Few things in the world are more enjoyable to non-golfers than stories about golf. Below are 1300 and change words about my trip to the course yesterday. Feel free to skip if that’s not your bag.

After weeks of hemming and hawing, of hitting the driving range and the pitch and putt course but only thinking about playing real golf, I finally bucked up and hit the course yesterday.

It went pretty well.

I played nine holes on a decent public course where I’ve done most of my practicing. The front nine is par 35. I shot 47. I was absolutely thrilled with that score.

Before playing I hit a few balls on the range to warm up and gauge where my swing was. I was hitting my irons well but when I moved to the tee, I could not hit a good 3-wood. I was either hitting worm burners or big slices. In a big change from normal, I was actually striking the driver well. My plan when I played had been to keep the driver in the bag and focus on keeping the 3-wood in play. This warm up tome adjusted my thinking.

I caught a dead spot in the lineup and headed to the first tee as a single. I took out driver, took a slow, controlled swing, and just mashed the ball. It hugged the right tree line as it raced down course, only to take a sharp right turn and disappear somewhere toward the parking lot. I paused, waited to hear contact with a car or window that never came, and dropped a breakfast ball and my 3-wood. This time I aimed left to take the slice out of play. This time I hit it on the screws and straight where I was aiming, which happened to be in the left rough near some trees. Still, in play and leaving me a decent approach shot. I pitched under the trees but my ball rolled through the green, I chipped on, and then three putted for a 6. Not a great start but I had a score on the card.

Hole two was more of the same. Off the tee with the 3-wood, I aimed left, hit it straight, and had a decent angle at the hole from the third fairway. For all my practice in recent months, I really have no idea how far I hit my clubs. That happens when you’re inconsistent and just trying to make solid contact. I had to get over some trees and it seemed like I was 125-135 out, so I took a 7-iron. Which I absolutely nuked. My ball bounced once on the green, then off, down a hill toward a tree line behind the green.

Not having played this course before I didn’t know hidden in those trees was a fence that was the border of the course. Digging around in the shrubs I found three Pro V1’s, which was cool, but not my ball. I dropped, took my penalty stroke, chipped up, and two-putted for another 6.

Four over through two, two lost balls. Not an ideal start. But I felt good. I stepped to the third tee, realized aiming left didn’t seem to be helping me, so took aim at the center of the fairway, and sent one straight down the middle. That’s what I’m talking about!

OK, I’ll stop with the full accounting there. That kind of summed up my day. I only hit three bad tee shots with a driver/3-wood all day. I define bad shot as either not making good contact or the ball not going where I aimed. Two I took mulligans on as they went well out of play. The third I topped a little but it still had enough juice on it to roll out close to 200 yards.

On the two par threes I guessed on what iron to use and both times hit shots that where pin-high…only 30 yards to the left. I’ve always pulled irons off a tee and apparently I still do.

My approach shots were like my tee shots: mostly really good. I was making solid contact and the ball was generally going where I aimed.

Around the green I was ok. I chipped to a foot once. I put several others in makable range. I had two piss-poor efforts.

On the green, though, I was bad. I didn’t mark it down, but I think I three-putted at least six holes. Maybe seven. That’s a round killer. But it is also correctable, especially since I feel like I’m a decent putter. I just need more reps on the practice green and to learn how to read greens better. Correcting putting issues brings your score down quickly when you start removing the three-putts from your round.

My best putt of the day was a 45 footer that I left about a foot short. By this time I had joined two guys who were in front of me.1 I actually scuffed behind the ball, made poor contact, and let out a noise of disgust as I hit it. Luckily the putt was downhill and gravity kept tugging it until it was close. I laughed when one of my new partners asked if I could show him how to scuff his putts like that. I realized that had I made solid contact, I would have sent the ball at least 20 feet past the hole and three- or four-putted. An error pays off!

My only one-putt of the day was on the final hole, a dead-straight six footer that I knocked in. For a moment I thought I had birdied the hole. Then I realized that in my excitement I forgot a stroke. Still, a good way to end the round with a solid par.

As I said at the beginning, I felt great about this round. I was pretty consistent tee-to-green, likely the best nine holes I’ve ever played. I was making good contact and sending the ball where I wanted it. It was just on the green where I struggled. I had a handful of other errors that are typical of a player of my caliber. They can all be corrected with more practice and play. If I can dial in some rough distances with my irons, that will be a huge help. All together, I can see a pretty clear path to shaving several strokes off Wednesday’s score.

Now, this isn’t the toughest course in the world.2 My swing has been erratic lately, and this seemed to be a good day. But it was super encouraging to put a decent round – for me – together. I don’t know that I had ever broken 50 before on a nine-hole round. And if my first goal in playing again is to break 100, I’m well on the way to that. In fact, I gave serious consideration to making the turn and getting another nine in to see if I could go ahead and check that off my list. But I wanted to quit while I still felt good and before the real heat of the afternoon kicked in.3

My current plan is to play once a week for the rest of the month and into early October. A friend who belongs to a country club promised to invite me to play with him once their fall guest rates kick in. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t a complete disaster if that happens. Wednesday felt like a good first step toward that goal.

Before I took my lesson in July I told my coach I had three goals:

  • I wanted to break 100
  • I wanted to be able to play with friends who are good without embarrassing myself
  • And I wanted to get good enough so I could put aside my starter clubs and go buy some new, nicer ones.

I’m not pricing new clubs yet, but I feel like that may not be too far down the road now.

1. Two older, very friendly gentlemen who had flown A-10s together.

2. Par 70, 6061 yards, 68.4 course rating, 110 slope rating.

3. It was in the mid-90s and very humid. I was soaked from those nine holes, and that was riding in a cart.