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Sunday, January 14, 2007


Wigwam Blue Course

6000 yds, Par 70, Slope 126, by Robert Trent Jones


They Say: "A Tricky Challenge Among Robert treat Jones contributions to the world of golf was the concept of the “signature course.” His work at The Blue Course is testament to the ability of a great designer to create courses with such different character. The Blue has been described as tricky and subtle. Playing to a length just over 6,000 yards, but a par of 70 the test can be a bit deceiving. Here is a creative course: one full of decisions and thought-provoking strategy. The hallmark of Mr. Jones’ design can be found in the array of deep and perilous bunkers, ponds and dog-leg fairways."

As we hiked over to the vacant Blue 1st Tee, I noticed the queue of carts 3 4somes deep to play the Gold course -- maybe they know something, maybe they don't . . . on paper a 6000 yd course will not have much to offer, especially when it is visibly flat-ish. But knowing that it has been designed by Robert Trent Jones should be warning enough! I wound up disappointed, more with my own inadequacies than with the course . . . I should have been better prepared, mentally, to deal with what I knew to expect, but flush with my near-success at Tuscany Falls, I got frustrated with the severely elevated and TINY greens, to the point that it just debilitated my game.

That's the main defense of this course, as you might imagine, these tiny greens, that rolled true, but proved impossible for me to read -- I missed several putts with the right speed but 4 feet offline -- that does wear a boy out. I scored something worse than double-bogey golf in toto . . . even Mr Science staggered to the low 80s, instead of his benchmark 79.

Some holes are just unfair, I think . . . like the 200 yd par 3s with tiny elevated, turtle-back greens with bunkers in the line of flight. The par 3s are the signature holes, I think, for that reason, plus the short par 3 15th, that is just a wedge long, but it is all water carry and the green slopes away from the water to the back of the green, which borders a trench thru the property. I hit a perfect shot that rolled past the pin to the fringe, from where I 3putted. Or the short #4 par 3 that's like a flat redan, the green is so elevated . . . I missed the green, the flopped a perfect shot barely on the green, but it rolled all the way off the other side.

Frequently, the greens slope away from the front, usually from a middle-ish hump in the green, which get nerve wracking on those fairway approaches. #14 was a kind of interesting hole, short and flat, but with a huge semi-visible bunker complex on the left side where the fairway might have been. Mr Science laid up short with his 3iron, but I, past caring, simply hit my drive as far as I could. 260 yds found the middle of the giant bunker. I like to think my youth in west Texas has prepared me for fairway bunkers, but I still semi-chunked it only to the front of the green. Then I hit a lag putt over the middle hump into the bowl on the back side of the green, so that my ball broke at least 20 ft toward the hole. I still missed the par putt. Mr Science, meanwhile, semi-chunked his short wedge, seeing that crazy pin position, then left his lag putt still at the top of the middle mound, but two good putts later he got his bogey.

#16 sticks in my head too, as one of the semi-unfair shots. That trench that backs up to #15 runs along the left side of #16, then cuts across the fairway just in front of the landing area, then pinches the landing area from the right. A large tree that guards the left side of the fairway and a heart-shaped pot bunker, 10 feet wide in the dead middle of the fairway tempts the driver to play right, despite the trench, which BTW has to be the single Ugliest Design Feature in the valley -- what could RTJ have been thinking? Is it to emulate the birns on scottish courses?

So I wound up left of the trap, behind the tree, with only a wedge left to the green, but when I say that tree is guarding the green, I don't mean that it is standing their passively in all its Regal Arboreality, but rather that it was fiercely standing between us and the green like a hockey goalie in a particuarly ugly mask. I reclubbed at second tho't opting for more loft, and came up short, down thru the branches that tossed me gently onto the froghair. Mr Science hit his best drive of the day, 265 dead center of the fairway, straight as an arrow and beautiful to watch, but it rolled into that heart-shaped pot bunker.

Such a cute touch . . . Probably looks great from a helicopter . . . Must be the "signature" feature of the course. If only that tree blocking the left side of the green were closer to the middle, it would be a double signature. . .

Mr Science's 95-yard gap wedge was a little fat, came up short of the green. Pin front left. He hit a nice chip that almost stopped in the center of the green, maybe 10 feet right of the pin, but it rolled off the left side of the green thru a giant swale. I nudged my ball towards the hole, and missed the hole by 20 feet, as it raced to the bottom of that swale, next to Mr Science. Sigh. Another Triple Bogey for Cactus, a bogey for Mr Science.

#18 is a 496 yard par 4 -- another sort of unfair hole, IMVHO . . . given the overall length of the course . . . I swung from my heels, slicing into the trees. Next I hit my best shot of the day, 125 yard knock-down 7 iron between two trees. Next I hit a 3 wood trying to reach the green that hooked way left, and I had been aiming at the wrong green, left of the proper target in the first place. Just hit a wedge from the other fairway without thinking about it then one-handed a couple of putts, relieved the ordeal was over.

"What'd you have there?" queried the ever-punctilious Mr Science.
"Agggh. Put me down for an 8", I said dismissively.
"But Wait!" objected Mr Science, then he recounted my strokes for me, "That's only a 6!"
"By all means," I said drily, "put down a 6 if you think it makes any difference."
So it was a combination of my overconfidence to start out, then my frustration to finish up, and the course's inherent difficulty that made for such disappointment . . . I really don't know what we shot, or which hole, exactly was which, since I tore up my card in anger.

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