I can almost sense the collective cringes of those reading that title. We’ve seen newbies make this claim one week, only to post the next week how much they hate the game. I've certainly been guilty of it, though I’ve since learned my lesson.
While most of the time we are talking about the one swing thought or swing adjustment that will carry us to single-digit greatness, other times it’s a can’t miss epiphany on the strategy that will have us navigating around the course like a pro.
During yesterday’s round, I arrived at a par 5 that has a wide landing area for the driver. That's the easy part. A decent drive leaves about 270 to the green, but with a very narrow bottle neck about 100 yards from the green created by a fairway bunker and large tree on the left, and golf ball graveyard woods narrowing the gap from the right. My choices were to use a wood to carry the bottleneck, leaving a half swing wedge from where it opens back up, or mid-iron layup in front of the bunker leaving a good angle with a mid-iron to the green.
I chose the latter option and it worked out perfectly… I mean I couldn’t have walked up and placed my next two shots any better. An easy uphill 6 iron that stopped short of the bunker leaving me the best angle to the downhill blind green, followed by a full 6 iron that felt good coming off the club and confirmed when I walked over the hill to see the ball resting in the middle of the green.
I finished the hole thinking that was easy, I’ll just play it that way next time. Next time occurred an hour and a half later when I played the 9 hole course a second time.
An identical second drive set me up for my can’t miss strategy. I addressed the ball with all the confidence in the world and promptly hit a push slice to the right leaving a poor angle to the green.
Ok, no big deal. I’ve been hitting fades all day, I thought. I’ll just have to start the ball close to the tree line with a 4 iron and it should come back close to the green. What could go wrong?
A minute later I was hitting my approach shot with a pitching wedge after that “can’t miss” 4 iron started 3 yards too far right, hit a tree, dropped straight down and rolled out onto the center of the bottle neck a whopping 80 yards closer to my target. It could have been worse.
One of my favorite expressions is the Mike Tyson quote “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. I think it’s profound in that we tend to put all our eggs in one basket with little regard to something going wrong, hoping so hard for the plan to work that we fail to have a contingency plan or even consider an alternate one. Fortunately, poor execution in golf doesn’t result in a right cross to the jaw from Mike Tyson, though we often react as if it’s just as debilitating.
When I arrived home, a copy of “Arnie” by Tom Callahan was waiting for me on our table - a gift from my wife. I started reading it this morning and was struck by a quote.
“From the Masters on” Arnold said, “I had a philosophy of golf: when you miss a conservative shot, you’re in as much trouble as when you miss a bold one.”
Strategy, risk and reward, and execution are things we all love about this game. In my world, almost nothing really bad happens when I employ poor strategy or fail to execute. But somehow, it’s still important that it doesn’t happen. Yesterday, I was pleased that the bad results didn’t bother me.
I’ve finally got it!
Stay tuned for my next blog entry that asks the question "Should I quit golf?"