“Dude, you’ve only got 205 to the center of the green, go for it. Ir grande o quedarse en casa, si?”
My playing partner Greg is speaking in Spanish again. Translation: Go big or stay home.
The seventeenth hole at Superstition Springs is a monster – the #2 handicap hole on the course – with a quasi-island green protected on three sides by water. Go short, left, or right and it’s agua caliente for your ball. As has happened nearly a dozen times today, I find myself in a very strange place, playing from a place I’ve never been before. From the middle tees, it’s 484 from tee to green, and normally I’m already playing a penalty shot having found the water at 180 yards, but today my drive has gone at least 260 with the tees moved up a bit, and I’m smack dab in the middle of the fairway with 205 to the center of the green.
“I’m going to lay up with a six-iron”, I tell Greg. “That’s the safe shot.”
“Mierda” (translation: bullshit), says Greg. “You mean safe like on 12 where you hit your six twenty yards over the green into that strip mall across the street? Donde estan los huevos, vaya para el!”
It’s a good thing I still remember a lot of Spanish from Mrs. Bicile’s eighth grade class. He’s questioning my manhood and telling me to go for it, and he’s got a point there. After all, I’ve got huge numbers interspersed with small ones all over my card, and my commitment to “pull the trigger” and “squash the bug” on every shot has left me in places at Superstition Springs I’d never seen or played from before. That 12th hole Greg mentioned was 143 yards and I’ve always played a six. In past rounds I’ve left it on the hill short of the green, but today my six carried the green by at least a dozen yards, landing on the down slope and crossing Superstition Springs Boulevard before coming to rest at the door of a formal shop across the street. In the past two hours I’ve seen drives go through fairways into water I never thought I could reach, a pitching wedge of 90 yards go 110 and land in a flower arrangement behind the ninth hole where brides and grooms normally say their vows, and a 155 yard five-iron placed to miss a family of geese carry them by fifteen yards and end up in a pot bunker I never knew existed. I’ve had one birdie and two other putts for birdie with a combined total of four feet that were two-putted for par and three-putted for bogey.
In short, I’ve been in places on this course I’ve played a dozen times in the past that I never even knew existed.
So when Greg tells me to vaya para el at 17, I pull out my five-wood, which, I have to admit, has performed admirably all day. I set up slightly open, open the face slightly to fly against the wind coming from left to right, square up my shoulders, and let it rip.
Greg knows it’s there as soon as the ball leaves the club. “Get in the hole!” he yells, and the ball hits the mound just beyond the water, takes a peek at the hole as it slides by, and comes to rest on the fringe sixteen feet away. Three putts later, I’m in for par on a hole I’ve never made less than double bogey on every time I’ve played.
They say a scorecard doesn’t lie, so the 55 + 53 = 108 is what it is. But it’s hard to be disappointed when that 108 includes a front nine with an eight and a ten on two par 4s (the first and ninth, respectively), and a back nine with a crowd-pleasing 11 on that damned 14h hole where I lost three balls in the water the last time I played and did the same thing today. On a course where the four par 5s are really well protected, if not overly long, I had an eagle chip and two birdie putts. I had eight holes – eight holes! – where I made bogey or less, even while hitting only five fairways all day. Sure, my putting left something to be desired (35 putts) but at Superstition Springs you have to commit to every putt, and my missing a half dozen from two feet or less shows where my commitment there was today.
To say I struck the ball well today would be an understatement. Thanks to Alex Black’s instruction my irons are better than they have ever been before, my driver is really starting to come around, and my chipping was pretty damned fine throughout the day – especially given the hard, fast greens. Thanks to Dr. Bob Winters I’m able to throw off an 11 on a par 4 and rip a drive dead center down the next fairway. After the step backward my last time out, I’m back to being on track to where I need to be come Goodboys Invitational weekend in July.