Saturday, August 13, 2005

Fill in the Blank (Iowa: Check)

They seem to have almost everything at the Iowa State Fair. It’s so enormous, they might even have a golf course hidden in there somewhere, but since I was only there for a few hours, I didn’t even come close to seeing everything. Fortunately, I made my way to a golf course directly from the airport the day I arrived and can now officially add Iowa to my list of states played.

I walked onto a course called A.H. Blank around 4:00 P.M. It wasn’t very busy, but there were only foursomes on the schedule so I went out by myself. It’s a municipal course and priced accordingly – I played for 20 bucks including the cart and I brought my clubs, so no rental fees applied. Actually, I don’t think I’ve played any 18-hole course in California for that low of a cost. It was well maintained, well staffed with friendly folks, and had nice facilities. The carts were gas powered, but were in good condition and were equipped with sophisticated GPS monitors. The system had a main controller at the pro shop up on a plasma screen for all to see. From there, one could see the entire course layout and all the carts on it. I’ve never seen anything like it. I imagine most control systems are viewed from some tucked away 17” desktop monitors in back offices.

Here's how hole 12 looked from the tee box (wide open)...

...and from the GPS (not). All courses should have GPS.
How I played this hole: Perfect drive about 250 right in the middle of the fairway. 4 iron chunk (time for those rescue clubs!), 9 iron into the greenside bunker, sand wedge just over the green on the other side, sand wedge chipped in for par!

As for the course itself, if I had played it before, I would probably rate its difficulty just slightly above Westlake. Somehow, it seemed like more of a “real” course than Westlake, which is my local executive jobbie. It has been awhile since I’ve played Westlake, so maybe that’s not a fair comparison. I don’t know if I’m underestimating it or overestimating my progress. A.H. Blank is longer and par is 5 strokes higher but aside from the strokes I always add by playing my usual game, I really only put on strokes due to the unfamiliarity factor, not the challenges of the course. I lost two balls on the same hole into the driving range on the right. The GPS warned me of this and still I went for it. I thought the first one might have stayed in, but no. I wasn’t sure about the other one either because it hit a tree as I was trying to play out of the trouble where I dropped, but I guess it ricocheted back into the range as well. There was a sign that cautioned “Enter at your own risk.” Not worth it. I didn’t like those balls anyway. I count the first of those lost strokes to the course, the other to my game. Not that the score card cares.

My handicap index is now a 24.9 (down from 28.8 not long ago) so that made my course handicap here a 26, which made my “target score” a 96 and I shot 101 – 5 over my handicap. I enclosed target score in quotation marks because that’s only the official target to play to my handicap. My own target or goal is to break 90. Boy, I couldn’t even break 100 and it didn’t feel like I played that badly! I guess it’s time to start beating myself up over double bogeys and not just triples. I need to adjust mentally to keep up with my changing handicap.

“A.H. Blank,” though? I wonder why they call the place Blank. Are we to fill in our own descriptors? I’m sure golfers would vary their choices depending on how they play. It could go from Actually Hit Par to AH F*** in the same cart.

All in all, I played in just over 3 hours and even though it was really hot, it was relaxing and fun.

Next post.


kiwihacker said...

GPS carts!!!! How cool, I want one

Jason said...

A.H. Blank donated 193k in 1963 to the City of Des Moines to create a children's zoo.

I believe the course (as well as the zoo next to it) are named after him because of his contributions.

You should come back and try some of the other courses in the area. Waveland, the oldest municipal golf course west of the mississippi, features large elevation changes and is quite a workout. Some of the non-municipal courses are extremely noteworthy as well.