Ever have one of those rounds that remind you of the words to Stephen Sondheim’s “Comedy Tonight” song?
There’s something familiar. There’s certainly something peculiar. There are old situations but, alas, some new complications.
Tragedy tomorrow? Nope. It’s comedy … today.
I can’t recall a round with more dramatic swings – and I don’t just mean with a golf club – than the one I experienced yesterday. See if this has ever happened to you:
I hit some great shots.
I hit some of the worst shots I’ve ever hit.
At times, I played to my handicap.
At times, I played like a guy who couldn’t break 100.
Worst of all, I let the Captain Hook and Mr. Shank gremlins get in my head.
It was one of those rounds where you drive away thinking two things:
How could some of those things happen?
Boy, do I ever need to go to the range tomorrow – more than anything, just to see a short-iron shot fly normally rather than dead right.
I’ve often said that I wouldn’t have kept playing our great game, despite my intense love for it, if I hadn’t shown a modicum of ability early on.
Maybe this is selfish. Maybe this is a little like marrying someone for her looks and then losing interest when she gets a couple of wrinkles.
But here’s the catch with golf: Now that it has had me for all these years, its peculiarities and its bring-you-to-your-knees difficulty make me want it that much more when it makes me look foolish.
I don’t expect to hit every shot perfect. I learned a long time ago that even the pros hit one squirrelly every once in a while, but it’s just that our version of squirrelly and their version of squirrelly are two different animals.
Yesterday, I was playing a course for the first time. It was a scramble, so I went online to try to get an idea of how the course plays and saw that it’s only 6,200 yards from the white tees. Given that most scrambles have the men hit from the whites, I figured my main concern would be keeping the ball out of the trouble that was on both sides of many fairways.
Then I got there and saw the rules: Yes, the men were to start out from the whites, but if your group made a birdie, you had to move to the next tee back. The only way you could move back to the whites was if you made a bogey, which in a scramble is like making a snowman when you’re playing your own ball.
By our third hole, we were hitting from the blues. A couple of holes later, we were hitting from the blacks – all the way back.
It brought back memories. Back in the day, back when I was young and my knees worked better and I swung the club with even more abandon than I do now, we ALWAYS hit from the tips. Every time. The white tees were for sissies. It was all the way back or we weren’t playing.
Now, I was faced with a course that stretched to more than 7,000 yards, with two par-3s of more than 200 yards, several par-4s in the 450 range and two par-5s around 600. It reminded me of playing Spyglass Hill from the backs and feeling as if you were hitting driver/3-iron (at least) all day.
I tried to put that out of my head as, on hole after hole, the start of the fairway seemed a million miles away. Sometimes it worked and I hit the drives I’m accustomed to seeing. But it didn’t take long before I was reminded of how a course like Spyglass wears you down – in your nervousness about getting some mileage out of the shot, you start swaying like a dancer and those sickening, dive-bomb hooks rear their ugly head.
But then came my total comeuppance. We had a relatively routine shot to a green, and I was hitting a 7-iron. No problem – let’s get this one close. I was in complete shock when the ball went straight right.
You want to talk about head games? A couple of holes later I had a wedge in my hand and stood over the shot thinking one thing: Don’t shank. Which, of course, is the absolute worst swing thought you can have. It should be no surprise that the ball didn’t get more than a foot off the ground.
But the final piece of misery came on the last hole. We had a simple little 50-yard pitch on our third shot to a par-5. I had gotten us there by hammering a 3-wood to that spot. It was one of those tweener wedge shots and was off a tight lie, but no problem.
And then …
I hit it so chunky and so badly, it went about five yards.
I mean, really.
It was one of the most embarrassing moments I’ve ever had on the golf course. I asked everybody to wait a minute and let me hit another one, just to get that out of my head, and I skulled it over the green.
So now I’m OMU – Officially Messed Up. Every time I think about a wedge shot, I’m going to think about those duffs until I see some shots flying properly toward a marker on the range.
I’m playing again in a couple of days – on another tough course that I’ve never seen before. Driving range, here I come. I love a good comedy, but not when I’m the bumbler and the fumbler.
But it’s just another reminder for all of us: Isn’t golf funny?