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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Every Bogey Will Be Like A Par

Shirley and I faced strong gusty winds and a cold sunny winter day for our first 18 holes on the George Fazio Course.  We pushed our tee time from 10am to noon, optimistic that the 2 or 3 degrees of warmth we'd gain would make a difference.  But quite honestly, there's not much difference between 40 and 42 degrees when the wind's blowing at 20+ mph.

As we pulled on our long underwear, we both felt a little uncertain about our ability to physically endure the low temperatures and high winds.  After all, neither of us is a spry young chicken.  So we agreed that we'd play 9 holes and then assess.

The cart boy didn't bolster our self-confidence when he confided that he wasn't expecting many older golfers and was surprised to see us . . . did we intend to play 18?

Oh, probably . . . we hedged our commitment.

Trying not to shiver, we rolled a few putts on the practice green, made a couple of half-hearted attempts to swing our irons and a fairway wood .  I'm surprised we can even swing a club with all the clothes we have on, Shirley observed.

Then, with hand warmers in our pockets and broad grins on our faces, we teed up and answered the call of the wild.  As I teed up my ball Shirley set the standard:  This is a new course for us, and it's cold, and we have on a lot of clothes.   Every bogey will be like a par.

Shirley, who's generally a better golfer than me, got the first bogey.  (She also got the first par and the only birdie, but that's another story.)

I more or less glided through the 1st and 2nd holes, but met the first of several downfalls on the 3rd hole.  My drive was good but my 2nd shot went short and right, and I faced a 70 yard shot to the green over a bridge and across a canal, with the ball below my feet and water on the right.

Par 4 3rd Hole, Fazio
Shirley stayed in the short grass (her problems came later in the round).  I watched with envy as she easily lobbed her 3rd shot across the canal and onto the green, and knew I had to try to match her shot.

I was out of position and I chose to take a risky shot that got very expensive.  Isn't it interesting that on the golf course, in the decision moment, my vision tends to be myopic but my hindsight always seems to be 20/20.

From 10 or 15 yards to the right of the bridge, I misjudged my shot and put my ball in the water -- probably should have taken a safer shot back to the fairway, but I didn't.   I was hitting 5.   I got over the water, but landed in the rough below that right bunker, still not on the green.  Even though I got up and down for a triple, I watched Shirley make an easy 2-putt and strut off the green with her bogey, smiling.

We played on.  I was first in the sand, found it hard packed, warned Shirley when she took her turn.  We played from fairways that meandered along canals and marshes where I knew the infamous Hilton Head alligators were sleeping.  You can get a sense of the course with this flyover.

We struggled with the Fazio greens.  Shirley and I are both competent with our flat sticks but the greens befuddled us.  We saw breaks that weren't there and we missed some that were.  Pars eluded us.  Ups and downs were rare.  But the course was gorgeous, the company was good, and by the turn we'd warmed up and there wasn't any question that we'd play a full round.  We sipped green tea from my thermos and played on, still grinning.

Shirley picked up the 1st par after we made the turn, but I continued to struggle with the greens, consistently rolling my putts fractionally to the right.

Maybe you're moving your head, Shirley suggested helpfully after I watched another painful missed putt.  I stared at the ball.  It didn't help.  I took off my gloves to putt.  It didn't help.  I took some little practice putts to ensure that my shoulders were rocking and I was holding my follow-through.  It didn't help.  I ate part of a candy bar.  It didn't help.  We played on.

Par 3 17th Hole, Fazio
Shirley was driving and I was reading the yardage guide.  Big water coming up, I warned as we made our way to the 17th hole.  There's water everywhere on the Fazio, but for the most part it's taken out of play for the forward tees.  Not so on the 17th hole, a little 120 yard par-3.   All carry. Everybody's tee shot must cross a broad canal, diagonally.  There's a visual distortion at work.  We looked, assessed, discussed.

I remembered a conversation I'd had with Wes when we played a tee shot that was similarly distorted.  He'd interrupted my setup with an admonition: Don't line up with the tee markers, Mom, he'd advised.  Line up with your target.

When we finish this we're going straight to the oysters, we promised each other.

The green is elevated.  Facing the tee box, there's a wooden wall at the bottom of a steep slope.  A short shot was going to end up in the water, one way or another.  There's a big, deep bunker to the left of the green, and a jungle-like rough to the right.  We needed to hit the green and stick.  Shirley went left, into the bunker, where she stayed for a couple of shots.  I went right but stayed out of the thick rough and was left with a short lob shot onto the green, and then a putt that left me breathless.  It rolled along like it knew what it was doing then made a tiny little right turn just as it reached the lip of the cup, and came to rest so close to the hole that I couldn't fathom how it stayed on the green.

Every bogey will be like a par, Shirley reminded me as I tapped in.

17 was, without a doubt, my favorite hole on the Fazio.  I'll look forward to playing it again.

We glided through the 18th hole and agreed as we walked off the green that the time shift hadn't really made much difference.  Shirley was absolutely right.  Every bogey felt like a par.  We were playing winter golf and it was simply glorious!

Shirley won the round by 2 shots and I bought the oysters!