The fourth hole at Hancock Golf Course several blocks north of the University of Texas is an interesting challenge. An elevated tee box overlooks a wide fairway, and the pin sits only 264 yards away from the blue, or back, tees.
Upon first description, the hole seems to invite aggressive play encouraging players to break out the fairway woods rather than to set up a comfortable second shot for an easy birdie opportunity. There’s just one problem; a pond guards the front left of the green. Aggressive players who think too highly of their accuracy may try to drive the green, only to discover they need to search in their bag for another ball.
No. 4 is one of my favorite holes. After a decently benign opening three holes, the first real challenge of the day is deciding what club to take off the tee. Normally, I’m strolling into this hole three to four over, ready to use No. 4 as a way to get back on track.
I normally play Hancock with my roommate, who hovers right around 40 and is in the 75-85 range when he plays 18 holes. He will pull out the fairway wood after scoring a birdie on three, and put a shot just past of the creek, setting up either a lob wedge for a simple putt.
If I were to bring out my fairway hybrid, I’d end up in the creek. Or, even worse, I hook it into a creek that’s a major hazard for the neighboring par-5 No. 6.
For me, pulling out the hybrid was a mistake. I learn from the mistake, I take my lone mulligan I give myself during my round, and go with what I know on my next shot, a steady 6-iron to set up a short iron.
I know I’m deficient with that hybrid club. Herman now knows his offense is deficient with Garrett Gray in at tight end. I didn’t respect the hazard’s ability to take my ball. Herman didn’t respect, well, Maryland’s lack of respect for Gray in line.
I hit the ball in the water. Herman’s offense was not effective with Gray serving as an in-line blocker.
Take a drop. Use the mulligan. Grab another club. Forget the most recent shot, and go with what works. But remember, there’s only one mulligan per round.
Pars are a welcome sight on my scorecard. I am thoroughly pleased after a hole if I do not give up any strokes.
The best way to not give away strokes is to cut down on three putts. Put it close while making an effort to put the ball in the cup with the flat stick. Get it close enough to where you hit the single digit distance putt. Make it and move on.
Putting was once one of my weakest points. I three-putted like I was paid for them. Before I went back to the course, I made a conscious effort to find the practice green, improve on my putting, and to minimize the deficiency in my game.
I recently played a round at Shadow Glen, a bit of a change for me since I enjoy playing nine much more than I enjoy playing eighteen.
I thought I had fixed my putting and would have a solid round on the green as soon as I got the ball there. I was ready to show the people I was playing with things had changed.
Instead, I had the same amount of three putts as I normally did, if not more, with one lengthy birdie putt mixed in.
Against Maryland, the special teams problems that plagued the Longhorns last season plagued them again in the first game of this year’s slate. Reggie Hemphill-Mapps and Poona Ford made plays, but Josh Rowland, the perceived help at kicker, did not live up to his perception. Returners and the coverage team made mistakes that made it seem like the problems weren’t addressed at all.
Both the long and short putts were missed.
Make the easy putts before trying the 20-foot downhill double-breakers, because without those, it doesn’t matter how close that double-breaker gets if you can’t hit the 7-footer.
Golf, to me, is the ultimate test of learning from mistakes but not dwelling on them. Sure, you duffed it into the bunker on the right side of the fairway on No. 12. Can you put that behind you when you have a 70-yard approach shot on No. 14?
Herman and his staff made mistakes on Saturday they can’t afford to forget or repeat.
Don’t use the same strategies that end up in the hazard time and time again. Work on what you know was a problem last time you played. Get simple before you get fancy.
You get one mulligan per round. A pain-free do over. But only one, then you have to assess penalty strokes.