Golfers Diary: Back to the old stomping grounds

The goal of golf is to play as little golf as possible.

I read that the other day and legitimately laughed out loud — none of this “lol” nonsense — so I thought I’d share.

Now onto business. It looked shaky for a while, but I was able to play again this past week. One friend went down with an injury. Another scheduled a round with his folks. A third had logistics issues with kids. A fourth was in and out and finally back in again, so my friend Ryan and I finally got to play together for the first time this year.

Ryan and I grew up playing sports together. We’d play baseball or wiffleball all summer long before transitioning to backyard football in the fall. There was always street hockey and basketball being played, too. We agreed that if anyone would have told us then that we’d fall in love with golf at any point in our lives, we would have called them crazy.

But here we are — two guys that absolutely love playing golf.

Besides playing with Ryan for the first time this season, it was also my first trip to Vineyards Golf Course in Fredonia. I have to say, it makes me so happy to be able to play the north side again (we only had time for nine). This was the first golf course I ever played seven or eight years ago and I was devastated early last year when it looked like then-Hillview was going to be turned into farmland.

In the spirit of honesty, I had heard from people who played a few weeks ago that this side of the course was in rough shape, so I was a little nervous about what we’d find. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the conditions, especially considering it was less than a year ago that the course had essentially been abandoned to overgrow. Was it perfect? No, but I have full faith that Scott and Warren and their crew know what they’re doing and that they truly care about making the course the best it can be. In fact, Ryan said that in the two weeks since he played last, there was noticeable improvement. I have no doubt we’ll be saying the same thing in two more weeks. Be patient, folks (though again, it’s more than playable as is).

As tends to happen, I struggled early. My first drive clipped a tree on the left of the fairway and fell straight down, leading to a bogey. I had a bladed chip attempt and then missed my par putt by an inch on No. 2, another bogey. The wheels really fell off on No. 3 as I stumbled my way to a double-bogey. No. 4 actually gave me a decent break. My drive was headed right for the forest on the left, but it hit a tree perfectly square and bounced back out into play. I still missed my par putt, putting me at five-over through four holes. That’s not exactly the ideal way to start.

I finally found my groove on No. 5, a relatively short par 3 over a pond. I hit my 9-iron and almost immediately regretted it off the club. I thought the ball was going to come up way short, but it actually reached the very front of the green. Ryan followed by landing his tee shot pin height on the right of the green. If anyone would have been watching, they might have confused us for two guys who know how to golf. My 20-foot, uphill birdie putt was perfect. Or at least nearly perfect, I suppose. It hit the center of the cup and bounced up and out. Argh! It’s frustrating just thinking about it again as I write this. Ryan never gave his birdie putt a chance and left it woefully short, but came up huge by burying his par putt.

I have to say something about my friend Ryan here. He’s pretty new to golf. He’s played just a few times a year for the last several years. But he’s taking it seriously this year. He bought new clubs (and got an amazing deal, I might add). He cares about getting better. And you know what? He is! From last year to this year it looked like two different golfers. His swing is smoother. He’s getting great loft with his irons and wedges. His touch around the green was solid. His putting was outrageously good on this particular day. Golf is a hard game. It’s easy to just throw in the towel and resign yourself to being a weekend hacker. It was so rewarding watching him ask for advice and then implement it perfectly with great success.

After being five-over through four, I calmed down and was just two-over through the final five holes. In fact, those two bogeys on the final five were because I stopped putts on the absolute edge of the cup and they didn’t drop. I was “that close” to five straight pars to end it. Still, it felt great to play well.

One more thing of note is that this was my first round with my new golf GPS watch. I’ve been seeing more and more of them and finally pulled the trigger. I’ll write more about this amazing piece of technology as I use it. Stay tuned.

As always, golf is great. Go get some.

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