a very aggressive 4-hybrid from 190 yards to twelve feet from the pin. I three-putted for bogey (of course), but the shot was a beauty to behold.

So that’s gonna close out my competitive golf here in the Valley of the Sun until at least November. I’ll probably hit the range to work on my “three principles” a couple of times before heading back, but overall I’m feeling pretty positive about my game. I’m getting more used to the distances on my M2s, and I’m looking forward to working on my short game on good ol’ New England grasses and greens. It’s disappointing to see that I’m back to being a 26-handicap, and I’m still committed to getting myself down to a 20 at some point, but it won’t be this year.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 20:21 | Comments Off on Snowmen in the Sand
June 27, 2018

Less than a month from Goodboys Invitational weekend. I’m in regular contact with Foxwoods Hotel & Casino in Connecticut, working out the finer logistical details: checking in, checking out, where our Champions Dinner will be held, shuttles to the Lake of Isles Golf Course, etc. In between, I’m trying to clear my desk of all kinds of work ahead of heading back to Massachusetts on the 14th – there’s training I have to get done, “The Client Who Shall Remain Nameless” keeps on putting demands on both my team and my patience, and there’s all kinds of other work-related stuff going on.

Had a rough outing at Superstition Springs Golf Club last Friday when all kinds of old demons crept back into my game. Part of it was the abysmal setting I was playing golf in – a grandfather teaching his 12-year old granddaughter how to play golf with me trying to offer words of encouragement as best I could while we backed up two groups behind us. By the time I shook them and the foursome in front of me it was just getting way too hot to golf and my attention (and my swing) began to wander. Ended up with a 51+54 for a 105, but it looked a lot worse than that.

My glass of Pinot Grigio wasn’t even half empty when I realized the bad habits I had fallen into, all the signs were there: fat hits, a few yanks, banana slices with the driver. I remembered my last session a couple of years back with my swing coach Alex Black, and the drills forcing me to shift my weight and take a divot in front of the ball. Woulda been nice to recognize that on the field of battle, but no one ever accused The Great White Shank of situational awareness when it comes to his golf swing. Me, I need a little separation from the action. A few years ago, I’d need weeks (if not months) and perhaps a lesson to work these things out; now I’m down to a half glass of white wine on the 19th tee.

Now that’s what I call progress!

Golf is a funny game. Every time you think you got things nailed down it comes back to bit your ass. What separates the good hackers in Goodboys Nation – Skeeta, Killer, The Funny Guy, and Deuce, for instance – from the average to mediocre everyday hackers like the rest of us is that they have a greater self-awareness about their swings; they can feel when they need to gear down and make the necessary adjustments then all of a sudden rip off four or five pars in the next seven or eight holes. I’m obviously not there yet.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not creeping closer, if only in tiny increments. On the front nine at the Springs I was spraying my driver everywhere. On the back nine, I made an adjustment and all of a sudden got the accuracy and distance back that I had been missing the day before at Papago Park. It’s all about weight shift and (for me) a mental picture of keeping my lower body quiet.

And that’s what I’ve been working on at the Kokopelli G.C driving range the past few days – crawling out of the abyss and getting back to the fundamentals of weight shift and keeping my lower body quiet. It was brutally hot out there today, me being the only one on the range. On days like this, where the temps are 110 or higher, you just get in, work on what has to be worked on, and make tracks to the A/C in your car. But I love the solitude of the range, playing games in my mind with where I want to place the ball and seeing how close I can get it.

Sometimes I wonder how long I’ll be able to hit balls at the range. My logical mind says I’ve got another twenty years or so of ball-hitting ahead of me, but you never know, do you? So I try to get the most out of my time there: if the mourning doves and foo-foo birds are making a ruckus I’ll talk to them. I don’t care what the “professionals” in their Titleist gear and designer golf clothes think. If a sudden breeze comes up to rustle the palms or stir the pine trees lining the first fairway I’ll stop and just listen for a minute. I like it like that. Not today, though – it was too damned hot to waste time.

I think I’m going to play this weekend and then next weekend and that will be a wrap ahead of my Massachusetts return for Goodboys Week. Maybe my handicap trend is four points higher than I wanted it to be by this time, but I think I’m in a good place – an even better place than I was last year. I’ve great clubs, enjoy working on my fundamentals, and am looking forward to (hopefully) surprising some people.

That’s where The Great White Shank is right now.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 18:48 | Comment (1)


Search The Site

Recent Items


September 2021
April 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006



4 Goodboys Only

Site Info