I suppose it’s safe to say I’m a golf addict. In fact, one of the major reasons I started this blog was to give myself a place where I could blather on about the game. I play in two leagues (though only one of them is a “formal” one) which means I average at least two rounds of nine a week. I have my work schedule arranged to come in much earlier than most people so I can leave early enough to make the tee times on the days I play. Every weekend, weather permitting, brings the question of whether I’ll get out for a round instead of doing stuff around the house, and it’s somewhat amusing to my golfing buddies how quickly I jump on a suggestion to get together to play.
My league partner calls me “golf whore,” but I counter that implies being a paid professional. I’m more like a golf slut.
Do I consider myself a skilled player? Hells, no. I’ve never so much as broken 100, much less risen to the level of play that seems to be the norm among the golf bloggers whose sites I visit—and that brings me to another reason I started this blog. I don’t see much representation from the ranks of the true hacker. Oh, sure, I read posts from guys who call themselves “hacker,” but then they let drop how they can hit a fairway wood 200-plus yards, or are down on themselves because they don’t break 90 often enough, and right away I know they’re not a real “hack.”
A “hack” is a truly struggling high handicapper, the sort of golfer who would top out way over the USGA handicap index limit if they didn’t cap it. My kind of golfer. You who, like me, aspire to being able to play at double bogey consistently and for whom bogey is a good hole and an actual par damn near a life-altering event. Someone for whom a 100-yard carry over a pond is fraught with worry because duffing into the water is a very real possibility.
We true hackers love the game, too. We keep coming back, again and again, despite the proliferation of snowmen on our cards, despite the three- and four-putts, despite the duffed fairway shots and the sculled/fluffed chips. Every now and again a shining moment brings a 240-yard dead straight drive, or a great fairway shot that nearly makes the green, or a chip that leaves an easy putt for bogey (or, dare I say, par). Those moments keep us coming back as they dangle the hope in front of us like a shiny lure: maybe, just maybe, we just might become a golfer some day.
How well do I actually play? My best-ever round of nine was a 49. Lately I’ve been shooting nine on an average of mid-to-low 50s. I recently shot 104 on a round of 18, my best-ever, with a 50 on the front nine (par 35) and a 54 on the back (par 37). My drives are improving somewhat: I can clear 180 reasonably often and sometimes clear 200. I’ve reached 240 a couple of times. I school myself to a very leisurely pace because trying to get faster club head speed just results in over-swinging and a badly sliced drive. My standard 150 club is my 3 wood, though in the past couple of weeks I’ve ended up shooting longer (I’ll get into why in a future post) so I might have to revise that. I struggle mightily with my irons, often as not hitting behind the ball and chunking them. When I make good contact I hit 9 iron about 90 yards, and the rest of the bag varies by 10 or so up and down from that basis. It’s hard to pin down a distance for each club because the quality of my shot can still vary widely from one swing to the next. My chipping is tolerable, though I have trouble with tight/hardpan lies (quite common on the courses I play around here) and bouncing into a thin hit. My putting is actually not half bad, and often a good lag gets me out of trouble after a lousy chip. Three-putts are thankfully rare, except on really tricky greens.
This is going to be a site for people like you and me. When I share a golfing tip, it’s not going to be something alien like how to shape a shot. Shape a shot? How about being able to hit the ball straight (or even hit the ball) in the first place, eh? I’ve had some lessons, and they’re not the “tune up” kind; they’re the kind where you get basic instruction about how to stand and how to start your backswing—the stuff we true hackers need to know so we can start to improve. I’ll do my best to share some of what I’ve picked up at such lessons, as well as from things I’ve read or watched. I’ve amassed a small collection of how-to books and DVDs of varying degrees of usefulness; I’ll talk about the good stuff I come across, and maybe some of the not-so-good. I might even do some bitching about the “Get Way Better Instantly, Without Having to Change a Thing!” ads I tend to get flooded with, not to mention the e-books that turn out just to be rip-offs of classic books you can get from anywhere. I’ll probably also upset some purists, because in my belief a couple of the “faddish” techniques out there actually seem to offer some benefit, even if they’re not the “insta-cure” the marketing hype would have you believe.
I’m going to present some equipment reviews now and then, too. No, you’re not going to see an analysis of how Driver X hits five yards better than Driver Y. In my case I probably can’t hit either one to a consistent enough distance to tell the difference without taking an average across several dozen shots—even if I had access to a facility where I could get accurate distance measurements (I don’t). I do know something about where and how you can get some damned good gear for a lot less than the purists pay, and even when I do pony up for “name brand” stuff I’ve got preferences and experiences to share. At the level you and I play, we just want to know where you can get some decent gear that will do the job well, without sweating dropping hundreds of buckaroos on something that really isn’t going to do you any measureable good. Am I right? Thought so.