Tag Archives: Titleist
October 8, 2011
I did not play golf during the month of September. And whether my body was under the impression that I wasn’t going to play again until next spring, or my clubs thought their first trip back to the closet in months meant the season was over, the first nine holes at Whiskey Creek were the season’s worst.
I’m standing in the middle of No. 1 fairway, staring down a pin 130 yards away. I take a nice and easy swing, make great contact, and, as I often do on my first few shots of the day, exaggerate my keeping-my-head-down-through-contact thought. As I finally glance upward and pose with my 9 iron I expect to see the ball sailing toward the green perhaps a few feet left of the pin. Instead I see nothing. I frantically scan the skies, greatly expanding my range of possible ball flights. After the hang time clock goes off in my head I stare directly at the pin hoping to see the ball land somewhere within my peripheral vision.
Nothing. The ball vanished. I would have asked BJ if he saw it, but he was busy searching for his own ball in the hazard. Around the green there are three traps: one short and left, another deep behind the left side of the green, and a third beside the green on the right. The rough is thick and beyond the traps is tall fescue. I’m not going to find this ball.
Looking back I see the group behind us is already driving to their tee shots so I can’t go back to the fairway to take a proper drop. BJ makes his way to the cart and tosses me a new ball, which I drop about 10 feet off the left side of the green. As I take a few half-hearted practice swings I can’t help but wonder where the heck my ball went. I don’t think I’ve ever had a ball completely disappear from view – at least on a hole with this much open space.
The pin is on the front right portion of the green about 45 feet away from me. The green slopes front to back near the pin, which means the ball will roll right to left off my chip. I take one last look and chip the ball 15 feet onto the green. It bounces twice and after one beautiful, slow arc around the front edge of the green, the ball hits the pin and drops in the hole.
BJ laughs and congratulates me on my lucky shot. I stammer over to the hole to retrieve my ball and remove the pin for his putt. BJ is laying 4 after hitting his first shot into the hazard, re-teeing – even though he didn’t have to and I implored him to observe the red stakes all around the right side of the hole – hitting his third almost to the same spot but just clear of the hazard, then striking an impressive blind shot to the green about 35 feet from the hole.
Waiting for him to putt, I’m still perplexed over my lost ball and scanning the area for it. BJ settles in behind the ball and gives it a whack. His putt never leaves the cup and drops for 5.
Our day begins with two awful bogeys that easily could have been worse. (My “bogey” was an illegal one with the drop, so indeed it was worse.)
And don’t worry because it took all of 4 minutes to officially get worse. A tee shot into the left fairway trap leads to a double-bogey on No. 2. A three-putt from a million feet on No. 3 adds a bogey. Another drive into a fairway bunker on No. 4, followed by a poor recovery out of the trap, and then a possible shank through the trees onto the edge of No. 8 tee helps me rack up another double.
Hole No. 5 has one of the prettiest tee shots in the area as it looks out over a very steep drop to the fairway below with the mountains of Maryland off in the distance. But I didn’t see any of it because I hook a hybrid into a trap on the left side of the fairway on a hole that makes almost a 90 degree turn to the left from the tee. A stroke to get out of the bunker, one to get to the fairway, another to get to the green, a two-putt, a double-bogey. All this on a 371-yard par 4 that finishes at least 60 feet below where it begins.
That’s when it occurs to me that I’m in danger of not breaking 50. I think all golfers have a number in mind when the wheels are coming off and the number of holes left – whether it’s the full 18 or just 9 – is shrinking fast, and you’re making the calculations in your head on whether you even have a prayer of staying under that number. “Well if I par out from here, I can maybe shoot 46.” But of course if you are already eight over after five holes, the chances of you suddenly “turning it on” and making four straight pars are extremely remote.
Walking to No. 6 tee, I wasn’t sure I could hit the broadside of a barn. I hit a decent 3 wood to the left side of the fairway but still have 130 yards up the hill to the green. Having zero confidence left, I purposely over-club to make sure I get it to the green over the giant bunker in front. The 8 iron leaves me on the back fringe with a quick downhill 40 foot putt to the front left pin placement. Three putts later I am nine over.
A bogey on No. 7 and a three-putt double on No. 8. For the first time in 15 years (except for that February 2008 round I decided to keep off the books and had my group swear to never speak of again) I was in danger of posting a Jack Lord.
At this point I should probably mention that play has been painfully slow all morning. We’re waiting on every shot and it seems to be getting worse each hole. It’s a slow burn watching each player in the group in front of you casually saunter up to a ball, take three practice swings, hover over the ball for several seconds, hit the shot, make several comments to the group about said shot, not replace the divot, watch his buddies hit their shots, make several comments about those shots, then, finally, all in unison walk to the other side of the hole where their carts are parked. The carts advance 100 yards and the routine begins again. Repeat, lather, rinse.
This scene appears to be wrapping up after almost ten minutes of leaning on our drivers on No. 9 tee. BJ tees it up and gets ready to hit. Out of the corner of my eye I see one of the gentlemen from the group in front of us driving his cart directly toward us and in front of the tee. Oblivious to BJ’s addressing of the ball and the twosome teeing off No. 18, he blurts out, “You all see a 5 iron back there?” We did not and replied accordingly. He rolls past us and disappears over the hill behind the eighth green to continue his quest.
Twelve minutes later I bogey the par 5 for a 49.
The last time I played Whiskey Creek was in April, and it was my first round with the new irons (Titleist CBs). I missed one fairway on the front and was upset with a 41.
So at the turn BJ treats me to a turkey sandwich and himself to a chicken salad sandwich. He loves Whiskey Creek’s chicken salad sandwich and talks about it even when we’re playing other courses. Plus, BJ quietly put together a smooth 41 on the front while I was hacking it all over the place, and the man deserves something special. Let him eat his favorite sandwich.
When we get to No. 10 tee, 2/3 of the group in front of us is still waiting for Mr. 5 iron to return with a full bag of clubs. A few moments of awkward silence pass as BJ and I silently eat our sandwiches and stare at the two men milling about their cart. The one near the passenger side reluctantly says, “So…why don’t you guys go ahead?”
(Youbetyourass…) “Oh, yeah, sure, if that’s okay with you guys,” we reply. “We’ll try not to hold you up! Ha, ha.” (As if that will be a problem.)
I hop out of the cart with my Diablo in-hand and tee it up before they decide to take back their offer. No. 10 is a par 4, dogleg left up the hill, with a tee shot over marsh and other assorted unpleasant things. Hoping to quickly put the front nine behind me I rip a drive up the middle of the fairway. BJ manages three more enormous bites of his sandwich before ripping his own drive. It’s left and close to the hazard, but I assure him he’s fine. Off we go. And not a moment too soon because Mr. 5 iron arrives on the tee before we get past the ball washer. Oh well, see ya!
On the right side of the fairway I’m left with just under 120 yards to a front right pin placement over a green-side bunker. I hit an absolutely flush pitching wedge straight at it and watch as it disappears over the lip of the bunker. I’m left with a 15-footer down the slope, which I leave a few inches short. Tap in for my first par of the day. (!)
No. 11 might be Whiskey’s signature hole. A 173-yard par 3, over marsh and death on the right, to a long narrow green that is slanted diagonally from left-to-right away from the tee. Tall trees stand all along the left of the hole on a hill, while one giant bunker guards the right side of the green. That is why I (unintentionally) lay up with my 6 iron to the left front fringe. A chip, two putts, a bogey.
Then I turn it on. A perfect drive to the middle of No. 12 fairway, a 3 iron a few yards off line to the right of the green, a chip, and a putt for par. After lengthy waits on 13 and 14, behind the new threesome ahead of us, I add two more pars. One over after five holes on the back.
Off and on over the past several holes, BJ and I have been discussing – and mocking – the idiocy of someone who cannot remember where he left his 5 iron. One would think that after going over the last few holes in your head you would say, “Oh right, I took two clubs to the tee on No. 7 but used my 6 iron instead. My 5 is probably still laying there.” Ha ha, what a dumbass.
We hit our approach shots on the fifteenth, a 191-yard par 3, all over water, with a bunker just shy of the green. BJ plants his ball in the sand, and I end up on the right edge in the rough. We pull the cart up to the green, get out, and reach into our bags for our sand wedges. Together we say, “Oh s—.”
Yup, we left our Vokeys resting side by side in the grass next to the thirteenth green. (See?! It shouldn’t take long to figure it out!) Fortunately, the next hole loops around and will take us right back to No. 13 green. Unfortunately, the very first group we’ll need to approach to ask if they have our clubs is Mr. 5 iron and his friends.
I suppose we deserve that.
It’s embarrassing to ask group after group if they’ve found two sand wedges. One is bad enough, but asking for two lost clubs is downright humiliating. One gentleman replied, “Two sandwiches?! No, man, I would have remembered that.”
With my trusty Vokey safely returned to my bag, I par 16, bogey 17, and par 18 for a three-over 39 on the back and an 88 overall. I haven’t a clue what transpired between the ninth green and the tenth tee – other than the rapid consumption of a delicious turkey sandwich – that led me in the wake of a 49 to hit six of the next seven fairways, five greens, and zero three-putts. But it somehow feels good.
Unfortunately for BJ the temporary loss of his club on No. 15 clearly rattled him as he stumbled home with two doubles and a triple to also shoot 88. I think it’s safe to assume this is our last loop of the 2011 season…
Editor’s Note: This is my third post from last season (2011). I’ll be posting some fresh rounds from 2o12 soon…
May 21, 2011
They arrived in my office five days ago.
I had been waiting anxiously for nine days since the fitting took place. I was even practicing my reaction to their arrival like I had been nominated for an Academy Award. Do I shake the delivery man’s hand? Should I film him taking them off the truck? If they arrive while I’m at my desk and one of my coworkers kindly drops them off for me, should I be wearing glasses so that I can whip them off dramatically? Which one should I unwrap first to show to my colleagues? Will they care? (Nope.) This is what I spent my time thinking about and preparing for while at work all day every day.
Instead, I returned from a lame late morning meeting downtown to find a box unceremoniously leaning against the wall in my office across from my desk, as if the contents were as exciting as the disposable razors I get from Amazon every two months. Unbelievably this was the one situation for which I was ill prepared. I have no idea why I assumed I’d be present when the moment arrived. But I wasn’t, and, well, it was supposed to be more dramatic than this dammit!
I stood there stunned, staring at the box. Say something. Go talk to them. I closed my office door behind me – possibly mid conversation with a coworker, I can’t remember. I very carefully pulled the box away from the wall and placed it on the floor. After some frantic searching for something sharp to tear through the multiple layers of packaging tape (normally I’d be frustrated, but I grinned in appreciation that Titleist cared as much for my new clubs as I did) I unsealed the edges and slowly opened the top. One white sheet of paper covered the contents from end to end and separated the top four clubs from the bottom four. Each head was shrink-wrapped in plastic and covered in bubble wrap. The smell of the rubber grips was intoxicating. In a good way.
Too bad Titleist doesn’t also throw a small chunk of dry ice into the box to give off a Raiders of the Lost Ark feel. Right before their faces melt off and their heads explode, of course.
I take out the 8 iron, remove the bubble wrap, and carefully peel away the thin layer of protective plastic around the club head. It is the most beautiful 8 iron these eyes have ever seen, without a single scratch or scuff mark visible, and it looks like it may have been buffed before packaging! The grip feels impossibly dry, not yet spoiled by the oils of a golfer’s hands during a typical day at the course. The only thing I can think of is that it feels like a fresh stick of gum right out of the wrapper. I give the whole club a once-over, take my stance in the small area next to my desk, tuck my necktie into my shirt after it interferes with my grip, and take one slow practice swing without knocking any pictures off the wall.
Man, does this club feel…right.
But I’m at work, so back in the box it goes. I immediately email Mike and BJ to tell them the New Era has arrived and that we must make a tee time for the weekend. Whiskey Creek at 10:36am it is. It’s going to be a long 93 hours, 52 minutes, and 17 seconds……..
Although Whiskey is a haul for us and we often don’t get out there with time to spare before teeing off, BJ and Mike are good guys and thus are more than happy to get up a little earlier on a Saturday morning so that I can have some quality time at the range with my new babies. I’m getting choked up just thinking about what top men they are. Top. Men.
The range is on the far side of the clubhouse from where you check in, next to the ninth hole and above the tenth tee. We make our way over there, after acquiring our carts, and park near the row of tee markers on the other side of the wide cart path. The path is a good five feet below the tees, and most golfers grab only a handful of clubs to take across the cart path and up the embankment. I grab my PW, 8, 6, 4, and 3 and head up to the tee. Directly behind each range slot sits a metal rack on which to lean your clubs. I place each club down like it’s made of ceramic and can see, out of the corner of my eye, BJ and Mike watching me do this with amusement.
I do some stretching, and then remember that I’ll need my sand wedge to start off my warm ups. As I start down the hill toward the cart, I hear the faint sound of metal scraping against metal behind me. I turn around to see all five of my brand new clubs sliding off the right side of the rack. In the same way that one out of every three Miami Vice episodes ended with Crockett running after someone in slow motion shouting “NO!” I lunged toward my clubs and only managed to get out a “WHAnaahhhhh!” Not only did the clubs fall off the rack and into the grass, but the rack itself fell over and landed on top of them.
No damage was caused by the defective rack, but the frozen reactions of my two friends a few feet away were priceless. BJ was in mid-swing with a wide-eyed look of horror, whereas Mike made the half-assed but much appreciated “I will make a few token steps toward the clubs to show that I care but I really have no chance of getting there in time” move. I force out a laugh, quietly pick up my clubs and the rack, and go on preparing for my First Round of the Future.
Trying to lower my expectations right out of the gate I focus on simply getting a good feel for the new clubs. Not only is the weight different, but the grips are new for me as well. For at least 10 years my DCIs had cord grips, or ones with thin threads of rope running throughout the rubber. They were great for traction – and ripping gloves to shreds – but this time around I went with some classic no frills grips.
After hitting no more than twenty balls, I decide that it’s time to get this party started.
The tee shot on the first hole at Whiskey Creek is uphill to a wide open fairway before it doglegs right around two big bunkers and a hazard all along the lower right. The bunkers can easily be flown, but as the hole is only 381 yards, it comes down to how much of a risk you want to take on your first shot of the day. Not much if you ask me, so I aim for the first large bunker on the upper left side of the hole and find the middle of the fairway with my trusty Diablo. Mike follows suit, while BJ shows us both up by selecting a 3 iron AND flying it over the bunker into the fairway. I guess that’s how we’re going to play it today.
I walk off my ball to 136 yards from the pin in the middle left portion of the green. There is a large bunker on the left about 15 yards short of the green, and its placement throws off your depth perception enough to make you think the green is closer. I grab my 9 iron and take a few practice swings. A goofy smile creeps onto my face in anticipation of hitting my first official shot with the Titleist CB 710s. One more glance at the pin, one more waggle, one tiny forward press, and the swing begins. Perfect contact is made and the ball is airborne. Four seconds later the ball is bouncing on the green and rolling to within 20 feet of the cup.
Damn. That was awesome.
All three of us find the green and two-putt for pars. We have come to play today.
No. 2 is a great hole, even shorter than the opener at 363 yards, but all uphill to a narrow and severely back-to-front sloped green. The fairway runs off the hill from right-to-left and into two big bunkers near the landing area. My drive safely hits the middle of the fairway where I’m left with another 135-ish approach shot. I judge it to be one extra club and hit the 8 iron, but I catch too much turf and the ball lands short and right of the green in the thick rough. A chip, two putts, and a dumb bogey.
Now the one thing I assumed, whether it was warranted or not, is that with a brand new set of clubs I would instantly hit every iron farther and straighter. This is a given, right? Well, the key word there is instantly, and I should have known better before choosing a 6 iron on the tee of the 169-yard par 3. Overconfidence this early in the round is silly but that is my reason for aiming directly at the pin on the back right corner, behind a bunker, and at least another 10 yards past the posted yardage. Last week I would have hit a 4 iron, but today with my “magic clubs” I will hit a 6. (It might also have something to do with BJ going before me and hitting an 8!)
My ball landed so short that it didn’t even smell the bunker. In fact it kicked hard left into a giant collection area on the left front side of the green. Terrible. And then I three-putt for a double-bogey five.
This is quickly followed by another three-putt on the long par 5 fourth and a routine par on No. 5. And before I can get too worried about my new investment, I stick a perfect PW from the far left side of the fairway to 7 feet on the par 4 sixth hole. I drop the putt for birdie, and walk to the next tee with a 1-up lead on Mike and only a 1-hole deficit to BJ in our respective matches.
No. 7 is a 134-yard par 3 with a heart-shaped green guarded in the front by two bunkers, the left one being very large and welcoming. The pin is way up front today in the little neck of the green, and we all judge the distance to be 120 at the most. Though this is the tiniest part of the green with little room for error on either side, I’m salivating at the prospect of hunting down another flag with my dialed-in PW. Sure enough I hit one right at the pin, but it ends up skidding up the slope about 15 feet. Not great, but I’ll have another run at birdie. Mike hits a nearly identical PW to just inside my ball, and BJ flies the green with his. He hasn’t quite mastered the ¾ swing this early in the season.
My birdie putt is downhill all the way, perhaps as much as a foot, and breaks slightly left. I barely tap it and watch as it barely gets half way home. I shake it off by making some comment to Mike about not wanting to give him a read, and throw a mark behind my ball. Wow, was that bad. Mike’s attempt is not much better as he misses long and left, but he taps in for par and gets out of my way. After some self doubt, and the sudden realization that the group behind us is waiting on the tee, I aim for the back of the cup and drill it home for par.
Still 1-up on Mike, and now even with BJ after his bogey.
The eighth hole is another relatively short par 4 at 359 yards. It has a generous fairway to hit off the tee to the right, but there is a giant bunker on the left near the landing area that creates a dogleg left feel, and OB all along the left side that you can’t help but notice as you address your ball. Driver is not absolutely necessary here and you can aim as far right as you wish, but a hill on the right side of the hole takes away a clear view of the green and hides the large bunker guarding its front side. Oh yes, and the green is narrow and long shots will find another bunker off the back. Good times.
I start by missing my first fairway of the day to the right and into the trees. I hit a great punch shot around the base of a tree, but find the front edge of the greenside bunker. It takes me two to get out and two to get home. Double-bogey 6. Mike makes a routine and underrated par and BJ makes a 7, taking one more shot than me to get out of the same bunker.
It took us quite some time to rake that sucker after five total shots.
Mike and I par No. 9 to tie with 41s. BJ did not have the best of front nines – his two triples sealed the deal – and he finishes with a 47. I’m very pleased with how I’m hitting the new CBs, so pleased in fact that I’m rather upset with my 5-over 41. Two bogies and a birdie were ruined by doubles on Nos. 3 and 8. Unacceptable.
The back nine begins with a great up-and-down to save par on No. 10 and a pretty 6 iron to the middle of the green on the par 3 eleventh that leads to a two-putt par. No. 12 is a par 4, 413 yards in length, and is cut into three parts. The tee shot must carry a deep ravine to a wide open fairway, which covers the top of a rolling hill. Missing the fairway right will only hurt the yardage on your second shot, whereas missing left will likely kick hard off the hill and into the well-manicured yard of a very nice home. From there the fairway heads down and to the left into another ravine, across from which lies the narrow, two-tiered green cut into the side of the next hill and guarded by two front bunkers. Sometimes I feel relieved leaving this hole with a bogey.
The next hole is also a par 4, a dogleg right, and steadily uphill the whole way. There is a strong right-to-left tilt to the hole when you look at it from the tee, with one fairway bunker near the landing area on the left and lots of tall weeds on the right. For some reason I never line up correctly on this hole and I hit a line drive into the wasteland on the right. BJ’s eagle eyes help me locate the ball, and all I can do is hack it out with an 8 iron to the middle of the fairway. With 142 yards left, and my 8 iron still out of the bag, I hit one of the prettiest iron shots in years to 5 feet from the pin on the back left corner.
This nice par save puts me 2-up on the back in both my matches. And I don’t intend to give them back.
I think the par 4 fourteenth hole at Whiskey is my favorite. No matter how well you think you’re playing, you still approach this tee shot with fear. The fairway is far below the tee boxes and runs between a pond on the left and a tiny strip of rough on the right that is covered in pine trees. There is no bailout off this tee, unless you push it wildly into the sixteenth fairway. The hole is dead straight and ends with a green that juts out ever so slightly over the edge of the water on the left.
Despite missing the fairway on the previous hole, I’m feeling confident in the Diablo. I aim toward the right edge of the fairway, take a deliberately slow backswing, and connect on a solid drive that starts out toward the right cart path and draws back into the middle of the fairway. Take that, Mike.
Oh he does, and hits an even prettier drive a few steps left of my ball and maybe 5 yards farther. Maybe. BJ also hits the fairway…on the sixteenth hole. Once he makes a stellar recovery shot back onto our hole – while under fire from the group playing the par 5 – it is my turn to put the pressure on Mike. The pin is on the left portion of the wide green that is split by a ridge down the middle. It is not necessary to carry the water to reach the flagstick, but water is certainly close enough to cause problems with an errant shot. The yardage is 147. I decide not to flirt with the pond and instead aim at the small trap on the back edge. The 8 iron is once again called upon to get the job done and it doesn’t disappoint. A perfectly struck ball never leaves my line to that trap and bounces up onto the middle of the green, leaving me with no more than 20 feet for birdie.
No buyer’s remorse with these babies. At least not with my 8.
Mike wastes no time stepping up to his ball (the man epitomizes “ready golf”), also choosing an 8 iron, and also sticking his approach shot in the middle of the green. Hot with a little more draw than mine, his ball rolls to within 8 feet. Mike sinks this uphill putt for birdie after my two-putt par, and the match is now officially a barnburner.
The fifteenth is a par 3 and, at 191 yards, it is long enough to have a fairway that wraps around the left edge of a pond. The green runs diagonally from left to right away from the tee and is guarded by three bunkers – one long, and two wedged between the green and the water. You can miss the green to the right but it has to be pretty long to avoid wetness. Mike quickly discovers this when he pushes his tee shot way right and into the tall grass, clearing the pond by about 18 inches.
The tees are up today and the pin is smack dab in the middle of the green. Trying to erase the vision of someone hitting a push, I favor the left side of the green, the meaty part, and hit a dead straight 5 iron to about 25 feet. This sets up a perfectly acceptable two-putt par, as Mike is forced to take an unplayable and a bogey.
Back to 2-up on Mike. And after his textbook par, I’m dormie on BJ.
No. 16 is the first par 5 on the back nine, and rifle straight. The entire hole has a left-to-right tilt to it, as the final 150 yards or so head straight uphill to an isolated green, with three deep bunkers bridging the gap between the end of the fairway and the putting surface. There are fairway bunkers on either side of the landing area, and a pair of big-arse, overhanging trees on the left about 90 yards apart. My drive misses the fairway right, Mike’s misses left, and BJ’s splits the difference by bounding up the middle of the short stuff.
For the first time all day – indeed ever – I pull out the hybrid. When hybrids were all the rage just a few years ago I rolled my eyes at the Next Big Thing. “I don’t even bother with long irons anymore.” “They’re amazing.” “I can hit it out of five feet of rough.” “Hybrids have given me a new lease on life.” Spare me. “They’re probably illegal.” Yup, they probably are.
Two weeks ago when I visited my former boss and high school golf coach to get fitted for new clubs, the very first thing he tried to sell me on was hybrids. I hadn’t seen him in 10 years and he immediately questioned my sanity.
“Hey, John. Great to see you.”
“You too. So you want to get fitted for new irons.”
“I do, yes.”
“Are you thinking pitching wedge through 5 iron?”
“Uh no, I’d like a full set. Pitching wedge through 3.”
“Well how many hybrids do you want?”
“So let me get this straight: nearly every touring pro has at least one hybrid in the bag, most have several, but you know better than those who make a living playing the game. You don’t want to play your very best. Is that what you’re telling me?”
“Ah, just like the old days, coach.”
I held firm on getting my full set of irons. I don’t care how much the game has changed. I like the challenge of hitting a long iron, and the satisfaction I receive when one is struck well is something I am unwilling to give up. If that makes me the John Cleese character from the old Titleist NXT commercials, so be it. That’s golf. But I did allow him to talk me into replacing my 5 wood with an equivalent hybrid. I reasoned that if I didn’t like the hybrid, I could easily trade it in for a more traditional 5 wood. That’s a little less commitment to something I don’t yet trust than mixing and mashing a set of irons in a way that would probably be a nightmare to complete later on.
So…finally, reluctantly, I stand over a shot in the rough with my brand new Titleist 910H, fully prepared to be disappointed. I waggle a few times, carefully rest the club behind the ball, and swing away. The club head slices right through the tall grass like a blowtorch through butter, and the ball pops off the face with one of the prettiest sounds I have ever heard. With little-to-no effort my ball is rocketing down the middle of the fairway as I stand there like Hogan at Merion.
I look over at BJ and Mike. Both have looks that say, “Welcome to the party, pal.” The ball comes to rest near the end of the fairway halfway up the hill, which is likely 215 yards away. That is quite a knock for the amount of effort exerted on that swing. Hmm.
BJ was still walking off his ball – more than 40 yards past mine and Mike’s – and I offered to let him hit the magic club. He declined at first but then realized that his clubs were all the way down the hill where he left his cart. So he said okay, and moments later launched his ball well past the edge of the fairway to only a few feet short of the green. “Wow,” he said.
With 55 yards left to the back right pin placement, there is no reason not to get this close. Except for the elevation change and a flagstick that is not visible from my location. So a good guess on how hard to swing helps me set up a four-foot birdie putt, which I drop in the heart of the cup.
I may keep the hybrid for now.
The birdie four ends both of my matches as BJ’s incredible second shot is followed by his first “two chip” of the season, and Mike’s errant tee shot leads to a dismal double-bogey. With both matches in hand, I stupidly bogey Nos. 17 and 18 to finish with a 79.
For the first time in 15 years my bag did not have a set of DCIs poking out of the top, and whether it was beginner’s luck or the sign of things to come, I managed to break 80. And honestly I think I could have played even better. That’s not a bad way to break in a new set of sticks. This summer is going to be awesome.
Oddly enough, it was the oldest club in my bag that made the biggest impact. I had 18 putts on the front and 13 on the back. And THAT is why the Ping Anser 3 will never – repeat, never – be replaced.
- 10 out of 14 fairways
- 9 greens
- 31 putts (13 on the back)
- Handicap Index remains at 5.4
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.