The Bogey Scrambler, that’s what I call myself, in my head, not out loud. Scrambling for bogey, although it is something to be proud of, however, like most of you out there we would rather be scrambling for pars.
I'm usually pretty happy with a bogey, especially when I start the hole flaring my tee shot 15 feet right of the fairway and having it settle down behind two trees with a rock sitting half into my back swing. I then knock my second shot neatly between the two tree trunks down about 75 yards to the left side of the fairway. Shot three of the Par 4 is now 118 yards to the center of the green with a green side bunker guarding the pin. I, of course, and who wouldn’t, choose to go for the pin...this time, by no strategy on my part, I fly the green having the ball land softly some 5 or 6 feet off the back of the green. Good news I’m not in the trap and it looks like I’ll be using putter for my next shot, bad news, I’m looking at a 35 foot putt, through 5 feet of fringe, it’s downhill, and this shot is for par. After watching my ball slide by 3 inches wide of the cup and slow come to rest I finally line up a slightly uphill 4 footer, I take a deep breathe, I keep my head down, and I go. The ball starts to roll and just grazed the right side of the cup and swirls in for bogey. Why to go Bogey Scrambler, way to go! Mentally exhausted I head to hole number two.
There is a real sense of pride scrambling like that. I actually practice punch shots at the range, for real. I imagine obstacles like tree branches, hills, and of course rocks in the middle of my back swing. I will hit at least 10 balls of my large bucket with these shots in mind. I have found that my go to punch shot club is my 5 iron. I like the loft, low enough to fly under the tree branches and high enough to fly over obstructions on the ground. When hit it correctly it flies a good 100 years and then usually runs another 25 to 35 yards. Several months ago I was playing Vintner Golf Course in Yountville, and I think it was the 5th hole. I was out at about 135 yards to the hole looking at my ball under a tree with branches sticking out creating about a 12 foot canopy that I had to shoot under. My back swing was fine, it was my follow through, I had none. I pulled out the trusty 5 iron, took a few practice punches, they were not swings, I had to stop my swing about 6 inches after contact other wise I would snap my club in half. Once I convinced myself that contact and stopping was achievable I went for it. The ball hopped out of there on a line, bounced 15 yards or so before the green and rolled to about a foot of the cup...for a tap in bogey.
Scrambling is a very important part of the game. I just looked up the tour average for fairways hit in regulation; 63%, which means a bunch of these pro’s are scrambling all the time...think Phil Mickelson, and he’s won 44 times on the tour. Most of us don’t even come close to that percentage, which means most of us are scrambling on most of our second shots. If we are lucky, we get to scramble for pars. After that we start to scramble for bogeys, let’s hear it for the bogey scramblers. My game can quickly slip into scrambling for double bogey and even triple bogeys. After that, if I’m looking at the dreaded snowman, and if I’m not putting for an 8, in the interest of pace of play, I’ll pick up and head to the next hole.
If you have learned anything from my blog scoring is not the most important thing when I play, but if I’m in the woods all day without woodland creatures to keep me company I would rather be walking the fairways, taking in the sights, and feeling the game. I think everyone would, and so recently I have begun to work on trying to spend more time on the fairway. It’s prettier, it’s more social, and yes, you can score better from there too. What to work on was the question, and after many rounds it finally dawned on me that I have been losing two to three strokes off the tee when I hit driver. Why was that? After reading countless articles, sitting through hours of videos, but finding no answers, I finally knew what to do...I stopped hitting my driver and I’m now a scratch golfer...it was as easy as that! NO! I want to hit drive, everybody wants to hit driver, and I want to hit driver whenever possible. When hit correctly the club hitting ball makes a sound that can only be described as pure. The ball rockets off the tee and the silence that follows matches the calm you feel as you watch the ball fly majestically over the fairway. Once the ball lands safely on the fairway you can hardly believe you did that, you hit the ball that well, and you get to do that 12 more times.
Yes, I want to hit driver, so a few months ago I put my head down and headed to the range and worked on a few things, played some more golf, and continued to lose strokes off the tee. Back to the range, onto the course, lose strokes. Range, Course, Strokes. Range, Course, Strokes. Range, Course, Strokes...Three weeks ago while playing Hidden Valley Lakes Golf Course I hit driver the first three holes and hit three fairways in a row. I’m cured!! Well...you know...kind of. On Saturday I booked a round at Blue Rock Spring Golf Course our local track near me. It was a perfect day for golf, I had the course to myself, and I was excited to see if I could continue my new found fairway in regulation skills. I started out completely out of my mind, Par, Birdie, Par, Bogey, Par, Bogey. One over after 6 that was amazing…I did have bouts of reality starting on the seventh hole were I shot double bogey. I finished the front nine; Par, Bogey. Even still 4 over on the front nine, and by the way that double bogey was because I hit the wrong club and flew the green into the water!
It wasn’t until the 12th that I had to go into full Bogey Scrambler mode. I hit a drive right on the button, but hard left. The ball got out there pretty well, and when I got to the ball I discovered that it was sitting about 20 feet behind a mound of leaves, tree branches, and a tree trunk. I have seen this before...it’s 5 iron time. Find a good path to punch out and be on your way. I got out of that pretty will I ended up bogeying 12. After that I went double bogey, bogey, bogey. I was right in my sweet spot, The Bogey Scrambler was in top form. Hitting 20 foot putts to “save” a double bogey, staring down 15 footers for bogey, and making them. As I came to the 17th tee box mentally drained I mustered up some energy, dug deep into the mental energy reserve, and managed to get the tee shot in play given me a decent second shot. 17 was parred...I’m cured..again...
The 18th hole did not go very well. My drive sailed deep into the woods on the right side of the fairway. I decided to venture into the woods, I had a pretty good line on the ball and maybe I would see a deer? No deer, but I did find the ball, and then proceeded to try and punch the ball out of the woods three times before finally the ball stumbled out onto the right rough. From the rough I pushed the ball right and I watched with a slight smile as the ball trickled into the green side bunker. My 6th shot was not bad out of the bunker. The ball did fly a bit and I was looking at 25 foot putt to save triple bogey. The putt rolled to about 6 inches of the cup leaving me a tap in Snowman.
Walking back to the club house, I felt very satisfied. Yeah, I quad-bogeyed the last hole, which once again, I can blame on a poor drive that cost me too many strokes to get to the green. That’s fine, really it is. Normally, and I think a lot of us have the same experience, the last drive of the day is the best drive all round. It’s the ultimate golf teaser. You struggle all day and then finally it all comes together on the last hole of the round, which then is usually followed by screaming, “where was that all day!?!”
This day was different for me. I experienced something I had never experienced before. My bogey scrambling did not dominate the round, I was out on the fairway more than the woods. I did miss my woodland friends, and I know I’ll be back to say hi sometime soon, but maybe the wildlife can try visiting the fairway for a little while.