Monday, June 28, 2010

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Since I could not play golf this weekend, Chad Feldheimer sent me out to the practice area with some drills to practice. For chipping he had me place a golf towel on the green and try to hit the towel with my chip shot. I placed the golf towel about 15 - 20 yards from my chipping area. I was very successful chili-dipping the ball and rolling it over the towel, but I do not think that what was Chad had in mind. Actually, I made good, consistent contact with the ball but I was chipping the ball about 20 to 25 yards in the air. I probably hit 100 balls and hit the golf towel on a fly 3 times! I just missed right, left or long (rarely short). I tried the pitching wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge, but nothing worked. I think I needed a beach towel!

I was much more successful with the flat stick. Chad told me to use my chalk line and find a flat putt and work on my putting stroke. I had taken the chalk line out of my bag for some reason a while ago and could not find it so I just hit putts. I used about 8 balls (there was no one else out on the practice green because it was so darn hot). Generally, when I am having trouble with my putter there are two problems. One, I do not get the ball to the hole and, two, I push the ball right (just minor problems!). I have tried to close the putter face and use an inside-to-inside stroke and a straight-back and straight-through stroke. Neither works. After tinkering with my putting stroke this weekend, I found that if I have the putter a little open and my feet a little open I can see the line better and swing along that line. I was also making better contact on the longer putts and getting the ball to or past the hole (or actually in the hole). I am ready for a putting contest for our paychecks with Chad!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up

While laid up with my funny bone injury, this gives me a chance to catch up on last week's golf. On Saturday, Chad Feldheimer and I went back to Vistal Golf Club, which is located in south Phoenix in the South Mountain foothills (the bottom of the home page has an animated fly-over of each hole). It is a beautiful location with wonderful views of South Mountain, Camelback Mountain, Squaw Peak and downtown Phoenix. The golf course was renovated and extended so that it plays 7,013 yards from the blue tip tees. I shot a fairly uneventful 89 with a birdie 2 on the 200+ yard par-3 13th hole. The excitement of the day was Chad's tee shot on the par-3 191 yard 15th hole. His tee shot rimmed and circled the cup and ended up less than a foot from the flagstick for a kick-in birdie. But the real excitement was on the elevated par 4 6th hole. Chad was checking my ball position and alignment and he almost jumped out of his skin. Not more than 10 feet from him, there was a huge snake in the desert that looked like a diamondback rattlesnake, but Chad did not stay around long enough to check it out.

On Sunday, I decided to go out to the Indian Bend Golf Course at Camelback Country Club by myself. The temperature was about 108 degrees and I figured the course would be empty and I would hit 2 or 3 balls and just practice. I was wrong! When the price of golf drops there are a lot of people like me that will play notwithstanding the weather. I played with 2 other singles and the course was packed. We played from the red "baby tees" that measure 6,486 yards. I had tap-in birdies on the two par-5s on the front 9 and shot a 41 with book-end double-bogeys. I felt like Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods making easy birdies on the par-5 holes. I was a little unlucky on the 1st and 9th holes because I drove the ball through the fairways and ended up behind the trees and I had to chip out on No. 1 and I tried a heroic shot on No. 9 and failed. On the back 9 I was on the par-5 greens in regulation with reasonable opportunities for birdie but did not make either birdie putt. I shot a 42 on the back 9 for an 83 total. I had a lot more 7, 8 and 9-iron shots into the greens than when I play from the "big boy tees".

In recognition of my impending surgery, Chad Feldheimer and I played a late afternoon round of golf at Stonecreek Golf Club on Tuesday. We teed off at about 4:45 and sunset is about 7:45 so we thought we would not have any problems finishing before it was dark. We got stuck behind a threesome on the 4th hole and we waited on each shot until the turn. The threesome must have quit after 9 holes and we moved along well until about the 14th hole when we caught up with another group and waited on each shot coming home. We finished just as the sun set. I shot a pedestrian 90 with 45s on each side. A coyote mother and father with 5 cubs followed us in the dry wash for part of the back 9 holes. On the par-5 13th hole I was 30 yards from the green hitting my third shot and skulled the ball over the green and into the dry wash area. I thought about leaving the ball since I was not sure where the coyotes were lurking, but my frugality took over and I risked life and limb to retrieve the ball and make bogey.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pain in the Funny Bone - Ouch!

I am out of commission this week because I had a bone spur removed from my funny bone. My right elbow has been aching for quite some time and I had a cortisone shot that did not help. A few weeks ago I went to see Dr. Donald Sheridan. He specializes in the portion of the arm from the hand to the elbow. If you have a shoulder problem, he is not your guy.

Dr. Sheridan is the "hand doctor" for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State University athletic program. The x-ray showed a very small bone spur on my elbow and Dr. Sheridan said that may or may not be the cause of the pain. To placate me Dr. Sheridan agreed to remove the spur. Surprisingly, this bone spur could not be removed arthroscopically so I had a general anesthetic and Dr. Sheridan cut me open, shaved off the bone spur and closed with six stitches. I was in and out of the operating room in 45 minutes. I have little or no pain from the operation and a pretty full range of motion except that the elbow is wrapped with gauze, cotton and an ace bandage.

The most difficult part of the recovery is showering and trying to keep the bandages dry. I first tried a new saran wrap product recommended by the physician's assistant. That did not work at all! I am now wrapping the bandages with a towel and then a plastic garbage bag and tying off both ends of the garbage bag with rubber bands. It seems to be keeping the bandages dry, but I am losing feeling in my fingers because the rubber bands are cutting off the circulation to my hand! I do have the old faithful duct tape that I may try so that my hand does not turn blue.

Hopefully, I will be back on the course in the next week or two. Dr. Sheridan "guaranteed" that the operation would shave 3 to 5 strokes from my golf score if I worked hard on my putting and short game while recovering.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Photo Shoot at Encanterra - Where Were the Models?

This was a busy weekend of golf. I played in a group event on Friday at Encanterra, a Trilogy Country Club in Queen Creek, Vistal in South Phoenix on Saturday and Camelback Golf Club in Scottsdale on Sunday, and I watched parts of the U.S. Open and had Sunday father's day dinner with SO's mother and step-father. It was busy!

I was invited to play in a golf outing on Friday by one of my favorite followers, Carrie Martz. Carrie is on the board of Phoenix Suns Charities with me and her firm, Martz Agency, is one of Fennemore Craig's marketing companies. As best as I can tell, this golfing event was arranged to introduce Arizona Foothills Magazine to Encanterra Golf Club. Arizona Foothills Magazine does some great pictorial spreads of hot events around the Valley like pool parties at the W Hotel or the Vegas Sex and the City Fashion Show. We did not see any Foothills models at the golf course. The only thing hot about this event was the temperature!

Shea Homes, the developer of Encanterra, just built a 60,000 square foot clubhouse, dining facility and recreation center at the project. It is spectacular! I played with the owner of an insurance company and 2 Arizona Foothills Magazine photographers. We played from the tips. The course has only been open for about 2 years and the trees have not yet matured, but the course is long. Encanterra is 7,176 yards from the tips with a course rating of 73.9 and a slope rating of 130. Somewhere between the practice range and the first tee I lost my golf swing so I had to improvise. I hit the ball reasonably well and scrambled to an 89, but I had almost no opportunities where I was on the green in regulation with a reasonable chance to make birdie. The temperature was above 105 degrees and there was no one on the course except our 5 foursomes, but the starter bunched us all together beginning on 3 holes so it was excruciatingly slow. It took us over 4 1/2 hours to play when it should have taken 3 1/2 hours. After the golf, the club provided drinks and light hors d'oeuvres and we watched Phil Mickelson blister Pebble Beach for a 66, the low round of the day and tied for the low round of the tournament.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Buckeye - Paradise Lost

Sunday was another beautiful June day in Phoenix. The temperature was in the mid 90s with little or no humidity or wind; a perfect day for golf! The Gardener and I trekked out to The Raven at Verrado Golf Club in beautiful Buckeye, Arizona, to play golf. I have been talking about going out to this course for some time, but this is my first time playing the course. I have played The Raven at South Mountain a number of times and the Raven courses are known for their great customer service.

Verrado is a large master-planned community developed by DMB Associates, Inc., one of the premier developers in Arizona. In the early and mid-200s Buckeye was the center of the Arizona real estate market. Every major homebuilder was building homes in Buckeye and land prices and home prices were increasing daily. Verrado was the showcase project in Buckeye. Homebuyers would line up a day or more in advance for the opportunity to participate in a lottery to buy lots in Verrado. Verrado was planned to have that midwestern small town look and feel with a Main Street and houses with front porches and wide residential streets with kids playing ball in the street. The elementary schools and local market are within walking or biking distance and there are parks for family picnics and nice ballfields for Little League. Verrado is still a very nice project but housing prices have dropped by 50% or more, many homeowners lost their homes and the banks are either trying to sell the homes at very reduced prices or renting them. There is little or no new development and large portions of the project have not yet been developed.

The Raven at Verrado Golf Course was designed by Tom Lehman and John Fought. Lehman and Fought also designed The Gallery North Course in Marana, which hosted the 2007 and 2008 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. The Raven is 7,258 yards from the tips with a course rating of 73.8 and a slope rating of 132. We played from the silver tees which are 6,833 yards with a course rating of 71.6 and a slope rating of 126. The course has very wide fairways and huge greens. Unfortunately, the greens had just been aerated and sanded so they were bumpy and slow.

I hit the ball from tee to green as well as I have ever played. On the front 9 I was hitting my driver well but I was 20 to 30 yards behind my playing partners. There is a small crack along the top of the clubhead of my driver and it was growing like the crack in a windshield in Arizona in the summer. Finally, at the turn I put the driver in my golf bag for good. In violation of USGA Rules, I used the Gardener's driver on the back 9. He has a TaylorMade Burner driver with a graphite shaft that is a few years old. I started hitting his driver and I was at least even with my playing partners on most of my drives. On the 449 yard par-4 16th hole I outdrove everyone by about 50 yards and was less than 150 yards from the green! As good as my ball-striking was, my putting was equally miserable. I had 39 total putts, including 5 3-putts. Part of the problem was that I was not hitting the ball near the flagstick and I had a lot of long putts. The other problem was that I was never able to figure out the pace of the greens with the holes punched in the greens and the greens sanded. I shot a 44 on the front 9 and a 45 on the back 9 with only two double bogeys and a lot of bogeys.

The Gardener is a good golfer, but he is tinkering with his swing and it has gotten into his head. He drove the ball pretty well all day but his iron shots were erratic to say the least. He was taking a short backswing closing down the clubface and pulling the ball left on some shots and he was late through the ball with an open clubface and hitting it right on other shots. Once in a while he would make a nice full turn and a smooth pass at the ball and the golf ball would fly high and true to the green. The Gardener shot a 47 on the front 9, but came back with a 43 on the back 9 for a 90. Once he finds his old swing, the Gardener will back back shooting in the low to mid 80s.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

18 Shots of Whiskey

I played golf with Fred Flintstone on Saturday at Wildfire Golf Club at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix. We played the Faldo course. The Faldo course is 6,846 yards from the tournament tees with a course rating of 71.6 and a slope rating of 127. The weather was in the low 90s. On the driving range, Fred was working on his low boring shots for windy conditions (Fred is boring also but this refers to a shot that is hit low and cuts through the wind). I was obliviously hitting my normal high fade. I enjoy playing with Fred because he is a shot maker. He has a great short game and makes some incredible par saves around the green.

The course was full and we waited to be called for our tee time. We chipped and putted and sat in our golf cart and chatted. The starter came over and talked with the twosome in the cart in front of us and he sent them off to the first tee. We continued to wait. Finally, someone realized that we were waiting to be called to the first tee and sent us off as a twosome. The fairways were completely scalped so that the winter rye grass did not compete with the summer bermuda grass for water and the fairways and greens had been aerated (and the greens sanded) earlier in the week. If I had known that the course was being aerated I probably would have chosen to play another golf course this weekend, but the aeration information was on the course website so it was my mistake. I probably should have realized something was amiss when the daily fee was less than $30 this weekend instead of the normal $75.

Play was excruciatingly slow. We waited on each shot but there was no one behind us so we worked on our bunker play, chipping and putting after we completed a hole and while we waited for the group to clear in front of us. That type of practice is really good for me. By the time we made the turn to the back 9, the wind starting kicking up and blowing pretty strong. I shot a 44 on the front 9 and Fred had a 41. Fred was hooking his driver and irons, but miraculously made some great saves around the green. On the back 9, I started bogey-bogey-bogey and Fred started bogey-birdie-double bogey on the first 3 holes. When we got to the 13th hole, we were over 3 hours into the round and the group in front of us was waiting again on the tee and there was a foursome in the fairway and a foursome on the green. Fred and I looked at one another and decided to head for the clubhouse. We tried to squeeze in and play the last two or three holes, but it was wall-to-wall golfers and we gave up. When we got to the parking lot, we got a very short sun shower to end the round.

Golf lore has it that a golf course has 18 holes because two Scots discovered it took 18 drams to equal a fifth of whiskey and they drank one dram per hole. Fred is one of those people that believes that golf would be perfect if it were 15 holes instead of 18. He is one of the few people with whom I have played anywhere from 13 to 18 holes. If Fred was a Scottish shepherd in the 12th century knocking stones into rabbit holes on the current site of the Old Course at St Andrews, modern golf would only be 15 holes because Fred would have left 3 shots for lunch after the round or saved the 3 shots for his wife Wilma, or he would have put a 2 1/2 time limit on the game.

Friday, June 11, 2010

110 Degrees and Climbing!

I have a big weekend of golf planned so I need to catch up on last week's golf. It is supposed to be in the low 90s this weekend! Last Sunday the thermostat was was boiling over at close to 110 degrees. Chad Feldheimer and I ventured down to Maricopa to my favorite semi-private, daily pay golf course, Southern Dunes Golf Club. See the post "Southern Dunes - An Unmitigated Disaster" for a full description of this wonderful golf course. Southern Dunes is 7,517 yards from the tips and 7,307 from the black back tees. Although we are often gluttons for punishment, we decided that the gold tees at 6,889 yards with a course rating of 72.6 and a slope rating of 131 was as much as we could handle.

We had a 7 a.m. tee time and it was only in the high 80s when we teed off. Chad talked the starter into letting us play the back 9 first and then fit us in when we made the turn. Somehow we were ahead of the mower and the greens were slow and bumpy, which is unusual for Southern Dunes. We played the front 9 in 1 hour and 20 minutes. I felt like I was on the Jersey shore playing almost every hole from the sand. I started off 8 over par on the first 6 holes and then lightning struck! I shot even par for the next 8 holes with one birdie and one bogey and I also missed a 5 foot putt for another birdie. I even impressed Chad during that stretch! He was thinking that he would have to eagle a hole from the fairway to wrest the tee box back from me. Then reality reared its ugly head and I finished double-double-double-bogey on the last 4 holes for an 87. Overall, I was very pleased with the 87 score, but after 14 holes I was thinking about shooting in the low 80s. As Chad said, "that was my problem, I was thinking." It is hard to believe that I am the partner and Chad is the associate!

I kept my drives in play and I hit my iron shots really crisply. I was hitting my 7-iron 150 yards, rather than my normal 135-140 yards. I feel stupid telling my followers why I think I am getting the extra distance. About a year or so ago I was hitting the ball off of the hosel of the club so I started lining the ball up at address a little toward the toe of the clubface. This resolved the shank problem, but I was not hitting the ball square on the clubface and I was losing distance. I moved the ball alignment at address back to the middle sweet spot of the club and the ball starting flying further. The other change, which is not as self-evident and a little counter-intuitive is that I opened the clubface just a little, which also seems to help me hit the ball square in the middle of the clubface.

Chad has a new driver and he was booming his drives 280+ yards. It was a little depressing because I do not think I outdrove him all day and I was usually 20 to 50 yards back. Chad had a couple of brain freezes where he chunked his iron or fairway wood. On the par-5 holes, which average about 580 yards, Chad's approach shots were generally 180 to 200 yards, but he was 1 over par on those 4 holes. With those drives he should have been at least 2 under par. He ended up shooting a 77 leaving 3 strokes on the par-5 holes. He will not even let me touch his new driver, let alone hit a ball with it. He is afraid that I will leave a dummy mark on the top of the head of the club.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cave Creek Golf Course - Old Memories

This weekend I was a glutton for punishment. The high temperatures for Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be 110 degrees and 112 degrees. I do not think it got quite that hot on Saturday, maybe only 106 degrees. I decided that I was going to play at Cave Creek Golf Course, which is located at 19th Avenue north of Thunderbird Avenue in Phoenix. It is a City of Phoenix municipal golf course that was started in 1983 as a landfill reclamation project. When I first moved to Phoenix 25 years ago I used to play this course a lot. It is a reasonably good layout. It is 6,732 yards from the back blue tees with a course rating of 71.8 and a slope rating of 124. The course was designed by Jack Snyder. The course is relatively flat and there are a few spots where the grass simply will not grow over the landfill, but it is a worthwhile and environmentally friendly use of a landfill.

The walking rate at Cave Creek was supposed to be $10 after 4 p.m. so I signed up figuring that I would only play 9 holes. When I got to the course, the course superintendent told me that rate only applied in May so I paid a whopping $13 and walked. As I began playing the holes started coming back to me. The trees were a bit taller and more mature but the course had not otherwise changed much in the past 25 years. Although I wasn't keeping score I was hitting the ball really well and I enjoy walking even in the heat. The holes on the front 9 are pretty straight-forward and what you see is what you get. I was hitting my mid-irons into the green like lasers. The greens had just been aerated so the grass was a little long and the greens were slow and bumpy. It looked like in another 7 to 10 days the greens would be in nice shape. The last 3 holes on the front 9 are bears. The par-3 7th hole was playing 233 yards. I ripped 2 1-hybrids onto the back fringe of the green and made par with both balls. The 8th hole is 432 yards with the dry wash running along the right hand side of the fairway and through the center of the fairway. I do not think that I ever played the course when the creek was actually flowing and this was no exception. If you drive the ball into the center wash you can play the ball but you cannot see the green or even the flagstick. The green has a false front because the landfill under the front of the green sank. I pushed the ball right and had about 175 yards to the green. I flushed a 5-iron pin high and two-putted for a par. No. 9 is 422 yards generally back into the wind with Cave Creek wash on your right and the driving range on the left. Even if you hit a good drive, the approach shot to the green requires a long iron or hybrid club. I pulled my drive onto the hard pan, chunked my second shot, chipped short of the green and took another 3 strokes to get down from there for a double-bogey.

It was about 5:30 p.m. and the sun was not quite so hot so I decided to finish the last 9 holes. The back 9 has some lakes that arguably come into play and you have to carry Cave Creek wash on the 18th hole. I continued to hit the ball well on the back 9, but by the par-5 518 yard 16th hole I was starting to drag. I hit my third shot to 5 feet from the hole and made a birdie, which put a little giddy-up in my step. On 18, you have to hit the ball over the dry wash. If you push it right you have a long approach shot into the green and if you take a more direct route you may not clear the wash. I pushed it a little right and had about 180 yards to the green with a flyer lie. The green is adjacent to the wash so if you pull the ball left you may be in the wash. If you hit it to the right, there is a big hill and the ball typically comes off of the hill onto the green. I aimed to the right and flushed a 5-iron over the green, chipped down the hill and two-putted for a bogey.

It was really fun going back to this course that I played over 20 years ago. It is a reasonably good test of golf from the back tees and I would not be embarrassed to take someone to this course. I intend to go back and play in the late weekend afternoons again.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Muirfield - The Journey Begins!

Smooth has taken the lead and put the "World Of" on his broad shoulders to get us to St. Andrews in 2011! We decided that since the "Open Championship" was being played at the Old Course at St. Andrews this summer it would not be a great time to make our Scotland trip. Muirfield will be the venue for the 2013 Open Championship. A great St. Andrews trip takes a lot of planning and forethought. We already have 11 commitments among the "World Of" participants: our leader Smooth, High Right, Turtle, Arnie, Mouth, the Natural, me, Shifty, the Big Man, Crimson Tide and Cameo. We are still waiting to hear from the Big Dog, but he could be in Tibet meditating with the Dali Lahma for all we know. I don't know whether Alice has responded yet, but it does not matter because he will change his mind 4 or 5 times between now and the departure date (which is OK so long as he pays his deposit). We are doing a southern Scotland trip, with a focus on the Open Championship rota courses, with other great links courses in the mix.

Muirfield and The Old Course at St. Andrews require tee times way in advance. Visitor days at Muirfield are Tuesdays and Thursdays (excluding public holidays) with the 1st tee reserved for two balls and the 10th tee reserved for fourballs. Muirfield public tee times were filling up quickly for summer 2011 so Smooth rounded up the gang so he could make an on-line reservation. In order to make a reservation, you must provide the player name, club affiliation and your USGA handicap index. Muirfield is a stickler for this stuff and may even confirm your handicap. You need a verified handicap index of 18 or less to play at Muirfield. I was sure glad that I joined the world-renowned Sanctuary Golf Club rather than the Nomads' Club or the Encanto Men's Club. That would have been embarrassing! Also, my new 13.4 handicap had just been e-mailed to me so I was very proud of myself. I expected to get a congratulatory phone call from the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers on my handicap, but I have not heard anything yet. Maybe the congratulatory letter is in the mail.

We have three tee times reserved at Muirfield beginning at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, 2 August, 2011. This is the first step in the Journey! The next step is to apply on September 1 for tee times at The Old Course. In addition to your name, home course and USGA handicap index, I think that the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews requires a background check before you can get on the course. If we apply on September 1, 2010, we hope to receive a response from the R&A by January 15, 2011. Once the group has dates for Muirfield and The Old Course at St. Andrews, you fill in the rest of the Open Championship rota and other courses.

At Muirfield, we play a four ball match off no. 10 in the morning and following lunch in the clubhouse (coat and tie required) a foursome match off no. 1 in the afternoon. A four ball match pits 2-person teams against each other using better-ball scoring with each golfer playing his own ball throughout. At the end of each hole, the low score between the two partners is the team's score. I assume this is played with handicaps. Four ball can be played as stroke play or match play and is one of the formats used at the Ryder Cup. A foursome match is also a Ryder Cup format that pits 2-person teams against each other, with each team playing one ball, alternate shot. There are some USGA handicap criteria that are used for this type of match. This format can get very very ugly!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Alien

I was sick as a dog all last week, but I was going to play golf over the Memorial Day weekend, come hell or high water. I hooked up with an old friend, client and golf buddy of mine, the "Gardener", and we played Vistal Golf Club. I have known the Gardener for probably 15 years. He and I are about the same age. I worked with him as outside counsel when he was a young banker and credit officer and I was a young lawyer and continued to see him for business and socially and to play golf from time-t0-time over the years. Every once in a while I run into him at the Encanto driving range banging balls. Our sons played on the same Little League baseball team and vied for playing time in right field. The Gardener is a good golfer with a very nice swing and a good golf demeanor, but he does not get out to play very much golf these days. His moniker is partially a play on his name and also because he is a very good sand player and he carefully rakes and grooms the bunker after hitting his shot.

Vistal is the old Thunderbird Country Club track in south Phoenix. The course was purchased by the Phoenix Thunderbirds (together with the First Tee course next door) in 2000. The Thunderbird Country Club course was short and had a number of tricked-out holes. In 2000 the golf course was completely re-designed and re-built by PGA Tour Design Services in consultation with local PGA Tour players Tom Lehman, Billy Mayfair, and Howard Twitty. Shortly after it reopened, a young golfer died from e-coli or some other bacterial infection after putting ice from an open water container on the course into his drink. That is why you now see signs on golf courses that say "do not drink the ice" or something to that effect. The Thunderbirds foray into golf course ownership ended shortly thereafter when the bank foreclosed on the course and it was purchased by Arte Moreno, one of the owners of Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising and later the owner of the Anaheim Angels.

Vistal Golf Course is now over 7,000 yards from the blue tees with a course rating of 72.9 and a slope rating of 129. The backdrop of South Mountain and the views of Camelback Mountain, Squaw Peak, downtown Phoenix and the Bank One Ballpark are absolutely beautiful. If the course was located in North Scottsdale, you would pay $150+ in season to play the course. In South Phoenix, the summer rate is $29.

I drove the ball pretty well on the front 9, but I could not get my approach shots on the elevated greens. And when I did get the ball on the green in regulation, I oftentimes three-putted the large, undulating greens. The greens look very small when they are elevated and you do not realize how much room there is until you get up close to the green. As my followers know I have been having trouble getting enough loft on the ball when pitching the ball onto the green to hold the green. Since I only have 13 clubs in my bag, I decided to pull out my old Alien wedge. I used it 4 times times on the front 9 and hit two great shot and two shots short and into the greenside bunker because I was tentative. I did not try to hit the Alien wedge out of the greenside bunker because I have been hitting my sand shots pretty well. When the Alien first came out about 20 years ago there was a lot of talk as to whether it was USGA legal. It is my understanding that the USGA subsequently confirmed that the club was legal under its standards. The Alien wedge in the link looks much better than the bulky Alien wedge in my bag but I was very happy with the results.

By the back 9 my cold started to catch up to me and I was feeling weak. The back 9 is over 3,600 yards long! There are 5 par-4 holes over 425 yards and one that is 398 yards. I lost my swing for about 5 holes and I was trying to advance the ball forward and into the hole. On the last 4 holes I starting playing a little better and finished strong in 3 over par for a 47 on the back and a 95 for the round. It was not one of my stellar rounds!

The next day I received my new USGA Handicap Index. My new index is 13.4! Luckily, the 95 at Vistal was not included for handicap purposes. Now that I have played Vistal and have a little better feel for the size of the greens and the layout, I think that I can do better.