Monday, March 26, 2012

A Harbinger of Good Things to Come?

You may think the title is referring to the unbelievably long stretch of mild weather here in the Niagara Region, something I've mentioned on many occasions here at NOTT and through Facebook or Twitter.

However, I'm actually talking about my golf game, which is quite notable, as I've never come out of the gates quite as rust-free as I have in 2012.

I teed it up for the first time this year last Saturday (March 17th), hitting a weak slice down the right side of the 1st hole at St. Catharines G&CC on my way to an opening bogey five. I was +6 through six holes but made birdie on the 7th and played solid through the middle of the round before finishing bogey-double-par for an 82 (+10), a pretty solid score for an opening round.

I hit the ball really well, especially with my irons, hitting 12 greens in regulation but the greens hadn't been cut yet so my putting and short game suffered somewhat. Still, you couldn't wipe the smile off my face that day.

It was great getting out after five months of hibernation!

Fast forward to yesterday and my second round of the year. Again, I had no expectations on my score and just was looking to have a good time with some friends and hit some good golf shots.

My driver was cooperating right from the start, as I was practically hitting every fairway and making some solid putts as well on the recently cut greens. I made the turn in 38 shots (+2), with seven pars and two bogeys and felt really good about it.

Shockingly, things would get even better.

I made a routine two-putt par on the short par five 10th and followed that up by hitting a wedge to about 2 feet on the par four 11th, kicking that in for my first birdie of the day.

I hit a solid 6-iron to the middle of the 12th green and surprisingly rolled in that uphill 18 footer to move to even par on the day.

The 13th is one of the toughest holes on the course but playing the middle tees makes things a lot easier, as longer hitters can easily carry the corner of the dogleg to avoid Burgoyne Woods and the hazard that runs all the way up the right side.

I hit a big drive there and my PW approach was pulled slightly, leaving myself a 25 footer to the back pin location. My putt barely missed, leaving a tap in par.

From there, I hit a gorgeous 7-iron on the par 3 14th that never left the flag and I would roll in a tough, right-to-lefter from about 10 feet for my third birdie in four holes to get into red figures.

Just a crazy round! I've always been a slow starter and just didn't understand where this game was coming from!

I'd leave a birdie putt on the par five 15th just short then nail a perfect drive on the dogleg left par five 16th, leaving only about 220 yards to the pin. Even though my hybrid club gives me fits, I never once thought of going to a 4-iron or even laying back - I just kept trying to push to go lower.

Alas, I was late on my downswing and hit the ball up into the hillside right of the green into some thorny bushes. We found my ball and I was able to punch the ball to safety left-handed but one of the thorns caught the top of my head and I started bleeding pretty bad.

I'd pretty much stop the bleeding and throw on a hat, then follow it up by almost making a ridiculous up and down. I'd end up settling for bogey and would make two pretty routine pars coming in to shoot an even par 72, easily the best score I've ever shot this early in the year and it actually matched the best score I shot all of last year, as I shot 72 a couple times in 2011 from my recollection but didn't break par.

I've always been the type of player who tinkers with my swing, even changing things up multiple times during a round. However, this year I've just focused on striking the ball better and not worrying about "how to get there" or even worrying about results. I'm just trying to get into a good impact position and so far, those results I'm trying not to worry about have been incredibly good.

There's a good chance that I'll play 60 more rounds this year and not better a score I shot in March but if my early play is any indication, perhaps I'm in for a pretty special year on the golf course!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Arrives Early...or Did We Just Skip Winter?

This hasn't been a typical Canadian winter for those of us in Southern Ontario.

We have been blessed with unseasonably mild temperatures throughout the winter season, getting little snowfall and very few really cold days. In fact, I only had to use my snow shovel three times all year.

Throughout the warm spell, most of us were afraid to talk about it out of fear that a monumental blizzard was waiting to unleash itself at any moment.

Unbelievably, those seemingly inevitable snowstorms never materialized and here we are approaching mid-March with temperatures hovering in the mid-60s. And you know what happens when you get an unseasonably mild winter with very little precipitation or frost damage?

A golf course opening earlier then it ever has in its 100+ year history!

My home club, St. Catharines G&CC, opened the short game facility on Sunday morning and will be welcoming members to the first tee tomorrow, breaking a record set a couple years back by about 3 or 4 days.

It's amazing how we can stretch out a golf season in these parts now - years ago you were lucky to get six months of golf in. Now, we can play right into the first week of December and start playing again in mid-March, meaning only about three months or so of rust instead of six.

That said, I haven't picked up a club since Canadian Thanksgiving in early October so I'm pretty excited to get the opportunity to play again. I've got a lot of things going on here at home and at work, so it might be another week or two before I get to take advantage of the course opening but it's very exciting to know that the opportunity exists if things improve with my schedule.