Is there a more fickle game than the game of golf? One minute you are sailing along feeling good about yourself as well as your game, and the next thing you know it's head shaking time. Things happen on the links that cause a golfer to ask a series of familiar questions. Invariably the questions begin with the words "how come."
At least this is the case for yours truly. Maybe it's the way I play the game. Perhaps if I were a little more talented I wouldn't have as many questions, but I doubt it. The game can make you smile, laugh, cry or scream and all of those things can happen on the same hole. Whether you are an amateur or a professional eventually golf will have you questioning the stark realities of the game.
My "tour" group ventured to Riverby Hills Golf Course for our weekly golf experience. Riverby is a course that was brand new to most of the gang. That did not however, stop the questions from springing forth. Here's a sampling of those "how come" questions.
How come when all members of your foursome hit sparkling drives on the opening hole, none of them put their second shots on the green?
My group was our final pairing of the day and as another foursome stood waiting for their turn, they watched us tee off. After hitting great tee shots, one of my guys remarked about how we showed off to the strangers behind us. Another of our group was quick to point out that they hadn't seen our second shots yet. If we were lucky, they didn't get to see them.
Though all four of us were near the green - we were hitting from 130 to 160 yards out - no one reached the putting surface. To make matters worse, no one got up and down for a par. Wouldn't you think at least one of us would hit the green and maybe two or three of us would par the hole? It didn't happen and left us asking how this could be.
How come when you have a four-foot putt for birdie you can't even touch the hole, but a forty-footer for bogey finds the bottom of the cup? Yes, that did indeed happen to one of the golfers in my foursome and believe me, I was none too happy about it.
Despite missing the short birdie putt on the front nine, I was playing well until the 11th hole, when my game went south. I thought I had settled down a little by the time I reached the par 5 18th. Two good shots left me with a chance to hit the green in regulation, and then the head shaking began. Two absolutely miserable shots left me still a sizable distance from the elusive green. The next shot found the putting surface, but alas it was 40 feet from the cup.
Now, I'm perturbed, if not a little perplexed, and waste no time in lining up the bogey putt. Forty feet away with a two-foot break and that silly little golf ball drops dead center. Now I'm left to wonder if using a "who cares" putting approach is not the best way to use the flat stick. Seriously, how come things like that happen?
The 160 yard-par 3 11th left me shaking my head again. There was a big wait on the tee and a different group from the front nine came up as we waited. Having time to chat with the newcomers, it occurred to me that we could show off for a different foursome. That, it turned out, was a bad thought.
I was the first to tee off and though there was water all the way to the hole, it should not come into play. When you strike the ball and it only goes some 50 yards and slightly to the right, well at least the water did not come into play. It was a little embarrassing to say the least. I compounded it by hitting my next shot slightly worse than the first.
How come the golf gods let you do that in front of people who are starting to wonder if you only talk a good game?
As you have read before on these pages, we have some senior golfers and some youngsters as we like to be called. Deciding what tees to play, particularly at a new course can be interesting. We looked at the scorecard and noticed that the 15th was a concern.
The seniors were going to have to play tees that measured 420 yards while the kids got to tee it up from 380. We shook our heads until we realized that the seniors were playing the hole as a par 5, while the juniors were playing a par 4. We made the decision to switch the tees. The non-oldsters would play the hole from 420 and the cagey veterans from the shorter distance. Both groups would play it as a par 4 with a chance for a skin.
Problem solved, or so we thought. How come on this day the course decided to move the senior tees up to the standard tee box? Talk about confusion. My group, after consulting with the group ahead of us, teed off from the blacks and proceeded to line up our second shots. We were then told by an earlier group that they decided to play the hole as is, meaning the seniors got only a ten yard advantage.
Much to the chagrin of the group following us, we returned to the tee area and had at it again. If nothing else, we gave those strangers some stories to tell at our expense of course.
Despite all the craziness of playing the game, we will return next week because we love the game. You cry about the missed birdie opportunity, you laugh at the made bogey putt, and you think you will never hit another bad shot in the presence of a stranger.
To quote the late Jim Valvano: If you laugh, you think and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day.
Al Stephenson is the golf columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.
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