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Sunday, January 04, 2009



7333 yds, Par 72, Slope 130, by Bill Bell (Bio)

They say: Papago Golf Course, owned by the City of Phoenix, AZ, was long considered the finest public golf course in the state. It was designed by well known and esteemed golf course architect William Francis (Billy) Bell, who learned his craft from his father, William Park Bell. They collaborated on many highly rated California courses. Perhaps best known among the nearly one hundred courses to Billy's credit is Torrey Pines in San Diego. He also designed Tucson Country Club and Wickenburg Country Club.

Papago Golf Course opened in 1963 and quickly became popular with Phoenix area residents. It hosted the US Amateur Public Links Championship in 1971, and also has been home to Phoenix Open Qualifying. In 1977 Jack Snyder, Phoenix resident and golf course architect, provided some modest redesign to Papago Golf Course. In its prime, the course hosted more than 100,000 rounds annually. But the years and the traffic had taken a toll on the course and Phoenix city and parks officials decided action should be taken.

Previous Visit & Review

Been trying to get to Papago since it re-opened . . . don't know what the deal is yet . . . outsourced the management from the city to some private group, trying to make it not just a muni, but something more . . . too bad - maybe - for all the muni-duffers in PHX . . . they lose the jewel of the crown, and the heinously overbuilt golf destination PHX gets another also-ran . . .I mean, it's good, but no way is it the best in the valley, but it does have a higher price now, which must count for something with Scottsdalers.

But I walked up as a single without a reservation (on the day of the Cards Playoff Game with Atlanta), and teed off by 11:05 . . . they put me with a 3some, Sean, Paul, & Lars . . . I told 'em I felt like Ringo . . . 8^D . . . They wanted to play the tips, despite the cautions of the Starter, so who was I to object? I don't have any business back there, but they dang sure didn't, but I figgered it would be a 5 hour round anyway you sliced it, so whattheheck.

The most obvious effect of the makeover is that they've cleared out a lot of the underbrush . . . something I sorta would rather they hadn't, but they did, so there's a sorta St Andrews feel to the first tee, if you see what I mean . . . Where're we goin'? . . . but I hammered a nice tight draw down the middle of the fairway. Lars was just off the fairway, Paul was short, and Sean had flared way out in the desert -- this was typical of our day, and resulted in some real slow play, at times. . . I hoped it wouldn't matter to me, so I could just enjoy getting out to play after a whole month of not . . .I expected to be rusty, especially in the short game, so expectations were very moderate. My second shot 3wood was off a downhill lie (possibly not a wise choice) and I hit a low hook into the rough on the left, 145 away. My 7iron to the uphill green was a little fat, but wound up on the front fringe of the green. A 7iron chip to 4 ft, then a steady little kneeknocker and I had a par to start off. I don't think that water would come into play normally, but psychologically, for slicers, who knows . . .

The par 4 #2 has a real ball magnet inside the dogleg, there . . .you just want to hit straight down the front leg which'd leave a short wedge to the green, but Lars & I both pulled our shots into the ravine there . . . we found 'em tho' and wedged up by the green. I bladed my chip into the fringe behind the back pin, but I turned around and putted that into the cup to save my par. Lars saved his too.

"These greens are good, aren't they" I asked him. . . "Well, they seem hard," he said, "there's not a mark on 'em". "Yeh, they're hard as a pool table, but just as smooth" . . . 8^D. . .
This is the first time I've used my new camera, and I haven't gotten the routine down, especially walking and carrying a drink, too . . . an awful lot to manage, and play golf, too. So I forgot to get a shot of the 2nd green till I got to the 3rd tee . . . we were so slow as a group I didn't want to go back. THis picture does inadvertantly show the condition of the course . . . which is pretty good where it matters and a little patch on the edges. You can also see how the very large greens look flattish, unless you get some perspective on them. . . there's some very large mounding involved, but the slopes are so broad that they're subtle.

Well, freaked by the hook into the woods on #2, I just made sure I hit my tee shot on the par 4 # 3, #1 handicap hole straight -- and it was, straight and straight up . . . 8^D . . . Lars'd fixed his snap hook too, right out into the trash on the right . . .I was comforted to see that they had still left some herbiage over there . . . very thick . . . 8^D . . . Paul was short again and Sean had lashed another Othello ball down the right side, still in play. {Othello Ball - one hit Well, but not Wisely}

Mindful that lately, my use of the 3wood has not been, er, useful, I tried to slowdown my swing and just not make the situation (short drive on a very long par 4) any worse, which, in my case, usually means that I guide my shot into a low sweeping hook, which is indeed what I did. Sort of Othello-ish in its own right, if you see what I mean . . . I wound up left of the bunker on the left, short-sided on the green, so that I would have to lob the ball over the bunker, onto a down slope -- the ball was a moral cert to run 30 ft past the pin, so I cleverly chunked it into the trap, so that I could hit a sand shot 8 ft past the pin and make that, instead of 3 putting from 30 ft . . . 8^D . . .

If you don't understand that strategy, I congratulate you on being a better golf than am I, in execution, anyway.
#4 is the first of the 4 very long par 3s at Papago . . . I don't think -- unless you were an obsessive/compulsive blogger you'd take pictures of them then blather on-and-on about them, but then here I am, and there you are, if you see what I mean . . .

I hit a kinda choke-down 5 wood with the tiniest hint possible of a draw on it onto the front of the green . . . from 233 I couldn't have been happier.

Putting-wise, with 2 putts in 3 holes so far, I was feeling kinda frisky, yet with the sober awareness that I had no right to putt that well, based on recent history, much less the fact that I ought to have been rusty from my lay-off . . . I was over 30 ft away, I reckon without pacing it off, and that is a really steep green that looked lightning-fast (as did they all, without actually being quite-so-fast), but putting uphill (that IS my ball there) I still wound up 3 ft past the hole, after over-reading the break.

That was a very nervous putt back down that hill, but I easily holed it . . . I may have started strutting, then . . . even juggling my drink and camera . . . I was one over after 4, with 4 putts.

So Now: I didn't want to "guide" my tee-shots anymore, just let loose, but let the club do the work, etc, etc, etc. Long-story-short, I fanned this one on #5 out off the grass on the right. I discovered that their grooming of the brush areas was complete, but not thorough . . . my ball lay between a stalk and a thick, exposed root of some plant that had been taken out . . . I was facing an elevated green surrounded by bunkers 200+ yds away, anyway, so I just took a 5iron and hacked at it -- cleared that root thingy out of the way for them -- and my ball wound up 10 yds short of the green. I didn't have to lob it over the bunker, I could've played left of the bunker and relied on my putting to make a longer putt, but instead I bladed my lob attempt over the green and took 3 shots to get down from there.

I'm a big fan of playing "correctly" even if I'm not getting the right results, so I didn't guide my tee-shot again, and blocked it right into those trees on the right, but by the time it came off the mounds in those trees, my ball was practically on the fairway again. I'd gotten my full distance out of it, despite the directional aberration, so I only had 195 left to the pin, from the top of the crest in that hole, downhill to the elevated green protected as all the greens here seem to be with twin bunkers guarding the front.

I like how the fairway ripples like waves leading up to the green, but it doesn't really enter into play unless you're scuttling the ball . . .

I planned and executed a perfect half-7wood . . . unfortunately, this was the 7wood of my career: it flew impossibly high in the air (I don't know why), with the wind, straight at the pin, bounced high once off the back half of the green and rolled off the back. My blind pitch back up the 12 ft slope to the green came up short, leaving me a very long 2 putt for bogey. One of those holes I simultaneously feel good and bad about.

The great comfort of playing 7300 yds, is that any concern about hitting a ball thru a dog leg pretty much goes away. Without such doubt, I finally got back into the mode of just hitting the ball into the fairway.

I aimed at the inside corner and blocked the ball at that trap on the right side . . . I grumbled until I saw that I'd come up short of that bunker, which was just fine.

Even better, against the wind, I was able to hit my magic 7wood, full, for the approach. I was justifiably confident, despite the everpresent bunkers guarding the green -- you know, after awhile, that becomes kinda boring -- that doesn't reduce the challenge, but optically & psychically, it devalues the golf shot value -- but these are some of the snuggest and deepest greenside bunkers on the course. I craftily came up short-and-handy of the green for an easy up-and-down par.

We had fallen way behind the pace, now. . . the group in front of us was no longer in sight. They have a system there now at Papago . . . like soccer penalties . . . They give you the Yellow card to hurry up, then the Red card to skip a hole and catch up . . . I was bustling as best I could, but I didn't want to get out in front of my duffers too much . . .

#8 is a monstrously long par 3 - 253 yds . . . I just figgered I'd hit a 3 wood up on the left side and not challenge the bunkers . . . the pin was way on the right side . . . I was feeling better about my driver, but not that much better -- who knows where it would go under the pressure of such a landing area?

But I missed the green left so I had a pitch back over to the pin from about where their cart is. I hadn't calculated the steepness of that green back to front, and my ball wound up pin high, but 25 ft below the hole.

My first putt was 8 feet too hard, and pulled left -- very similar to my putting woes as of late -- then, in my haste to make up for the dilatoriness of my partners I missed below the hole on the comebacker . . . miss it, dangit, and the score be dam'ed, but not on the low side, moron . . . .8^D . . . so that's 11 putts on the front side . . . still purty good for Duffer Dave, especially after a layoff . . .

I saw the marshal's cart circling back to us, like a great white shark as we walked back to the Tips . . . man, it looks like a long way from there on the par 5 #9 . . . I think this photo is from by the Ladies' tee.

Lars hit a giant shot, the first he'd been pleased with since the first tee, but I absolutely crushed mine, bounced his on the fly, then rolled past 20 yds.

The marshal didn't actually say anything about pace-of-play, but he asked me if I wanted a lift, but I shook him off. Then the cart girl came by and I stopped to get another gatorade . . . the marshal was waiting for me so I did take a ride, then, when he asked where my ball was, I pointed up just past the first trap. He was incredulous -- I guess he had seen my swing, even if he didn't see where it went -- 8^D . . . so he was joshin' me about makin 4, and I said, "Well, it's about 280, so I think I'll muscle up a 3wood and see if I can't turn it into an 8!" But I hit a low bullet straight at the green that wound up at the base of the green elevation. The marshall rode me up there -- even more in disbelief -- and asked what kind of shot I'd play, flop or bump-and-run . . . I said, "I'm gonna give it the old west-texas / st.andrews bump-and-run." He thought that was a good idea and went off to try to pacify the Pro so agitated about our slow play . . . I did run my ball up there about 4 ft away, but I missed the birdie, dangit.

Plus, in all the hub-bub, and in-and-out of the cart, and joshin with the marshal and the cart girl, she'd given me a cup with a hole in it, and half my gatorade went into my bag while I wasn't looking . . . it was leaking outta my bag for 3 holes after that .

So, the Marshal gave us the official word that we needed to speed up and watched us hit off. Then he gave me a ride again, to appease the boss in the pro-shop. Was fine with me but it had interfered with my photography on 9 and now on 10 . . .

"Where'd you go, partner?" He asked. "I kinda skied it up the right side". "In the rough?" "Could be -- naw, there it is." "Well, that's a great drive! You're only 240 out!" "Well, I need that roll I didn't get" . . . 8^D. . . while I was waiting for the rest of my gang I took this one from the fairway . . . #10 is a par 5, reachable in 2, but I didn't like the way those traps set up in the front . . . I still tried my 3wood, but my heart and head wasn't into it . . . I toed it off to the right weakly . . . I still shoulda reached the green in 3 but I was a little frambunctionated now, and my wedge fatted up short too, so up over the traps and 2 putt for bogey. Pthththththththt.

We were kinda a disorganized group now, I putted out before the others had even reached the green, then fidgeted there off to the side while they finished. . . I had to wait for them, there were times when I had no idea which way to go for the next hole, and it's not obvious. . . and another thing . . . they could use some barber poles or just colored disks in the fairway to let you know distances better, 'specially for people not familiar with the course, with no idea how far things are.

The par 3 #11 looked pretty intimidating after all we'd been thru, but in my rush, I didn't have time to think about it, just walked up and hit a high, high 3 iron 21 ft from the pin . . . from the tee it looked really close.

Those large mounds around the green dwarf the slope and the undulations in the green, which are considerable.

I really charged the putt uphill, and was 4 ft long, but I made the come-backer, and still felt great about my putting.

This is a sorry little picture of a great little hole, the shortest par 4 on the course . . . I don't think it's really driveable at 326 yds, uphill, and protected by bunkers all across the front, but something bothered me and I just popped it up about 200 yds by those trees on the right, so that it rolled off into the desert scrub (it is really steep going right over there).

I took a desert drop, then hit a half PW 3 ft from the pin.

When I carelessly backhanded my putt into the hole, my partners were more amazed by that than any other part of my game. "Can you do that all the time?" they asked.

"Oh, fer shure!" I drawled, "All the time, anytime!"

I don't usually put my playing partners in the pictures, if I have pictures, I mean, not-for-nuthin', but I was so intent on getting the pictures AND hurrying up that day, that sometimes they're just in there. But you can see, how huge these greens are, and some of the undulation in this picture.

The par 4 #13 is another cute little hole, another birdie opportunity, but on this day, anything less than 450 yds drew my short par 4 bug-a-boo . . . I didn't make 6s on them (all), but I made 'em interesting . . .

on this one, trying to avoid a pull-hook with an intentional block, I stood too close to the ball and blocked it straight into the tall eucalyptae on the right.

It's a short hole so it was no big deal to hit a wood from there, then a short wedge and 2putt for bogey . . . but it shure felt like a missed opportunity to not even get a birdie attempt on a hole like that, especially when the pin's just in the middle, like that.


Next Time!

I don't remember the par4 #14 at all, the drive, the second shot, or why I took a double- bogey. . . it does look uphill, but that hardly seems like enough explanation . . .

the 585 Par 5 # 15th is the hole that made me the most gloomy in my Quest For Eagles . . . I mean, I have no chance to actually reach such a hole in 2 unless it's way downhill, but I hit two such screaming honkers I only had 90 yds left for my 3rd shot. I majesticated my drive right down the middle, then roped my 3wood down the right side. So now I'm trying to feather a half-wedge over a sandtrap onto the green, but

what I didn't realize was that there was a 2nd trap nestled into the crook of the green, behind the huge bunker I could see.

It shouldn't matter, but I aimed -- to be safe -- right of the pin to the fat of the green, then hit my shot thin -- which can give it some spin, y'know, sometimes -- but it hit the lip of that second bunker and fell back in.

Couldn't get it up-and-down, so got a bogey. I don't get it . . . this par 5 is harder than a lot of par 5s that are #1 handicaps at other courses, but it's only #12.

The par 4 #16 is the #2 handicap hole.
Under the glooming and darkening skies, we pressed on, we were back in position, sometimes even waiting on the group in front of us. I hit another amazing tee shot that wound up placed exactly in the middle of the fairway, again . . . I mean, I drove the ball as well as any duffer can expect, long and straight, I am not unhappy with my final score, but it should have been lower, given where I started most holes. I putted well, too, it was just that some of those short wedges weren't on . . . bladed a few, hit one fat . . .

so hit my magic 7wood up near the green, then hit a marginal pitch/chip onto the green, then miss a long, but makeable par putt and tap-in using the back of my putter for the pleasure of my playing partners for a bogey.

So I am pleased to make not worse than bogey on almost all these holes, they're so long, but then tap-in bogeys always fill one with a certain feeling that one could have done better with only a little more effort, a little more concentration, a little more luck. . . if you see what I mean . . .

#17 is the last of the monster par3s, 243 yds . . . the pin was on the left and I tho't I could sling it in there with that hook I get when I guide my tee shot, but it all double-crossed me and I hit a tight-fade over by that tree on the right -- no trouble -- just offline.

I lobbed my ball just on the edge of the green from there and it ran 8 ft past the pin. Good line.

Another tap-in bogey, when I pulled the par putt. Although I'd started free of this fatal flaw, I seemed doomed to finish the round with it.

To the weary walker, that 18th tee shot is formidable, it seems all up hill, and into the wind, and a very long way. Somehow, I timed my lurch-&-lunge well enough that I hit a power fade into the middle of the fairway, up at the top of the crest, not quite to the tree there on the right.

All my partners flew off into the desert on the right . . . y'all are nothin' but a bunch of corner-cutters I teased 'em . . . but they seemed pleased to be able to find their balls.

I had around 190 left, but a front pin position and the wind coming from the left . . . I tho't if I hit a 3/4 7wood (a very imprecise operation -- I have the 1/2 shot and full shot, but 3/4s is a little too ambitious for me) at the traps on the left, the wind would push it down and right towards the pin.

I mean, it'd worked all week for me over xmas, when I played TigerWoods P360 golf . . . 8^D . . .

but I hadn't allowed enough -- that's ok, I don't like to aim actually into trouble, just sorta towards trouble for a shot -- and I wound up pin high, off the green, as you can see here . . .

I chipped with a 9iron, using a putting stroke, aiming 2 yds right of the pin, but I shoulda used the 7iron . . . it bounced twice in the rough and sorta died, leaving me a long 4 ft for par.

I just backhanded the putter one more time for the pleasure of my playing partners, no prob.

Wound up with 42-43=85, which is better than I was doing playing once a week, so I have no explanation. 30 Putts, no birdies.

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