Monday, June 15, 2009

Golf Club Praha

My Golf Partner, Kvjetaak (an as yet unexplained schoolboy nickname), says GCP is the hardest golf field in Prague. There’s not much competition within Prague, no 18 hole Fields within Prague, but I gotta admit, after 3 rounds, this is one Sumbitch: hilly, no make that Mountainous as all getout, deep rough, steep, but excruciatingly slow greens, and a bunch of trees that come into play, not only out of the fairway, but within . . . you’ll see. . . so my confidence that I will shoot a net 30-something in my first tournament with my 54 handicap is shrinking somewhat, but we shall see . . .it does help a lot if you stay in the short grass (I mean especially here with the deep rough), but I’m struggling with 3putts on the slow greens, too, even when I overcome the other obstacles.

Kind of a squirrelly layout – no getting around that . . . this is an old course that’s been enlarged for the new equipment, so like all courses like that the holes are definitely bumping shoulders, if you see how I mean . . . plus the entrance driveway cuts thru the course, across #2, #4, & #9, adding a special piquancy to arriving and leaving the club . . . 8^) . . . but the lay of the land, over this mountain top is so great, that in the end, I just have to overlook these oddities.

This is the par 4, 375m #1, about half-way down the fairway . . . I had camera problems so I didn’t get a t-shot, but that elevated green just winks at you from the elevated tee. I’m thinking easy par, drive & pitch, but I haven’t staid out of the rough yet, and I’ve come up short every time, then the ball just bounds down the slope in front of the green. Add in the requisite 3putt on the slow green and you have a double-bogey-6 start almost every time. Note how the fairway slopes right to left, and a drive on the left side of the fairway will definitely roll off into the deep rough and probably behind a tree, too. The extra added attraction for my 3 rounds has been that a 2 or 3 club wind has been blowing left-to-right, but you can’t feel it on the tee, so twice I’ve wound up on the right, either in the trees and deep rough, or just the deep rough, trying to slash a wedge onto the green (and failing).

These fairways are lush too, not much roll, except sideways, down the hill . . .8^/ . . .

Here is Kvetak teeing up on the par 4 309m #2. This is from the right side of the tee, so it makes the fairway look a little more open than it feels . . . the wind has been coming right to left (that is the 1st fairway on the right), and you can feel every breath of it on this exposed tee. A lot of duffers overcompensate for the cross-wind and actually exaggerate their slice by hitting too directly into it, tho the balls typically don’t make the 1st fairway, but instead settle down in the deep rough or trees.

And of course, there is a tree in the fairway on this hole, a very large tree. So, even tho’ it’s only 309m, it IS against the wind, and it IS uphill in the landing area. I’ve been trying like heck to wind up left of that tree, with a clear look at the green, but every time, I’ve been in the rough on the right or trying to hit a trick shot around the tree.

The last round I was just left of the tree, and hit a plu-perfect 7 iron (adjusting for the wind and elevation change) so close to the branches of that tree they turned brown from the scorchin’ – and STILL came up short on the elevated green. . . I don’t remember exactly, but I think its only 110m from where I was, and I just can’t see hitting a 6iron with any confidence at all from there, but I Came Up Short . . . the pin always seems to be in the back on a shelf that my short game hasn’t navigated well either – and with the slow, grainy greens, when the ball slows it turns sharply, even more sharply because of the undulations in the greens, here.

This view is from the deck of the club house restaurant .That’s #1 to the left and #9 to the right. There’s a huge bunker guarding the front right of the green there you can’t see. This hole is a terrible conundrum to me right now. I might’ve hit 4 good tee & fairway shots on 1 & 2 and still come away 3 over.

So, On to the par 3, 140m #3: a breather, one would expect, but one would be wrong. The dense woods on the left and the trees on the right are just psychological barriers, not real obstacles, but they hide the fact that you’re hitting straight into the wind here. . . .when I do the algebra, I come up with 8iron, but I’m going to hit 7iron next time, I’m tired of coming up short . . . of course, it’s is Death over the green.

Another one of the disagreeable layout issues with this course is the driving range there on the right . . . you have to walk thru the back of it to get to the #3 tee, after crossing in front of the #1 tee . . . very disconcerting to me. There’s also a chipping & putting practice area left of the green, out of sight there, so it is OB all around this green. I’ve been in the trap on the right, I’ve been short, and I’ve been on the front of the green. None of those are any picnic.

I just want this picture to show the back right corner of the green, where the flag was. That shelf is no bigger than 10 sq meters, and it’s elevated over the front of the green by at least a meter – I mean that is one STEEP face there. That flag position borders on the unfair. If you land up there it will bounce over and off; if you land short, that slope will reject it, and Just Try to get your up-and-down out of those bunkers up onto that shelf. A perfect flop shot is all that will do. Last weekend the flag was left of where you see it, on the lower left shoulder, and I wound up on the front right. I just hammered my birdie putt up the corner of that top tier, and let it coast down towards the hole, then made the 8 foot par putt with a 360 flush . So I’ll hit a 7iron when the pin is back from now on, and if they put the pin in the front, I’ll be thinking birdie, provided I can get a firm roll on the rock.

Well, that brings us to the #1 handicap hole, a par 5, 542m double dogleg hole that is severely up hill in the middle leg. I tho’t with the tailwind I could jack it up onto that 2nd leg of the fairway, over the deep-rough-covered slope, but no-can-do . . . too far . . . so I need to lay back a bit, and just keep it in the fairway. I don’t have a photo yet, but the leave on that 1st shot is something else . . . that’s the 1st green on the right, just over the little conifers, intruding into the fairway, with a big nasty hump that has caught my fairway wood shots twice and knocked them down . . . so you need to hit around that hump and still keep it in play , which so far has proved very difficult for moi . . . There are some roman cypress trees at the 2nd dogleg that look like good targets, but they’re really ball magnets . . . when I looked in them for my ball I found two others instead. The green is very well protected with mounds, trees, and bunkers all around, and it seems tiny, so I feel like I need to hit a fairway wood, but I can’t quite get over that hump, but if I lay back with an iron sure to get over the hump, that leaves too much yardage for the 3rd shot . . . what a perplexity. . . the third shot is likely downhill, possibly even off a downhill lie, which doesn’t make it any easier, does it? Just a brutal hole, with no obvious solution, to me, so far . . .

The par 3 149m # 5 is another trial. I guess it’s actually uphill and down wind. If you come up short at all, your ball will bound straight left off the slope of the green . . .the rough is sort of terraced there, and bunkered to keep the ball in play, but up-and-down from anywhere left is very unlikely . . . I’ve been trying to land on the far right of the green and let that contour work for me instead of against me, with the result that I’ve flared right into the trees or just deep rough. This is one green that I feel needs to be rolled out a little bit, because the ball just does not roll true at all . . . and you need that when you have those 12 footers for par, if you know what I mean . . . 8^D . . .

Here is our friend Petr teeing up on the par 4 316m #6. . . note that that is #4 on the right, not #5 . . .which another one of the awkward layout issues with this course, but also note #7 on the left, which is built over the very crest of that hill – more about that later. This is a relatively straightforward hole, tho’ it is ALL uphill and ALL into the wind . . . any sort of mis-hit or deviant spin on the ball means big trouble with trees and rough. As it turns out, I have hit nothing but rising quails on this hole, perfect situationally, which I have explained to my playing partners as “west-texas-red-ass” after bogeying #5 . . . but there is – again – a tree in the fairway here.

All three rounds I have had to contend with that tree . . . I can’t drive past it, from the slope and the wind, and I can’t drive away from it, for the rough and the sidehill slope . . . so apparently I just have to deal with it. On the first round, where I took this photo, I hit the perfect 8iron knockdown fade around the tree and around the bunker to 15 ft below the pin . . . I left the birdie putt 2 ft short, but that was my first par here. But I was sorta demoralized by the brutal unrelenting golf here . . . I mean, I hit 3 perfect shots and only wound up with a tap-in par . . . I don’t think I can do better.

That first day, while we were approaching the #6 green, all-a-sudden we saw a handcart slowly rolling back down the hill from the 7th tee toward a bunker in front of the green. This young woman came chasing it, out of the trees by the 7th tee, knees and elbows pumping athletically. She really had to make an heroic effort to capture her bag . . . I confess I was doubled over with laughter at the sight and the tho’t of a golf course so steep that the bags were rolling away like the baby carriage in the Potemkin movie. What a hoot. What a golf course.

I wasn’t so amused when I actually got to the 7th tee. This is the view. More than a blind tee-shot. There is no feel for the fairway, because you cannot see the fairway only rough. There is this one post to steer by, bearing in mind that the wind is quartering left to right, with you on this shot. Twice of the 3 times I have executed perfectly the high fade shot here and wound up in the middle of the fairway . . . the other time I wound up in the trees on the right (in the deep rough under the trees, need I add? – a 2 shot penalty, I figger). My playing partners have largely wound up even right of that, even further down the slope, almost to the 8th green . . .a 3 shot penalty, normally . . . 8^0 . . .

This is my ball on the first round. My last round I was even further downhill, almost to those traps . . . but here is the thing . . . from this steeply downhill lie, it is very difficult to get the ball to stop on the green, even with a sandwedge . . .I had a 3putt bogey the first time, and a 10foot par-save the last time, but I still don’t know what to do . . . I watched a very good woman golfer behind us play 4 balls to that green, practicing, I think . . . she was trying to land 10 yds short and roll on, but the bumps there steer the ball off to either of the bunkers guarding the front, and if the ball sticks up on the slope, that 20yd shot is at least as hard as the 90 yd shot.

The par 3 141m #8 runs along the side of the hill next to #7. The club tries to keep that hill side shaved so the ball won’t stick up there, but if it’s soft from rain or the grass is long, the ball will hang up there, for an instant double-bogey. My first time on this hole the wind blew me off the dance floor and the slope caromed me off into the sand . . . that was a double bogey, too. The other two times I’ve managed to land right of the green, up on the slope, so that the ball kicks onto the green, then 3putted . . . I guess I’m gonna have to go up another club when the pin is on the back, to avoid that 50 ft uphill very slow putt. The 9th tee is there just by the bunker, but since everybody aims right, there is little danger. The signs say, let the 8th tee hit before the 9th tee.

The par 5 458m #9 . . . halle-fricking-lujah, another blind tee shot, against the wind onto a 45 degree sidehill. All you can do is aim right of the little round tree and see what happens (uvidime) . . . the first time I hung up in the rough and had a horrible side hill deep rough lie . . . I hit a choke down 3 wood perfectly and wound up still on the right side rough, behind some trees. The other two times, in the fairway, the ball has rolled completely across into the left rough . . . I’d tho’t, from the distance on the card, I might reach this green in two, but it’s all uphill, and the bounce is against you.

You can see that the entire field slopes right to left. That bunker is up between #2 & #9 greens. #9 is tucked behind that forest that intrudes into the fairway on the left, and it is D-E-A-D over there, no shot, as I discovered my first round, so I keep aiming at those trees on the right side of the second dogleg, expecting the slope to bring the ball back for me, but I’ve hit two perfectly straight fairway woods into those trees (and need I mention the deep *##$@@% rough?) . . .

This is not quite the view I had from the left, a little better . . . so I punched a 7iron up into the trap, then came out short, and 3 putted for a 7. The second time I flubbed out of the rough, chunked from the fairway, then took 3 to get up and down for another 7. The last time I hit a perfect 7 iron, but the wind didn’t help me at all, and it went into that same trap. I got out over to the opposite fringe then rattled the pin with my chip for a tap-in bogey . . . maybe I can’t eagle this dang hole, but I sure ought to par it, or even birdie with a little luck.

Just one last bit of humor from my friend Kvjetaak on this hole . . . he grabbed the wrong club for a shot from right there on the corner just out of the trees and hit his best shot of the day at the wrong time . . . he’d hit 7 instead of 9, and the ball sailed over the green, over the slope, over the retaining wall, into the verandah restaurant seating . . . I would have run into the woods at that point, but he just dropped another ball and and played out . . . when we went up onto the deck he asked the pretty women sitting there if they’d seen his ball and if he’d frightened them . . . they said no and no. . .

“You’d do anything to meet a pretty girl, wouldn’t you”, I teased him . . .

“But of course,” he said, “but it makes golf a very expensive pastime!” . . . 8^D . . .

So a very good, if quirky course. Brutal golf, and walking 18 holes here is a real stamina test . . . one won’t be good for anything after that . . . so we will usually only play 9 at GCP. . .

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