Wakonda Club #1


#1 is a par 4, but it really plays like a par 5. It doglegs to the left, but topography serves to effectively lengthen the hole -if you land in the center of the the flat landing area, you end up with a 170 yard approach. If you fade right, you are looking at 190 to 200 yards. Slice it, and you now have a downhill lie effectively eliminating long woods. The perfect drive is a draw over the tree on the left that pitches you forward into the flat that is about 120 yards out. Anything less than perfect leaves you in the woods, tangled in the tree and into a sidehill lie out of dense rough, or you stop on the upslope. The upslope leaves you with a 150 yards to the pin, but because the green in elevated by 30 feet, you will land short if you sky it, but will run it through if you land too hot as the green is canted front to back and left to right. You need to hit a high shot with backspin that will go about 160 yards from a steep uphill lie. If you pitch it right, you end up in a wooded pit that requires a blind pitch up 20 feet around and under trees. If you draw it, you end up on the space between #1 and #4 with a tree that guards the right front of the green. And the green tilts away from you. When I get a par here, I feel like I’ve birdied the hole. A bogey is a good score. But at no point on the course does it seem unfair, except when the leaves fall making your balls difficult to find (even on the green). 

HAC played – blech

HAC played today at Legacy which is a great layout for a neighborhood function. Unfortunately, I stunk up the course with my miserable play -couldn’t get a rhythm going and left everything going left. Congratulations to the victors. Pictured is Mr. C who played excellently.

Back at Hyperion

On returning to Hyperion, I have to wonder if the members feel like they are being overrun. Looking at the start times, I saw more than a few Wakondites. DH and I played from the yellow tees and had a grand old time -he shot 88, I took 90 -my best score in Des Moines despite three double bogeys and a few near pars and birdies. It’s all about the putting. Here DH lines up on a dogleg right, fading the ball away from the trees to the left. The whole course is built into a hill that faces the south, and the sun sets about 10 minutes later than in the flatter parts of Des Moines. Being on a hill, many of the greens have confounding breaks, until you realize like on Wakonda #3, that the overall terrain (big hill) determines the break more than the shape of the green (which may look like it is pitched forward). Or as DH says, the break is toward the train tracks.

HAC -what kind of man are you?

HAC coming up. Neighborly competition? I think not. In a different era, men from various burgs and shires would practice at archery, throw rocks at targets, hunt together, and sometimes to war together to fight bandits or some invader. Through this they got to know the measure of each other. Today, we live among strangers, driving to work like faceless cod schooling along the currents, and try to figure out who exactly it is our wives are talking about. Golf is all about getting the ball in the hole and not about that at all. Your scores will say one thing, but your behavior in the face of tribulation, your resilience, your resourcefulness, your truthiness, all will say other things that your wives have not a single clue about. See you at Legacy.

Hyperion, the substitute teacher

Wakonda Club is being revised. The old growth oak trees were shading too much of the greens for too long and had a tendency to fall after a bad storm. Climate change had rendered the summers too hot for grass seed laid down in 1930. So this past spring, the membership, which I believe has an extraordinary high number of golfists, decided to remake the club with the mission of making one of the toughest golf experiences I have ever had even more challenging. Trees would be felled (and double more planted) to allow for sunlight to hit the greens. The trial greens on Wakonda upper #2 and #10 showed that the new putting surface could equal what I experienced at Bethpage Black the week after the Open and the TPC in Jacksonville the week before the Player’s for the entire season. Wakonda shut down last weekend.


So where do I go? We were given a list of courses that would offer discounts, but the one club that welcomed us with open arms was the Hyperion Field Club, no green fee, just pay for the cart. I got to play the front nine yesterday. The pro shop was welcoming and got me situated on their excellent practice facilities. Getting out on the nine, I google-mapped myself on my new iPhone, located via GPS, changed to satellite view, and got to see the entire layout from space -try it next time you’re on a new course -a great reason to get the iPhone.

If Wakonda is the beautiful, mysterious, raven-haired forty year old socialite that you began an affair with out of college, Hyperion is the tall summery blond next door that invites you in when your demanding paramour is off to Rio for a facelift and whatever else. While Wakonda demanded your constant and utmost attention and slapped you fiercely for transgressions, Hyperion doesn’t mind so much -she scrunches her pretty face, goes “oh no” and gives you a peck on the forehead. Number 8, which turns to the left and goes up a hill like a tanned leg stepping up a diving board ladder, didn’t mind so much when I hit my drive off the toe into the trees to the right. 

First of all, I found my ball. 

The approach was 160 yards up hill to an elevated green with tree limbs blocking a high iron. I chose to punch with my hybrid 3, keep it low and run it up. Did I say run it up? Wakonda would shriek, “that’s for peasants and Texans!” and throw her sherry glass at your head. My ball ran up the slope like a rabbit, Evel-Knieveled and rolled up the tier to rest 6 feet from the hole. 

But fellow Wakondans before you celebrate, there are mousetraps in that dress. I took a triple on number 9, slapped silly for thinking the hole was easy. 

Hyperion is a different experience, and in the end demands no less attention or imagination than Wakonda. It is in great shape. The facilities are top-notch and the staff are professionals. 

I ended up shooting my handicap, but I lost no balls. 

No. 11, the carnival hole -hey you, with the face!



The tree on the right of the frame blocks the approach to a green which is sunken and hidden from view. It is just taller than a 60 degree wedge’s ball flight, and snags and deflects balls into a pit below and to the right which is about 10 feet lower than the green. The green tilts away from the fairway making it very hard to stop a low shot. The best shot from the right is a fade with a mid iron which lands at the end of the fairway and rolls onto the green. Needless to say, you’d rather be left, but there is a long bunker and then a row of oaks. I love this hole because success is rare.


Truth or consequence

If life is a metaphor for golf, then all the pitfalls of adulthood are just bad lies, water hazards, and traps. To move forward, we have to get out of the trap, put the ball in the hole, and move on. Our golf score is the sum of the choices that we make on the course. Our life score is no different, and when it comes to life, most of us play with handicaps, and very precious few of us are scratch. 

Tiger’s win and my brain chemistry -too much of a good thing

You always hear people talking about great sporting events they witnessed on TV. I remember Reggie Jackson’s 3 home runs in the 1977 World Series, 1980 miracle on ice Olympics Hockey final, Nicklaus’ 1986 Masters victory, and Tiger’s 1997 Master’s, and last year’s Super Bowl. In fact, Tiger leads the list of things that have inspired me -his Pebble Beach Open, his first tournament win, his Hoylake win, and on and on. The funny thing is that I have become a bit numb to Tiger’s otherworldly greatness. Maybe it is because I am in medicine and can understand his pain and pathology. 

Bottom line is that we’ve seen Tiger do it too many times. It’s like having a regular table at the best restaurant in Manhattan -the extraordinary when it is too frequent, becomes ordinary. Tiger will now have to shoot consistently below 60 per round to impress me. Rocco, now that is impressive. That he could keep pace with a phenomena like Tiger is something that he’ll keep forever, but losing will stand out most in his mind, because he had too many chances to close it out. Even so, how could he?