So, let’s clarify one thing: I love golf. The game confounds me, it drives me to the brink of tears, it angers me, and yet I can’t stop coming back to play “just one more round.”
A couple of years ago I posted a lot of golf-related stuff here, including some intense play-by-play descriptions of games wherein I was trying to learn something, to follow that haunting call every golfer (and wannabe) hears to “get better.” It’s been a long time since I felt motivated to yak here about the game, for reasons I don’t entirely understand. Today I feel like doing so, and there it is.
Yesterday I played a new and unfamiliar course with my smallish weekly league for our mid-season outing. I ended up with one of my better 18-hole scores to date (104, if you must know, and my 36 handicap brought it down to a 68 which was good enough to win the prize for low net), and I most emphatically do not owe that outcome to the purity of my ball striking. No, in fact all but maybe two of my tee shots with driver were pitiful: I would have fared batter had I teed off with a pitching wedge, at least I know I can clear 100 yards with that handy club. For reasons I still have not discovered I manage to slip that enormous 460cc club head almost completely under the ball and send it flying about a zillion miles straight up and maybe 50 yards forward. Not cool, no?
The important thing to note is that this time I didn’t let it get me down. No, not because of the cooler full of beer in the cart basket, though that helped. What turned the game around for me was realizing I just needed to apply some good course management and work with what I had.
See, given your typical Central New York golf course, played from the white tees, you’re looking at between 330 and 380 yards for any given par 4 hole, and maybe 450 for a par 5. What I realized is that once I get inside 150 yards I have numerous clubs that I can use to get onto the green in one or two more shots (depending on accuracy for any given attempt). That means that I only need to account for around 200 yards of distance from the tee before I get into my comfort zone. Let’s say I hit driver for 80 yards because of another sky ball: that means I only need 120 yards for my next shot and I’m in the zone! From there I can land it on the third shot and have a chance at par or bogey, or miss the approach, chip on, and have a shot at bogey or double. If I can get away from a testy hole with a double, that’s a win for me!
See how the stress and anxiety could just melt away? I was able to relax, smack my second shot (normally using my trusty 4 iron because fairway woods are another mystery nut I have yet to crack) well within 150, and press on.
I stuck with the driver (stubbornly trying to puzzle out what to do differently) until the last couple of holes. On the last few holes of the round I finally gave up trying to make friends with the big dog, and switched to hitting my 16 degree hybrid off the tee. Only the aforementioned stubbornness prevented me from taking that sensible step much sooner in the round. I have another 18 holes coming up tomorrow and methinks the driver will stay sheathed until I can get someone (preferably a teaching pro) to look at why my driver swing is so drastically different from the (pretty decent, I must say) swing I use with my irons. If I can start getting 180 yards or better reliably off the tee? Look out, PGA!
Heh. Okay, maybe not. But I’d be liking it.