When I played golf in high school, my normal ball flight was a fade. My best friend, Don Faulkner, hit a draw.
I envied him. Granted, Don hit his share of pull-hooks, but when he made a good swing, he'd knock it 30 yards past my best drive. That draw could cut through the wind and would roll and roll, while my fade would get eaten up by the wind and would kick sideways when it landed.
Off and on for the past three decades, I've tried to learn to hit a draw. I can do it -- about two times out of ten. Those two drives are things of beauty, but the other eight are disasters.
A couple weeks ago, I gave up (not for the first time, I admit). I decided I'm better off fading the ball 220 yards into the fairway, rather than hooking it 240 yards and into the woods.
Then last week, I played Blooming Prairie Country Club -- and it felt like coming home.
The course dates back to 1936. I haven't been able to identify the original architect, but whoever he was, I'm betting he hit the ball from left to right. I won't go so far as to call the course a slicer's delight, but it's darn close.
BPCC, like most of the 9-hole courses I've played so far this summer, doesn't rely on length to defend itself. From the back tees it measures just 3,026 yards, and big hitters will have no difficulty reaching both of the par 5s in two.
But water and wetlands abound. Much of it is largely ornamental and probably catches very few balls, but if you hit a wedge fat or pull a drive, you can get wet on several holes.
The course has just a handful of nicely maintained bunkers, and they're very much in play. The first hole, for example -- a short par 5 that measures just 456 yards from the back tees -- has two deep traps that guard the front of the green. I avoided them, and I'm very glad I did.
The greens, simply put, are wonderful. They hadn't been mowed the day I played, so they rolled fairly slowly, but they were smooth and nearly immaculate. Some are small, while others are borderline huge, and many of the greens fall off steeply just a foot or two into the fringe, which makes for some interesting chips back up to the pin.
Plus, several of the greens (Nos. 5, 6 and 8) have recently been expanded to add collection areas that offer some knee-knocking, huge-breaking putts.
I'd describe the fairways as generous and quite firm. The rough, if you happen to find it, isn't punitive, so the biggest problem if you miss the fairway is the trees. I only had to play out sideways once, but this is definitely a course where you want to ask yourself, "Where is the good miss?"
And really, that's one of the things I look for in a golf course. The average player needs places to bail out -- and BPCC has such spots on nearly every hole.
The best example of that is No. 9, a 300-yard par 4 with water down the left side. While the fairway starts out fairly narrow, on the right side it opens up considerably after about 150 yards, and a well-struck drive that misses right will usually leave a wide-open look at the pin. I missed the fairway but had just 60 yards left and nothing in my way. I missed a 15-footer for birdie, but it was my easiest par of the day.
But finally, let's talk about the doglegs. BPCC has three of them, all of them shortish par 4s, and all of them are borderline right angles. You could get away with a draw on two of them, but they are made for a fade.
Hands down, my favorite hole on the course is No. 3 -- and a draw simply won't play. It measures 358 yards from the back tees, which literally are cut out of a cattail slough. The green is invisible from the tees, and so is most of the fairway.
The required shot will carry over 125 yards of slough (you'll be re-teeing if you top one), then fade into the fairway. I chose this moment to make my best contact of the day, which meant I hit it through the fairway. Fortunately, my fade kicked to the right when it landed, stopping short of the trees behind the landing area. I had a perfect look at the green from 145 yards out.
It's one of the prettiest holes I've seen all summer, but it isn't easy. A bunker guards the right front of the green, so this isn't a shot you want to come out of. Left is the correct miss, and that's where I hit my 6-iron. The chip from that spot is delicate, and I ran it five feet past the hole. My par putt lipped out.
No. 4 is another severe dogleg right, but this time you can at least see the fairway from the tee. I faded my drive a bit too much, but I got lucky. The ball stopped a few feet short of a pond, and while I had a slightly downhill lie, I had a clear look from 100 yards at a huge, elevated green that falls away steeply on three sides.
My 9-iron hit stopped 20 feet right of the hole. The putt had to go up and down two ridges, and I was happy to write down a two-putt par.
And so the round went. Every time I pulled out my driver, I visualized a fade, and that's what I hit. I felt like the course was laid out with me in mind, and given that most amateur golfers hit the ball from left to right, I'd say that Blooming Prairie Golf Club will be a good fit for almost anyone.
But my buddy Don would hate it.