Golfing with friends from … elementary school? At St. Marks Exec Course on 7/15

On Thursday afternoon, I played St. Mark’s Executive Course with three friends from (checks notes) elementary school? We’ve been friends for a long time and have stayed friends for a long time.

St. Mark’s is an inexpensive executive course, but it’s well kept. It has a decent amount of elevation change but it’s pretty safe. It’s not particularly narrow and it isn’t particularly long. But there are 4 legitimate par 4s.

I’ve played there before and previously shot a +17, which was my best ever score until I played at Emerald Isle on June 11th. I felt pretty confident but, per my goals, I wanted to just have a nice time.

Speaking of goals, these were my goals for the day:

  1. Have fun
  2. No triple bogies
  3. No 4-putts
  4. Make a birdie

So let’s get started.

We drew lots for hole 1 (well, I threw a tee at my friends). The best golfer by a huge mile, Jimmy, went first, followed by Chason, followed by me, followed by our friend Kiven. Yes, their names have been changed to protect their innocence but they know who they are. And, honestly, it’s not too hard to figure out who they are. Here is a picture.

An aside: the town that this golf course is in is called San Marcos. For those of you who don’t know Spanish, that is Saint Mark. I feel like this was a racist choice to avoid using Spanish.

Hole 1

The tees were more than a little forward this day and, since it’s an executive course, there is a choice of red or white tees. Should Chason, Kiven, and I play red tees? Probably. Did we? No.

Hole 1 is a short par 3 with a pond left and the parking lot right. There are some trees and a sand trap behind the hole.

My plan was to hit a smooth pitching wedge over the water, landing on the green smartly, leaving an easy put to the hole. It was about 100 yards to the center of the green, which is where I was aiming.

Instead, I absolutely blasted my pitching wedge 130 yards — over the green and behind a tree. As I walked toward that hole, I spilled my beer when my push cart rolled over a bump in the road. So a double fail 😦

That less than ideal place meant I had a 40 yard shot from behind a tree. That went long, off the front of the green.

“I made par last time.” I whined to myself as I walked across the green with my putter.

It was a long putt, like 45 feet. Naturally, I putted it far, far too long, even for a chip, through and off the green, leaving 24 feet downhill. In my defense, the first green was FAR nicer than the practice green. So the bumpy practice green probably would have eaten up that putt nicely. Instead…

So my 4th shot was my first official putt, 8 yards downhill which I missed to 5 yards long. That is a very bad miss.

I finally recovered and made the 5 yard putt just close enough to tap in for a triple bogey.


GOAL ACCOMPLISHED!

Hole 2

Hole 2 is very downhill. There is a sand trap to the left of the green. There are houses to the right and a road further to the left. There is also a swamp in the middle of the fairway.

My plan was to hit an 8 iron off this tee, even though the green was 145 yards away. After all, it was quite downhill.

I hit a nice 8 iron shot that just missed the fairway in front of the green, maybe 130 yards. Unfortunately, I was completely embedded in the rough. Like the ball was swimming in the grass.

I was about 16 yards from the pin so I hit my SW out and the ball ran along the green to 7 yards long. But honestly, with the lie I had, I was happy to have hit the ball.

A 7 yard downhill putt from the fringe finished 1.5 yards above the hole. I putted downhill and made the 1.5yard putt.

That 7 yard putt is an iffy putt since I would have liked to have had it within tap in distance. However, my goal for any putt above 4 yards is to get the ball within 2 yards so I count it as a success.

Hole 3

Where hole 2 is downhill, hole 3 is uphill. The tees were short the day we played, so it was about 90 yards away. Since my pitching wedge, what I’d ordinarily hit here, went SO long, I decided to muscle up my sand wedge.

There’s a bunker right of the green, too. But I aimed at the front lip, figuring it would stick there and give me a chip if it didn’t run on.

My fade (the ball going left to right) returned and I hit the sand wedge nice and pure about 89 yards — into the bunker at the lip right next to the green. Fortunately, the bunker was hard-packed so I rolled along the sand to a decent lie.

I hit a 25 yard lob wedge shot that ran on the green to 9 yards long. It was another 9 yard, downhill putt that I left short (can you tell that Hole 1’s putting fiasco was still in my head?). I then missed the 2 yard putt JUST right and tapped in for a double bogey.

Hole 4

Hole 4 is a par 4 and it is a legitimate par 4. It is a downhill tee shot to a dog leg sharp right. You can shoot the dogleg, if you can hit the ball 300 yards, blind, around some houses. At the dogleg, there are some bunkers in the fairway. But if you go long through the fairway, it runs into Hole 5. There are hills that slope toward the fairway, so any topped shots will probably run back into the fairway.

My plan was: 8 iron off the tee, 8 iron toward the green, likely leaving a chip on.

I hit a great 8 iron off the tee but it faded a bit right in the fairway, which meant I had a slightly blind shot at the green, which was guarded by a bunker right. I was about 130 yards from the flag, so it was in a great 8 iron distance (even if it was uphill). (That means I hit my 8 iron 160 yards off the tee!)

My 8 iron was the perfect distance but it faded right again, into some thick rough right of the green. I didn’t have to carry the bunker with my pitch shot of 20 or so yards. I hit a great pitch, leaving me above the hole about 2 yards from the pin. Unfortunately, it was a slippery downhill putt that several of my friends had missed. Fortunately, I made it. Getting up and down for par when you hit the green is real nice.

I also hit a provisional tee shot with my 4 hybrid and hit it a shorter distance than I hit my 8 iron. So that’s fun.

About now was when I forgot to remember to take pictures. It’s a bummer because the light kept getting better and better.

Hole 5

Hole 5 is downhill, parallel to the end of hole 4. It is a short hole, guarded right by a swampy drainage area that is a lateral hazard and houses. Behind the hole is hole 6, so it’s pretty open.

My plan here was to hit whatever had worked on hole 1 — which was a stupid plan. Because nothing worked on hole 1 except for my 5 yard putt. But I hit what I thought was an easy pitching wedge — and I flushed it another 130 yards off the tee. The hole was maybe 100 yards downhill.

That left me 24 yards over about 13 yards of rough to get to the pin. No problem, I thought, i will hit SW that distance. Instead, I hit my sand wedge 12 yards and the ball just died in the rough.

So I chipped my second sand wedge of 12 yards to about 1.5 yards out and then drained the 1.5 yard putt for bogey.

On this hole, Jimmy had a great tee shot about 1 yard from the hole. So an easy birdie for that machine.

Hole 6

Hole 6 is another short, downhill par 3. It was about 70 yards to the pin but the downhill made it play like 67 yards. Since I kept going long with everything else, I hit my lob wedge. I figured it would go about that distance. My original plan had been pitching wedge.

As it was, it was a little short at about 65 yards. So it was off the green but it left an uphill putt. So i putted onto the green with a 7 yard putt, leaving it about 1 yard short, which I made for an easy par save.

Hole 7

Hole 7 is a long, uphill par 3 and it’s quite challenging because of that. This day it was about 150 yards to the pin.

My plan was to hit 8 iron off the tee, preparing for a chip on. I thought about using my 6 iron but since I haven’t practiced with it at all in the last month, I laid off the 8 iron.

I did mention to my friends I was going to “step on it.” That led to a slightly chunky shot, which meant the ball died in the fairway instead of rolling and went about 125 instead of a 135. I dunno, after I hit the ball, Kiven said that my ball flight sounded like Jimmy’s, screaming through the air like a missile.

So I was about 35 yards from the pin with my SW and I hit the ball … 35 yards, so it ran out long, leaving me a 9 yard downhill putt from off the green. Which I drained for a par.

So that’s a 27 foot putt, thank you very much!

Hole 8

This is another very downhill par 3 of about 100 yards, guarded by houses and OB right and behind the hole and bunkers on either side of it. 

I decided I would learn from my mistakes and I hit my SW, when I’d usually hit PW here. My SW went about 95 yards and died on the fringe, about 15 yards from the pin on the fringe. I was on the left side of the green and my three playing partners were all clustered on the right front fringe.

I duffed the putt horribly. It was uphill so I should have tried to hit it beyond the hole. Instead, I hit it about 10 yards, leaving me 6 yards into the hole. I redeemed myself with shot 3, leaving myself just 6 inches for bogey. Oof.

Hole 9

Hole 9 is a short par 3, again, about 100 yards from our tee location. There’s a brutal bunker that guards the front left of the hole and the right side is a pretty generous distance from the OB. Oh the water hazard on hole 1 is in play if you hook it.

Original plan: pitching wedge. Revised plan since pitching wedge is going 130 yards on every strike: sand wedge.

I hit the sand wedge really good but I think I caught it a little chunky. It went to about 80 yard and got stuck in some of the right rough. I hit a provisional PW that missed the green but was pin high — go figure.

I had about 19 yards to the hole and a lot of green to work with so I thought I would hit the fringe with a lob wedge and the ball would roll onto the green. That was an unwise choice: I should have bumped and run with a pitching wedge from that distance.

Instead, my Lob wedge shot bounced a little short of my aiming point and just stopped on the fringe. Womp wow.

That left me 5 yards from the hole on the fringe. I putted it up and also terribly, about 2 yards down from the hole. Ugh.

Fortunately, I made the 2 yard putt for bogey.

There should be something you notice from the front nine. No, it’s not that I hit 0 greens. No it’s not that I had 13 putts — it should be that I didn’t miss hit a single tee shot. In fact, I hit several of them TOO good. My bad tee shots were on 1 and 5 and that’s because I hit the ball long.

Even though I missed every single green, I had 7 excellent tee shots. I shot +9 on the front 9, which was 1 under my previous best on that course.

Also, I was having a great time.

Hole 10

Hole 10 is a slightly uphill par 3 that ends up being about 110 yards or so. Since the back of the green was like 120 yards I thought, “Even if I hit it 130 yards with my pitching wedge, i will not have too long to go.”

Realistically, i probably should have hit it a little shorter. But I did take a bit off my pitching wedge (well, a whole lot off) and hit it about 105, pin high, with a slight fade off the green (what else is new?)

I had a 7 yard, downhill putt chip  that I finally missed long, leaving myself 2 yards long and also downhill again.

Unfortunately, I could not replicate my escape on hole 9 and missed right. I didn’t right down the distance so I made the bogey putt and it wasn’t too long.

Hole 11

Hole 11 is a long par  (for this course, anyway) that has a slight dogleg left. Jimmy hit his driver off the tee and ended up going as far as Kiven and Chason’s 6 iron shots because he hit a tree. Because there are trees that protect the green from people like Jimmy.

There are also bunkers that protect the green at the dog leg, and then one that protects the green right. There’s also a line of trees that separates this fairway from Hole 16’s fairway.

I decided to play smart and hit my 8 iron off the tee. That was my plan, after all. I hit it well and left myself 160 yards to the rear pin position. My plan had been to hit 8 iron with my second shot (which is what I should have done) but the green called to me. So I hit my 6 iron and chunked it.

This was especially stupid because I had hit my 8 iron 160 yards off the tee. If I can hit it 160 yards off the tee, then I can hit it like 130 to 150 yards from the fairway. But I didn’t realize that at the time. Alas.

So I hit my 6 iron maybe 60 yards, from the fairway into the rough. That left me about 80 yards to the pin so I hit my sand wedge.

I thought I chunked it. Instead, I hit it perfectly. The ball hit 3 yards above the hole, hopped, and spun back about a yard. 

So i had, despite my best efforts a shot at par with a 2 yard downhill putt.

My friend Chason missed his putt from about the same spot so I tried to read the ball out right. That was stupid and I missed right. Tap in for bogey.

Hole 12

Hole 12 was hilarious. It is a short, downhill par 3 and today it was extra short. Normally about 100 yards with a blind tee shot, this time it was 70 yards with a blind tee shot. The white tees were actually closer than the red tees, because the white tees were on top of a hill maybe 5 yards above the red tees. 

So I hit my Lob Wedge about 70 yards onto the green (finally) about 7 yards left of the hole. I left my downhill putt short about 1.5 yards, but I made that 1.5 yard putt for a par.

Hole 13

Hole 13 was similarly playing way up. It can be a 130 yard hole but today, it was not. Today, it was about 80 yards since the white tees were moved very far up.

I decided, based on my success on hole 11 with the SW from 80 yards, to hit SW. I hit it 75 yards and unfortunately, hit it so well that I put backspin on the ball.

That left me on the green but 9 yards below the hole. No matter, an uphill putt is a good putt, right?

Wrong? I left the 9 yard putt 2 yards short and then I just missed the 2 yard putt to finish. 1 foot tap in for bogey.

Hole 14

Hole 14 is similar to all the other holes in this section: short. It has a bunker in front of the green left and right and on the score card it is only 87 yards.

Today, it was playing more like 100, I thought. Turns out, it was more like 90 and i ended up hitting my pitching wedge 105 yards, over the green, over the hill and into the rough. THat was really frustrating.

What made it more frustrating was that I had a buried lie and a tree in my way. Well, not exactly in my way, but definitely in my flight path. I didn’t realize it was in my flight path until I tried to hit my lob wedge the 17 yards I needed it to go.

It went 5 because it hit the tree and dropped right down into the rough.

Frustrated, I hacked at the ball in the rough ( I probably should have putted it) and launched it to 12 yards long of the hole but at least on the green.

So then I finally, finally, missed my 12 yard uphill putt long but too long. So I had a 2 yard downhill putt for double bogey which I missed. Fortunately, I was 2 inches from the hole so an easy in.

This was the most frustrating hole of the day by far. Again, I hit the tee shot too far and then I made bad choice to get out of a jam. Smarter play would have been a pitching wedge bump and run.

Hole 15

Now terrified of my pitching wedge, on the 99 yard hole that was hole 15, I hit sand wedge. I hit it beautifully but it went about 80 yards. I was the only person who missed the green out of our gang and I was disappointed.

I had a 27 yard sand wedge chip/pitch to get on the green. Which I, magically, pitched on to about 1.5 yards.

I made that for an excellent par save.

Hole 16

This is a straightaway par 4. There is the fairway to 11 of the right and a hill up left. If there’s any hole for me to hit driver, it’s this one.

I decided to stick to my plan and hit a … not good 8 iron into the fairway. I chunked it pretty badly and ended up about 110 yards. 

So not a bad hit, but I decided I would hit a provisional driver shot. It was 250 yards, straight as an arrow, down the middle of the fairway.

I thought about that a lot as I trudged up to my 8 iron shot. Everyone else, including Kiven who has not played in 10 years, out hit me by like 70 yards.

So saw that I had 220 yards to the back of the green and made another dumb choice: I decided to hit my 4 hybrid. I hooked it about 150 yards, nearly onto the teebox for hole 17. 

Like sands through an hourglass, 1 mistake leads to another or something like that.

I had a terrible shot for shot 3. I had to go 70 yards over some trees or go 50 yards under some trees. I chose to go under and hit SUCH A  GOOD SHOT — but I hit a twig on the tree which stopped the ball from getting to the green. 

Instead it stopped at about 30 yards out. I hit a 30 yard SW pitch shot that left me a 3 yard downhill putt that I missed real close. Double bogey.

My driver shot was 50 yards from the green. I would have had a real shot at birdie.

Blarg.

Hole 17

Hole 17 is a short (any news here?) uphill par 3. It is made challenging by:

  1. Being uphill
  2. Being guarded by a deep bunker everywhere.

So you have to carry the bunker which means the ball has to go at least 80 yards. Naturally, I hit the ball 80 yards with my sand wedge — which was 12 yards from the pin  — on the fringe.

I putted the 12 yard putt uphill and missed 3 yards short. Then I missed the 3 yard putt to 6 inches, easy in for a bogey.

Hole 18

Hole 18 is a short par 4 that is designed to tempt you to drive it in one. It’s a dog leg right, with the left side protected by trees and bunkers. The right side is wide open — so you should try to land there and pitch on.

Or you can do what Jimmy did: hit a 5 wood and go long of the green and not get a birdie. Well that’s not what he wanted to do but that’s what he did. It was spectacular.

I hit my 8 iron off the tee 167 yards apparently, right up against the fairway bunkers that protect the green. Chason hit his ball to the same spot.

It was a tough spot to be in: in the rough (although a good lie) with the need to go under trees to get to the green that was about 60 yards out.

I tried to punch a PW through there but ended up hitting the rough short of the fringe and coming up short, about 15 yards from the green.

I tried the PW bump and run against and it failed to continue running after being bumped.

So my 4th shot was 4 yards from off the green to a pin — the ball just died going up the hill and I finished with a tap in bogey.

Back 9

My back nine score was a 40 for a +10. So that’s a total score of 77, which is two off my best at this course and a really good round overall.

On the back 9, hit 2 of 3 fairways and 2 of 9 greens.

What was amazing about this round was that I had 2 chunked shots out of 23 full swings. That is by far the lowest number of full swings I’ve ever made. I also topped no shots, thinned no shots, and sliced no shots. I had 1 hook and 2 chunks — and all 3 were in circumstances where the chunk wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

For my pitches and chips, they were also pretty good.

Pitching, I had 6 pitch shots and no mishits (2 went long). Chipping, I had 7 chip shots and I didn’t mishit any of them.

The complete lack of mishits was amazing. Even the chunks that I had weren’t terrible — they didn’t set me back that much.

Even better were my putting numbers. I had 9 putting chips and 31 putts total — and i didn’t miss a single putt of less than 2 yards. That was monumental! I was 15 for 15!

Reviewing my performance, it was one of the best performances I’ve had. My full swings were really really useful — only had 2 swings that were not good contact. 

My problems were mostly caused by not knowing my distances: I kept hitting my pitching wedge long and wasn’t realizing that I could hit my 8 iron 150 yards. Knowing that for next time, I think I’ll have significantly more success.

The best shots were numerous:

  1. Sand Wedge pitch on hole 4
  2. 2 yard downhill putt on hole 4
  3. 9y yard chip-in on hole 7
  4. Tee shot on hole 11
  5. SW on 3rd shot on hole 11
  6. LW off the tee on hole 12
  7. SW off the tee on hole 13
  8. SW pitch on hole 15
  9. Provisional driver on hole 16

If you stuck around this long, thanks! These are always more for me than for anyone else but I know several people enjoy these blog posts.