As I contemplated what to hit off the 18th tee – driver or 3-wood – I thought about a lot of other things, too.
I know that’s not good. But it’s what we amateurs do – or at least some of us.
It had been a good day. I had kept the ball in play all the way through on a tight course with lots of bushes that swallow golf balls. As the last few holes unfolded, I realized that I had used the same ball the entire time.
But there was one more challenge – this tee shot. Like so many holes on this course, there are bushes in front of the tee and on both sides of the fairway.
And there was something else to consider: I needed a bogey for 89. Normally, I would consider that terrible. But on this course – a tough layout with tricky greens that I was playing for the first time – it wouldn’t be half bad.
So the only sensible thing to do was hit 3-wood and try to keep it in the ballpark, right? That’s when the gremlins in my golfing brain jumped up and started doing their thing.
But you’ve hit some really big drives today!
(Yeah, and I’ve hit some bad ones, too, but got away with them.)
It’s a par-5 – you could get there in two!
(These days, the chances of that are slim and none, and slim was 30 years ago.)
Everyone else is hitting driver!
(That’s specifically why I got new woods. I wanted to have a really good 3-wood that I could trust and not fall into the everyone-else-has-driver trap. On the previous 13 driving holes that day, I had hit 3-wood five or six times, and I hit it so well on a short par-4 my ball wound up right in front of the green.)
I got out the 3-wood … then thought better of it.
I got out the driver … and it still didn’t feel right.
Finally … what the heck, just hit driver. It’s not as if it’s the final hole of the U.S. Open and I’m tied for the lead. Who cares?
The gremlins got even louder when I stepped up to hit. First, the good gremlins had their say.
Remember the great drive you hit three holes ago? Just do that again!
This club feels good today! Low and slow and let it go!
Yes, that’s what I’m envisioning, I thought. But then another gremlin spoke up.
But you haven’t blocked one all day. Make sure you don’t do that!
That’s always the fear – playing for a hook and getting a push dead right. It usually happens at least once a round. At that point, the really evil gremlins took over.
You shouldn’t be hitting driver!
There’s not enough room on the left side for your hook!
You probably won’t make bogey if you hit one in the bushes!
DON’T MESS THIS UP!!!
I should have turned around, no matter how embarrassing it would have been, and grabbed the 3-wood. But I refused to give in to the gremlins.
So, of course, I swung way too fast and snapped a lower liner right into a bush in front of the tee. I was so frazzled, I reloaded, used the 3-wood this time … and popped it up weakly into another bush down the right side.
Two lost balls. One lost round. Many, many gremlins laughing their little gremlin heads off.
This is golf. This is what happens. And yet we love it. It still is our great game.
Even when we think too much.