Last year, my USGA index skyrocketed to embarrassing heights and I scrambled for excuses in this year end post of 2012. And then I played the same type of schedule in 2013 and dropped down to my pre-season goal of a handicap in the 8’s, finishing at an 8.8. So I guess all my logic from last year didn’t hold water. Out of about 35 rounds, at least 20 were on courses new to me and I shaved 4 strokes off anyway. Only five rounds crept into the 90’s, and two of those were in February when I only had one working wrist. But only two rounds snuck into the 70’s, one of which won me $200. So now I’ve settled into a low 80’s threat in the midst of what are supposedly my prime physical years (though at the moment I look more like the “before” pic). So then what changed?
Trophy Lake Golf & Casting Club in Port Orchard, WA
Tee Time: September 24, 2013, 12:30, 61 F, intermittent rain
Designer: John Fought (1999)
Playing Partners: None
Tees: Blue, Par 72 (72.8 rating/131 slope/6,756 yards)
Course Handicap: 10 (9.0 index)
Stats: 84 (40-44); 32 putts; 10/14 fairways; 7/18 greens; 2 penalty strokes
That makes four awesome courses I’ve played in Washington this year. I’m starting to think there might not be any duds in The Evergreen State. Trophy Lake Golf & Casting Club in Port Orchard, about an hour’s drive from Seattle, is a nice, quiet spot to get in a challenging round of golf. Each hole feels different. The bunkers and rough are fait yet punishing, an honest test without any annoying gimmicks. Gorgeous forest surround the course, but luckily the trees are merely spectators. It takes a really wild shot to get trapped amongst the pines. Continue reading Trophy Lake Golf and Casting Club
Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, WA
Tee Time: May 20, 2013, 9:15, 66 F, light wind
Designer: Robert Trent Jones, Jr (2007)
Playing Partners: CJ Phelan, Pat Spomer, Thomas
Tees: Sand, Par 72 (72.4 rating/135 slope/6,513 yards)
Course Handicap: 14 (11.6 index)
Stats: 94 (48-46); 41 putts; 9/14 fairways; 5/18 greens; 0 penalty strokes
In 2015, the US Open will be held here at Chambers Bay. You’ll see stunning visuals of sailboats and yachts out on the Puget Sound. Countless slow pans of the lone Douglas Fir behind the 15th hole. Maybe even some Jimmy Roberts pieces about the site’s history as a gravel mine. It will look great on television and be one of the most unique majors in recent memory. But nothing compares to actually walking these links. Spending four hours hiking up and down the natural contours of the course, taking in the unmatched scenery with every stride and breathing in the refreshing sea air is hands down the best experience I’ve had yet on this young journey. High above the golf course sits the clubhouse and restaurant, with a panoramic view of the premises as well as an excellent club sandwich. Just be dead sure you have your valuables safely hidden in your vehicle before walking into the pro shop, where there will always be a line of customers purchasing various memorabilia. After checking in, a shuttle will transport you down to the practice range and the rest of the course, dropping off right by the snack shack. The quick bus ride down to this golf playground hauling all your gear gets the adrenaline going in much the same way that taking the gondola up the mountain up with skis in tow does, knowing an awesome day awaits.
Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, WA
Tee Time: May 19, 2013, 9:44, 63 F, light rain
Designer: John F. Harbottle III (1996)
Playing Partners: Mike Harvey, CJ Phelan, Pat Spomer
Tees: Tourney, Par 72 (71.3 rating/129 slope/6,479 yards)
Course Handicap: 13 (11.6 index)
Stats: 88 (45-43); 29 putts; 7/14 fairways; 4/18 greens; 0 penalty strokes; 1 eagle
I’m not sure if anyone’s been watching that new North America series on the Discovery Channel, but playing the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Club feels like a round of golf in an episode of that nature documentary. It’s just you surrounded by acres upon acres of thick forests packed with Douglas Fir trees as far as the eye can see. A few miles up the road from Bremerton, Washington, is where you’ll find the large clubhouse and excellent warmup areas before playing one of Gold Mountain’s two golf courses, the other being the Cascade Course. Each hole feels isolated in a wilderness manner. Unless that group ahead of you is still on the green, you’ll never see another human or manmade structure for the entire round, making it feel like 18 holes on your own private golf course. There are elevation changes on nearly every hole and accuracy is important from the tee. It’s hard to really lose a golf ball here but get behind some of those evergreen trees and it can be just as bad. Our group had two shots that flew as far backward off a trunk as it had flown forward. The whole scene was made even more amazing somehow by the cloudy skies that dropped a bit of precipitation. It seemed like an Alaskan seaplane could roar over the ridge at any moment. Off in the distance, row after row of towering Douglas Firs rose up into the stirring clouds along the many ridges and mountains surrounding the golf course. I personally can’t think of any better setting than a thriving evergreen forest. Oh, and even the golf here is pretty good. Continue reading Gold Mountain Golf Club (Olympic Course)
The Home Course in DuPont, WA
Tee Time: May 18, 2013, 2:24, 61 F, calm
Designer: Mike Asmundson (2007)
Playing Partners: CJ Phelan, Pat Spomer
Tees: Blue, Par 72 (72.4 rating/135 slope/6,629 yards)
Course Handicap: 14 (11.6 index)
Stats: 90 (45-45); 39 putts; 7/14 fairways; 5/18 greens; 1 penalty stroke
The Championship Experience weekend began with a mad dash in the Chevy Impala to the Home Course in DuPont, Washington. Fortunately, they were accomadating enough to push our tee time back twenty minutes and allow us to get a meal and warmup in. The drive out is pretty enough, and the road up to the clubhouse feels like something belonging to a high end country club instead of one of the more affordable courses available to the public. The Home Course serves as the base for the Washington State Golf Association, and it will be an impressive clubhouse area once all the offices are built. For now the restaurant is standing but the snack bar and pro shop are in trailers. The real treat is being out on the course. Vibrant colors are everywhere. The ocean blues of the Puget Sound in the distance. The forest greens of the fir and maple trees lining the course. And then there’s the Scotch broom. The stuff is everywhere. Apparently it is a noxious invasive weed that is a major problem for the local vegetation. The yellow dominates the scene like a Golden State Warriors playoff game, but unlike the fans’ “Believe” shirts, these flowers are guaranteed to be around every spring. Continue reading The Home Course
So in 2012 I got a new job, new car, moved into a new house, published a book and got a black lab puppy (which I now know can be more exhausting than a new job, new car, new house and publishing a book). Despite all that, I still managed to log over 30 rounds of golf and get to 5 new states. Now that all that craziness is over I can get around to focusing on playing better golf in 2013. I did start ’12 as an 8.5 and rocketed all the way up to a 13.2 before settling at my current 12.5. That’s not acceptable, and my new goal is to work that down to an 8.0. I’m not a man to make excuses, but if I were, they’d go something like this:
- Out of those 30+ rounds, only 6 were on courses I had played before. A wise man I played with at Lookout Mountain mentioned that just knowing a course can save 4-5 strokes. I agree, which is why it’s my fake excuse #1.
- I did get brand new irons and a new 3-wood, which took a few rounds to get adjusted to. But I do love those Cleveland TA7’s and the Taylor Made Rocketballz.
- I was hungover during 1 or 2 rounds, possibly.
- I’m pretty sure the holes at the Stadium Course in La Quinta were smaller than the specified 4-1/4″. Yeah, that’s it.
- Raising a puppy is exhausting.
- According to the Chineze Zodiac calendar, it was the Year of the Dragon. We Tigers don’t play our best golf during years of the Dragon, Rat or Rabbit. So sayeth ancient Chinese folklore (see author’s illustration below).
What about 2013 then? I still expect it to contain the required 20+ rounds of desert golf as I remain a resident of Arizona. But I still need 5 new states. I’ve got a few ideas and what my odds are of actually getting there.