1757 GOLF CLUB

Editor’s Note: This is my second post from last season (2011). Rounds from 2012 are currently piling up and will be posted in the coming days and weeks. Enjoy.

1757 Golf Club
April 30, 2011

I decided during the offseason that I would purchase a new set of irons in 2011. This is a bigger deal than you might think.

The last time I made any significant investment in golf equipment was March 1995 when I was fitted for the most technologically advanced set of irons available: Titleist DCIs (black diamonds, baby). I purchased a Vokey sand wedge in 2008 after losing my beloved Ram Accu-bar somewhere between here and North Carolina, and acquired from a very generous friend who took pity on me a Diablo Edge driver in 2010. Before these absolutely necessary updates, the newest club in my bag was a Big Bertha Steelhead driver. From 1999.

But it gets worse. My 3 and 5 woods are MacGregor Nicklaus DXs, with heads that are only slightly larger than the shafts holding them. So old, they are in fact hand-me-downs from my brother who unwrapped them Christmas morning 1987. Throw in a Ping Anser 3 putter from high school (new grip though) and a…uh…ladies’ sand wedge, won in a neighborhood scramble in 1993 that I only use in greenside bunkers (I swear), and you’re looking at the weapons I use to attack Greater-DC-area golf courses.

I wish there were numerous good reasons for the sad state of my golf bag – also a late-90s purchase – but it really comes down to stubbornness. I don’t need your newfangled, illegal technology to play good golf, darnit. I can beat you with wooden sticks if I have to. I consider myself a more traditional golfer playing with more “reasonable” technology. A driver that can’t be twisted with a special wrench if I want to fade the ball that day. A putter that doesn’t have inserts or grooves to accommodate different grasses on greens. A 3 iron!

These are the zingers I throw back at people who question my sticks, all while I reach into that old bag and pull out a brand new sleeve of Titleist Pro V1s. Kinda hard to take the high road when I continue to shell out an exorbitant amount of money on the one piece of golf equipment that has had the largest impact on changing the game: the ball. Also, for the longest time, I was able to back up my stubbornness by beating most friends and other golfers with last century’s technology. That’s not the case anymore and I’d rather win a match than an argument, so my official club fitting is set for May 7th. Until then, my DCIs still have the honor.

BJ and I have a 1:04pm tee time at 1757, a solid new course wedged between Dulles Airport and any number of nondescript warehouse/office buildings that make up 80 percent of Sterling. Despite being aesthetically-challenged and landlocked, the course makes the most of the space it is given. A fun mix of short par 4s, bodies of water that seemingly come out of nowhere, and impressively maintained greens, helps you to forget the endless parade of planes flying a few feet above your head to the dual runways on the other side of the trees. Almost. (I exaggerate; Dulles is a good three miles away. Indulge me.)

Showing up at the course as a twosome on a Saturday presents all the same challenges and expectations as when you show up as a threesome. Except for the hope. Unless you’re teeing off at 5:00pm, or it’s November, you can rest assured you will be playing with another twosome. This of course is perfectly fine and reasonable as I have met and played with some fine people over the years. However, the last time BJ and I played here we were paired with two gentlemen who tried repeatedly to hit my clearly marked ball, and finally succeeded on No. 8. This is the sort of thing one can expect when he hits his ball into an adjacent fairway, not his own. And not by someone in his own group!

Recalling this incident with dread, I pull out my trusty Sharpie and make several additional markings on a fresh sleeve of Pro V1s. As we wait patiently in the cart loading zone for the starter to call our names and introduce us to the rest of our foursome, we are both silently staring at something that could make this a very long afternoon. In front of us is a cart loaded with two golf bags. Around the cart are three people: two dudes and one woman. The starter notices this too, walks over to the group, and says something that we cannot hear. Blank looks are the only reply. The woman kisses the guy on the passenger side and marches off in a tiff.

Whew. Not sure why a significant other – no matter how significant – would ever agree to spending a Saturday afternoon watching her boyfriend play golf with his buddy and two strangers, but thankfully the universal two-person-per-cart policy is always enforced. Always.

The first hole is a 401-yard, dogleg right par 4. The tee shot must carry a patch of water coming in from the right to a left-to-right sloped fairway. Tall trees on either side demand a good shot on your first swing of the day, although there is some room left and long of the fairway. A creek runs along the right rough and cuts in front of the elevated green, which is guarded by one bunker directly in front of it.

I pull my drive a little left and end up in the tall grass beyond the cart path, while BJ launches a Hogan-esque fade over the lone fairway bunker on the right, leaving himself about 125 yards in prime position. Left with 165 yards to the green from a crappy lie in the rough, I decide not to flirt with danger on the first hole and kick a PW to the end of the fairway in front of the creek. A mediocre chip leaves me with 10 feet above the hole. BJ sends his a little deep, too, and leaves himself with about 25 feet. Two pars are had to start the day.

No. 2 is the first of six par 4s under 375 yards. From the tee box, the hole looks rather unprotected but for the three bunkers jutting well into the right side of the fairway and the obvious water next to the tee on the left. What you can’t see over the ever so slightly raised fairway is the other pond, left of the landing area, and the green. Finally remembering this small detail after three rounds here (last go around I told BJ there was nothing to worry about on this hole, and then watched his perfect drive over the horizon mysteriously end in a splash) I hit a great drive to the right middle of the fairway, a few yards past the bunkers. BJ’s ball ends up well past mine and farther left, but dry.

No. 2.

 

The green is slightly elevated and angled diagonally from right to left. Two bunkers guard the front left and anything short of them will land in the “hidden” pond. I take dead aim at the pin in the middle of the green, but come up way short with my PW and leave myself a good 40 feet for par. I bogey the hole with three awful putts. BJ makes a nice routine par and, thanks to the handicap system, is now 2-up after two holes (he stroked on No. 1).

We match bogies on No. 3 and pars on No. 4, before teeing it up on the par 4 fifth hole found on the northern-most edge of the property. It is here that one might suddenly feel like he’s come down with “a case of the Mondays,” as the buildings across the street could very easily be IniTech’s northern Virginia office. There is nothing wrong with a golf course being in the heart of commerce with unobstructed views of the surroundings, and vice versa. It’s just that we are far more accustomed to parkland tracks in the middle of nowhere (or housing developments), and it feels a little out of place. Indeed, after making several cracks, I silently acknowledge being jealous of those who work across the street from a brand new golf course like this.

This distraction must be the reason for my three-putt bogey on No. 5 and, now, a three-hole deficit to BJ who parred the 408-yard, dogleg right par 4 like a pro. With water on the right and OB on the left, the tee shot can be tricky. He selected a 3 iron off the tee, split the fairway over the edge of the pond, hit the middle of the green with a pretty 6 iron, and two-putted to take a commanding lead on the front.

To get to the next tee, golfers must cross a meandering stream on what might be the loudest bridge I have ever heard on a golf course. I’m sure it’s perfectly safe, but the platform boards on this thing are so loose or warped that you can hear people going over it all day long from any part of the course. What you can’t hear is the person sitting next to you while getting to the other side.

The sixth hole fits into another corner of the property, again with OB on the left and water on the right. The differences are found in the narrow width of the fairway and the 100-degree right hand turn around the pond to a green perched much closer to the water. Drives that go through the fairway – 250+ yards – will either go out of bounds or end up in the trees, while approach shots that miss the green short, right, or long will get wet. Have a nice day.

We both select 3 iron. BJ pushes his right toward the water. I find the middle of the fairway. Advantage me…or so I thought. Because of his sheer strength, his ball ends up flying the corner of the pond and landing only a few feet into the rough. Not even an awkward stance that could result in a face-first plunge into the pond after follow through is enough to stop him now. He hits a nice shot to the back of the green within 15 feet of the pin, and makes his par.

No. 6.
BJ being bold.

 

I do too, but no one wants to hear about a boring yet perfectly executed FIR-GIR-2-putt par.

With matching pars on the par 3 seventh, BJ closes me out on the front. Ouch. I’m only 3-over for the day, but BJ is just on fire right now with four straight pars and only one bogey, all day. Honestly, it’s fun to see him play so well, despite my already being $3 in the hole.

Back across Deafening Bridge to the 319-yard par 4 eighth. From the tee, the hole looks pretty harmless. You can see the flag at the end of the mostly straight fairway, and a fair amount of room in the rough on either side before the trees come into play. What you can’t see is the creek that cuts off the end of the fairway after maybe 230 yards, and the aboveground pool of a green complex on the other side. The wide but shallow green sits atop a four-foot stonewall that wraps around the front, left, and back sides, with one trap off the back right corner. With zero room for error – there can’t be more than eight feet of grass between the fringe and the moat around the stones – you will want to place your tee shot carefully to give yourself a nice wedge into the green.

I select a 3 iron and land my ball safely in the middle of the fairway, leaving at most a 60-yarder to the pin in the left middle of the green. BJ selects a 5 iron and nukes his ball past mine – on the fly – stopping only a few feet from the end of the fairway. All I can do is acknowledge his power and press on. My ¾ sand wedge lands my ball safely on the putting surface about 20 feet from the pin. Not great but better than in the ditch, which is where BJ’s ends up after he skulls it over the green. After a drop and a nice up-and-down, he saves bogey. I par. I should have “pressed” two holes ago.

Unfortunately he follows this up with another bogey on the par 5 ninth, a 511-yarder that doglegs right around the edge of a pond. I, on the other hand, take advantage of the pushed up tees and hit the green in two. Crappily, I make par after three awful putts. Although BJ stumbles a bit coming home, and my putting sucks, we both make the turn at 38. Not too shabby.

We match pars on No. 10 (BJ gets a shot) and No. 11 before stepping up to the 288-yard par 4 twelfth. Going for the green on this short hole is certainly an option but there are enough obstacles in your line of sight to make you reconsider, including OB on the left, water along the right, and a bunker in the middle of the fairway. The hole turns slightly left, up a slope, to a tiny green that is guarded by two bunkers in the front. As you stare at the pin from the tee, you can’t help but notice in your peripheral vision the dozen white stakes pointing just past the left edge of the green.

We are on the IniTech side of the property again, and while random buildings along the outside of a golf course’s borders would not normally come into play, we are not playing with normal golfers. After BJ and I both successfully find the fairway with long irons, we witness one of the best things of the day. One of the gentlemen we’re playing with steps up with driver and hits a high duck hook around a telephone pole, under the wires running through the pole, and up onto the roof of a warehouse. We see it bounce twice and then hear several bangs before it finally goes out of view. Thankfully his buddy starts laughing before either one of us can. He prudently tees up another ball, even though I think there’s an outside chance his first one bounced along the top of the roof and exited near the green.

I have no more than 100 yards left to the green from the middle of the fairway. Instead of overexerting myself with a sand wedge to get the ball to the pin on the back part of the green, I go with another ¾ swing with my pitching wedge. Hit way too hot, it skips past the pin and off the back edge into the rough. BJ finds the green and has a good look at birdie.

My ball is sitting up nicely in the rough, inches from the fringe and only 15 feet from the pin. I take dead aim at the cup and manage to turn my 15-foot chip for birdie into a 15-foot putt for par. My touch isn’t quite what it should be this early in the season. But I sink the comebacker and put the pressure on BJ to make his four-footer for par. He does, and I remain 1-down.

The thirteenth hole is not a terribly long par 4 at 448 yards, but it feels like a monster when the next longest two-shotter on the course tops out at 408 yards (No. 5). From the tee, a hitter must contend with OB lurking on the left and a grouping of trees on the right. The fairway is wide open with a bunker on either side – the left bunker is easily carried, while the one on the right is a little out of reach for me to worry about. The second shot is over a pond that cuts through the fairway and then runs along the right hand side past the green. This can be an intimidating shot with a long iron in your hands.

No. 13.
Pretty nice for a brand new course.

 

My description of the hole is far more exciting than how we played it. We both bogey, but with a stroke BJ takes a commanding 2-up lead on the back. It becomes insurmountable after I double-bogey the par 3 fourteenth.

The final par 5 on the course is No. 15, and it is the longest at 560 yards. It’s a pretty straight hole with only a minor swing to the left near the green. The fairway is pretty open, but it is sloped from right to left toward a pond. What makes this hole tricky is the second shot, or lay-up, over the hill to a blind landing area between two bunkers and a sneaky second pond creeping in from the left. The green is huge and has a strong back to front tilt.

BJ and I both miss the fairway left off the tee, but while my ball finds the deep rough, his nuked ball cools at the bottom of the pond. Before hitting our next shots we make darn sure the group ahead of us is on the green. The last time we were here BJ intended to layup with his second shot, but absolutely murdered it over the crest of the hill. Only when we popped over the hill a few minutes later did we see his ball sitting on the far right side of the green about ten feet away from the unhappy foursome attempting to finish the hole. The gentlemanly thing to do in this situation is to call out “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to hit you!” Unfortunately, BJ exacerbated the problem by blurting this out the moment one of the golfers started his backswing.

His wet tee ball is the difference this time around: I par, he bogeys, but gets a stroke and maintains his 3-up lead. With matching pars on the short par 3 sixteenth, he closes me out on the back to complete his total (front-back-overall) victory for the day. Although we both bogey Nos. 17 and 18 to finish our rounds with 78s, we are quite pleased with breaking 80 this early in the season. And for BJ this marks only the second time doing so; the first coming in late August 2007 at a course near Charlottesville. Because of that, I have no issue whatsoever with handing him a 10 dollar bill to settle our bet. He played great golf to beat me and there’s nothing for me to be upset about.

The one thing bad about my 78 is the doubt it places in my head days before dropping a hefty amount of dough on a brand new set of clubs. Of course the flip side of that is: if I can shoot 78 with my out-of-date sticks, just imagine what I will do with some brand new weapons.

Closing thoughts:

  • Nine out of 13 fairways.
  • Missed 11 greens, including the final seven.
  • 32 putts!
  • Shaved 1/10 of a point off my index to 5.4.

 

 

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What did you think of this round?