After weeks of practice, I finally played a full 18-hole round today for the first time in months.

Before the round, I warmed up with some 10-30yard pitches with my 60-degree wedge, and some putts.

When I teed off, I was a little rusty. My first drive was dead left. My next was alive, but short and left. With 220+ to a narrow green, I opted to lay up with a nice 9-iron. I then hit an 8-iron to the right rough just short of the front flag (if I’d been a yard left I would have been on the green). My 60-degree wedge lipped out, but finished within tap-in range.

On the par-5 second I hit a nice drive over the right bunker. Underestimating the distance left to the green, I opted to lay up with a 7-iron, which I hit rather short, leaving a long way home. My 3-wood approach trailed a tad right and ended up in the greenside bunker. I hit an OK bunker shot, but three-putted to the back pin for a double-bogey.

On the par-3 third, I tried to hit a high fade with my 3-wood but ended up hitting a low fade that started lefter than I wanted, hit a tree, and came up short of the hazard with a horrible lie (on dirt, with a giant tuft of rough in front of it). I tried to hack out of the lie with a 60-degree wedge, but the ball shot 45-degrees from my target line, hit the bridge over the hazard, and plummeted to its death. I dropped, pitched, and 1-or-2 putted quickly, trying to wipe the memory of the hole from my brain. I failed at that.

On the 4th hole, I smoked a drive, but started it too left and it failed to carry the massive hazard on the left side of the hole. My re-tee hit the right trees (overcorrecting) and bounced into the right rough, with 220 to the flag. I smoked a 3-wood to the back fringe of the green, hit a crappy chip, and two-putted.

On 5, I smoked a drive over the center trap, but hit the 80-yard approach (56 degree wedge) a tad heavy, coming up short of the green. Luckily, I’ve had a lot of practice with 20-30 yard pitches lately, so I hit the next one to a foot or two and rolled in the par.

On the challenging 6th, with the tees up, I hit my drive way left (overcorrecting again for trouble on the right). I knocked a hybrid up the left side of the hole, hit a 35-yard wedge to about 10 feet, and two-putted.

On the 7th hole, my drive went left again. This is the hole where I noticed the pattern. Luckily, I found it, but it was in tall native grasses, so I pitched out to safety with a pitching wedge. I then hit a pitching wedge to just short of the green, putted to within about a foot of the front pin, and knocked in the kick-in.

On 8, after noticing my left miss, I made sure to miss right. I hit a nice 3-wood approach, but it was just left and ended up in the greenside bunker. My bunker shot was mediocre, leaving my ball about two feet off the green. I skulled the little chip, leaving a 25-foot two-putt.

On the par-3 9th, first I tried to get cute with a hybrid, teeing it up to not hit it too far. I hit it into the short hazard. Reteeing with the same club, swinging normally, I hit it to about 12 feet from the back flag. I rushed in a two-putt so that I could run to my car to get an extra sleeve of balls, which at this point in the round I worried I might need.

On the par-5 10th, I hit an excellent drive that split the fairway, but got very little roll. I laid up with a 3-hybrid, then hit an 8-iron to the back flag that just crawled over the green (Arccos says it travelled 152 yards). I got up and down for par.

On 11, I had hazard trouble twice and picked up with a 7, preserving balls and trying not to slow down my group.

On 12, I hit a nice hybrid to right of the green, but hit the 60-degree wedge chip a little thin and ended up having to chip back up from the left side. Two putts left me with a double.

On 13, still trying not to miss left (and with some actual trouble there), I over-aimed right and hit it o.b. My retee was also right, but safe. My 2nd shot was short, and after a medicore few short-game shots I walked away with triple.

On the short par-4 14th, I gave it everything I had to get on the green in one and came up just short. My drive travelled 230 to the left greenside bunker. This shot was a tough one, given my lack of bunker practice, the unraked nature of bunkers in the covid era, and that it was an unusually long bunker shot to a small green that slopes downhill to a water hazard I didn’t even know existed. Anyway, now that I got my excuses out of the way, I hit the bunker shot too low and it went in the water, and I wound up making double on an easy hole.

On 15, I split the fairway with driver again, and hit an excellent 3-wood to just left of the green. I then proceeded to make a short-game mess, involving three chips (one may have been a bunker shot), which were either short or thin. I made 7 after being 30 yards away in 2. I’m not proud.

On the short but tricky 16th, I hit a hybrid for safety, but still ended up in the right fairway bunker. I expected a repeat performance of the last hole. Instead, I hit a great layup wedge from the bunker and hit my 9-iron 124 yards up the hill to two feet (pic of that beauty below). Par.

On the par-3 17th, I hit my 3-hybrid a little too high and wound up wet. My next shot was with a 9-iron, which was hit well, but into the left-most trap. I wound up with 5.

On the par-4 18th, I hit a decent drive into the left rough, but hit a popup 3-wood off the extreme side-hill lie, leaving about 100 yards to the flag. I hit an excellent gap wedge to about five feet, but missed the putt and finished with bogey.

That all summed up to 102 strokes. Not winning anything, to say the least. That said, I felt really good about my game (I know that sounds crazy). A lot of those blowup holes were a result of bad course management, not bad shots. This was particularly true on the back 9, which I’ve only played twice since joining. I also played without hitting a single 5 or 6 iron, and with maybe 1 (bad) 7-iron.

I need to work on chips from the fairway/closely mown grass, short pitches from uphill lies in the rough, and bunker shots, but my irons and full wedges were, for the most part, crisp, and most of my drives and woods were well struck, even if I didn’t always aim them particularly well (I should probably work on that as well). I also need to work on utilizing the power I have in my drives. My drive on 14 proves that I can get more distance when I need it, so I need to work on putting that to use for every drive. I also need to work on preventing compounding mistakes. One mistake, too often, leads to another for me. I think that in my next full round I should be able to improve by at least 10 strokes. Back to the range we go.

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