Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Perils of Muni Golf…

I love the 9-hole par 3 course at Santa Teresa Golf Course, my local muni. It’s a fun, challenging (but not too tough) walk-on course with a variety of holes that don’t go stale after you’ve played them a few times. I normally play the Short Course early on weekends, to avoid the crowded conditions that come later in the day, but last weekend I got busy with yard work and chores around the house and couldn’t get out until mid-afternoon on Sunday. Normally I would have given it a miss, but I had just acquired some new-to-me Hogan irons that I was itching to try out, so I hopped into the car and headed to the course.

The ease of getting on the Short Course is one of its attractions – pay in the pro shop and go to the first tee; no tee times, no need to get together a three- or foursome, just show up and play golf. Unfortunately, the ease with which one can get on the course is also one of its drawbacks. Shorty draws a somewhat less – well, let’s say experienced (restrained?) player population than the full course, and my experience this Sunday afternoon is a good example: In order to avoid a backup like L.A. freeway traffic, I skipped three holes to play around a guy-teaching-his-girlfriend twosome and a five-some consisting of three teenaged boys, a mom and a pre-teen girl, and ended up behind a foursome of clueless yahoos that I caught up to from three holes back even as I played two balls on each hole.

The five-some were heading to the first tee as I went in to the pro shop to pay; waiting for them afforded me some time for a little putting practice – about ten, maybe 15 minutes before they cleared the tee box – then a little more time on the first tee to swing a club and loosen my shoulders up while they cleared the fairway (the hole is 120 yards long…), then a little more time to pick a good spot to place my ball on the divot-filled tee box and contemplate the relative progress of their putting evolutions compared to that of the westward-tending sun; I think the sun was moving faster. They finally putted out and moved on, and I played my two tee shots (I usually play two balls on Shorty if there’s no one behind me…) – pin-high, but both pulls to the longish grass right of the green (I will say that these new/old Hogan irons look to be curing my usual – well, let’s call it a fade… but more on that another time.) I chipped them both on (I am loving that Apex Plus “Equalizer” pitching wedge!), one-and two-putted for a par and a bogey – and looked up the small hill to the second tee to see the five-some all sitting down, waiting for the even slower pair ahead of them to finish playing the 94-yard second hole. Yikes…

I climbed up to the second tee box thinking that I might skip ahead to the third hole and get out in front of the five-some and the twosome. Alas, the twosome were just replacing the flag, so it would have seemed a bit rude to cut in ahead of them. I looked to my right, to the tee box of the fourth hole – my favorite hole on Shorty: 124 yards, elevated tee box, water right and behind, and a huge eucalyptus tree guarding the left side of the fairway. Strike two – the twosome on the tee at #4 was a guy obviously teaching his girlfriend the game. She was at the white tees, about 100 yards from the center of the green and a good 15 to 20 feet above it – and she had a driver in her hands! That was enough for me – looking ahead one more hole, I saw that #’s 5 and 6 were empty, with a foursome of guys up on #7.

Down the slope to #5 I went. I hit two wedges from the tee at #5, one a tad short of the green, one to the back of the green that bounced off and just into the rough (like I said, I was dialing in new clubs…). Chip on, 1-putt, 2-putt (again…), and on to #6. Six is the shortest hole on the course, 74 yards with water right – just like a nice approach shot to a shortish par-4. I nailed a 3/4-wedge to the green, 12 feet from the hole, then got a bad bounce from the right-hand fringe into the water with my second. The group that had been teeing off on #7 when I started down to #5 were still on the seventh green, so I took a little time and recovered my Titleist (and a few extras for the shag bag…) from the water, took a drop, chipped on and putted out – one-putt, two-putt again.

Number 7 was clear when I finished up on 6, and after the usual adventures pin-high right and on-line but long, I finally caught up to the foursome ahead, getting to the tee at #8 while they were putting out. I didn’t have too long a wait on the tee box there, but it’s an easy hole. I was on in one with my first, short and right with my second – and looking ahead to the progress of the guys ahead of me, I decided to pull a couple of extra balls from my bag and get in a little chipping practice while they assayed the 116-yard 9th hole.

I had plenty of time to chip a couple of extra balls onto the green and putt out all four while one of the “3 Stooges + One” ahead of me put three balls in a row into the water hazard right of the tee box, none of them more than 50 yards forward of the tee box. His buddies had already sprayed their tee shots all over creation – everything from a chili-dip straight ahead but only 75 yards out, to a topped roller that ended up in the bunker front left, to a flier that went waay left and nearly ended up on the practice green – before Curly Joe managed to skull/top/roll his MaxFli up to somewhere in the vicinity of the green.

The highlight of the Bozo Brothers’ excursion to the 9th hole was Bunker Boy’s highlight-reel attempts to get out of the sand. It went like this: Chop down at the ball, flip the wrist, scoop the ball, leave it in the bunker – repeat. The guy did this like eight times, bouncing the ball off of the lip and back into the bunker six of the eight attempts, spraying sand over the entire front left quadrant of the green, and generally putting on a golf comedy show worthy of Peter Jacobsen at his best. This guy was the poster child for bad bunker technique, and I was kicking myself for not having a video camera – a clip of this guy thrashing his way out of that bunker would have gone viral on YouTube in a heartbeat…

While the “Stooges + One” putted out ahead of me, I was taking a survey of the several dozen coots and assorted other waterfowl grazing the ninth fairway – well, not really, but if I’d had my clipboard with me I could have… I checked behind me a few times during all this, apprehensive that one of the groups I had bypassed might finally be catching up – but no one was! The five-some, the teaching pair, the slow pair in between them – the closest group was still at least a full hole behind me. In the meantime, another twosome – a pair of 20-something guys who had come on next after me – were floundering around on the 4th hole, one of them overshooting the green by a good 65 – 70 yards and dropping his second (third?) shot squarely in the middle of the ninth fairway right before I hit my second tee ball.

With no one coming up from behind, I putted out the 9th hole in a leisurely fashion, relieved to be out of the middle of the circus, but somewhat miffed that dealing with the cavalcade of clowns which I had found myself in the midst of had meant I only played 6 holes for my $15. As I put away my putter, glove, and golf balls and walked back to my car, I was repeating my new mantra over and over to myself: “Early mornings only… early mornings only…”.

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