Monday, October 29, 2012

A Tale of Two Sand Shots

"If you want it you got
You just got to believe.
Believe in yourself,
-Lenny Kravitz

At the time of this writing, one of the biggest hurricanes in recent history is crashing down on our fair city.  So since I've got a little time to kill and I clearly won't be playing any golf any time soon, I thought this week's post would delve a little further into the last round I played.

More specifically, I will tell the story of two sand shots with two radically different outcomes.

The first one occurred on the very first hole.  As you may recall, I was in a bit of a rush on the first hole and ended up having to play very quickly.  (If you don't recall, then just read the last post.  Dude, it'll take 3 minutes.)  Despite the circumstances (or maybe due to them), I ended up hitting a pretty good tee shot.  However, my second shot went into the sand.

I don't know if it was the adrenaline or the crystal meth, but I walked up to that sand shot and told myself, "You know how to do this.  Just do it."  And with very little thought I stepped up and hit an excellent shot.  And boy did that feel good.  (The sand shot not the crystal meth.)

Unfortunately, this state of euphoria didn't carry over to the next opportunity.

It was at the Par 4 6th hole.  A short little hole with a small pond in front of the tee box.  I hit an okay tee shot.  Still in play with a good chance to reach the green in two shots.  My second shot however, was beautifully chunked off to the right and into the bunker.  Pure, high-grade, unadulterated shit shot.

But for some reason, I didn't approach this upcoming sand shot with the same elan and joie de vivre as I had on the previous shot.  On this particular shot, I was consumed with doubt.  Sure, I tried to tell myself the same thing that I did on the first hole, but for some reason I wasn't listening to myself.  And let's face it, nothing good happens when you ignore the voices in your head.

As a result, I was unable to get out of the sand on my third shot (Bummer).  On my fourth shot, I was able to get out of the sand but landed in the rough next to the green (Double Bummer).  For my fifth shot, I chose to skull the ball and send it rolling about 30 feet past the hole for a very long putt.  All for a grand total of 7 on the hole.

And if you read my last entry,  (You haven't?  Dude, seriously?! C'mon!) you'd know that I was oh so very close to breaking the coveted plateau of 95 and possibly even 90.  So that poor sand shot really didn't help matters much.

And that whole mess could have been avoided if I simply chose to believe the lie.  That beautiful, beautiful lie that said that I knew what I was doing.  That beautiful lie that said that I was actually good at this.  That beautiful lie that said that I was going to execute successfully.

Sometimes the lie you tell yourself might actually be the truth.  In fact, I think the bullshit that we tell ourselves most of the time are the real lies.

Yeah.  Deal with THAT.


I was just kidding.  I haven't smoked crystal meth in years.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hardcore Masochism

"I will never be satisfied
I will never be satisfied
I will never be satisfied
Until it ends in tears."
-Living Colour (The band not the TV show)

If you had told me 5 minutes before my last round of golf that I would shoot a 96, I would have been happy.  If you had told me that I would shoot 5 pars and 6 bogeys, I would have been thrilled.  So why, after shooting a round of 96 (one of my best rounds in months) do I still feel so miserable?  Well, quite frankly, I'm an asshole.

But also because, deep in my heart, I know I could have done better.

Allow me to paint you a picture:  It was a beautiful autumn day in the Bronx.  Early in the morning with very few people.  Calm and serene.  A perfect day for golf.  I pay my greens fee and casually make my way to the first tee.  I hadn't played in a while so I really wanted to take the time to loosen up before going out.  But then the starter says to me, "You're a single?  Hurry up and play in front of these guys because they're a group of 11."

Um, ok.  So much for loosening up.

Then as I'm rushing to get myself together so that I could take my first swing, another single walks up and is forced to join me under the same high stress scenario.  Now, maybe these circumstances actually helped me because I ended up hitting a pretty great first tee shot.  However, my second shot was not so good and I ended up in the sand trap.

Here's something you should know about me: I fucking hate sand traps.  Hate.  Hate.  Hate.  Hate.  Hate.  And yet, here's the thing: I hit a great shot out of the sand trap.  This boded well for the day.  It boded well indeed.

I proceeded to play some of the best golf I had played in months.  I was hitting great tee shots, great chip shots, and even catching a couple of lucky bounces here and there.  Oh my friends, it was a glorious day.  It wasn't perfect.  I definitely made mistakes.  But none of them were disasterous and some of them were actually good mistakes.  You know, the kind where after you see the result you say, "Oh yeah.  That's exactly what I meant to do."

That is, until I got to the 15th hole.  That fucking 15th hole.  (Clearly it was the hole's fault and not mine.)

I hit a poor tee shot which trickled in to the fairway.  Bad shot: yes.  Disaster: no.  I can only describe my second shot as this: It was as if the Hindenburg had crashed into the Titanic and then they both ran into a bus full of puppies.  This is not hyperbole.  It was that bad.  All of the good things that I had done up until that point were wiped out in one inglorious stroke.  One of the worst mistakes to make at one of the worst times to make it.

And to make matters worse, I made matters worse.  After I hit that bad shot out of bounds (followed by a monumental freak out), I continued to tell myself that I shouldn't let that one mistake ruin my entire day.  That I shouldn't let that one mistake compound into more mistakes.  That I should calm down, reset myself and move past it.

Unfortunately, I just wanted to be an angry, petulant child rather than the mature, level-headed golfer than you've all come to know and love.

I proceeded to nearly hit my penalty shot out of bounds.  (Which made me furious-er.)  Then, in my fury, I furiously miss-hit my now 5th shot, and left it short of the green by about 2 yards.  Then, in my even greater fury, I proceeded to furiously skull the short chip shot and send the ball flying about 35 feet past the hole.  And in a final burst of epic furious-ity, I three-putted the hole for a grand total of...wait for it...9 (Or a bogey 5 for those of you playing at home.)

Now, I've always had the goal and the expectation of breaking 100 (even though that rarely happens), but until the 15th hole I actually had a legitimate shot at breaking 90!  90 I say!

And now for the lesson.  After having a little time to digest everything that happened, I realize that I didn't miss my chance to reach my goal because of that one mistake.  I missed it because of how I responded to that one mistake.  I forgot the first rule of golf club: You do not talk about golf club.  Wait, I'm sorry, I'm mixing up my metaphors.  The point is, mistakes are going to happen and we can choose to dwell on them or we can choose to let go.  I chose the former and it didn't help much.

Although, in my defense, I usually make my disasterous mistakes much earlier in the round so that I have the entire day to recover from them emotionally.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Driver is Not My Enemy

"The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend."
-Arabian Proverb

In the past, I may have mentioned once or twice that I am not a fan of using the Driver.  It is a behemoth.  It is unruly and cannot be controlled.  I've always felt that attempting to use it was akin to rubbing my body down with gazelle-scented oil and then promptly sticking my head in a lion's mouth.  Basically, no good could possibly be achieved from such a reckless action.

I've also been very fond of using what I've referred to as, "The Old Man Swing."  Although contrary to the moniker, I have yet to meet the old man who doesn't drive the ball farther than I do.

So, in yet another epiphany, I've decided to embark on the dangerous, remarkable, and foolhardy journey of trying to master the use of the heretofore unmentionable golf club.  Now here's the funny part:  It turns out, I'm not that bad at it.

Through the magic of scorecards and emotional scarring, I am able to review my rounds in great detail in order to determine what really happened.  On my last round of golf, I used the driver on 10 of the 18 holes.  On 6 of those 10 holes, I actually hit great shots.  (Yes, GREAT shots.  That's not a typo.)  On 3 of those holes, I hit bad shots BUT they were salvagable.  (Or, to put it in layman's terms, I got lucky.)  There was only one hole where I used the Driver where things didn't turn out so well.  That would be the 10th hole.

One of the things that's especially heartbreaking about playing the 10th hole poorly is that it's the first hole on the "Back Nine."  As you get ready to tee off, there's this sense that you are gettting to start over.  That you get to hit the reset button and maybe, just maybe, you can still reach your original goal.  Then it all comes crashing down.  And crashing down quickly I might add.

Suffice it to say, the 10th hole didn't go well.

But let's not get hung up on that one minor disaster.  If we do the math, we'll see that 9 out of the 10 holes actually were successful.  On 9 out of the 10 holes, I actually gave myself a chance to be even more successful.  And on 6 out of the 10 holes, I accomplished feats of glory that would not have been possible if I had continued to let myself believe that it couldn't be done.

So Mr. Driver, I don't like you and you don't like me.  But the golf course seems to lose a lot of its power and influence when I use you properly.  This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Who Was That Masked Man?

"He's a 44 handicap.  Sometimes he plays like a 40 handicap.  Sometimes he plays like a 4."
-Hank Haney referring to Adam Levine's golf game on The Haney Project

Okay, I get it.  Golf is hard.  And everybody has to go through the same crap.  From the lowly beginner to the seasoned professional, we all share a common bond in our universal frustrations with the golf game.  However, my last round was just so radically different from one shot to the next that it literally drove me insane.  (I have the medication to prove it.)

My last round out it was like I had some incredibly bizarre multiple personality disorder.  I was playing like 10 different golfers each with 10 different swing problems.  And they all seemed to show up sporadically.  (Which is what makes the game so exciting/hellish.)

At first, I had an issue of pulling the ball to the left.  Not quite sure why that was happening but at least it wasn't completely devastating to my score.  I couldn't correct it no matter what I tried, but it wasn't so bad that I walked of the course in disgust and tears.  Which, by the way, has never happened (knock wood).

But then, newer more interesting problems started to creep in.  For some reason, once in a while, I wasn't able to hit short chips shots.  Just another little something out of nowhere.  I'm still not sure how this is even possible, but I managed to slide the club head between the ball and the ground without seeming to actually touch the golf ball.  It's almost like that trick where you have a bunch of glasses sitting on a table and there's a tablecloth between the glasses and the table then someone rips the tablecloth out from between them without moving the glasses.  It's kind of like that.  Magic.

And then there were the times when a wicked slice would pop up.  I was just going along about my day (Tra La La) and then BAM! I hit a crazy shot off to the right.

And finally, as there always is, there were the beautifully struck shots that make me think that I have a chance to be good at this thing.  On the Par 4 18th hole, I took the driver (You heard me) and crushed my tee shot leaving the ball about 25 yards short of the hole.  What followed was a series of ugly shots that I don't want to talk about THE POINT IS the tee shot was incredible.

Final score: 106

Einstein was wrong.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results but getting wildly radical and contradictory results.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

If It Ain't Totalled, Don't Fix It

"The fun you get from golf is in direct ratio to the effort you don't put into it."
-Bob Allen

I dusted off the old clubs and headed back out to the course.  It was also the first time that I had returned to the course after spending time on the driving range to "Work out some swing issues."  The reason that I put that in quotes is because I technically, have no idea how to do that.  But it's one of those things that pro golfers say so I just figured I could say it too.

Now one of the basic, fundamental principles of practicing is that if you do it, then you will improve.  That's just how it works with just about everything.  It's even true in golf.  However, if you practice doing the wrong things over and over again, the results may be a little disastrous.  But what's even worse is when you practice, you practice the wrong things, AND you have absolutely no idea that you're practicing the wrong things.

I know what you're thinking.  "If you're practicing the wrong things, wouldn't you realize it?"  To which I would say, "You're using logic.  There's absolutely no logic in golf."  For some reason, what happens on the driving range tends to stay on the driving range.  Either that or I only tend to remember the 5 good shots I hit out of the 200.

Regardless, I ventured to Van Cortlandt, my old nemesis, armed with a newer, more powerful golf swing.  I was prepared to show that golf course who was boss.  Not surprisingly, I am still that golf course's bitch.

Now before I made my "swing changes" I was able to somewhat predict what the ball was going to do.  Obviously, I would hit bad shots and I couldn't hit the ball very far, but I was almost always sure that the ball would go forward.  Well, that simply wasn't the case with this new swing.

Oh it was a mess.  It was a mess of a mess.  It was a travesty of a mess of a disaster.  It just didn't go well.  At one point, I was teeing off from the 3rd hole and nearly hit the ball into the water hazard...ON THE 6TH HOLE.  For those of you who don't follow golf, that's just really bad.  I mean REALLY bad.  Even for me.

This was also another one of those rounds when I decided (after seeing how miserable it was going) that I no longer needed to keep score.

Oh well.  Back to the drawing board.  I should have it figured out in another 10 years or so.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Power of not giving a $%*!

"Mr. McGee don't make me angry.  You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
-David Banner, The Incredible Hulk TV Series
(And before any of you nerds try to correct me, yes I am aware that his name his Bruce Banner in the comic book but it's David in the TV series.)


The last time I went out, I wasn't able to play at my usual time.  I typically like to go on the early side.  Have a nice breakfast. Some coffee.  And then I'm fully relaxed knowing that I have the whole day to just stink it up on the golf course.  But this time, I wasn't able to go out until the late afternoon, a.k.a. Twilight.

The great thing about Twilight is that it is much cheaper.  But of course that discount comes at a price.  There's a very good chance that you won't get to play the entire course before it gets dark.  As a result, the pressure is mounting and it's a...RACE AGAINST TIME!!

Normally, I'm a fair-minded man.  I observe the etiquette of golf.  For instance, I would never tread on my playing partner's putting line.  That's just gauche.  But in a...RACE AGAINST TIME...all bets are off.

I was playing by myself and I had a golf cart.  (Seriously, what is anybody trying to prove by walking the course.)  After the 1st hole, I noticed a threesome of teenagers who, not only sucked, but were WALKING!  (How dare they!)  So I jumped them to go to the 3rd hole.  No luck there.  Turned out everybody showed up exactly 20 minutes before I did.  So I jumped to the 8th hole.  Played that one but then got stuck behind ANOTHER threesome of walking teenagers.  (I think there was a convention.)  Decided to tough it out until the 11th hole.  Then jumped back to play 3 through 7 and finally jumped to the 12th hole and played the rest of the way from there.

Sound confusing?  It should.  In fact, I'm not even sure how relevant any of that was.  The only point to get from it was that I was getting angrier and angrier as I encountered each obstacle.  And as everyone knows, the angrier you get, the better golf you play.  (Oh wait, no.  The complete opposite is true.)

So in the midst of all that jumping around, I managed to make Par on the 7th hole and make a complete and total mess of all the others while losing golf ball after golf ball.  (Did I mention that I was getting angry?)

Finally, I just said, "Fuck it.  I'm not keeping score anymore."  Now I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I magically started playing better.  I mean, this isn't one of those "Feel good movies from the '80s."  But I DID learn something from my little experiment.

Because I was so incredibly furious AND no longer concerned about the score, I just started to crank it up and try to hit the ball as hard as I possibly could.  And that felt REALLY good.  And when I hit a good shot, the ball would fly way farther than when I was using my "Old Man Swing."  And that also felt REALLY, REALLY good.

But the real lesson was this: Since I clearly didn't care about anything else, I kept my focus on one simple target.  I kept my eye on one spot of the ball and let go of everything else.  And regardless of what the result was, I felt good about what I was doing because my intentions were so clear.

The resulting shots were often...sporadic.  But the intentions...they were vivid.  And as long as you have clear intentions, then sometimes things work out even better than you expected.

Ain't nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Major props to The Big Easy

The British Open, golf's oldest major championship was held on Sunday.  Now to be honest, I actually don't know if it is golf's oldest major championship but I know that it sounds really cool to say so I'm just going to go with it.  Chances are, you didn't see it because A) The time difference between here and there made it difficult to catch all of the action or B) You just didn't give a shit.  Either way, you missed a pretty exciting golf tournament. (Okay, exciting may be a bit strong.  But it certainly held my attention.)

One of the big story lines in this tournament was that Australia's Adam Scott (not that his nationality matters) held a huge lead going into the final four holes.  Then things went a tad bit awry and he ended up losing the tournament.  (Bummer, right?)

Now normally, in true masochistic golfer fashion, I would have expressed how much I empathized with this guy.  I would have said that I know how it feels to have a good thing going on the golf course and then just have it all fall apart on you.  I would have offered words of encouragement and all that type of crap.

But this time is different.  This time, I choose to celebrate the victory of Ernie Els a.k.a "The Big Easy."  This time I would like praise the 42 year-old South African for his amazing accomplishment. Not only did he overcome the obstacles of being 42 years old and South African, but he also had to overcome a 6 shot deficit.  The result: his second British Open Championship.

Just to give you a little background, Ernie Els has been notorious for his superhuman calmness and cool demeanor when he's on the course.  I mean, he's a freak of nature.  He doesn't show emotion.  Ever.  And if he does it's extremely rare.  At the same time, he is also known for having a smooth, easy-flowing swing. Plus, he's about 6'3" tall.  Add it all together and you get the nickname The Big Easy. (Or Le Facile Grande for you Francophiles.)

He has always been a fierce competitor but he has always kept his cool.  If you just saw a brief clip of him playing in a tournament, you wouldn't know if he was winning by 5 strokes or down by 10.  He's just that cool.  I guess what I'm really saying is, "Sasquatch takes picture of him."

In the end, I guess the life lesson here is never count yourself out, keep fighting the good fight, don't stop believing, and most importantly, never let 'em see you sweat.