Conditions were perfect. Bright and cloudy to start with, with the sun breaking through later to produce a warm day with very little wind. As for the course, I'm convinced I've played there before, but I can find no record of this in my diary, nor in archived copies of the Mad Cats' programmes. This remains a mystery.
My drive off the 1st tee was good, which is always reassuring on a society day. The second shot, however, needed to clear a lateral ditch, so I played safe and laid up. I put the next iron shot to the right of the green with a bit of a shank, but played a good gap wedge over the banking around the green, allowing two putts for a nett bogey 6. The 2nd was very controlled. A longish drive, hybrid and iron down the middle, with a chip and one putt for a nett birdie 5. A good result on this long par 4 (418 yards) which is a par 5 for the women.
The four-ball teams are usually made up of three men and one woman, although on this occasion one team was two and two. In my team the two other men, Dave and Arthur, were playing off 14 and 17 respectively. This meant that I shouldn't have had much to do, provided I managed four good drives and contributed on and around the greens.
I had a very good drive on the 1st but it wasn't a patch on those of the low handicap players. A trend that was to more or less continue. They were hitting rescue clubs around 200 yards on the fairway so it didn't leave me, or Celia our woman team member, with much to do, my best 5-iron shots only making around 150 yards.
We actually finished with a scratch round. Having birdied the 1st, we then went on to par everything bar the 4th on the front nine. Even on the 4th we were only about 10 yards from the green after two shots, but none of the chips was good enough to ensure a single putt, leaving us with a bogey.
On the 1st I drove well but the ball drifted right and rolled towards the tree line after landing. I didn't think that there would be a problem finding it, but our joint efforts failed to do so. Going back to the tee wasn't an option as this would have delayed following groups, so I dropped and took a two point penalty for personal scoring purposes. As far as the Mad Cats' competition was concerned, the lost ball meant the hole was blobbed. Playing out the hole didn't go that well anyway, my hybrid shot after the drop was short and right, landing the in rough. A pitching wedge shot was then equally bad, needing another to get on the green. Two putts gave me an 8. Last year I parred this hole, so my start couldn't have been more discouraging.
Fortunately the 2nd went much better. A good straight drive, that managed to miss both fairway bunkers, was followed a hybrid and pitching wedge, leaving me just off the green. A putt on and two putts for 6 gave me a nett par. Last year I picked up on this hole after three unsuccessful attempts to get out of the green-side bunker. Win some, lose some!
Add to this uninviting ambiance the fact that our round took no less than five and a quarter hours, and you will not be surprised that I got very cold, and about midway through the back nine I think I psychologically gave up. Things had been going wrong and with all the adverse influences of weather and personal comfort I think my concentration just drifted away. The result, a fairly average front nine and an absolutely disastrous return.
Pavenham is a championship grade course and in its publicity it states:
"The final challenge is to master and understand the unique USPGA style greens which offer the golfer a glimpse of the banks and slopes associated with Augusta National."
“If you can putt at Pavenham Park, you can putt anywhere!”
Well, they weren't kidding. I played probably one of my best games for a Mad Cats' outing in terms of teeing off and approaches to the greens, but the putting was incredibly difficult. I had six 3-putts and one 4-putt, with a total putting score of 40. This meant that there were a number of holes that were blobbed purely because of the putting. I also had some really good iron shots onto the greens, much better than average, but in many cases the ball just ran down the slope of the green and onto the fringe. These greens need wedge play and backspin, the first not currently being in my bag, and the second being beyond my capabilities. Chip-and-run doesn't work!
The 1st is a par 3, unusually. This doesn't promote a very quick get away as you really need to wait until the green is clear before teeing off. Not that I needed to worry, my nervy first tee shot striking the ground with the ball only going about 80 yards. The next 9-iron wasn't much better and I wasn't on until the next with a pitching wedge. Two putts for a nett bogey 5. Still, I was away and had scored on the hole, so my nerves settled a bit.
The 2nd started better and after three shots I was just off the green. I putted on and two-putted for a 6, another nett bogey. At least I was scoring.
The 3rd came with a warning when I spoke to a local player in the car park while unpacking. It's a long par at 448 yards and the River Nene runs along the right hand side while there are trees left. The Nene wasn't my problem on the tee shot, which was topped slightly and ran along the ground, coming to rest in a dry ditch that crosses the fairway about 70 yards out. I managed to get out with my pitching wedge, which was adjudged by my co-players as a good shot! I then hit a long hybrid that kept left, as intended, but perhaps a bit too much so, disappearing behind trees. In the event it was safe and another hybrid got to within a 9-iron of the green, which I managed to achieve. I could have rescued a point with two putts, but needed three for a blobbed 8.
The Texas Scramble is a very forgiving format in that you can take the best shot from each of the four players, although each must take at least four drives. This panned out quite well and we managed to share out the drives equally over the first 16 holes, the final two being open to any player. We didn't expect to win, and we didn't, not even making the top ten teams.
I had a mixed day. Having resurrected my 5-wood last week, and done well with it, on this occasion it was a disaster. I had four or five duff drives, but fortunately it didn't matter as somebody else always obliged.
I had some good fairway shots that definitely helped the team, and a few good putts. But set against that I had my share of bad shots and on four or five occasions I caught the ground as I putted. This rarely happens, and for it to occur so often in one game was disappointing, especially as I had putted well at the start, ensuring a par on Hole 1.
My first problem was that my Garmin device seemed to be showing a different course to the one that I was playing. I later found out that the course had been redesigned, the back nine clearly being very different from the front. When I got home I updated the Garmin over the internet, but it was a bit too late. So I had no distances to work with which resulted in quite a few misjudged shots. Add to that some pretty awful shots and you probably get the picture.
The 1st plays around a large lake, so you need a drive of 180 yards plus to get to the corner. I made it, just, with my 5-wood, having left my wayward driver at home. A couple of hybrids then got me close to the green, an 8-iron chip and two putts giving me a nett birdie 6 on this par 5. A good start.
I had driven off on a low (red) tee on the 1st with the 5-wood, and it worked well, but on the 2nd I was thin and bizarrely the ball hit one of the ladies' tee point markers, ricocheted off, and ended up in the middle of the 1st fairway. Playing back through the trees wasn't easy and it took me two shots to get back on to the 2nd, and even then I wasn't on the fairway. A hybrid and 7-iron took me to the back of the green, and a putt on and two more putts added up to a nett triple bogie 8. So much for the good start.
People were having trouble off the first tee, but I landed just off the fairway to the right and then put my next hybrid shot just short of the green. A 7-iron chip and one putt for a par was a very good start and a nett birdie for 3 points.
By contrast the 2nd was very sad. A good 180 yard drive was again followed by a good hybrid leaving me 50 yards from the green. I then shanked my 9-iron into the bunker to the right. The bunkers on this course aren't friendly and I proceeded to have three unsuccessful attempts to get out before picking up for a blob. My auspicious start had been immediately nullified.
I recovered with a 6 on the par 5, 3rd, a nett par. I kept out of trouble all the way, with a drive, two 5-woods, a 9-iron, 7-iron and one putt.
There were nine four-ball groups playing today and the club gave us a good breakfast before we started and a very enjoyable meal after we played. I went out in the second group of two men and two women.
It was a Stableford individual competition for small prizes. Because of this I picked up on holes 6 and 17 and didn't putt out. My Game Golf system doesn't really cater for Stableford, where you occasionally pick up, as it records stroke play. Therefore, for the purposes of completing the Game Golf scorecard I have added shots based on an assumed putting out total, but officially only the Stableford score is valid.
I started brilliantly. Having put my drive a little left I took a hybrid and played over trees to almost reach the 1st green. A perfect 7-iron chip-and-run left me with an easy putt for a par 4, a nett birdie and 3 points. The 2nd was just as good, having reached the green in two, I two-putted for another par 4, and 3 more points.
It was a split start with some of us teeing off on hole 10. I didn't mind this as this hole is far more forgiving than the 1st. However, the tee shot was a feeble miss-hit that went just over 70 yards into the rough and trees on the left. My 8-iron attempt to get out managed under 40 yards but then I hit my 5-wood 125 yards to get back in contention. The next 5-wood wasn't so good, clipping trees and making only 55 yards. Now on four, I needed to get down in three more shots to save a point. A good hybrid shot got me just off the green followed by a sweet 7-iron chip-and-run giving me a simple putt for nett-bogey 7.
Holes 1-6: score of a player with highest Stableford points.
Holes 7-11: scores of two highest scoring players.
Holes 12-15: scores of three highest scoring players.
Holes 16-17: all four scores.
Needless to say, for the later holes we didn't always have enough scoring players to contribute!
The weather forecast had been threatening but we managed to complete the course before the rain arrived, although play was terribly slow with us having to wait on nearly every hole before teeing off or playing to the green. The wind freshened considerably throughout the game and was a factor on a number of holes.
I hadn't played the Bourn course previously and for me it turned out to be a mixture of success and failure. The weather was kind. Not a lot of sun but it was bright and the wind wasn't too troublesome.
The par 3, 1st sets an immediate challenge with a water-filled ditch in front of the green. I opted for my driver, which unsurprisingly overshot the green but not by much. A chip back on and two putts for a 4 gave me a nett par and two points.
Early rain had cleared and after a grey period it turned out really nice. It was in fact a very pleasant day.
After yet more heavy overnight rain the course was extremely wet and difficult. But the weather was glorious, if a little nippy.
The first drive in any competition is stressful, well it is for me at least. I hit a good shot but it went left towards the path. Unfortunately when I got to the ball it was in an unplayable position nestling up against a tree. So a penalty drop after only one shot! Not a good start, particularly as I ended up with a gross 8, and needed no more than a 7 to score.