The Vineyard in August

I had the opportunity to play The Vineyard golf course with two friends on August 6 because Qualcomm gave everyone at the company a day off. Woot!

One playing companion is a friend who is a driving force behind the blog (because he was really interested in my exhaustive course notes). He requested his alias to be “Tyrone.” The other friend asked that his alias be “Giorgio Armani.”

I got off to a late start, but was able to warm up at the driving range by hitting the ball poorly. I putted and chipped a little bit. So I felt fairly warm. I had had a cold earlier in the week, but I am vaccinated, had tested Covid-negative, and felt pretty good.

The Vineyard is in Escondido, which is the equidistant, inexpensive, somewhat-championship golf course for both me and Tyrone. Giorgio was added later so he was not considered in the goal of golf course evaluation equality.

The Vineyard is in Escondido so it is hot. And, because it’s inexpensive, it is very, very crowded.

Reviewing my notes, my goals for the round were:

1.

Nothing? What?! That’s not the goal-oriented golf hobbyist I know, and I’m me! I didn’t even have a goal of having fun. How am I supposed to have fun?

I suppose being under the weather influenced my goal setting. I should have something like: try for a birdie. Make par on a par 5. But alas. No goals. Instead my document has aphorisms like:

Commit to the shot! Don’t move your head! Don’t overswing!

These are all old aphorisms, even! My new ones are things like:

Check your grip and alignment before each shot. Don’t think over the ball. Just swing.

I have played this course before. The first time, I shot a wonderful 125, hitting every single club in my bag. The next time, I limited myself to only irons and shot 111. This time, I was planning on relying on my 8 iron, allowing a few driver shots or 6 irons off the tee as risks permitted. My warm up with my driver made me a bit wary of using it in general.

Anyway, the rest of the preamble:

Giorgio, Tyrone, and I got to the starting area and planned to join up with Henry, who was a friendly fellow who decided to play from the blue tees. He was a single player, after all. But then the intercom told us that there was a two-some and another single that he’d been joined up with.

This was bizarre because the fairway seemed clear. But, okay, we will listen to the starter intercom.

So we watched as the clear fairway remained clear — and then we teed off, joining up with Henry in defiance of the powers that be. And also because the rest of his playing partners weren’t present.

Hole 1 – Par 4 but treat it as a Par 6

Hole 1 at Vineyards is a straightaway par 4 about 400 yards from the tips. But we were playing the white tees (except for Henry who wanted to challenge himself). It has bunkers around the fairway at the driver landing zone and also bunkers that protect the back and front right of the green.

See the bunkers?

Hole 1 with 1 bunker visible.
Hole 1 with 1 bunker visible.

The previous times I’ve played this course, I have done horribly on this hole. My goal is to get a 6 and I’ve not done that before.

Based on how my warmup went I had 2 options: 8 irons all day every day or driver then 8 iron. Since my warm up was abbreviated and poor, I went with the 8 iron off the tee. My 8 iron off the tee was also based on my previous outing where I was hitting 150+ yard 8 irons (You can read about that outing here: St. Mark’s Course on 7/15).

Anyway, my 8 iron was very nice off the tee, into the fairway but I think to about 130 yards. My second shot was equally as nice although I can see that I haven’t been practicing hitting balls off the fairway. I hit the ball well and thought I had chunked it.

Everything was going according to plan, surprisingly. I had 80-something yards from the pin, which I *though* was my sand wedge distance.

Unfortunately, I really decided that I need to swing hard. Really hard.

I thinned my sand wedge which went the distance I wanted it to go, about 87 yards. The problem was that it wasn’t high, it was long and spinny. The ball skipped off the green and into the bunker behind the green and then to the fringe of the bunker.

This is a bad spot. I had to carry the ball 22 yards to get it over the bunker and I promptly chose my Lob Wedge, which I lobbed into the bunker. 1 yard longer (easy enough using my SW or a PW) and I would have been on the green. Instead, I plopped into the bunker but rolled to a nice lie. Sand wedge time.

I hit out of the bunker in one shot to a nice knee-knocker putting distance of 2.5 yards. But I made that putt for a 6, which was a new record on this hole!

4 good shots, bracketing 2 bad shots.

The first bad shot was caused by overswinging. The second was really just from the lie — the ball was on the fringe of the bunker. I should have hit my pitching wedge or sand wedge there and should have just got the ball on the green. But the sand shot was really good.

Hole 2 – Par 4 but treat it as a Par 6

This is a dogleg par 4. There is a large lake left, which is what the dogleg bends around. There is also a small lake right off the tee and then water behind the fairway to collect shots that go too long.

There’s a pot bunker at the end of the fairway and a bunker to add insult to injury if you bail out left on your approach to the green. Oh, and the front of the green is protected by the lake that makes the dog leg.

This hole is a monster. It’s another one where I’d love to get a 6 — and I’ve never done that.

I hit 6 iron off the tee because my friends were hitting drivers. My 6 iron was nice and long and in the middle of the fairway. It was maybe 140 yards from the pin and that is a hard distance for me. So i decided to stick to plan and hit my 8 iron toward that pot bunker right of the green.

I had trouble getting a good practice swing where I hit the turf slightly before my swing. Next time, I’ll step off and just swing easier. This time, I shanked my 8 iron right at Henry (who was maybe 25 yards ahead) and down the hill that leads to the pond that collects shots that go too long.

So here, as I write this, I realize I made a grievous error but it’s pretty understandable. I thought I could find my ball that I shanked over the hill that leads to the pond. I should have given my ball up as lost (or rather, into the hazard) and just rehit from the spot. That’s what you can do, according to the rules.

I also should have expected this. I was playing a Pro V1 gifted to me by my in-laws. I should have known it would go into the water.

After fruitlessly searching for my ball, I dropped in a terrible position (behind a bunch of trees on the edge of the pond). I had thought this was a bad position to drop, but on re-reading the rules: them’s the breaks. The hazard was unmarked which means it is a regular water hazard, which means you can rehit or drop from the point where your ball entered the hazard.

Understanding where I was and that I was on my fourth shot, I hit a punch shot back to the fairway, some 50 yards or so away from the green. I was happy with this shot.

Unfortunately, I made a dumb choice with shot 5. Instead of hitting a 40 yard shot or a 50-yard shot, I hit the same exact shot that I hit on shot 4.

The reason that this was dumb was that I hit a tree with that shot. Just a branch, but enough to slow the ball down.

I also decided to pitch it with my pitching wedge. The reason that this is an error is I always seem to pitch it long with my pitching wedge. Also I have not practiced hitting these pitching wedge shots in a while. I have practiced hitting my sand wedge about 40 to 50 yards. And it works great.

I also didn’t measure the distance I needed the shot to go. So I didn’t even listen to my still current aphorism of “commit to the shot.”

So I blasted the ball 70 yards, over the green, into a chain link fence and finally to rest in a drainage ditch. Fortunately, I could easily find my ball. I needed to drop because the ball was not playable.

So now I had some random distance to go to the green (I didn’t measure) but I did use my sand wedge to chip it onto the green, to 1 yard out. I promptly made that putt for an 8. But honestly, an 8 is pretty typical with two penalty strokes.

So that is 1 stroke to a shank, which can happen. And then another for not really thinking about what I was expecting to happen. And then, of course, the two penalty strokes.

Two putts in two holes is pretty good though. And those chips!

Hole 3 – Par 3 but treat it as a par 4

Hole 3 is a very short par 3 which guards the front of the green with the pond that collected my Pro V1 on Hole 2.

There are bunkers to protect you from shots running long, because if they go long that is bad. There’s the cart path and there is a hazard behind the hole.

I could only see greenery, which is a great mindset to have. Since I could only see greenery, I hit the green with a perfect sand wedge. It made a huge ball mark and spun back like 3 yards, leaving me with an 8 yard uphill putt. 

I blasted this 8 yard uphill, 5 yards long of the hole. Why did I blast it so far? Well, because I had been putting earlier in the day on the wet, wet practice green and it seemed like the greens were kind of slow. But this one had been mowed recently.

Probably not that slow… 

I definitely groaned after hitting it past. I had hit a 8 yard uphill putt to 5 yards long. A 15 foot putt is not one I try to make regularly, and downhill?

But guess what!? I made it. 5 yards coming back, down the hill, dropping into the cup for a par. All better. Net birdie, too!

Hole 4 – Par 4, treat it as a par 5

This is another hole that I’ve struggled on (golf is a struggle) but I don’t really know why.

Well I do know why: it’s fairly long and bordered on the right side by a huge lateral hazard. Left is the fairway for hole 5 so missing left is the place to go, even if there are trees and sand traps in the way.

My best on this hole is a 7. I have also had an 11 on this hole because of that huge hazard. Oh and my inability to hit the ball consistently until I took a lesson with Don Byrd.

My plan was to hit 8 iron into the center of the fairway, then an 8 iron further up the fairway, then onto the green with a PW or SW to the elevated green.

Going for the green, you want to go short and left. Short and right is a deep bunker and long puts you downhill … toward a horrifying, deep bunker to an elevated green.

We were going really slow here. We watched the guy on the tee in front of us hit 3 different balls. Now that wouldn’t be a problem normally, but we pulled up before they teed off. So there was a nice, 10-minute wait at the tee box. Oh and then he also hit another ball from the red tees with his beginner playing partners? What was up with that.

We later saw that he had been backed up too but there’s still not much of an excuse.

I hit an excellent 8 iron off the tee, but I blocked it out right. Either I was aligned that way or that was my swing path because the ball went straight as a frozen rope — just pointed right at a huge tree in the hazard. Not again! I had visualized the left side! Left!

But instead of reteeing, I decided that since I knew where the ball went out, I would just drop in the rough and avail myself of the rules. It was a good hit, after all. (I checked online after and it went like 150 yards).

Instead, I found my ball in the hazard! And the lie was not too bad. Sure it was in dirt and covered by some sticks but I was not going to hit the green anyway with my second shot.

I hit a great punch shot out to the fairway, leaving me about 100 yards from the pin. I shot the back of the green, seeing that it was like 130 yards or so, which gave me confidence to use my pitching wedge. (I have a problem with the pitching wedge going very very long).

Smooth swing and would you know it? The ball was on the green. I even made a ball mark and had backspin and everything.

I wonder if I should have hit a 9 iron, since that would have probably put my right at the pin — but that is the wrong thought to have. I was on the green! I had a par putt even after hitting the ball into a hazard!

It was a 10 yard uphill putt but I put it 1.5 yards short and right. But then I made that four-footer easy-peasy for net-par/bogey.

Also, I have in my notes that I needed to eat something at this point in the round — which were fruit snacks!

Hole 5 – Par 4, treat as par 5

Coming back alongside Hole 4, Hole 5 has an elevated tee over a small lake to the right. The landing area is guarded left and right by bunkers but to the right, after the lake, is Hole 9’s fairway. To the left, of course, is hole 4’s fairway.

It’s wide open, is what I’m saying.

Afraid of the water and afraid of my driver because of the water, I decided to hit 8 iron off the tee.

It was a good tee shot, but it had a pretty long carry (for me at least): like 150 yards. But I did it: I flushed another 8 iron about 150 to the fairway. Hurray!

Somehow unenthused by accomplishing my goal, I really, really overswung at my ball. I had 200+ yards to go and felt deflated, somehow. (again! I accomplished my goal! What the heck?!)

The result of my overswing? A chunk. The ball at least moved forward to about 110 yards out. Not exactly what I was hoping for (my plan was 8 iron, 9 iron, pitch on) but still progress.

I then took the wrong learning from Hole 4. Hole 4’s lesson should have been: 100 to 110 with a pitching wedge is a great distance. Instead I decided to try to finesse a 9 iron to the green.

The result was I hit a very easy 9 iron that went about three-quarters as far as I wanted it to go.

I should have hit a pitching wedge.

I was about 26 yards from the pin and hit a good sand wedge. Why was it good? Because it was on the green, leaving me 5 yards out. I just missed the 5 yard putt and was in for a double bogey — a net bogey for me.

Hole 6 – Par 3, treat as Par 4

Hole 6 is a longer par 3 (the longest on the course, actually), slightly uphill. The biggest issue is that there is hazard in front and hazard right and hazard left. Long? There’s a bunker and then a road. But you’d have to be an idiot to hit it that long.

This was the hole with the longest wait. We were on the tee for I think 20 minutes? We arrived as we watched the people in front of us (who were beginners) look for their balls for several minutes and then dilly-dally around on the green.

We were all annoyed, as annoyed as only golfers can get. The thing that was more frustrating was that we could see hole 9 (a par 5) with a completely tee box, fairway, and green. No one on the hole. At all.

The ambassador rolled up and told us that he had asked the group ahead of the group ahead of the group ahead of us (our great grand-group?) to speed up because apparently they were a playing a team game? I don’t really know what the issue was.

But the wait allowed me to confirm several times that it was 130 yards or so to the hole. Since that was well within my 8 iron wheelhouse, I decided to hit 8 iron.

Dear reader, I crushed it again. And I also blocked it out a bit right. So I think some alignment practice might be a good idea.

I saw the ball bounce, maybe hit the cart path, and then I couldn’t see it come to rest.

I looked for it for a bit, couldn’t find it, and dropped from the red-staked hazard.  That left me about 20 yards to the pin. I hit my SW to about 3 yards. Then i missed the 3-yard-putt long and right, before putting it in for a double bogey.

Hole 7 – Par 4, treat as a par 5

Hole 7 is the shortest and easiest hole on the course. It’s a dogleg right, going around a large, red-staked hazard. To make it more challenging, the hazard (which it shares with Hole 6) was super over-grown. Or maybe I just haven’t seen it in the summer?

Anyway, the dogleg is pretty severe. At the end of the landing zone, there’s a pretty crazy bunker that dominates the hill side. At the slightly elevated green, there’s a huge and deep bunker just below the hole, bordering the hazard. Just in case hitting over the hazard isn’t hard enough.

I aimed up the left side of the fairway, aiming at the bunker at the end of the landing zone. But I was hitting 8 iron so I was not too worried.. And then i blocked the 8 iron again! Fortunately, the fairway opened up behind the intimidating trees around which my ball disappeared, so I found my ball easily, sitting pretty in the fairway. I could even cut the corner!

It was also 110 yards from the hole. So I hit my 110 yard club (or so I thought). I hit my 9 iron.

This didn’t go too well. I chunked the shot because I overswung, right into the lateral hazard. Fortunately, the wetlands is very dry. So I would have been able to hit it if I could just find the dang ball.

I had hope that the ball sitting in the massive bunker in front of the green was mine through some fluke….

No. It was not. It was Tyrone’s TEE SHOT. He had hit driver, complained about his shot shape (“I hit it too high! And too far right!”) before we informed him that he may have driven the green. That made him very cheerful.

Instead, I couldn’t not find my ball. I took advantage of my other playing partner’s looking for and hitting their balls to not find mine. Finally, Tyrone walked over, said, “It’s right here!” and pointed out my ball.

It was in a tree well and in a tree well filled with grass that had never been cut. How he saw it, I don’t know. 

Okay, he said he saw my ball hit the tree — but it was still well spotted.

So I grabbed my lob wedge, didn’t check how far I needed the ball to go, and swung out of my shoes. I must have hit the top of the ball but a top wasn’t too bad.

The ball rolled out of the tree well, through the bunker, up the hill and onto the fringe of the green, surpassing my wildest expectations. I expected it to take me maybe two swings to get out.

Anyway, from the fringe, I made one of the best plays I’ve made in some time. I putted the ball 15 yards and had it die just 6 inches from the hole. I’ll take that bogey, thank you very much! Oh wait: that’s a net par!

Hole 8 – Par 4, treat as a par 6

Another treacherous hole. It borders the opposite side of Hole 6 and Hole 7’s hazard on the right side of the hole. The left side of the hole is Hole 9’s fairway, so left is a good miss. I rarely miss left so this hole is one where I’ve suffered. Every time I have hit it into the hazard.

Other than that, it’s quite straightaway.

I stuck to my plan and learned from my pain previously. Well, kind of. I hit an 8 iron off the tee, nice and good and to the left side of the fairway. Then I chunked my 8 iron because my second shot had so far to go. 

I did not remember I was playing a par 6.

Was it a chunk though? I ask because after my second shot, I ended up in the fairway, 80 yards from the pin. 

I don’t think I chunked it. I think I’m just so unaccustomed to hitting the ball from the fairway that every divot is scary. Maybe a little chunky but if I look at my plan, I was hoping for a SW on.

Naturally, I did overswing my sand wedge and hit a thin shot that ran long of the green, reminiscent of hole 1. What’s even more annoying is that the pin was in the front. Why was I swinging so hard?

This time, I think I learned from my mistake on Hole 1. Well, maybe. I hit a 25y downhill pitching wedge bump and run that was about 10 yards short of the pin. So maybe a different shot would have been better? I dunno: I was on the green this time — and in one shot.

I putted the 10 yard putt to within 6 inches and tapped in for double bogey — or a net par!

Hole 9 – Par 5, treat it as a par 7

Par 5 and, since it’s par 5, it is really tough for me.

There’s the lake we first met on hole 5 that protects the green and defends the right side of the fairway. The left side is Hole 8 and the right side is Hole 5, up to the lake, at least.

My original plan was an excellent one: hit 8 iron a whole bunch of times. But I thought about it headed up to the tee box and there wasn’t a lot to lose from a driver. I haven’t topped the ball that much lately …

So I hit driver. And it went … not very good. I top-hooked the driver. But despite the mishit, the ball went about as long as a beautiful 8 iron would. And it was in the fairway.

So I reset after my short drive and absolutely CRUSHED my 8 iron from the fairway back to the fairway. I hit my 8 iron so well that it left me 100 yards away from the green. And I don’t even remember overswinging.

I was so excited at the attempt for a real-life GIR that I hit my pitching wedge just long of the green into the rough.

It was a little too deep to putt so I grabbed the trusty sand wedge. But the promise of a par on a par 5 proved too seductive and I fluffed my chip. At least I went from the rough to the fringe.

That left me 10 yards from the pin. Interrupted by an excellent Tyrone birdie ( I think he putted in from off the green) I putted it to be 1 yard short. “A 1-yard putt for bogey” I thought as I strolled to the green.

Well, I don’t know if I thought of that. I do know that I was not focused and promptly missed the 1-yard putt. I did make it coming back. For a double bogey — a net par.

Front 9 summary

I had a par, 2 bogeys, 5 doubles, and a +4 that adds up to ..

I shot 51!? On the front 9? That is pretty good for me. Correction: that is amazing for me!

I try not to add up the score, but I knew I was doing well against my goal of breaking 100. The others I was playing with wanted me to add it up to keep score, so I did.

I shot a 51 on the front 9. At this course, my previous best was a 57. So that’s six strokes better for a +16 — or a net score of +3.

How did that happen? Well, my tee shots, excluding hole 9, were well struck. 3 of them aimed wrong, but 5 of them were in the fairway.

My approach shots, which is where my game is the weakest, wasn’t even that bad. 15 strokes may seem like a lot, but consider that I expected to have 14 (2 on 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8, 4 on 9, and 1 on 7), 15 strokes isn’t that bad. I also stayed in the fair.

My chipping was also good: since I only hit 1 GIR, I would expect to have 8 chips. I had 10 and only had three holes with three chips.

Really, the reason that I wasn’t under my goal score of 48 was because:

Hole 1: bad SW approach shot put me in a terrible lie

Hole 2: shank and then a too long PW pitch shot

Hole 5: chunked a 8 iron

Hole 6: Lateral hazard on the tee

Hole 7: chunk 9 iron

Hole 8: thin SW again

Hole 9: fluffed chip, missed putt

That’s 9 strokes with easy improvements. Especially the missed putt on 9.

My putting was fantastic: I had 15 putts which could have easily been 14 with better focus. It could have been 13 with a little more luck (hole 7 and hole 8).

I can easily do a best 5 shots from the front 9. Heck, it’s way more than 5.

  1. Perfect tee shot on 1
  2. Perfect approach on 1
  3. Great putt on 1
  4. Great 6 iron on 2
  5. Great chip on 2
  6. GIR on 3
  7. 5.3 y putt on 3
  8. Good PW punch on 4
  9. Good PW to green on 4
  10. Good 8 iron to FW on 5
  11. Good putt on 7 to 6 inches from 45 feet!
  12. Good putt to 6 inches on 8
  13. Good 8 iron on hole 9
  14. Good fringe putt on 9

That’s 14 strokes where I don’t think I could improve on them. I would like to do those next time.

Overall, I had 27 useful shots out of 31 shots from the field (the thins are debatable but I do count them; the blocks were good swings too). I had 15 good putts of 17 tries (remember, two putts from off the green).

Onto the back 9.

Hole 10 – Par 4, treat as a par 6

Hole 10 is an uphill par 4. It runs right (well, the range is on the right) next to the range, which presents OB along the right side. The left side is bordered by a fence protecting an OB road.

The green is guarded long by bunkers rear left and behind it. To the right is open, except you’re chipping downhill. And the green is elevated and two tier. I don’t remember where the pin was but that tends to protect against missing right.

In retrospect, I should have stuck to my plan: 6 iron or 8 iron off the tee, 8 up the hill, and then a pitching wedge to sand wedge onto the elevated green.

Instead, I decided to hit driver, on the logic that the previous driver had been horrible. Usually, I will follow with a good strike after a bad strike — but this is also immediately afterward.

I followed my mediocre driver on hole 9 with an okay driver on hole 10. Good contact, but the driver faded right, headed toward OB.

I went to look for the ball and didn’t find it until Giorgio came over and found it for me, just on the edge of OB. It was a Titelist Pro V1, so I should have expected to lose the ball.

I was so elated to find the ball that I didn’t really aim very well. I hit a punch shot PW to get the ball back on to the green, only to hit a palm tree in my line and have the ball die at the base.

So I hit my PW again from the rough, another punch shot just short of the green. It is an elevated two-tier green so it was actually fortunate I couldn’t try for the green to miss short (the palm tree and other trees prevented a shot getting to the green). Both Giorgio and Tyrone had multiple shots roll down the hill on approach.

That left me 45 yards uphill. I thought about it and decided that a bump and run was probably the best choice. Considering I’d go about halfway to the green and then expect it to roll the rest of the way, uphill, I decided on a 7 iron.

It was a good chip shot but it left me about 5.3 yards to the pin. Notice how specific I was?


Yeah. I made it. Second time today with a 16-foot make. Bogey for a net birdie.

Hole 11 – Par 4, treat as a par 6

Hole 11 is a long par 4 with a very faint dogleg to the right. The left side is wide open, with a hill at about 200 to 250 yards out that borders trees and OB. The right is the fairway to hole 16. So it really is wide open. It is long, but the second shot is toward a downhill green so if you can get the ball over the hill, it should run.

The bunker is well greened — well, flip that. Opposite.

Green has no bunker behind but that’s okay, it doesn’t need one. The long downhill means you don’t want to go long. There’s a bunker left of the green, right of the green and in front.

My plan was: 8 iron, 8 iron, 8 iron. However, since it was so wide-open, I decided to hit driver. I aimed left side and knocked it down the right side of the fairway, straight as a frozen rope.

The ball went over the hill and I thought that with the ball flight i had, it would just keep going. When we came upon the ball, however, I discovered it had stopped in the fairway about where it landed. Bad luck.

I was maybe 170 from the green and had a good lie, so I hit 6 iron.

I crushed it, perfectly straight, but headed right at the left bunker! It stopped short, in the fairway. The pin was in the front which meant it was a tricky chip.

I hit a 10y lob wedge chip a little long to get it on the green. Then I missed the 5y putt short (since it was downhill), leaving an easy in for bogey.

These are two challenging holes, 7 and 3 on the handicap index, and I bogeyed both.

Sorry, net-birdied both.

Hole 12 – Par 3, treat as a par 4

Hole 12 is a par 3, with the front of the green and the majority of the approach guarded by a lake. It is fairly short and has a bunker right of the green and behind it. There’s plenty of room to go long around the green, though.

My plan was to hit whatever would find the middle of the green. Instead of sticking to the plan, I decided that I need to try to stick it on the pin.

I also had planned to hit 8 iron but I clubbed up to a 7 iron since it was a bit longer today: pin was in the back and the tee boxes were back. So about 135 to the pin.

I hit a good 7 iron that I aimed poorly. At the center of the green it would have been birdie-able because it faded right onto the fringe and then bounced onto the cart path.

I took relief from the cart path and hit a LW chip 23 yards when I wanted it to go 15 yards. It rolled off the green leaving me 8 yards coming back.

I missed the par putt from the fringe a little long, to about 3 yards long. But then I drained that 3 yard putt :).

Another bogey! This time a net par.

Hole 13, par 4, treat it as a par 6

That was pretty sweet play. But Hole 13 is a beast.

It is really long, the longest par 4 on the course in total yardage. From the tips it is like 477 yards.

However, it is really downhill, which moves the handicap index to 5. However, there is no room to the right: it’s red-staked right. Left is the fairway for hole 15, so left is the miss. But I don’t miss left.

Yes, if you miss left you may have to contend with some fairway bunkers but that is better than a penalty stroke.

I decided to hit driver since it worked on Hole 10 and 11. And it worked BEAUTIFULLY. Great stroke down the center of the fairway and out of sight, down the hill.

I think the ball ended up stopped at 290 yards out in a decent patch of grass. It was about 160 from the pin but way downhill, like 130 equivalent. So out came the trusty 8 iron.

And I hit a pure shot that bounced on the green and settled toward the hole. Pin high shot just 7 yards from hole.

That’s a fairway in regulation and a green in regulation and a legitimate birdie chance. It’s 7 yards so it’s a tough birdie.

Giorgio politely showed me the line with his par putt and I lined it up. It was a good birdie chance — that I left just a tad short. It was the right line and I was happy with a par – a net EAGLE.

That’s 3 over in 4 holes. Who is playing this golf?

Hole 14, Par 4, treat as a par 5.

Hole 14 is very challenging. It’s short, like 350 yards, and downhill. What makes it hard? 

The entire left side along the fairway is a lake and it’s about 150 yards to carry the water. The right side is pretty narrow: the fairway drops off into OB and scrub and just places you don’t want to be. There are also two fairway bunkers at the landing zone.

At the green, there are two bunkers in front of the green to the right and one to the left behind the green. If you go right and long, you roll down the hill into OB.

The water is what makes this hole so tough, especially for me. My plan was to hit 8 iron or 6 iron to the fairway, then hit whatever would be short of the end of the fairway (to avoid the lake). Then a pitching wedge to the green.

I hit a great 6 iron that of course decided to draw a bit. I landed on the fairway but not far from the water. Here, look at some terrapins.

Turtles!

It was a good lie and I made a good swing with my 6 iron, since the water carry was about 120 yards. Even a mishit 6 iron will go that far.

But I hit the ball very nicely, leaving me just 25y short of the front pin, in the fairway again.

I decided to hit a LW and carried it a bit long to about 8 yards long. I tried again for fun with a putt instead of a lob wedge and got it to about 7 yards out, still short of the green.

I was on the fringe and putted downhill and just went way way way long, leaving me about 8 yards from the pin but going uphill. So in terms of position, the putt would have been a better decision.

I putted the 8y putt close and then made it. But what a bummer.

Double bogey (net bogey) but still pretty good on a challenging hole. Still +5 through 5 holes.

Hole 15, Par 5, treat as a par 6

Hole 15 is a par 5 and par 5 are my nemeses. This has the lake from Hole 14 left of the pin and then a long expanse of open rough to the right.

The other issue is that this hole has an elevated tee box, with the rough preceding the fairway rolling off toward the lake. It’s also a fairly challenging distance for me, over 150 yards.

There are a large number of bunkers in the landing area right of the fairway. If you can hit it longer than 200 yards, the left side is wide open, into the tee of Hole 14 and then the fairway of hole 13.

There are bunkers by the green, something like six or 7, all to collect hero shots for the under GIR big hitters.

I decided to hit driver since it had gone well the last few times. Unfortunately, I swung way too hard. I took a divot and popped it up.

(I actually don’t remember how hard a I swung but it was … not good).

My plan had been to hit 8 irons all the way up the fairway (including off the tee). Since that hadn’t happened, I decided to take my medicine and get back to the fairway.

8 iron did just that, landing in 2 shots where I would have expected a 6 iron to put me on a normal swing.

I then hit a thin 6 iron from the fairway into some … not grass. I think before I have said that golf on not grass is hard. This was the case.

I was salivating over getting it close to the green, even from the not grass, so I overswung and chunked a 6 iron.

However, a chunk that moves the ball ins’t a bad thing. In grass again (finally), I hit a very good but short just-short-of-the-green 6 iron.

I putted from the front of the green an unrecorded distance to a 1 yard putt for double bogey. Which I didn’t focus on, missed, and then made for the triple. Stupid par 5s.

Hole 16, Par 4, treat as a par 6

Getting into the home stretch now, which includes the hardest hole on the course. Nearly as long as hole 13, hole 16 has the distinction of being almost 460 yards from the tips and 390 yards from the white tees. And it’s a par 4.

Why is it so hard? Well it’s fairly straight, but it’s a blind, uphill tee shot. Then, there is very little left side to work with and the right side is downhill to the fairway of hole 11.

It also narrows intensely at the green. There’s a huge bunker in front on the right and an OB obstruction that guards it to the left, along with a bunker behind that obstruction. Miss too long and you’re going down the cart path through the tunnel to Hole 17/Hole 10’s green.

So yeah, it’s tough.

Since my driver went poorly on hole 15, I decided to give myself another shot. And I hit a pretty good driver fade that ran just off the fairway.

Then I made a ridiculous decision. I thought “Why not hit 3 wood?” After all, I’d just hit it 200 yards uphill with my driver. I had 200 yards to the hole. That’s about as far as my 3 wood goes — if I hit the ball successfully.

However, me and the 3 wood, we got issues. I have never been able to figure it out. And this dysfunctional relationship continued here.

I’m really puzzled as to why I did this. Just a brain fart.

I made okay contact from the rough but the ball started hooking, right toward OB. And then it hit a tree and caromed off into the fairway about 110 yards from the pin.

I hit my 9 iron from that spot. I thought it was chunk but — chunks don’t go the distance you expect. I ended up being fine. The ball was on the green, 11 yards from the pin.

Unfortunately, I putted too short on my par putt and left myself 2.5 yards for bogey. Which I managed to make by hitting the stick. Yes, it bounced off. But Covid rules say you don’t pull the flagstick, hitting it counts as holing it. Right? If I had pulled it, the putt would have dropped. 😛

So i’m taking a bogey. Net birdie.

Hole 17, par 3, treat as a par 4

Hole 17 is a short par 3. Where all the other par 3s have obstacles, this one just has a swale leading to the green. There’s a pair of bunkers left, a bunker right, and a bunker behind the green. The pin was very in the front, and the tees were up, taking a normally 120 yard hole to about 100 yards.

So that’s a pitching wedge for me. And if it goes long, it goes long. It’s not a catastrophe.

I lined up and hit a swing — and slipped. That punted the ball thin and right into that sand trap which I have hit every time on this hole.

Each of my companions made similar errors so we all resolved to hit another tee shot just for fun.

I kid you not, I hit my tee shot 106 yards and spun it back to 103 yards, leaving about 4 yards uphill to the pin, on the green.

The rest of my companions didn’t fare so well but we all trudged up to our first shots, bemoaning someone who refused mulligans and politely allowed them to everyone else.

Look, I told them they could take as many mulligans as they’d like but I was not going to. And when the worst golfer says he’s not taking mulligans, I think that means you don’t either.

So I went to my ball in the sand that was about a 7 yard carry to get out, good lie. It then had to run like 15 yards on the green to get to the downhill hole. I briefly thought of a PW bump and run but thought better of it.

Get it on the green, and all that. Don’t be fancy.

I hit a pretty good bunker shot that just got better and better and better. The ball would not stop rolling and was on a perfect line, right for the pin.

It stopped 6 inches away which you know I made for the par save. Okay, it was conceded to me but I’m not missing a 6 inch putt.

I had marked my second ball so I went back to it. It was 2 yards to the pin. I made it. So that would have been a birdie. Oh well.

Hole 18, Par 4, treat as a Par 6

Very downhill.

Hole 18 is a long hole that is made more challenging by being extremely downhill.

“Doesn’t downhill make it easier?” I hear you say. In this case … no.

 There is OB left that opens up into a landing area maybe 200 yards away and then there’s a cavalcade of bunkers and trees right, alongside white stakes along the right side, guarding the driving range.

The green is heavily bunkered and further downhill from the landing area.  The only safe miss is short, but then you have to carry a bunker to the green. This is a hole where you always feel like you can drive the green — and I don’t think many people do, despite the low distance.

Well, my friend Jimmy could.

I knew at this point that I was playing really well. I had 2 pars and 4 bogeys which is exceptional for me. I really should have checked my score, for I would have realized that I was shooting at 91 at this point.

If I had known I had 91 going into the final hole, I would have made some adjustments. For instance, I think I would have taken it a bit easier. I would have stuck to my plan — after all, last time I played this hole, I hit a 6 iron into the fairway, and a 6 iron at the green and then a chip on to miss a putt for bogey. Yeah, I would have taken that.

I instead hit driver. My comrades, posed here, were joking about how they should take a picture for good content. I waved them off and turned on the driver.

I don’t know what happened but it went way way way left. Out of bounds.

I should have availed myself of the rules and taken the ball in the fairway, down in the landing area, hitting stroke 4. Instead, I re-teed and hit a beautiful straight shot that apparently ran into one of the fairway bunkers on the right side.

I also could have taken the mulligan my playing partners offered me but the only path is the virtuous path.

I was 110 from the stick so I decided to hit a 9 iron from the bunker. I had two terrible practice swings since I couldn’t ground my club. Yes, I should have stepped out of the hazard and taken my practice swing.

And that was how, on stroke 4, I chunked my 9 iron from the back of the bunker to the front of the bunker. Stroke 5, I managed to get the ball out of the bunker, sure. But I hit far too far behind the ball and what would have been an excellent greenside shot was a terrible approach shot.

The ball was out of the bunker into some horrifying rough. Committed to my pain, I tried to get the ball out of the rough. I succeeded.

It ran into the “fairway” if you can call it that. Really, it was the mud.

So I chunked it from the mud, trying to do too much. So, finally, from the not mud fairway, I hit a bump-and-run pitching wedge up the hill and onto the green.

We are now on stroke 9, finally putting. It was a 4y downhill putt that went a little bit long. I cleaned it for a par … Wait no, a +6 10.

Then I added my score and realized that my stupidity hitting driver had cost me a chance at achieving my best ever championship score by a hair.

I won’t make that mistake on that hole again. It’ll be irons down the hill until I can hit the driver consistently. And even then — irons might be the right way to go.

Back 9

I had a back 9 50 on a championship course. I have shot a 48 before on a back 9 on a championship course but a 50 is excellent for me — especially when I think that a 5 or a 6 on hole 18 would have given me, well, a 45 or a 46. I would have achieved my unarticulated goal of going below 100 by a decent margin.

So hole 18 cost me the score I wanted.

Okay so the back 9: I was much shakier off the tee. I had an extra tee shot due to the OB on 18, and struck 7 pretty well. I only found 4 fairways on 8 tries. 

That’s the price I paid for the driver, which actually helped me out. It got me into an OK spot on 10, a good spot on 11, a good spot on 13, a bad spot on 15, a good spot on 16, and then torpedoed hole 18.

My approach shots were not as bad as I thought: I planned to have 15 and had 15 — but the issue was that I had 11 through 6 holes and then added 4 on the 7th and last par 4 hole.

Chipping was good: 9 chips on 8 holes where I needed a chip. Even the double chips that I had (on 12, on 14) I got to a position where I could putt the second shot. 

Putting was also excellent: 15 putts, and just 1 miss from within 2 yards, which could have easily been 14 putts. Overall, I had 18 shots with my putter and only really missed 3 of them.

Really, the issue was hazards on the back 9, and really just hole 18. Completely lost focus.

Still, there was a lot to be proud of on the back 9.

  1. 7 iron bump and run on hole 10
  2. 16 foot putt on hole 10
  3. Driver on Hole 11
  4. Approach 6 on Hole 11
  5. 9 foot putt on Hole 12
  6. Drive on Hole 13
  7. 8 iron on Hole 13
  8. 7 yard putt on Hole 13
  9. 6 iron off tee on hole 14
  10. 6 iron to green on hole 14
  11. 8 iron rescue shot on hole 15
  12. 6 iron 5th shot on hole 15
  13. 8 foot putt on hole 16
  14. Provisional pitching wedge on hole 17
  15. Sand wedge on hole 17
  16. Pitching wedge bump and run on hole 18 to end the pain

That’s 30 excellent shots!

Overall, hole 18 left a bad taste in my mouth when I should have not let it do so. On the back 9, I had … 31 total shots and 24 useful strokes. That’s significantly fewer than the front 9, but it also includes hole 18, which accounted for 4 of those bad shots. Without hole 18, that’s 21 good shots in 24 strokes.

Putting was my best performance ever. 30 putts and just half were from within 2 yards. While I wish I could have made every short putt, I didn’t have to make as many short putts because I made putts of 16 feet (2 times), 9 feet (1 time) and 8 feet (2 times). That’s great work!

Overall it was a good round especially since I had been ill earlier in the week. It was my best score on a championship course and a 10 stroke improvement from the last time I played the course. It was my best putting performance by far. 

Until next time!