It wasn’t supposed to happen quite yet. From the moment I got out of the car nothing felt particularly good or special and considering it was 30 degrees out and a frost delay until 11am I figured it would be an interesting day trying to stick the greens at best.
I met a buddy, Deryk, out at Heron Lakes and on the range while warming up I jammed my right thumb trying to hit a 4-hybrid off of the frozen ground. Before we even started I wasn’t sure if I would be able to hit my driver. But, there was nobody out there and the course opened so we went for it and decided to play match play against each other thinking there might be some large scores due to the conditions.
And… Only in golf can a day like today produce a career low round. It’s the paradox that is golf; when you think you’re going to play well you often do not and when there are no expectations success springs into action.
It was the first realistic chance of shooting par or better that I have had. The previous best was being 1-under after 10 holes but during that round I bogeyed the 11th and ended up shooting about 4 over on the day. Today I kept it under par through 14 and had a birdie putt chance to take it back to par on the 18th. And, it was one of those rounds full of lipped out putts and missed chances, not a round where everything just happened to fall my way.
I haven’t done a hole by hole recap in a while and figured this one would be fun to write up. To get started, my scorecard for the day:
1st: 500+ yard par five dogleg right with two sets of fairway bunkers. When we teed off the temperature must have been 30 degrees. I hit a short plugged fade drive and had about 300 yards remaining so knocked a 4-hybrid to 130. I wasn’t swinging very hard and with the thick, cold air and plugging fairways nothing was traveling very far all day. From 130 I hit a 9-iron that landed a bit short of the pin and bounced about 8 yards. I made the 15 foot putt for birdie.
2nd: 390 par 4 slight dogleg right. Hit a drive down the middle and had 150 left. As has happened often early in rounds I didn’t square the club face and pulled the 7-iron right into a bunker. The bunkers were like hitting out of frozen mud and I caught it a bit thin leaving me with a 25 foot putt which I sank in two for a bogey.
3rd: 160 yard par 3 with water almost the entire way. Tried to hit a faded 7-iron but left the face a bit too open (attempting to correct the pull I hit on the previous hole) and it landed just short of the green. Chipped to one foot and tapped in the par.
4th: 350 yard par 4 dogleg left with an elevated green that has almost complete bunker coverage in front. Hit a solid drive down the middle and had 117 yards in. A wedge into the wind landed about 15 feet short of the pin. Hit what I thought was a perfect putt but it bumped off line a couple feet before the hole so tapped in for a par.
5th: 500+ yard par 5 with a sharp dogleg left and a bunker in the driver landing zone (in the winter months) Drove it right down the middle and the ball plugged so deep that it took us a couple of minutes to find even though the ball was literally in the middle of the fairway. From there pushed a 3-wood short and left of the green with a bunker and just a few feet of green between me and the pin. Tried to land it just on the edge of the green 20 yards away to get it to roll to the pin, but it landed a hair short and stuck on the fringe. Took two putts to get it in from 15 feet out.
6th: 370 yard par 4. Pulled my drive into the trees and again it was about 5 minutes before we finally found it. I had a line on the green but had to hit a 115 yard fade around a tree in front of me. Hit a wedge and it faded nicely landing about 10 feet short of the hole. Hit a solid putt that bumped along and managed to fall in for the birdie.
7th: 190 yard par 3. Faded a 4-hybrid into the green and it landed pin high but bounced to the back fringe. Hit a 15 foot putt from just on the fringe that died a hair short of the hole. Tapped in for a par.
8th: 380 yard par four dogleg right with water down the left side. My drive went exactly where I aimed: tried to cut a dogleg right corner by hitting over some trees. But, the ball caught the last tree and bounced back about 30 yards leaving me with 143 to the hole. Hit an 8-iron up the little hill that landed about 12 feet from the pin and sank the putt for a birdie. Was 2 under going into the ninth hole.
9th: 390 yard par 4 dogleg right with OB down the left. 3-wood off the tee left me with 150 yards to the hole. Hit a 7 that landed pin high but pulled it some so had about 25 feet of putt left. I’ve never shot my age on a 9 (33) and really wanted to drop the birdie putt to do just that. But, it wasn’t my time and I pulled the putt a bit to leave it a foot out right. Sank the par putt to shoot 34 on the front.
I was pretty happy with this. Deryk is about a 2 handicap and I was up 3 holes on him as he shot a 38 on the front, which was a good score that could have been better but his putting was a bit off on the funky frozen greens. Still, there were 9 holes left and a lot of golf that could go either way. We let a single pass through at the turn and then teed it up in hopes of going low on the back. The last time we played a match against each other was back in October during the Columbia Edgewater Fall match play tournament and because of handicaps Deryk gave me five strokes back then. He’s a 2 handicap and I was about a 7 at the time. He won that match by rolling in a 12 foot putt on the 18th hole. Today was going to be a bit of payback. And, we were playing straight up, without any strokes given either way.
10th: 500 yard par 5 dogleg right. Hit the worst drive of the day on one of the best scoring holes. Pushed it towards a left fairway bunker on this par 5 hole and the ball landed about 260 from the green just short of a bunker. I played it safe and hit a 4-hybrid to about 60 yards out then pulled my pitch shot a bit leaving me with a 20 foot putt. Left that about 2 inches on the left side of the hole and tapped in for the par.
11th: 400 yard par 4. Drove it down the middle and had 115 directly into the wind remaining. The wind took my wedge shot a mile high and it landed 4 feet short of the hole on a funky downhill breaking lie. I barely tapped the ball and it was heading straight for the hole but hit a bump and turned 90 degrees left about 2 inches before dropping in. Had to settle for a par on the hole, but was 2 under after 11 holes which was the deepest I had ever gone in a round on the south side of par.
12th: 397 yard par 4. Pushed a drive to the left side of the fairway that landed about two feet past a fairway bunker with a tree in between me and the green. Had to fade an 8-iron around the tree to hit the green and did it but the shot landed about 45 feet short of the hole. Hit a decent lag putt to about a foot and got that in for the par.
13th: 500 yard par five with water carry on approach shot. Drove it down the left side and was 250 into the wind short of the pin with a forced water carry so hit a 6-iron to lay up just short of the water. Pitched on to 12 feet from the pin and hit what I felt like was a perfect putt but it again bumped all the way to the hole and ended up lipping out. Tapped it in for par and to stay at 2 under after 13. At this point I was 4 up on Deryk with 5 holes remaining. He had played the back well, though, and was still at 2 over for the day.
14th: 175 yard par 3, water all down the left side and bunkers covering the green. I hit a 5-iron wanting to land the ball a bit short of the hole, but pulled it a bit and the ball didn’t check up, rather rolled to the back of the green. The green felt really firm and I thought it was going to roll well. Standing over the ball on the green I actually got nervous for the first time thinking that I was on the 14th hole and on the green and still 2 under for the day. I thought that if I sank this 45 foot putt I would be at 3 under with just 4 left to play. I had the wrong thoughts going on in my head. But, I tried to clear the mind and hit a good putt and I thought I did, but it just absolutely died on the green and ended up 10 feet short. My second putt was solid and straight but it veered off line and I had to tap in for my first bogey on the back side and second bogey on the day. I was still one under.
15th: 315 yard par 4 with water down the entire left side that pokes in to the fairway more and more the further you hit the ball and trees all down the right. You can’t really hit a driver on this hole because the landing zone gets too tight so I hit a 3-hybrid to about 115 yards out. I made a silly mistake here. There was a little bit of wind behind me and I thought it was enough to add about 10 yards to my shot. So, instead of hitting a soft wedge to the green I went for a stiff 52-degree gap wedge and tried to hit it hard. The ball was just frozen and I had to carry water for the entire shot to the green. Luckily, it made it over the water, but landed on the front of the green with about 50 feet of uphill putt between me and the hole. This wasn’t a day where long putts were easy and I hit a hard putt up the hill but it came up about 10 feet short once again. And, just like on the last hole I made a good stroke on the second putt but it just missed and I three-putted for the second time in a row and another bogey to bring me to even par after 15 holes.
I was dormy on the match with Deryk, though and just needed to tie him on the next hole in order to win on the day. But, I wasn’t thinking about that at all, I was thinking that with one more birdie I could get it back to under and get close to shooting my first even or better round of The Dan Plan.
16th: 160 yard par 3 with total water carry. I hit a thin 7 iron that was an ugly shot but landed pin high and rolled about 10 feet past the hole before checking up. This was a good chance to sink a birdie and I had pretty much sealed up the match between Deryk and I. Standing over the putt I cleared my mind and forced myself to not think about the last two holes. I executed a solid stroke that was headed straight for the hole but bumped along and ended up lipping out just to the left side. Tapped it in for par and to stay even. The match was over, I got a bit of redemption from the October loss and it felt good to do it without any strokes going either direction.
17th: 350 sharp dogleg right with trees along the right side and bunkers in the middle of the fairway. This is a good scoring hole and if you drive it past the bunker you get a kick off the back side that usually leaves you with about 60 yards in. But, I hit a mile-high fade into the wind that pushed the ball way left almost OB into the water. With 170 yards remaining I hit a 5-iron but left the club face open and it landed in a green side bunker. The bunkers aren’t exactly in the best shape this time of year, but I got good club on the ball and outed it to about 10 feet from the hole. Yet another missed opportunity, though, and one more bogey to put me at 1 over for the day.
I’ve talked about the greens a lot so I figure I should show a pic of them. As you can see there was a good bit of goose poop that was easy to move and they were punched with tines which actually wasn’t bad to putt on, but all in all it was a type of day where you really had to cram it in the middle of the hole to have a chance. I putted well on the front but just couldn’t get anything to drop on the back side. I had 34 putts on the day with 20 of those coming on the back. A couple bumps in the right direction or a bit more steam on those back 9 rolls and a good round would have been a great round. That’s golf, though, and you can’t count the balls that almost go in. Regardless, this was going to be my best round to date as long as I could get a double bogey or better on the final hole.
18th: 380 yard par 4 straight away. I had to get a birdie to shoot par. I had my second worse drive of the day, pushing the ball well left into the trees. When I walked up I was 150 yards out but there was a branch five yards in front of me that was about 5 feet off of the ground and then trees lining the entire way up to the green. I took out a 5-iron and hit a low flying punch shot which flew about 5 feet high the whole way landing on the green pin high about 15 feet from the hole. I actually had a chance of shooting par! Instead of describing the putt, I’ll provide some video commentary:
I straight up missed the read. After I missed so many chances to make birdies on the back, this time it was a missed read that left the putt out wide. I thought it was going to break left to right but didn’t spend enough time reading it and it caught me off guard. O well, still the best round to date and a solid chance to shoot par or better. It will happen in time and perhaps today was just not meant to be the day. Next go around I’ll sink a couple of those birdie chances on the back and not 3-putt two holes in a row and I’ll have the number. All good things come with time and hard work.
The thumb was stiff afterwards, but in a retrospect it forced me to make sure my grip was perfect before every swing because if my hands were out of place it put too much pressure on that right thumb. Jamming the thumb was kind of a good thing today, you never know why things happen and sometimes something that appears like an immediate negative can prove a positive after enough time.
Another ball for the collection: