Are you trying to learn or maintain?

The title begs a simple question.  It is the time of the season where it is most beneficial to really define your goals for the rest of the year.  Is it time to maintain and test your current skill set or is it time to continue improvement.  For most of us, we never are honest with ourselves and actually ask ourselves this question.  So, my aim is to ask you some questions as part of an awareness quiz for what side of the line you stand on.

Are you ready to maintain and commit to playing “your game” for the rest of the year.  Well, do you have anything to get ready for?  Are you playing in any tournaments?  Do you have a competition or a trip that you are preparing for?  If so, maybe it isn’t the best idea to embark on a massive swing change.  Part of this preparation phase is to simply acknowledge where you stand and analyze your current shot dispersion.  One of the best ways to become aware of your current skill set is to book a session on Trackman or with one of the golf professional staff.  There are multiple ways you can test yourself to find your strengths, weaknesses and tendencies.  Basically, we’ll be able to not only tell you things like average carry distance, but also average dispersion (left/right) and any outliers that can pop up (the big miss).  You can use this data to know what to spend the bulk of your practice on as well as play “your game” more effectively.  For example, I found out that my tendencies are to miss my short irons left and my long irons a little right.  So, when I’m playing a short shot and the pin is on the left corner of the green, I know that it is prudent to not aim at the flag.

We are always improving – that is a desire of the human condition.  However, it is imperative that you know when you should be seeking massive change and when you should be refining your skills through intentional practice sessions.  If you are content with your playing ability and can shoot scores that make you happy if things fall in to place during the round, I would say there is little need to change anything too drastic.  If you are really unhappy about your game and your inconsistencies, I would venture into the world of golf instruction to gain new perspectives and practicing habits that will allow for personal growth on and off the course!

Earn your way up or out!

Practicing golf is not easy. It is specifically not easy to enjoy. It is my job as Coach to provide new ways to see things and to provide environments for my students to learn. In this vain, I love to create training environments that “gamify” practice – in other words, make practice fun by playing GAMES!
One of the easiest games you can create yourself is what I call “earning your way up or earning your way out.” The objective is simple – create a task that has a progression of easy to difficult. Then, define success for each “rung of the ladder.” For example, you can start with putting at three, five, seven and nine feet. You say that you need to make 4 out of 7 putts from three feet in order to attempt the five footer. Then you need to make 4 out of 7 putts from five feet to advance longer again. If you fail the task from five feet, return to the three foot putt. This way you are training with a little bit of pressure as each putt matters! I would start by setting a timer for 10 minutes and see how far you can get. I guarantee you will feel pressure on the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th putt at each distance!
Another simple game I have been implementing with a lot of my students revolves around simply making solid impact with the ball and dissociating with precise results. Most of us feel better about our golf swing when making solid contact so earn your way up to a full swing by starting small. Similarly, you are given four balls and need to strike at least three of them solid to move to a longer shot. Start with chipping, move to pitching, then punching and finally a full swing. You can work up this ladder with all your clubs and hopefully be hitting the ball more solidly in no time!
Try anything to stay engaged in the process of practice and you will not only enjoy it more, but you’ll also get a whole lot more out of your practice!

Paving Asphalt

Getting back into golf season is kind of like repaving a road. Hang in there with me…
It is important to evaluate the deep cracks and potholes left over from a volatile winter off-season. Perhaps, we can negotiate these hazards and drive near, over or around them, but sometimes we cannot. Perhaps we take a quick golf lesson to plant some flowers in those deep potholes (like they do in Ecotopia). Eventually, there will be a stressor that reveals those holes in the pavement (i.e. playing in a club event, etc.) like a deluge of rain washing out the flowers and leaving a gaping hole in the road.
So, I ask you, how deep are your potholes? Sometimes they are not very deep and will not get worse. Every now and again, we reach a critical breaking point when we need to do some excavating and repaving. Remember, this is a process. It is important to be mindful not only when you are excavating, but also choosing who will be pouring the asphalt into the pothole. There is a process of pouring (coaching and receiving instruction), smoothing (grooving new motor patterns), compacting (practicing smartly), making the new material flush with the old (integrating it into a swing), letting it settle/seal/dry (patience during the entire process), and finally being ready to drive on the new road (taking the motion to your game with confidence).
Be aware of where you are and where you want to go. If the road that you choose requires paving some potholes, contact your local, friendly PGA Professional and come up with a roadmap to high tail it to your destination!
Also, keep in mind that all roads need paving at some point!

Made vs. Holed Putts

This “tip” is more of me urging you all to start thinking a bit differently on the putting green. How often have you hung your head in disgust when a putt misses the hole after you have made what you think is a great stroke? Guess what? Golf isn’t fair, and I hear life isn’t either. I will agree that there are very few sounds better on this earth than a little white (or neon green, red, purple, etc.) ball falling into a cup. However! There is little that we can do to control what that ball does after it leaves our putter face. Many will argue with me if fate and destiny truly exist, but to be scientifically objective about the situation of a golf ball rolling on a green, there are many different variables working for and against that ball going into its rightful home.
The following mindset is one that will start alleviating the unnecessary stresses we all put on ourselves to get that ball into the hole (in fewer shots). Start delineating between “making putts” and “holing putts.” Know that you have the ability to “make” every putt. It is simple. Roll your ball on your intended line with your intended speed. If you do that, you have “made” the putt. Whether or not that ball goes in the hole is a completely different issue and one that sometimes you are accountable for (chose the wrong line or wrong speed, failure to acknowledge grain/dew/other condition, etc.), but very often, you may not be accountable for (imperfection in the green, etc.). When we get obsessed about “holing” every putt we see, we immediately believe we are a poor putter if the putt we hit does not go in the hole. This can often lead to a downward spiral of putting confidence and many poor economic decisions of buying new putters or regripping, etc. (we in the golf shop don’t mind these irrational buying decisions).
So…. it is a great time to get out to a practice green and start committing to making every putt. Refrain from hitting putts for the sake of hitting putts and react positively or negatively if the putts go in or if the do not go in. Go through your process on every putt. Decide if the putt is uphill, downhill, sidehill or a combination of multiple slopes. Pick a path and a speed for with the ball to roll on that path. Make every putt. At that point you can learn where your strengths and weaknesses are, objectively. Do you have a tendency of over-reading break? Do you have a knack for leaving putts short? When you commit to making every putt, you can find your truest shot pattern and be objective through the learning process. Use this shot pattern as feedback and soon enough, you will be holing more putts, guaranteed!

Down Under Par

An overall reflection of golf seen in Oceania…
For the past two months, I have been travelling around the Southern Hemisphere and no, the ball doesn’t go down into the hole counter-clockwise and I was not attacked by any hoop snakes or drop bears.  I have learned much about the culture and the game of golf down under.  Given the context of these articles, I’d like to reflect upon how the game is played.
Golf is simple.  It is a challenge and it is an opportunity.  It is meant to be played with others, but against yourself.  It is meant to be enjoyed with fresh air and to be talked about amicably with friends afterwards.  It is meant to be laughed at.  It is meant to be a game.
Golf is also serious.  It provides an honest competition that is equitable to all that participate.  Therefore, people that play this game here seldom make excuses and are highly congratulatory to highly adept play.
It seems to have been learned that learning comes from within.  It comes from objective observation of the present moment.  Learning what you do well and when and where you need to focus more attention.  Aussie golfers seem to be very Socratic in that most know that they know very little, but are open to knowing more (a very “empty cup” Zen student approach).
So, I conclude my thoughts and implore you to take a position ready to learn.  Learn from every putt, from every sliced drive and from every chunked wedge.  Gain insight and humility from every pure strike and snake holed.

Tara Iti continued….

I’m not going to bore you with descriptions of every shot, but I will provide a few more highlights of my go around at Tara Iti.

One of the mind-blowing revelations I had during my visit was about course set-up.  Ryan told me that EVERY day, there is a dedicated course set-up artist.  He walks the entire course every morning with a cup cutter and bucket of sand.  He looks at the forecast for temperature, wind, precip., etc. and decides upon a fair and fun set-up that will allow for variety and interest.  He moves the tees and changes the cups accordingly.  Due to the incredibly stiff NO CARTS policy, he does this every day walking.  What an incredible opportunity to connect with the land you help maintain and gain appreciation for the angles available.  Just another reason Tara Iti is one of the fore-thinking clubs of our time.  No wonder they have been met with such high acclaim in its first few years of opening!

The 4th is a short 4 that can be driveable if the course set-up and wind allow.  With an uphill approach, it is imperative to play the angles game for your approach.  For example, as we played to a right hole location, you would absolutely need to come in from the left side of the centerline hazard (a rather large bunker complex dividing the fairway) if you wanted to attack the pin.  You could also bail 20-30 feet left of the pin and take your 4 and move on.  I opted for the latter option and happily moved on to our first 5 par of the day.

What I really enjoyed about the routing of Tara Iti looking back on it is the variety of good long connecting holes.  It is hard to know if there was a lot of sand moved in the routing, but I would have never guessed (as I mentioned before) that most of the site was forested.  That is perhaps a sore spot for me in that a lot of trees had to be removed to create this magnificent property.  Nevertheless, I thought Doak and his team did a fabulous job transitioning between the highs and lows of the property with the long holes.  Each of the holes offer generous driving corridors and begs the long hitter to take on the hazards protecting each greensite.  I would need to play the course more to know what strategy is most fitting to my game, but I would profess that laying up to a strategic angle would probably be the more beneficial option on most of these holes given the challenging shots from the green surrounds if you miss on the “going for it” shot.  Long story short, I would say that what is best about these holes is that even after a great drive, you are left thinking about how you want to play your next shot.  It is not AIRGOLF (hit it as high and far as possible).  Most of the approaches into the 5 pars require a low running shot to take advantage of ground slopes that can promote your ball closer to the hole (even from shorter distances)!  For a variety of golfers this approach makes the game more fun especially during matches as the situation may encourage to play a shot that you normally would not.

The 6th gave me a little deja vu of the first at Bandon Trails with an uphill approach framed by a couple dunes on either side and back.  The second shot into this hole is certainly easier with the framing dunes as the view from the lower portion of the fairway is quite limited.  All in all, I enjoyed playing this hole from the shorter teeing ground that allowed for more angles to get to the “upper fairway.”  Wind direction and intensity will totally change strategy of this hole and there was a completely unattainable left side of the fairway that might open up the look to the approach even more.

One of my more memorable shots came next at the 7th – a short 4 par just begging you to thread the needle and run up your drive.  Downwind, the hole looks like an incredibly long 3 par that you much land 40 yards short into an upslope to kill some speed and run up to the well protected SHALLOW green.  Into the wind, you must bail out to the right to play a similar shot (low and well judged to the shallow green) OR with a lofted iron that is precise to within 5-10 yards of landing zone.  Playing it downwind, I took out my trusty Louisville Golf persimmon 1 wood and aimed down the left side to cut 10 yards and carry the waste area down the left side.  My brain visualized the ball to hit a small upslope to help take the speed off the ball and start rolling on the ground up and over the massive swale that falls gently to the green.  My hope would be that the friction of the 40 yards of fairway roll might slow the ball enough to have the ball slow on the green to stop before the rear bunker.  Somehow, everything happened almost as described and my ball cozied up to within 10 feet of the flag.  A subtle break took my eagle try just a few inches left of the hole allowing for my 2nd birdie of the day.


Tara Iti – a late afternoon game

After Mangawhai Golf Club and a lunch at The Dune with Alec, I rode back to Alec and Ryan’s workplace, Tara Iti.  It was the first time I saw the property despite studying pictures and essays about it prior to my trip.  My first reaction was, this place is in a FOREST?!  Every picture I saw of the course only showed a handful of trees and all of the holes are situated on rolling sand dunes.  Nevertheless, I was quite shocked to see that drive in be tree lined.  Also, the entrances to the new courses are literally situated in the “Southern Forest” to give you a clue about what those sites look like.

Ryan was finishing up at work, so I waited patiently at the staff accomodations (Podville), a series of dorms transformed from shipping containers.  I had plenty to do listening live to ESPN radio following the ACC Championship Game which ended up being a dismantling of UVA.  Eventually, Ryan came rolling in on a golf cart to provide me the tour of the property properly.  All I can say is UNDERSTATED luxury.  Everything that is needed and nothing that isn’t.  Everywhere you go has every one of your questions answered without you having to ask.  Perhaps the most impressive part of the facility’s infrastructure is the learning facilities.  Given the place only does 8,000 rounds (that actually sounds high), this building is to the T, everything you would ever want.  It has a full service bar that looks like it came out of the Great Gatsby.  It has a full simulated golf hitting bay.  It has a full “garage door” to the practice fairway to hit shots from inside.  It has every fitting system known to man.  It has a putting studio.  It has a practice fairway – as in… this is not the range (that is somewhere else and altogether awesome on its own), so you have a private fairway for all your instruction needs (at most there would be another person getting a lesson).  What an incredible facility – one that might not make sense, but most great things in this world do not make sense.

Ryan mentions that there is an American PGA director of instruction on property looking for a game and wants to know if I’m keen.  Duh.  We end up having a fourball and soon enough I am getting ready to embark on my maiden voyage around Tara Iti.  I suppose I will dive into the writing now even though it is overwhelming!

The first tee ball is described by my caddie as the reverse of the first at Sebonack.  I found that a bit odd as I had played there and visually it didn’t click, but the more I thought about it, perhaps it was true.  It is more of just a short dogleg that entices the log hitter to take on the left side if it is downwind.  More of a reverse of the first at Pacific Dunes if you ask me.  All in all, I didn’t take enough care in aiming down the right side as we had a decent headwind that knocked my ball into the short left bunker (I’ll know for next time).  My approach was virtually blind as I was punished by my indifference in shot selection off the tee. I hit a well struck short iron to the back of the green.  The green is well different than Sebo or Pac’s first hole.  The further right you go off the tee, the more the green acts as a backstop, but the more direct line you take off the tee, you are face with a NASCAR inspired bank turn half horseshoe.  With the pin in the very front of the green, long or left is a virtual bogey or worse, and as we’ll learn throughout the day, being pin high is a great key to scoring at T.I.

The second is inspired by owner Ric Kayne’s housesite in Southern California.  Apparently, he overlooks the 6th at Riviera and therefore the donut shaped green.  The small bunker in the middle of the green is supplemented by a large bunker complex guarding the front left side of the green (where the pin was located during our play).  These two bunkers are quite strategic in that they encourage the skilled golfer to use the slopes right of the flag (but challenging the middle bunker) and play a combination of ground game and air game to combat the courses hazards.  What a beautiful theme that you must use both facets of the game (air and ground) to have the most success in scoring.  My high cutting 8 iron proved to be the right shot selection as the ball landed softly and used the right to left slope off the middle bunker to bring my ball 15-20 feet directly behind the hole.  A good read and a meek effort left my first putt conveniently in the middle of the hole just 2 feet short.

The third is a funny hole – lots of local knowledge on this one.  I might have made the only 3 on the second, so I grabbed driver and hit down my caddie’s line but pushed it about 10 yards and ended up in the right waste area fairway bunker.  Then I see Ryan and Alec both blast drivers 40 yards right of me?!  They claim that it adds length to the hole but opens up the angle tremendously, if you play down the 4th fairway.  I’ve got another blind approach out of the bunker, but I trust my line and crisply strike a 6 iron to what I think is left of the green.  I learn from my looper’s vantage point that the wind actually carried the ball 20 yards RIGHT of the pin but grabs a convenient bounce into the green’s punchbowl and ends up about 20 feet under the hole.  We get up to the green and what a marvelous DELL/PUNCHBOWL like greensite.  I understand why Alec and Ryan don’t love the 3rd fairway angle as it can be blocked out by the massive dune guarding the center and right portions of the green.  With the left to right wind we had today, it was important to have a clearer angle unless you were to rely on the short right punchbowl slopes (the ground hook if you will).  We got to the green to find a load of stinky natural fertilizer spread out on the green that was sure to make your ball dance on the way to the hole.  I was third to putt and saw how each of the prior putts bounced all over the place and came up short, so I didn’t put a lot of thought to the line of the putt not thinking it would matter much, but I did focus on make a firm assertive stroke at the middle of the hole and what do you know?!  My first birdie at Tara Iti!


Mangawhai Village Market and Mangawhai Golf Club

This morning, I ran alongside the low tide exposed shoreline of the estuary heading to the Surf Beach I explored yesterday.  Down the sandy shore and back along the front of the cliffside homes was a good enough route for my exhausted muscles from the 15 plus miles of walking the day prior.  I felt that this wasn’t enough movement for me yet and I wanted to get a taste of the local flair so I headed down to the Saturday morning market after a nice shower and reset.  The walk was naturally longer than I had planned, but it took me into a great boardwalk area along the tidal wetlands leading into the Village.  Eventually I had arrived and wow – what a scene!  I was treated to samples of local honey, cheeses, pates, olive oils, and even a “Mexican hot sauce” booth.  To go with the theme of New Zealand, everything was clearly made with love and respect to the ingredients and the land which produced them.  I found that everyone really enjoyed being a part of the community and wanted to engage with each other.  Other highlights of the Saturday Market included the couple playing with wooden string toys called Kendama and the Kendama Pill (see this dude make it look all too easy!) and the musical entertainment acoustic duo named the G Strings (damn, they could seemingly play anything).

After my first hitchhiking experience (Ryan said its not only the safe, but an encouraged method of travel – another awesome part of New Zealand) back to the Heads, I enjoyed the rest of the day with an extraordinarily amazing walk on the beach.  It was long and pure and quiet and peaceful and bliss.  There is something about putting your bare feet on wet sand and allow the waves to softly crash into you.  It recharged my batteries and allowed my brain to process thoughts as passing ideas without having to act on them.  When is the last time you didn’t have to do ANYTHING except breathe, observe and sit?  I highly recommend taking some time out of your busy life to do just this.  You will be happier after you have.

Ryan told me that one of his co-workers, Alec had the day off and was looking to play golf the next morning.  So, we organized to play the local track, Mangawhai Golf Club.  I had walked past the club the day before and met with the woman in the pro shop.  After introducing myself, she was happy to invite me to play during my stay, and I just didn’t know it would be the very next day.  Luckily, she was there to greet us in the morning and take care of us and show us on our way.  A beautiful walk, Mangawhai featured some great rolling turf and interesting bunkers.  A couple memorable holes – one a longish par 4 with a green cut into a hillside with a natural faced bleed out bunker protecting the right and back of the triple tiered green.  With many of the greens elevated, you had to place your approach the correct distance or risk an unlucky bounce from the unfriendly slopes.  After our match was over (Alec used his play every day experience to dismantle my “rusty” excuses), I decided to try a few shots I might not normally.  The best came on the 17th hole? where I hit a 2 iron to the turn of the dogleg to be left with an uphill second to a green that sat 160-175 yards on top of the hill.  I took that same 2 iron and played a LONG “bump and run” shot that skirted up the slope and continued to the middle tier of the green just 6 feet short of the hole!  All in all, the course was a real treat with incredible ground movement and a FUN shot quality all over (especially the back 9).


Walking around Mangawhai

After an action packed day 1, I was barely able to keep my eyes open past 8pm, but an incredibly relaxing slumber left me ready for the day!  I was without a vehicle as Ryan had to work the next few mornings.  So, I ventured out from my home base (for the next 6 days of so) on foot.  I actually got a ride to the surf beach from Ryan’s landlord, Liz who was awfully friendly and unbelievably knew of my home Redmond.  Apparently, when Liz (a Kiwi) was in grade school, her parents hosted an exchange student from Redmond, Oregon?!  So, she had kept in touch with her friend from childhood and actually visited her in her 20’s in Redmond – such a small world!

After she had dropped me off, I was going to walk along the beach to see the Cliffs Walk (a highly talked about local short walk up on the seaside cliffs and back along the shore).  As I walked around the surf beach, I stumbled upon a nice short climb to a lookout called the “Goldschmidt Track” and I decided to walk up it.  I figured this was a short up and over type of viewpoint walk based on the direction of the trail, so I continued on.  Being a “newbie” to town, I didn’t realize how far the walk was from the beach to the “town” where I hoped to grab a morning coffee before my bigger hike of the day.  Well, as it turns out, I chose a longer than a short viewpoint walk.  After going up and down over the coastal “heads” several times and perhaps ~2 hours, I ended up at the Village of Mangawhai Heads and was able to get my coffee (I learned all about Flat Whites and how much Kiwis loved their coffee).  With my newfound caffeine induced vigor, I headed BACK to the surf beach after picking up a couple Avos from the roadside stand and readied myself for the hike on the cliffs.

What an incredibly calming and meditative stretch of sand to get to the trailhead.  The mid tide lapped up against tide pools and rock formations as it stretched toward the native grasses lining the shore.  As I got to the trail sign, I noticed that the return walk along the beach would be impossible during mid and high tide.  I hadn’t heard this before, but it seemed as if tide was mid and going out, so I didn’t think too much of it.  *Foreshadowing* The climb to the edges of the cliffs was several stories (I would guess I climbed about 20-25 stories right off the bat) high in mostly even constructed steps.  Once, I made it into the “saddle” if you will, the walk wove in and out of cliffside views and native vegetation.  There were several moments that carved through dense shaded forests only to make the revealing opening that much more special!

As I progressed up high, I started to see the awesome trail alongside the water for the beach return.  There was a very secluded alcove with white sand that I really wanted to check out, but I also noticed how close the waves were crashing to the cliff walls.  I started guessing that I was not indeed traveling during low tide.  So, I continued on and started descending toward the beach in equally as steep staircases as I had previously ascended.  When I got down to the rocky beach, I noticed a beautiful rock arch that seemingly was the way back.  Unfortunately, about 3-5 feet of water was rolling into that arch and then receding back to the sea.  I reckoned that wasn’t very safe to be walking through, so I decided to wait a bit and see if the water was moving out at all.  After snacking on an avo and reading a bit of my book, I walked over to the arch, took off my shoes and tried to peek around the corner to scope out the challenge laid out in front of me. I got about 8 feet in and the water was still coming in furiously, so I decided to be responsible and turn back.  I would return the way I came and enjoy the cliffs moving in the opposite direction.  Luckily, the views only got better and the clear skies gave way to the beautiful islands offshore.  As I descended back down to the beach, I noticed some dark skies rolling in that started to obscure the islands offshore (Taranga and Sail Rock).  Almost like clockwork, as soon as I sat down at the surf beach to read my book, the sky started to spit.  I wasn’t going to risk getting stuck in a quick passing deluge so I heeded the warnings of the booming rumblings and took off from my perch of sandy paradise.

All in all today was a great relaxing day of walking, meditating, observing, and exploring the Mangawhai Heads.

Paparoa – the world leader in pasture golf

After arriving in Auckland, Ryan and I headed north through a multitude of small towns that I can’t for the life of me pronounce or even remember.  We stopped along the beach for a lite and delicious lunch at a small beach town, hit the grocer and butcher in Warkworth, the coffee shop in Matakana and a small Op Shop (thrift store benefiting local ambulance companies usually).  I learned that that is pretty much the format to every New Zealand town – cafe, butcher, gas station, op shop, dairy, and a pub.  Simple but very good living.

Eventually, we arrived back to his humble abode above the estuary in Mangawhai (the ‘wh’ becomes more of an ‘f’ sound) Heads.  There is Mangawhai Village which is situated deeper inland and near the estuary of the tides which forms a bit of a harbor/wetlands and Mangawhai Heads which is a residential area/town that is closer to the ocean and surf beach.  Ryan drove us down to the surf beach for a quick dip in the Pacific to offer a bit of an awakening to my senses after the long day of travel and to give us some energy for the rest of the afternoon.

Next on the agenda was a trip to the Paparoa Golf Club. Ryan had never been there before, but had heard great things about the experience.  He knew that there would be not many signs to get there and there probably wouldn’t be anyone at the club to show us around (a typical rural honesty box system).  What he didn’t know was how difficult it would be to find this place.  We made it to the town of Paparoa (imagine the bare bones as listed above) and saw a sign with a directional arrow stating “Paparoa Golf Club 10 km.” Good sign as we didn’t think there’d be any signs!  We continue up this road (which soon thereafter turned to gravel) for about 10-12 minutes passing a fork in the road about halfway. We haven’t seen any signs or any signs of anything other than farmland and so we decide that maybe the fork in the road was the way to the golf course.  We flip a U and continue down the hill from whence we just came and hung a right at the aforementioned fork.  Down this road we go for 10-12 minutes and still we see nothing.  Now we are almost at wits end as we decide to go back to the original route and continue just a bit further up the road.  We pass a couple of right hand turns that look promising, but there is nothing in the immediate sight looking down these roads, so we continue forward.  After 5 minutes of driving and seeing nothing new, we backtrack again to those promising looking turnoffs and FINALLY, see just over the crest of a hill (not far from where we initially flipped the first U of the day) the sign for Paparoa Golf Club.

Let me tell you, it was worth every wrong turn we made.  We park the car next to the structure at the top of the hill deemed the clubhouse and after opening the door, I see a little sign and coin drop detailing the $5 green fee and plea for honesty.  A humble clubhouse complete with gentlemen’s trough and shower, Tuesday scorecards and Saturday scorecards and a bulletin detailing some membership notes.  We find a gate to the first tee and much like my experience at Silvies Valley Ranch, “if you open a gate, close the gate.”  We’ll address why on the back 9.  The first required some local knowledge as it doglegs alongside the road and from the tee, it certainly appeared that you didn’t need to hit it very far right.  When I found my drive in the left side of the fairway (I thought I would be right-center), I knew I was in for a bit of a day of surprises.  I had just a flip wedge and figured I would land it short of the green as I just saw Ryan land on the front and bounce over the crowned putting surface.  My ball hit a soft spot and ended up short of the green and short of the fence encircling the green.  Many Americans would have no idea why a fence would surround a putting surface, but when you met the maintenance team at Paparoa, you’ll be soon to find out!  **HINT** they’re not Baaa’d at their job.

So we continue on and play a couple of nice little holes with unique green complexes (the second is built into a hill with a sharp fall off right and the 4th is a nice medium length 3 par with the fall off left of the tiny green.  Then we haul across the road again, opening and closing paddock gates to keep the grounds crew where the club wants them.  The 5th/14th is a magnificent hole that entices a long drive over a crest to set up a short iron into a well protected greensite where short is in a clever hazard and flying your ball to the green would likely have your ball rolling long.  The 6th and 7th shared a really wide fairway begging strategically placed shots for those that have played many a round at PGC.  The 6th plays uphill to allow for an absolutely stunning treat at the 7th tee overlooking the ridges and rolling canyons of the rural Northland. The 8th and 17th had vastly different tee shots to the uphill 3 par.  We played both of them to get the true experience and given the windy conditions and many sheep maintaining the course, the approaches were quite difficult!  Playing one of my patented low running shots was a huge risk in that I didn’t want to peg one of the wooly beasts.  Alas, my shots were safely executed and left 2 par putts to be holed (1 successfully).  The home hole also played uphill, into the wind and into the sheep.  As Ryan lamented, “this fairway is cut a bit tighter” and while I didn’t notice a huge change in firmness or roll, my approach was one of the best of the day leading to a tap in par 4.

Paparoa, you were a true gem and now that we know where you live, we’ll be back again someday soon!