It is the morning after. I have my first serious golf “hangover” of the season. Why didn’t I exercise regularly over the winter? Why doesn’t my golf swing come back to me naturally and quickly the way it did in my twenties, even my thirties and forties? I stretched for at least 2 or 3 minutes before I hit my first shot. Why is every muscle in my body crying out in pain today, the day after my first practice?
In between raindrops last week, we hustled over to our neighborhood driving range, Mike Griggs Driving Range (see blog entry under “Practice Facilities”), to try to find our golf swings after an extended winter hiatus. Mary brought only her driver as she hates to hit iron shots from mats. I, on the other hand, had predetermined that I would start with wedge shots, move to a seven iron, and end with my driver. What a mistake! I worked on a new set up that I had observed on TV, but I quickly reverted to the old one when my back complained strongly about the change. Apparently this set up is for young people with limber backs. As Mary pumped out drive after beautiful drive, I struggled through quail-high wedges and mishit 7 irons, never even making it to my driver. Finally, my practice devolved into a series of shanks – over and over again. Enough was enough! I declared the practice session over. Mary reminded me how difficult it is to hit irons from mats. I agree. I have to blame my nightmare practice on something.
The fact that I let my game go for so long, the fact that I am older, and the fact that I am not a pro have all contributed to my sore muscles and deflated ego. Armed with a more positive attitude, my next practice session will be on grass.
It’s winter. Sunday it rained all day. I knew playing golf was out of the question on Monday. I couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for mud-walking. However, I determined that I could practice my game (not that I needed it!). Where should I go? Sacramento is lucky enough to have one of the most complete practice facilities in Northern California, so naturally I headed to the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, easy to see from Business 80, even under the lights at night.
Where to begin? Since I have developed a case of occasional “yips” in my senior years, I headed for the practice putting green or should I say putting greens. Haggin Oaks actually has three putting practice areas. The first two are huge greens, one in front of the clubhouse and one to the rear toward Arcade Creek, the two 9-hole courses on the property. I am working on using my shoulders to swing the putter, taking my hands (which have a mind of their own) completely out of the putting stroke. It’s a good idea, but it will never work unless I practice it, and the two greens gave me plenty of room to do just that. The third putting area is actually a 9-hole miniature golf-like track, the “McKenzie Putting Course”. It features a natural layout – no windmills or open-mouthed dragons. Although its “turf” is artificial, it offers a fun way to practice your putting stroke. The experience is free with the purchase of a bucket of range balls ($2 without purchase).
Since the miniature course was right next to the driving range, I made it my next stop. The range was busy even on a weekday at off hours. It is open from 7 AM to 8 PM during the winter, during the day or under the lights at night. It features new technology; some bays tee the ball up automatically so the player doesn’t even have to bend over. On this day I spotted only two women hitting balls; the rest were men – mostly with bad swings. Practice balls range in price from $6 for 50 balls to $18 for 175 balls. Sadly, the range desperately needs re-seeding. The yardages are well-marked but difficult to see due to the bare spots, and when the wind blows, the dust swirls.
During my practice marathon I was more interested in working on my short game. After all, we girls cannot rely on our lengthy drives all the time. I drove my car around to the little-known and less crowded world on the far side of the driving range. Here I found another set of practice bays facing away from the afternoon sun, pointed back toward the main range. Once I got over the fact that some of those long hitters on the opposite side were aiming directly at me, I realized this alternate reality right out of “Stranger Things” was a real find. I decided that I would definitely head back here in the future in spite of the porta-potty bathroom facilities.
Finally, continuing my focus on the short game, I moved to the nearby three “Academy Holes” that are located on the backside of the driving range. These holes offer a wealth of practice possibilities for every aspect of the game around the green. Large, deep teeing areas allow the player to use shorter and longer irons (or even hybrids) to work on a variety of approach shots. Well-groomed fairways and green surrounds afford an infinite variety of wedge and chipping practice. Best of all are the well-contoured greens surrounded by mounding, bunkers, and fairly gnarly rough. Use your imagination to practice flop shots, run-up shots, bank shots – any type of finesse approach shot to improve your game. To use one of these holes, you must make a reservation in advance with the Concierge Desk at (916) 808-2283. The price is a reasonable $15 an hour; bring your own practice balls.
Thanks to the facilities at Haggin Oaks, my enthusiasm for practicing has been renewed. I have no excuses – except maybe my busy schedule, general aches and pains, bad weather, etc. All I can say is that I need to get over it and get practicing!
Yesterday I had my own “Tin Cup” experience at the Mike Griggs Driving Range, and I mean that in a very positive way. You remember the well-worn driving range and the fun-loving characters in the movie. This establishment is much the same. Mike is a personable owner here, likely to throw a few extra golf balls in your bucket, and the mostly male clientele welcomed us warmly to their territory with golf pleasantries and even a story or two. The range itself, slightly worn around the edges, has a very laid back atmosphere. Yes, you are hitting off mats, but if you are interested in working the kinks out of a rusty swing – who cares? The range is lacking in grass, but it has clear yardage markers, mounded targets, and even a net with a target to practice pitch shots. Also, importantly, the Sticks Bar and Grill gladly sold me a cold one to help me finish up my bucket. The day was productive for me; I felt I learned a little something about my wedge even though I was hitting off a mat, a good feeling. Mike Griggs’ range is a welcoming place for women players, and you might even catch a glimpse of a Kevin Costner look-alike out on the range picking up range balls with a very definitely homemade rig built for the purpose.
Location: nestled between Staples and an abandoned miniature golf course on Arcadia Drive across from Sunrise Mall.
Prices: $6, $9, $12, and $20 (family sized) buckets