Grand Rapids Golf Blog

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Lefty Greats

As a lefty golfer, I join the greats (in address, if not in ball-striking ability...)


Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Lefty Grove

Thornapple Summary

I've never played so fast in my life. I badly rushed some shots but also found that I was better able to fall into a rhythm and not overthink my shots. Still, my ball-striking was bad; I was overcompensating for my lack of power and generally leaving shots short and left. Next season I should take lessons. But some lucky putting and a sharp pitching wedge kept my score south of 95.

Score: 46-46=92; Putts: 13-16=29; Woods D; Long irons D+; Short game B+; Putting A-


Thornapple 18

Par 4, 317 yards, dogleg right

I'm annoyed by the roar of a train behind me, an eerie thunder on the lonely and darkening course.

I'm in the twilight of the day, and of my golfing season.

The tee is set snugly amid the trees and leaves little landing room up ahead.

In likely my last drive of the year, and I end on a fitting note, slicing it to the adjacent fairway. I take 7-wood from there and think I've planted it on the green, though it's too dark to tell. I'm left with a 32-footer with an ambiguous break. I start it right and leave it pin high, but 3 feet right. I sink it for my first par of the day, on the last hole of the year.

The clock strikes seven; my midnight.

Thornapple 17

Par 4, 364 yards

A gnarly hazard lies just out of reach off the tee. My limbs are freezing up, though I notice that my half- to three-quarter-turn is improving my ball flight. I'm losing distance, but my scarf keeps my head still and my restricted swing seems to be preventing problems.

Except for this shot; my driver slices badly but leaves me a good lie in the rough. I think I strike my 3-wood well from there but barely clear the hazard. My 9-iron flies long and leaves me a 40-footer over a big downhill break. I blast the putt way long and have 26 feet coming back. I line it up and watch it fall. 5.

Thornapple 16

Par 5, 474 yards

This one's a near carbon copy of 7, A nasty hazard to clear. I'm starting to lose the sun and my bones are getting colder.

I start my 3-wood low and right. I have to force my 7-wood left to avoid a tree out of the rough, and watch it bounce off the cart path to the left and rebound straight up off a tree before settling just to the left of the path. Could've been major trouble in the woods. I get another lucky bounce as my second 7-wood gets a hard kick from the left rough nearly to the fairway within paces of the green. But my pitching wedge goes long, and it takes me a sand wedge and a putt to get home. 6.

Thornapple 15

Par 4, 128 yards

A carbon copy of the par-3 6th, running parallel to it.

My 7-iron flies shy, and my sand wedge leaves the rough to the right. I two-putt from 25 feet. 4.

Thornapple 14

Par 4, 367 yards

The tee lies over a vintage wooden bridge and leads to another scenic setting by river, still soured by the noise of nearby traffic.

I send a 7-wood safely over the hazard but not much farther. I hit a 3-wood with a restricted swing and watch it fly straight and right at the green. I pitch it to the right edge, from which it's puttable, though it takes 2 to get home. 5.

Thornapple 13

Par 5, 478 yards

Easily the signature hole of Thornapple, a mighty par 5 hugging the gorgeous river against a vast backdrop of trees, which today are aflame and breathtaking. All that mars this spot is the roar of the highway, and my poor play.

I play 5-wood to keep the water out of play but strike it short. I top my next 5-wood and then send another one straight ahead. My 8-iron is swatted down off the front edge, leaving me a sand wedge, which comes up short, leaving me a two-putt. 7.

Thornapple 12

Par 3, 134 yards

Highway noise becomes a factor now, especially with the new ramps to M-6. A thin veneer of trees isn't enough to keep the whoosh of traffic from becoming a distraction in this otherwise scenic, folial corner of the course.

My 8-iron is, what else, short and left, though it holds back from the bunker. I pitch too strong and two-putt from 28 feet coming back for a bogey 4.

Thornapple 11

Par 4, 355 yards

The computerized cart informs me this is the widest fairway on the course, and exhorts, "let it fly!"

So I do and slice it halfway to the airport, off the cart path and into the way-left rough. I then shank my 5-wood out of the left rough and hit a thick 6-iron to within pitching range. I plant a perfect pitching wedge on the front and bounce it to within two feet. 5.

Thornapple 10

Par 4, 305 yards, slight dogleg right

I debate whether to call it an afternoon; it's after 5:30 and it's freezing. I decide that it's sunny enough, and late enough in the year to be my last chance, so I should to finish. I put on my scarf, feel the cold steel of my shafts as I pull out my driver, and race the setting sun to the horizon.

The same hazard as on 9 threatens on 10, though out of reach of the drive and closer to the hole.

Another high drive; I'll start teeing lower. I lay up with a solid 5-iron and then skull my 8 over the green and to the left fringe. My ugly 8-iron chip goes long and I two-putt back for a shaky 6.

Thornapple 9

Par 4, 293 yards

The hazard cutting across the fairway gives you pause from the tee.

I launch another fly ball with my driver and come up short with the 8-iron (I keep coming up short with the 8; wish I had more faith in my 7). I pitch over the green but bump a nice sand wedge to within 7 and sink it. 5.

Thornapple 8

Par 3, 150 yards

A deer meets me at the 8th tee, then gracefully bounds into the woods.

I come up short with my 8-iron and then watch the front edge repel my pitching wedge and roll the ball down the hill, half a dozen paces off the green. I pitch to within 4 feet and sink the putt. 4.

Thornapple 7

Par 5, 456 yards, slight dogleg left

Amean tee shot over a thorny hazard, and a stingy landing area. Can't leave it short, but not much place to miss it left or right.

I play 4-iron off the tee but, strangely, send it up and right, moving almost perpendicular to the hole. (I never hit a hook, but I guess variety's nice.) I power 3-wood back to the fairway and then plunk my 7-wood in the sand. My sand wedge flies the green, so it's another sand wedge coming back. I'm left with a 14-footer with one foot of break. Somehow, the ball falls. 6.

Thornapple 6


Par 3, 153 yards

A no-frills par 3 just off the "Halfway House&Restroom"--a scenic location at the bend of the river.

I leave my 9-iron short--I'm hitting all my irons short and left today, which is supposed to tell me something about my swing. I put a good pitching wedge withing 14 feet, and two-putt over a steep break for a bogey 4.

Thornapple 5

Par 5, 517 yards, dogleg right

The grandddaddy of the course, this hole plays over 600 yards from the blue tees. It angles right, around the river, forcing you to think about angle and accuracy as well as power. The course's toughest test.

I start my 3-wood low, short, and right, and, with water between me and the hole, am content to play 4-iron from there, which I chunk. I poke a good 3-wood towards the hole and reach the green with a 9-iron. I two-putt from 30 feet for a bogey 6.

Thornapple 4

Par 4, 335 yards

The ample Thornapple River becomes visible as you round the bend to the 4th tee--one of the most scenic corners of the course.

I power my driver straight up into the air -- I thought teeing high would help my contact, but this is a fly ball. Then I top my 5-wood and leave an 8-iron on the front edge. That leaves me a testy 50-plus-footer. I slam it at the hole and fear it will run over the green, but then the ball bonks the pin and sits 5 feet to the right. 5.

Thornapple 3

Par 4, 367 yards

After another sliced driver and solid recovery with the 7-wood, the front edge repels my pitch and rolls it right, just off the green. It's still puttable, though, and I two-putt for a 5.

Thornapple 2

Par 4, 359 yards, dogleg right

I know I have to keep my drive right, so I start it right, but so low that it catches the fairway bunker. I dig out of there with a 5-iron and then leave a 7-iron short. I pitch to within 12 feet and sink the putt over a 6-inch break to the right. 5.

Thornapple 1

Par 4, 387 yards, slight dogleg right

You have to keep the drive right to have a good look at the pin on this slight dogleg.

I bend my driver well left but recover from the rough with a solid 7-wood. I chunk my pitching wedge, skull my sand wedge, and push my 18-foot putt 6 feet past. But I sink the putt coming back to salvage a double-bogey on a shaky start. 6.

Thornapple Intro

Thornapple Pointe
4747 Champions Circle SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49512
18 holes Review

The temperature was barely 50, the forecast called for rain, and the afternoon was fading fast. Could I squeeze in one more round of golf this chilly fall? The suspense may not be killing you, but it was killing me as I shivered on the first tee.

It was my first visit to Thornapple Pointe, which I’d heard so much about and built up in my mind as a dream course. Perhaps it couldn't have lived up to its idyllic billing--especially not today--but overall, I was slightly underwhelmed. For all the scenic value the club gets from its location on the Thornapple River, it suffers from being in the airport's backyard and having jumbo jets interrupt players' backswings. From holes 11 through 14, the highway is in play--or its noise is, anyway, as serenity succumbs to din. When I teed up at 18, a train blasted its way behind me. (The track requires a tunnel between the two portions of the course, and the course layout annoyingly requires four passages through it.)

Distractions aside, the course is still one of the best in the area, and fall is one of the best times to play it, as the leaves light up and change their clothes, providing a picturesque backdrop. As for the course itself, the greens are challenging but the fairways are much more forgiving than I expected--there are good places to miss on most of the holes. The puzzling thing for me was how the course favors dogleg rights--a challenge for me as a lefty slicer, but seemingly a concession to righties.

For the first time ever, since it was a fall special, I played with a computerized cart, which automatically reported yardages. I hated to miss walking, but the computer helped, and it was the only way I was going to try to get in 18.

I played the gold, or forward, tees on 10/25.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mines 18

Par 4, 380 yards

The forward tees allow leave the ridge reachable for me--below the ridge and you have a nasty blind second shot. I slice my drive and it curls right onto the top of the ridge. I blast my 7-wood a few paces shy, and leave my sand wedge over 35 feet short. I lag well to within two feet and finish with a 5.

Score: 42-45=89; Putts: 17-19=36; Woods C+; Long irons C-; Short game B-; Putting B


Mines 17

Par 5, 457 yards

The hole is straight as an arrow, but undulating inclines toward the uphill hole make the approach interesting.

I top my driver short and right, then blast a 3-wood ahead. I'm left sitting behind a tree that blocks the green, so I flush a 5-iron to the left. I play pitching wedge perfectly from there that leaves me an 8-footer I can't sink. 6.

Mines 16

Par 4, 388 yards

I want to keep my drive right with an uphill dogleg right to play, but I pound my driver into the mound 100 yards out. I flush a 4-wood from there that goes left of the fairway; I fear it's in the unplayable rough just left of the hole. But it stays playable and has even cleared one of the steepest valleys on the course--you could bury a body in this one (I'm just sayin'.) I play a 9-iron onto the green but have a hump of an incline to cross. I three-putt for a 6.

Mines 15

Par 3, 100 yards

I play a 9-iron, desperate to clear the front bunker, and watch the ball land on the lip and bounce high, then back into the bunker. After shoveling some practice shots nowhere, I splash the sand shot to within two and a half feet to save par. 3.

Mines 14

Par 4, 362 yards

A mean, severely sloped fairway from right to left demands a long carry, which stymies me from the tee even though the shape of the hole plays to my slice.

But I slice my 3-wood so badly I end up in the 13th fairway, and face an uphill punch through two trees. I play a half a 4-iron well and roll it back up onto the correct fairway, 50 yards short. With the pin placement on the left of the green, on the top tier of an undulating green, I have no place to put the approach except the back left corner, where I land the ball but can't stop it. That leaves me a sand wedge back onto the green that I lose off the ridge, though I nearly hole the 18-footer coming back. After a two-foot break from left to right, I leave it one thumbnail short. My first double bogey, 6.

Mines 13

Par 4, 394 yards

This hole is also too close to real estate; I wouldn't let any kids play in those backyards off the tee boxes. The white tees give the player a shot at clearing the sharp turn and imposing fairway bunkers.

I slice my 5-wood and land it in a chewed-up patchy stretch of the fairway that hasn't grown in yet. I take relief from a patch of dirt and play a solid 7-wood just short of the green. The green is three-tiered sloping from the back, but without any other curvature than the tiers. I chip up with an 8-iron, landing on the second tier and rolling it up to the third, where the hole is. For some reason it rolls to the left. I push the six footer badly to the left. 5.

Mines 12

Par 4, 289 yards

The 12th tee is up a steep hill; this course will really work your calves. This hole also interrupts the feeling of seclusion; it's next to the highway, although the trees are thick enough that cars can only be heard, not seen. Houses lie beyond the green and their backyards butt up against the rough. The rolling terrain leaves the green only partially visible on the approach.

I whack a worm-burner that rolls a decent distance, leaving me only a soft 6-iron. I catch it left and slightly long, leaving me a chip from just off the green. I think my sand wedge is short, but it releases and rolls 7 feet past. I lip the putt. 5.

Mines 11

Par 3, 97 yards

The dual tee setup is confusing, and the white tees are too short. Otherwise, this is an impressive par three squeezed in but successfully secluded from neighboring holes. The ridge in the green is brutal, and the front bunker is intimidating. With the pin cut in the front today, there is no good place to put the ball.

I launch a 9-iron and am glad to clear the front bunker, but my heart sinks as I watch a ridge in the green kick the ball straight left, away from the cup. I'm left with a 40-footer over a ridge with over 5 feet of break to the right. I three-putt for a 4.

Mines 10

Par 4, 309 yards

A blind tee shot up a hill gives a preview of the severe slopes that lie ahead on the back nine.

I slice a driver short but on the fairway. I blast a 6-iron from there, but it's way left. I pitch on and am relieved to watch it release over a ridge to within 9 feet. I play the break left well but leave it 8 inches short. 5.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Autumn Golf

This is my favorite season, even though it foreshadows my least favorite season. In the mid-1990s, I wrote this essay about a round of golf in autumn and submitted it to a high school writing contest, where it won a prize for descriptive writing. With some modifications to make it (slightly) less cheesy, here it is:

When I teed up last fall for the first time on a weekday afternoon, I expected it to be a depressing experience. After all, golf in the fall signals an ending, a winding down, the last journeys down the rolling fairways before they succumb to the giant white blankets for a few silent months. The golf clubs would soon go into hibernation, submitting to the supreme power of the snowflake.

But on that mild fall day I was pleasantly surprised as I made my way through nine golf holes tucked in the woods, bisected by a stream plodding along one of its final voyages of the year. It was hardly a dreary afternoon, the anticlimactic prelude I had expected to the inevitable winter snows. I realized the difference as I stepped up to the first tee and launched a tiny white globe toward the distant flag, feeling the usual disappointment as it plunged back to the comforts of earth well before reaching its destination. But disappointment would not remain as I glanced to the woods watching me from either side, realizing I was a tiny player in a vast natural arena. The spectators had changed since they last saw me. Their mantle of green had given way to an array of reds, oranges, and yellows, as if the sun itself had been tipped on its side, spilling its fiery contents onto the trees below.

Not all of the recipients remained. Some had wearily floated to the ground, comprising a lush carpet. As I watched, more of them danced down to the ground, their duty this year nearly complete; they patiently awaited winter retirement. The sun listlessly distributed some of its final handouts of the year before it, too, would disappear for the winter, and the branches below eagerly reached up to accept its waning rays.

My thoughts turned back to the tiny white ball that caused my presence here in the first place. It rested comfortably off to the side, among the bordering trees, itself seeming to appreciate the winter preparations and probably disappointed to be scooped away again. I too was sorry to have disturbed the autumn rituals unfolding beside me, and tried all the harder to avoid the neighboring trees while concentrating on another spire in front of me, the one without leaves, the flag planted in the center of a clean patch of emerald, beckoning my golf ball to fly its way.

And so I continued, winding through the vast expanses of well-trampled grass between the quiet woods on either side of me. It was so different now. Over the past few months I, accompanied by the summer heat and a few friends, had traversed these familiar paths many times, but now I may as well have been a pioneer in a virgin forest, as I witnessed the dressings of fire among the trees. My usual companions had left, returned to the familiar activities from which the summer had been an enticing escape, the familiar routines that would soon snatch me away, too, from this serene setting.

So I relished being a part of it, as I examined the shades of fire among the leaves, until I realized I was not actually a part of it. I was an outsider, unable to disguise myself as the surrounding scene was doing. I was rejected, silently commanded by the falling leaves to put away my toys now, return to that from which this was an escape, to come again next year to see what it had in store, when a new annual routine would play out in these familiar woods.

I surprised myself by enjoying that afternoon. I did feel some of the emptiness that foreshadowed the winter to come, the loneliness of a natural setting preparing for winter, undressing and laying itself down for a snowy slumber. But I learned that golf in the fall was still enriching, a necessary final stage of an annual cycle that included more than just the spring and summer. I pondered this as I exited the autumn stage that day. Soon the cold winds and showers of white would forget the fiery leaves and green grass, burying it all indiscriminately.

I peered out my window often this winter. I missed my routine trips to the golf course, but was reminded and edified by my autumn endeavor that winter, too, was just a season. Soon it also would give way to a successor, as spring rains would dissolve the white blankets. Soon the journey would begin again toward autumn.

Theology and Golf?

I love theology as much as the next Calvinist, but is this a bit much?

In golf, you begin with a goal on the horizon, toward which you travel. And then when that trek ends, with the ball resting safely in the hole, you walks to the next tee to commence another journey. This is history with a telos, an eschatological goal.

Read for yourself:
Breaking 80
Mark Galli
Books&Culture, Sept/Oct 2005

The top-selling golf books on aim to help you play the game better, from The Plane Truth for Golfers (about the plane of the golf swing) to Tiger Woods' How I Play Golf. The only non-instructional book in the top ten features Phil Mickelson's ruminations on who and what helped him win the 2004 Masters. Keep scrolling down and you'll find the occasional biography or history among the 6,700 books listed, but you'll be overwhelmed with instructional books.

It isn't until you get to 107th place that you run into Deepak Chopra's Golf for Enlightenment, a book that aims to teach seven lessons of "the game of life." And then come thousands more books about shaving strokes from your score.

It appears that golfers don't give a rip whether golf can teach them something about life. They just want to consistently drive the middle of the fairway, hit the green in regulation, get out of sand traps in decent shape, and sink those birdie putts. And they're willing to spend money on books that help them do that.

Christian publishers publish books to help people think about all of life from a godly perspective. Since golf is considered at best a mere diversion, and at worst a game that tempts one to use the Lord's name vainly, Christian publishers usually don't show much interest in golf.

Unless the book can help readers think better or live better for God—thus three of the books reviewed here. The Chopra book does the same thing, but from a pop-Eastern religion-cum-Western-psychology perspective. The target audience for such books, presumably, is golfers who want to be better people.

But as I noted, golfers don't want to be better people. They want to be better golfers....

Indeed, golf is a sport rich in Judeo-Christian meaning, but books that express that meaning most simply and artfully are being written in the thousands already.

The Theology of Golf
By rich in Judeo-Christian meaning, I don't necessarily mean rich in theological allusions—although golf has plenty of that. For example, it seems patently clear that golf is a living apologetic for hard-core Calvinism.

You hit a near-perfect iron to the green, so accurate it strikes the flag stick—and then ricochets off and ends up in a sand trap. So much for your perfect iron. On the next hole, you wickedly slice a drive into a thick cluster of trees, hear a frightening thud—and see your ball magically bounce out into the middle of the fairway. This sort of thing happens in every round. There is no sense shaking one's fist heavenward or cursing the ways of this inscrutable god. If one wants to get on in the life of golf, the best posture is to humbly accept this god's complete sovereignty and prepare for the next shot.

In this regard, golf is Protestantism on steroids. It is a purely individual sport. In team sports, the weight of salvation is shifted constantly, from pitcher to shortstop to batter, or from quarterback to lineman to linebacker. No one player has the burden for more than part of the game, and every teammate is there to bring encouragement one to another. In golf, the burden rests squarely on the shoulders of the golfer for every shot, from start to finish.

Since after every shot, golfers have between three and four minutes to reflect on that shot, we tend to become as introspective as the most anxious Puritan. And what we're introspective about is our sinfulness—that is, how we've missed the mark once again—and what we can do to correct our wayward swing. The system of scoring in golf reinforces all this. It is the only system in which there is a direct correlation between the player's sinfulness and his score: the less one misses the mark, the lower one's score.
Transform Your Game

Transform Your Game:
Nine Fundamentals of Golf
That Will Change Your Life
by Roger and Becky Tirabassi,
with Rick Hunter
Howard Publishing, 2004
96 pp., $13.99

Golf can also be mined for how it plays into Christian mythology. It is the only major sport played in a garden—though many golfers spend more time in the wilderness. Even at average courses one is often impressed with the splendid aesthetic balance of grass, trees, flowers, and sand, and the way the eye is drawn down the green, curving fairway. If Wrigley Field is beautiful in its own way, for its pleasing symmetry, Pebble Beach is positively Edenic in its splendor.

In addition, the structure of the game harkens more to salvation history than do other sports. Baseball in this respect is more like a Greek tragedy. You play an inning, run around the bases, and the next inning you find yourself back at home plate, where you start all over again—that's history as a circle. In golf, you begin with a goal on the horizon, toward which you travel. And then when that trek ends, with the ball resting safely in the hole, you walks to the next tee to commence another journey. This is history with a telos, an eschatological goal.

Still, as intellectually entertaining as such theological ruminations are, they fail to get at the heart of what makes golf a deeply spiritual activity. To do that, we need to talk about the nature of play. ...

Mines 9

Par 4, 364 yards (blue)

Plenty of landing room--though as I play the hole now there are players facing me at the 5th tee, so I want to keep it straight. Yet another elevated green, calling for height on the approach.

My driver is straight but high again, and I skull my 7-iron off a ridge 50 yards up, 50 yards short. I dial in another pitching wedge, placing it perfectly on the front edge, right in front of a mean pin placement less than 6 feet from the front. I swear I've holed it, and my first glance at the cup shows the ball is nowhere around it. Unfortunately, it released to end up 15 feet past. Uphill. I don't get it. I two putt to finish with a bogey 5.

Out: 44

Mines 8

Par 3, 156 yards

I can't remember ever having played two par 3's in a row before, not even at the par-3-happy Fellowship Greens. I wonder if the designers ran out of room. But as the course website points out, although these two par 3's are similar in distance they are very distinct in look and feel. This elevated tee shot crosses a sandy, brushy no-man's-land almost evoking a desert course out west. The green is nestled next to a dune with more gnarly trees with no recovery zone. The course yardage guide notes that this was the location of a sand pit for the old mines. It shows, and it's used well.

I catch a crystal clear 6-iron and think I've gone too far, but it lands on the green. Only when I get to the green do I realize that not only have I not flown the green, I've actually left it over 30 feet short and will have to cross a testy ridge. The green is deceptively broad, maybe 80 feet from front to back and not much narrower. I three-putt from 30 and have another bogey 4.

Mines 7

Par 3, 131 yards (blue)

A sensuously shaped par 3 with no distance but much intrigue, with a sloping green, a long lateral bunker, and a massive dropoff from the elevated tees.

The blue and black tees are elevated a few stories above the green, so I launch from there, rather than the lame white and red teeboxes level with the green and shallow. But my 8-iron goes left into thick woods (must be moving my head again). I play a Phil Mickelson flop shot from 30 yards off some soft pine needles, and land it within 15 feet. From there I two-putt for a bogey 4.

Mines 6

Par 4, 272yards

Another shallow but tricky par 4, with thick woods to the left and a severely sloping green and yawning greenside bunker.

I shank my 7-wood (so much for it being my new lucky club, as I'd hoped at Kaufman), and blast a 6-iron out of the rough just short of the bunker. I launch a pitching wedge onto the green and think I've placed it well, but it turns out to have rolled to the back fringe. My 14-footer breaks left right for the cup but just misses off the right edge. 5.

Mines 5

Par 5, 477 yards

The granddaddy of the front nine, this straight-but-forever par 5 has a road to the right but a driving-range-width fairway, sharing it with the 9th. I wonder about placing tees facing each other on 5 and 9, since a player on an adjacent fairway seems to be at risk, but on this quiet day it's not an issue.

I pull out a driver and send it straight but high (better than left and longer), and have 300-plus yards left. I slam my 3-wood straight but then lose my 6-iron approach short and right. My sand wedge only gets me within 14 feet, and I two-putt for a bogey 6.

Mines 4

Par 4, 227 yards

This hole doesn't have distance, but it doesn't allow easy approaches that miss the green, either. The fairway slopes down from the green and there are no good approach angles except from the fairway.

I elect to go with my new 7-wood but shank it and leave it 50 yards short. From there I launch a pitching wedge to the elevated green and think I've placed it well, only to discover that the ball has released some 30 feet past the hole. I'm lucky to get it home in two for another par 4.

Mines 3

Par 4, 350 yards

Just a few holes in and the terrain has you thinking twice about where to put your shots. After two uphill tee shots, this one is downhill, followed by an approach to an elevated green.

With an unforgiving left side of the fairway, I take out a 4-iron but catch it weak and left. My next play is 5-wood, but that's also short and left--I must be turning my head on contact. But I salvage a pitching wedge, placing it on the front edge of the elevated green. I line up the 18-footer and play 6 inches of break. My biggest concern is getting it there. I strike it and watch it curl toward the cup and drop. 4.

Mines 2

Par 4, 383 yards

A scenic hole beautifully framed by woods and accented by sand traps. Another uphill tee shot, this one with fairway bunkers waiting on the left.

I leave a thin 5-wood short of the bunkers, then catch a 7-wood short and left. But I dial in a pitching wedge from 30 yards that lands 4 feet from the cup. I play 3 inches of break but hit it with too much speed, and slide the par putt an inch to the right. 5.

Mines 1

Par 4, 313 yards

The first green lies over a slight hill (almost a dogleg right), with a fairway that slopes from woods on the left back to the fairway.

If I can keep my lefty slice at the top of that hill, I can play a decent approach. But I wrap my driver just shy of the woods on the top of the slope. I take out my new 7-wood and leave it a few paces shy of the green, then two putt from 11 feet for an opening bogey 5.

Mines Intro

The Mines
330 Covell Ave SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49544

This property was proposed as a site for John Ball Zoo expansion, and this land could have served the zoo well. But at least the second-best thing to do with this site is make it a golf course. Its gyrating landforms, seclusion so close to the city, assembly of trees, and vast acreage make it ideal to be blanketed in green and patrolled by golf carts. I played it just over a month after it opened, on a quiet Monday afternoon, after early morning cloudy gloominess gave way to pristine autumn sunshine. The first green was littered with fallen leaves--seasonal decorations that make this season my favorite to play golf.

Because of my unfamiliarity with the course and my jittery long game of late, I play the white tees--mostly. 9/26