Remember in this year’s Super Bowl when the Atlanta Falcons came out and took a 28-3 lead after four minutes in the 3rd quarter. Then what happened? They got greedy and continued to try and throw the ball instead of running out the clock out, which ultimately ruined their chance for victory.
Today, I learned that greed is not good on the golf course either.
Yesterday I had a full swing lesson and continued to work on my ball striking. Today’s round started off great at Rattlewood. I was nutting my driver, making good decisions, and working my lesson plan perfectly. I played the front nine with one bogey and one birdie and felt very much in control, and maybe a little bit cocky as we headed to the par-5 10th hole. I pounded a drive and left myself 215 yards uphill. Then the Kyle Shanahan in me took over. I forgot I was still in learning mode and elected to go for the green with a 3WD. I have never gone for this green in two but had never driven it this far before. What would you do? I knew the green was surrounded by bunkers and felt a greenside bunker shot to a middle pin position was no problem. Sure enough I landed in a bunker, but then chunked two sand shots and made double.
Feeling cheated out of a birdie opportunity, l stayed aggressive and tried to drive the green on the 11th hole which was playing downwind, downhill, and only 323 yards. I stepped on a driver but blew it into the lake guarding the right side of the fairway – bogey. On the par-3 twelfth hole, I clubbed down and tried to hit a 3-iron on a shot that called for a 5WD and pulled it left for another bogey. At the end of the inward half, I had carded a 10-over 46, and like the Falcons, left the course in a state of shock. Where did I go wrong?
I think it was the second shot on #10. I haven’t hit a bunker shot in a month. During my lessons, I’ve been focusing on full swing and no short game. I’ve had plenty of reps with my sand wedge from various distances in the fairway. I should have laid up to a good yardage and pitched on for a good birdie chance. The decision on 11 tee was flat out stupid. I could have hit a 4-iron in the middle of the fairway for an easy wedge or 9-iron to an accessible pin. The rest of the back nine was a combination of mental and physical mistakes that compounded themselves.
What’s frustrating is that I know not to get greedy and to play to my strengths, but I do it anyway! It happened to me and to the Falcons, does it ever happen to you?
Ever run up against a course that has your number? What are your strategies for conquering? I am playing mine tomorrow. Poolesville is a local muni in the western reaches of Montgomery County, and has my number for the last six years. At par-71 and at a nondescript 6,405 yards, in my last 15 rounds I have never played well, with 76 being my best score (achieved twice) and I’m struggling to a stroke average of 80.31. Ball striking always seems to be an issue as are slow starts. It has been impossible to get on a roll, much less threaten to go low. I did notice that on one of those rounds of 76, I was very comfortable mentally because I had finished reading Putting Out of Your Mind by Bob Rotella the day before and was implementing his techniques. My ball striking wasn’t great, but I was a peace with myself and not worried about my score or missing any putts. This leads me to think this is purely psychological. How do I get past this mental blocker?
I wrote earlier on how I got past a mental blocker hole at Rattlewood by totally changing the way I played it and I’m thinking of taking a similar approach. Normally, at Poolesville, I’m always playing defensive and trying to keep the ball in play with a 3WD off the tee, but that has left me with longer approaches into the smallish crowned greens. GIR stats plummet and I inevitably leave myself short-sided too often and can’t score well. Perhaps a total reversal is required, with an attempt to bring the course to its knees by busting driver on every hole, which should leave shorter irons into the par-4s. I’m getting inspiration watching Rory McIlroy destroy the field at The Open Championship with the same strategy.
It’s often that when NFL teams go into the prevent defense in an attempt to protect a lead, the lead inevitably vanishes. Perhaps this is my prevent and I need to get aggressive. Anyone have some experience handling problem courses? I’d like to be a horse for this course and I’m all ears. Thanks!
We’ve all experienced this at some point. You’re on the course and come to the hole that’s always problematic. No matter how well or poorly you’re playing, the hole just cannot be solved and leads to the inevitable big number or the start of a poor run. You’ve never played it well and can’t get it out of your head, and the distraction affects your preparation and subsequent play. What do you do?
Mine is the par-3 16th at Rattlewood and it happened again last weekend. The hole is a typically benign 160-yard play with bunkers guarding front right and left. Golf courses are full of these mediocre par-3s and there’s no reason a reasonably struck short to mid-iron to the center of the green shouldn’t get the job done, but I can never recall making par or better here. So I stepped to the tee and pulled a six. Right away I felt uncomfortable at address. Perhaps I was misaligned or wasn’t in a good athletic posture, but it didn’t feel right. I probably should have reset but didn’t and pulled the trigger on a big push slice. The ball was heading OB but cracked off a tree and caromed into the right greenside bunker. I felt fortunate for the break but very uneasy standing over the long bunker shot from wet sand with the thought of the tee shot still in my mind. You guessed it, I skulled the bunker shot low and right and hit my playing partner in the foot. The ricochet actually prevented my ball from going into the tall fescue behind the green and left me behind a large mound but with plenty of green to work with. After the obligatory round of apologies, I managed to pitch to three feet and hole the bogey putt.
After muttering a few non-printables, I exited the green but felt strangely good about myself for making a nice pitch on the third and saving bogey, where a triple or quad was definitely in play. I finished up par – birdie and the lousy 16th didn’t seem to factor in.
So how do you extricate these demon holes? What strategies have you used? I’m thinking next time to pull a three or four-iron and bunt a little controlled knockdown run-up between the bunkers. Basically, anything to change my thought process and remove all negative thoughts from previous blunders. All suggestions are welcome, please share!
Rattlewood Golf Club in Mt. Airy, MD is on the border of Frederick and Montgomery Counties and is one of nine courses managed by Montgomery County Golf. While not extraordinarily long at 6,501 yards from the championship tees, the course is challenging in certain spots and provides ample opportunities to score in others. Located in a fairly rural setting, the terrain is rolling but without any significant changes in elevation. I would not advise on walking because of the considerable distance from green to tee box on several holes. Every time I have played here I ride and and enjoy the course routing which takes you through a secluded front nine and some nice homes on the back that border but do not intrude.
We played on May 27th and found the course in excellent condition from tee to green, with no bare spots in the rough and the putting surfaces rolling fast and pure. A little local knowledge goes a long way and can help you avoid some serious pitfalls on what you’d think was a fairly benign track.
#1 is a medium short uphill par-4 and a good drive will leave you with less than 150 yards in. If the flag is cut in front, you must stay below the hole because putting from behind and downhill is a carnival. It’s better to miss the green short than to have a 30 footer from behind. When the hole is cut middle-back, go for it.
The approach on the par-4 second hole plays two clubs shorter than the yardage because of the amount of rollout. If you have a short iron in, you better be able to spin the ball or you will go over.
#3 is an uphill par-5. You cannot see the green on the second shot but you must avoid the fairway bunker protecting the right side. Hit it and you’re looking at a 100-yard bunker shot so take the left side where you’ve got ample room to miss.
The par-4 fifth hole is a shortie but the tee shots bounce hard left. Aim your driver or 3WD down the right side fairway/rough line to put yourself in the best position. Over the green here is usually a lost ball so take care with your approach.
The par-4 sixth (pictured above) is another shortie. You want to leave yourself enough room to spin a full wedge from the fairway, especially if the flag is in front because the green is shallow and only holds approaches that are well struck. I like to lay up with a 3WD, which usually leaves a full sand wedge.
On the par-5 10th, if you hit a good drive, you’ll be tempted to go for the green in two. Don’t. The myriad of greenside bunkers can leave you with a very tough play so lay back into the fairway for an easy third.
The par-3 12th is a long tough hole. The green rolls slopes from right to left making it even more difficult to get it close. Missing short in the approach is preferred to right or left and I often take less club than I need if I’m not comfortable hitting a 3WD or 5WD from the tee. Don’t get greedy here.
Hit your driver as hard as you can on the par-4 14th. It plays short but the green is small and approaching with the shortest iron possible gives you the best chance to score.
#15 is a great risk/reward drivable par-4. At 265 yards from the white tees, if the flag is in front and you’re feeling good, go for it because even a leave in one of the front bunkers is a nice play. If the flag is in back, avoid the front bunkers and lay back in the fairway.
#18 is a hard dogleg left that tempts you with a tee shot that can get pretty close to the green if you fly it over the pine trees guarding the parking lot on the left. Mishit your shot and you are out of bounds. I prefer to take a 3WD for position, which usually leaves me under 100 yards for an easy approach.
Value (4.0 out of 5.0)
We played on the after 12 noon weekend rate of $38 which is an excellent value considering your cart is included and the quality of the golf is good. The greens fee + cart rate before noon is $59, which is still reasonable. A small basket of range balls runs you $4 and a yardage guide is available in the pro shop for free, which is a nice touch.
Facilities (3.0 out of 5.0)
The facilities are a mixed bag. The 18,000 square foot clubhouse is nice and provides ample room in the grill to relax and have some post round food and drink and take in a game on their big screen TV. The pro-shop is of adequate size and is nicely stocked. The practice putting green is large, has a variety of sloped/flat putts, and is located conveniently between the clubhouse and first tee.
Unfortunately, the driving range leaves much to be desired. When it was created, the supporting concrete surface was not leveled leaving a ball above your feet shot (for righthanders) at each of the hitting stations. Mats are the only surface provided. A small pitching green is located in an odd bowl like depression between the range and clubhouse and the configuration doesn’t leave you with many flat lies to practice from. The practice area is good enough to get loose but should be avoided by those serious about working on their games.
Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)
Booking tee times through Montgomery County Golf’s website is easy and there were ample tee times available one week in advance. We arrived at the course at 11:15 a.m. for a 12:36 p.m. tee time and the starter offered to get us out ahead of three consecutive foresomes if we were willing to start at 12:00 noon. We happily accepted his offer and were appreciative of the attention because our round was completed in under four hours and we didn’t wait on any shots and the group behind us never pushed us.
For the record, I played the white tees at 6,104 yards and shot a 5-over 77.
Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)
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