Thanksgiving Brotherly Golf Love
I’m sure that we all spent Thanksgiving in a variety of ways, and hope that they were enjoyed by all. I ate myself into oblivion like many of us do. It’s a day where “shouldn’t” is harder to find in the vocabulary.
Before I did that, though, I took the greatest 7 iron lesson I’ve ever gotten, and didn’t even pay for it. In fact, I walked away with an excellent set of Square Two irons, only slightly used, and by a better golfer than me.
The man I affectionately refer to as my “scratch” brother put a driving mat out beside the house in Bend, Oregon, on a day that was so sunny, you felt downright tropical in the high 40s. The makeshift range looked off into a partially cleared acre or two of sagebrush and on to the majestic Sisters of the Cascade Mountains. Spielberg couldn’t have thought up a better backdrop. I was invited outside to hit fifty or sixty balls with a 7 iron at most, so that they wouldn’t be lost in jackrabbit and coyote heaven across the road.
I hit a few, and he said…“nice,” then waited for a few more to go by before hitting some himself. His 7 irons went a tiny bit lower, but not much. They all had a slightly inside out draw, and went virtually to the same spot out there at the same distance, a good deal farther than mine (no wonder he doesn’t have any trouble finding them). Then he went to work on my 7 iron swing – argh.
Apparently, I had been picking the ball off the grass with my wedge, and treating every other iron like a long “picky” wedge – 7 iron and distance didn’t equate for me. Number one, he said – move the ball to the center of the stance, no more picking at it off your left foot. Hit the ball first. I suddenly realized that I play everything too much off the left foot, from driver down, and it was a weird sensation addressing it at the middle.
Number two, he said, get rid of that hook stance – it’s a compensation for something that isn’t going to happen to you anymore. That made me feel strangely confident, so I evened up my feet. Number three, he said, widen the stance – you don’t putt with a 7 iron (brothers can talk to each other like that, with impunity). That felt even weirder, but I pried my feet apart, and stood there, still feeling somewhat graceful with the ball in the center.
And then he said, “All right now, hands forward.” Hands what? “Hands forward,” he said, so I inched them ahead of the ball – more, he said, and again, more. When he was satisfied with my adjustment, my sense of vanity was horrified. I looked like every ungainly knuckle- dragger I’d seen pick up a club since childhood. But, I figured, he looks graceful when he does this, so I’ll stick with it.
Next, he said, keep your back to the target as long as possible – address the ball, not past it. We suffered over that one for a little while. I don’t know if things were looking better, but they sure were going better. Finally, he lined up another club at the angle at which I’d hit the ball, a seriously inside-out angle. I thought, I’ll have this thing shanked ten minutes before the club head even gets there. But no, he was right again.
We collected those sixty or so balls in a few minutes, and hit them again, while he said nothing. I hit most of a bucket’s worth, and they looked an awful lot like the ones he’d hit, time after time. Then he gives me this set of irons.
It was Thanksgiving, and in the scheme of things, brothers and siblings in general took a top spot on the “thankful” list after one of my favorite afternoons in memory. Now if he could only fix my brain, the one that gets so psyched out between the range and the first tee. Maybe next Thanksgiving.