I’ve played a few times since the last entry and I’m finally able to say I’m a single figure golfer. 9.7 I’m playing off now. I did get down to single figures very briefly once before, a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t long before I was back up to 14 and wondering if it was all just a dream. Hopefully this lasts a little longer.
I’m driving the ball great, my mid irons are very inconsistent but I’m good with my wedges at the moment. Chipping is decent enough and the putting is… well it’s the same as always. My scoring has been ok but I’ve played a couple of new courses and that’s what I want to talk about here as it’s a completely different experience to playing a course you know well.
Playing a course you’ve never played before is much more enjoyable but it’s incredibly difficult. Even with the technology available, such as GPS watches and range finders, I still find it very tough. The two courses I played recently were even more of a challenge because they were up in the heavens. Hills everywhere, loads of blind shots, and it was windy as hell one of the days.
So first up was Church Stretton in Shropshire. Wow. Look at the above photos. What a stunning place. And what a tough walk. I’ve played hilly courses before but I’ve never had anything as physically draining as that. The first three holes especially. All massively uphill, all par 3s, all incredibly difficult, especially if you haven’t played them before. Oh yeah, there were 30mph gusts too.
I shot 83, which was +17, but I only made one bad swing all day. It was so tough I found myself wondering what a tour pro would have shot that day, and I honestly think most of them would have struggled to shoot level par providing they didn’t have their caddy with them telling them where to miss and where not to miss.
The scenery was something else though. Absolutely stunning. I wouldn’t want to play there every week as the walk was so tough I think it would eventually kill me. You’d find me one day keeled over halfway up the massive hill on the 7th. This was me struggling up that with my trolley….
That’s the thing. You think pushing a trolley is easier than carrying, and generally it is. But not here. There’s no respite from it. Uphill is a nightmare but downhill is really tough, just in a different way. You’re trying to hold onto your trolley to stop it running away down the hill and that’s a real effort too. I was needing a minute or two just to catch my breath before hitting shots. You really need a buggy on a course like this, but some of the slopes are so severe I’d have been terrified of crashing it. A light carry bag is probably the way to go.
Anyway, I was pleased with how I played and even though on paper 17 over looks like a high score for a single figure handicapper like myself (what? It’s true!), given the conditions and the unfamiliarity with the course it was a really good round I think. The wind was so bad that on the 7th I had a 12 foot putt across the green that had a few inches of break in it. It narrowly missed but the wind got it and blew it right off the front of the green and 10 yards back down the fairway.
But it got me thinking. How does this affect a handicap? You enter the score that you shot but external factors like a howling wind and a lack of course knowledge aren’t factored into the difficulty. So will that harm my handicap in the long run? It hasn’t so far, I’m still off 9.7, but I don’t know exactly how this works. Will that round of 17 over hurt my handicap even though it was actually a hell of a round all things considered?
Next up was a sneaky little early morning knock on holiday in Cornwall. It was a family holiday so taking myself off for the day to play 18 holes was never going to fly, but I did manage to get out and play nine holes on the final morning we were there. Most of the courses nearby did not offer a nine hole green fee, so I’d have had to pay for 18 and leave halfway through, which isn’t ideal, especially when you’re looking at £50. Then I found a nine hole course that was only £12. Perfect.
Again, it was really high up and had stunning views. It wasn’t as well manicured as Church Stretton and the greens were more ‘pitch and putt’ quality than what you’d expect on a golf course, but I absolutely loved it. It was so much fun up there, just taking in the views and ambling around at my own pace, taking photos and just enjoying the experience. I was like a pig in shit.
It was a difficult walk but not too bad. The most difficult aspect of this was not knowing where the danger areas were. There were some blind tee shots and some blind second shots. If I’d played there before it would have been fine, but there’s only so much a GPS watch can tell you. The par 5 6th for example is really short, but if you’re up the right hand side the second shot looks so long because it’s uphill and you can’t really see the green. There’s also a big stretch of rough that looks like it goes on forever. It doesn’t though, it’s actually not that long but it’s so deceiving it made the shot look much more daunting than it actually is.
I birdied that 6th hole, twice. How did I do that? Because I inadvertently played it twice. I went from the 8th green to the 6th tee, thinking it was the 9th. It wasn’t signposted at all. So I played what I thought was the 9th hole and was wondering how come the watch was telling me that the green was in the opposite direction to where I was going. It sounds stupid now, looking back, but I convinced myself it was because I was so close to an electricity pylon that it must have been messing with the GPS signal!
The watch was right though, I was playing the wrong hole and the worst part is that I didn’t even realise it until I’d made my four. I was putting the flag back in thinking my round had finished and I noticed it had a number six on it. The penny still didn’t drop, I thought the flag had been put on upside down!
It was only when I couldn’t see the clubhouse or the car park that it dawned on me what I’d done. What a dickhead. That sums me up though. I’ve said before that usually I need to play a course a few times before I’ll remember anything about it. To play the same hole twice in an hour and not remember it is bad even by my standards though.
I was +4 after the nine holes which was a fair reflection of how I’d played, but it could been a lot worse than that as I had quite a bit of luck when it come to finding balls that had gone through the fairway on blind tee shots. If I played those holes again I’d be hitting hybrid rather than driver, but without knowing what was on the other side of the marker post it’s in the lap of the Gods.
I’ve got the bug for playing new courses now though and I think that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of the summer. I’ll still make the odd appearance at Royal Bootle