Aerated Greens and More Challenges

“A great golf course both frees and challenges a golfer’s mind.” — Tom Watson

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Most golfers can say that the challenge of your average golf course comes down to its design or its incorporation of the natural landscape into the course design. Whether it be the flowing waterways that present a hazard running parallel to and across a course’s fairway or the rocky hillsides of local mountain ranges, most courses tend to place you smack dab in the middle of nature with a few added challenges to boot. To be honest, most golf courses have their own built-in challenges.

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Aerated Greens Add a Challenge

Playing Cottonwood the other day gave me a discounted tee time and plenty of challenges on the putting surface. The course is an East County of San Diego County staple with its wide open fairways and reachable par 5 holes. Take into account that landing in the rough tends to come at a high cost for the average player, this course continues to reward straight drives and soft chips onto the green with little backspin. . . even on aerated greens.

Decent Play Despite the Heat

An added challenge for this day was the heat. I was on my way to the course and found myself battling temperatures pushing beyond 90 degrees. As I drew closer to the course, the higher the temperature rose. By the time I reached the course, the temperature was somewhere between 92 and 95 degrees. Thank God for dri-fit golf shirts and board shorts.

Despite the heat, I still had a decent outing. I found myself pulling my drives to the right initially. My on-spot analysis gave me every indication that my hands and clubhead were moving out of sync with my body, but I did not make a major adjustment immediately since my recovery shots were placing me in a decent position. Those right-sided drives would come to cost me on holes #10 and #17, robbing myself of yardage as obstructions cut down the ball flight of my tee shots.

Oddly enough, my tee shot on hole #13 placed me smack dab behind a tree line and facing about 195 yards out from the green. I smacked a 5 wood low and it threaded the needle between a wishbone-looking branch of a tree for a straight pathway that left me about 10 yards short of the green. Having survived that hole with bogey, I began to adjust my alignment on the tee and cut down on my tendency to pull my drives to the right, but I slipped back into old habits on hole #17 and it proved costly.

Scrambling Saves the Scorecard

Let’s be honest! If you keep pulling your drives to the right, you will not hit too many greens in regulation nor set yourself for too many birdie opportunities. You’ll work against the thick grass of the rough, having to select a club and shot based upon how the ball lies in the thicker grass as opposed to how it might be sitting on the fairway. So, hitting 3 fairways and 1 green in regulation did not help to improve my scorecard.

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My scrambling got me out of trouble a few times and I thank God for that type of recovery on the course. However, even scrambling here and there isn’t enough to get you shot at birdie or par. In most cases, it is just enough to keep playing that bogey golf. On the front end, my 3 double bogeys cost me. In theory (and hindsight), if I had cut that down to just a single double bogey, I would be sitting pretty with an 89. But my 91 was well earned. My putts rolled well despite the aerated greens, edging the hole more often than I care to mention, so I continue to play with confidence.

Aerated greens? I’ll take the challenge. And I’ll take the discount as long as it’s still available.

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Finding More Fairways and Fixing Flaws

My latest golf outings show that my score did not improve much, but my overall game improved in different areas. What does that mean? I am finding the fairway a little bit more with each outing. I have also been fixing flaws here and there, so I can see and sense some changes in my game. I have not conquered those greens in regulation (GIR) yet, but I am making some overall progress with my game improvement time and time again. Having played Carlton Oaks at least 3 times in the past 6 months, I have been able to compare my stats and recall my mishaps where I still need to make some simple fixes.

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Back at the Back Nine Again

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I spent an early Sunday morning walking 9 holes at Carlton Oaks with the sun just beginning to peak out over the ridges of the nearby hillsides. I usually find a deal on this every so often, so I take advantage of the price and the opportunity to get my steps in before 10 AM by walking the back 9. This also makes my comparison between these rounds played at different times.

I love that scenery and layout of the course, especially the back nine. I am growing more comfortable with substituting a fairway woods and hybrids for my long irons on approach shots and second shots on long par 4 holes and par 5s. I can see the difference in my play. Plus, it is just refreshing to get up and walk 9 holes every so often.

Body Alignment = My Best Adjustment

My alignment in the tee box and off the tee has improved over the last few weeks, especially after seeing some of my better iron shots and other shots miss the mark due to my body alignment with the target at address. By making some simple alignment adjustments, I am finding more fairways and playing from a better position than the rough to the left or the right. I can feel the difference upon contact, and I can see the difference with the ball placement after its carried nearly 200 yards off the tee. Centralized ball placement on most holes will provide you with a better shot at getting on the green in regulation (GIR). Just this change alone has contributed to more consistency within my play.

Approach Shots Getting Closer

My approach shots are getting closer. I have not been able to get those GIRs in place yet, but I have been able to get closer to the green. Somebody who tends to these greens keeps those things protected by thick rough on their fringes. In many cases, if I had taken a little more club or drawn back with a three quarter swing instead of a half swing, I would have been safely on the green. That’s about my judgment call and I can improve that. In fact, that’s on my agenda to fix soon.

Fixing Flaws

My main flaws have been the lack of greens in regulation (GIR) with some fairways hit and poor judgment in some key areas of my game. I already addressed the GIR situation, but let me expand a bit further on these fairways. This latest outing had me with no GIRs but 57% of fairways hit compared to 42% in January and 25% in December. That’s incremental improvement and I will take that over time all day long. If I continue that pattern and pace, then I will killing the fairways time and time again.

Judgment calls cost me strokes at times. To be honest, these poor judgment calls are costing me at least one if not two strokes each time. I need to minimize that and quickly. I can recall 2 holes specifically where poor judgment killed me.

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Par 3 12th Hole

I messed up off the tee and hit the ball fat off the edge of the club’s face. That produced an odd runner that skipped and bounced onto the edge of the green with a rollback that settled on the fringe. I putted onto the putting surface working a whale of a curve shaped into the green only to come up too short on the right read. Get that fact. I had the right read. It was the right line. I just didn’t give it enough gas. After my next putt went beyond the cup, I settled down and got it in for 5 strokes. I knew where I misjudged and I will work on that.

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Par 4 18th Hole

This hole requires either a bold and big time second shot to give you a chance at par or a deflated ego that can live with laying it up and taking it home with a bogey on the card. I let my ego get the best of me. My hybrid and 3 wood had been good to me all day. With less than 220 yards to carry the water hazard, I swung that 3 wood and fell short of my goal by about 10 yards. Total Tin Cup scene played out right there. I dropped another Callaway right where I was and I repeated the same shot but aligned with twin bunkers guarding the green, swung with that alignment, and got that Callaway 3 feet off the green. I at least know that I have it in me. I know that by the time I got done with the drop area and a bunker shot I walked away with my double bogey and laugh at the expense of another stroke.

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Oh, I am getting better. I just getting ready to pounce on some spring break golf opportunities and then it will really show.