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Monday, September 24, 2007


Santa Ana

7145 Yds, Par 72, Slope 129, by Ken Killian, Albuquerque NM

They Say: "The Santa Ana Golf Club is a daily fee golf course - only one fee for the entire day! The golf course offers the glorious natural splendor of the Santa Ana Pueblo. Located north of Albuquerque, NM and woven through the desert along the Rio Grande, it is surrounded by the grandeur of the Jemez Mountains to the west, the Sangre de Cristos to the north, and the Sandia Mountains immediately east, offering a spectacular view of the 10,000-foot Sandia Peak. Native grasses, subtle mounding and eight crystal-blue lakes will inspire and challenge you to play your best."

Sort of a Desert-links style layout -- no saguaros, of course, but plenty of prickly shrubs and brittle-bush-type infestations in the deep rough . . .

Especially on the first couple of holes. For a starting hole, the par 4 #1 is a potentially grim start . . . that unforgiving cross bunker guarding the inside of the dogleg looks like you ought to be able to drive it easily, but you could go thru the dogleg, too, if you don't bite off enough . . . I hit my drive solidly, but without any tragectory. It plowed right into the mound in front of the trap and ski-ramped over the bunker back into the middle of the fairway, 150yds . . . I need that sort of break on the first hole, or a 1putt, or a chipin, just to get me started off positively. I pulled my choke-down 7iron left and above the hole. My continued consternation at the bad reads I am getting these days with my new glasses required me to 3putt, sort of the anti-break of what I was talking about to get me started.

#2 doesn't seem anymore open, and indeed for me it was not: I solidly hit my drive with the right tragectory into the trap on the right on the 2nd bounce. Even as I grumbled about the unfairness of the hole, I felt optimistic: fairway bunker shots is something I do well. I hit a high 6iron fade 160 yds, into the wind, over a tree, onto the green: my ballmark was a foot from the hole; my ball, 18 inches. That was ONE putt I couldn't misread.

Then I settled back into my 3putt-bogey mode -- but it's not just the 3putts, its all the missed 1putts that rankles. Especially after scrambling well -- I was in fairway bunkers on 4, 7, & 9, too, but hit good shots out of all of them, so the poor putting really rankled.

The par 4 #6 deceives in a MacKensien way: from the tee all you can see is brush and the water on the left, which makes you want to hit it right -- into the other water hazard you can't see. I deduced all this and tried to keep my drive left, but missed, but that was alright because the alignment of the fairway to the tee was more right bound than I imagined, so I wound up in the middle of the fairway 115 yds away. That's a standard half-9 for me, I hit it all the time, very confidently, but it felt "wrong" when I hit it, and I couldn't pick up the ball flight with a typical 9iron tragectory, but I saw it when it bounced in the middle of the green. Apparently it had some serious pull-slice on it, cuz it was going sideways with the wind at that point, which was perfect for the pin tucked away in the back right corner. I only had 12 feet for a birdie, but I left it 3 ft short, then pulled the par putt. A real molar grinder.

The par 5 #8 is a monster 633 yards. My first shot didn't even reach the fairway. It hadn't felt solid, so I wasn't surprised, nor pleased, but gauging by the GPS in the cart, my drive went 240, it's just kinda far. My ball was kind of teed up in the rough with an uphill lie, so I gave a smooth swing to a 5wood, just trying to get back into position: a great, high, majestic shot, but it left me still 190 yds to an uphill, elevated green. Really, you'd think after 600 yds, the architect would give you half-a-break with the green complex, but this was a booger, with multiple tiers and a drop of a few feet from back edge to front. 6 Felt like a good score.

The par 4 #10, #1 on the Star Course, has kind of an awkward, linkstyle appearance from the tee, but it's all mind games. There's not much really going on . . . course I am able to say that because I hit my unrehearsed half-5 167 yds to right below the hole. Another unmissable, kickin birdie . . . I could get use to this . . .

I think the Star is a little inferior to the other 2nines, just a little more open. I finished 42-41=83, with the two birdies, the first time I've met my quota in several rounds.

This is a great course, in a great site.


Sun City Lakes West

6251 yds, Slope 119, Par 72, by Gary Nash (I think)

One Reckons that a Sun City course only 6251 yds long is a little overrated at Slope 119, but the course is not defenseless either by design and by maintenance.

By Design, it has every appearance of a Nash course, wide open, attractive, and maybe just a little bland, but subtly deceptive, so that a mis-step deprives you of par: the greens are elevated and canted to add to the interest of the green, over-and-above mere multi-level-tiers, ridges, swales and mounds.

By Maintenance, the fairway grass is longer-than-usual-enough to take 20 yds off my drive (and dangit! I Need That Roll), the rough was longer-than-common, but not so deep or wooly that lost balls were a problem ('cept in a couple of places), and the greens were longer-than-common, but not unkempt -- they were just slow enough that it was hard for us to adjust to, especially after the greens over at Troon North we were on the day before.

I was still suffering from mis-reads due to my new glasses, and suffered a handful of 3 putts, in addition to missing makable 1 putts, too.

I shot 46-44, despite this horrible putting; while Mr Science coasted to an 82, with his Birdie Quota -- we'd both like to score 3-4-5 shots better on a course like this but we were left instead with grudging respect, if not enthusiastic appreciation of the slow greens.

I'm in a malaise now where I either mishit a weak slice with my irons or else absolutely puree the shot over the green, unless I've misclubbed. That happened to me several times, especially in the back9. There's very little more sickening than seeing your ball fly over the pin but take a big bounce. The way things are now for me, 3putts are ruining my game, because if I get the speed wrong, I have no confidence in the come-backer.

Mr Science hit a flutterer on one approach.
"What was THAT?" I asked.
"New stroke," he said. "I open the face a little bit and sweep the short-iron, rather than taking a divot . . . it doesn't go as far, but it sets down soft!"

That's why he's Mr Science . . . 8^) . . .

Good course to walk; we enjoyed it even tho' the renta-carts tended to wallow in the tall grass and the handles were loose. The heat wasn't bad, teeing off early.


Troon North Tournament

7025 Yds, Slope 147, Par 72, by Weiskopf & Morrish

We replayed Troon North, for the Queen of Golf, but it didn't turn out like we tho't it would . . .

They've rearranged the configuration of the 36 holes, apparently to gratify the architects, so that half of the holes make up a course now called The Tournament Course, instead of Monument and Pinnacle -- I don't know what the other one is called.

The first hole on Tournament was Monument #10, the aptly named Mackenzie: the fairway peeks out at you from the tee from behind obstructions of trees & mounds & bunkers; the green is elevated over and separated from the landing area by a wide swath of trash; the green is guarded on all sides, not by traps, but by grass bunkers, swales and mounds covered in deep rough -- a very good hole, and a good one to start on -- you have to hit the tee swinging, if you see what I mean . . .

Unfortunately, the group behind us took that a little too literally. While we were still parked just to the left of the trap in the middle back of the landing area, they hit into us: the ball ping-ponged around the interior of the Science's cart. Fortunately they were both out watching Mrs Science hit her approach, but we were all unnerved. It woulda killed anybody sitting in the cart.

One can hardly imagine the process that allows a person to hit into the group ahead of you on the first hole? What sort of impolite impatience foments such behaviour? I'm afraid I reacted poorly: boiling over from the cumulative weight of this incident and the last 2, too. I picked up the ball and held it up. "Come and get it, you asshole!" I screamed. "Come and get it." They just waved apologetically from the tee. In disgust, I threw the ball over towards the wall to someone's house.

I was so mad, I was shaking and nauseated. It ruined my round . . . on such a golf course, one must drive well, but with prudence, and one's short game must be in top order . . . I lacked prudence but not adrenaline; my short game was shaky or volcanic. My new glasses seemed to tilt the world from the right, so that I misread every putt, too.

From the green, I heard Mr Science say " . . . when we're being bombarded from the tee . . . " and I tho't he was explaining to one of the residents out working in his back yard about my bad language, but no, he told me later, he was trying to explaing to the Queen of Golf why he'd lost sight of her approach shot . . . 8^D. . .

I wound up with a 102, mainly 3 putts and bad chipping; Mr Science equably carded an 88, including his quota of 2 birdies -- not as well as he would have liked, but given the outrages to our sensibility and the difficulty of the course, not bad . . .

There are other holes worth mentioning, but most kinda blurred together in my unhappiness:

9 of the 18 holes have divided fairways, something that caused Mrs Cactus and Mrs Science trouble, having to judge their second shots for layups, then still have to face formidable carries.

Tough Course, Great Golf, Fabulous Facility, Gracious Staff, but subject to the vicissitudes of Arizona Golfers, the biggest bunch of etiquette-less, non-ball-mark-fixing, non-trap-raking, non-divot-sanding, cart-riding, mulligan-taking, lie-improving, gimme-takers this side of St. Andrews.


Torrey Pines South

7605 Yds, Par 72, Slope 143, by Bill Bell / Updated by Rees Jones

The course was not in great shape, except the greens were very fast, and soft. Cart Path Only, and it will be so until the Open.

They charge $40 for residents, and $145 for "visitors", but the service was like your average $25 muni course. They had $12 hamburgers in the restaurant, which was very nice and had great service. That was part of the Lodge, not the golf course. Nice Pro shop. The parking was down the street, next to the 9th fairway, 1.5 par 5's from the clubhouse, because they were digging up the parking lot in preparation for the Open. The signs on the street steer you to the parking lot, not the bag drop, because they don't have one. Nobody to help get you and your clubs back to the clubhouse. The driving range made Tallwood's range look like a manicured English Garden. I'm talking foot-high weeds. You hit off plastic mats. There was a sign marked with red, white, and blue flag icons indicating the distances to the various pins. All the flags on the range were yellow. People were chipping to the practice green which was clearly and multiply marked "no chipping". Let's see, what else. Oh, yes, the $40 non-refundable "booking fee" for visitors, and $40 cart fee. But $2 of the cart fee is a refundable deposit. I should have kept the cart. I guess people must have been leaving them in the parking lot, and they had to go retrieve them.

I played it from 6600 yards, and the trouble was not really in play much. (Phil hit a horrible shot to get where he did. I hit a pretty horrible pull hook on 17, and it stayed in the rough, thanks for tall rough. I guess if I hit it better, it could have reached the ravine.) From 7600 yards, where they play the tournament, the main challenge is the distance, besides the greens. Jeanie and I both hit 20-foot uphill putts that went 18 feet, and then had a 22-footer for the next one. I'm not complaining about the greens, they were quite fair, just very difficult due to the speed and the slope. And the size. I had 37 putts, and none of them could be called "bad". 10 first putts over 27 feet, only one went in (my one and only birdie, on 15) and 3 of them were 3-putts.

The point is that the design doesn't really do justice to the piece of land, which is spectacular.

It's a Bill Bell course, he did a couple of the Phoenix munis, too. The high rough is tough, but the fairways were pretty wide. The USGA could drive the winning score to +6 or so very easily by narrowing, or contouring the fairways. And cutting the par to 70, if they want to have a couple of 520-yard par 4's instead of 550 par 5's.

Later in the week, we had dinner with a woman we met in Cabo last year, who lived in Oceanside, and she said La Jolla was kind of a snooty town. That was my impression of the course management as well. It's not like she's a redneck or something, she just quit her job as President of a company to move to LA where she expects to be top dog at a family-owned company, after the owner bows out.

I just can't help but compare it to a Troon North, or a Boulders, which are always in pristine condition, and where for half the money they fall all over themselves treating you like a king.

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