I drove out to the Sudden Valley Golf Course totally stoked with the knowledge that 1) it was sunny out; and 2) I’ve been playing OK of late so maybe had expectations that were a smidge higher than I deserved.
When you approach from the north out of Bellingham, winding along picturesque Lake Whatcom, one of the first glimpses you get of the course is the 15th fairway. It’s not the fairway that’s all that remarkable, but the tee-box that sits high above it… really high above it, like maybe a couple hundred feet to the valley floor with a sharp dog to the left. If you’re brave enough to cut the corner—and succeed—you’ll have an approach of around 125-yards that will make you happy. Note, the definitive word here is “succeed.” You don’t notice the elevated tee from the road, but if you’ve played the course before, you just “know” it’s there and you start anxiously anticipating it before you’ve even turned down the driveway to the clubhouse. It’s maybe one of the “funnest” holes in the county.
I love the course at Sudden Valley. The front nine plays fairly flat along the shores of Lake Whatcom and back-and-forth across meandering Austin Creek and a couple of ponds. The back nine goes up a side hill and through the woods; two totally different courses rolled into one. The greens are amazingly true without a ton of break. For the most part if you just take dead aim at the hole, you’ll be rewarded.
Now I wanted to talk about my anticipation of a good round and how I was ultimately brought to my knees by the “magic” distance mentioned in the headline. Here’s the deal. Let’s say there’s a target out there, oh maybe 100-yards out. The target runs all the way across the fairway and is about 5-feet wide. If you dropped a bucket of forty balls on the ground, how many do you think you could hit precisely where you intended in that 5-foot wide gap? For the average guy, it would probably be less than 5% so maybe two or three. Same with hitting greens, right? How many GIRs do you average?
OK, now change the scenario and imagine a creek running across the fairway, or maybe a small pond, (you knew I was going there didn’t you) and the green you’re aiming for is 140-yards out; perfectly in your wheelhouse with an 8-iron or an easy 7. So why is it then, that if you skull it or hit it a bit fat, or slide completely under it, the result will most always be exactly the same. It flies or rolls, or skips, or bounces precisely the “magic” distance of 100-yards into the hazard… every stinkin’ time. Has this ever happened to you or is it just my own accumulated karma at work here?
Bottom line. I came to Sudden Valley full of anticipation, hope and sun-filled joy. But the “magic” distance managed to foil at least four shots, turning nice lies and a reasonable chance at par into a probable double-bogey.
Oh… but I smacked a driver off that elevated 15th tee, over the corner to within 100-yards. Tossed the PW neatly onto the green and narrowly missed a birdie putt for a tap-in par. A little redemption, sure… but if you play there and get to the 17th tee with another slightly elevated tee and a small creek running across the fairway about 200-yards out, you won’t have to stretch your imagination too much to know how that worked out for me.
Go play golf.