Finally. No more golf and heat, I’m done for the year.
Done with the sizzling azure skies.
Done with gulping down quarts of Gatorade Frost.
Done with near-empty or empty driving ranges and golf courses.
Done with all the prep work.
It’s time to put up or shut up, it’s time for Goodboys Invitational week and whatever it brings.
Today’s last golf round of the year at Superstition Springs was a grind, no two ways about it. A tough course on any given day, it was especially tough because, for the first time in my life, I played an entire round of golf by myself – with our monsoony-humid conditions and a high of 106 expected, there weren’t a lot of takers for the 9:36 slot. And, since I was stuck on work calls until 9:24, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to warm up. Oh sure, I could have spent 20-30 minutes banging balls, but the longer you warm up, the longer you’re going to be out there in the sun and heat. So I found two balls on the empty putting green, hit a pitching wedge and a driver just to get the feel of what I might have in me, and headed out.
And as it turned out, I didn’t have much. I battled the yanks all day, playing my way down the right hand side of just about every hole Superstition Springs had. My short game, which had been showing marked improvement over the past few weeks, devolved into something just short of blah. Fortunately, though, I kept my head about me and stuck to my plan of playing “smart golf” pretty much the entire round and grinded my way to a 49 + 51 = 100, a score I would take any day at the course I consider one of the toughest I’ve ever played.
(See, it’s not just that SS is long – you can play the gold tees at just under 6,000 yards but, frankly, the course isn’t very interesting from those tees; 6,700 from the green tees will really test every part of your game. But what they do is trick up the so-called “easy” holes by protecting the greens with phony moguls that force you to play from the air. And, something I never realized until today even though I’ve played the course a dozen or more times, the par 5s all start out really wide and then gradually get really narrow at the end. As I learned today, if you don’t have a perfect lie in the middle of the fairway (something I had only once) you have no business – repeat, no business pulling fairway wood for your second shot.)
Even though I was playing by myself, I did catch up to groups playing in front of me so that, by noon and the heat really building I was just a mule slogging his way towards the finish line. And without a playing partner to jabber and pass time with it’s just you losing balls you lost track of and a tough back nine forcing you to make one clutch shot after another:
* On the par 4 10th, a clutch pitching wedge from a deep grass bunker to two-putt distance for double-bogey.
* On the par 5 11th, two balls lost but a ten-foot putt for triple-bogey.
* On the par 3 12th, a clutch pitching wedge from an awkward, downhill, thin lie to one foot for par.
* On the par 4 13th, a yanked 7-iron that I spent five minutes looking for before realizing it was on the green. Three putts from 40 feet for bogey.
* On the par 4 14th (a brutally narrow hole with water left and OB right), a bail-out drive followed by a smart 5-iron to set up a smart pitching wedge to avoid a sand trap; two-putted for bogey.
* On the par 3 15th, a clutch pitching wedge from a waste area with no room to work with, two putts for bogey.
* On the par 4 16th, things were getting really hot, but I nailed a drive, hit a smart 5-iron just short of the moguls, then duffed two pitching wedges before two-putting for double-bogey.
I’ll admit, by 17 (a sturdy par 5 with a green well protected by a lake with fingers of water jetting out to the left) I was ready to call it a day. After blistering my drive I yanked a well-intentioned 7-iron lay-up into the water, then grabbed 5-iron and hit the shot I originally wanted to play, but it found the bottom of a deep grass bunker. I’ve got 120 yards over water to the hole and the crappiest of lies, but, throwing care to the wind, I grab my 8-iron and catch it pure, leaving me with ten feet for a miraculous bogey. I miss the putt.
I look at the scorecard even though I know I shouldn’t. But feeling as if I’m swirling in a microwave oven, I say what the hell. Turns out I’m lying 44, meaning double-bogey breaks 100 at SS for the first time. If I play smart, that ought to be easy, right? I know I should hit 5-iron to play it safe but there’s an awfully big landing area out there, so I pull 3-hybrid and proceed to yank it into the creek running down the right side. I still have my mulligan, so now I pull 5-iron, but chunk it into the pond on the right side of the tee box. The heck with breaking 100, I just want an ice-cold margarita and tall glass of ice water!
Hitting three where my ball went into the creek, I’ve lost my focus and my first attempt at a 5-wood to hit the green is an ugly slap into the creek. So much for breaking 100. I drop another ball and crush my second attempt at a 5-wood to just off the green. A lovely 20-yard chip to one foot and a putt later, and I’ve shot 100.
I’m sitting inside the dark Margarita Bar at a nearby Mexican restaurant and tally up the damage: seven fairways hit, 34 putts, and a dozen lost balls. And even at that I still shot 100, my best score at Superstition Springs ever. Not sure what it says about the state of my golf game, but I do know that my score would have been a whole lot higher had I not stuck to my strategy of playing “smart golf”. With Goodboys Invitational week beckoning, I’ve done as much as I can possibly do to be ready.
I’m just glad I’m done with Arizona golf for a while.