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Saturday, June 28, 2008


Las Sendas

6914 Yds, Par 71, Slope 145

They Say: "Las Sendas Golf Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and opened for public play in February of 1995. The course has matured into one of the most beautiful and challenging Golf courses in the Country. Acclaimed by avid golfers and sports writers, Las Sendas is the 12th most challenging, and one of the top 50 courses in the nation according to two ZAGAT Surveys. "

#1 gets the perhaps dubious accolade as the hardest starting hole not only in the valley, but anywhere else on this green earth. Hit all you got and take a chance that you wont wind up in the traps or the water, or lay-up with well over 200 yds left to a very, very elevated green. Mr Science played it perfectly, and still wound up short of the green with a very difficult up-and-down, missing a 4ft putt for par. I put an anti-water-lock on my steer-job-tee-shot and wound up in the mounds on the left between the fairway and the driving range. I had a 45 degree downhill lie for my second shot that I was proud to maneuver down the fairway 150 yds, without going ob or in the water. I hit a very weak 8iron from there, tho', then didn't get up-and-down. Double-bogey.

Fuming about the unfairness of the first hole, I put a little west-texas-red-ass on my drive which only meant that I had another uneven lie in the rough on the backside of the dogleg. I cannily planned to allow for the natural slice lie & aim FOR those bunkers in front of the green, so that my ball would wind up in that large bailout area on the right, but I pulled my shot left so that it cannily sliced directly into the 3rd-last bunker. My first shot in the bunker clipped the lip and fell back; my second flew the green into the desert, 15 ft below the putting surface. A chunk, a blade, and 3 putts for a nine. Meanwhile, Mr Science's drive barely reached the traps on the left, in the fairway; then a 3wood got him 100yds short of the green, 20 yds short of those big bunkers. A wedge & 2 putts for his ordinary par, on a very un-ordinary hole.

#6 presents a very awkward tee shot -- as if ALL the tee shots at Las Sendas were not very awkward -- I judged I couldnt fly those saguaros on the right inside of the first dogleg, so I tried to thread the needle. My ball wound up on a thin thread of rough between the second trap and the desert . . . a very uneven lie with unsound footing. I managed to skull a 7wood up to the next corner in reasonable shape, but then I bladed my sandwedge over the (another!) very elevated green then couldn't get up and down. Mr Science pulled his ball left of the first trap and had to take a desert drop. His third shot was to the fat part of the fairway, but he came up short with his 4th shot into those very deep bunkers greenside. I suppose he took some grim pleasure in the up-and-down from there for only a 6.

To tell the truth, I don't remember what happened on #10 to give me a snowman . . . tho' it's a very interesting looking hole.

On the front 9, I had 15 on the first two holes; on the back 9, 14.
Thats 29 shots on 4 holes, 13 over par. I wound up with a 94, so I was 9 over for the other 14 holes. No birdies. Not even very many missed-birdies. Mr Science wound up with an 83, no birdies, 7 pars. He just didn't have 2 quadruple bogeys, is the difference . . . 8^D . . . He only had one GIR . . . that's one way to tell how tough this course is . . . he had the same problem at Walden, where the slope is 143, but the greens are smaller there.

4 of the 5 par 3s here are what I would call Redan Type, some more than others; #11 being the most severe example. Only one of the par 3s, #16 is downhill, and it is very downhill. I remember from last time lipping out a birdie putt that broke 6 or 8 ft on #11, but this time I muscled up and pulled my shot pin high 50 yds left of the pin . . . it happened to come-to-rest right on the foot path up to the green, but that still involved a chunk and a blade before I 3putted. A 6, without losing a ball on a 135 yd hole. . . 8^( . . .

I suspect #12 is the way it is intentionally, after #11, that the fuming golfer (me) will come to the semi-blind tee-shot a little careless with irritation . . . I figgered I'd pulled it way left but our playing companions said that it probably found the fairway behind the bunker on the inside of the dogleg, or at least the rough. Couldn't find it. So after Mr Science hit his 2nd shot, which had been adeptly shaped as a fade over the bunker, I dropped a ball and indifferently blocked it over right of the green, still on the grass. As we started off in our cart, Mr Science said . . . "Wait a minute!" and backed up to a watering hose coiled up in the rough, 40 yds past the bunker . . . it was my ball indeed . . . "aggggghhh!" I said, "I already took my free drop and hit, so let's go ahead." Playing 2 instead of 3 restored me so much I was able to get up and down for a par, there. So did Mr Science.

Now it was hot out there. We're going on 15 straight days of 110+ degree heat, and I have to believe it must have started to affect us. I know, myself, I musta not gotten enough water, I had a dehydration migraine by the time we got home. At any rate I can't remember #17, either, tho' it looks amazing here. . . I had a double bogey, and Mr Science a bogey . . . you'd think I 'd remember such fluted moguls in the rough and strategic swales, with a 6 I was surely troubled by them, but I don't . . . nor that scalloped green that wants to leak balls right into the front bunker. Not a thing.

#18 is not the best hole to go into in such a condition -- that being one of impaired judgement and reduced capabilities. I know I got enough distance now to carry that first lake, to set up an easy shot to the green, but I blocked my shot right of the water, not OB, but in that desert area . . . din't even go look for it . Mr Science wanted to play strategically, and stay left of the water, reckoning he would wind up over that hump but short of the water, but he blocked his into the water, again. I think he pulled his 3rd shot left into the other water, but then got on and in for his double bogey. I on the other hand, got on, but not close in 2 shots, then 3 putted.

We don't think there's any doubt that this is the hardest public course in PHX . . . Verde Vista comes pretty close, and if you were going to talk about unfair holes, Verde Vista might come out ahead on which is actually the better course. . . Gold Canyon & Sun Ridge would be contenders, too . . . not to mention Longbow . . . but this course puts you in the hole - so to speak - from the first hole and never lets you back out . . .

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Walden on Lake Conroe

They say: "Walden on Lake Conroe is a private golf club, open to residents and non-residents. Since its inception, Walden on Lake Conroe has enjoyed a reputation as one of the premier golf courses in Texas. As a representative of our membership committee, please let me take a moment to briefly acquaint you with our Club.
In the newly released 2007-2008 rankings, Walden is honored with a rating of #1 in the Houston Area, and #5 Best Golf Course in the State of Texas by Golf Digest!"
Mr Science played with his new friends from his trip to Ireland at my old club in Texas . . . I think he liked it . . . I won't rhapsodize about it again, here, but at this link . . . he did bring back some good pictures . . .

This is the par3 #4 . . . those two traps are like fielders gloves squeezing the narrow green . . . any pin position on the right 2/3s of the green is a sucker pin, but if you go long into that bunker on the back-left, that's no day at the beach . . . 8^D . . . what we used to do in tournaments would be to aim for that left front corner, and be content if the ball just wound up handy in the close-cropped area next to the green. Everyone I played with there had that shot, the bump-and-run up a 5 foot slope to the pin on the left . . . it was easier when you had more green to work with . . . 8^) . . . but in the 100s of times I played Walden, I've been way-left, right, behind, and in front of that green, too. Those are no picnic either . . . 8^) . . .

This photo looks back towards the 5th fairway on the left and the 6th green on the right, over the pond that separates those two holes. It's a pretty spot, as good a place to spend 11 shots as any other on the course . . . 8^D . . . I got my hole in one on #6. Those pines on the island don't really come into play on #6, but they can prey on your mind from some tee positions. The par 4#5 is a 90 degree dogleg right and the second leg slopes hard from the woods down to the water . . . That green isn't really elevated, but it feels like it is since it hangs over the water by a couple of meters.

I hate to give #7 short shrift, but we are skipping to the par4 #8, the #1 handicap hole at Walden, consistently voted for 3 decades as one of the most beautiful holes in Texas by the Dallas Morning News Poll of Club Pros . . . one of those holes, where, after one hits a perfect drive and a perfect approach, and holes out with a perfect 2putt, says, "I don't see why everyone says that hole is so hard?" It's tempting to try to draw a ball down into the dogleg left, but I had better luck when I just hit my power fade into the middle of the dogleg (125 yds away), then 9iron and hope for a birdie chance.
But say you pull left into the trees, ya gotta lay up; or say you block left into the trees, you might have a shot, but that's a very intimidating shot for a longiron or fairway wood, knowing the treacherous putts ahead or worse, the chips from above the hole.

This green was re-designed several years ago . . . controversially amongst the members at the time . . . the top 1/3 was levelled off, instead of the contiguous slope from the water to the humps . . . I remember a scramble where the pin was at the top right, where the ball broke 6 ft for a 6ft putt. It might be more interesting now, with that bowl behind the trap on the right, but it's easier, too. That is an unputtable pin position on that green adjacent to that trap on the right. . . the green looks kinda flat in this picture but there's at least 6 ft difference between the bottom near the bulkhead and the top tier.

#9 is the first of 3 straight par5s . . . a very unusual design feature, but seamless in the faultless & unique layout of Walden . . . The Tee shot looks down on the landing area across a water hazard, to a target bunker and trees on the left side of the fairway, which slopes back down to the water. The second shot depends on your distance from the green and your strategy: a large cross-bunker 80 yds short of the green and the ankle deep bermuda rough between the green and that cross-bunker make the layup seem smart, but the big trees on both sides of the fairway and the lightbulb-shaped elevated green make the 3rd shot approach very difficult. Having the sand & short game to take what breaks come your way, make going for this green more palatable, but bring double-bogey into play . . . I have 3 missed eagle putts on this green.
Skipping #10, to go straight to #11, the 3rd Par 5 in a row certainly saves time . . . sometimes I wisht I could playing, too . . . 8^) . . .

This is the 2nd shot, after a perfect 1st shot . . . you can't feel the wind whipping around the corner here, and it will affect your shot . . . for me it was always a long iron or a 3 wood, hoping against hope that it would stay left out of the water . . . it's about 13o from that last bunker on the left outside of the dogleg there. You have to have 3 good-if-not-great shots to reach the green . . . and the only birdies I ever made there were damn good putts, too . . . the green's not tooooo tricky, but it's huge, and sort-of funnel shaped down to the water. At one time, the members claimed there'd only been two eagles there, one by Freddy Couples, playing a warm-up round for the SHO at the TPC, on a pitch-in from 80 yds.

The par 3 #12 makes up the 2nd hole of what we used to call "The Perilous Peninsula": 11, 12, 13. Can be a 3 club swing either way, depending on the wind.

My goal was to par these three holes, and I think I did it, once. I averaged par over the 3 holes more often tho'.

My old partner, the Jaybird, used to say with satisfaction, "Safely in the trap" on this hole . . . 8^) . . . altho' coming out of those uphill traps to the downhill putting surface was sometimes a bit of a thrill ride, if you see what I mean . . .
but there would be some days, where you'd put 1 or 2 balls in the water on #11, the another one, or 2, in the water on #12, then hafta look at this tee shot with the wind in your face . . . that fairway would look kinda tiny . . . Mr Science said he lost a ball over in the woods on the left, and that would not be uncommon, and in many ways, more kind that finding your ball in the woods on the right, since it'd prob'bly be at least two shots to get out of there . . . that green is way uphill, too, and t-nightsy-tiny, too . . . I think they finally started putting a little fairway collar around the fringe there, too, instead of just ankle deep bermuda rough, to try to speed up play . . . this 'un, #14, & 7 were the three toughest greens, as I recall, for totally different reasons, I mean in different ways.
Now, if I could just get Mr Science out to Lufkin to see Crown Colony, also designed by Von Hagge & Devlin, and the TPC Woodlands, too . . .

Sunday, June 22, 2008


2008 US APL Sectional Qualifying

No, I didn't compete, nor score, nor assist . . .

I just unwittingly signed up to play Saturday Afternoon AFTER the tournament. So the main story line here is the difference between playing in 2 hours at Sanctuary yesterday in 113 degree heat vs. the 4 1/2 hour round at Cave Creek in 115 degree heat . . . .

brutal golf, I am sure you will agree, if you admit such an oxymoron as "brutal golf" . . . especially for those competitors, who were still walking . . . 8^0 . . . one of our 4some quit after 9holes . . . he was walking with a handcart, but it was too hot for him . . .

we were the first group out after the tournament . . . I don't know if they seeded the tournament with these awful afternoon tee-times for the, um, er, expected non-contenders, or what . . . but on the par3 #13 we had to wait a while while the entourage in front of us looked for lost balls -- one has to wonder, even with the longer-than-usual rough, how tournament contenders could lose balls on a par3, but eventually one very unhappy young fella came walking back toward the tee, bouncing his golfball on his wedge . . . when he dropped the ball along the way, he just flipped it back up in the air and started bouncing it again without even really breaking stride . . . I mean, he's hitting a wedge 165 yds . . . this is a young man of great talent having a bad hole . . . he hit his 3rd shot, by my count, onto the left front corner of the green, off the hump by the bunker there, so that it kicked straight towards the hole . . . I tho't sure he'd salvage 4, but he missed that short putt too . . .

then on #16, we had to wait again, as we could see the entourage walking back and forth thru the long rough left of the fairway . . . right where I try to thread my tee shot thru to cut the corner and leave a good look at that green . . . sure enough, the same young man had to come back to the tee to hit again . . . we told him that we tho't we had seen his Nike ball in our fairway coming up on #15, where he'd apparently not looked, and he wanted to go back and look for it, but the marshal warned him he might be close to his 5 minute limit already, so he hit -- I think -- a provisional with the idea that he could have a quick look over there afterwards . . . I am entirely uncertain about the official rules in this area . . . apparently, he hit exactly the same shot as before, from his exasperated ejaculation, but to us it was an amazing shot: a concussive blow with a trajectory over the great tree that guards the inside of the small dogleg left on that hole.

both courses' greens had been aerated recently: Sanctuary's had been top-dressed, but if Cave Creek's were, it was so long ago the sand had disappeared . . . both were disagreeably difficult, to me, but I guess Cave Creek was good enuff for competition, as deemed by the AGA -- I can't find any media coverage of it that might include player's comments, which would have been interesting to me . . .

the tournament played #2 and #16 as par4s, with the tees moved up to the white's position . . . I still didn't reach either in 2, due to errant driving, which I attribute to the heat, the slow(ish) play, and my golfing companions less-than-perfect golf etiquette . . . I know, I know . . . one should not be distracted, and they were nice enough guys, and who am I -- club thrower & curser that I am -- to throw, er, uh, clubs at them . . . what can I say . . . it's hard enough for me to keep the poodle on the leash, if you know what I mean, without such distractions.

I wound up with a 44-46=90, no birdies, 6 missed birdie putts, 1 lip-out birdie chip, 3 pars, and a buncha missed par putts, I say due to the greens condition, but I had loose driving to blame, too, plus a tendency to back-slide into chunks & blades with my irons at inconvenient times, too.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Rapid Play

Dashed over to Sanctuary, again, after work . . . it's only $29 Mon - Fri, with Lunch or a Sleeve of Balls . . . it's not the first time, y'know, and I was looking forward to a rapid round by myself, in whatever natural rhythm I hit, and scoring well . . .

Got over there and the parkinglot was vacant - perfect! -- the temp was 113, but I got my blue gatorade, wet a towel with cold water for my neck, and headed for the first tee. There was a single still floundering around out in the fairway and while I hadda wait a bit. After I'd hit, another single pulled up . . . if he's crazy enough to play in this heat I didn't figger he'd slow me down, so I said, "Y'all wanna play? There's a single I want to play thru up there."

He said he was game so he hit without much preamble, we shook hands, and ambled off in our separate carts down the fairway . . .

Now . . . Pace of Play is another one of those things that everyone talks about but nobody ever does anything about . . . and it's always someone else's fault, if you know what I mean . . . anyways, after the incident in Texas a few years back, I've been a little skittish about the issue, tho' that hasn't lessened my strong feelings on the issue . . . I've been on both sides of the deal, and so I feel I am objective, nonetheless:

So this fella, Craig, & I raced around Sanctuary on a sweltering Friday Afternoon . . . at one point he said, "I figger the quicker the better at 113 degrees." If I had my druthers, I'd be walking, in the Thoreauvean sense, but this is Arizona, one just can't be walking around in 113 degrees playing golf . . . you just can't carry enough water.

One might ask why we would play golf under such dire conditions, and we might answer about our Love of Golf, or the attraction of deserted golf courses, or the fun of Rapid Play . . . or we might just say if you have to ask, you won't ever understand, anyway . . . I had a woman ask me once if it ever got too hot to play golf, and I said. "No. It might get too cold to play golf, if there's actually snow on the ground, high winds, ice falling from trees, and the threat of frost-bite, but as long as you got enough water, it can't ever be too hot to play golf."

We played in 2 hours, from 3:45 to 5:45. He had a hard-luck 88, and I had an 85, with 6 missed-birdie-putts.

The greens had just been top-dressed (aerated and sanded) and I figger that cost me at least 2 birdies, not to mention some other lost strokes for par, and the same for Craig . . . the balls weren't rolling very true, and the speeds were very inconsistent . . . on 3 downhill lies with short-irons, I came over-the-top and airmailed the green . . .I had 3 straight "virtual-birdies" on 6-7-8 (using the desert-drop-rule), which I don't know whether to attribute to Rapid Play or to say despite Rapid Play. . . didn't have any eagle chances on the 3 par 5s (6iron to the greenside bunker on #4, bladed chip on #13, fairway bunker on #18) nor on any of the short par 4s.

The cart-barn youngster was teasing Craig that he'd taken so long to get around (everybody there seems to know Craig), so I apologized for slowing him down that extra half-hour, which was good for a laugh . . . then we high-fived and promised to do it again, soon, was good fun . . . then we raced home to dinner.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Palmilla - Los Cabos

Palmilla is a type of yucca plant that grows in desert climates in Sonora and Baja California.
There were some around, but they don't play a part in the golf course. Palmilla is also an area near San Jose del Cabo, home to several resorts and upscale communities, and the Palmilla Golf Cub, a Troon facility, and a Jack Nicklaus signature design of 27 holes.

The Golfing Queen and I played the Mountain 9 and the Ocean 9. The Arroyo 9 was closed for maintenance. From the tips, it is 7036 yards, 74.4 course rating and 146 slope. I played the 3rd set of tees, 6172 70.7 and 132. For the record, I shot 82 with two birdies, two triple bogies and one double.

Despite the names, they are both essentially desert courses, often requiring a forced carry over features ranging from shallow washes to deep canyons, from tee to fairway, and fairway to green (or fairway to 2nd fairway on the par 5s). Despite that, it is woman-friendly in that the red tees are on the fairway side of the chasms. Nicklaus has made exquisite use of the land, blending the course naturally in and around the hills and arroyos, with nary an ordinary hole among these 18.

5 Mountain is typical. Par 4, drive over a 50-foot deep canyon to an angled fairway, then back over the canyon to a green set 30 feet lower.
I hit what I thought was a good 6-iron, started at the center of the green and drawing. It landed a foot short of the green between the traps, and bounced into the left one.
Three bunker shots later, I missed the 5-footer for double bogey. If that trap hadn't been there, my ball would have been way farther left and much closer to sea level.

I think I saw a golf club down that way, with human bones nearby.

On the Ocean course, #3 runs down to the beach.

We wondered who lived there next to the #3 green . . . down by the ocean . . .

#4 is a downhill par 3 with flowering bushes reminiscent of Augusta National.

The finishing hole is a par 5. This is the view from the first part of the fairway. Those cacti that look like saguaro are not, they are cardon . . .
According to that link, they are bigger than the giant saguaros of the Sonoran desert, and the two are not found in the same places.

Close up, when they're in bloom, you can tell they are obviously not saguaros.

Palmilla is a "must play" when you're in Cabo.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Sanctuary & Desert Canyon

We have played Sanctuary 4 times recently, and lately, we played Desert Canyon again; I played Desert Canyon again without Mr Science this weekend . . . It was like a challenge I could not turn down, to score respectably on these two courses . . . I can't say that I did, but only that I got closer.

The prices have come down at Sanctuary and it's so close to our houses, what with gas prices & all, it's just too much easier to play there than not, if you see what I mean . . . and I don't think I can get tired of playing that course, it's that good . . . I'm always learning new things there, changing my approach, like now I always hit a 3 wood on #6 & #10, instead of trying to cram a driver shot into the fairway, and I've experimented on other holes with the 3wood, but less successfully.

This last time, Mr Science just played with his new 3wood he got as a prize for making brilliant suggestions (bright ideas) at the company where we work . . . they didn't implement any of them, but everyone who hears them agree that they are good ideas . . . I made good suggestions too -- we both got golf shirts celebrating our contributions -- but I didn't get any "points" for my suggestions that I could trade in for such useful stuff as new golf clubs. So: Mr Science wanted to groove his new club. He hit it a ton . . . I knew he would . . . after 5 or 6 holes, he said, "My old driver is worthless to me now!" cuz he was hitting the 3wood as far as his driver -- I been telling him for months he needed to upgrade, cuz he was falling behind my length, tho' he still outscores me . . . 8^/ . . . he prob'bly will, now.

Mr Science had been on a tear these last few rounds at Sanctuary, where he'd be 5 or 6 shots over par after 3 holes, then par in the rest of the way, and wind up with a mid 70s score, while I would start out missing birdies on 1 & 2, and steadily get worse, till I wound up in the 90s -- makes me want to break my driver by biting it at times . . . what was really frustrating was that it is different holes each time . . . so I am confused what I'm doing wrong . . . this round was different for us both . . . he wound up with an 82, with one birdie, but not because of his 3wood -- other parts of his game were suspect . . . meanwhile I had a 92 with 3 birdies, the most schizophrenic round I've had since Estrella Mountain Ranch, where I had a 48 on the back 9, with 3 birdies . . . 8^0 . . .

on the first par 5, #4, I finally'd hit a good drive in the fairway again (apparently experimenting with my 3wood upset my driver, who had to punish me in jealousy), only 200 yds from the green, but sitting down in a divot. I scraped it out with a choke-down 7wood straight at the hole, but a little short. My chip raced 15 ft past the hole, but I made the birdie easily . . . and it occurs to me that ALL the birdies I have made on that hole have come from behind the pin, which I will have to contemplate . . .

on the par 3 #12, they had the tees up only 145 yds away, with the pin on the front, Mr Science hit a 9iron flush to the back of the green, while he carried out a rather heated whispered conversation with his 9iron at the back of the tee, I blocked a half-8 into the right fringe, short, it looked. . . so in turn, I groaned into my hands, "Why do I EVER listen to what club anybody else EVER uses?!?!?!?!" But it turned out to have been the right distance, tho it was 25 ft right of the pin . . . not an easy putt at all, and lately, when I look at putts from the other side of the hole, I either don't see anything at all, or something entirely wrong, so with that in mind, I settled on the small left break I read over my ball, and took my stance, but -- maybe I was reading with my feet again -- I adjusted another 4 inches borrow in my address and then hit my putt, which caught the bottom edge with perfect speed . . .

after a perfect drive just short of the green on #11 followed by a miserable chunk and a very flatulent mis-read of a lag putt, I made a fantastic 8 ft hook to save my par, so I had felt really confident heading into the next few holes -- good putting covers a myriad of other sins . . . but my 3wood 2nd on the par 5 #13 took a bad bounce right off into the brittle bush, then my tee shot on #14 beelined off the heel into the desert, then I sculled 2 5irons off the tee on the short par4 #15, then again on #16, all of which are sins too large for any putting to cover up. But on my 4th shot on #16, from the fairway, I re-discovered the salubrious benefits of not caring, and blistered a 5 iron to the green . . .

not caring anymore worked well for me on the par 3 #17, where I'd birdied the week prior . . . this shot was more majestic than that shot, but not as long, and the uphill 20 ft putt was a double breaker, but I could see the break(s) very clearly and wiggled it in.

On #18 I tried a 5wood instead of 7 wood, thinking I could get past the bunker on the right, even if I blocked it again, but I hit a perfect little draw, to where I would drop the ball, if I could . . . I had almost 250 yds left, but the wind was with us . . . so I knew I could reach the green, but I caught the ball a little thin and came up 10 yds short of the green and right . . . which was ok (except that I am on a mission to make more eagles) since the pin was tucked over on the left behind bunkers that guard it from the fairway . . . but apparently I had started to care again, so I chunked the chip, then blasted the birdie putt 15 ft past the pin and missed the comebacker.

Mr Science has always played 18 well, somehow damping down his driver to the middle of the fairway, then placidly hitting radar-iron 2 & 3 rd shots for excellent birdie chances . . . but somehow this time, his new 3wood led him astray and he pulled left into the arroyo . . . his drop way back in the fairway left him with a blind shot but he hit the 3wood again anyway . . . another solid, majestic shot, but the thing is . . . he had a little fade on it, and I've even hooked balls from there and never found them again, and we didn't find his, either . . . looked for a good 5 minutes out in the rocky desert between #10 & #18, but no joy . . . so naturally he had to pull his next shot into the bunker and then flub a sand shot before he 2putted for a very rare snowman -- I can't remember the last one he had . . .

Mr Science is off to Cabo -- he's not taking his clubs but He and the QOG are taking golf clothes, golfable sneakers, balls, tees, & gloves, just in case . . . I don't see how you can go to Cabo and not play, so I'd talked him into tuning his game up at Sanctuary . . . 8^) . . . when we'd gone to the range before our round, we saw Tony the Long-Haired Limey banging out 3 buckets. We'd met him at a round at Starfire: a very engagine fellow; a fitness trainer who's taken up the game only lately because so many of his clients play golf and want his help to improve their game . . . well he first has to understand what they're talking about doesn't he? . . . 8^D. . . so now HE's addicted to the game . . . 8^D . . . we'd met him coming in as we'd been coming out of Desert Canyon last week, and since it was on my mind that I wanted to improve over the 95 I'd had there then, I asked him if he wanted a game there tomorrow, and he said sure!

So: I have these two major swing tho'ts I'm working with: the tilt of my shoulders at address (flatter for a draw, tilted right shoulder down more for a fade), and the fine balance between not-caring too much and not-caring not enough, if you see what I mean . . . 8^D. . . I have discerned lately that if I have concern about a shot, if I see too much trouble and have fear, doubt, & uncertainty about the shot , I tend to try to guide it, to rectify all my many swing faults all at once, including tidying up every aspect of my address, especially my shoulders, with the result I hit a pull-smother-hook -- conversely, if the hole looks wide open, I may swing too freely, a slice a banana ball out-of-play.

Now the first time Mr Science & I played Desert Canyon the greens had been so grainy and took so many strokes away from us and the tight layout and the altitude changes had really thrown us -- we didn't like it that much . . . but that second round the week before had changed our minds, I think . . . the greens were much better, and a little bit of local knowledge helped Mr Science, and it encouraged me that I could do better, too.

On the first tee, I asked Tony, in surprise, "You've got the Big Dog?"

"Oh yeah!" he said, "you can drive this green!" but he didn't but he was safely in the fairway, up by the cart signs. So I put back my 3wood, and muttering about "smart play" and "strategic golf" tried to align my shoulders (my latest swing thought) for a draw instead of a power fade . . . Que Milagro! I hit it perfectly . . . down the hill, right at the right-side green-side bunker with a tiny draw . . . it bounced 4 times and rolled onto the green, which slopes away from you there . . . I wound up 47 feet past the pin, putting for eagle, missed by an inch . . . Tony floundered a little bit there, wound up with a 6, I think he rushed his warmup cuz he knew I was waiting, but his personal trainer personality was in full force, "Dave, You Are A GOD!"

"Let me see if I can keep this next shot in play, first" I demurred . . . It's a shortish downhill par 4 #2, but it doglegs right sharply, with a great tree guarding the inside of the dogleg, out-of-bounds all down the right side, and unplayable desert . . . I tho't I'd try a 3 wood with the wind over the tree, but it hooked over into the desert which slopes steeply back to the fairway and rolled into the sparse grass on the edge. Tony hit a majestic high shot just down the middle of the fairway . . . looked awfully easy the way he did it, but that tee shot perplexes me . . . I lobbed a PW onto the front of the green, because it was so far down hill, still, but that green is very steep, so it only rolled halfway to the hole. Tony hit one of his 3 wedges right over the pin, over the green. He was not dismayed: "It was solid, it was right at the pin, it was fun!" His pitch back narrowly missed the pin, and scuttled all the way down to the front of the green. He cheerfully putted up and in from there. I narrowly missed the birdie for a pick-up par.

"Dave! You are a God today!"

"Well, we'll see what happens."

on the par5 #3, we turned into the wind, but I hit one of those drives I wish I knew when they were going to happen, the rising quail shot that is more beautiful than a wind-cheater, but goes just as far. Tony's high fade, well-struck drifted off into the trees. Apparently he hasn't developed the stinger yet, and the trees in front of him knocked his hybrid shot straight back down. He was undismayed. I had an even 200 to the green, which is uphill, and based on last week, I figgered it was a smooth 5wood for me, but I could feel the trees on my right crowding my shot . . . I blocked it right into the top of the trees. I didn't here it hit wood, but I did hear it hit gravel, in the desert right of the fairway . . . I hadda take a drop from there, but it was a simple 9iron to the green where I'd left a very makeable 6 ft for par, but I didn't. Tony'd wound up on the left of the green in 4, which left a very slippery downhiller that he lagged close enough for a tapin bogey. Even tho' that was his 3rd straight 6, he felt his game was rounding into shape.

The par 3 #4 has an elevated green guarded on the right with a big trap, but the real challenge is that the green is bowled, like several others on this course, like no other course I've seen . . . it gives you weird breaks, the opposite way from opposite sides of the hole, so that looking at a putt from behind the hole doesn't help so much . . . I had a good shot wind blown behind the trap this time, to go with a foozle and a shot 4ft from the pin (that I missed) the other two times. Tony had come up short of the green, and we both wound up with 4s.

The par5 #5 hasn't presented much of a challenge, tee-to-green, for me, but fer-sure, the last two times I've been on the back of the bowl-shaped green with IMPOSSIBLE putts at the back pin: this one I hit it 4 ft perpendicular to the straight line to the pin and it rolled around the bowl, then straight down to the hole, but a foot past. I don't know how you finish up below the hole on that very elevated green. I asked Tony, and he just shrugged like it was no big deal and said, "You just have to hit it high enough with some spin . . . I use a 52 degree wedge." Hmmmmm.

The par4 #6 is a test, long and uphill (It's a little amazing that all these holes can be uphill!) Last time I monstered a ball into the middle of the fairway, past Mr Science on the fly, then hit a half-5 to the back of the green, putted off the green 10 ft right of the pin, putted back on a foot away for a bogey . . . This time I lost two balls, left and right, and wound up with a 7, using the Desert Rule. D-a-a-a-a-a-a-n-g.

The par 3 #7 is where you get back all the altitude gained on the previous holes, at least 3 clubs worth. Everybody else just seems to lob it down there by the hole, but I'm always struggling. Tony hit a pro-shot, landing it on the big knob on the left front of the green, so that it kicked straight right, right at the hole . . . he didn't make the birdie, tho'.

The par4 #8 is a short hole, but the chore is to figure how much to bite off the sharp right dogleg . . . then the green is like 25 ft above the landing area . . . another severe elevation change . . . Tony put his in the centre, position A, people call it, but I just can't do it . . . I pulled mine left again, this time w-a-a-a-a-y up on the hill side covered in shaggy bermuda rough, 150 yds away. When I took my stance, the ball was about 8 inches below my feet, but sitting up in the rough . . . the perfect Kokopelli Stance Lie! The pin was on the left, and I tho't the ball would go right off that slice lie, maybe a lot, so I only aimed at the left of the green, hoping for the middle of the green, but it stayed right where I aimed it, landed just outside the bowl on that side of the green and kicked left away, instead of right, onto the green . . . Tony hit what looked like a perfect shot from his fairway position, just right of the hole, but balls usually roll out a little more on a green that elevated, and he rolled into the fringe on the back . . . He had a nasty little downhiller, looked like around the edge of the bowl, but it didn't break at all, and rolled a yard past, an easy par, however disappointing. . . I chipped mine over the bowl edge about 4 ft past and made my par too.

"Do your putt again," I told Tony . . . "we've got time, they've just left the tee, and I don't want to spend any more time looking at that tee shot than I hafta!" He agreed that was a good idea, but he didn't adjust, just hit it the same way, not quite as hard, it still didn't take the break . . . "Well, at least you'll know next time," I consoled him . . . Tony didn't seem entirely grateful for my comiseration . . . 8^D . . .

#9 is a booger-bear of a hole . . . not that long, but the green is back 30 ft at least above the landing area, with a big unplayable arroyo all down the left side and the high hill where the clubhouse sets on the right. Last time I hit a loose drive up on that hill. I don't see how balls can stay up there, I could barely stay up there, it was so steep. I found 3 balls, tho', none of them mine, tho' . . . so I was determined to just smooth the ball down to the base of the elevation to the green, without trying to do anything spectacular, but I hit a big bullet right. "It might make the green!" Shouted TOny . . . but it was a scootch too left and wound up down where I wanted to be, anyway . . . as was Tony . . . He lobbed his up on the dancefloor, but too deep, I could tell (that's much better than being short in the cavernous bunker, I should say), but I tho't I could do better . . . but that just meant I bladed mine over the green trying to soft-peddle it. We both bogeyed from there.

The thing you have to guard against on #10 is the water hazard on the inside of the dogleg left . . . but the tee is so elevated there at clubhouse level that it's easy to drive thru the fairway if you don't bite off enough. . . . so Tony had to take a desert drop, but he hit it fairly stiff from there, for a great chance at par. I only had a half-9 left and it almost flew in the hole . . . those greens are very hard in places, and it rolled out 15 ft past. I remembered that it broke more & ran faster than it looked, but I still missed below the hole. Tony's was coming up the hill and he left it short, for the same reason. He remained intractably, implausibly, irrepressibly positive about it all, anyway . . . doesn't matter what putt he misses, as long as he hits the ball solid and scores within his goal . . .

I'm sort of the same way about hitting the ball solid and letting the chips fall where they may, but I have to work to stay positive about missing so many birdie putts. I was 1 for 9 this day. . . plus I missed a lot of greens with good shots too.

#11 is an uphill par 3, not really a redan style, but it's flummoxed me so far . . . I should be able to just hit a regular 7wood up there, but it keeps going kerflooey, leaving me with a bogey. I had the same exact putt for par from 20 ft as I had last week, and missed it exactly the same way, below the hole . . . it's amazing how subtly steep these greens are, how hard they can be in places, and how grainy.

#12 is a short par 4 with a dogleg left so sharp that a lot of people try to drive the green . . . . I don't like that because they have to hit over houses blindly, which endangers the golfers in the group ahead . . . I feel the siren call, too, but I don't think the risk-reward is there . . . both last week and this week, I just punched a 5wood out to the 125 yd markers in the dogleg, then try to lob a 9iron close . . . last week I had a "makeable" birdie putt of 8 ft that I missed . . . had to hit it so slow the grain just grabbed it away from the hole . . . this time I had 35 feet, but I misjudged the speed and putted off the green, just like I had done on #6 last week. Tony'd come up short, but got up and down for par, as I did, for bogey . . . grumble, grumble, grumble.

#13 is a short par5, but that tee shot is very claustrophobic . . . the first two times I played I lost 2 balls out of bounds . . . big trees and houses press in on the left and groomed desert areas line the right side of the dogleg . . . so use the 3wood just to keep it in play, just hit a straight shot . . . the wind must've been behind us, I only had 195 left to the green, but from that right side of the fairway, there's a wicket of palm trees and some other deciduous guarding the green, so I just pooched a little half-7wood between the trees, over the big bunker . . . I couldn't see it land, but I saw it bounce towards the pin. "Dave! You Are A GOD!" exclaimed Tony . . . it WAS a good shot. Tony tried to do the same, from 175, but the performance anxiety conquered him, this time. He lobbed his next shot onto the green and two putted for a Virtual Par. I'd wound up on the fringe, 45 ft away. I hit my eagle putt 6 ft past and missed the come-backer . . . Drat, drat, drat.

#14 is the biggest nothin' hole on the course, short and wide-open . . . naturally I have averaged 6 here . . . today I hit my worst drive yet, a weak slice in the middle of the fairway with lots of roll, so I only had a 9iron in and hit it straight at the pin, but 30 ft short . . . this is another very steep green. l told Tony to pull the pin after I'd paced it off, lined it up, and powered it up the hill. It looked to me like I'd grazed the hole, I didn't believe it hadn't gone in it was going so slow, but as I walked up I realized I'd putted to an old hole 4 feet away! I was so freaked out I missed the nasty little slider for par. There must be a term to describe something done very well but wrong, like that. I don't know what it is. . . 8^D. . .

Oh . . . . maybe #15 is the biggest nothin' hole on the course, not #14 . . . This is the most dangerous part of the course just because the cart path coming and going goes in front of this tee . . . the golf part's not that bad . . . 8^) . . . I pay no mind to the fairway just hit it as hard as I can down the cart path, hoping to get a nice fluffy lie in the rough about 75 yds away . . . if I ever hit the cart path it'll be on the green!

Now #16 doesn't look like much but the OB close at hand on the left and the bushy rough on the right do prey on the mind . . . putting an anti-left lock-block on my ball put both our balls out in the brush somewhere . . . we never did find Tony's ball, and he had to chunk 3 pitches to get on the green. I found mine under a brittlebush on a big flat rock behind a tree, but I still tho't I could pitch it over a tree and a bunker and stop it on the green . . . 8^D . . . long-story-short, coupla 7s.

#17 is an ordinary little uphill par 3, unless you miss the green, where there are grass and sand bunkers all around . . . "Just Let The Club Do The Work" whispered Tony over the ball, and he hit a beautiful tight fade right at the pin. "I like that!" I said: "Just Let The Club Do The Work!" and hit a nice high straight 6iron a little right of the hole. "I may have to hire you to follow me around whispering "Just Let The Club Do The Work" to me while I play", I told him. We were both on the green on opposite sides of the bowl-green, and both left our putts short & below the hole, breaking the opposite ways. 2 Pars.

#18 trudges back uphill one last time, around a great tree on the inside of the dogleg right. Last time I hit the top of that tree and my ball bounced straight back 40 yds, leaving me behind the tree with no shot. This time I pulled the rising quail shot back out of my bag, flew past the tree with a turnover fade towards the green . . . .sa-we-e-e-e-e-e-e-et! Tony staid way left with a big boomer. He had 7iron left, hit it well, and in the setting-sun-glare we didn't see where it wound up, but figgered on the green. The wind was in my face, the green was elevated, but I still wanted to hit my PW (Let the Club Do The Work!) I hit it well, but it came up 4 or 5 yds short. When we got up there we saw Tony's ball short, too . . . "Wish I'd seen that!" I said, "I woulda taken more club! That wind must be stronger than we can feel down below." We both pitched up (with so much practice at it today) for kick-in pars.

Shook hands, traded cards, and promised to do it again, soon.

I wound up with 42-41=83, thinking I left at least 4 strokes on the course, unnecessarily, but then I usually do . . . if I can just add "Let The Club Do The Work" to my shoulder & not-caring swing-mantras without beclouding the mind in a Confucian Sense, maybe I can hit my irons solidly again . . . 8^D . . .

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