So this past week, now that a new gig has been secured (I've been there a month), I finally scheduled a check-up. And discovered much of what I already knew, which was that the prescription had changed by a lot. New glasses ordered, then re-ordered because the right eye wasn't quite working out as expected, and the other day at the range, things seemed to be better.
So today at the course, I had hope of being better, but we weren't exactly picking a pushover. Mercer Oaks West is 6200 from the whites (I'm well over a 30 handicap, which is to say, I stink), with a fair number of holes where my top out at 225 driver / 150 5-iron game doesn't really work in terms of getting into prime scoring positions. A good day for me there is under 110, and bad days have been over 120. It's not a bad place to play, and it's kind of fun to see loads of deer, groundhogs, geese and wild turkeys wander out into the course at times, but I've played many easier courses. Add in 90 degree heat, and yeah, not setting up as a great day.
The first hole gave me a small clue that things were going to work out, with a nine iron from 110 being pin high on the fringe, leading to a tap-in bogie. Second hole was a disaster, but the third, a 375 par four, saw a drive right to the 150 stick, then the 5-iron to the fringe; two putts and par, like I'm a golfer or something. Two holes later, a 4-iron at a 170 par three is just short of the green, and the chip leads to a 20-footer. And hey, eyesight helps when putting! I hole it out and hey, Golf Can Be Fun.
It's not for the next two holes, which stink out loud, but a 132 par three is fringed with a 7-iron, then saved with a chip and putt, and that's 3 pars in my first 8 holes, or more than I usually get in 18. I've alternated enough crud work with the competence to card a 52 for the front, with low comedy coming on the 9th when the sprinklers start to fire on the green while we're putting. More of a problem due to the pressure, given the temperature.
I play the first four holes of the back nine at 3 over, which is honestly scorching for me. Shots are lining up with the 150 stick off the tee, getting to the green on the follow, and the only club in the bag that's not working is my 60 wedge, which just means more time with the bump and run 8 iron that I prefer anyway. I drain another good long one on the 380 par-4 11th to make four, and then get flat out lucky on the 108 par-3 13th, where a terrible hit in the trap takes a crazy bounce and stays on the green. Hey, better lucky than good, right? I save double on the 14th with a 30-foot putt off the back fringe, and at this point, the ones that stay out seem like the outliers, not the ones that go in. The last par of the day comes on the 182 16th, where the 3-iron just stops before the green, and the putt leaves me a three-footer for the score.
I'm now close enough to the finish to truly dream of breaking 100, but the game has gotten shaky enough to make it dicey, with drives and irons either staying true or duffing. The penultimate hole is a disaster 8, which means I need to make par on a 510 yard par five to get it done. The drive dances just out of the fairway bunker, the 5-iron sets me up for 150 to go after two shots, but the third shot is chunked. I need to chip and get down, and just miss the landing spot, and watch the ball run through the back. My chance at 99 is a chip that stops two feet from the cup, and that's that. An even 100, with 5 pars and 4 bogies, or half of the course played to damn near the best of my ability.
The most encouraging thing? The putting (on aerated greens, no less), and the possibility that my level today is really more what I should be doing, now that my vision has been corrected. Lots of good drives today, too, and some just bounding out to nearly 250. I don't know how many more times that I'll get out this year, given the changing of the seasons and how playing while cold is a non-starter for me... but this was one of the five best rounds for me in the last ten years, and makes me eager to play more. But just the idea that a new level might have just been a trip to the eye doctor away... simultaneously encouraging and maddening. I could have been putting like this all along?