I can’t get enough speedgolf.
I don’t know that I would call it an addiction, and my desire to play certainly doesn’t come from being good at it.
I just love the concept of combining running and golf, two of my passions.
The problem is it’s hard to find chances to play.
A few times, I’ve been at a course when there was nobody (or only a few people) golfing, and I’ve asked and been granted permission to speedgolf.
I can’t remember specific scores, but in the past I’ve played at Sunset Bay Golf Course, on the front nine at Watson Ranch (back when it was Coos Country Club) and at Kentuck Golf Course when it was still open.
In recent years, I’ve had multiple chances to play at Bandon Crossings, and the past two falls I’ve made part of my preseason football trip to Brookings and Gold Beach a stop at Salmon Run, where I was the first guy out in the morning.
Those are the toughest two courses I’ve played, in terms of the running portion of speedgolf (your score is your combined running time and golf score). Bandon Crossings has two steep climbs — after the fifth and 14th holes, which both end in a valley. Salmon Run has most of the longest stretches from one green to the next tee that I’ve ever seen.
This year, I talked a bit with Ed Murdock, the general manager at the course near Brookings. Though the vast majority of players use carts, he regularly walks it. I could easily see why that would be good if you are into golf for the exercise.
My speedgolf score improved there this year, especially the running part. My time was just under an hour and 12 minutes for the course, which I mapped at about 5.5 miles. And I shot a 109 despite having an atrocious nine three-putts in the 18 holes. That score was still six shots better than last year, and my time was nine minutes faster.
My best-ever speedgolf score on a regular course came this summer at Bandon Crossings, which also measures a little over 5 miles. A few weeks before my venture at Salmon Run, I shot a 94 in an hour and five minutes at Bandon Crossings. I had run that fast, but never shot anywhere close to that number while running. But unlike Salmon Run, I had one-putts on half the holes and even got a birdie, a relative rarity for me.
I actually had a better score at Old Bandon Golf Links last summer, when I shot an 85 in 56 minutes. But since that course is short, it’s not really fair to compare the two.
Why such an interest in speedgolf now? Because this weekend, I get a chance to participate in the amateur division in the first Speedgolf World Championships at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
The precursor to the world championships was the Bandon Dunes Speedgolf Classic, a tournament that was held each spring the past decade. And I’ve participated in that most years.
I’ve never broken 100 while speedgolfing at Bandon Dunes, and I’ve never run faster than an hour, though I’ve been close. But Bandon Dunes is a tougher course to play than the others I’ve speedgolfed — at least until last week.
Because the professionals in the field this week are playing both Old Macdonald and Bandon Dunes, I wanted to get a taste of what they are getting into.
So I played Old Macdonald late in the afternoon one day last week.
I found the run to be a little tougher than at Bandon Dunes, because the course has a few more hills. They are both a little under 5 miles in the most direct route, though I’ve proven over and over that I never follow that path.
The other thing that makes Old Macdonald tougher is the immense greens.
Bandon Dunes has huge greens, but some of them are dwarfed by those at Old Macdonald.
When I was trying to sharpen up for the championships this week on Bandon Dunes, the course we amateurs will play, I had only two three-putts.
When I played at Old Macdonald I had two three-putts before the third tee.
And on the fifth hole, appropriately called “Short,” I took four putts after hitting the green with my tee shot. That green is one of the more creative ones, with about a dozen different levels where the course workers could put the pins. While that’s not an excuse for a four-putt, on that hole and a couple others, I had time to jog over to where I thought my first putt would end up and then catch my breath waiting for the ball to stop rolling so I could hit it again.
I’m not alone in my attitude about the greens. Tim Scott, who helped make the tournament this week a reality, had a similar experience — and he’s an outstanding golfer, unlike me.
“It’s tough to score there because the greens are brutal,” he said. “It’s very difficult to get it around the hole and make putts. It’s going to be difficult that first day.”
If putting were my only trouble, I’d have a fine story to tell about Old Macdonald. But I was trying to use my pitching wedge to get out of bunkers as well, and that was a disaster, to the tune of having to play backward out of a few sand traps after I failed a couple times trying to get out in the direction of the hole.
I normally avoid the sand at all costs, but somehow managed to find my way into bunkers on seven straight holes during the back nine.
Throw in hitting the iconic tree on the third hole — something I probably couldn’t do once in 100 tries if you asked me to — and the result was an awful score and a running time of just under an hour and 18 minutes. I’m sure I can improve the latter portion of the speedgolf score, and I’d like to think I’d do better on the former, as well.
I’ll be curious to see what types of times and scores the pros put up at Old Mac.
I likely won’t be terribly competitive this weekend. The pros compete both Saturday and Sunday and the 45 amateurs tee it up after the pros on the second day.
But my running time should be among the better ones, at least for the amateurs — I met a pro from Austria who is competing and he’s a ton faster than me (and of course a better golfer).
And no matter where I place, I know I’ll have fun.