The Shot From Hell

Everything’s going fine, relatively speaking, then IT surfaces…

Thrash TalkPerhaps it’s a platitude to say that it happens to the best of us. Maybe, it’s nothing more than the cruelty of Murphy’s Law in action, but it seems that The Shot From Hell is always poised to show its ugly face whenever a golfer gains any serious momentum. Really, it has many faces, some more gruesome than others, but all disheartening in their own particular ways.

There are degrees of course. The “massacred bunker shot,” when pathetically executed by the touring professional will only marginally resemble the same effort by the 20 handicapper. However the effect is the same. As, amidst a tremendous explosion of sand, the golf ball fails to exit the bunker and rolls comically back to the golfer’s feet, the slumped shoulders and misery (and the desire to bury one’s head in the sand below) are quite universal.

There are bad shots, to be sure, which show up in the middle of an otherwise decent round: the push, the pull, even the slightly fat or thin shot, but none of these have the completely demoralizing character of The Shot From Hell.

Most often, it seems, the Shot, will appear in an otherwise innocuous or opportune setting. For example, you might hit three inches behind the ball on your second shot from the fairway on a par 5 where you were only attempting a layup. The divot, a veritable strip steak, flies 20 yards, the ball goes half that distance and you are still in no position to go for the green.

If I had approached you prior to your setup to this calamitous masterpiece of a golf shot and warned of the impending result, offering that if you were to simply add a stroke to your final tally at the end of the round, I would ensure, with my supernatural powers and ability to stave off the demons, that the layup come off as planned, what would you do? Speaking for myself, I can say that I would surely accept such an offer. Here’s why.

The Shot From Hell absolutely shatters the golfer’s fragile confidence for an indeterminate period of time.

Delving into the bank of clichés once again, the psyche of a golfer is highly combustible, ready to burst into flames with the slightest provocation, difficult to restructure and rebuild, an enigma, a thing to be coddled, but often to no avail.

Consider the scenario that follows. You’ve just made birdie on the long opening par five of your local course. It’s wasn’t necessarily pretty, but you got up and down for a four. One under through one – what could be better than this? You step on to the tee of the second hole, a short par four which doglegs to the left. The tee shot is relatively open but there’s this one tree a little to the left of start of the fairway, maybe thirty yards out. It’s not particularly tall, but it’s enough to catch your eye. Definitely shouldn’t be in play with a draw, and a fade (to cut the dog leg) should carry well over this non-obstacle. Besides, you tell yourself, good players don’t see the hazards, much less worry about them.

You set up for a high cut, starting the ball just left of the tree, visualizing your ball clearing the tree by a good twenty yards peeling gently off to the right and landing softly in the left center of the fairway. Setting up over the ball, you try not to get too technical, simply feeling the shot in the club, seeing it in your mind’s eye.

You take the club back, everything’s good so far. Smooth transition to the down swing. It’s about here that something goes terribly wrong. Your next sensation is that of hearing the ball smack into the aforementioned tree, plopping to the ground (undoubtedly right behind the same tree) after a pathetic smother hook.

And there it is, The Shot From Hell.

The Shot From Hell makes the golfer the laughingstock of his audience for an indeterminate period of time.

And again, you don’t often play for money (you know you shouldn’t) but your game has been pretty solid as of late and your putting has really been top notch. So, you consent to a game of Nassau with your buddies. Things haven’t gone so well on the front, but you’ve been incredible on the back and have a short up and down for the low back nine score.

Since it’s an important shot, you’ve paced it off. It’s 18 yards to the pin, 10 yards to the front edge. A straightforward pitch onto the relatively uphill green with minimal spin landing at about 15 yards in front of you ought to get the job done, leaving you a putt of a foot or two. Following this, glory at the 19th hole will be yours.

You set up, try not to grip the club too tightly, feet slightly open shoulders square – you aren’t trying to get cute here or create awe inspiring backspin. One or two looks and you settle for a second over the ball. Weight slightly on the front foot, you take the club back and… mutilate the ball with the sole of the club, skulling it through the back of the green.

You haven’t hit a pitch this poorly since you were nine. Alas, there it is again, The Shot From Hell.

The Shot From Hell makes the golfer seriously consider giving up the game or at least starting over, left-handed, for an indeterminate period of time.

Beyond all this, The Shot From Hell confirms our worst suspicions about entropy, chaos, and evil in the universe. This is hyperbole, to be sure, but the idea that as we make our way through our organized, controlled, relatively understandable days, there is something completely unforeseen and unpredictable waiting to happen is a disturbing one.

Losing one’s keys, a power outage, unexplained credit card charges, hell, even a bad hair day… all these negative karmic retributions are coming for us, sooner or later, and so are fat shots, topped shots, shanks, slices, flubs, and snap hooks. Be warned.

12 thoughts on “The Shot From Hell”

  1. Really, who of us hasn’t been here before 😕 we might not want to admit it, but this is an article that we can all relate to!

  2. Yep – this occurred tom me just 4 weeks ago. Everything going fine, ball-striking pretty consistent and then the 12th hole, a Par-3, 190 yd – I choose a 5-iron, setup as normal, swing as normal and as smoothly as I have been….. and shank it 90 yards to the right.

    I think NOTHING of it, afterall, this is golf and it happens. I take a PW and yank my 2nd shot 20 yd left of the green. But I soldier on and triple-boegy that hole.

    This is nothing compared to what happens fo the net 60 minutes and remainder of the round: I can hardly get the ball airborne… with any iron bar the driver or a high-lofted wedge.

    My game is reduced to ‘Bomb-and-Gouge’ but in the really comical and ineffective way.

    I try laughing it off but the damage is done and the mental-strain starts to prey on my mind. That ‘Shot From Hell’ made me go to ‘Def-Con-1’ and a series of immediate emergency essons ala Phil & Butch at the Shell Houston a few weeks back.

    Thankfully, now, things are right back to normal and I’m flushing the ball better than ever and my scores are tumbling….!

  3. I once shanked an 8 iron approach on 10 (after a 35 on the front), and couldn’t hit anything thereafter. Ended up with 35-73 108 and quit playing for 3 years.

  4. Excellent article. I could not help laughing out loud at work. I suspect that I will bank this article and think of it the next time my “shot from hell” happens, perhaps the comic relief will allow me to dismiss it more quickly


  5. The killer of the Shot from Hell is it often leads you into more trouble. Last week I was on a Par 4. Nothing fancy about the hole. OB runs along the left but tons of bail out area to the right. Basically any shot you hit to right has no problems. So I say to myself “Don’t hit it left!”. I aim left. Set up for the fade. Smack!!!! Piercing pull down the left side to OB. WTF!!!!!!! At least I found my ball.

    I also find that Shots from Hells are typically preceded by great drives down the middle or a nice approach to the green.

  6. 😉
    I have to agree with this whole article because it’s priceless!

    Art – I’m sorry but that had to be the worst turn around 9 I’ve seen after posting a monster score on the front nine. But not sure I would have left for 3 years. At least you’re honest about it. My buddies have shot’s from hell all the time and go right on up take the distance, drop in the fairway and proceed to take 1 stoke for their miserable shots. Glad to see your back in the game.

    Kevin – I can’t remember how many time’s I’m in the fairway with a nice 280yrd drive only to find my next shot land 50 yards from where my drive ended. The golf gods seem only kind to those who acknowledge their existence in every round played everywhere. How else could we explain VanDeVeld’s ( –>sp) monumental disaster on 18. At least none of us have our shot’s from hell broadcast on the world stage in one of the 4 most important tournaments in the world.

  7. it´s just part of the game, and a part of almost any other sport too.. With golf its just way more cruel.. If you think you´re getting close to anything doesn´t matter what, it smacks you right in the forehead 😈 Its a mind game! But thats why we all like it I guess.. (and keep on playing and executing shots from hell)

  8. Brilliant article. Laugh-out-loud in places. My worst shot of this type was a Tom Hanks OB off our old 16th tee with a long iron when I was level par in a comp. playing off ~6/7. No idea where it came from even to this day but I think I finished 8-5-8 against the par of 4-3-5. Terrible memories! 😆

  9. I also find that Shots from Hells are typically preceded by great drives down the middle or a nice approach to the green.

    Only when the drive is accompanied by the first delusion of grandeur. The great drive you tell yourself wasn’t quite good enough will usually escape the gods’ notice, it’s when I start to broadcast brainwaves that it might be a repeatable feat for the rest of the round that the gods decide to punish such arrogance.

    Nice column.

  10. this is a very well written article, and funny too. I am very familiar with the shots beforementioned in the article lol.

  11. Been there Art, shot a 64 on the front 9, at 10 declared that if I miss hit this 1st shot on 10 I quit and head for the Pub, sure as s### I toe it the ball goes absolutely side ways. I drop the club left the bag and wished my playing partners luck. 2 1/2 hrs later they return I,m still on my stool, stopped for 5 years. Ironically I now work at a private club, can’t get enough of the game now!

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