Now that fantasy basketball season is over and spring is finally here in Chicago, it's time to focus on what I dedicate the other six months of the year on...GOLF!!! The season is getting started a little late this season due to the weather, so I've only logged in one round so far this year.
Last season, I was a full-fledged golf-aholic. If you've never played, I'd advise to try something else. Golf is the most maddening, humbling and ridiculously addictive game there is. Anybody who loves golf hates it just as much.
Somehow I managed to get in 80 rounds of golf in 2005 despite having a wife and two young kids. A practice pass at my home course, Prairie Landing in West Chicago, IL not only allowed me free range balls (which I rarely used), but allowed me to play for free anytime after 4:00 pm. Well, let's just say I spent many-a-night searching for my ball in near-to-total darkness (including one round where I finished at 9:25 pm. After 12 holes, you couldn't really see anything. I told myself I'd go in once I couldn't find my ball anymore, ended up hitting every fairway and green going in and shot -1 on the back.) Plus with the membership deal they give you six free guest passes, which I use on my buddies and split the cost, The other great thing is replay rates are an additional 50% off, which ended up being only $17 to ride, probably the single greatest value left in the sport. Tack on a few other weekend road trips and one 5-day, 11 round golf binge to Northern Michigan and you end up with 80 rounds.
2005 was a monumental year for me golf-wise in a number of areas. I got my handicap index down to the low 3's, which is the lowest it has ever been (currently, I sit a 3.6). More importantly, after over 1,000 rounds of golf and countless near misses, I had my first hole-in-one at the end of last year (September 24, 2005) on the 17th hole at Prairie Landing (207 yards, 4-iron). I can't even describe to you how good it is to have the monkey off my back. I just didn't want to be one of those old guys who had played golf for 50 years and was still waiting to get that hole-in-one. Man, I was 31 and already feeling the pressure. It didn't help that the 3 guys that I play golf with more than anybody all got their 'first's' in 2004.
The best thing about an ace is it is the perfect excuse to act like an complete idiot for 10 minutes (although most of my golf partners don't need an excuse). I often said that if there was water nearby, I would jump in (unless there were alligators). Well, the 17th at PL has no water, so having no idea what else do to, after sharing awkward high-fives with my best friend and fellow golf nut Jefe (think Tiger and Stevie after Eldrick chipped in at Augusta), I decided to sprint the length of the hole to get confirmation. Well, the one thing I learned that day is 207 yards (uphill, into the wind) is a long, long way. Seemed like a good idea at the time. But to my point, if somebody happened to drive by just as I was in the middle of my championship sprint, they would've said to themselves, 'What an idiot! He must've made a hole-in-one', and would've understood perfectly.
So now that the flood gates are open, who knows what's next? I feel like I could make 5-6 before I'm through. Maybe I'll make another one this year. With my buddies...the race for #2 is on!
THIS CRAZY GAME
That's the great thing about golf...you never know what you're gonna get (thanks, Forest). Who knows what 2006 will bring? Will this be the year that I finally put it all together?
I do know that I won't be able to keep up the crazy pace from last year (I'm already 8 rounds behind last year at this time). I didn't get the practice pass this year, although I do still have the guest passes. But I'm still hoping that I will be able to improve from last year. I'm dedicating myself to work on my game a little bit more (rediscovering what that open patch of grass with the scattered flags and the armored tractor is), hoping to get a more consistent swing and well-rounded game. That means work the ball...my current game has one shot, a low screaming draw that would probably kill somebody if they were ever on the business end. I hit the ball a long way but don't carry it very far...a typical drive for me is probably 220 yards of carry and literally 60-70 yards of roll. It's really quite a sight. Most of that is swing, some of it is equipment. I switched from a 9.5 degree Titleist 983E to a 10.5 degree Titleist 905T this year and I think it will do wonders for my game.
Also, I may be a 3-4 handicap, but I'm easily a 30 'capper out of the sand. My best strategy with the bunkers is avoid, avoid, avoid! My goal in 2006 is to get up and down out of the sand...at least once...during an actual round. Prairie Landing has a giant short-game practice center so I have no excuses.
So this morning I hit 3 whole large buckets of range balls, shattering my previous record by approximately 2 1/2 buckets. I have 4 blisters, including one giant blood blister, to show for it (I love the full cord grips, but man they chew up your hands). Maybe I'll actually have to go buy a golf glove...haven't worn one since I was 14. You can just start calling me Vijay. We'll see if this will have any impact on my game.
My biggest goal for 2006, other than the obvious one of pummeling Jefe and his brother Jimbo every time we tee it up, is to play well for 3 days...August 1st, 2nd and 3rd. That is when I'll be making my pilgrimage out to Bandon Dunes, which has 3 of the best public courses in the world (of the 256 courses that I've played in my lifetime, they are the 3 most glaring obmissions on my list -- see the top 100 here). I can't wait.
So, if I can figure out a way to automatically link-in my current handicap and other golf stats and have them posted along the right, you can keep tabs on my progress. Also, I'll provide updates as I add any significant new courses. And thanks to the new MacBook Pro that I got with my fantasy basketball winnings, I'll be able to blog live from Bandon.
WHAT'S IN THE PING HOOFER 3
Although I'm far from an equipment junkie (thanks in large part to the disadvantage of being a lefty), everything in my bag is new as of the 2004 season. Before I got my new irons, I had my old ones for 12 years (never re-gripped them once!).
Driver (new): Titleist 905T, 10.5 degrees, Speeder Stiff Shaft
3W: Titleist 904F (I think...it's the one before the current model), Steel shaft
Hybrid (new): Nickent Genex 3DX, 20 degrees, Steel shaft
Irons: Mizuno MP-30, Dynamic Gold Steel shaft, stiff
SW/LW: Cleveland CG-10 Black Pearl, 54/58 degrees
Putter: Taylor Made Monza Mezza
I don't foresee any equipment changes during the course of the year, although I was seriously jonesin' the for the new Titleist 905R but opted to baby-step it up to the T first. I'm usually one year behind the equipment anyways. However, I do need do get a new 4-iron...my old one is hanging in a shadow box in my basement, retired after the hole-in-one.
THE FIRST ROUND
There are few uglier sights in golf than Jim Colton playing his first round of the year. Think Greg Norman in the 1996 Masters times ten. I played my first round two weeks ago out at PL and it was ugly. I couldn't get the ball airborne. It was all topped shots and worm burners. I took a restaurant-quality snowman on the 5th hole (toughest par 4 on the course) and doubled most of the par 5's (normally my strong suit) en route to a 93. It was so bad that my father-in-law, who rarely beats me on a hole much less for an entire round, beat me by 5 strokes (albeit from one set up).
The good news is that this is normal for me. I'll tell anybody who's willing to listen that I'm happy to break 100 during the first round. Nobody ever believes me though. It just takes me a long time to get my timing down. Usually it only last nine holes, but this round at PL lasted from beginning to end. It was so bad that when I went to post my score at the club today, I typed in my 93 and a pop-up window came up and it said 'This score is well outside your normal range. Are you sure this is right?' Unfortunately, it is. At least it can only get better from here. Stay tuned.
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