All Those Lessons, and I Still Have Questions I Forgot to Ask
Here in the Pacific Northwest, it is Christmas Eve Day, and all the Christmas Eves of the past along with all their questions come rushing back when I sit and think about it. Golf was always present at Christmas Eve. What’s that behind the tree? A one-iron, as it turned out. Is it going to snow? I hope so, but if it doesn’t, it’s warm enough to go hit a couple of buckets before tonight Once or twice, I got a series of lessons for Christmas. That was a long time ago, not that I couldn’t still use them. We never outgrow lessons. However, it seems that in all the ones I took, I kept returning to the same questions, and a lot of people I meet at the range are doing the same thing. I have “x” number of clubs in the bag – teach me how to hit each one. Help me attain the perfect swing -perfect swing. That approach has something missing. There is a separate set of questions, and I’m never going to ask them if I wait for my game to achieve perfection club by club or gain one perfect swing for all of them. I’m speaking of irons for the most part, but that just suggests that I am merely hoping for the best from the tee. In playing the piano, they call that “poke and hope.” Maybe we should call it “putt and pray” or “belt and beg.”
So, how do I hit a 3-iron? That’s the question I’ve always asked – but what which 3-iron? High one, low one, in windy conditions, in wet conditions? What kind of 3-iron shot, not just “Hey, I’m this number of yards away, and that’s when I always pull out a 3-iron.” I used to hit a high 3-iron, and thought that was an asset. What it meant was that I was playing it way off my left foot and picking it off the grass. An airborne shot appeared successful, but I had actually diminished the club to a 4 or 5 iron. What is this deal about coming down onto the ball, and leaving a divot by striking it first? Can you do that with a 3 iron as you would an 8? Those shots not airborne were often scuffed, hacked, and caromed at serious angles away from the fairway. Which shot should I have hit, and how should I have tried to hit it? These questions could get expensive, but I’m determined to know.
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From the 8 iron in, I did have one or two alternatives. I hit flop shots from further out than was necessary, but seldom gave much thought to wind or rain. The bump and run might have been good for a fast fringe and dry green, but I was in love with sticking it from a vertical approach. That was fine on a soggy green, where it wasn’t going far from where it landed, but in the desert, great approach after great approach ended up in the cactus patch. I just thought physics was singling me out.
How should I hit a fade, a draw, a half-shot? The only rudimentary trick I was ever taught was to put my right foot forward to make me swing outside in and produce a fade. It didn’t. It produced a slice. Pull it back for a draw? It didn’t usually come out that way – a lot of duck hooks. Low drive or high drive depending on the conditions? The only answer I have ever had was to tee it down (fair response, but more open to dubbing it) or higher (skying it). Semi-shot came out as weak arms and a timid swing, usually going nowhere (and that is meant literally), leaving me with even more questions.
The next time I take up a pro’s time to work on my game, I’m going to ask all the questions, whether or not I have the talent to turn the answers into reality. After all, for the amateur, part of golf is daydreaming. I always knew I would never play at the Masters, but dreamed it anyway. I still want to investigate the game the way the pros play it, not just my simplistic swing and walk, swing and walk.
It’s Christmas. so go ahead and ask all the questions. Learn to hit five different kinds of shot per club. Santa’s a golfer (come now, you know he is). I’m sure he’ll come through for you.