My personal best (at my new club) yesterday was quite the enjoyable experience for me, because although it was a stroke shy of my lowest round ever - my club is by far the most difficult course I've ever played on a somewhat regular basis. Good golf is good golf, no matter what tees you play or what course you play. But it just carries a little more gravitas to the experience when you surpass your own expectations on a very challenging layout.
But even at that, there are certain things.... we'll call them ingredients, that add to the scoring casserole. And quite often, for me anyway, I overlook the little trivial ingredients. I overlook them because I want to believe that I had everything to do with the outcome. Which is natural, I suppose.
No different with food, these little bits of trivial ingredients either compliment the round or complicate the round.
Nothing is more frustrating (to me) than to be in-between yardages into the greens for most of the round. Take a little something off the 7, or go full-out with the 8? When you're playing on large, undulated greens - how far you hit it is just as important as where you hit it. I'm fairly decent taking more club and swinging just a tad softer, but it's very situational for me. Where this becomes most difficult is when I'm trying to flight something in low to a back hole location, or when it's a front pin and I need to hit it high and soft. No matter how hard you try to convince yourself to take the guesswork out of play and just go for the middle of the green - it's a tough decision to make. That said, if I've learned anything during my years of playing - it's knowing when to simply forget where the pin is and play the middle of the green, even if it means putting from 15 or 20 feet further away.
Anyway... I had 3 instances yesterday in that round where I was in-between, and I made the simpler decision. But it's very rare when I'm hitting the exact yardage I want going into the greens as often as I did yesterday. I can't overlook that.
Another thing I can't overlook is the conditions. Yeah, it was certainly hot and humid, sticky hot and we would've enjoyed some wind... but there wasn't a breath of a breeze in the air I had to account for. That too is very rare.
The superintendent must've gotten laid the night before, because the hole locations (for the most part) were fairly accessible, and only one hole location was near a ridge or mound. That's another thing often overlooked as it relates to scoring. We have quite a bit of contour in our greens, and it's not often that you're not having to figure out additional break from another intersecting ridge in a lot of approach putts.
Partly due to good iron play, for sure, but I left myself with some very makable birdie putts yesterday that I could be somewhat aggressive with. And much of the time it felt like I had the same putt on every hole... 15 feet away, slightly uphill, with a gentle L-R break (a southpaw's dream).
I'd also be remiss in not accounting for the 2-3 instances where a generous bounce turned a good shot into a great one. The par4 15th is a great example... great little short hole, 295 yards, plays uphill, narrow fairway, with a 2-tiered green. The hole was cut right in the middle, just to the right of the middle-left tier. I pushed my wedge shot slightly, but it came off the tier and rolled down to within 3 feet of the hole. I'm pretty sure I could 2-putt for par from up top that shelf, but highly unlikely I could drain a 20 footer for birdie. That was a nice break, leading to my 4th birdie of the day.
And, of course, when you're playing well it's a little easier to keep the momentum going. Even if you hit a bad shot, you feel like you can recover and make a par-save putt. My putting yesterday has never felt more natural... I was seeing the lines and reading the break, not getting overly anxious or reading too much into them, and my pace was absolutely perfect. For me, I make more putts when I'm rolling the ball at a pace to go about 18 inches past the cup. That's my ideal holing speed. A couple of times yesterday I was above the hole, with one foot on the brake and one on the gas, but even then my pace was spot-on.
And then, last but certainly not least... it was a great match with some really good players. We played in 3 hours and 20 minutes, not having to wait... the highest score was 76, followed by 75, 71, and 69. But the playing rhythm was perfect.
Finished 3rd in my tournament today, played well again, shot 75. The difference? I couldn't tell you. Felt like I played pretty well. It was just a different day. That, and the fact that tournament golf is just a wee bit more stressful.