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  • GOLF

    Playing our fantasy course was quite a treat

    It took four days, featured dew and a doe and required an odd ruling
  • Feel free to label me Mr. Obvious for this proclamation:
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  • Feel free to label me Mr. Obvious for this proclamation:
    The best thing about building your own golf course is that you get to go out and play it.
    Granted, we didn't really build a course. That work was done by some wonderful architects. But we came up with a fantasy layout using the best holes in Jackson County, as voted on by readers, and course operators were kind enough to let me play through.
    Admittedly, it was not a typical round. I needed four days last week to do it.
    One of them started as the sun came up and the maintenance crew came out at Eagle Point. It resumed in the afternoon heat at Stone Ridge, completing Day 3.
    The first day, Monday, I used my practice round in the Southern Oregon Golf Championships to get three holes in at Rogue Valley Country Club on the Rogue, or outside, course. Three days later, in my first match, I was on the nine-hole Oaks Course and got in the final hole necessary at RVCC, No. 3.
    In between, it was another early morning start at Centennial, playing three holes before a tournament began.
    I was mostly by myself.
    A doe joined me for two holes at Eagle Point. It struck me that she was far less judgmental about my game than my usual playing partners.
    At Stone Ridge, there were squirrels galore.
    At Centennial, I waited as a member of the course maintenance crew swept dew from the 15th green, then finished off a bogey.
    Those who voted on the holes for our fantasy course were big on character, and once I got out there, I could appreciate it, from the water I had to hit over or avoid, to an elevated tee that momentarily took my breath, to holes that turned left when I generally want to fade it right.
    One thing I noticed. There's not an easy par 3 in the bunch. I double-bogeyed two of them and bogeyed the other two on the par-72 layout.
    I shot 82. That is an adjusted number, and you'll see why momentarily. With a slope rating at our course of 135, thanks to the Oregon Golf Association, my handicap was 9, giving me a net 73 score.
    Here are some highlights and lowlights of the round.
    Hole No. 5
    (Stone Ridge No. 3)
    This might be the strangest hole I've played. Ever. That it happened on this venture is kind of freaky.
    It's a par 5, with water up the left side. A good drive puts you in position to go for the green in two. I did not hit a good drive into the wind, then I faded my second shot barely into a hazard on the right.
    My ball nestled into some matted hay, pin high to the flag but 100 yards away. I'd have to dig it out with a wedge and just hope to advance it. I swung down hard and saw a ball fly toward the green. To my astonishment, I saw another ball squirt straight out in the same direction, about 10 or 15 yards.
    Mine went furthest, ending up 25 yards from the green. I skulled a chip shot that ended up a foot from the hole and made par.
    The other ball was a Titleist 8. It had been in there awhile.
    I didn't know the rule. Did I hit the wrong ball? If not a wrong-ball penalty, should I have been penalized for practicing because I hit another ball while playing a hole?
    I was prepared to make up my own local rule but, out of curiosity, I called former Rogue Valley Country Club pro Jim Wise, a rules guru. His quick research found a ruling — actually a decision — that absolved me of wrongdoing. Decision 15/2 overrides Rule 15-3 about hitting a wrong ball because I played the stroke with my ball, not the hidden one.
    No need to adjust the score.
    Hole No. 10
    (Eagle Point No. 10)
    If the previous hole didn't account for an adjusted score, this one surely did. It's a short par 4 with trees up the left and a wide hitting area that narrows considerably. I started on the back nine first thing in the morning because workers were on the first couple holes.
    It was chilly enough that I wore a pullover for the first time in months. I had no practice swings. I took out a small-headed fairway wood, a means to course management. But I managed to almost miss the ball on my first swing, sending it screaming into a pond just right of the tee box.
    I made an executive decision and termed it a "breakfast ball," which is the same thing as a mulligan. I never take those, but this was a special case. It was a special case, too, when I did the exact same thing with my second swing.
    You guessed it. I was so full of breakfast balls I could skip lunch.
    When I finally got one in play, I bogeyed the hole.
    Purists will chide me, and rightly so.
    Hole No. 11
    (Centennial No. 3)
    This is a tough one, the No. 1 handicap hole at Centennial. It's uphill, long and is lined with fairway bunkers. My drive went farther right than Rush Limbaugh. Over a cart path and into rough behind the No. 6 green.
    I had 210 yards in and hit 4-wood to just short of the green. My chip was short, but my 15-foot par putt was right at the cup. It needed to be 15 feet, one-quarter inch, however. A bogey 5.
    Hole No. 13
    (Eagle Point No. 6)
    A split fairway — a creek divides the hole — gives you options. My option was, I aimed for the left fairway and wound up in the right, 230 yards away on the par 4. This, too, is a No. 1 handicap hole.
    I hit a decent 3-wood right at the green, but a ridge in front of it sent it bounding into a greenside bunker, pin high.
    Two members of the maintenance staff were behind the green, watching as I approached.
    "What kind of bounce was that," I asked.
    "That was an Eagle Point bounce," said one.
    As I dug into the sand for my bunker play with a 60-degree wedge, I thought about warning them to move. Instead, I babied a little shot to 2 inches of the cup, making par.
    One of the men was Dave Stephens, course superintendent. I told him, from the gold tees, his layout is all that an average player would want.
    Kindly, he said I wasn't average on that hole. I almost hugged him.
    Hole No. 16
    (RVCC Rogue No. 16)
    I have to throw in this one because it was my best birdie hole. It was also my only birdie hole.
    The short par 5 gives one a chance to go for the green in two. It's a risk-reward thing. I risked it, and fortunately was rewarded by a big pine tree on the left knocking my ball down before it entered a greenside pond. It led to a chip and a 20-foot birdie putt that rattled into the cup.
    While I think my cut shot with a hybrid would have carved perfectly toward the green had the tree not gotten in the way, my SOGC practice-round partners thought I was luckier than a Powerball winner.
    This is why I deemed the deer such a pleasant companion.
    There were plenty of other shots along the way, some good, some bad.
    But, lest you feel the need to rent a cart, I'll stop here.
    Suffice to say, it was a very different and very enjoyable round of golf.
    Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com
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