News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 6, 2011

RUB OF THE GREEN: Young players should match course to skills

Bob Arnett
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — One of the biggest mistakes a beginning golfer can make is to keep playing a golf course that is far too difficult for the ability demonstrated by that player.

This mismatch results in frustration, lost golf balls, and, finally, a loss of interest in the game. I’ve seen players who couldn’t shoot 125 strokes for 18 holes on a good day, but yet they insist on playing the championship tees.    

Let’s face it; golf is a difficult game to play well. It takes an abundance of time, patience and practice to improve, and then that improvement may not come gradually, but in increments.

Virgil Morey, one of the very best golf instructors Terre Haute has ever seen, often stated, “Golf is undoubtedly the most technical game known to mankind.”

Tying the mental challenges golf offers to the physical requirements is what makes the game the interesting activity that it is. Without a doubt there are golf courses and then there are “difficult” golf courses. Hulman Links was certainly deserving of the “difficult” tag when it opened in 1978.

To borrow a line from former U.S. Open champ, Tommy Bolt, the hardest hole at Hulman Links is the one you are trying to play. The infamous double dogleg No. 11 has always given “fits” to many golfers. Huge trees once stood in the middle of fairways on holes 10 and 17. While “The Links” is still no pushover, it once played much more difficult than it now plays.

Gene Sarazen picked No. 12 at the Country Club of Terre Haute as one of the toughest 18 holes in the United States. The dogleg left offers trouble all the way from the tee to the green. A large ditch bisects the hole about 250 yards from the tee. A second shot that misses to the right rolls downhill leaving a most difficult pitch over a greenside bunker.

Allendale doesn’t give the poor player who has just completed No. 12 a chance to catch his breath since a 210-yard par three is waiting.  Although the green is large, you don’t want to miss it left when some “jungle” awaits.

The former Elks Fort Harrison course, now known as River Bend at the Landing, boasts a par-3 12th hole, which has a two-tiered green that demands an excellent shot to keep the ball on the green. Missing the green and having a shot past flagstick high is a guaranteed bogey or worse. At 160 yards it can be intimidating. The 595-yard par-5 No. 14 with a small water hazard guarding the front of the green rarely gives a player much of a chance to shoot a 4 and make up strokes. No. 17, a 460 yard par 4 can also be troublesome.

Rea Park, while not known as a difficult course, can still offer several challenging holes, especially if you’re left with downhill putts on Nos. 2, 5, 8, 13, 15 and 17.

Some may not realize that Rea Park can be stretched to 7,000 yards plus. Back in the early 1960s, to prepare for qualifying for the city match play tournament, tee boxes were pulled back on holes such as 8, 9, 10, 11 and 17. The result: No one broke 70, which was the score made by the medalist.

• Tip of the week — When putting, don’t ground the putter before you are ready to hit the ball. You will get more topspin on the putt if the putter contacts the ball slightly above ground level.

Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.