There’s been at least one thread here on TST asking what we consider good golf. Single digit, scratch, Tour pro… From the perspective of a poor player like myself who rarely plays with anyone who’s good, there’s almost no reference.
Most of the folks I play with are hackers. Sure, they’ll talk about how they usually shoot a couple strokes over par, then I’ll watch as they play at a level of golf not far from mine. I played with a couple of brothers recently who told me they’d been shooting in the 80’s the last couple of weeks. He made a point of saying he doesn’t usually shoot that low, but they’d both been playing good golf recently. I beat the one by two strokes and the other by several more. Not good golfers I thought to myself.
A few weeks ago, I was joined by a married couple at the 2nd of 9 holes. The husband was playing from the blue (middle) tees - just over 3,000 yards on what I consider to be a challenging course. Despite being older than me, he outdrove me by 25 yards while keeping every tee shot on the fairway. I watched this guy hit great shot after great shot, just the way golf is supposed to be played. He parred most holes. The only poor shot I noticed him hit, still resulted in a bogey.
After a few holes, I asked him if he tracked his HC and he told me he was a 14. After we finished the last hole, I jokingly called BS on his 14. He assured me the round was better than most as he finished with a 38. I had witnessed good golf that day.
While a handicap index of 14 seems unreachable to me, I’ve always thought of it as somewhat average for an avid golfer who’s played for many years. I no longer believe that. So if a 14 can tame a course that so many have been beat up by, what does single-digit golf look like.
Before this season, I’d only seen one person play from the tips of this course with any success and it was impressive. Last Sunday while playing the middle tees, I managed to break 100 for the first time from that distance. This was a goal of mine at the beginning of the season. It didn’t feel like anything special while I was playing, but I minimized the mistakes and lucked out on enough shots for it to happen. At one point, I caught up to three kids who were waiting for the fairway to clear and we BS’ed for a few minutes. One kid was playing from the tips. While talking to him, I noticed he was wearing a 2016 Michigan High School Athletic Association state championship t-shirt. I asked him about it and he told me placed 8th in the state tourney. He seemed disappointed, told me it was tough course and only managed a couple of 78’s (I looked it up and he spoke the truth). I asked him what he normally shoots from the tips at this course. Mid 70’s he said. Turns out he played for the same high school my son did. When I asked my son about him, he told me this kid was basically a prodigy in a school that doesn’t turn out a ton of good golfers. Was beating up on some of the area’s best HS golfers as a freshman.
So while I’m feeling pretty good about breaking 100 from the middle tees, this modest 18 year old kid is shooting just over par from the tips. Not good golf, great golf.
Today I played a practice round from those same middle tees in preparation for a round I’m playing with an old friend in the morning. He and I used to play tennis every week and he’d kick my butt on a regular basis. We both quit playing tennis several years ago and both took up golf, purely by coincidence. Tomorrow will be the first time we’ve played golf together despite talking about it for the last few years. I’d really like to make a good showing.
I have no idea how good or bad he is, but I lost 12 balls in 18 holes today while working on keys 4 and 5 - probably a record. On the last hole, a turkey vulture kept hovering over the fairway and I imagined he mistook my round for a rotting carcass.
If tomorrows round is anything close to todays, my friend won’t be thinking about what good golf is.