Earnest Words

After-Christmas Round: St. Mark Golf Club on 12/27

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Got invited to play with a friend, his father, and a family friend on Monday. It was a no-brainer.

The place we were playing was the St. Mark Golf Club in San Marcos. No, not the executive course; the full-blown par 71 course. I was excited and a little nervous: I’d never played the course before and, well, last time I played, I rolled my ankle and really hurt myself.

I got there very early since there was little traffic on a pre-rainy morning after a holiday. It was cold and the course was going to be wet since it’s been raining a ton in SoCal.

Arriving was surreal. My grandparents lived in this community, which is next to Lake San Marcos. I’d seen several holes before but … well, I didn’t play golf while they lived there. That would have been a lovely way to both practice my hobby and visit with them. As it was, it was bizarre to drive past the street to their house and not go down it. Also bizarre was going into the pro shop.

The other big thing was that I was going to put my Christmas present to good use: I was going to use my new Arccos Caddie and Arccos Caddie Link to track my performance. Nice thing is that it’ll give me 18 screenshots of my performance.

I warmed up putts, full swings, but not really any chips. My irons were okay but my 3 wood was a little crazy. I didn’t even try the driver.

Then, before you know it, we were on the first tee. But here were my goals for the round:

  • Have fun.
  • Get it on the green. Get it on the green at your first opportunity and take the shot that makes that the easiest.
  • Make all putts that are 1.5 yards and shorter.
  • Give yourself a shot a par and convert.
  • You can check your score if you can forget about it after.
  • Give yourself a break. 
  • Commit to the shot. Have it in your mind what you want to have happen.

The only one that requires particular notes would be “Give yourself a break.” It is just: don’t feel back if you screw up. Golf is hard.

Hole 1

Okay these screenshots aren’t the best for reviewing what actually happened.

But hole 1 is a short par 4, so I had planned to go 7 iron off the tee and then 7 iron toward the green, which should have put me on the green if I hit it my standard 150 yards.

However, my first tee shot never goes to plan (apparently). I shanked my 7 iron off the tee, right into a tree about 100 yards from the pin.

So shot 2 was a punch out to the fairway, leaving me about 130 yards from the green. That’s 8 iron attack mode.

Unfortunately, I hit a fairly chunky 8 iron that faded to the right of the sand trap. I needed my 4th shot to carry the bunker at about 20 yards – and I hit it 19.

So I failed at goal #2. I should have given more juice to get it onto the green. Fortunately, I hit a great one out of the bunker with the ball rolling out to about 2 yards. Made that putt for a double-bogey or a net par.

Honestly, I felt really good about this considering the failed tee shot. I think next time, I’ll try to hit my 3 wood off the tee, aiming the left side of the fairway. That should give me a 8 iron to 9 iron to the green. And getting on the green in 2 would be a coup for sure.

Hole 2

This is a longer par 4 that is really open  (much more open than I thought) so I decided to hit 3 wood off the tee. I overswung and topped by 3 wood about 8 yards – still in the fairway. I walked up and hit it again, this time getting the ball to about 124 yards.

I noticed on this hole that, similar to hole 1, balls were not rolling out at all. 

Well, at least I noticed when I was writing this. I didn’t notice it at the time.

The fairways were saturated and so a well-hit 3 wood for me, which would normally roll out, just stopped at 124 yards.

For my third shot, I hit 8 iron, decided that it would give me an 8 iron into the green. I compressed the ball well and ended up about 110 yards from the pin.

I hit an excellent pitching wedge onto the green, and felt really good. I missed long, but I can putt it out. So what if it’s a 36 foot putt?

Unfortunately, I didn’t really pay attention to the green and the ball RAN well past the hole on my downhill putt. I missed my second putt close but not close enough. Then I missed the tap-in and finally finished for a 4-putt 8. 

Hole 3

It’s a longer par 3 so I hit 6 iron off the tee. The 6 iron was exactly what I had hoped for, especially considering it was going uphill. Unfortunately, I hit the spot I was aiming at exactly, which meant that I … was in the bunker in front of the green.

But I felt confident out of the sand so I grabbed my sand wedge and chipped it up – and just into the lip. The ball rolled down – and I chipped it back up … also into the lip.

The third time, I chipped it out, but left myself 10 yards to the hole. Oh, and I was on the fringe. 

So I putted on leaving myself 3 yards to the pin. Then I putted close and finally ended with a 7.

I was certainly thinking par off the tee and even off the second shot. Well, until it stopped in the lip of the bunker.

This is one of those times when Arccos is a bit challenging. Literally all the shots were from the same spot.

Hole 4

This hole doglegs left. I hit my 3 wood off the tee, aiming up the left side, so that when I blocked it out right, it was still in play. Indeed, I had an excellent bounce back into the fairway. It was a 200 yard drive.

At this point, I had no idea how long I was expecting the second shot to go. But the dogleg is protected by this massive tree. I remember aiming toward the right side of the branches on top of the tree and I instead pulled my 8 iron, left, into the tree.

The ball dropped OB but I … I played from OB. It was only a yard into the OB and I paid my dues: my pitching wedge punch shot went into the tree and died. I was about 100 yards from the green and hit a great pitching wedge that ended up bouncing off the green long.

I had 27 yards to the pin and it was really short sided. So I hit an excellent lob wedge just onto the fringe, which trickled down toward the hole. That left me under 2 yards which I made for a double bogey save.

Hole 5

At this point, I was feeling pretty good. Hole 5 looks to be wide open, as hole 6 runs alongside the fairway.

I hit a driver that sliced very far right, actually into the bunker that guards hole 6’s green. But it was in play and sitting nicely in the bunker.

Incidentally, this is the hole that gets this treatment on reddit. I did not see this sign.

I hit my pitching wedge out of the bunker and it was beautiful. 117 yards, over trees, into the fairway, 28 yards from the pin. I hit a decent lob wedge pitch shot to leave me 10 feet to the pin. A 2-putt for bogey which I was happy with, especially since the previous holes had gone terribly from that distance.

In this case, I probably should have hit 8 iron from the sand. I likely could have held the green.

Hole 6

This is a par 3 that is a little downhill. For whatever reason, I wasn’t playing like the course was soaked so I assumed a roll-out on all of my shots. So I hit a 8 iron here since it was about 120 to the front of the green. But I chunked the shot a bit and the ball died in some muck right of the green.

Lifted, cleaned and replaced at the nearest point of relief, which was 20 yards from the pin and about a 12 yard carry. Unfortunately, I chipped it 11 yards, where the ball stopped, and I ended up having to putt from the fringe.

Once again, I was thinking par when I should have been hoping for bogey.

The result was I missed the chip putt long, then missed the second putt (which should have gotten closer than it was). Missed the tap in and finally ended my misery for another triple.

Hole 7 is the first par 5 and it’s a huge dogleg left. I hit a great 6 iron tee shot to 151 yards down the middle of the fairway, leaving me about 250 yards away — but I’d have to cut the corner.

There was a huge eucalyptus tree guarding my approach over the pond that protects that angle. Fortunately, the eucalyptus tree is on the far side of the water, so hitting into the tree wasn’t a bad thing: I’d still be over the water.

So I focused on a gap at the top of the tree and cranked my pitching wedge over the tree. The shot hit that gap perfectly and came to rest 130 yards away.

This left me about 180 to the pin so I hit another 6 iron. My goal wasn’t to hit the green, but give me a chippable option for an up-and-down par.

I did give myself that option but I was some 35 from the pin. I hit a lob wedge that died at 22 yards instead of 23, so it just stopped. Then I tried a bump and run SW shot from the rough which was ill advised: this green was slippery and my bump and run ran off the green.

That meant I had to chip on … again with my putter from like 25 feet away. Fortunately, it was a good chip putt, allowing me to easily save double-bogey.

But always fun to do exactly what you hoped and then completely fail.

Hole 8 is a straightforward dogleg right. Dogleg is at about 210 yards, so I decided that, despite not warming it up at all, I would hit driver.

I hit my first ball low and into a tree, after tapping the ball off the tee with driver. So I gave that ball up for lost and hit a provisional off the tee for 3.

It sliced very far right, into the fairway of hole 9. But I wasn’t too concerned. I was only 150 from the pin. I’d cut the corner!

… only that there were a LOT of trees between me and the pin.

My first pitching wedge shot was a perfect punch shot that … hit a tree and died.

My second punch shot, 50 yards closer to the pin, was also a great punch shot that … hit a tree and died.

My third shot approach shot (lying 6)  was free and clear, under the tree I’d hit, and 45 yards from the green. I hit it short of the pin, into the fairway approaching the green. I finally putted on, then I two-putted for a 9.

I should have stuck with my plan which was: 3 wood off the tee and pitching wedge to the green. Gosh wouldn’t that be idyllic? Oh, I also very easily found my “lost” ball.

What a doofus I am sometimes: yeah my driver off the tee was bad but I could have gone: PW to the corner, PW to the green. Two-putt for a 5.

Hole 9

Learning my lesson from hole 8, I decided to hit 6 iron off the tee, at a tree distant in the fairway. My 6 iron ran through the fairway to some 180 yards out. I decided to hit 8 iron to give me a SW in, which I think was the wrong choice. I should have gone 3 wood to reach the green, I think. Or 6 iron. Anything but sand wedge.

Anyway, 8 iron back into the fairway, about 80 yards from the pin. That’s SW distance but I managed to hit a fade that was pin high but very right. That left me 17 yards from the pin, which I apparently hit very well, to about 5 feet. I promptly missed that bogey putt and made a double for a net par.

So on the front 9, that was a 60, 25 over through 9. Obviously, there was a +5 and two +4’s that accounted for about half of that in 3 holes.

5 of my 10 tee shots were good and, honestly, taking the penalty on hole 8 was one of the stupider things I’ve done recently. I very likely could have had a double for 3 strokes better. Also, not screwing up the tee shots on hole 1, hole 2, and hole 5 would have made a big difference too.

Since my tee shots were bad on half my holes, my approach game was bad. Ideally, I’d have just 11 (1 on 1,5, and 8). I had 16.

Since I didn’t hit any greens, I should have had 9 chip shots. Instead, I had 17. So that was about 2 per hole, but I only had three holes where I had 1 or 0 chips. So that means my chipping cost me … a lot of strokes.

Putting was decent, especially considering the 4-putt on 2. Without that, I woulda had 15 putts which would be excellent. 4 1-putts ain’t bad, especially since I had a double chip on nearly every hole.

Hole 10, after eating something, i resolved to not be dumb. In this case, it meant not hitting the driver again. It’s too unpredictable at this point.

I was also going to not be dumb. Why take a lost ball penalty when you don’t have to?

So that meant it was a 6 iron off the tee on hole 10, despite the wide-open nature of the hole. I managed to have the longest drive with a 152 yard tee shot. Then I had another, excellent 159 yard 6 iron, also in the fairway, leaving me about 120 yards out.

The shot was really downwind, so I hit pitching wedge. Unfortunately, I faded it a bit out of bounds. So I rehit and ended up on the green, 31 feet from the pin.

Then i drained that 31 footer for a bogey. That’s pretty sweet. Woulda been a par!

I also found that ball in the OB. So that’s still no lost balls 🙂

EDIT: i think Arrcos’s scorekeeping (not mine, of course) is off on this hole. I don’t know how I can get a bogey without holing if the ball goes OB. 

Hole 11

A shorter, fairly downhill and downwind Par 3. The pin was at about 140 yards, but I decided to hit 9 iron for a reason that still escapes me. It was slightly downhill?

Anyway, my 9 iron shot was short and all I could think about my chip shot was: don’t be short. Don’t be short.

Naturally, I shorted my lob wedge and … it stuck into the fringe.

I really should have used a sand wedge or a pitching wedge. Then the ball would have been on the green.

As it was, I could putt from the fringe. A good fringe putt set up a tap-in bogey. That’s nice.

Hole 12 is an absurdly hard hole. It’s nearly 600 yards and goes uphill, slightly.

I likely should have hit 3 wood but instead I hit a chunky 6 iron off the tee to 120 yards. Then I hit a poor 6 iron up the hill, 131 yards. Since I had over 350 yards to go, I decided to go with what I knew and hit my 8 iron.

This was a good strike and the ball came to rest 141 yards away. Another blasted 8 iron left me 50 yards out to the green, sitting on 4 strokes.

I wasn’t really expecting par but bogey was in my mind a bit. After all, it’s a 600-yard par 5! So I had 50 yards from the green and hit a full lob wedge … which tends to go about 65 yards. Although it’s a long green, it’s not that long.

My par shot ran long of the green and, frankly, I was terrified by my miss. On a dry day, i would have run out to probably 20 yards long, making my chances of double-bogey non-existent.

But as it was, I was on the fringe and made one of the better chips of the round. A 13 yard bump-and-run pitching wedge that ended 5 feet from the hole.

Made the 5-footer for a double-bogey on a really hard hole.

So far, everything had proceeded according to plan.

Hole 13

Hole 13 is a shorter par 3 and much more downhill than Hole 11. I hit 9 iron again, apparently afraid of going super long and hit the ball perfectly. I hit it exactly at the spot I was aiming for, which was, unfortunately, short of the sand trap guarding the green.

My buddy Justin hit the green and his ball was inline with mine. Unfortunately, I didn’t ask him to mark his ball – and putted it  right into this ball. That killed my putt and left me 30 feet from the pin.

I really felt good about that chip too. Annoyed, I managed to get my lag putt short – and then I missed the short putt and finally got the double-bogey conceded by Justin’s father, who had looked on me with pity.

I really let Justin know about this failure to help me out. Fortunately, he’s a good-natured good friend, and gave me just as good as I gave him. After all, he asked if I wanted him to mark his ball and I said no because I am dumb.

Hole 14 

Hole 14 is the signature hole for the course. A par 4, with a huge drop off. At about 200 yards, a large bunker guards a water hazard that collects any balls 240 yards or shorter.

Not about to be a fool, I hit my 8 iron into the fairway, about 150 yards, well short of the bunker.

I also hit a just for fun 3 wood with the intention of putting it in the water. I ended up about 4 yards short and left of the water, a 220 yard shot. Gosh I wish I’d decided to do that off the tee. Next time, it’ll be a 6 iron (likely into the bunker).

Syked at my good fortune, I chunked my 8 iron from the fairway to the fringe of the bunker.

Dejectedly, I walked up to the absolutely terrible lie on the lip of the bunker. Unfortunately, the ball wasn’t in the bunker, which would have been a better lie.

As it was, I shanked the ball out of the bunker, over the water, leaving me about 50 yards from the hole for shot 4.

Remembering my mistake on hole 12, I decided to pitch with a pitching wedge. I don’t know what it was, but … it was a terrible stroke. It barely got to the fringe of the green.

I was so frustrated at myself. Why? I don’t know. I just had expectations that prudence would pay off and … it wasn’t really paying off. Prudence only has value when it leads to success.

Anyway, I had 12 yards to the pin and consoled myself that at least I could putt it on. Maybe make the lag putt for a double bogey?

I’ve used this conceit before and don’t tend to do it consciously. When I do it consciously, it doesn’t seem to work…

Anyway, I putted it in from off the green for a bogey the hard way. I really need to find a way to consciously not try to make it for these long putts… So that I can make them.

Hole 15 is another par 5, but much shorter than the other par 5s.

I decided to hit 3 wood off the tee and hit a good one: 180 yards, down the right side of the fairway. Naturally, I was aiming to the other side of the fairway, but it was a good result.

At this point, I considered hitting 3 wood, but there was water hazard to the right. So I hit a great 8 iron toward the middle of the fairway.

I then hit a 7 iron from about 150 yards from the green. 7 iron is striking distance for my 7 iron. Unfortunately, I think it was at this point that I began to play John Foulk’s ball. That or he played mine before I could find it.

I was short of the green, apparently drawing it short and left. Yes, I was aware that I’d had a chance to get my first GIR of the round on a par 5. It didn’t happen but I was certainly a puttable ball from the fairway.

Unfortunately, I left my chip a little two long to allow for an up-and-down par. But I was able to two-putt a bogey. That felt good, even though I got ball jacked at some point in the hole.

Hole 16

This is a dog-leg left par 4 that is protected long by a water hazard and trees left of the dogleg and by wide expanses of green grass to the right. I mean, there’s also a creek but you’d have to be a real jerk to hit over there.

After remarking that it’d be great to it a draw on this hole, I went and did exactly that with my 6 iron. Unfortunately, I’d been aiming, expecting a straight to fade shot, so I was in the rough left of the cart path, with trees guarding my approach to the green. I had about 200 yards to the pin but I was going to worry about that when the time came.

I then managed to hit two 7 irons in rapid succession into the trees in front of me. One 7 iron went 66 yards. The other went 94 yards, leaving me with 60 yards to the pin.

With 60 yards to the pin, I hit an absolutely excellent lob wedge to leave myself about 4 feet to the pin. I promptly, promptly, missed that putt and gave myself a double-bogey.

Sigh. But that was a great lob-wedge shot.

Also, hilariously, hitting the tree with my 7 iron really screwed Arcoss up with my 7 iron distances.

Hole 17

Hole 17 is a long par 3, about 170 yards. Still counting on a fade, I aimed at the left side of the green and hit an excellent 6 iron … right into the tree that guards the front left approach to the green.

It was after this shot that my playing partners informed me that the tree guards a small lake. So hitting the tree may have been fortunate – although I think it just prevented me from reaching the green.

I had originally thought they were reacting in awe at my great shot.

Anyway, i was another 56 yards from the pin. I hit lob wedge to 3 yards out. Unfortunately, I 3-putted. Again, I blame Justin: he had played an excellent tee shot short of the green and nearly holed his second shot for birdie. So I tried to the same with my par-putt and … well, it failed miserably. I missed to 7 feet long, and then putted it back to a tap-in distance.


Hole 18 is another par 5. At this point, I had resigned to being over 100 but I was having fun. I was hitting some good shots but seemed to never have everything go right.

This happened according to the law of averages on hole 18. I hit a 3 wood off the tee, aiming at the left side of the fairway because I expected to hit a blocky fade. Instead, I hooked the 3 wood 165 into hole 10’s fairway.

I then hit my 8 iron into a tree but back into the fairway of hole 18, leaving me some 200 yards from the hole. Since I was already well above 100 in my mind, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to hit 3 wood.

In this case, it did hurt because I hit an excellent 3 wood up the left side of the hole – that drew into an impossible landing area.

I was behind and under a tree. Any low approaching shot was going to be going right into the bunker. Of all the times to hit a draw …

Anyway, I ended up hitting my pitching wedge from underneath the tree toward the front of the green. Fortunately, I was short of the bunker. Unfortunately, I had to carry the bunker.

I did that pretty decently, finally getting on the green and leaving me about 8 yards from the hole.

While John Foulk had just putted in from about 50 yards away off the green, I resisted the urge to mimic his success and just lagged my bogey putt for an easy two-putt double bogey.

So that was an ending 50 which is … a net par and exactly what I had hoped for going into the round. Honestly, it was very pleasantly surprising to make a 50 on a course that I’d never played before. That’s the tied for the second-best I’ve ever scored on a championship course.

Tee shots were a lot better on the back 9. 7 of them were decent shots.

I had 17 approach shots, which wasn’t too bad at all, considering I’d expect to have 13 and was likely to have 15 considering my length off the tee.

My chips were significantly better: I had just 8 chips. Considering I hit no greens the entire round, that was pretty fantastic.

Putting was good too: just 15 putts and only 2 3-putts. It’s pretty easy when you have a chip-in, I suppose.

So what changed for the back 9? Well, while I didn’t have a lot of chances to score, I did avoid catastrophic failure. And, while the front 9 could have easily been 10 strokes fewer, the back 9 could have been better, too:

Hole 13 could have been 1 to 2 strokes better, easily; hole 14 could have been a par if I’d not chunked it into the bunker; same for hole 15. Hole 16 could have been a bogey or a par if I’d hit the fairway. Hole 17 could have also been a par or a bogey if I’d putted better. Finally, hole 18 I could have had more success staying in the fairway, i think.

But that’s golf: it’s easy to see what could have gone better.

According to the Arccos Elite app, I lost most of my strokes driving and on the approach.

Driving was where I lost most strokes, followed by approaches. Somehow, my short game was not as atrocious as I expected (apparently I only lost a half stroke to a 20 handicapper there) – but when you lose 9 strokes off the tee and 6 strokes on approach … well, let me finish this tortured sentence by noting that I shot +39. 15 strokes better would be +24, which’d be … a lot better.

So how do we save 10 strokes for next time?

Well, I’ll do my best to avoid a 9 on hole 8 and a 7 on hole 3. Doubles on each of those holes gives me 5 strokes. From that point, getting up-and-down will likely do the rest.

Maybe a bogey on 1, a double on hole 2, and that’s 8 strokes. 

So it’s driving with the 3 wood 6 iron and working on the short game. But isn’t that what it is for everyone?

Best Shots

  1. Bunker shot on hole 1
  2. 8 iron on hole 2
  3. PW from the sand on hole 4
  4. LW pitch on hole 4
  5. PW from the bunker on hole 5
  6. Lag putt on hole 5
  7. Hole 7 tee shot
  8. Hole 7 second shot through the tree
  9. Hole 7 putt chip to close out some atrocious short play
  10. 6 iron off tee on hole 9
  11. SW pitch on hole 9
  12. 6 iron off tee on hole 10
  13. 6 iron from fairway on hole 10
  14. Second PW on hole 10
  15. 10 yard putt on hole 10
  16. Hole 11 recovery chip to within 1 yard
  17. 3rd stroke 8 iron on hole 12
  18. 4th stroke 8 iron on hole 12
  19. PW chip on hole 12
  20. 9 iron on hole 13 was exactly at the spot I aimed it at
  21. Tee shot on hole 14
  22. Chip in on hole 14
  23. Hole 15’s 3 wood
  24. Hole 15 second shot
  25. Hole 15 third shot
  26. Hole 16 tee shot
  27. Hole 16 7 iron contact on second and third shot
  28. Hole 16 LW to green
  29. Hole 17 LW to green


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