Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Stately Raven of the Saintly Days of Yore

After playing well on Saturday, I was excited about playing Sunday with the Gardener. We had a late afternoon tee time at the Raven Golf Club at South Mountain. The golfnow.com rate was $30 per person! The Raven was well-known in Phoenix for its desert flowers and landscaping and its unbelievable customer service, but it fell on some hard times during the recession and is now under new management. OB Sports took over management of the course a week ago. Although the fairways were very green and the putting surfaces were in good shape, the course suffered some frost damage this winter and was showing some signs of neglect and lack of funds. The course does not have any ball washers because it had ball washers on the golf carts. The temporary golf carts were very spartan and did not include GPS, ball washers or club washers. We did have a cooler with ice that I used to clean my golf balls and clubs. Hopefully, OB Sports will be able to bring the course back to the standards set previously.

The Gardener has been playing really good golf recently. His handicap index is down to 9.6! He is consistently shooting in the low 80s. He hits these soaring drives that seem to fly forever (and he is generally pretty accurate off the tees). We played from the tournament tees, which are 7,078 yards with a course rating of 72.8 and a slope rating of 130. On the front 9, we were both hitting our drivers really well. I was matching him drive for drive, although his tee shots were more majestic and my tee shots were low draws with a lot of run. However, the comparison ended after the drives. The Gardener was hitting laser approach shots and I was either missing the green or hitting it so far from the flagstick that I need a five iron instead of a putter to get the ball to the hole. I three-putted at least 3 holes on the front 9 and ended up with a 47! The Gardener shot a pretty steady 41. I thought I played better than a 47, but the scorecard does not lie.

Then lightning struck! On the back 9 I continued to drive the ball straight and long. While I will admit that the summer fairways in Arizona can be pretty hard, I was hitting my drives about 260-270 yards and had 2 or 3 300-yard drives! I was still not as accurate as I would have liked with my irons, but I was stroking my putts well and leaving myself with tap-in par putts. On the 179-yard par 3 14th hole into the wind, I hit a 4-hybrid with a baby draw that landed and stopped about 5 feet from the cup and I made the putt for birdie.

Nos. 16, 17 and 18 are a 453-yard par 4, followed by a 593-yard par 5 and a 428-yard par 4 finishing hole. I parred 16 and 17 and I was even par on the back 9 going into the 18th hole. I pushed my drive a little right on No. 18 and I was about 190 yards from the hole and partially blocked by some trees with water to the right of the green. I thought about trying to fade in my 3-hybrid and then decided (in a moment of golf maturity) just to hit the ball straight and left of the green taking the water out of play and hoping that I could chip up and make the putt for my par. I chipped to about 6 feet but choked on the putt and left it short for a bogey and a one-over 37 on the back 9 for your normal 47-37 score of 84. My playing partner continued his steady play and shot a 41 on the back 9 for an 82.

Leaving the course, I was thrilled and the Gardener pointed out that it was a good thing that I shot the 37 on the back 9. That was a really interesting point. If I shot the 37 on the front and followed that with the 47 I would have been kicking myself all of the way home. This way I saved my round and ended with a great back 9 that has me all excited and wanting to get back on the course as soon as I can.

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