July 15, 2013

“Golf is hard” — Dr. Jim Suttie

I don’t mind the occasional shot that strays off target. I don’t mind the drive that makes a beeline into the woods. (Well, I do, but I know those kinds of things can happen over a round of golf.) As much as they are exasperating, I don’t even mind the occasional (or not so) three-putt on a hard, bumpy green. What I do mind is stupid mental errors – the kind that, in the turn of a moment, takes a bona fide par or bogey opportunity and turns it into a scrambling mess where all of a sudden double or triple or worse bogey is staring you in the face.

Allow me to explain. I’m playing a fairly care-free nine holes of golf with a couple of Goodboy friends at the rustic, yet challenging Maynard Golf Club. On the par 4 7th, I duck-hooked a drive to the right on a dogleg left to give me a good look at the green. I dutifully grab a five-iron and leave myself just twenty yards in front of the green just short and left of a bunker protecting the right side of the green that sloped back to front. The pin was placed about a half-dozen paces from the front of the green, so I’ve got a pretty clear shot at putting it on or near the front of the green, then two-putting for my bogey five.

But what do I do? Without even thinking about the consequences about what I’m attempting, I get too cute and chip the ball towards the pin. It takes an odd bounce, jerks right, then finds the left side of the bunker. I’m seeing red at my stupidity, but all is not lost – all I have to do is drop it on the green and at worst two-putt for a double-bogey six. Not great for sure, but acceptable given the mental mistake I just made. Instead, I catch too much of the ball and it flies over the green, just barely missing from going out-of-bounds. I chip on, then two-putt for a triple-bogey seven, and two or three shots are lost forever.

On nine my inner voice is telling me to eschew driver for the relative safety of a 3-wood but “Doggy Duval” McLaughlin hits driver and tells me there’s plenty of room out there between a pond on the right and thick woods on the left. I pull driver and smash one straight into the woods. Not satisfied at the choice I just made, I proceed to repeat the same shot, this time another eighty yards further. By this time, I can’t see straight at my stupidity, so I drop a ball, chunk an approach shot, chunk another chip, and three-putt for a crowd-pleasing eight. In just two holes, I turned a possible 43-44 into a embarrassing 50.

I guess what bothers me the most at this point is the mental mistakes that will balloon a score from good to “should” in the span of just a few minutes. It happened at Trull Brook on Friday when, lying three just ten yards from the green on a par 5, I dumped an easy pitch shot into a bunker, then mangled a sand wedge and a couple of pitching wedges before turning an easy bogey six into a three-putt crowd-pleasing nine.

My Uncle Don mentioned yesterday that you can hit all the driving range balls you want but it doesn’t relate to getting around a golf course. And it’s true – driving ranges don’t know anything about hard or soft fairways, strategically-placed bunkers, woods, ponds, lakes, and greens that tilt back to front or left to right or vice-versa. And that’s where good decision-making comes in. You can’t teach it – it’s nothing more than, as Inspector Harry Callahan would say – a man knowing what his limitations are.

A week from today, my four-month immersion into golf and the Goodboys Invitational weekend will be over. As I look back on the countless hours of banging balls and chipping and putting at Superstition Springs Golf Club on hot Arizona afternoons I see the end coming as if it were an encroaching evening from the east on a late summwer afternoon. It’s all coming to a close, and there is precious time to put everything I’ve done and learned into practice. Now is not the time to start getting sloppy and making mental mistakes on and around golf course greens – when I do I’m just wasting all the time and effort I’ve put into this to date.

I’m learning just how hard it is for someone of my relative golf talent to shoot bogey golf. I can play bogey or less golf as I did today on five of nine holes, but if the other four holes are triple or quadruple bogied what’s the point? I’ve got five days to learn how to make better decisions on a golf course before the Goodboys Invitational starts.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 00:33 | Comments Off on (Bogey) Golf Is Hard
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