Busy busy busy…the typical story of my summers. Apologies for not updating after last weekend’s tournament, so this one will be another two-fer. On July 4-5, I played the Greater Hartford Disc Golf Open A-tier at Wickham Park in Mancester Connecticut. This weekend, it was the Crane Hill Open B-tier at Crane Hill Park in Wilbraham Massachusetts. All that adds up to a lot of driving and a lot of playing in an 8-9 day period.
The GHDGO proved to be more of the same kind of golf I’ve been playing for the last month or so. Nothing egregiously bad but nothing extraordinarily good either, and lots of “birdie” chances from 35-50 feet that by and large became easy pars. It’s not the worst way to play a tournament, but against the stiff competition at the GHDGO, it wasn’t a great recipe for success.
In the end though, the difference for me between cashing and not came down to hole 1. The downhill hole measures at 520 feet with a 350-380 foot carry over an OB area, and that’s from the “regular” tee. For two of the three rounds, the “pro” tee was in play, which added another 100 feet to the hole and the required carry.
In the first round, with the first throw of the tournament, I managed to worm-burn a downhill throw and never made it across the OB. Then I threw into the OB long of the basket from the drop zone in an attempt to make up the penalty and save bogey. That netted me a 6 to start the weekend. From there, I managed to pull it together and have a fairly good round for 20 of the 21 remaining holes on the course to finish with a slightly disappointing but still one under par 69.
Second round was more of the same…steady play with the exception of hole 1. This time from the long tee, I failed to properly account for the head wind and didn’t get the lay-up drive I wanted (there is a safe bailout zone to the right that I wanted to get to). The drop zone from there was the “regular” tee. More of the same…OB. To the drop zone again, where I again threw OB through the green. The damage: 7. The score overall was a 73…one over or even par depending on who you ask.
Sunday morning brought round three on the hardest possible layout on the course. No surprise, I played my best round of the weekend on that layout. Not the lowest score (71) but definitely the highest rated. The biggest difference was the improvement I made on hole 1. Again, playing from the long tee, I successfully made it to the bail-out safe zone, and then got on the green within 20 feet on my second shot to card a 3.
Overall, I finished a few throws out of the money. If I had managed to salvage fours on hole 1 on Saturday, I might have scratched out last cash. And last cash is about as well as I expect to finish on that course against that kind of competition. The course, even in the “standard” layout (which is also the shortest), plays against my biggest weakness and that is length off the tee. I managed to compensate on some of the longer holes with some effective backhand roller shots, but that can only get me so far.
On the plus side, my putting game was strong. Only missed two must-have putts inside the circle all weekend, and managed to sink a couple longer ones, including a 55 foot jumper for a birdie 3 on the 720 foot hole 11.
Made the long drive home for a week of work on the course, mowing and weed-wacking. Squeezed in a round or two as well. Before I knew it, it was Friday again and I was back on the road for the Crane Hill Open.
This was my third year playing this event, and the first two years did not include a whole lot of personal success. But the tournament staff makes it worth coming back every year. Third time’s the charm, I guess as I finally seemed to solve Crane Hill.
The frustrating part about the design at Crane, and it’s a good one, is that it requires precision and tends to punish overly aggressive play. In other words, where you get into trouble and the strokes start piling up quickly is by trying to do too much. That usually goes without saying on any course, but this one really emphasizes that notion.
Round 1 on the shorter “A” layout started off well enough with a string of ho-hum pars interrupted by a lone birdie deuce on hole 6. On hole 9, a mental mistake led to my first bogey. Instead of taking my time and finding a more stable stance, I rushed my putt from an off-balance stance and missed. I made up for it by draining a 50 footer downhill to deuce hole 11.
Couple more of those ho-hum pars led us to hole 14. In the A-position, hole 14 is a short but perilous little hole. The tee and basket are at roughly the same height with a valley in between and a gradual drop off behind the basket as well. Many drives that land short end up rolling away, and drives that go long leave long death putts that almost always call for a lay-up directly under the basket. It can be deuced and it can be sixed very easily (I have proof of both :)). My drive this time had the height I wanted to ensure I didn’t hit short and roll, and fortunately the basket got in the way of the throw going long. ACE!
That got the momentum going in the right direction. I played hole 15 perfectly for the par 3. The hole is arguably a par 4 so a 3 felt good. More pars on next four holes (including a drop in par 4 on hole 16). Parked the 360 foot hole 2 for the CTP prize and birdie 2. Finished the round with a drop-in deuce on hole 4 and a final score of 50. That was good for a tie for fifth place, three throws off the lead.
Second round was on the longer, tougher B-layout. In theory, the layout had fewer birdie chances and not with the way our group played it. If one of us didn’t get the birdie on a hole, it involved a great save for the par. It made for some exciting viewing, if only there was a gallery to enjoy it.
Unfortunately, it took me a while to get on the birdie train with the rest of my group. I chugged along with pars through the first six holes of the round before finding bogey trouble on hole 8. Came back from that with a par on 9 and a birdie 3 on hole 10. More bogey trouble on hole 12, missing a 25 footer for par. A par 4 on hole 13 led us back to hole 14. The B-position is about150 feet longer than the A, but still set up well for me as a lefty. And I proved it by splitting the gap with a Pure and landing 10 feet away for the deuce.
Just like the first round, momentum was gained from that hole as I scored solid back to back par 4s on holes 15 and 16 (both could arguably be par 5), including a 40 foot putt on hole 16. Made another 40 footer for deuce on 17. Missed a putt on 18 for deuce then finished the round with a par on hole 1. Final score 58 (par = 59). Total score 108. Final placement, tied for 4th, four throws out of first.
Between the good finish, the ace pot, and the CTP, it was a very good day for me. Really starting to feel like my game is gelling. Only three bogeys all day, all of which were silly mental lapses and thus feel “fixable”.
Next weekend is another two-fer weekend, playing the West Thompson Open C-tier on Saturday and the Newton Hill Open B-tier on Sunday. Took 2nd place at last year’s Newton Hill Open…hoping for a repeat performance, if not improvement.