While my stress level is down, now that I’ve retired, the pace of my life has not slowed. On Saturday, July 8, I had a hurried morning. I was in Houston, but had a flight back to Atlanta that was scheduled to leave in the early afternoon. I had a big golf week coming up with rounds planned at Blackwolf Run River Course, Whistling Straits, Erin Hills, and Crooked Stick. But first there were I a few things that I needed to get done; starting with going shopping. I hate shopping, but a man must what a man must do. I had to get a camera for my daughter’s, for her thirteenth birthday. I also needed to purchase a laptop for me. My iPad just doesn't cut it with the blogging thing.
If you read my blog on my round at the Prairie Dunes Country Club, you may recall that I said there are a lot of things to think about when standing on the tee box there with the wind blowing – which is always the case. Those thoughts pale in comparison to things I had to think about when buying a birthday gift for my daughter. If I got it wrong, her feedback would be more swift and cutting than a hard slice into the gunch at Prairie Dunes.
This is a child who once said to me when she was my sweet little four-year-old pumpkin, “Dad, you are not going out in public with those cloths on, as a matter of fact, you shouldn't even be wearing them around us either.” This was simply because she disapproved of the color combination of my slacks and shirt. So, you can imagine the pressure I was under to chose the right camera for her.
Then there is the whole laptop thing. I prefer the days when there weren't some many choices. The days when the sales people didn't look like they were 10 years old and didn't think that anyone over thirty had been around when God was a child. My salesperson was shocked that I understood processing speed and the impact that the amount of RAM or Random Access Memory has on the ability of a computer to handle multiple applications at one time. I walked out of BestBuy with a much lighter wallet, a Surface Pro, a Nikon and a triumph for the holders of AARP cards! To boot, my daughter was very pleased with her camera.
I finished my shopping and made it to the airport in time for my 1:00 flight. Once I was back in Atlanta, it was time to get a few things done around the house and then head to the movie theater with my son to catch the new Spider-Man movie. What a great movie!
On, Sunday, I drove five and a half hours to take my son to his writing camp at Duke University. I then played the golf course at the Washington and Duke Club. When the golf pro and I were chatting as he was helping me solve a problem, he informed me that an assistant from the club had just started working at my home club in Atlanta. I find it fascinating how connected the world of golf is.
The problem the Pro was helping solve related to my golf travel bag. The bottom had fallen off, rendering it useless. This was a harbinger of things to come. The Pro provided me with a Ship Sticks box that I could use to put my clubs in, so that I could check them as baggage on my flight the next morning. I wish I had him around the next few days as the bottom fell out of my golf game, rendering it useless.
On Monday morning, I flew to Chicago and made the two-hour drive to the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin.
If you are wondering why I shared so many details leading up to my round? It’s so that you will understand why my golf game had as many holes in it as Swiss cheese during my rounds in Wisconsin and Indiana. Oh, that's right, they make a different type of cheese in Wisconsin. Well in that case, you will understand why my golf game was not as solid as a block of Wisconsin cheese.
Now it's time for some golf. I arrived at Black Wolf Run at 1:00 for my 2:00 tee time. I was scheduled to play with another single who had decided to go out earlier on his own. I didn't mind playing some of the earlier courses as a single, because I was able to go out at the first tee time and not be encumbered by foursomes ahead of me. Rather than deal with foursome and slow play, I waited an additional hour and joined Tom and Alastair for the round at the Blackwolf Run River Course.
Tom and Alastair were from Australia, although Tom currently lived in San Francisco. Alastair was visiting for a golf vacation. Tom, Alastair, Bill (my caddie) and I headed to the first tee. We decided to play from the green tees. They measured just over 6500 yards with a rating of 72.1 and a slope of 139.
The River Course at Blackwolf Run starts with a challenging par 5 along the river. The hole plays 525 yards from the green tees. There is only one place to safely miss on your drive on this hole. The river is on the left side of the fairway with trees and fescue between the two. There is a bunker on the right and lots of fescue. That leaves only the fairway and a small area of rough, just past the bunker on the right. My drive landed in the rough just past the bunker on the right. The rough was safe in that you could find the ball and play it, but it was no picnic. I was 350 yards out and chose to layup with an 8 iron. This left me 175 yards out. The pin was a back right pin. Bill recommended that I hit a 165 yard shot to avoid the risk of going off the back of the green. He said it would be very difficult to get up and down from there.
I hit my 6 iron. The ball landed just past the front part of the green and roll to 8 feet right of the pin. Could it be that I would birdie the first hole? Nope, it was not to be. I pushed my putt to the right of the hole and had to settle for par. It would be a long time before I had another par.
After the opening hole par, I reeled off three double bogeys in a row. I sliced my drive on the second hole. The second hole is a short 355 yard par 4. It's one of the easiest holes on the course. While I was able to recover and get onto the green in three, the fact that I hit a slice for the first time since I'd purchased my new Epic driver, got into my head. So much so that I three putted from 20 feet on the second hole.
It didn't get any better on the 400 yard third hole. This is a course where you must find the fairway. I was finding everything but. My drive on the third hole landed in the right fairway bunker. I then hit it from the fairway bunker to the green side bunker. A bunker shot, a chip, and 2 putts later, I'd recorded a second double bogey.
The fourth hole is a beautiful par 3. It has water along the right, running the full length from the tee boxes to the green. There is absolutely no future for a ball hit to the right. My tee shot on this 185 yard hole, hugged the water for about 150 yards, then took an ever so slight turn to land just on the edge of the water. I was able to recover the ball but not play it. I double bogeyed the hole.
I made bogey on the fifth and sixth holes. The fifth hole provides one of the most breathtaking views on the course. The tee boxes are carved into the trees on hill over looking the fairway. The river separates the tee boxes from the fairway before bending to the left to run along the right side of the fairway. My tee shot was that dreaded straight ball that shows up after you start playing the slice that you can't get rid of. My ball landed in the rough, 150 yards out. I thinned my approach shot, which ran through the green and off the back. I chipped on and two putted for a welcomed bogey.
The sixth hole is the second easiest hole on the course. It plays just 330 yards. With such a short hole, I decided to leave the driver in the bag and tee off with my three wood, hoping to finally find the fairway. I made a good swing and solid contact, but still missed the fairway. My approach shot from 125 yards landed just short of the green. I chipped on and two putted for another bogey.
The Par 4 seventh hole provides a few more areas for a safe miss. I didn't need them as I finally found the fairway on my drive. It didn't help in that I hit my approach shot to the right of the right green side bunker and then pitched into the bunker. I was back to making double bogeys.
I bogeyed the par 5 eighth hole and double bogeyed the par 4 ninth. The eight hole has a daunting tee shot. There is a narrow chute between the tee boxes and the fairway. Your drive must start out perfectly straight or it will hit the trees on either side. My ball flew through the chute and drew into the left rough. It was one of my better drives. I was only 250 yards out; my ball was sitting up in the rough. I decide to go for the green it two. I swung the club too quickly and popped the ball up. It only traveled 135 yards. I left my approach shot just short of the green, chipped on and two putted for bogey.
On the ninth hole, the golf gods were just mean to me. This is a short, but challenging hole. There is a very narrow strip of land that runs from the tee boxes to the fairway, between the river on the right and a lake on the left. The hole sets up perfectly for a fade. As if the tee shot isn't challenging enough, Mr. Dye put a big patch of rough with a couple of bunkers in it, in the middle of the fairway, starting at about 100 yards from the middle of the green. My tee shot landed in the middle of the fairway, in the rough, but short of the bunker.
I was 115 yards from a back pin position on the green. Again, I hit a good shot; a high sand wedge that should have hit and stopped on the green. It didn't. It flew the green and rolled down the bank, into the river. Who knew that I could hit a sand wedge with the right trajectory, 120 yards. I would have understood the distance if I had hit the ball thin, but I did not. I made great contact. I think this was the golf gods being mean to me. My bad shots were bad and my good shots were bad. I made double bogey after taking a drop, hitting on and two putting. My score for the first nine holes was a whopping 50.
The back nine started in the same way the front nine started, and that was with a par. The 10th hole is a beautiful hole tucked in one of the u bends of the river. Tee shots must carry a pond and an oblong bunker to reach the green. The hole was playing 190 yards. I hit a 5 hybrid to about 30 feet past the flag and two putted for par.
The 11th hole is a par 5 that stretches along the River with a narrow fairway and no margin for error on neither the drive nor the approach shots. I made errors on both and as a result, made a triple bogey.
The twelfth hole is a 425 yard par four requiring a 250 yard carry over a pond and a bunker to position the approach shot to have any chance of hitting the green. By this time in my round, I had nothing to lose, so I went for it. Thunder roared, the clouds parted and my ball landed in the fairway. Well, all of that is true expect for the thunder and cloud stuff. Unfortunately, I couldn’t recover from a good drive. I made a double bogey after hitting my approach shot in the bunker and three putting.
The Par 3 thirteenth hole is in my opinion, one of the worst holes in golf. The hole plays 210 yards. To reach the green, requires hitting a high draw over the river and then over some very tall trees. A fade on this hole is sure to end up in the river which runs along the right side of the tee box and continues along the right side of the green. My first tee shot clipped the very top of the trees. Along the left bank of the river. We couldn't tell whether the ball kicked left on to land or dropped into the river along with the branches that it clipped. I hit a provisional that drew and easily cleared the trees, landing on the green. I got to figure out a way to move that second golfer up in the line up! Unfortunately, we found my first ball under the trees. It took me a couple of shots to get on to the green. I then two putted for another double bogey.
By the time we got to the fourteenth hole, there was no hope for having a decent score on my round. I relaxed and my golf game showed up. The fourteenth hole is short par 4, measuring only 300 yards. It's a risk/reward hole. There is a lake that stretches from in front of the tee box and along the right side of the fairway. The more of the lake you bite off, the closer to the green you get. I chose to hit a 3 wood and bite off a big portion of the lake. I hit my ball right on line and it stopped 75 yards from a front center pin. I hit a lob wedge to 10 feet left of the flag and made the putt for a much-needed birdie.
I followed up on the birdie and with pars on the par 4 fifteenth hole and the par 5 sixteenth hole. The fifteenth hole was a routine green in regulation, two putt par and the sixteenth was a one putt par after missing the green on my approach shot and chipping to 5 feet. The interesting thing about the sixteenth hole is that there is a tree in the fairway, blocking the green. It is features like this and the design of the Par 3 thirteen hole, that made me dislike this course. It has too many gimmick holes that require much greater skills than even 10 USGA index golfer possesses.
I closed out my round with a double bogey on the 17th hole, a par three with water running along the left side from the tee boxes to the green and a bogey on the 18th hole. On the 17th hole I found water and on the 18th hole, at 440 yards, it's just too long.
The River Course has some beautiful holes, but plays unnecessarily difficult with too many gimmick holes. The unnecessarily difficult characterization is derived from the absence of safe areas to miss on the shots that require a high level of skill to execute.
Next up - Whistling Straits.