For the first time in my 18 months of Golfing at the Spring River Golf Course, the river actually had water in it, and two of my golf balls! I’ve hit golf balls in the river before, but given that there is no water there 99.9 percent of the time, it’s not a problem. After an inch of rain, it has water! Golfers beware, the water hazard is now… for the next few days, a true water hazard.
I went to play 18 holes this morning on my last day off, before I move into permanent-days-off status, starting next Monday. I wanted to play just to get out of the house and to play!
What I didn’t expect was my best 9-holes of golf in a while. I started out with a par on the hole number one, a 526-yard par 5. I typically double bogey the hole (a 7 instead of a 5), but not today. When my fourth shot landed a few feet from the hole, I knew it would be a good HALF round of golf! I drained the putt and the celebration began.
I followed up with a double-bogey on number 2, which was a beautiful thing as well, given that it is the hardest hole on the course. Then I hit for par on number three and didn’t have worse than a double bogey on the rest of the front 9. In other words: NO TRIPLE BOGEYS! For me, that is a good nine holes of golf.
My front-nine score as a 46! That is less than my goal of 50! So I am quite pleased with the outcome.
However, for the back nine, I went back to my old ways. I ended up with “grace filled” 63, and completely broke down on holes 15, 16 and 17.
I was talking to my dad about it and told him that I couldn’t do anything on those holes, wondering what the problem was. He said, “That’s easy Son, you’re not a professional athlete.” Then it became all so clear as to why my game fell apart. Clarity was given, a new revelation had been made and I realized that my father was right. I’m not a professional athlete. Whew! Glad that is settled.
I still plan on taking more lessons when I get the chance to do so. Maybe I there is enough athlete in me to one day, break 100. I just fear that the number of days which that remain a possibility are dwindling.
By the way, my final score was still a respectable 109, which is two strokes worse than my best game ever.
Gary Varvel nails the gun law debate with the above illustration. The Liberal Left’s answer to everything is “more laws.” In doing so, they refuse to accept the reality that more laws will make no difference at all when it comes to crime in the world. It just means that the criminals will break more laws, but nothing will be done to curb violence because, as we backwards types who are Christians understand, the law is powerless to change the human heart. The only thing that works with criminals is brute force. Thereby the best thing for our society is a well-armed citizenry so that we can protect ourselves and the innocent in society. Our founding fathers understood that principal and is one of the many reasons they gave us the Second Amendment.
For those of you who do not know, there is controversy surrounding the Masters and Tiger Woods. Apparently the official assessed a two-stroke penalty for a bad drop Tiger took on hole number 15. That was the hole where he hit the ball well onto the green, it hit the flag, and rolled back into the water. He then took a drop, but did so two yards behind where it should have been. This was deemed to give him an advantage.
Next Saturday will be the six-year anniversary of my venture into the world of golf. I was reminded of this when Mark M., on Facebook, when he noted that his Wichita State Shockers had won another game in the NCAA Basketball Tournament and I reminded him that I was happy for him, just as long as Texas A&M hired away their coach the way they did with Mark Turgeon back in 2007. All of that got me to thinking about how all that came about, about taking up golf and about how my game is doing now, six years later.
I noted on my Facebook page the other day that golf is a great metaphor for the Christian life in that the more self-control you maintain during the game, the better it goes for you. In other words, playing golf well will not come about when you give yourself over to the flesh. The flesh screams at you every time you stand over the ball for the next shot. What does your flesh scream? “Hit the hell out of it!” But any golfer knows that hitting the hell out of it will lead to a hell of shot… out of bounds, into the woods, into the river, or even into the unknown. Very few good things ever come from hitting the hell out of the ball.
It wasn’t much, but enough to get me excited all over again about the game of golf. I took the boys golfing yesterday (they just ride in the cart, mess up the sand bunkers and run alongside the cart as I head down the fairway.) Given that the boys were with me, I knew I wouldn’t golf well. Add 10 to 15 strokes when I take both boys. But I have to take them if I want to go. So…
Also, it was Monday. I’m always tired on Monday and wasn’t hitting the ball well. But on hole number 9… I had a minor break through. Three successive shots in a row to reach the green in three! I was pumped! It was so sweet to have a sweet drive and two perfect follow-up shots. When I say perfect, I mean perfect. My third shot was 135 yards off the green, and I planted the ball on the green 15 feet away from the hole and it rolled to within 5 feet.
YES, the birdie was within reach… and then the par… sadly, I ended up with a bogey. But it was still a great hole. To have a great hole, everything must come together, and it’s been a while since I have had this happen. Hopefully, the next time, I can bring the putting game back in line and actually get the birdie. What fun!
I recently finished reading The Big Miss by Hank Haney, who was Tiger’s coach from 2004 until 2010. Given that I have developed a recent fascination for the game of golf, I’ve also enjoyed reading about those who play it well. Since Tiger Woods has been lauded as the greatest player ever to play the game (a statement that will always be open for debate), I wanted to read more about him and his game.
This isn’t an official book review, just some of my thoughts about Woods and the game. If you want an official review, here is a bit from Geoff Shackelford of Golf Digest.com:
Tiger Woods should be grateful Hank Haney wrote The Big Miss.
Not that the book will ever elicit any emotion from Woods other than a Mt. St. Helens fury of bulging-eye bitterness upon mention of the book’s tantalizing title. Nor is it hard to see why such a private, obsessive-compulsive control freak finds the new book to be the ultimate betrayal, even as he has shown little loyalty to those who’ve worked for him at meager wages considering the pressures involved. Yet after flying through this 247-page, mostly breezy and fascinating look into the life of a champion, I suspect most readers will ultimately have a newfound respect for Woods. I know I do.
OK, you get the idea. The book really exposes the underbelly of an obsessive-compulsive personality who happens to be extremely talented.
What struck me about the book is that it really exposed what a lonely person Tiger must be. With every relationship that is seen, from Haney’s, to that of his caddie, to his relationship with Elin, his former wife, everyone has to walk on eggs shells around him. Even those who are hired to criticize him so that he gets better, have to be so careful about that criticism or they will anger the Tiger. It’s truly sad. No one can be really open and honest with the man for fear of bringing about the wrath of that Tiger. I guess you could say he is aptly named, but that is not as it should be.
No one should have that right to live in such a manner where apologies are never accepted, and forgiveness is never given. Those aspects of a relationship are vital if the relationship is ever going to get beyond the surface level. Tiger is shown to be a person that if you cross him once, you are done. I can only imagine the wrath that has been poured out in Haney’s direction since the publication of the book (as Shackelford pointed out above). Instead of learning from the mistakes he makes with people, and forgiving them for their mistakes with him, Tiger simply cuts them off. The door to Tiger closes and that will lead to more loneliness in the end. For that reason, I pity Tiger. He will never have any true and lasting friendships because everyone will always be beholden to the Tiger for acceptance. They will never know the man behind the mask.
The other aspect of the book that just blew me away was seeing how truly talented a man he is when it comes to golf, and how difficult the game really is. Some of the practice drills that Tiger would go through on the driving ranges are incredible. Haney describes one drill he goes through using his irons where he hits the ball low to the left, middle, then the right, then medium height to the left, middle and right, then high in same pattern. For anyone who plays golf as an amateur, such control is simply beyond our comprehension. Every time I go to the driving range, my goal is simple: hit is straight. I don’t care if it goes 15 feet, if it’s straight, I won’t beat myself up too badly.
Tiger’s talent and commitment are to be admired. He has been given a gift, yet he never rested on that gift. Whereas most golfers are happy to get their occasional championship win, Tiger never was. He wanted more than just the occasional win. He wanted to be the best there is and was in the game. The sad truth is that it was this goal that really has led to his mediocrity in recent years.
Tiger got to the point of thinking: “It will never be enough.” In other words, no matter how many wins he achieves, it would never be enough and that is what led to the distractions that are dooming his career. Haney goes into great length to let us know about those distractions, like the desire to be a Navy Seal, to the point that he would train with them on a regular basis. Haney said that is what truly injured Tiger’s knee, not his golf swing. More often than not, it is the distractions that keep many of us from reaching our goals.
I remember getting to know some of the swimmers at A&M while I was there. At that time in the late 1980s, we had one of best swimmers in the butterfly in the country. Everyone expected him to make the Olympic Swim team for that stroke, but he failed to qualify. How was it that the best butterfly swimmer in the nation failed to make the Olympic Swim Team? He got distracted by the desire to grow a beard. The summer before the trials he grew a full beard that made the girls swoon. But the beard did something that neither he, nor his coach thought about. It changed his stroke. Instead of coming cleanly out of the water, he had to come up higher than normal in order to get air. This went undiscovered until after the trials, in which he did shave. But the damage was done. His stroke had been altered just enough to keep him off the swim team.
That is what Tiger has been doing since about 2008. He has allowed himself to become distracted, whether it was training with the Navy Seals, to the affairs. That is what has kept him from winning and what eventually led Haney to resign as Tiger’s coach. The greatness of his talent is all that he is resting on at this point and the reason he doesn’t win as much.
I don’t pity him in this area. He has all the money he could ever need and all the championships he needs to go down in history as one of the greatest players of the game. But his relationships with people still suffer. It’s like many people who become famous or powerful. Those who criticize, rightly or wrongly, are cut off. Tiger has done what many do, surrounded himself with “yes” men (another reason Haney stepped down. Tiger wasn’t listening any longer). That is sad.
I did it again yesterday. I was approaching the Number 9 hole at Spring River Golf Course with a personal best 47 strokes for the front 9. For those of you who do not golf, this means that I was approaching mediocrity in my golf game as opposed to just bad golf. But for me, it was a big deal. My goal is to shoot less than 50 on the front 9 and back nine for a score less than 100 by the end of the year.
My goal yesterday was to shoot a 54 or less on the front nine. I learned a trick from my brother while playing golf out in Arizona with him. Realize what your game is, then set your own par accordingly. It’s the same principle that many use to figure a handicap, which is used in amateur golf all the time. My brother’s method was to set a 5 stroke limit for every hole. Five ends up being his par. Well, I know I’m not going to do that well, so I set a 6 hole limit for every hole, which would have given me a 54 for 9 holes.
Six is my par. That takes the pressure off me to obtain what I cannot obtain in the real game, a true par. Doing this gives the golfer a psychological advantage in that when you come to a par 4 and you decide it is a par 6, the pressure is off to make 4. To make a true par you cannot muff a single shot for the hole. To make a true par for each hole, your tee shot has to be really good, along with your mid-range shot, your short shot onto the green and your first putt. 90 percent of golfers cannot do that, especially given that most of the game is played in the six inches between one’s ears. (With my par at six, I actually hit a par on the Sixth hole. That truly helped my score.)
This is why handicaps were introduced. We may see great golfers like Tiger Woods shoot a 68 on any given day, but most golfers are not great. In fact, statistics show that 90 percent of all golfers never break an 80, and only about 75 percent of all golfers ever break 100.
My brother shot a 102 when we played, so he is above average, and falls into the 25 percent that do break into the double digits. It was the first time he has golfed in 4 years, so I imagine if he continues, he will drop back into the double digits.
Breaking 100 is my goal and I was trying to take a baby step toward that goal yesterday, just shoot 54 or less on the front 9. That goal was in reach when I came off the green at number 8 and headed for the tee box of 9. To be honest, butterflies begin bouncing in my stomach as I approached number 9. When it comes to Spring River Golf Course, number 9 has witnessed some of my biggest meltdowns. You could say that hole is doing her duty in getting inside my head, because she is there, sitting on a bucket, just laughing in my face when it comes to my game.
I tried not to listen to her. My mind immediately jumped to the facts. I have a 47, I simply need to finish the hole with 7 strokes to reach my goal. That is truly doable. In fact, I’ve done it before. I scored a par on this very hole… o so many months ago. She just laughed and shouted “meltdown!” I couldn’t get that word out of my head.
I teed up the ball, relaxed, took several easy practice swings and then launched my shot. I hit it well, but just slightly to the left and into the trees. “No problem,” I thought. “Just another opportunity for greatness to follow.”
Then I had to wait. There were four golfers ahead of me that I had not had to wait for since passing the elderly foursome back on the fourth hole (which is where my game really began to improve.) I had to wait to take my second shot… and I began thinking.
As every golfer knows, you must concentrate on your game because the most important aspect of the game is mental. Or is Yogi Berra once proclaimed, “90 percent of the game is half mental?” But to think too much about the game is catastrophic. In other words, you need to concentrate, but not think too much.
I was thinking too much. I thought I could hit my second shot along the tree line and get it closer to the green for an easy chip shot. That wasn’t clear thinking. I should have aimed for the middle of the fairway for the longer, but easier followup shot. Instead, my second shot went right along the tree line until it hit another tree and ended up behind a small burn.
“OK,” I thought. “Wait for the foursome to get off the green and put the ball right up on it.” Again, I was still thinking too much. I should have shot for the front of the green, then my chip shot instead of trying to go for the green.
Again, another tree. The ball went left again and now I had bunkers to worry about.
The next shot went to far to the right, but actually landed with an easy chip shot onto the green. If I got the ball onto the green and two putted, things would be well. But it was too late. By now, the pressure inside my head to finish off the hole meant that the nerves between my brain and muscles were no longer firing as they should. I wanted so bad to finish off this hole so well, that my muscles could no longer function. The chip shot flew over the green and to the fence. I was officially in meltdown mode.
I haven’t figured out how to break the cycle. But I do know the feeling really well. I could tell what I needed to do, but my muscles, hands and arms couldn’t do it. Every swing was filled with an unbeatable tension, followed by complete disgust at the results. I even ended up in the sand bunker, twice. Normally, I can play the bunkers well, but not in meltdown mode.
Instead of getting on the green in 4 strokes, it took me 9 strokes. I was utterly defeated. The goal of 54 was long gone and Number 9 was dancing around me shouting “Meltdown! Meltdown!”
“OK,” I thought with futility once again. “Just 2 putt and everything will be well.” Only problem, I couldn’t putt either. Another normally descent aspect of my game had left me. It took me three strokes to get the ball in. Instead of getting my my 54, I ended up with my normal 59. What looked like it would be a good 9-holes of golf, was shattered with one hole. Number 9 had won. She had done her duty and humiliated me. I couldn’t help but think that had I had just found one decent stroke in all of that, I could have come away with something. But even my putting was putrid.
That’s why the call it a “meltdown.” It’s purely psychological. It’s not as though the ability isn’t there physically, but the hole itself truly is inside my head like a giant mountain standing between me and my goal.
I’ve talked to other golfers about it. Zach, who works in the pro shop, said that is the hardest part of golf. Getting over the psychological barriers we face is what makes the game so difficult. Good golfers find a way to play through it. I haven’t yet discovered the ability to do so. I know when I’m in meltdown mode, but haven’t found a way through it.
I know when I do… I will score a 54 or even better. But until then… I will have to face the meltdown again.
I did try to play the back 9. But I must confess the joy had left me. I was truly having a good time on the front 9. I did manage to get the ball on the green on Number 13, which is a par 3. But I 5 putted to get it in.
By the time I hit my tee shot off Number 15, the joy was completely gone. So much so, that the thought of a turkey sandwich sounded much more appealing than finishing out the round of golf. I picked up my ball and headed for home.
Here is a clip from the movie about Bobby Jones, the greatest golfer ever to live.
Here is one on the life of Bobby Jones.