On Day 2 of our Texas Golf Trip, we traveled west on I-10 to San Antonio to the Golf Club of Texas at Briggs Ranch. There was rain in the forecast for the afternoon, so we knew the round might be cut short. We were right.
There are not many pictures from Day 2 because we were trying to beat the rain. But our golf game improved quite a bit from the day before. This was mostly because Mom and Dad shook off the rust and began playing quality golf. Mom belted balls off the tee box and rediscovered that automatic putting stroke that we have grown to rely on. Meanwhile, Dad showed improvement with the driver and irons, and resumed his clutch chipping game. The couple of times that Mom missed a short putt, Dad rattled it home. I only hit two putt all round.
Briggs Ranch was enjoyable to play. Spread out over the South Texas Plains, the course featured wide open fairways with few trees and enormous, well-manicured greens. The wind was calm for the most part (at least as calm as it can be in South Texas). My driver showed up to the course again. I hit a good drive on every hole except No. 9, which we didn’t finish. My drive on the 392-yard, downhill par-4 No. 8 hole was my best of the trip to that point. 320 yards + down the center of the fairway. Left us with a short wedge shot from under 70 yards away, but unfortunately, we all missed the green. That was pretty much the story of our day. Couldn’t hit an approach shot.
The San Antonio round tested our short game. We managed to two putt for par on the first hole, then scrambled to get up and down for par from just off the green on No. 2 and 3. No. 4 was the most excited hole of the day. A 512-yard par 5, I hit a long drive that rolled underneath a tree just to the right of the fairway. Dad hit a fantastic second shot that started left and faded down the center of the fairway. His ball kept rolling, and rolling, and as luck would have it, rolled into our favorite place . . . the sand bunker. Can you guess what happened on the next shot? That’s right, we all DUFFED it. But, all hope was not lost. On the next shot I hit a 40 yard chip onto the green, about 9 feet from the hole. Mom hit an excellent putt that just missed the hole, and in doing so, gave me a great read. I buried my attempt for par. Suddenly, we had momentum!
The very next hole, Mom uncorked on one and hit one of her best drives of the trip. She matched the effort on Holes 6 and 7. Our game was really coming together except for our approach shots. That was the only thing holding us back from getting makeable birdie opportunities. We were cruising at even par until we reached the No. 7 green. There we hit our first road bump. Again, lackluster approach shots left us with a choice between a 70-foot putt from the front of the green, or a chip from just off the green that was about half that distance. We chose the chip and paid for it with a bogey.
On No. 9, the rain began to fall and we were forced to head back to the clubhouse. A short but pleasant round in San Antonio left us with a score of +1 thru 8 holes and monogrammed Club ball for a keepsake.
We drove north into the Hill Country and stayed the night in a little town just north of Round Rock.
On Day 3, we journeyed north across the Hill Country and toward the High Plains of Texas. Along the way, we admired fields of wildflowers.
After a couple hours of driving, we arrived in the dusty little town of Rising Star! The rain the day before was a welcome sight to the people there. (Last summer in Texas was one of the driest on record).
Day 3 was WINDY. Sustained winds of 20-30 mph with gusts approaching 50 mph. It made for a CRAZY day of golf. I was expecting us to post a high score from the moment I got out of the car and felt the crushing torrents of air blowing across the plains. I was thinking a score of +8 or +9 would be acceptable given the harsh conditions. I never could have imagined that this would be one of the most exciting rounds of my life.
WARNING: IF YOU ARE NOT A TOTAL GOLF NUT, YOU MAY WANT TO STOP READING HERE AND FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO
Our third round at Rolling Oaks Golf Club started off with Dad hitting a drive in the fairway on No. 1. I chased a driving iron to just off the green from about 200 yards out which left us with about 45 feet away for our third shot. After mom and I struggle to get the ball near the hole, Dad gets up and can’t decide whether to use a putter or a wedge. I tell him to use the putter. He does, and DRILLS IT from off the green for BIRDIE!! We went nuts! What a way to start the round.
However, on the next hole, the course got it’s sweet revenge. We have our worst hole of the trip. It takes all three of us 3 shots just to get on the green on the Par 3 2nd hole. Yes, the wind was howling, and true, it was a long uphill hole, but there is no excuse for three people not to reach a par 3 in the same number of strokes that it is supposed to take one player to reach the green on a par 5. And we really didn’t even get close. We were lucky to have an 8 foot putt for bogey, which we all missed. Double-bogey. Talk about a momentum killer! Usually, I would be upset about something like that. But I wasn’t. I figured it was going to be a tough day and that we were lucky to have birdied the first hole to make up for what happened on the second. One over after two holes put us right on line for the +8/+9 round I was expecting.
That projection began to look optimistic when we bogeyed No. 3, one of the easier holes on the course. But just when it looked like the round was heading down the drain, I mashed a 320 yard drive into a stiff cross-wind on the par 4 No. 4 hole. Dad and I hit what normally would be good shots, only to see our balls get tossed around in the wind like weather balloons. The balls were literally traveling diagonally on their way to the ground. Fortunately, Mom hit a nice shot up to about 10 yards short of the green and gave us something to play. The hole was at the very top of a hill and the wind was blowing so hard that the flag was almost bent sideways. I took out a putter and tried to put it close so we could make par. I watched the ball roll on the green, start to turn towards the hole, keep turning, keep rolling and . . . BOOM! The ball wedged itself between the inside of the hole and the flagstick! The shot should have gone down but wind was keeping the ball from going in the hole! The wind let up for just a moment and the ball suddenly dropped in the cup. BIRDIE!! We went nuts again!
By the time we reached the Par 5th hole, our adrenaline was pumping. We had been up, down, and then back up again. Now we were a very respectable +1 with a downhill Par 5 in front of us and the wind at our back. I smack a long drive down the right hand side of the fairway into the first cut of rough, and then dribble a driving iron onto the back edge of the green to set up an eagle opportunity! Then Mom looks over the putt, gets up to the ball, and from a little over 30 feet away, DRAINS THE PUTT FOR EAGLE!! At that point, we pretty much lost it. There weren’t many people on the course, but everyone who was out there heard that putt go in! Haha. We had risen from +2 to -1 in just 2 holes. Incredible.
The neatest thing is that each of our miraculous putts had been hit by 3 different people. First Dad, then me, and then Mom. Everybody was getting in on the action!
The next hole was a difficult Par 3 with a nearly impossible pin placement. Despite excellent shots by Mom, who was beginning to play her best golf, we all missed a slick downhill par putt and took a bogey. That brought us back down to earth. But what an thrilling first 6 holes. Birdie, double bogey, bogey, birdie, eagle, and bogey. It couldn’t get any more exciting than that, right?
We made par on the long, uphill, into-the-wind Par 5 No. 7 hole, which may have been one of our best scores of the day given that hole’s difficulty. We saved par from off the green on No. 8 thanks to Mom’s excellent short game. Things are still looking good when we get to No. 9. I hit a beautiful drive that sails down the fairway and . . . comes face to face with the fairway’s only tree. Four shots later, we finish our tremendous front nine on a sour note with a bogey. Still very happy to be at +1 though.
On the back nine, we pick up right where we left off. I cut the dogleg on No. 10 with a towering drive, and then steer a wedge onto the green with the wind in my face. (I literally tried to hit the ball 25 yards longer than my target. By the time my ball hit the green, it was moving backwards. The wind was that stiff.) That left us with an 18-foot putt for birdie. Mom showed us the line, and Dad came up and . . . can you guess? Sank it! Another birdie! Our putters were on fire. Back to even.
On No. 11, with the wind behind me, I pounded a monstrous drive down the right hand side of the fairway that traveled over 330 yards. Then Dad hit one of his best shots of the day, floating a beautiful shot over the bunker and safely onto the green. What happened next was inexplicable.
We three putted.
Yes, our hot putters suddenly went ice cold. The putt was not that difficult. It was about 30 feet away, slightly downhill. Somehow, the closest we could get to the hole was about 9 feet. I even putted my ball off the green. I don’t know if it was a lack of focus or what, but the bogey on No. 11 was painful. We had just given a stroke away, and erased the birdie we had just made on No. 10. The bogey on No. 11 hurt much worse than the double bogey on No. 2, because by then we knew had a special round going.
The bogey on No. 11 also came at a bad time, too. The next hole was the arduous No. 12 hole, measuring 394 yards uphill and into the wind. We were in no shape to contend with that hole after being dealt such a crushing blow on No. 11. We all hit wayward drives and after two shots, we had not even made it back to our own fairway. We could see our amazing round slipping away right before our eyes. The brutal conditions were finally taking their toll.
Then came a major turning point in the round. After Mom and I missed the green on our third shots, Dad hit a clutch iron that sailed a patch of trees and hovered in the air before dropping onto the green. (Because the wind was so strong, the ball looked like it was hovering over the green — sitting stationary in the air — before dropping.) Dad just barely the putt for par, but we still escaped with a bogey from a hole that had double written all over it. If there is such thing as a “good bogey”, that was it.
On the next hole, I hit one of the best drives of my life. Straight down the fairway, over 360 yards. Of course, I was helped by the fact that the hole was straight downhill and that I had a 45 mph wind at my back . . . but I really could not have hit it better. It is a drive I will always remember. And it came at a great time, on the longest hole of the course: the 541 yard, par 5 13th. The behemoth drive left me with just a seven iron to the green, which I left a little short. Mom did the rest, putting the ball to about 3 feet from off the green and knocking it in for our fourth birdie of the day.
With the momentum back in our favor, I hit my second-best shot of the day on the next tee box. (We will get to my best in just a minute.) My 5-iron landed onto the narrow 14th green from 189 yards away and I watched as the ball curled to within 12 feet of the hole. Mom and Dad missed their putts and it was up to me to capitalize on our birdie opportunity. I can’t remember wanting a putt more than that one. I studied the putt carefully, stood over it, and seconds later I saw the ball disappear into the hole. I exploded in a Tiger-esque fist pump. It had been a while since I’d felt that type of emotion on a golf course. Just like that, we were back to even.
Still pumped from the birdie on No. 14, I unleashed another huge drive on the next tee box which put us in the fairway only a little over 50 yards away. It looked like another sure-fire birdie opportunity, and a chance to get to red numbers. But if there is one thing this round taught us, it is that there are highs, and there are lows. This would be a low.
Mom and I duffed our second shots and left it entirely up to Dad. He did his best, but his ball got hung up in the wind and landed to the left of the green. That is the one place you don’t want to be. Because of the slope of the green, none of us managed to get on the putting surface with our third shot. We ended up with a five-foot tester just to save bogey, a huge let down considering how close we were after our drive.
On No. 16 we made par, but it also had some excitement. It was the final par 3 of the day and we all left our shots short. I chipped my ball up to about 15 feet away from the hole for par. Then dad chipped his ball and it was moving fast enough to probably go off the green. But amazingly, his ball hit mine and knocked it to about a foot away from the hole! We tapped in for par. What are the odds of 1) our balls hitting each other from so far away and 2) my ball rolling right towards the hole? It was like Dad planned it that way, haha.
On No. 17, Mom hit her best drive of the entire trip. She sent one straight down the middle of the fairway and around the corner of the dogleg on the short par 4. It was perfect drive. Then Dad hit a four iron onto the green and set up another birdie putt. My putt nearly went in, but hit the back of the hole and popped out. We tapped in for another par.
We came to the final tee box at a solid +1. The No. 18 hole is a short 484-yard par 5 that is a slight dogleg left and has a large hill which prevents players from seeing the flag from the fairway. I hit a pretty good drive, but the wind drifted it over into the trees to the right. When we got to my ball, I saw that there was a gap in the trees that I could hit through if I got the shot in the air quickly. Normally, I would hit an iron in that situation. That is the first club I reached for. But for some reason, I decided to put it back and hit my 3 wood. This was a risky decision, because my 3 wood often stays low to the ground and has a tendency to duck hook left. But it also provides more power, and for some reason, I felt that I could get it into the air and hit it straight enough to give us a decent third shot from the left side of the fairway. Ideally, I needed the ball to move from left to right (“fade”) in the air in order to keep it in the fairway and still have good distance. But my main goal was just to get it out of the trees.
I checked to make sure there was enough room to swing and addressed the ball. WHACK! The ball rose up high in the air, shot through the gap in the trees, put its blinker on and started to slowly make a right hand turn in the high. When I saw it drop over the hill in line with where I knew the green was, I knew it was going to be good. I saved the best for last. That was my shot of the day.
When we got over the hill, we saw that the ball was about nine or ten yards off the green, perfectly in line with the flag. I putted the ball up to about five feet away and then Dad put an exclamation point on our round by making the birdie! We had survived some of the toughest conditions that Rolling Oaks had to offer and finished at even par! : )
When all the dust had settled (and believe me, there was a lot), we finished with 6 birdies, 6 bogeys, 1 eagle, 1 double bogey, and four pars. To put that in perspective, we had only made one birdie in our previous 26 holes on the trip. What is even more funny is that our first eight holes on each nine were almost mirror images of each other: under-par, over-par, over-par, under-par, under-par, over-par, par, par. How crazy is that? Day 3 at Rolling Oaks was truly a round to remember.
After finishing up, we jumped in the car and headed east back to Dallas. When we got to Fort Worth, we rewarded ourselves for our good play with more BBQ. ; ) Now that’s a true Texas golf trip!
Unfortunately, the next day brought more inclement weather so we had to postpone our 4th round at Link’s at Land’s End in Yantis, Texas until a later date. We hope to make it up in the near future. To be continued . . .