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Thursday, March 30, 2006


Eagle Mountain

6800 Yds, Par 71, Slope 136, by Scott Miller


"Where IS the Psychic Center of Golf In the Valley?" one might ask if one was trying to start a brawl in the 19th hole. Nominations include South Mountain (Verrado, Legacy, et al), North Scottsdale/Cave Creek (Troon North, The Boulders, Legends, et al), Sun City (? - nah), and last-but-not-least, Fountain Hills (WeKoPa, Sun Ridge, Las Sendas, & Eagle Mountain).

I think Fountain Hills gets the nod.

We broke training when we played, tho' -- for the second time -- we had an afternoon t-time, and we feared not getting 18 in, but we arrived early and they sent us right off . . . Mr. Science missing his hour-of-warmup, and me, my midday tea. It only took a couple of holes for Mr. Science to warm up, only 3 strokes over par before he resumed his normal quality of play, 47-43=90, but I, feeling churlish, deprived, and light headed had barely gotten my feet under me before low-blood-sugar laid me low. We didn't see the cart girl till the 10th hole, and by then, it was too late for me. . . I had a 50-55=105.

I was rusty, not having played for 3 weeks, besides, so I hit the ball left and right, high and low, without any sense of where it was really going, but I never got into so much trouble that I had no play, but my short game from 100 yds out was even worse than before. I pureed several iron shots over the green on the front nine -- the only thing I thought of trying after a while was swinging harder, so my contact would be less-solid and closer to my normal distance. That turned out not to be a good idea, as I took a 9 on #16, a par 4.

The back 9 is 50 yds shorter than the front, and has an extra stroke to give; looking at the card at the halfway point, I tho't sure I could improve on my front 9 score: #12, a short par 5; #13, a moderate par 3; #14, ashort par 4; #15, a very short par 3 that almost seems out of place on this very hard course; #16 a moderate par 4; #17 a short par 4, and #18, which is long, but also very down-hill. Instead, I had 2 9s and a snowman.

Like a neglected mistress, Golf was exacting its revenge, and is so often the case, then on #18, graced me with my 3rd par of the day, to make sure I would come back . . . I felt like I'd skied my drive from the very, very elevated tee, but it was even with Mr. Science's ball and in the middle of the fairway, only 190 yds out, so call the drive 230 into the wind . . . so I cut a smart little 5 wood wind-cheater onto the left side of the green, away from the water, pin-high in the fringe, from where I was able to get up-and-down for the first time of the day. Yeah, I'll be back.

These greens roll true, but they are almost tortured they have been contoured so severely, which sometimes disguises the subtle counter-breaks that fooled me all day long. Even if I could putt, I woulda misread many putts.

Mr. Science made one birdie on the 129 yd par 3 #15. He fussed and fumed over his uphill 6-footer for even longer than usual, looking for one of those subtle breaks, till my throat clearing finally irritated him enough to make him just putt it. . . nothing but net.

When we finished the cart boys that clean clubs jaws dropped. "Wow, you made good time today!" Well, we did. Even as a twosome we hardly had to wait. We played in less than 4 hours, easy, but, not as quickly as they thought, because we teed off an hour-and-a-half early.

One of the marshals checking our time also struggled with our time/space continuum. "what's your tee time?" he asked us on the 4th hole.

"1:51" we told him.

"You're making good time, then, but it's only 1:45 now!"

"Well," I said, "We do play real fast."

Friday, March 17, 2006


Mr. Science Golf Lessons

While it is true that our (Mine & Mr. Science's) approach to golf is founded in Calvinistic Principles some consider Austere and Prohibitive, we do follow also some charitable tenets common to the Judeo-Christian, for instance, "It is better to give than receive".

Now you might think a duffer like myself would welcome advice, but my head is already so full of golf tips from years of golf magazine subscriptions that, like Satan, I can quote Scripture to contradict any assertion about the golf swing, so I'm not interested in anyone else's opinion, not even Tiger Woods'.

You can tell, Mr. Science observes, from my swing .

But I restrain myself from giving advice to others, following another famous sub-commandment, "Do unto others as ye would have them do unto you".

Mr. Science, OTOH, with his swing grooved to a consistency that draws appreciative comments from whomever we play with, welcomes comments, and enjoys trading tips. I skulk off to the side of the tee during such interludes, with my fingers plugged in my ears, my eyes averted, chanting "LaLaLaLaLaLaLa" until I think the danger is passed.

Mr. Science perserverates, tho' . . .

Once a player has mastered the grip and stance, all he has to bear in mind, in the brief two-second interval it takes to swing,is to keep his left elbow pointed in toward the left hip and his right arm loose and closer to the body than the left and take the club head past his right knee and then break the wrists at just the right instant while the left arm is still traveling straight back from the ball and the right arm stays glued to the body and the hips come around in a perfect circle and meanwhile everything is mucked up unless the weight is 60 percent on the left foot and 40 percent on the right - not an ounce more or less - and at just the right point in the turn the left knee bends in toward the right in a dragging motion until the left heel comes off the ground but not too far and be sure the hands are over the right foot but not on the toe more than the heel except that the left side of the right foot is tilted off the ground - but not too far and be sure the hands at the top of the swing are high and the shaft points along a line parallel with the ground and if its a downhill lie the shaft is supposed to be pointed downhill too and pause at the top of the swing and count one, jerk the left arm straight down like a bell ringer yanking a belfry rope and don't uncork the wrists too soon and pull the left hip around in a circle but don't let the shoulders turn with the hips - they have to be facing the hole and now transfer the weight 60 percent to the left foot and 40 percent to the right - not an ounce more or less - and tilt the left foot now so the right side of it is straight (that's the one you hit against) watch out for the left hand, it's supposed to be extended, but not too stiff or the shot won't go anywhere and don't let it get loose or you will hook, then let the wrists uncork but don't force them or you'll smother the shot and don't break too soon but keep your head down then hit the ball!

THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO IT!! . .Unless you move your head, then you're screwed !!

But I DID see an interesting blurb in the last Golf Digest I can't wait to try out . . . from Ben Hogan . . . where you make your swing "around" your left leg for Drives, and "around" your right leg for iron shots.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


LPGA Safeway International - Thursday

This week, Mr. Science is scoring at the Safeway Open at Superstition Mountain Golf Club. . . just what exactly that entails we shall see . . .


I was walking scorer today for Hee Jung Park (formerly known as Gloria), current British Open Champion Karen Stupples, and Karine Icher. Hee Jung is Korean, Karen is from the UK, and Karine is Swiss. Truly an International group. 50 of the top 50 on the 2005 LPGA money list are in the field.

Karine spoke French to her caddy (I think it was her husband) and they kept to themselves most of the time. Karen was very chatty and friendly, and shot 67. Maybe that helped. She hits the ball a mile, consistently 40 yards past the other two, and was on 3 of the par 5's in two. After making a pit stop, she told my standard-bearer she had seen her "nip off" and was glad to see that there was a restroom. Karine asked her if she was looking for a cactus, and Karen said "there are no cactus big enough to hide my backside". Actually, of all the people I know who can hit a golf ball 300 yards, she has one of the smallest backsides.

There was one time that Karine drove it past Karen, by about 5 yards. When Karen hit hers 260 right down the middle, she complained that she had "throated" it. Her caddy assured her it was OK, but she still didn't like it. I said the only thing wrong was that it was too close to the center of the fairway. She laughed.

Hee Jung's family was following the group, and on one tee Karen was eating a snack bar, and, looking at Hee's relatives, pointed to the snack bar, to Hee, and to her biceps. Walking down the fairway, I asked her what the bar was (then forgot the name of it -- it has lots of fiber, she said, and chocolate chips) and if I ate them would I be able to hit 280-yard drives, and she assured me that was her secret, and it would work for me, too. And I always thought it had something to do with gyms and weights, or hitting the ball in the middle of the clubface. Now I know the secret, if I coul
d only remember the name of the thing...

Hee Jung was first to arrive on the tee, and came over and introduced herself. When Karine arrived, she pointed at the standard-bearer's sign, looked at Hee Jung, and asked her "Is that you?" She had been going by Gloria all these years just because it is easier in English, and just now is switching to her Korean name. The LPGA computer still showed her on the leader board (she was -3 for a while, but shot 71) as Park, Gl (Park, Gr is Grace). There are three Parks in the field, 4 Lees and 6 Kims. Sarah Lee (I kid you not) had an ace on 17, and is tied for first at -7.

Annika was 3 groups behind us, so I didn't see her at all. Karrie Webb was in the group right behind us. We played in the morning, and in the afternoon, in consecutive groups, were Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, Brittany Lang, and Morgan Pressel. I watched them play 8, 12, and 15, and watched Natalie on 18. One of the girls in Brittany's group had an 8 on 15, hit her drive in the desert (lateral hazard) and had to go back to the tee. It looked like she had made a 6, but she must have done something wrong in the desert for 2 more. So, their group was not on the 18th tee (a par 5) when Natalie finished, so that was when I headed home.

What they say is true, "These Girls Rock". They don't have the short game that the men do, though. We had 2 chip-ins in our group, but I saw a lot of putts from inside 10 feet that missed, and some from inside 3 feet. Lots of 4-foot par putts, too, but they made most of those. They make lots of pars. I saw 14 pars on the first 5 holes.

They had lots of trouble reading the greens, I think. I sure did. I saw a lot of putts that I thought broke uphill, uphill putts that kept rolling, and downhill putts that were hit hard but stopped quickly. People were talking about grain, and the mountains. I think it was the mountains, everything broke away from the Superstition Mountains.

On the PGA Tour now they have lasers that pinpoint every shot, and the walking scorers have palm pilots to enter the scores and stats. The LPGA does it with pencil and paper, like the PGA did before Shotlink. They record driving distance on only two holes, measured with yardage markers on the edge of the fairway. It's more fun the old way, I think.

They do stats differently, too. If your first putt rolls off the green, the next stroke is not a putt. On the PGA Tour, once you're on the green, all the rest are putts no matter where you hit from. If you get up and down from a greenside bunker it's a sand save, no matter what your score is. That may be the same on the PGA Tour, I don't know, but you don't get 50 cents for it in a $2 nassau unless it's par or better.

Tomorrow afternoon I have Mikaela Parmlid and Karin Sjodin, both from Gothenburg, Sweden, and Becky Morgan from Monmouth, Wales.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Talking Stick North Course

7133 Yds, Par 70, Slope 125, by Crenshaw & Coore


They Say:
“Talking Stick’s North course, with its broad, angular holes rewards thoughtful play through the rise of its many options according to one’s level of skill. Its low-profile, slightly crowned greens and close-cropped approaches encourage running as well as aerial assaults.” - Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw

We finally used our raincheck from last summer. I didn't think I was going to finish 3 over for 18, but I didn't think I would have a meltdown, either . . . Mr. Science carded a somewhat erratic (for him) 44-38=82; I had a 51-45=96. Mr. Science double bogeyed the first two holes, despite almost an hour on the driving range beforehand, then finished the last 16 holes at 8-over, with 11 pars. I parred the first hole -- something I always regarded as an ill-omen back home at Walden-on-Lake-Conroe -- after my standard training regimen: breakfast -- before the wheels came off.

After weeks of exploring the Phoenix Munis, The Troon Golf Experience had us both smiling ear-to-ear: it's just so much FUN to play golf on velvet fairways, true greens, and fantastic scenery while experiencing courteous, knowledgable service. All "for free" on our summer-rate-rainchecks: S-a-w-e-e-t! My breakfast sandwich with home fries & orange juice was fantastic . . . not better than McCormick Ranch and 3 times as expensive as a the inferior product from a Muni. But I felt great heading out, especially after the first hole par -- probably tooooo good.

My impression last summer, when we were playing 3 times a week, was that the North Course was much easier than the South Course, but that's only if you avoid the trouble, which since my game is not so well tuned, now, I did not. Several times I landed in fairway bunkers I had blithely ignored before, and once in, I discovered the extremely penal nature: trying to get out with a 7 iron was no bueno.

I stepped in a hole, a drain of some sort next to one of those fairway bunkers on the split fairway on #4. My ankle cracked with a load pop that made me sick to my stomach. It turned out to just be a sprain, and I have to admit it really didn't affect my game, but it scared the bejesus out of me for a second.

Like on the North course, too, the greenside bunkers are deep, too. The course seems flat to the casual observer, but not ugly and not uninteresting, especially if you wander off the short grass.

#4 is a great hole, and #12, too: not-too-long Par 4s with divided fairways and multiple strategic choices with very penal opportunities for failure. But the fairways really are very wide and the challenges are mental & visual rather than "real". Very artful design, a la' McKinzie. We had a bit of wind to contend with, too, that made the desert-links-style play challenging -- both Talking Stick 18s play more difficult than their slopes, I think.

The "angular" feature they talk about has something to do with the way the holes dogleg gently, but the fairway grass does not necessarily follow the center-line, which leaves psychologically intimidating shots over desert areas intruding into the golfer's vision. Because of that, and the way that bunkers are placed varying distances from the green, even if the golfer has a yardage in his head -- adjusted for the wind and an uneven lie -- the visual feedback is different: more noise in your head.

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