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The Links at Madison Green

I was bored today and didn't feel like going shooting, so I headed out to The Links at Madison Green for a quick 18 holes of golf. The site intrigued me - none of the others in Palm Beach County were nearly as good - and the course looked interesting - a hilly, narrow, watery, waste-bunkery links course located deep inland in southern Florida?!?! For $25!!!

I hit the range and worked on a simple swing though: bring the arms from the inside. Key to this was a longer takeaway more to the outside. Later on the course I'd realize that my hips were way too active way too early. I could have realized this on the practice range when I was hitting 3/4 shots with my feet together and was hitting a nice draw. My driver (the old one still, I haven't got the new one yet) has what now appears to be a rather worn grip, because I couldn't grip the thing without it slipping just a little. I made the decision to hit only my 15° Titleist 980F. I'd even hit some off the grass on the driving range - the damn club is silky. This would be its first test.

I played the blue tees today. Having not played a full round of golf in over a year, and having not played more than once in a month the past eight years, I didn't need to play this course from the tips. The course was wet, and I was without a driver. The blue tees - at par 782 and 6753 yards - was an adequate challenge, I assure you.

Hole 1: Par 4, 390 yd
The course starts out fairly easily, though I wasn't really aware of the water to the right. I pushed the 3W out there about 240 yards (let's call that its "standard distance") with the faintest fade. Facing a slight downhill lie, I shoved a PW on the front right portion of the green. I either chickened out or my hips were too active, as I'd accounted for the slope in my setup. I faced a loooong putt, put it to within three, and made the par putt.

You can see the number of bumps on the green in the diagram - and in fact on the entire course - and this is something which does not change. This is a bumpy, rolling, humpy course. If you ever have a flat lie you're probably in a waste bunker. I hadn't quite anticipated that - I was hoping for something a bit flatter so that I could really practice my stroke.

Hole 2: Par 5, 545 yd
This hole doesn't seem to play very long - it's a very short but "true" par 5 only because you're be insane to go at this green in two. After sitting through a 20-minute downpour on the tee, I drew a nice 3W just over the bunker on the left. A solid 5I at the lone bunker left me with a PW, which - having chickened out on the first hole - I promptly pulled into a deep swale left of the green. I pitched to about 25 feet and missed the putt for a six.

Hole 3: Par 4, 366 yd
A short par four, I faded a 3W just over the farthest part of the water and a foot into the "rough." A misjudged PW left me with a tricky pitch up a hill, which I put to six feet. I sunk the putt for a par. The tee shot was rather weak, and a scrambling par was more than disappointing.

Hole 4: Par 3, 180 yd
A nice par three, it was playing only 170 today with the pin tucked way to the left over massive bunkers. I chickened out and hit a weak, semi-thin 6I to the collection area short-right of the green (a few yards short of the bunker there). A great chip and run from a downhill lie in the rough got me to three feet, and I made the putt for a par. This was the last hole I'd play alone as father Steve and son Austin (15 and trying out for the golf team this year) joined up on the next tee.

Hole 5: Par 4, 423 yd
The #2 handicap hole on the course for a reason, the fifth is a par four that plays a lot tighter than it looks. I pushed a 3W to the right and found myself in the waste bunker. I made solid contact on a 5I and faded it up the right-hand side. A 70-yard wedge put me at 30 feet, and I two putted from there for a bogey five.

Hole 6: Par 3, 168 yd
This hole was playing at 156 today with the pin located in the front left portion of the green. I push-cut an 8I into the right-hand waste bunker, skulled a pitching wedge chip (I didn't know you could play a regular bunker shot from the waste bunkers) into the bushes over the green, hacked out onto the front fringe, and made the 30-foot putt for a rather exciting bogey.

Hole 7: Par 4, 393 yd
A short par four with a tight green, I drove a 3W well off the tee. I was left with an 8I approach that came up short off a dramatic uphill lie. I found myself on the front-left portion of the green with a cut of rough between the ball and the hole. The putt broke, missing the fringe I'd intended to putt through, and shot off the back of the green, leaving me a twenty footer through the fringe. I ran that putt up to tap-in distance and left with my bogey.

Hole 8: Par 5, 510 yd
This par five is an interesting three-shot hole that's reachable in two on a good day (i.e. a day when you have a driver and the fairways provide at least a little roll). Instead, I push-cut a weak 3W into the rough near the waste bunker on the right, played out with a 5I, and had a 9I left to the green. I put that to about twenty feet and got down in two for a - drive aside - routine par.

Hole 9: Par 4, 436 yd
I didn't play this hole very well. My 3W was push-cut to the right of the waste bunker. I hacked out into the vegetation (and water) all along the left. I took a drop and hit what was then my fourth shot onto the green. I made a nice lag put to escape with "only" a double bogey.

Hole 10: Par 4, 436 yd
A medium-length par four, this hole plays a lot longer than that with the large dogleg to the right. Subconsciously fearful of the weak cut I'd been hitting lately, I played a solid 3W at the far left bunker. The same distance shot over the edge of the water would have left me 130 to the green. Instead, I found myself with 220 from a sidehill lie. I dumped a big cut into the water near the green with my 3I, and then refusing the drop for a lateral hazard, dropped my second 3I into the front lip of the bunker left of the green. I blasted out to the back-right pin to within five feet and made the putt for a six, my second double in a row.

Hole 11: Par 5, 540 yd
Another reachable par 5 (though never by me), I played this one rather pathetically. I sliced a lovely, skying 3W over the right waste bunker and into some nasty foot-tall grass. I hacked a 5I out - intending only to send the ball 80 yards or so but somehow sending it about 180… right into the watery, marshy area to the left. I took my drop, hit my fourth to the green with an 8I, and made two putts for a six. Five over in my last three holes - quite lovely.

Hole 12: Par 4, 334 yd
A deceptive short par four, I played a 5I off the tee just left of the bunker. A PW to the green left me a fairly long putt (I caught the wedge a tad fat), but I got down in two for a par. On the tee shot, several people were watching from their second-floor balconies.

Hole 13 Par 3, 185 yd
I hit a 5I a tad thin and came up on the front of the green. The pin was in the back right, and my 60-foot putt skittered ten feet past. I missed the come-backer, three-putting for a bogey.

Hole 14: Par 5, 533 yd
I played this hole worse than the scorecard indicates - a bogey. I hit a three-wood on the right-hand side of the fairway. In fact, this would start a streak in which I seemed to find whichever side of the course held the cart path for the remainder of the round. Feeling brave, I carved another 3W second shot around the clump of trees 220 yards ahead on the right and found myself in some light rough. I tossed up a pitching wedge to 30 feet (misjudged the fluffiness of the rough), and three-putted. So, two weak, faded 3Ws, a fluffed PW, and a three-putt and I "escape" with a six. I'll take it, I guess… for now.

Hole 15: Par 4, 328 yd
This hole is an odd one: it slopes uphill most of the way and the green is far around to the right. I hit a 3I off the tee horribly fat and still had only a 9I to the green which, somehow, I cut pretty hard into the large grassy mound to the right of the green. I tried to slam the 25-yard pitch into the massive mound on the green to kill the speed, but instead barely caught the top of it, sending the ball five feet into the fringe for a 25-foot putt, which I sunk for a par. Three bad shots, one good one = par on a short par four. Yep.

Hole 16: Par 3, 198 yd
PLaying at the full 198 yards, and with a massive waste bunker and water on the left, I chose a soft 4I. Of course, I chickened out, leaving myself hole-high but 120 feet away on the right side of the green to a back-left pin position. I putted to three feet and holed the par putt. That first putt was an expedition, though, lemme tell ya!

Hole 17: Par 4, 391 yd
A rather short par 4, I goofed this one up rather nicely. I popped up a 3W (I'd been experimenting with tee height all day - this one was far too high) just into the edge of the fairway. 220 yards to go, I hit a slightly fat 2I that ended up just to the right of the water cutting in from the left. I pitched just past the back pin placement into the fringe, and two-putted for a bogey.

Hole 18: Par 4, 397 yd
An easy hole if you've got a driver at your disposal, I instead faded a 3W to the right short of the large waste bunker. My shot came to rest on a slope that left the ball nearly two feet above my heels. Instead of going at the green (a 6I), I laid up towards the end of the fairway and hit a PW to 20 feet. Hoping to make the par putt, it lipped out, ending my round with a bogey.

The totals? 42-43 for a 13-over 85. 15-18 accounts for 33 putts - about 5-6 more than usual. I did putt more from the fringes than normal, but the massively undulating greens didn't make getting up and down from anywhere an easy task. 13-over in my first full round of golf in 18 months? I'll take it.

I made solid ball contact with nearly every shot, and nearly every mistake was a mental one: not focusing on the swing thought I'd developed for the day on the range. I hit very few shots fat or thin, and I played a moderately long course on a soggy day without a driver. My misses were consistent (which is much easier to fix than pure inconsistency) and I developed a lot of faith in the new 15° 980F, being so confident as to hit it off the fairway once (and smacking the ball solidly 235 yards or so).

Some of the measurements on the course were provided with an in-cart GPS system. I'm not sure if the system was a ParView system, but it was of the same general type. It displayed an overview of the hole, listed distances to hazards, showed the location of the players in front of us, and told us how far behind the pace those players in front of us were making us. 🙂 This system was a nice way to familiarize myself with a course I'd never before played.

And what of the course? Magnificent. Though the ground was a bit spongy, and though the only shots on which I achieved any roll at all were my putts, the course held up beautifully. The waste bunkers are hard, firm sand allowing for well-played escape shots and the rolling nature of the fairways ensures that par is a good score on any hole. With trouble everywhere - and I do mean everywhere - this is distance target golf. I don't like the course more than my favorite course - Lake View back in PA - because I think that sometimes the rolling is a bit too extreme and very clearly man-made, especially on the putting green. This is southern Florida after all - its flatness is rivaled only by the Great Plain states.

I plan on playing this course quite a bit, if possible, over the next few months that I'm still living in south Florida. To Steve and Austin, who will probably never see this page, I couldn't have asked for better playing partners. I hope that some day I might take a son or daughter golfing. Perhaps even the (future) wife, y'know, if she can get rid of that "swings so hard she spins around" thing.

2 Responses to "The Links at Madison Green"

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