Miramar Golf and Country Club – First Game of the Year…

As I prepared to play my first game of the year it suddenly occurred to me…what if I achieve the goal of shooting below 80 in my very first game. I was well prepared, I had practiced at the driving range regularly for the first time in two years, my shots were going where I wanted them to go 99 percent of the time. Could it be that the simple setting of a goal would be enough to achieve that goal?  I approached the morning of Saturday 29th January with an excitement that I had not had for a very long time.  I could genuinely feel how well I was going to play.  Miramar Golf and Country Club (in Taiwan) has two courses; A and B.  I called the day before to check which we were playing (it was B), and scanned over the aerial photos of every hole on the B course using my GPS enabled Golfshot App on my iPhone (yes I admit I should have been working for some of that time, is it really possible to focus only on work for ALL 10 hours I was in the office?).   I checked distances and made notes on each hole.  I KNEW that I was going to start on hole number 1 with my 5 wood and that this would get me to the perfect distance to flop an easy high Pitching wedge onto the green, followed by a two putt for an easy par to open my campaign.  I woke up early and got to the course well ahead of time.  I was even wearing my brand new Ian Poulter tartan pants.  What can I say, I like silly golf clothes; if you are going to look silly then you want to look good, know what I mean?

A quick bucket of balls beforehand simply confirmed what I already knew, that this was probably going to be the shortest blog in the short history of blogging.  I have a 15 handicap, I was practiced, warmed-up, and had been working solidly on my game at the driving range for three weeks.  I believed.  Common mythology tells me that I had all the ingredients for success.  I was ready.  My will was strong, my game was in good shape.  today was the day…even the annoying downpour of rain couldn’t stop me…

And then they drove me to the A course…

What?  I made notes on the B course…I am playing the B course…I am going to break 80 today…ON THE B COURSE…

Golf teaches you about people…I learnt today that I do not like surprises.  And golf will always find something to surprise you with.  I WANTED TO PLAY THE B COURSE.  I was ready to play the B course…

Thankfully my trusty little APP had the A course downloaded.  But now I was back to making snap decisions on the run.  And to make matters worse the rain was making it difficult to use my iPhone, unless I wanted to test its water resistant capabilities.  However my golf buddies Nic and Kevin were impressed with my mobile GPS technology and that went some way to ameliorating my stress at finding myself on the wrong course.  An Umbrella would be the best solution to keep my iPhone dry and so I still managed to stride confidently up to the 10th (the 10th?!!! we weren’t even starting on the first hole…what are they doing to me????) with my hastily chosen 5 wood.  It would be fine, I told myself, I can cope with change.  I am a former Captain of Industry, the Director of a high profile non-profit organization used to dealing with unforeseen situations; this was doable.

I decided where I wanted to the ball to land, ignored my caddy trying to force an unwisely chosen Driver into my hands, and gave a few slow practice swings.  I had announced my plans for a sub 80 round this year and my two golf buddies – themselves decent golfers – could see the steely reserve in my eyes, understood the importance of the achievement, noted out loud the improved control in swing from many hours at the driving range.  My practice swings were automatic and calmed me down…this was going to be great.  The rain did not matter, this was my year and my day.

Gun cocked, target in sight, all I had to was point and shoot.  I slowly wound my swing backwards to the 3/4 swing (that was all I had ever been able to do without cracking something important) and swung evenly through the ball.  A smile had broken out on my face even before I made contact; I knew this was going to be great.  I swung slowly through the ball and…

sliced it out of bounds on the full…

And it just got worse from there.  I took a 7 on that first par 4 10th, a 10 on the second par 5 11th hole as I put two drives out of bounds.  I was 8 over after two holes and needed 15 pars and one birdie to break 80…I had gone from confident to broken in the space of two holes.  I felt like John Daly, and not in a good way.  We were having fun, I always do on a golf course, but now it felt like I was wasting my time…I would never break 80 today.  It took me the whole back nine to get over this feeling.  25 over for my first nine of the year and even I was laughing at myself.

A quick aside…in Taiwan we play with caddies, sweet and generally women (although it is hard to tell under all the sun protection clothing they wear).  Our caddy this day was very good but there really should be a school for Caddies to let them know when not to speak to golfers…three disastrous holes in on a par 3 when I am shooting my second shot and still have 100 yards to go and I blast it 15 yards past the green is NOT the time to say  “Oh,  you hit it too far…”  Before I discovered being zen and got my new name, THE Steve, I used to be known as Angry man on the golf course…I like to call it “passionate” but some may disagree.  I apologized later but our caddy learnt to her bemusement why they used to call me angry man…

The more I played the worse it got.  I was looking for the ball in the air even before I hit it.  It is one of the great excuses of golf to say “Damn, I lifted my head” when there are likely a million other things wrong with your swing but in this case it really was a bad case of lifting my head…the more I looked the worse it got.

And then with 61 shots already played I stopped caring and started the front nine.  Hole number 1 is a 350 yard par 4 and I decided to stop trying to play golf.  Some clubs never let you down, you can always go back to them time and time again and they will perform when you need them.  Like the people closest to you in life we often forget about these clubs in our quest for greatness or pleasure but when you need them they are always there.  My 7 Iron is just such a club.  If it was legal I would marry this club.

I set up, eased slowly into my back swing  and told myself to stare at the ground well past uncomfortable like the wide eyed-guy at parties who never blinks when he talks to you and smells vaguely of something agricultural.  Long after the ball had landed I was still staring at the ground not daring to look.  And there it was in the middle of the fairway…sure it wasn’t very far away but 150 yards in the middle is better than 250 yards out of bounds…am I right?  We all know it’s true but we all prefer the feel of the big hit rather than the security of the short shot in the middle of the fairway.  It’s like the friends I had from school who studied Accounting versus the guys who went off to climb Everest.  Every single one of the guys who did Accounting have successful mainstream jobs now and, sure, one my buddies who went off to climb Everest has his own internet company and is worth billions but the others on that expedition are all living together in commune and surviving on baked Yams.  Both valid life choices but you get my point…sometimes the seemingly dull choices are not wrong choices…

A second 7 iron put me within 50 yards of the green.  If my 7 iron is my wife then my 60 degree wedge would be my mistress.  Sexy, dangerous, sometimes erratic, and something that I often should never go anywhere near but I love her all the same.  But at 50 yards she is awesome.  And she did not let me down today…I looked at my two mates Kevin and Nic, pointed to my Poulter tartan pants, and announced that I was going to “Poulter” this one.  That is my short hand explanation for addressing the ball with it positioned near my front foot, opening up the club face, and attempting to drop the ball in from high.  I learnt it from Ian Poulter’s facebook site and have practiced it ever since…not to perfection but I do love to try it.  I opened my club face, wound back, and swiped through the ball cocking my wrists more than usual.  Time stopped, people stared, the ball loomed larger in our focus than seemed possible as we all followed its impossibly high flight.  Our proximity to Taiwan’s Interational Airport suddenly concerned us slightly as we worried about flight paths of incoming airplanes…it looked good, very good.  It landed gently two feet from the hole and then spun, not rolled but actually spun, left towards the hole.  And ever so slowly it found its way towards the hole and tumbled in.  A birdie with all woods still safely in the bag and no putter necessary.

And just like that the whole day was different.  There were a couple of wobbly holes, there always are, but I came home over the front nine with a very credible 42 including 2 birdies, one par, 4 bogies, and 2 scrambling doubles on the par 3s.

The dream of breaking 80 stays alive…for those who are stats junkies the scorecard is attached…courtesy of my new nerdy but very cool software.  We will see how long I last keeping all these stats, but it really did help me understand my game.  Another lesson?

About THE Steve

I work, I play golf, I write, I have opinions, I try to be nice to animals and small children. That's me.
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