What can I say? Golf is certainly not a "Game of Perfection" but the Torrey Pines North and South Golf Courses, in La Jolla, California are the closest to golfing perfection that I've experienced.
Torrey Pines has long been recognized as one of the nation's foremost municipal golf facilities. Because it's a public course you can walk and carry your clubs, take a golf cart or pull cart. Because it's bounded by mountains to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west, the seaside courses are often swept by fog, rain and chilling winds. Thank goodness I only had to deal with the U.S. Open roughs. The weather was almost as perfect as my approach shot on the 10th hole.
The #10 is a short par 4 373/356/344/291 handicap 12/16. The key to this hole is the position off the tee. There is a fairway bunker on the right side of the fairway. I wanted to be on that side of the fairway to have a good angle of attack to the green. I missed the green short about 60 yards and again I was in the rough. I prayed to the golf god's and lined up my shot with the pin. But something very strange had occurred.
The blue flag had fallen from the top of the pin and was lying straight up on the green surrounding the cup. It looked a little strange, especially since everything about Torrey Pines was picture perfect. But since I was in the rough, I knew I didn't have a prayer to reach the hole anyway. So I scrunched my eyes and lined up my ball with the upside down flag pin. I took a full hefty swing with my pitching wedge. I watched the ball fly high out of the rough and head towards the pin. Flying through the air the ball hit the pin and dropped on the green. I was sure it was going to roll off the green, but to my amazement the fallen blue flag acted like a catcher's mitt, caught my golf ball and magically it clunked in the cup for a perfect birdie. Sometimes extraordinary things do happen to ordinary people and it is thrilling!
The other three players in our foursome applauded my good fortune and the round took on a new kind of play. I realized that I could get out of that rough if I would choose to think positively about my swing and my ability. When I focused on lining up the ball with the pin, no matter what the obstacle, there was a greater chance that I'd sink the shot.
I remembered reading in a golf book that if you think about what you want to happen instead of what you don't want to happen your chance of success improves. Picking a target and visualizing the ball going to that target was also part of the routine I was practicing. And because golf isn't a game of perfect, but a game of practice, when I was able to focus my mind and follow through with these two simple rules, I found myself hitting a lot more "lucky" shots!
Sounds simple enough, but disciplining my thoughts to remember only what was good about what I did, instead of focusing on everything that went wrong was a challenge as deep as those U.S. Open roughs. But when I did, I found I had gained a new confidence that helped me enjoy my round of golf even more.
It was on #14 when our foursome experienced another "golf moment" that makes you remember why you play this game despite the challenges, bad shots, and missed putts. John, a member of our foursome was from Rhode Island and the president of Rhode Island University. He was a single digit handicap player but found the course tight, narrow, and challenging.
It was on #14 that he found his greatest challenge. The hole demanded a straight tee shot. So he left his driver in the bag, missed the green, hit his ball left of the hole which landed in the ice plant. Normally if choosing to swing in the ice plant even though it looks beautiful, you'll either break your wrist, the club, or both, but the ball never moves. A much better choice is to take a stroke and lift out of the ice plant. But John was inspired by my catcher's mitt approach shot that landed in the cup and because he was from Rhode Island he didn't have a clue as to how treacherous the ice plant can be to a golfer. He grabbed his pitching wedge and headed knee deep into the middle of the ice plant. Undaunted, he took a full swing and hit out of the ice plant and landed miraculously two inches from the cup! Again, his victory was truly mind over matter. My husband, a veteran of California golf courses, was quick to applaud this gutsy shot. He'd never seen anyone come through the ice plant without permanent injury to their club or themselves.
Hole #18 was a nice risk-reward type of hole. We all hit a good drive down the middle. We had the option of going for the green in two, or laying up short of "Devine's Billabong" (so named after Bruce Devlin, who took an 11 on the hole while hacking his way out of the water). I decided to plan and to lay up. The pond guarding the front of the green was about 180 yards from the area just left of the right bunker. I had about 240 yards to the middle of the green. The area in between the bunkers was a bit undulating, so besides the distance to the green and the water I had to ponder my stand and lie before I made the decision to go for it. The green sloped from back to front and to the left, but it wasn't as severe as I thought. It was an exciting finishing hole. Ron eagled it with a 3. My husband, Steve, risked all and parred it with a 5. John still feeling confident from his ice plant experience also got a 5, while I found myself with a double boogie 7.
Torrey Pines is filled with beauty, passion and the breathtaking setting is a powerful reminder that when man and nature are in harmony happiness exudes from every cell in your body.
No matter what your ability is with golf, you will be challenged, but somehow this course inspires you to do the best you can with the abilities that you have. I don't know if it's because of the superb design of creating holes from the breathtaking coastal landscape of Torrey Pines, or the inspiration that you are playing the same links that challenged the champions of golf, or the fact that we found wonderful people who loved golf.
Our time on this course was as close to heaven as I could ever imagine. You don't have to hit every shot perfectly to gain the rewards this outstanding course provides for every level of player. So if you want to experience the penultimate experience in golf, Torrey Pines, in La Jolla California is the place to play.
By Janice Wilson, Jetsetters Magazine Golf Corresponent.