Thursday, November 05, 2009

Prairie Landing Excels at Events

I wasn't planning on writing a review for Prairie Landing again, especially this late in the season, but when a course does something exceedingly well, I really need to recognize them.

This "gush" stems from the experience that I and three of my friends had on Halloween morning during the Prairie Landing annual 4-man Fall Scramble. Of course, this scramble doesn't always fall on Halloween, but this year it did, and it only made the event that much more enjoyable.

If you have never participated in a 4-man (or woman) scramble anywhere, I strongly recommend it. For those new to the game, in a 4-man scramble, each member of a team hits the ball from the tee, then all four take their second shot from the location of the best drive, then all four take their third shot from the location of the best second shot, and so on. Often there will be "local" rules such as a team having to use at least two drives from each player, or not holing out a "gimme" putt until all four have putted the previous stroke, etc. Typically, winning scores in 4-man scrambles are at least around 60, and can dip well into the upper 50s (and that isn't always the weather). Birdies are the norm, and close approach shots along with solid putting are the only way to win. Perhaps the best thing about the 4-man scramble is that you don't feel the same stress over each shot, as generally your teammates will cover for your bad shots, and vice versa...generally.

Many courses offer scramble events throughout the year, but a fair number of them are featured in the early Spring and late Fall to bookend the regular season. What this can mean is some pretty dicey weather, though you can get lucky here in Chicago too. Halloween 2009 was not a lucky weather day. When we arrived at the course at 8:00 am to utilize Prairie Landing's excellent practice area, it was barely 40 degrees, and the wind was howling making it feel much colder. It stayed like that through the entire round, with the wind frequently piercing even the most inner of the many layers we all wore. Alas, everyone has to deal with the same weather at this shotgun start event, so it can not explain the results.

Being Halloween, the Prairie Landing staff was in the spirit of the day, and each was decked out as a character from the Wizard of Oz...right down to the little dog Toto, yes a real dog! Our intrepid leader, Jim Larson endured the cold and wind dressed as Auntie Em, and no, he/she was not wearing warm stockings under that dress. Bravo!

The day began with continental breakfast and a grand Bloody Mary bar that looked so nice I almost forgot how I despise Bloody Marys. We were sent off to our respective starting tees, the Par 3 3rd for my team, along with door prizes such as a cap, towel, and sleeve of balls. Perhaps my only suggestion for the future would be to give the same prize to all participants next time to avoid the ugly wrestling matches that spontaneously broke out for possession of the 1 per team caps.

It is important to note that though the weather was the same for all, nobody on my team had even picked up a club in at least 5 weeks prior to this event, and one of our players who shall remain nameless, BRUCE, barely made the tee time, so took his first swing on the 1st tee. We scrambled to make par on our first four holes, then barely missed birdie on our next three before hitting the clubhouse at even par (not good). At the "turn" we were given dogs and burgers, soft drinks, and delicious fudge brownies before heading back out into the cold.

We finally made our first bird on 10, then got back to scrambling for par on 11-15. As we approached the long Par 4 16th playing at just over 410 yards directly into the wind on a 40-degree day, we felt a bit hopeless. On the previous hole, playing in the same direction, our best drives were solidly struck and went about 190 yards, so we knew 16 was going to be near impossible. Well, I managed to strike an heroic 3-wood to about 15 feet from the cup from about 210 yards away, and then jarred the putt for the always satisfying "all me" birdie, net eagle! If nothing else, we felt confident in a skin there. After another par on 17, we birdied 18 and found ourselves on the leader board with two to play.

Ah yes, the leader board! Yet another great feature at Prairie Landing is the real-time leader board on the cart's built in GPS screen. At this event, it displayed both net leaders and their gross score as well. As much as I despise golf carts, this feature makes the event incredibly enjoyable, and with the way we played the later holes, kept us pumped to finish strong...we were "making a move"!

Numbers one and two were our final holes, and both headed straight back into the wind. After finding the fairway, and needing birdie, I was again able to muster some heroics and placed a knockdown 7-iron to about 12 feet away from a tucked pin. Brad made the putt on our fourth attempt to seal yet another birdie. Number two found me again hitting a high-pressure approach with a 5-iron uphill and again into the howling wind. I pulled it off, and Bruce, looking for some redemption, stepped up on our first putt and drained a 25 footer for birdie and a round of 5-under 67, net 59. Not bad after our tough start, but alas not enough as we finished narrowly out of the money on both gross and net. Ah, but we still had a skin coming, right? Wrong, turns out one other team scored a net eagle on 16 - cheaters - so we missed our skin.

Following the round, the Prairie Landing staff served up free pitchers of beer and a chili bar before holding an entertaining, if not somewhat disappointing awards ceremony. The reception was raucous at times, and it appeared as though everyone really enjoyed themselves. You can view the official results and photos here.

Finally, at a scramble, you want to see lots of side prizes, and due to the layout at Prairie Landing, there are a bunch. With five Par 3s came five closest to the pin contests, and man, every winner was hit stiff...great shots were needed to win. Hole nine featured a longest putt contest, and hole ten the prestigious longest drive contest where I striped my drive down the middle of the fairway and was a good 30 yards short of the eventual winner! I am sure it was that damn shag bag ball I was playing - wink, wink.

So, my thanks to Prairie Landing Gold Club for a great event! Well done! I, and my teammates are sure to be out there for at least two of their events again next year, and hopefully can get at least 20 more degrees of warmth from Mother Nature in the future.

Fairways and Greens!

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1 comment:

Ellen said...

Thanks for the blog Dave, we take pride in running a first class tournament experience and it's nice to know you recognized that and appreciated the effort we put forth to make it a great competition. John Schlaman, Prairie Landing Golf Club GM

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