When a couple rounds of golf turn magical

I recently returned from a week in Arizona. It has become an annual trip to visit my parents around Christmas. As is the case most years, I try to play golf about every other day. This year was no different as I teed it up four times during the week away.

My expectations were modest. I wanted to play golf, but I knew that I hadn’t played in more than a month and hit balls just once in anticipation of the trip.

Maybe that’s why golf is such a funny game.

My first round on the trip was at a pretty modest course called Hillcrest Golf Club in Sun City West. It is close to my parents and isn’t too expensive, but it previously hosted both Senior Tour and LPGA events. It’s a pretty good place to knock off some rust.

I knocked it to a foot on the second hole to make birdie; rolled in about a 20-footer on No. 6 for a birdie and was 1-under at the turn. I followed that up with a birdie on the short par 5 10th and then added another on the 12th. After a par on 13, I was 3-under standing on the 14th tee.

I missed the green there and leaked a bunch more oil coming in, but felt like it was a solid effort. I thought it was a nice blip on a pretty course without a ton of trouble off of the tee. Little did I realize it was just the beginning.

About 48 hours, I teed it up at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix, a private club that was the site of Annika Sorenstam’s 59. The club is putting up a handful of tee times each day on GolfNow and I snagged one.  (I’ll talk more about the golf course in a later post, but it is worth a play if you head to Phoenix this winter).

I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but it turned out to be my best round of golf in a long, long time. I’m not going to give you the blow-by-blow (I know it would bore you), but I will give you a couple highlights. After making a bogey on the second hole, I managed to play the next 13 holes 4-under par.

I birdied three of the four par 5s, I hit 13 greens on the day. I never got in any real serious trouble meaning that double bogey was never really in play.

When I walked to the 14th tee after making a surprising birdie, I was 3-under. I was scared to death. And it was awesome. A bit of background on my game: My USGA index is 4.0 and sometimes I feel like it is too low. I can shoot in the 70s, but I can also throw an 85 on the board pretty quickly. I don’t end up with many rounds each year under 75. And I don’t make birdies in bunches. That’s why this was so weird.

I was so far out of my comfort zone, it was amazing. After a couple of pars, I was still 3-under when I walked to 16. At this point, I was really getting scared. I’m not sure when the last time I shot in the 60s was. I did it a couple of times in college on the course I grew up on and I think that was it. It was probably ’91 or ’92. It was back when I was playing a lot.

I made bogey on 16 largely because I drove it into the only fairway bunker on the hole. I was just short of the green in regulation and had a pretty easy chip, but simply didn’t execute and left too long of a putt. I hit the final two greens in regulation and had decent runs at birdie on both of them. Neither putt was super close, but they weren’t impossible.

On 18, my birdie putt didn’t quite get to the hole. I tapped in for par and a 2-under round of 70. I was kind of disappointed because I have no idea when I’ll have another chance at a round in the 60s, but I was also super thrilled with what was a round that I’ll remember for a long time. The couple that I was paired with was super supportive. The guy at one point asked how many under I was and said he didn’t want to jinx me, but it was the best round he had ever seen in his group.

It was, in a word, magical. It was super fun. It also came completely out of nowhere, there were no signs that this was on the horizon. It wasn’t like I had been playing better or had been working really hard on my game. Now If I only knew how it happened. My final two rounds of the trip featured too many wayward drives and missed greens. Neither were horrible, but both were in the low 80s range. Pretty standard stuff for a rusty December trip to the desert.

The game is hard. The game can be frustrating. The game makes me (or is it all of us) say bad words. But when it is good, it is a lot of fun.

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