This past weekend I had arguably one of the best rounds of golf I’ve played in a long time. The swing change I’ve been pounding into my brain for the last 4 months is finally starting to take form. I think that I’ve finally made it beyond the halfway point where the swing change, is starting to become my swing.
Primm Valley Desert Course was the venue and as Dan and I made our way south for early morning spring tee time I could just feel that today was going to be a good one.
My warm-up went really good. It was more of a get warm session than anything else; I knew it was supposed to be a little cooler this weekend but I don’t think either one of us was prepared for the 45° temperature that smacked us in the face as we headed towards the driving range. As cold as it was (yes 45° is cold to me, I live in the desert, I like it hot) I was rather calm and relaxed which isn’t my normal demeanor on the range. I was focused in on watching my ball flight and maintaining the level of fluidity that I’ve been working on the past couple of weeks. I also was paying attention to my distances, which helped me later on in the round when it came to club selection on a few of the par 3’s we played.
The first couple of holes I had a terrible case of the First Tee Jitters and I was certain that after the first two holes they were going to be with me for the rest of the day. It caught me off guard, I was so calm at the range I think I might have gotten too excited and pumped myself up too much. When we got to the third hole and I put my drive into a fairway bunker and proceeded to hit probably the worst bunker shot of my life the Jitter abandoned me and I was finally able to get right in my head and start playing some golf.
There was only one thing that made the round bad and that was the greens. I shot an 87, which is a record low for me, but it could have very easily been a lower score had the greens showed an ounce of consistency. Watching a ball move to the left on a straight 3 foot putt because the green was uneven was a disgusting thing to watch. There was no way to read it because you had no idea where it was going to go.
I got into a really good groove after the third hole making par on four out the next six holes and managed to card a 43. The back nine didn’t start the way I wanted it to when I had a complete lapse in mental toughness and revert back to my old swing. Nine holes in was actually a surprise, it normally happens sooner. I hit a wicked slice that I don’t think traveled 180 yards into the desert. Lucky for me there was a large hill on the right side of the hole that aggressively sloped back towards the fairway and even though I was in the dirt I was able to take a great stance in the rough and put the ball back into play. It was a perfect 5iron that I hit, ruler straight, back to the middle of the fairway that left me a 60 yard shot to the green. My pitch shot came up a short of where I wanted it to end up but, at 25 feet and on the green with a chance at Par I was rather excited considering where I was off the tee. I stepped up and dropped the putt like a boss (honestly I have no idea what that means but I hear all the kids saying it nowadays) to make my par.
I had a few other saves like that, even though they didn’t all result in pars (thank you crappy greens) I was getting myself out of some sticky situations by hitting some excellent shots that saved the hole.
When I got to the tee box at 17 I did a no-no and glanced down and did some “scoreboarding”. I realized that I was on pace to put up a pretty good score, for me at least, and that almost ended my day right there. With the added pressure I had just applied to myself I snap hooked my next tee shot. Thank goodness there was no distance behind it because it landed short of the lake and in the desert. I decided to play the smart shot for once and layup vs. going for the green. I would have had to carry the water to an elevated green protected by some deep, tall, very ominous bunkers from a desert lie. The layup was the right choice and I hit it perfect, right at the flag, a mere three feet to the pin. Had I made that little three footer I would have saved par again but, instead of heading to the final hole sitting on 79 those horrible greens came back into play and my par just wasn’t there. I tried two more quick attempts at the same putt all resulting in the same outcome. The ball just wasn’t going to go in the hole on these unbelievably bumpy greens.
I made my way to the 18th, disappointed of course, but knew I still had the chance to log a record low round. I had played the par 5’s great all day and this last one wasn’t going to stop me from a new low score.
Good theory right? I did manage to get my low round score but it came with a bit of tension. I allowed my “scoreboarding” to really get into my head and I hit a second consecutive bad tee shot, this one a pull. Had it been 5 yards more towards the center when it came down it probably would have been my best drive of the day. That wasn’t the case though and the ball came to rest in the hazard where I had no swing at it. I took my first penalty stroke of the day and then hit the weakest approach shot in the history of golf, Jean van de Velde was laughing at me, it was that bad. All I had to do was move the ball about 160 yards down the fairway to leave myself a nice approach shot to the green. I think it went about 30 yards if I was lucky. I completely gave up on the shot for fear of doing something bad and hit a fat, weak, hooking punchy thing of a shot directly in front of me and in a worse lie than I had on some of my desert shots.
I did manage to get out of that sticky spot and advance the ball to the fairway where I hit my next shot to the green and two putted for my 87.
All in all it was a great day. The weather was outstanding; it did manage to warm up quite a bit by the 4th or 5th hole and it turned out to be gorgeous day. It could have been the perfect day if not for those pesky greens!!
YOU DID WHAT?
The score didn’t come without a little bit of controversy. For a while now more than a few of my associates in the golfing industry have been adamant that need to move up and play some courses from a shorter distance to gain some confidence and learn how to score. I, the always butt-headed ignorant type have refused to take the advice of these kind folks for fear of losing my man card to the golf gods, finally decided it was time to listen and for the first time, deliberately, I played up. The distance was 6,088 yards and the slope/rating was 68.8/124. Now, six months ago I would have never considered playing from that distance, “That’s the senior tees” and I’m no senior, at least not yet, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m a 17 HDCP right now and playing from tees that go out to 6,600 and 6,800 isn’t really going to help me in the areas of my game where I need the most work, scoring.
I did a survey online and was literally shocked to see that only two people in all that answered played from a distance greater than 6,600 yards and they were low single digit handicaps. Better yet, the people in the 10-14 handicap range all were playing from 6,000 to 6,400 yards. That wasn’t what convinced me though. I received a reply that really made me look at my game from a different angle and that was GIR.
I’ve always tracked my GIR and over that past three years I’ve shown a gradual increase in my GIR percentage but nowhere close to where it needs to be to put up some good scores or better yet put myself in positions to have a scoring chance.
On average I hit 3 greens a round, that’s horrible. Considering on average there are four Par 3’s on every course, not all but most. I looked at this last round I played and the last round I played from a similar distance and I hit 7. Still far from where I need to be to score lower but that’s more than a 50% increase in greens hit from the shorter tees.
So I’m “Playing it Forward” for a while and I’m going to do so until I can consistently score lower and put myself in better scoring situations. The best part about moving up for me was I felt like I was actually playing the game of golf for the first time. I had fun, I enjoyed the day and was able to attack some pins.
I’m looking forward to the next few rounds for sure now
Here is the Primm Valley Desert Course Scorecard: