January 22, 2010
I was beginning to wonder if the January thaw would ever arrive.
The Cape Region usually benefits from a short break in the winter weather. However, the persistent freezes and unusual amount of snow started to make me doubt that we’d see any warming trends until sometime in March.
Luckily, the mid-January weekend was blessed with a significant elevation in the daily temperature, accompanied by a rare winter thunderstorm with an inch or so of rain.
I confirmed with Shawnee Country Club on the Monday holiday that the course was open, and hurried up to Milford.
A foursome was about to start, and given the lack of any crowd and the somewhat lax winter rules, I joined them. The group included Jeff Kohel, the current club champion; Lisa Hutchins, a past club champion; Randy Hambrick, a past club champ and a former club pro; and Jim Hutchins, a persistent 9-handicapper and raconteur of all things golf.
The first sign of the different playing conditions than last November’s rounds appeared on the first green.
It was completely soaked.
As you walked over the turf, water would immediately surround your shoes. You quickly learned to keep moving, pausing only long enough to make a quick green read and putt out.
Fortunately, not all of the greens were as soggy as that first one, but even those that weren’t quite as wet presented their own challenges.
Unlike my own style of play, if you can call it that, these other four golfers are very good at hitting high shots onto the greens. On several occasions, however, their shots did not check and roll toward the hole as they planned. Instead, the balls would immediately plug, or stop dead within inches of their initial landing point.
For example, Hambrick’s nicely struck tee shot on the 193-yard par 3 tenth hole landed in the center of the front third of the green. From the tee box we could see a splash of water at least a yard wide. We found his ball buried deep in its own pitch mark.
My own three-wood shot on that hole landed a bit short, bounced up, and rolled to a stop in the back third of the green, about 20 feet from and level with the hole.
Sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good.
The bunker sand was tightly packed, and nearly brick-hard in most places. Lisa Hutchins had no problems with that challenge, but my first attempt in a twelfth hole greenside bunker was struck too hard. I swung much slower on the second attempt from the same bunker, and it came out fine.
Some short game techniques need to be re-learned on the fly.
Despite the damp turf, everyone played fairly close to his or her usual handicap levels. It was a fun round, and with any luck we could play another round or two during the next month—weather permitting.
Ruling of the Week
The United States Golf Association posts a Ruling of the Day on its website. They’re a fun way to refresh your recollection of the various rules that govern the game.
One ruling from this week caught my attention, for the sheer gall exhibited in the situation.
Q: An opponent or a fellow-competitor purposely steps on the player’s line of putt with the intention either of improving the line (e.g., by pressing down a raised tuft of grass) or of damaging it (e.g., by making spike marks). What is the ruling?
A: In either case, the opponent or the fellow-competitor was in breach of Rule 1-2. The penalty is loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play, unless the Committee decides to impose a penalty of disqualification…. In stroke play if the line of putt has been damaged, the player … may restore the line of putt to its previous condition. A player is entitled to the lie and line of putt he had when his ball came to rest. The line of putt may be restored by anyone.
If that same opponent purposely stepped on the line of some golfers, disqualification might be the least of his penalties.