Golfer’s Diary: And now for something completely different

Golf is golf. The course can change. The weather can change. Your group can change. But it’s rare that I get a completely new experience on the golf course.

Yet that’s exactly what happened this past week after a text from my friend CJ. His league needed a sub. I’ve been asked several times in the past about subbing in leagues, but could never actually make it work (sorry, Jason).

I said yes, but the truth is that I was actually quite nervous. First off, I wasn’t even playing with CJ, so I would be playing with three guys I’ve never met before. Secondly, I had absolutely no idea how leagues even work. Is it a scramble? How strict on rules are other players? What happens if I don’t have a handicap?

Thankfully, most of my fears were put to rest the moment I walked into the clubhouse at Cassadaga Country Club. CJ was waiting right there to introduce me to the guys I’d be playing with. My teammate, Rob, and our opponents for the evening — Chip (which is a great golf name, by the way) and Mike. I could tell right away that they would be great company and they didn’t disappoint. Come to find out, I actually deliver both Chip and Mike’s mail, too.

For those curious (and it actually took me a few holes to figure out what was going on), my score was compared only against Chip’s, while Rob and Mike went head to head. The other three guys had handicaps to even the field, of course, but there is a system in place for golfers like myself with no handicap. While I’m not 100% certain, my score was adjusted to 80% over par or thereabouts. I’ll have an official handicap if I play three sanctioned rounds.

So how did I play amidst all of these uncertainties? Well, long story short, it was the worst round I’ve put together in about four years. The final score, however, was a bit misleading because it was just one exceptionally horrendous hole that made my score so high.

We started on No. 3, which is not one of my favorite holes on the course. I just can’t not go left off the tee. Then I’m hitting over the giant grove of trees. It’s a disaster. Thankfully I stopped a little shorter than normal and was able to hit the green (and bounce off the back) with my second shot. A chip and two putts gave me a bogey, but on No. 3 that’s not too bad.

No. 4 was frustrating, but it didn’t have a lot to do with bad shots. I hit my drive long and left. The four of us looked and looked but just couldn’t find that ball. So I had to take a drop and a penalty stroke and therefore finished the hole at a double-bogey. Anyone who has golfed before can probably guess what happened next. Yup, I found my ball while we were teeing off on No. 5. It wasn’t in great position, but I’d like to think I could have saved bogey.

From there, the bogeys just kept coming. My best chance at par was when I landed on the fringe off the tee on the par-3 No. 6. With the pin placement in a dangerous position I just kept telling myself to keep the ball high and away from the false front. Well, I failed. I left my putt low and it rolled right off the green.

Then No. 9 happened. Oh, No. 9. In all honestly, it’s usually my best hole on the course. I can almost always count on par or better there. I’m good for a birdie or two per season and my first career eagle was there. Unfortunately, I hooked my drive into the trees. Now, I hit left a lot. It’s absolutely my biggest problem off the tee, but it’s usually just a pull. I don’t hook it like that. So I teed up and tried again. Well, I hit the exact same shot. Somewhere in that field there are two of my yellow Chromesofts right next to each other.

As badly as I played it, Chip was probably even more frustrated than I was because he played it so beautifully until the very end. He laid up about as perfectly as you can in front of the creek. He then bombed a shot right between the two sand traps and up onto the green. With the pin in the front of the green, too, Chip was a makeable putt away from eagle. After coming up a little left on that one, he had a birdie putt within a few feet…which lipped out. Three-putts are the worst anyway, but everyone can feel for a guy who turns an eagle into a par.

It took eight holes, but I finally recorded a par on No. 1. We played the blue tees (which really threw me off, by the way), which were off to the right on No. 1. It changes the holes completely. Mike said he never lays up, but because of the tee position, even he laid up in front of the creek. I, meanwhile, was stubborn after hitting such terrible drives on No. 9. I knew I had a good drive left in me. Thankfully, I was right and bombed one over the trees and the creek into the middle of the fairway.

So the final score was awful, but I had a wonderful time. CJ has already asked me to sub in the league again next week. That will be two out of three rounds towards having a handicap. Look at me becoming a real golfer.

Until next time, golf is great. Go get some.