The toes on my right foot are throbbing. Prior frostbite and 29° temperature are a chilling combination. The 16th hole at Makefield Highlands is an uphill 450 yard par 5. After 2 shots, my ball is 100 yards out and 5 yards in front of Evan’s. Evan says, “$5 bucks closest to the hole?” I think for a nano second and agree. The thought being I have a lower handicap, a more consistent short game, and money is only the motivation, it’s rude not to take it.
Evan hits first and puts this high arcing ball that I thought landed on the moon. My view is hidden by a hill and I hear, “nice shot.” When you can’t see what happens and you hear “nice shot”, the expectation range is wide. This could be nice shot like it landed on the green. I decide to investigate to know what I’m up against and he’s about 6 ft from the pin. Shit. So I know I’m going to have to hit a quality shot and approach shots with rock solid greens are a run up situation. I know my distance is inside 100 yards and my full wedge can go 100 if hit perfectly. In my head I think 70 is about right and 3/4 swing with ball first contact. The ball is on target and you be the judge who won?
I made birdie which wasn’t even the best score on the hole! On this miracle 16th, Bud hit 2 nice shots to get to a putting position a bit off the green and jarred it for eagle. The group pulled off an incredible display of golf which I don’t think could be done again in 100 rounds. Truly remarkable.
With that little story aside, I’d like to describe winter golf as I’ve never experienced like I have the past month. The cold makes the game different but not in a totally unplayable way. The greens are rock hard which doesn’t make the putting that much harder, but it makes the approaches more challenging. High balls that hit the green trampoline off. So if you’re 150 and hit a shot 145 in the air that lands on the green, you’re probably 30 yards over. This makes the chipping portion equally challenging because there is not friction to stop the shots so you find yourself putting from rough to make sure you don’t mail one.
Around the green is the downside but let’s talk pro side for one second. The ball doesn’t stop rolling! Par 5’s become far more reachable and bad drives go way further than you think. This makes the holes easier to reach, but harder to stick. It requires smarter shots as well because of the uncertainty of where the ball goes when its done rolling. I’m still learning that distance can be achieved with higher clubs and more control, instead of thinking maximum distance is advantageous even if it’s a high risk shot.
The last 2 days were my 4th or 5th in this type of cold weather and I’ve found the experience pleasant and rewarding. My scores this weekend weren’t good, 101 & 96, but these high numbers were caused by a few big numbers and poor putting. As much as I feel taking a break from golf because it was too cold was always the approach, I’ve been coming around.