One of the most fascinating aspects of our great game is how easy it is to make a triple bogey when you don’t hit a single shot that you would consider awful.
Some people would just say it’s frustrating, not fascinating. But I think it’s one of the things that keeps us coming back. It’s also what separates us from the pros, and that’s how we can learn to avoid those big numbers.
I got to thinking about this after a recent round in which I was playing poorly but scoring well and then blew it with two triples in three holes – sandwiched around a birdie. I had never gone 7-2-7 in a three-hole stretch.
The first triple, on a fairly long par-4, was just a case of bad luck and a bad decision.
My drive wasn’t good but wasn’t the worst of all time. It leaked to the right and landed in a bunker on the adjoining hole, but it really wasn’t more than 15 or 20 yards off the fairway.
Though the sand was a little soft, I still thought I could get a 4-iron out of there and knock it somewhere up by the green. Bad call. I hit it fluffy and didn’t advance it more than 30 or 40 yards.
Now I was still in the rough, behind a tree and looking at another bad lie. The ball was sitting in a hole, which was going to make it difficult to even get down to it. I chunked a 7-iron another 80 to 100 yards.
I had a sand wedge left to the green. Hit a good shot and I can still salvage a 5, I thought. Again, I didn’t hit it that poorly, but it came up about 40 feet short.
I had been putting well – that’s how I was able to sneak away from the first 14 holes with a birdie and some miracle pars and bogeys. If I parred out I was going to shoot 81, which would have been a classic case of the scorecard not reflecting how many rotten shots I’d hit.
But the putt was straight uphill, and I didn’t allow enough for that because the greens were pretty quick. It stopped four feet short.
OK, a double bogey hurts, but let’s knock this in. I hit it right where I intended, but it unexpectedly broke out of the hole.
I had a crippling triple.
So where were the unforced errors?
The first was trying to do too much out of the bunker. I was asking too much of that 4-iron. My focus should have been to just get the ball somewhere into wedge territory – in the fairway.
That led to the terrible lie in the rough. Nothing I could do about that shot.
The sand wedge from the fairway should have been a lot closer. I went to the range yesterday and hit about 40 of them, just to try to get a better feel for the pendulum motion and proper follow-through.
And then there was the three-putt. I’ll bet if you look at all of your double and triple bogeys in your last 10 rounds, you’d find that more than half ended in a three-putt.
Yes, some of it was just plain old bad luck. But a lot of it was avoidable.
Even if a pro had driven into a bunker on the hole next door (they do hit bad shots, just like us), this probably wouldn’t have happened because the pros play great defense. They do whatever is necessary to turn a bogey into a par or a big number into a bogey. They hit that one great shot or knock in a tough putt.
I made a 50-foot bomb for birdie on the next hole, and then my other triple was more typical: a pathetic 3-wood off the tee, an unplayable lie, a fourth shot that didn’t cover the pin as much as I’d hoped and, yes, another three-putt.
Two round-ruining 7s in the space of three holes. Both avoidable. Lots of unforced errors. How often does this happen to you? What are you doing to change it?
Me, I went to the range and hit a large bucket of wedges, drivers and 3-woods. I played the 14-drive game: counting how many good drives you can hit out of 14, which is typically the number of times you use your driver or 3-wood in a round. In two 14-drive sequences I was around 10 both times, which I would consider OK, and the others were hit well but off target.
If you get bitten often by big numbers on the golf course, I encourage you to keep track of them, no matter how painful it is. Analyze them. See where you went wrong. Then go to the range and work on those shots.
Focus on the fascination, not the frustration. Golf wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if it was never challenging.