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Sunday, February 17, 2008


Ken McDonald, Again

So, yesterday, Saturday, we tried to play at Poston Butte . . . the price was right . . . the course was right for the ladies, and anyway, I wanted to take one last look in the leftover barrel for my Cobra PW that I'm sure I left there. Tho' the weather was only "mostly cloudy", it had rained so much the day before that the course was still wet, and it was cart-paths only: progress was very slow that afternoon . . .

When it had been 3 holes in an hour, Mr Science called the proshop and got a "rain check" for the slow play, so we adjourned to the Old Pueblo Cafe in downtown Florence for Consolation in margaritas and appetisers of Fluatitas, Chimichangitas, and Buffalo Chicken Wings. I am only joking when I say the second best place to eat in Florence is the Prison Cafeteria . . . 8^) . . .

Long way to drive for 3 holes of golf and some chips-&-salsa . . . 8^) . . .

Sunday, just Mr Science & I went off to Ken McDonald again for 18 . . .

When our playing partners that day, the Boudrou Brothers from Chicago, bailed out after 2 holes had taken an hour, things looked very bleak to us . . . Mr Science complained, "That means the round will take 9 hours!"

Could we possibly be stalled out of our round twice in two days? . . . 8^0 . . . It was still very slow for the next 4 holes, but then the logjam broke up, and we actually finished our round just at dusk (after 5 1/2 hours) . . . .

Reading the description of our first trip to KM, I am struck that I only really want to talk about the last two holes again, they really are the only two holes that compare to Cave Creek . . .

#17 was 192 yds of all-carry today. Mr Science ripped his patented Magic 3iron on a rope to the center of the green, rolling up on the back tier to 8 ft from the pin. He looked at me and smiled ruefully, "That's the way I was hittin' 'em on the driving range . . . " He missed the birdie putt . . . he shook his head as if he'd had bad news from his automechanic, "that's my second missed birdie putt today" -- he expects more than 2 a day, if you see what I mean . . . meanwhile I pulled out my new cobra 7wood . . . I figgered my new 5wood was too much club to the down hill green, and besides it had betrayed me on two other holes today, already. Those clubs make a funny "tink" sound when I hit 'em . . . this one looked like a pro-shot, a high hook, over the pin and over the green, up onto the humps behind . . . 205, at least . . . so there seems to be a gap in my clubs now between 205 & 180 -- gonna have to do something about that . . . . I chipped the ball down the hump, one-hopped on the fringe with plenty of backspin, 5 ft past the hole, so I was pretty pleased, but I pulled that putt left, like so many this day -- probably had 5 or 6.

#18 tee shot didn't perplex me this time as much as last -- but I'm much more confident with my driver now. I hit a majestic fade into the wind that found the middle of the fairway -- the OB, the water, the pinched landing area did not bother me. But I chunked my 7 iron to 20 yds short of the green. My PW chip stopped 4 ft below the hole . . . good enough, one would have tho't, but I pulled that par putt left, too. . .8^( . . .

As we left the green I ejaculated, "I don't understand why I'm jerking those putts left now!'

Mr Science began, "I didn't want to tell you during the round, but . . . "

we interrupted ourselves to shake hands with Big Ed & Little Al, playing companions that had joined us when our other partners had quit. Big Ed was an amiable sort of competent, left-handed tho' he was, in the pleasurable phase of coaching his young teenager in golf. Little Al had a sweet, natural swing with a tendency to overhook -- a pleasure to watch him play, to see that he has before him a life-time of golf competency . . .

As we walked to the parking lots back across the CAP, I got Mr Science to continue, "What about my jerk-left putts?"

"Oh!" said Mr Science, "I was gonna tell you your pants are split up the back! Your underwear is showing!"

"Oh!" said I, "I know about that! It's these cheap pants Mrs Cactus bought me at Ross for $12 . . . I can't help that now, can I? Whajawant me to do? Quit and go home cuz my underwear shows?" . . . 8^D. . . he never did offer an opinion on my putting, but then, Mr Science finds analysis of my techniques a little painful . . . it's interesting to him, as a Golf Scientist, you see, but impossible the way that a bumblebee flying is impossible, if you see what I mean. . . 8^D. . .

The thing I didn't fit in was that on #12 (I think) Mr Science wound up against a wall on the left side of the rough, next to some houses. He yelled something at Big Ed and me. "What did he say?" asked Ed. "He wants to borrow one of your leftie clubs!" I told him with a barking laugh. When he looked over, he saw Mr Science taking practice swings with an upside down PW, lefthanded. "He can take a drop from that wall," he opined. . . "Nah," I replied, "that would violate our Calvinistic Paganican Principles!"

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


London Bridge West Course Lake Havasu

6613 Yds, Par 71, Slope 125, by Lawrence Hughes

The West course is 500 yds longer than the East Course, over the same hilly terrain, so you'd think it would be harder . . . it is . . . this is a fully difficult championship course -- it is a little wide open for the duffers, but to score, you have to hit good shots . . .

This is the first tee, typical of what you'd see thru-out the round, with the Cupcake Mountains in California in the background. I hit a solid drive, then leaked my 9iron right into the greenside bunker. Up-up-and-down for a bogie.

Tho' downhill severely, this 213 yd par 3 #5 is very, very intimidating from the tee, with water on the left front of the green and a giant bunker on the right. Of the three men in our group, two of us were just over the putting surface, and one was short. . . Mrs Cactus was green-high, but right, which was good for her, cuz she could chip up onto the green without having to flop over the bunker . . . an easy bogey . . . one of several on par 3s for her this day. We all made bogeys . . . the green just slopes so steeply back to front that you are inevitably short or long, from fear or recklessness, if you see what I mean. Notice in this picture the cart between the water and the green . . . there are a lot of guys at these clubs, it seems, who feel like having their own cart entitles them to abandon common sense in course-care.

This is #6, the #1 handicap hole, a 456 yd. par 4 dogleg right. I tho't I could just fly those two trees on the right inside of the dogleg, but I shot the gap instead -- it's shocking how pleasurable such luck is . . .

but my next shot I pushed right with my 5wood into the tiny greenside water hazard . . . instant double bogey . . . no real place to bail out, but one could lay-up short, I guess . . . there's a culvert running down the whole left side of the fairway and the fairway will let your ball run that way, too . . . like several water hazards on these courses, that "Arizona Bathtub" is "lifted" to green's height, which makes it look funny, for sure.

I got my one-and-only birdie that day on the par 5 #7 unexpectedly . . . meaning that I had not gritted my teeth after the double bogey on #6 and vowed to get a stroke back . . . I was feeling good about my drivers, but my irons were still suspect, but I remained optimistic. But somehow I wound up in the trees on the left of the picture there. I had to hit a low-hook-half-5iron to keep it under the trees and away from the sandtrap that guarded the left front of the uphill green. I haven't hit a finer shot in my life . . . it stopped 22 feet below the hole, which was no gimme, lemme tell ya!

You havta admit that these two par3s, #5 above and this one, #12, are eye-catching. This one has a horeshoe shaped water hazard protecting the green . . . we had that 2club wind in our faces, so I hit a 5 iron, even tho it was only 157, and I was still worried it wouldn't make it . . . I wound up 20+ ft short of the pin. All three men were on the green, but Mrs. Cactus lost 2 balls in the water -- not woman-friendly, as the QOG would say -- two of us made easy pars, and the other made an easy birdie from 6 ft . . . the people sitting up on the verandah above the green applauded graciously.

I really liked the 387 yd par 4 #16 . . . the uncertainties of the dogleg right sorta inhibit you from cutting the corner and make you wary of drifting too far left, but the real treat is when you get to the green. There are 3 tiers and putting down fron the top tier to the middle was no joy for my playing partners, very hard to read. I was short right in the fringe just below that middle tier and my chip/putt broke 5 ft left coming off that mound on the right and the tier-slope, for a kick-in par . . . y'understand, I am trying desperately to get my quota of birdies (2) on a hole like this, but I was thwarted by the design, even after a perfect drive.

After losing 2 balls on the triple bogey par 3 #17, I had some West Texas Red Ass on my drive on 18, with a little more than 160 left to the green, all uphill against the wind . . . I absolutely laced my 5iron approach, but still came up short . . .my 7iron chip came up 6 ft short and I missed the putt to finish with a bogey. Somehow it still seemed like a victory.
I'd kinda hoped we'd finish closer to dark, but both days we finished in just over 4:15 hours . . .
I took this picture of #1 as we left, just because it embolizes what I love about golf at dusk . . . if you compare it to the photo above from 1:15 pm, you'll see what I mean . . .
I want to be playing golf at dusk.
I love the physically manisfested, theoretical Nature of it:
Unable to see the flight of the ball, I play by sense: "That felt 'left', but l-o-n-g (or right and short, as the case may be)".
It's surprising how well I can play in twilight, Absent the distractions of sight: I play more 'within myself', my competitive passions reined in. The amorphous green in the dark becomes such an easy target. Putts lagged from memory, in a general direction, often go in.
But, more than that, it's the world I choose.
No other place where man does tread looks so wonderful as the sun sets:
The fairway assumes a velvet texture;
Trees and shrubs get fantastic shapes and shades;
Mounds and hollows seem inhabited, if not actually haunted.


Sunland Village

Mr Science Reports:
Par 62, 3623 yards. "This is a nice little course" opined the Golfing Queen. I had to agree. Well-maintained, good price/performer. Nothing spectacular, but not boring either. 2.

Monday, February 11, 2008


London Bridge East Course Lake Havasu

6140 Yds, Par 72, Slope 117, by Lawrence Hughes.

So the plan was: See The London Bridge, stay at hotel with a view of the bridge AND jacuzzi tubs (to relax us after our rounds), play golf with the picturesque lake and bridge in the background, and have dinner with the bridge lit up at night in the background . . .

We stayed at the Agave, which was being refurbished while we were there, but our room was very nice, had a giant jacuzzi, and a lakeside view (see!) of the bridge -- it looks in very good shape . . . can't imagine why the foolish British parted with it and this maniac McCulloch from Arizona that pinched is some sort of genious -- I don't know what kind, tho'.

We ate at Shuegar's across the street from the hotel, which has the aforementioned views, but we were stuck back in some stuffy windowless corner . . . the food's ok, I guess, but the flight of Syraz we got struck Mrs Cactus down . . . I almost had to carry her back to the hotel -- thinking seriously about a lawsuit . . . 8^P . . .

And the only golf course in sight of the bridge seems to be some cheesy little 9holer at the London Bridge Resort -- forget it . . . but we were pleased for the most part with the London Bridge Courses several miles away, anyway. . .

Lawrence Hughes has done many semi-famous courses, and Mr Science & I enjoyed the one he designed that we played up in Prescott, the Antelope Hills North Course, but our Ladies did not, since, as old-school designs, the considerations for the distaff gender were not so generous as on modern courses, and so it was here . . . but the East course is short, so for women it only measures 5045 yds.

Mrs Cactus was breaking in her new Taylor Made Miscela clubs, and we'd have to judge that a success: she's still got some learning curve on the hybrids, but she was getting a great trajectory on her Driver Shots.

We were rusty, having not played for several weeks, due to bad weather and the FBR, but I still felt like I should break 80 -- din't even come close, wound up with 44+44=88 . . . we complained about the greens the whole day . . . they weren't bad, just much slower than we're used to in Scottsdale, like a Sun City Course.

I had only one birdie, tho' I had several chances . . . on 17, a 515 yd, down-hill, down-wind par 5. I totally busted a drive 315 yds -- I was all but standing on the 200 yd disc. For some reason, a singleton in a cart in the group in front of us didn't leave the green area after they finished, he just sat there, totalling up bets or something . . . I waited till I couldn't wait anymore and hit anyway, a 7wood . . . It never got more than a foot in the air, but it didn't bounce much either, and rolled past the rear of his cart . . . THEN he moved off. . . my ball wound up just past pin high just right of the green. . . I liked my eagle chances, but -- the thing with these greens is that when the slope & the grain go the same way, the ball really rolls . . . it rolled off the green into the fringe, 20 ft past the cup . . . MAN I was burning . . . but it was dead straight back up hill, and I rolled the comeback in. . . it didn't thrill me, I felt entitled after a day-long of putts coming up short or breaking 2 feet the last foot.

Studiously avoiding the dreaded PBFU, I put a real smooth swing on #18 (shown right) and hammered my drive again, with a tight draw that looks like I know something . . . 8^P. . . the difference tho', is that this hole is uphill to the green from the landing area and INTO a 2 club wind, so this one still went 259 . . . I was standing on the 200 yd disc again . . . 8^D. . . but instead of 7wood, I had to use my 3wood, and just found the front right corner of the green. 3putt from 50+ ft, dangit.

Hughes is a very intelligent designer, if not particularly flashy . . . he uses a few trees sparingly, but well, sand traps effectively, and the changes in elevation are meaningful . . . there's 4 very short par 4s, but I didn't birdie any of them, bogied one and took a 7 on the other, trying to drive the green.

As is common on these elderly courses, the 4s have grown almost as long as the 5s. The design is a little quirky: 1 3 on the front; 3 3s on the back, which makes the course sound, on paper, like an executive, but it never felt like less than a championship course, playing it . . .


Del Lago Tucson

7206 Yds, Par 72, Slope 135, by Nugent Golf
Mr Science Reports from Tucson:

The more I play this course, the better I like it, and I think you'd like it, too. Like Sanctuary, it sort of grows on you, design-wise. It's basically a desert course, with forced carries on most tees, but it has plenty of mounds, irregularly shaped fairways with well-placed sand traps, water hazards, and big elevation changes. Even the most ordinary par 4's have features, so you can't just hit away without thinking about it. Actually, I would say there are no ordinary holes.

Vail is 3500 feet above sea level, and unless I've suddenly discovered the secret of long driving: that helps noticeably. They say 5000 feet is worth 10%, but I was hitting my drives at least 15% longer than I do in Scottsdale, at 1200 feet. On an uphill par 4 of 366 yards, I had 109 to the center for my approach. It didn't affect my irons, though, so maybe it is me. I also played Pro V1's, because that's what the magazine said I should do, and I washed my grips. Plus I'm getting better at my latest swing changes, and I have a new tip that's working well, too.

Jason and I played the gold tees, 6722 yards, 135 slope. From the tips it is 7206 and 142. I shot 81 with one birdie, one bogey, and 8 GIR, and beat Jason's 82, which is an accomplishment now because Jason is a long hitter and is down to a 6 handicap. I asked him if he wanted to come up for the Sun Lakes scramble on May 10, and he's interested. He hit his 4-hybrid second shot onto the back fringe of a 567-yard par 5, and was around the green on two others (550, 485). He could have gotten close to the 9th, too (564), but he laid up to avoid the chasm in front of the green.

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