If I were a real estate agent, and Apple Orchard was a house you wanted information on, I would tell you that it was a “cozy handy-man’s dream.” This is, of course, just bullshit-speak for “small place that needs to be completely overhauled.” Now, by “complete overhaul” I do not mean to imply that the course has fallen into disrepair. It is a well maintained park district course…I just think that, for the tract it is on, that the layout, the hazards and the greens could be reworked to make it a little more challenging.
In the end, though, if you want to work on your short game and are looking to play 9 holes for 10 dollars in 60 minutes, then Apple Orchard is a fine choice. This is a staple course for first-time golfers in the tri-village area of Streamwood, Hanover Park and Bartlett.
Alex told me earlier in the week that he wanted to take me golfing for Father’s Day/my birthday once he got paid. Pay day happened today, so it would be another long lunch break spent on the golf course. I went to work and and awaited Alex’s call to come pick him up, which came a little after 2pm. I swung by the parent’s house, picked up the bro (and my paycheck) and we headed out. As soon as we got within about 1 mile of the course, we started getting raindrops on the windshield. Nothing major. The sky was imposing, but not yet ominous. We pressed on and, luckily, did not encounter much more than a light drizzle. That does not mean our parade was rained on, though. As if it was their only mission in life, a foursome comprised of two moms and their young sons scampered off the practice green and beat us to the first tee. It took them about 15 or 90 minutes to finish the 145 yard first hole. By the time we finished the first hole, they were still on the 2nd tee. And they did not ask if we wanted to play through.
As we sat on the bench and watched them wallow in their own ineptitude, the raindrops got slightly larger and slightly more frequent, so we decided that, in the interest of finishing a 1 hour course in under 3 hours, we would just skip the second hole and go straight to the 3rd tee. As they saw us traipsing down the fairway, one of the moms finally asked if we wanted to play through, which we did. We finished the hole in about 3 minutes and were glad to have them behind us. I hate to speak ill of them. I am sure they are nice people, and I encourage the women and kids to get out there and golf…but there is a little thing called golf etiquette…a little thing on the scorecard that says “keep pace with the group ahead, and let faster groups play through.” Please be mindful of that. Nothing ruins a round of golf like a bunch of snails throwing you off of your pace and rhythm.
I digress. There was golf going on. Orchard is a short and wide open par 3 course that features no discernible fairways, tiny, flat greens, ill-placed bunkers that rarely come into play and water that comes into play on only 1 hole. It is definitely a beginner’s course, but to be completely honest, it is nice to get on a course and shoot well and feel confident.
The 4th hole is an 80 yard hole with a huge, elevated bunker in front of it. Not an intimidating hole, but with the green sitting below the bunker and sloping downward, it is a tough hole for me. I am in between clubs. I can hit my PW about 110 yards, but I can only hit my SW about 70. I did not want to be in the trap, but behind the green was some St. Andrews type-cabbage that I did not want to break my wrists in, so I went with the sandy and actually placed it right on the green and 2 putted for my first and only par of the day, which was nice.
Up until the 4th, Alex and I were tied at +4. While I barely cleared the bunker with my high, arcing sand wedge, Alex carried his over the green and into the St. Andrews-type straw, which my dumbass forgot to get a picture of…but rest assured…it was tall and thick and although he got out in one swing, it took him 4 more to get up and down, and with that triple bogey, I took my first lead of the day.
The 6th hole is the longest on the course at 213 yards. I pulled out my trusty 5 wood and planned to fade it around the greenside bunker on the right and tap in for birdie. Simple enough, eh? Of course, I always seem to forget that my 5 wood is the only club that I hit dead straight, every time, no matter if I am trying to bend it. So I ended up under a low-lying tree under the large green. My chip barely made it up to the fringe and I was left with a long, uphill putt for par. On my first attempt, my putter got caught in my skirt and I got it about halfway there. My second putt went about 8 feet past, and I blew another one before finally putting the ball in the damn hole. Alex’s bogey on that hole brought him within 2 strokes of me, and the 6 I put up jeopardized my chance at shooting a round in the thirties.
By the time we got to the 9th tee, there was a slight backup. An elderly couple were waiting on the bench while a young kid teed off. Since noone was behind us, we stuck around on the 8th green and worked on the putts and chips that cost us strokes. Alex put up another 6 on 8, which opened up a 5 stroke lead for me. My concern was not beating him, though. My concern was keeping my last hole at 5 strokes or less, assuring me, at worst, a 39. Shooting +12 on a par 3 course that measures a touch under 1200 yards and has very few hazards or trees is not the kind of thing that most golfers would be excited about…but it would be exciting for me.
At 105 yards to the center of the green and probably 75 to clear the water, I was not going to chance trying to muscle my sand wedge over it, and decided a gingerly swung PW would be the safer alternative. Good goddamn thing I clubbed up, as my limpy-wristed-namby-pamby swing landed it in the 15 or 20 yard patch between the water and the green. I had been pitching well all day and had plenty of green to work with, though, so I was feeling pretty confident in my ability to par or bogey the hole.
In typical choke artist fashion, though, I pulled my head up on impact and duffed it off to the right, putting it on the green by about 3 feet, and leaving me with 30 plus footer for par. The putt was dead uphill, which I know most people like, but I almost always leave it short, so I did not necessarily consider that to be beneficial.
You can see Alex’s ball and a second ball that I hit on the green here. The ball I actually was playing for my score is barely visible waaaaaay back there at the edge of the green slightly right of the pin, appearing as a tiny white pixel. I am a colossal dumbass.
As I stood over it, I said out loud something I remember Alton Brown saying when he was applying his dry rub to the ribs that he made.
“Don’t be prissy with it.”
The only downfall of the claw grip that I use is that I really have to concentrate on muscling my long/uphill putts. I switched to the claw because it was the only way to keep myself from zipping 10 feet past, but it came at the cost of poor lags. Luckily for me, though, I was able to put myself in a position to 3 putt and knock in for a 39. Again, not exactly the kind of thing I think most people would brag about, but there is something satisfying about averaging a little under 5 strokes a hole…even if they are all very short, simple holes.
One point of interest, on the 126 yard 7th hole, I used a soft 9 iron due to the hole being uphill and a stiff breeze. I was off the right, front edge of the green. Alex used his sand wedge. He hit the thing 140 yards. Over the green. He can hit his sand wedge exactly twice as far as I can hit mine.