June 24, 2017
I stood on the tee box of the first hole at Prairie Dunes for the second time. The first round was played on the day before. I thought that I had struck the ball well. I hit fairways. I landed on greens or hit over them. I shot a 91, but felt like I hit better shots than the score indicated.
Following my morning round on the day before, I spent two and a half hours practicing on my game. I spent an hour in the short game area, another hour hitting just my driver and my gap wedge, and 30 minutes on the putting green. Coupled with my round, that added up to about six hours of golf. I was exhausted. I left the country club and checked into my hotel. I had showered and was relaxing when the phone rang. It was Dave Curtis, my host for the Prairie Dunes Country Club. He said, “We are here and are about to tee off at the course. Come join us.” So I did.
They were on the second hole by the time I joined them. We finished up just before dark on that Thursday evening. I'd shot a 86 for the 17 holes that I played. If I had played the first hole and gotten at least a bogey, that would have put me at the same score of 91 from my round earlier in the day. The difference however, was that I earned all 91 of these strokes and had played like I shot a 91. I was looking forward to a full round with Dave on Friday morning.
So there I stood on Friday morning on the first tee for my second official round at Prairie Dunes. This time I chose to play the white tees with the rest of the group. The white tees measured 6120 yards versus the 6565 yards for the blue tees that I played on the day before. I was now more familiar with the course. I was ready to again take on one of the hardest courses that I’d ever played. Even at only 6120 yards, the course had a slope of 141 and a rating of 72.3. This time, I was not intimidated.
From the white tees, the first hole measured 401 yards. I smashed a 270 yard drive, aided by a 15 mph wind, to the right side of the fairway. This still left me with 140 yards to the flag. I hit a pitching wedge pin high just off the left edge of the green, just 30 feet from the pin. My first putt rolled 10 feet past the hole. I missed the comeback putt, but was able to tap in for a first hole three putt bogey.
I felt good about hitting my pitching wedge 140 yards with the help of the wind. This led me to under club on the Par 3 2nd hole, which measured 154 yards. I hit my 9 iron into the first of two front right bunkers. My sand shot landed short of the green in the rough. I then chip to 10 feet, but left my putt short and finished the hole with another putt for a double bogey.
The third hole was playing 310 yards into the wind. I hit my 3 wood to the right side of the fairway, which gave me an excellent angle to a front left pin. My gap wedge shot landed 12 feet to left of the pin, but rolled off the left side of the green. I putted to six feet, then made a breaking putt for par.
The fourth hole was another Par 3, playing 150 yards with a cross wind. I hit an 8 iron which landed short of the bunker protecting the front of the green. The pin was also on the front of the green, so I’d short sided myself. I pitched with my lob wedge to just over the bunker, the ball landed in the rough between the bunker and the green, but with a favorable bounce, rolled onto the green to eight feet from the cup. I managed to roll the ball into the center of the cup with my putt for my second par.
On the 5th hole, a 411 yard par 4, we were again teeing off with the wind at our backs. I ripped a 265 yard drive down the middle of the fairway, but it kicked hard right and rolled into the rough. That left me with 146 yards to the green. My 8 iron approach shot rolled off the back of green. It was happening again, just like the day before. I was hitting my irons longer than I had in the past. That lesson a couple of days earlier from Rick Hatfield at Flint Hills and the practice on the day before were really paying off in terms of distance, but it was also wreaking havoc on my scores. That 8 iron had travelled 170 total yards. It was helped by the wind, but it wasn't a 40 mile per hour wind. Nor were there any squirrels around!
I used my putter from just off the back of the green for my 75 foot putt. I had expected a hard break to the left that didn’t occur. As a result, I was facing a 15 foot putt for par. Fortunately, I made the 8 foot bogey putt after missing the par putt.
The 6th hole was playing 360 yards. I hit a 225 yard drive that missed the fairway, but left me with a good lie in the rough. I missed the green with my 9 iron, chipped on and two putted for another bogey.
The 7th hole is a wide open par 5 measuring on 490 yards, but unlike the day before, it was playing into the wind. I hit my drive down the middle of the fairway, 220 yards, leaving 270 yards to the pin. I chose a 3 hybrid for my second shot. I topped the ball and it rolled about 15 yards. Here I took the opportunity to see how well I could hit my new Epic driver off the deck.
My thoughts were that I had a pretty wide fairway, and I needed to hit under the wind. This set up nicely for a driver off the deck. I hit the ball down the left side of the fairway to about 50 yards out. I then chose to hit my lob wedge. This was too lofty of a club for that shot into a strong wind. It was a poor decision. While I hit it on line with a good ball flight, the wind ate the ball up and I left myself a 30 foot putt for par. I should have used my pitching wedge for a bump and run. Needless to say, I missed the par putt, but made the bogey putt.
And then, I faced that difficult eighth hole again. I hit my drive to the right rough. This left me with about 210 yards to the pin. This time I chose to bite off less of the gunch. I hit my 3 wood on a line that should have left me just in front of the green. The ball stayed on line, but carried into the edge of the gunch. I put my next shot on the green, but then three putted and still ended up with a double bogey, just one stroke better than the triple bogey I made on the day before.
Disappointed, I then hit a poor drive into the gunch on the ninth hole. As Dave and I stood on the ninth tee box, I looked at him and remarked “there are a lot of things to think about when you are standing on the tee box at Prairie Dunes with the wind blowing.” He responded “ Yes. And the wind is always blowing at Prairie Dunes.” That about sums it up. I double bogeyed that hole to finish with a score of 45 on the front nine. This was three strokes better than the day before, but I was still disappointed in my poor course management.
The tenth hole Par 3 was playing 158 yards from the white tees with a front center pin. I hit a 6 iron to just right off the green, but short of the front right bunker. I chipped onto the green and two putted for a bogey.
Hole number 11 was playing 426 into a very strong wind. While on the score card it was listed as a par 4, it was playing more like a par 5 today. I hit my drive a mere 200 yards, but into the fairway. I hit a solid 3 wood shot to just short of the green for my approach. I then chipped on to about 10 feet of the flag, but missed my par shot and settled for a bogey.
The 12th hole was playing 375 yards. I hit my drive 215 yards to the middle of the fairway. I chose a 5 iron for my 165 yard approach shot. The ball landed on line 30 yard short of the pin. My birdie putt rolled just along the edge of the cup to six feet past the hole. I made the straight come back putt for par.
I hit my drive on the 360 yard par 4, 13th hole, into the gunch. I pitched out with a 7 iron to 90 yards from the flag. My third shot landed short of the green. I pitched on and two putted for my only double bogey on the back nine.
The 14th hole played a little differently from the white tees than the blue tees. From the blue tees the day before, I unsuccessfully tried to hit a fade over the gunch and into the fairway. From the white tees, I could hit my 3 hybrid on straight line , clear the gunch and leave myself with a short iron to a back center pin position on the green.
This time my plan worked. I hit the ball 220 yards on a straight line over the gunch and into the fairway. This left 90 yards to that back pin position. I hit my sand wedge left of the flag, just eight feet away. I missed my birdie putt, but made an easy par.
The fifteenth hole is rated as the easiest hole on the course. But it's all relative. There are no easy holes on this very difficult course. There are only holes that are less hard than the really hard holes. Today the Par 3 fifteenth hole was playing 156 yards from the white tees. I hit my 5 iron fat, but this was fortunate since I was actually hitting too much club. The ball landed just in front of the green. I putted onto the green to two feet from the hole for another easy putt for my second par in a row.
On the par 4, 410 yard 16th hole, I hit my drive 220 yards to the middle of the fairway, leaving 190 yards to the pin. I then hit my 5 hybrid into the left green side bunker. My sand shot landed on the green and I two putted for a bogey.
The Par 5, 17th hole played only 500 yards. I hit my drive 260 yards to the right side of the fairway. I then hit my 3 wood across the fairway to the left rough, leaving 70 yards to the flag on the uphill green. I felt really good about my lob wedge from 70 yards out. It looked like it was right at the flag and would stop near the hole. I was disappointed when I got to the green and saw that the ball had rolled 18 feet past the hole. I two putted for par.
On the 18th hole, my drive missed the fairway to the left. I hit a 6 iron for the remaining 165 yards to a back right pin. My ball landed on the green, but kicked off behind the flag. I chipped on and two putted to close out the back nine with a score of 41. Combined with the front nine score of 45, I improved my total by five strokes.
I enjoyed the round with Dave and David. I also enjoyed meeting Ken, Cameron and JJ. To show how small the world is, JJ and I had a connection. He attended the Harvard Business School during the year my wife, Erika, taught there. While he didn't take a class from her, a friend of his did. That friend now lives in Atlanta and is married to a professor that teaches at the Goizueta Business School where Erika is now Dean.
I would like to again thank Dave for hosting me at the Prairie Dunes Country Club. Next I'm off to Valhalla for a match with two former work colleagues.