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Sunday, August 10, 2008


Wildfire - Faldo

6846 Yds, Par 71, Slope 127, by Nick Faldo

They Say: "The Faldo Championship Course, which plays up to 6,846 yards, sits on a 174-acre site and offers a slight variation from the typical desert-theme courses. It features generous fairways, large Bentgrass greens and tee boxes. The surrounding mountains and century-old saguaro cacti as well as 106 sand bunkers, reminiscent of the Australian sand belt courses, provide a spectacular setting for the golf course and golfing guests."

I really like these first 3 holes . . . I birdied the 1st the 1st time I played here, but this time I blocked my drive right out into the desert . . . I'd'd so much time before my round I hit a couple of drivers on the range before hand, unlike my normal routine and it musta put me off . . . I was blocking drives right the whole front 9 . . . but just hit it in the fairway, then on the green . . . easy . . . should be . . . 8^D . . . that 2nd, divided fairway is very intimidating from the tee, with the left side elevated from the right side . . . I was a little uncertain of the distances and steer-jobbed my drive into that bunker on the left with a big, low, scottish sweeping hook. Actually the ball wound up on the tongue in the middle of that bunker . . . a much worse lie than in the bunker . . . I tomahawked a 6iron over the trap left of the green, then didn't get up and down. That par 3#3 is dicey, too, with the green elevated over the desolate desert on the left and the bunkers on the right. Hitting an anti-left tee shot, my shot bled off into the bunker, pin-high . . . I hit a spectacular sand shot (I love the heavy sand here) up out of that cavernous bunker to a foot from . . .

My playing companions were 2 young flatbellies -- sorta stand-offish -- and a peevish retired lawyer . . . I have to admit I think he put me off my game with his whinging about the flatbellies whispering during his backswing (from 40 yds away) and his own personal problems . . . aggghhh, it's mostly me remembering my 38 on the front side last time . . . but I've said it before, I have the temperment of a toy poodle, and it doesn't take much to set me off . . . my main ambition, if I can get out in front of the curve, is to "keep the poodle on the leash" . . . now that it's doctors orders. I was putting well, speed-wise, but my reads seemed to be off, too.

Something that's perplexing me lately is that either I'm not reading the yardages right or else my driving has gone puny on me . . . on the par5 #11, f'rinstance, I hit such a high straight shot that my plaing companions had to commen, it was with the wind, too . . . so I'm figgering an eagle chance is in the offing, but even tho' I was the furtherest down the fairway -- down the middle of the fairway -- I still had 263 to the pin . . . then I hit my 3wood off that bare downhill lie just short of that bunker right of the green . . . so I figger it must be the yardages, right? . . . 8^D . . . I flopped the 3rd up on the green about 6 ft from that pin. At that point, the peevish lawyer holed out his par putt, shook my hand with an excuse about taking his granddaughter to dance class, grabbed his bag and started hoofing it back to the clubhouse. After I made my birdie putt, the two flatbellies laughed and said, "Don't worry, we won't tell your partner that you play better without him!" . . . 8^D . . . they were a lot looser after he left . . . mebbe they heard him kvetching.

So I was feeling a little more confident, finally . . . I'd missed a makeable par putt on #10 after a horrible tee-shot, and then I missed another on #12, as I said before, with good speeds but missed-reads, I'd guess you could say these greens were a little Panksian in their subtle difficulty.

So I was disappointed on #12 when I blocked my 3wood again, but it got a good carom off the slope back into the very wide fairway, and still felt positive, when a very weird event occurred. After I hit a cart with a single zoomed up and stopped at my tee. A sweat-soaked golfer jumped out onto the tee and hit a driver out by my ball, but without so much as a by-your-leave. With a shrug I just went down to my ball, and so did he. The flatbellies were over on the left side fiddling about. With some sign language the mystery man arranged to go ahead and hit, as if he was in a rush, and came up sorta short on the front of the green. Then he jumped into his cart without a word and went up to the green . . . as he measured his putt, one of the flatbellies hit to the pin. The man on the green spun around when it landed and stared daggers back at us. The flatbellies were non-plussed. They went back and sat in their cart, the mystery man finished putting out, then I hit, and the other FB hit, then we drove up to the green.

"Someday," I said, "somebody's gonna have to explain arizona golf etiquette to me: This guy plays thru without a word, you hit into him, and nobody rakes traps or fixes ballmarks . . . "

"Well . . . " one of them said, " he's deaf, but I tho't he was joining us, not playing thru!"

"Amazing," I said, then -- why would it bother me, I don't know -- I 3putted from 30 ft, after narrowly missing the birdie putt.

Then naturally, we had a double long wait on the par3 #14 . . . I celebrated with a heel-hit tee-shot, two bladed chips & a chunk, and a 3putt for a 7. Grrrrr.

Regathering myself for the par 5 #15, I hit another high, straight drive that drew plaudits from the FBs, but I still had 280 to the green. Since the wind was with us, I went ahead and hit 3wood, or tried to; almost whifft it, skulled a measly 40 yds. As I switched to a 5wood for the next shot, not going for the green anymore, one of the club-pros drove up. "I just wanted to apologize to you for the slow play today . . . we had a couple of very slow groups up in front, but they're off now and so it should speed up."

"Well, that's one thing, but we had a single play thru, when we're wall-to-wall 3somes & 4somes, and that's slowed things up too."

"Didn't he join that group in front of you?" asked the pro, as I striped my 5wood down to the green.

"No! He didn't join us and he didn't join them, he just played thru!"

"Well," said the Pro, "sometimes it is difficult dealing with the physically-challenged. I wish I could make it up to you."

I put my head in: "Well, a free round would go a long way to soothing my ruffled feelings!"

"I can't do that," he said, seemingly genuinely pained by his shortcoming, "but I can buy you a drink."

"That'll do!" we chorused. He drove off talking to the cart girl on his walkie-talkie, and we drove up to the green.

Remembering the par3 I was very nervous about that short pitch, so it was 25 ft long, but at least it looked like a good shot. Another burned edge that left a tap-in bogey.

On the short par4 #16, the flatbellies hit irons off the tee into the fairway, good position. I hit a 5wood, thinking if I kept it right the traps wouldn't bother me. I pulled it left, but it came up just short of the bunkers, anyway. Perfect. That green is pretty elevated, but I didnt allow for it and came up short on the front of the green . . . that green is heinous, with a bowl on the back left, where the pin was. One of the FBs was inside the bowl, which if he made it would have been his 4th birdie of the day; the other was inside me, outside the bowl, not quite on the same line. Still, when I made my birdie from 35 ft, I told him, "you can't miss now, you got the read and the speed!" But he did, and so did the other. "You know," said the other, those 6 ft straight putts are harder than 35 ft double breakers . . . there's less margin for error!" "So True" the first FB agreed. . . 8^D . . .

So now I really felt like I was finally playing well, and over-the-ball, I felt comfortable for the first time, hit a high-fade into the wind that looked great. I couldn't see, but when we got up to the green my ball looked funny. . . it's stuck in the divot . . . 2nd time this month that's happened to me. So I had about 12 ft with an uphill curve of about 18 in. for my birdie. I hit it just online, 11ft. Heartbreaking. That would have been 3 birdies in a round. Shoot.

As we waited on the tee the cart girl finally made good the Pro's generosity. I gotta say, I don't ever remember the staff apologizing out on the course, unsolicited for slow play, much less making it good with a free beer. What a class act!

The two FBs saluted me with their cans: "Thanks, Dave!"

The long par4 #18 doesn't look like so much to me but I've made 7 both times. I tried to hit that same fade I'd hit on the par 3 over that trap on the left, but it carried over into the desert. Then my 6iron flared up into the wind and drifted short-right of the green. My 7iron chip to the front pin came up short, 3 putts for the 7.

So: I was thinking I needed to downgrade this course . . . I had it rated as a 2, while Mr Science gave it only a 3. The condition wasn't the best, and I have to wonder whether I could justify my rating with the assertion that Wildfire-Faldo could be the best course in the valley. Is it just that I carded a 38-46=84 the first time and I am disgruntled this time with my 46-44=90? But like I say, I blame myself more for the reaction to the peevish lawyer and the weird events. I am unswayed by the free beer; I am not so cheap . . . 8^D . . . but it was an uncommon gesture on behalf of the staff to be out there in the heat trying to keep people happy . . . I think it's a very good layout (especially the 1st 3 holes) over a relatively ordinary piece of land -- good use has been made of what was there, and it makes an excellent example of desert links golf . . . the tees are not so elevated, but many of the greens are very elevated. There's several very interesting holes I didn't mention on the front 9. I think I'll leave it a 2.

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