The Womp Rat: Wakonda Club No. 14

“Like targeting womp rats back home,” or so the quote goes from Star Wars. Luke Skywalker was referring to the ease with which he he used to vaporize small desert rats, intimating that the small exhaust port on the Death Star was no big deal. At Wakonda, we have our womp rat. Actually, it’s a heavily defended thermal exhaust port.

The fourteenth hole at Wakonda is a Rorshach test of a golfer’s mindset. From the blues, the hole is about 165 to the middle of the green. The prevailing winds are left to right. The problem is the three foot differential between the upper and lower tiers. Also, there is about a two foot drop over a thirty feet length going from back to front. This means that balls tend to roll right and off the green.

The pin position shown is front left. Depending on the mood of the greenskeeper and the pro, the pin can be placed right next to the precipice. This translates into a challenging two putt from below the cup. Anywhere else and a three putt bogey is a relief. In terms of score, this little bantam of a hole behaves like a par four or five, leaving grown men with tears.

Success on this hole requires command of your swing and fearless putting. Ideally, you want to hit into the fringe up front with a draw and roll onto the green below the hole. My ball ended up with a fade, landing hard in the center of the green, on the incline, which squirted the ball hard right and off the green. My chip landed short, sending my ball rolling back to the right fringe. A long putt failed the hill climb and three more putts later, a 6 was my reward.

The Perfect Golf Shot

I played 27 holes this weekend. My 9 holes yesterday were played in windy, cool weather and I got a 50 for my efforts. It was notable for a par on the treacherous second hole which has a tilted green. I hit 5 of 7 fairways yesterday but three putts and botched approaches made life difficult.

Today, I hit the reset button and armed with a new 58 degree wedge from Callaway, I set out solo onto an empty course. The picture above is from the first hole. My drive was directly into a 20 mile per hour wind which made the 48 degree weather a touch more miserable -hence the absence of players on an otherwise very golf-worthy Sunday morning. The drive was in the left rough off the first cut, leaving me 200 yards out on a sidehill lie that left the ball below my feet. I tried to play a duck hook around the tree, but I lost my balance and lucked out by having the ball settle on a steep upslope with line of site to the green.

The first hole at Wakonda is officially a par 4, but it really is a par 4.5, and with the wind, it was a stretch to make par. I was 150 yards out and the pin was in the middle of the green -the green tilts to the right and I had to land the ball center or left to get to a makable par putt.

The wind was going a sharp right to left and the green is a good 20 feet above me. The ball is on the upslope. I chose to fade a 5 iron -the upslope would take some of the distance off and the fade into the draw cross wind would straighten the shot, I hoped.

It is always here on number 1 where I have my most intense golf moments -where concentration and visualization becomes very clear and I decided to pour myself into this shot. I set up aiming slightly to the left of the pin and practiced a fade swing, trying to keep my head still and my shoulders in line with the slope. The shot I had in mind was “locked in” and the actual shot became the apotheosis of my mind’s vision.

The ball launched after a clean hit -this is so important on wet, sodden grass, and the ball kept climbing and going straight -this despite my having hit a near slice. The winding motion of the ball that normally creates a slice now was creating more lift with the right to left wind. The ball landed on line with the pin and I knew the ball would be 10 feet from the cup with a straight uphill putt (image -right).

I missed the putt by a hair, but still made a 5 which on this day was fine. I ended up with a  47 on the front -a great round given that I had great difficulties with my initial approach. After 18, I hit 10 of 14 fairways, but made only one green in regulation -this will require work. Despite this, I am still in bliss from the perfection of that approach on number 1.