The game of golf can be an emotional experience. Very few golfers go through a round without exhibiting some kind of emotion. Whether that emotion is happiness, anger, frustration, joy, disgust or a combination of several feelings, the game tends to reduce our maturity level by several notches.
There are any number of things that can turn the most mild mannered human being into a creature that scares his playing partners. Usually though, it is a shot that comes off our golf clubs that makes us intermittently smile, frown, laugh or even cry. I will give you some examples. My guess is that one or more of my list will remind you of the time that you hit one shot that
Shot No. 1. "The club turned in my hand."
The legendary Sam Snead was once asked how hard to grip a golf club. He said that you should do so as if you are holding a baby bird. The suggestion was that a grip should be very light on pressure.
That's just fine and dandy, unless the stupid club turns in your hand. When that happens, the ball will squirt off in a direction that no one expected it to go, including the golfer himself. When it happens to you the emotion is one of shock peppered with a little anger.
Your first reaction might well be that you should get the shot over. However, there are no "do-overs" in the game of golf. If you don't believe me, just ask that guy you are playing against. He will say something to the effect that you should hold on to the club tighter. You of course are only thinking of that poor baby bird.
Shot No. 2. "Did you just shank the ball?"
You are already angry when one of your playing companions asks this idiotic question. Now you are madder. How can the guy say that with a straight face? You want to shout out an answer. "No, I like to hit the ball a hundred yards to the right of my target; it allows me to play the whole course."
The shank seems to come out of nowhere and you are trying to find an excuse for the miserable shot. Bad lie, the ball moved at impact, shot #1 (yes, the club turning in your hand can cause this phenomenon) are all valid explanations. After all, it can't be our fault.
What you don't want to do is hit this shot twice in a row. Then it becomes a mental exercise and most of us can't win that contest!
Shot No. 3. "You can't stop there!"
You know what I'm talking about here. The putt that is heading dead center into the cup comes crashing to a halt an inch or less from the promised land. This invokes a reaction of disbelief and, depending on the circumstances, mild to severe irritation.
For a lag putter like myself, the chance to experience this emotion is a constant threat. Other golfers tend to charge putts, which can lead to a different if not similar reaction. Then there is the case of my buddy who this week had quite an adventure on the green.
Wednesday, playing the Legacy in Michigan, every putt he struck over ten feet out went some five feet past the cup. Each time his reaction was slightly hilarious to me. He kept saying, "I can't hit it any softer." Of course I could not believe that statement though I could commiserate with his unhappiness. The next night we were partners in league play and the same thing kept happening. Until the next to last hole, that is.
Needing to sink the birdie putt to win the hole, his fifteen footer was tracking all the way only to come up an inch short. As he chirped about the improbability of this happening to him, I decided he needed a boost in spirits. I said with utter sincerity, "at least you didn't go five feet by."
Yeah I know; it is a wonder that I still have friends.
Shot No. 4. "You have to be the luckiest guy I've ever seen."
This comment comes from your opponent when you yank your drive dead left into a mini-forest only to have the ball strike a tree and bound back into the fairway. He is experiencing a certain kind of emotion (let's just say he is not particularly happy) while you are thinking that the game owed you one. Hey, how many times has your ball taken one last roll into a trap or a body of water or some other exotic and less than pretty location?
A shy grin creases your face and a bit of nervous laughter erupts as you point out to anyone that will listen that it is "good clean living" that produced that break. This will be the biggest lie that you will tell that night and considering the way we embellish all of our good shots after the round, that is saying something.
Shot No. 5. "That baby was staked!"
A really long putt will occasionally find the bottom of the cup and you know that you were just lucky. When you strike an iron shot that is all over the flag; well, that was all you and your skill at playing the game.
When this happens you are immediately filled with joy. The tendency is to let your playing partners reach the green ahead of you while you wait for a magic phrase. It might be "you don't need your putter" or "that's good" or even "nice birdie." Whatever the saying, you are already planning your speech for when you tell everyone about the one you staked.
The good feeling could last a couple of weeks as the story gets recounted again and again. A more likely scenario is that the emotion of pure happiness will only last until your next shot.
Such is the game of golf and the emotions that go with playing it.
Al Stephenson is The A-T's golf columnist.
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