I learned some real valuable lessons on my first round of golf since the pandemic hit our nation and the entire world. I wouldn’t really consider the golf tournament that I participated in this fall as a round of golf nor anything that contributes to my goal of breaking 90 consistently. It definitely helped to boost my confidence, but it was just not one for the record books. I felt that this was my first outing and I learned plenty along the way.
My outing included some lessons learned on two different courses positioned at opposites sides of East County San Diego and at opposite ends of the day. Morning started with me walking the back nine at Carltons Oaks Golf Course in Santee as clouds of mist began to subside to the rising sun. That afternoon had me facing the par 3 18-hole Pine Glen course at Singing Hills Golf Course (Sycuan Resort) in the middle of threats of rain and mild Santa Ana winds. Both courses offered me some extremely timely and useful lessons on engaging in golf since the pandemic as I walked each round with my golf bag slung across my back.
1. Walking the Course Has Advantages Over Riding
I find that walking a course toting your bag on your back can give you all sorts of lessons alone, especially when you consider issues such as lower back pain and overall fitness. The game of golf has its own lessons and walking the course teaches us plenty, too.
- Much like running or jogging, walking the golf course during a round allows you to listen to your body.
- You quickly have an idea of just how fit your are (or not) as you walk the golf course during your round
- You try to keep your shot selections more selective and strategic when walking more than while riding in the cart
- Downsizing is a practical pathway, whether it be the number of clubs or other items in your bag.
- You feel a bit closer to nature while walking the course during your round of golf. It can be the ducks by the water hazards or the rising mist from the grassy fairways in the morning, but it is definitely a sense of serenity that comes over you as you take it all in step by step.
2. Technology Helps Track Stats More & More
I used to keep scorecards stuffed and tucked away in my golf bag’s pockets. They would come straight from the back pocket after the final hole and into a hidden place in that bag and remain there until they slip or drop out by mistake. That’s not what I am doing now.
I used Garmin’s mobile golf app on both my smart phone and my Garmin Vivoactive 3 watch. My preference is the mobile phone app for just tracking strokes, but the watch allows you to track distance to the pin as well as the distance of your last shot. Course information can be downloaded in advance for usage on the watch during a round. Another option is MyScorecard and its mobile app. The technology kept me on track as I improved my score hole by hole.
3. Muscle Memory Works Most of the Time
I hate to admit it but it’s true that muscle memory is not an absolute. It tends to fail when your nerves get the better of you and those first tee jitters get to jumping around like nervous butterflies in your belly. Yips can override any personal yearning for swinging for big yards and open fairways as I realized the reality that played out before my eyes unlike some things I read when I browse the blogs and sports articles. I definitely learned that some things are slower to change as it initially took me 3 holes to warm up at Carlton Oaks.
4. Every Round of Golf Offers Surprises
It almost goes without saying that nearly every single time I play golf that I am provided some kind of surprise. Previously playing Oak Glen at Sycuan, I learned how a wayward duck can disrupt the perfect flight of a line drive from a hooded 6 iron. While playing at Chula Vista Golf Course, I discovered how a fairway wood recovery shot could simply be shortened and cutoff by low-hanging electrical wires threaded across the otherwise wide open fairway.
This time around did not displease. Hole #16 at Carlton Oaks gave me an unjust and cruel fate handed down when my approach shot was cut short by grazing the peak of a jutting mound of earth, forcing me to chip as close as possible to the green with an explosion of sand in my face upon impact. Faced with a par shot off the fringe of the hole, I elected to use my putter as opposed to any wedge play and struck paydirt for par even to my own surprise. Like I said, I’ll take that all day long.
5. Your Game is Usually Better Than You Expect
Put all of the b.s. aside for a moment. I am not always walking the course, and I am most certainly not always one who undergoes a regimented routine of arriving at the course early and ensuring that I have things in order to have a productive and positive round of golf. Maybe that is a profound lesson learned for me, too. Things can be more productive and more positive when you decide to do more preparation for your round than just popping up and playing without a plan.
My results speak for themselves. I was +13 on 18 holes of par 3? Anyone who has played with me over the years know that I dread almost any par 3 hole. For me to make multiple pars on that course, I knew that my morning round had helped me build some confidence and recognize where I lacked strength. Prior to teeing off at Singing Hills that afternoon, I smashed range balls with my 6 and 8 irons as a warmup and a reinforcement of my own potential with my irons.
You have to understand that despite being +9 on the back nine at Carlton Oaks those irons were not my saving grace that morning. Every time I pulled them out of my bag it seemed to my detriment. I even went so far as to using my hybrid to work anything between 150 to 100 yards out and my pitching wedge for anything within 100 yards of the pin.
Knowing that I was facing 18 holes of par 3 challenges, I knew that I needed those two clubs to get my scores down and conquer those par 3s. And they delivered well and allowed me to keep pushing even when I had to use the same club where I had just flubbed a tee shot to pull off a high risk recovery shot. I learned that my application of hooded tee and approach shots with a 6 iron and sharply-chopped 8 iron rolls were enough to keep me in contention for par at nearly every turn.
I value all of the lessons that I learned playing golf again since the pandemic arose. I am eagerly awaiting my next outing this week most probably on New Year’s Eve. I am going to reference my notes and try to compensate for where I allowed my game to lack focus and get sloppy. I mean what do you call it when your second shot on a par 5 places you squarely 155 yards from the pin and your 6 iron sends a rocketed misaligned third shot approximately 25 to 30 yards off target to the left of the green? I think sloppy is a euphemism for such a thing, but it all taught me a clear lesson on the power of consistency making things easier for myself than forcing risky and remarkable recovery shots. Thank God for walking the course, bitterly condemning myself as I walked from one shot to another to regain my composure and play it strategically to keep things under a double bogey.
Until next time, keeping swinging and having fun.