Friday, September 18, 2009

Armagnac -- Mont de Marsan

5907M, Par 71, Slope 140

I was looking for a course called St. Avit, not Mont de Marsan. I new it was near St. Avit, near Mont De Marsan, but the sign in the driveway said Mont de Marsan, and there was no course in the miniscule hamlet of St. Avit, so I whipped up to the pro shop to ask directions, and the tres charming femme said, "that is here"! So, I hustled back out to the car, grabbed my sticks, and ran to the first tee.
My playing partner wished to be anonymous, since he had not been playing up to his handicap, so I will call him "M". I wish to be anonymous, also, so I call myself PukkaDave . . . 8^D . . .

This is not a long hole to start on, but with the sun glaring in our eyes disguising the sharp dogleg around a large bunker, it takes a certain amount of savoir faire to challenge that corner.

Then, again, a certain amount, also to find that rather nondescript green, over and around that bunker guarding the front . . . it was much more interesting in the actuality than from back in the fairway. Difficile to read and putt. 2 pars for us.

I stopped at an advantageous place to take a picture of the very interesting hole . . . but M said "this is 15, come on over to #2" so you will see that picture later . . . 8^D . . .

I always have to say that some holes do not photograph as well as they appear in person, to cover up my inadequacies with a camera . . . this is one of them . . . a very treacherous green complex, with moundings and mouldings that could cause problems to the careless paganican . . . that is, an uncautious golfer, rather than an insouciante. We both made careful pars . . .

In his facile, but limited English, M said "Now", and I comprehended perfectly. The introduction is over. The challenges will begin now. This is not a hole to hit a driver on. It is short-ish, 338m, but very narrow with trouble and OB on both sides.

We both hit fairway woods to the middle of the fairway: he with a single-handicapper's draw that traced a conservative, confident like down the right side of the fairway, skirting the treeline; me with a double-handicapper's angst-filling hook around the corner that caromed off the hump on the inside of the dogleg back into safety.

Where we were was on the crest of a slope at the crux of the dogleg, looking downhill at the wide, narrow green protected all the way across by a big bunker. It took some algebra for me to figger what club to use: wind, lie, meters-to-yards, slope; still wound up over the green, on the fringe, in an abundance over over-caution and the way the ball released on the speedy green downhill, after M had plugged into that trap, but he blasted out to 4 ft, while I texas-wedged back to 8 ft. I made that little bugger, tho', swelling my chest with pride. "M" joked, now you can make this one for me, too? a nasty little side-hill slider, which he missed.

This is pretty close to how claustrophobic it feels on this par 5 tee. M hit a confident fade over onto the right side that he was unhappy about, but it seemed ok to me . . . was in the rough. I block-faded my 1st drive into the tops of the trees on the right, then hit a provisional exactly the same way. Dangit.

Couldn't find the first one, but the second had bounced out not far from M, into ankle deep rough. Despite everything I tried, my 5iron turned over in my hand and I hit a smother-hook to the left rough, dangerously close to a creek hazard. M caught his cleaner, but it turned over a little too, and the whole dang fairway slopes toward that creek up there, too, so his ball one-hopped into the creek where it pools in front of the green.

He calmly dropped and skipped his 4th shot up by the hole -- he'd been there before, I take it . . . 8^) . . . I found my ball dry, but I promptly chunked it into the pool trying to dig it out of the deep rough . . . sometimes I wonder, and sometimes I know . . . I dropped in the same place and hit the same shot properly onto the back of the green, just to be sure. 2putt quad bogey.

Instead of confidence, tho', I felt tension from M on the next tee -- apparently this hole worries him some . . . he cautioned me against going right, into the dogleg, but that's what he did. He just gave the gallic shrug and a sheepish grin.

I made dang sure I hooked the ball away from the dogleg, in response, so naturally, it was over-cooked.

His brow wrinkled in concern, "You may be in the bunker" which is one of those that makes a fine target, but a very bad landing place.

But I was just outside the bunker, in the rough, with a side-hill lie, only 90m from the green, with a little tree trouble on the right you can see there, but I didn't think it would be a problem. M found his ball easily out in the open and was able to go at the green with a short iron. I saw it bounce around the bunker, and reckoned he was fine.

Mine was one of those shots you always want a do-over on. Didn't stay down on it, hit a weak slice into the bunker. Shoot, if ya just dig it out of the rough and pop it up, the dang thing will land on the green and roll up to the pin -- but that's not what happened. Then I chunked the fried egg. Then I splashed out 4 ft away, but I missed the bogey. I want a do-over on the whole course just for this one hole. M wound up with a bogey. Couldn't get up and down. That's another tricky green.

These par 3s are just not showing up well in these photos. They really are more interesting than they look like. This one must be. Only 154m, but we both made 4.

Those trees on the left really got in my head on my tee shot, tried to do too much with it, hit a smother hook into the left rough, only about halfway home. That was bad enough but the ball was in a cuppy lie.

Despite the pep talk I gave myself, I still bladed my 4iron & came up well short of the green. NFU, at all. Bladed another wedge over the green and took 3 to get down from there.

M had played right away from the trees, then was able to go at the green from the right rough, but he had some tough lies too, floundered a bit and wound up with 6, too . . . . just a dam' tough hole.


M told me the course lost 1200 trees during a big storm last winter . . . you can see huge cords of wood stacked up in some of the photos. I said, "dang, I'm not sure I want to see this course with 1200 more trees on it!" I guess most of 'em would have been OB, but the claustraphobia-factor would have been significant, I reckon.

M hit his drive just off the dogleg, center-cut. I hit mine thru the dogleg. He said it was in the drop-zone . . . a heavy rough area damaged by the heavy equipment they'd brought in to clean up the trees. It took so long to find my ball, I flat forgot about taking a drop . . . consequently, I shanked an unwise 5iron, then chopped back out into the fairway trying to play smart, bladed over the green, up and down for double-bogey.

M nearly birdied after a perfect approach, but these greens are almost all tough, with subtle breaks, usually, rather than steep inclines, and about twice as fast as the greens at Motol.

I admit to being a little disheartened, now . . . I just wanted to start-over and just not make the same mistakes again . . . started out so well . . . and now my whole game was breaking down, not driving, approaching, nor putting well.

True to form, I hit a not-so-solid fade into the right rough. . . not really in trouble, but unsatisfactory, if you see what I mean . . .

M was even deeper in the trees, and it took a couple of tries for him to get out, like Mickleson at the Open. He wound up with double bogey.

I had a clear shot at the green, but bladed my 9iron over . . . again . . . couldn't get up-and-down. Bogey.


Don't remember #10 at all . . . these dang par3s are so . . . . je ne sais quoi . . .


Had a lost weekend on the par5 #12 . . . I don't remember what on #11 had upset me, but I pull-hooked into the woods, foozled out, foozled, foozled into a fairway bunker, chunked in, chunked out, bladed over the green, chunked up, chunked up, bladed past, 3putted for 13.

Just easy shots, hanging out on the right would make an easy hole. But that falls into the category of advice easy to give and hard to take, I guess.

Well, that was so bad, I knew if I didn't overswing I would hit a good tee-shot, and caught the first pure one I'd hit all day . . . M raised his eyebrows in mock-shock when he saw . . . it was actually a little toey, but that just kept it inside the tree line . . . that's a short hole, I was only 40 yards from the green . . . a little too close for a comfortable half-wedge for me . . . so . . . on, but not close, and a 2putt par.

M had pushed his out into the trees on the right, then chunked a couple, then floundered again, to a triple-bogey . . .

M's triple bogey on #13 gave him the red-ass, but he just tomahawked his drive over those trees on the left . . . a majestic drive, but the driving range is over there, too . . . so I tho't it might be OB, but he found it and played it . . . had to hit an equally awesome 5iron onto the green then 2putted for a par.

I felt like I'd finally hit my stride and hit this drive on the screws, straight and high . . . I tho't this one would be up by the green too, but it was afull 9iron left. Just like when I played with Mr Science, he got closer with his 5iron than I did with my 9iron . . . grrrrrrrr. Then I 3putted just like him, terminating my streak of pars at, uh, one. Very disappointing.

Again, these greens are not awesomely difficult-looking . . . instead, they are treacherously subtle . . . not quite panksian, but still deceptive . . . I say this, because, fooling me, as a first timer, is one thing, but they sometimes fooled M, too, who plays there regularly.


The par4 #15 is difficult, not only because it is a dogleg right around water, but because it is so flat that there is no sense of how much to bite off and it is long enough that poor strategy or poor execution will make it costly. I pulled my drive too far left, away from the water, into small mounds, so that for my second shot I had a downhill-sidehill slice lie in ankle deep rough . . . I chopped out with a fullswing 5wood . . . it went straight, but right, into a bunker between the water and the green.

M had hit a perfect shot, maybe his best of the day, faded courageously with the curve of the fairway towards the water, but center-cut . . . evenso, he had a mid-iron still to the green . . . he was disappointed in his approach but he was still closer than I was after I pitched out of the sandtrap. 2 putts for us each.

The best par3 on the course, practically a signature hole . . . it does not look as flat in real life as it does in the photo. . . but it's a long 150m to the middle of the green and all water carry . . . I cannily hit a weak pull to the front of the green, safely dry . . . I chipped too strong to the back of the green. M had hit to the middle of the green, but putted off the back of the green trying to get it up to that back tier where the pin was, so that then he was short-sided with a very steep slope back up to the putting surface. His first pitch came right back to him, so . . . the next one had to be long. . . then 2putts more for the 6. I had 2putts from the back fringe and the good sense to be glad of it.

M had pointed out the the fairway and the green to 17 from the 16th tee . . . what a hole.

I only hit a 6iron from the tee, but I hit the old doublecross-draw so it was on the wrong side of the dogleg. . . long way from the hole, but even on the right side of the fairway, that wouldn't be an easy shot . . . but at least it would be with a 7 or 8 iron instead of a4iron . . . as it was, I came up short of the trap even, 20 ft below the surface of the green.

Meanwhile M had a lost weekend, slicing into the woods, at the bottome of the hill, trying a miracle shot that couldn't get even get up out of the trees.

I have him down for a 6 on that hole, so he must have had a hell of up and down after that!

I lobbed over onto the green with a few feet of the hole, but didn't make the par putt. Another hole I'd just like to play again for the do-over.

Our favorite thing in the whole world: a shortish par 5 for #18 . . .that's kind of an intimidating t-shot, back over the same canyon as in front of the 17th green, and to a tight fairway, but we both hit good drives . . . straight between the two pine trees in the middle.

M tried to play strategically, and strategically hooked into the woods, anyway . . . I hate when that happens. I muscled up on a 3wood and chopped it into the woods on the left.

We still weren't that far apart when we finally foundboth balls.

From there, no choice for either but to punch out and then go for the green. He was short and I was long. That's me on the back of the green. . .The net effect is a 2putt bogey for both of us.

I think in the long run, the lost trees will make this a better golf course . . . the grass will get more sun, then wind will play more havoc. It's a great course, even if the par 3s seem a little mundane . . .the 4s and 5s are all so super-standard that that's a minor consideration . . .

the conditions were a little sub-par, tho', but I'd bet this was an off-year, maintenance wise . . .because of the cold winter and the odd summer weather. I'd give it a 2 on the Kokopelli standard, because of the layout, despite the conditions. Love to play it again.

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