LA ROMANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC | As I roamed the Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo during last week’s Latin America Amateur Championship, I thought of how much I have enjoyed that Pete Dye-designed layout through the years. Not the 7,200-yard version that was testing the very talented competitors in this tournament, mind you. But rather, a course of much more modest mileage. For me, that is the one that plays from the Azul (or Blue) tees. Measuring a little more than 6,400 yards, it provides all the challenge and fun a golfer of reasonable ability could possibly desire.
But suddenly, I recalled how much longer Teeth often played from those markers, especially when the trade winds were pocking the cerulean waters of the Caribbean with whitecaps. And that reminded me of just how easy it is to underestimate a golf course if you do little more than look at the scorecard.
Consider Teeth, which has a couple of par-3s of less than 155 yards from the Azuls as well as a pair of 4-pars shorter than 360 yards, and two par-5s that measure less than 500 yards. No one could blame a person for presuming that layout would be a veritable piece of bizcocho (which is a type of cake in the Dominican).
But the low-handicapper who thinks that way is often the one who limps in with a score in the mid-80s, wondering how and where it all went so wrong.
It could have been the breezes forced him to hit 5-irons into greens that required pitching wedges on quieter days – and that caused trouble on a course that in reality played nearly as big as the one set up for the LAAC. Or the difficulties he had discerning the speeds and subtle contours of the greens.
But it may have also been a matter of there being much more to the scorecard than meets the eye.
It has happened to me on many different occasions. It still does, too, even though I should certainly know better by now.
On a trip to Bandon Dunes last summer, for example, the guys in my foursome – with handicap indexes ranging from 8 to 12 – perused the scorecard for Old Macdonald before teeing off. Our first impulse was to play the Green tees, at 6,320 yards. But the wind was up, and our caddies suggested that those tees would actually play closer to 6,700 yards. So rather reluctantly, we moved down to the Golds, which were set at what initially seemed a wildly wimpy 5,658 yards. Much to our surprise and delight, however, that turned out to be the perfect distance. And we happily played those markers on the other Bandon courses we played during our visit.
Sometimes, you have to read between the lines.