Guide Slices: Observations from the Wrong Side of the Fairway

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Studying for his exams, he declared, was a waste of time because he knew he was going to fail anyway. When he did inevitably fail, his point was proven. Who could argue? Uncle Hugh kicks his ball about four club lengths away from the tree. His arsenal is impressive indeed.

As we near the turn, with my game unraveling quickly, Aunt Viv spending most of the round on her cell phone and Mitchell the Masher ready to sell his soul for a two-putt, Uncle Hugh catches a pretty 6-iron that leaves him a downhill seven-footer for even. In any case, Uncle Hugh has made it plain that he considers this putt, which would make most people drop their bag and sprint in the other direction, automatic. We all have our specialty shots, I suppose. If he has made one downhill seven-footer in his life, there is therefore no reason not to pick up this putt.

Thus lying two, he places his ball just off the fringe. I mentally note another of his statutes: the location of a drop is in the eye of the beholder. At the sixteenth, Uncle Hugh botches his second shot, a rash 4-iron from the rough as high as my ankles.

Why, if we choose the right club and take the right swing, does the ball still end up in such unwelcome places? The answer, of course, is that we seldom take the right swing. Uncle Hugh drops a new ball in the same spot. Another of his rules emerges: If you thought everything about your swing was right, and it still went wrong, you really ought not to be penalized. Like any great performer, Uncle Hugh leaves the best for last. Uncle Hugh has eliminated somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 strokes. Thinking about the Falls is like thinking about highways being built to span entire countries or newspapers somehow getting written, printed and distributed to millions of people every morning—the concepts are too large.

My mind, of which I apparently only manage to use a small part, needs time to work things out. Like tackling the big questions Why are we here? Are we alone? Nestled between the historic year-old Welland Canal, the gorgeous Bruce Trail and the Niagara Escarpment, and measuring over 7, yards from the tips, Royal Niagara offers visual pleasures in abundance, from impeccable fairways to cavernous bunkers to gleaming water. But all I can think about is the Falls and the volume of water plummeting over that crest, one moment part of Lake Erie, the next snatched down into the foam.

The little green alligator on my chest is making me doubly self-conscious. Steph says this look is in, but all I can think about is how nerdy I felt wearing it two decades ago in eighth grade. How can it make me look cool now? I have to forget about the alligator and the bold statement of yellow and simply focus on golf. I stand at address, imagine a gigantic drive, subtract the slice from the mental image, then pull the trigger. Rob, Andrew and Dave watch the ball carom off my golf cart and back onto the fairway.

Rob steps up next and pops his drive about 80 yards. Andrew sails his into a fairway bunker on the left. Dave scalds his down the middle, prompting the other three of us to debate whether it really makes sense to be his friend. Sadly, my second shot, a 5-iron, fails to understand my instruction to fade and instead slices into the trees on the left, forcing me into one of those dreadful walks where one thrashes among the bushes, half-heartedly searching for his ball as the three others stroll happily toward their within-bounds shots.

The only winners are the balls themselves, who get to witness the comedy stylings of dozens of different golfers over the course of a season. At the Escarpment third, Rob helps distract me from the hideousness of my game by skulling his drive into some high grass left of the fairway and cursing wildly, not to mention impressively, using about six variations of the same expletive. After pummeling the spontaneous mulligan down the right side of the fairway, Rob offers Dave dollars for the club.

On the next hole, using the Big Bertha again 44 and wanting to see just how far he can mash it, Rob overswings, topping the ball and bouncing it pitifully forward.

Slices: Observations from the Wrong Side of the Fairway by I.J. Schecter

He informs Dave the price has just dropped to 50 bucks. No deal, says Dave. On the same hole, I somehow manage par by stringing together a decent drive, a lucky 5-wood, a delicate sand wedge—which, through some act of divine clemency, I suddenly know how to hit today—and a ten-foot putt. The sand wedge revelation is momentous. Errant drives aside, maybe this is my day. The wild child of golf course design, fescue, a blanched, yellowish, threadlike high grass, looks harmless, yet to say it conceals golf balls effectively is like saying a chameleon has only a moderate chance of winning the average game of hide-and-seek.

Hit the same drive just left or right and, more often than not, you end up on a long, ultimately fruitless search through a mass of yellow strands that suddenly make poison ivy seem like tulips. At Royal Niagara, balls that stray slightly from the fairway become impossible to unearth among the untamed fescue so that, after eight or nine holes, you come to imagine it cackling as it snares yet another ball and your mind lurches a step closer toward madness. My drive swerves left and lands in a swath of rough between the cart path and the fairway. Trying to hit my second shot, a 3-wood, into next week, I instead bounce it across the fairway and into the rough on the opposite side.

I strike my third shot, a 4-iron, surprisingly clean and long—too long, back across the fairway to the rough on the left edge again. I contemplate the collisions that have crunched together these rocks, pushing the Escarpment up out of the ground. The ball is teed up beside me. I look out at the handsome skyline of deep green foliage, and, tucked among it, the old iron bridge, and then I turn to see Rob, Dave and Andrew leaning on their clubs and staring at me. Here we go.

After Rob sends his drive left and Dave sends his right, Andrew catches one nicely, satisfying the typical one-solid-driveout-of-four ratio we typically achieve as a group. Esthetically speaking, a missed putt is disappointing, but not devastating. But a shanked 3-wood is forever. Managing to stay focused for a few holes, I produce three consecutive bogeys.

Bogeys are all I ever aspire toward on a golf course. Before every round, I convince myself how easy it is to 47 Forces of Nature simply play safe and straight, settling for bogeys all the way, since bogey golf all the way means a score of Invariably, a litter of sevens dashes the dream, making me wonder for hours afterward just how I gave away so many shots in so many ways. The painting could be called Amateur Golf. Coming off four poor scores and plenty of fescue-snared balls on the Escarpment Nine, we channel our frustration into cheeseburgers, Gatorades and a heated discussion of where Roger Clemens ranks among all-time pitchers followed by an even more heated discussion about whether our seventh-grade music teacher, Mrs.

Melee, formerly Ms. Wasilenko, was really as hot as we believed at the time before proceeding to the Old Canal Course. This nine runs along the old Welland Canal, constructed as an intricate lock system in to link Lake Erie with Lake Ontario, offering ships a safe detour around the Falls. I try for the umpteenth time to wrap my mind around the sculpting power of nature, the fact that nothing more than wind and water have carved and re-carved this landscape over billions of years, leaving it as I see it today and as many generations hence will see it.

No earthly process, of course, can compare to the herculean task I have of trying to will this golf ball into the air, which is precisely why I need to forget about wind erosion, tectonic drift and mountain moving. We learn quickly not to fall for it. Though the fescue quotient on the Old Canal Nine is much lower than on the Escarpment Nine, this nine has its own wickedness. I settle into address, visualize and pound down at the ball. Rob, Dave and I, all now lying two, take our drops and collectively resolve not to waste any more shots.

But before trying to make good on this promise, we all notice something at the same time: from here to the green, the canal converges from both sides, which would seem physically impossible yet remains as clear as the growing numbers on our scorecards.

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The course guide advises us that a good drive into the middle of the fairway will position us well for a solid fade around the dogleg. Rattled by the combined effect of the converging waterway and the blind dogleg, Rob tries to cut the corner too tightly, lets his club face open and blasts into the woods for the second shot in a row. After a long laugh, Dave does the same, and his expression changes from one of amusement to one of disbelief. But my brain pushes hard 50 for me to be a man. So what if they went in?

Grow a set and take your shot. If it works, you grab two strokes on both of them. I whack my best drive of the day into the center of the fairway, then follow it with a satisfyingly solid 5-wood that travels straight, if not too far. After my pitching wedge, my 3-iron is the most unreliable 51 Forces of Nature club I own, resulting more often in large ovals of grass sticking to the club than balls soaring into the air.

But the chances of my hitting two solid 5-woods in a row seem so remote that I feel foolish for even considering the possibility. Figuring even a poor 5-wood will get me closer to the green than a potentially thunked 3-iron, I stand over the ball and concentrate. I take my rip. I give myself the pep talk every golfer gives himself when standing in a bunker less than 20 feet from the green.

Punch this out and roll it toward the hole, two-putt and you still come away with bogey. The three bunkers form a V below the green. Okay, I tell myself. That was a lapse. Just a break in concentration. This time, keep the forearm stiff, get it up and on, then two-putt and you save double. Committed to keeping my forearm stiff, I swing solidly.

My ball shoots off the front lip and ricochets up, right and into the third of the three bunkers. Rob, Dave and I, all comfortably above the century line, tip our hats and tell him we hope he gets hit by a truck on the way home. In the distance, I think I hear the low roar of the Falls, although it could be in my mind. The physical sensation is the same as it was then, and so is the question growing louder in my head: What am I going to talk about?

Who am I to think I can shoot the breeze with this guy? My last two rounds were and , and for me that was pretty good. I can talk about the things they can—about the things they love. Should I warm him up with the story of the time I short-hopped the flagstick on that yard par 3 when I was 15? The voice on the other end belongs to Dow Finsterwald Sr. I might as well call Gary Kasparov to talk about my castling technique.

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  • Dow sounds mild and welcoming, throwing me off even more. All I remember is what I wanted to avoid. Trying to ignore my feelings of fraudulence, presumption and gastrointestinal unease, I spend a couple of minutes refreshing Dow on the purpose of my book, all the while trying to collect myself and determine which one or two of the 30 questions I wrote down might be worthy of asking.

    He tries to help me along as 56 I cover a few mindless topics, my questions coming off like my golf swing—awkward, confused and completely lacking rhythm or pace. That thought might last a couple of days before I start getting focused on something else. One day I might be thinking about balance and trying to keep my weight from getting out on my toes. The day after that, something new. Then it might go back and start all over again. I ask him how many swing thoughts he tries to focus on at a time. You put all that in your little computer up there, then step up and hit.

    Take Jack, probably the greatest player ever—he had a tendency to stand over the ball a long time. Cary Middlecoff, who won three majors, stood over it a long time, too, but he did a lot of bouncing of the club. Hogan got to the point where he stayed over his putter a long time. I think I hear him enjoying the question. But the weight and feel of a single putter is constant, so you can at least keep that within your control. And I love it. Not really. I ask if his son, Dow Jr. Shorter swing, he says. Much better left arm. Longer than he ever was. Did you 58 know, I ask him, that Asian Golf Monthly recently ranked you sixtythird on the all-time list of golfers?

    Through the silence I believe I can hear him preparing to say more. A lot of guys would be right there in the argument if circumstances were the same. If you had Jones and Hogan and Snead in their prime, put them in a time capsule and put them all together with Tiger, it would be hard to name just one.

    These guys had something inside. Then I shut up. I attribute it to the amount of time you have between shots. Those who excel are able to keep their minds on track. There are exceptions, of course. Jimmy Demaret was a wonderful player, and he talked to the gallery constantly. These were his peers. I hit a whole lot of golf balls. Did he trip on a golf club one day and fall in love with the shape and feel of it? Did he see the game as a sunbathed path to fame and riches? Did he want to become great at something to impress some girl?

    They needed someone to sweep the locker room and take care of things. My dad told me that if I took the job, I might be able to save enough money to go to the World Series. Instead I ask him what it was like to be at the Series, while hearing in my mind, —Browns vs. The St. Louis Showdown. Second title in three years.

    I apologize to Dow for having to ask so obvious a question, but ask it I must. How did you feel going in? When did you know the tournament was yours? And does it seem like yesterday, a distant memory or somewhere in between? Arnold had won the Masters, so he was obviously on my mind. Casper was playing well. I was very nicely asked to come back to Llanerch for the fortieth anniversary of that win a few years ago, and, as I stood on the course, some of the shots came back pretty vividly.

    There was a par 3—I want to say it was the thirteenth, or maybe the twelfth, about yards. I played a poor shot off the tee. A chill runs up my spine. With my second shot, I hit some kind of wedge over a tree, stuck it ten feet from the hole and sank the putt. Snead three-putted. That was big. Going into the last three 61 The Perfectionist holes, I had a two-shot lead. On each of those holes, I made putts that ended up two or two-and-a-half feet past the hole. Actually, I was only playing percentages, making sure each time that, if I missed, my next putt would be uphill. I say nothing. I two-putted, and it was mine.

    Before letting him go, I ask whether he has time for three more questions. First, I want to know how he feels about his reputation as a perfectionist from tee to green. I had a knack for curving the ball. Balls today, with the different-sized dimples and patterns, tend to straighten out. So I had an advantage.

    Without seeing me play and trust me, I tell him, you do not want to see me play , give me your top three pieces of advice. Two, strive for balance.

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    So much of it is balance. Three, keep your head steady. Nelson might have been six feet, but that was uncommon. Today, the guys doing well are big fellows, six feet and one-ninety, that kind of thing. I have the choice either to wait, hoping he has more to say, or to shoehorn one last question in. I wait. Weir, for instance—little guy, but he can really smack it.

    The joke pleases me. I have a theory, I tell Dow. Hockey players, to succeed, must master the same physical concept as golfers. A puck picked cleanly off the ice will only slide weakly along it, but when the stick coming at it trampolines off the ice a fraction of an inch behind, 63 The Perfectionist the puck becomes a missile. When those with hockey in their blood address a golf ball, they understand this and intuitively hit it the right way, driving the ball into, and off of, the ground instead of trying to scoop it into the air.

    Thank you. For the good of the game, something must be done. Two potential solutions come to mind. Removing enough of these elite players would ensure a more erratic, and therefore more engaging, level of play. Ernie Els might open a stress-reduction clinic. Sergio Garcia would head up a psychology lab specializing in obsessive-compulsive disorders, with a sub-specialization in the rare condition IRE, or Incessant Regripping Syndrome. And Tiger Woods would become a worldfamous illusionist headlining his own show in Las Vegas. If he can perform the feats he does on a golf course, imagine what he could do with state-of-the-art pyrotechnics and topless dancers.

    The second, more appropriate, solution demands that we confess another truth. These events are truly enthralling because they involve more than simple club selection or waiting to see who hits water going for the island green on the second-to-last hole. When club meets ball in these events, anything can happen, and that makes for great golf. Given this reality, I suggest a new rule for the PGA tour. Every tournament should include at least one non-tour foursome for the purpose of balancing out the professionals whose brilliance has come to bore us. How do you determine the best Bond? Who can get up and down from the sand with the round hanging in the balance?

    Get these men out on the links for an afternoon and watch the resolutions fall like dominos. My feet are getting quite toasty. Side bet for this group: Who would have the most clubs still intact in his or her bag upon returning to the clubhouse? Get these songsters out playing 18 and they might be inspired to put aside the tired themes we always hear I lost my girl and want her back; never give up on your dreams; down with the establishment to instead dedicate time to a much more important subject: golf.

    But golf is unique in its capacity to render natural physical gifts extraneous. My club came slashing down silently through the summer air, the powder-blue sky its backdrop, and met the ball square at its face, promising good fortune. My front arm was as stiff as a private at attention, my hip turn as smooth as a wave curling into shore. But the ball, my friend, had other ideas; the ball knew its destiny. The players in this foursome are known for making objects vanish before our eyes, performing card tricks that boggle the mind and convincing exotic tigers to play nice most of the time.

    But can they hit a lob wedge? Everything feels comfortable and familiar, yet oddly foreign. Every step is a memory, every corner a reminder. Through the windows of the greasy spoon Golden Star, my friend Ernie and I are exploring the mysteries of our teenage existence while downing cheeseburgers and plates of onion rings. Outside the doors of the hockey arena is my ten-year-old self awkwardly carrying a large duffel bag, my father toting my sticks beside me.

    Wells story, a voice inside telling me it knows what it wants to do in life. The appearance of a new element surprises me. Above the words is a picture of a woman in a long skirt swinging an old-fashioned golf club. Her swing looks good. Curious, I turn into the tree-lined driveway and follow it past a stone-encircled fountain to the clubhouse, a white, shuttered building that looks like it could have been transplanted from a beachfront in Massachusetts.

    When I get out of the car, a number of women in shorts and tailored golf tops turn toward me. I feel like a spy who has parachuted into enemy territory. Is this a new club? Yes, right. One of them tries to push up a polite smile. Do you think I might be able to talk to the manager, or maybe even get to play a round with some of your members? At the moment, there is only one issue. If you want to get information, you have to learn to think on your feet.

    The other woman turns to adjust a display of golf balls. Well, thanks for your time. Perhaps someone could give me a call. I continue through Thornhill, every street, store and sidewalk mapping onto a different part of my memory. How did I not know of the existence of a golf club open since ? The answer is obvious enough. In other words, no boys allowed back in when it was founded, and no boys allowed today. A lightbulb went on. Most golf clubs were owned by men, and most men had little concern over the desire of women to enjoy, or, dare they think it, master the game.

    As I read further about Ada, the piece I plan to include in the book starts to materialize. I wonder if I can track down someone who knew her. Doubtful, since that would make my potential interview subject over a hundred years old, and hundred-year-old interviewees rarely give good sound bytes. I make a note on a Post-it and stick it onto my laptop.

    I learn that the site of the current LGCT was originally a farm estate accessible only by rail car. The estate was owned by a gent with the marvelous name of Strafford Watson. Ada had approached Mr. I wonder if I could locate a relative of Strafford Watson. Unwilling to accept no for an answer, Ada obtained support from several prominent women, and a few men, in the area, who collectively purchased 30 bonds for a thousand dollars each. With the purchase came the condition that Ada must secure memberships for her club, at a hundred dollars each, by the time the sale of the estate closed.

    She somehow contrived a meeting with J. Bickell, in line to become president of the Toronto Maple Leafs. There was one snag. In fact, he had a pretty low opinion of women overall. Nice guy, I think to myself. Good luck getting the money, Ada. But Ada is more resourceful than I know. She somehow comes away with the eight thousand, gets to the esteemed Strafford Watson in time, and suddenly brings her dream into the world of reality.

    I nod emphatically. Attagirl, Ada. Knew you could do it. I check out the other tabs on the LGCT website, looking for a contact name. All it takes is getting to one person. Clicking on his name takes me to a generic e-mail window. Instead, I call. Sweet, older, slow-swinging women who talk endlessly about their grandchildren? Power moms with golf-lesson swings and gym-toned arms? Teenage girls trying to become the next Michelle Wie? I reach his voicemail. I leave a standard professional-butfriendly message, making sure to casually note my credentials and drop a few important magazine names, which will intrigue him enough to call back.

    I hang up expecting a return call within 48 hours. Three days pass. Must be a busy place. This time I emphasize my credits a little more, since I want to make sure I get them curious. Every golf course on the planet likes publicity. In the meantime, I study my subject more, reading through some of the other website tabs. Mostly I discover this is a club that takes itself seriously. The LGCT, it seems, is sticky about the appearance of its members from head to toe.

    The piece is feeling like 3, words, give or take. Before shutting down the computer, I notice the LGCT even has a quaint mission statement: To provide a place for women, desirous of a private club atmosphere, to play golf. Am I glad I found this place. I click on it, wondering whether I should play the course on a weekday afternoon or weekend morning. We are not interested in coverage at this time. Curiously, that section is missing. I dial the General Club Operations guy again. This time, he answers. What goes on there?

    What do they do? What secrets do they have? I click on the tab. You may check here for openings throughout the year. My follow-up call two days later is directed to the woman in charge of hiring. We thank you for your interest. Um, thank you. No problem. I decide to do some on-site reconnaissance work. Okay, not quite on-site. More like underground, covert ops kind of work. I drive to the course again, this time with a plan. I almost always have a plan. My plan is to park at the far edge of the lot and stand 81 Scoring with the Ladies behind my car.

    When I see a pair or trio of club members walking toward their cars, I will pretend I happen to be walking from my car toward the clubhouse. What does she mean to them today? What do they love about hitting a good golf shot? As I continue to brainstorm in the car, I get excited about the piece again. So unique a piece, and so rich. Men want to murder the ball, women like the soft feeling of a graceful swing—that kind of thing.

    I park and wait. After a few minutes, two middle-aged women in shorts and vests come out chatting. I try again a few minutes later, this time with a woman by herself wheeling her clubs along in a pull-cart. What am I, the bogeyman? What do they do to men in this place? Do they take them out back to tar-and-feather them? Do they tease them about the way they over-accessorize as compensation for not being secure enough in their manhood?

    Do they grind them up and use them for turf? After half a dozen attempts to strike up conversations and the same number of outright rejections, I feel more frustrated than a freshman at a school dance. This is good, though. Good challenge. Time to write a letter. Holding to my belief in fraternity, I address it to the General Club Operations guy. I draft a few different structures and play with each one until the strongest makes itself obvious.

    I work and rework every paragraph until the raw structure is intact. I make tiny adjustments here and there, small tweaks to this or that. Finally I read it over, then a second time, then a third, and smile. This will do it. But no worries. This is going to get us in. When we reach the mailbox I unstrap him, hold him in front of it and let him drop the letter in. I call, introduce myself to the receptionist and mention the letter I sent to General Club Operations guy.

    I wink at Oliver and give him a way-to-go nod. He tosses a ball backwards over his head and cracks up. He asked me to convey that message to you. But he wanted to thank you for the letter. I read it, too. It was very nice. He dives onto my lap and laughs in a series of little gasps. Maybe it will work as part of another project down the line. Almost any professional athlete will tell you the same thing: Thinking, in the end, only interferes with physical effort.

    Asked to place thought completely aside, we recreational athletes are left with our own version of muscle memory, equivalent to a blank chalkboard. In golf, thinking is far more hazardous than it is in any other sport. But a golfer standing over his ball, if not focused on the task at hand, might stand there for centuries, and no force in the universe is going to lift his club off the ground. He responds by telling me to empty my mind, relax and just let the swing come naturally.

    I tell him my natural swing produces scores that have too many digits. Ha, ha. You can think, but only enough to retain a single swing thought. But I keep listening. Before every shot, remind yourself of that thought one time, then let your mind relax. Just relax. Let your mind run free.

    Let your natural motion take over. Trust your hands. Trust the swing. Get it? After all, one does have a lot of revelations over the course of his golf career. What was that idea I had the other day, for that novel? Wait, is that plausible? How much coke could one really get into a golf ball? Could be worth a lot. Maybe this weekend. Wait, what are we doing this weekend? Julian has a birthday party to go to. No, maybe a wedding—us, not him. Did I ask Mom and Dad to babysit? Wait, is it a bar mitzvah?

    Then again, the whole generation is pretty tall. Even the girls. What was the name of that guy in the Guinness Book? Robert Ludlum? Robert Laudlow? Funny that I always wanted to be taller than him. Are most of my friends taller than their dads? Man, does he ever look like his brother Genetics is fascinating. Where did I put that letter about the cord blood? Would I have left 88 it on the piano? No, it was important. I must have left it on the piano. I have to get the piano tuned. Mental note: remember to look up piano tuners. Robert Warlow, was that his name? Man, was he tall. Almost nine feet tall.

    Would it be fun to be that tall? No way—every piece of clothing would have to be custom-made. I wonder how tall his wife was. Wait, was he married? How the hell did that guy have sex? Am I a good kisser? What a mood killer. Those are some great lips.

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    So pink. Do girls like big lips on guys? That completely makes sense. Why are the Stones so popular? Did I put it in another case? I think I put it in the Duke Ellington case in the car the other day on the way to hockey. That was an okay game, but I have to use a different move on breakaways. Head fake to the short side, then back the other way and over the glove. I should re-tape my stick before the next game. Mental note: buy hockey tape. So funny when Frank freaked out on that guy after the hooking call last week.

    What did he say? Oh, yeah, Look at the scoreboard. That was good. Guy had nothing to say to that. How tall was I at my bar mitzvah? Five-seven, maybe. Pretty tall, not huge. What was the name of that girl in grade eight who said she was the third-smallest baby ever? How many stamps do I have left? I should buy some centers, too, in case I have to mail stuff quickly.

    Limor, that was it. Limor Markovski. No, that was Sophie Kourgontopoulus. If someone asks me who my favorite writer is, I should have an answer ready. Tennessee Williams would be a good answer. Well read but not too pretentious. Or maybe Umberto Eco. Salman Rushdie, maybe. That Seinfeld episode was so funny. How did they manage to make every single episode funny?

    Can you say that about any other show? Even Cheers had some duds. Do I let him get away with too much? You have to let them explore their own boundaries, right? What kind of book? Maybe a novel. After all, he never reads novels. Is a son responsible for keeping his dad sharp as he gets older? Could she really have been the third-smallest baby ever? What did Miss Duncan say to her that time? I guess she could have 90 been third-smallest back then.

    Now you hear of one-pound babies who survive all the time. Just say later. What are those bolts I have to buy for the towel rack in the bathroom? Topper bolts? Toggle bolts. How do they work again? Did I charge the drill?

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    I hope I did. I might have. I should hose down the lawnmower and barbecue, too. Then again, does it really matter? Man, that lawn is tough. Should I hire a landscaping service? Is that giving up? You could look at it as giving up. Boy, do they keep this course nicely groomed. That fairway is impeccable. Is that a ball? That is one beautiful shot. Dead center, look at that. Todd arches his eyebrows in the direction of the drive sitting in the middle of the fairway, then back at me. Apparently, while ruminating about all those things unrelated to what I was actually supposed to be doing, I did that thing rather well.

    Robert Wadlow, it occurs to me as Todd and I walk toward my perfect drive. Strolling toward a glorious shot like this is a quietly rapturous experience, like glimpsing the Taj Mahal over the horizon or hiking toward the Great Pyramids as sunrise breaks. Rameses II? No, he was a pharaoh. Maybe they just gave their rulers different tags at different times. Or is each pyramid a tomb for a different king? I make a mental note to investigate this The entire day—every single hole; virtually every single shot—was characterized not by my usual lack of focus but by something doubly bizarre: an inability to stop thinking.

    Once I became aware this was happening, I was faced with the dual problem of thinking too much and thinking about thinking too much. To say this was out of character is a gross understatement; for me, suddenly becoming an overthinker on the golf course is like a narcoleptic suddenly becoming an insomniac. Over the course of the round, things only got worse. The more I resisted thinking, the more thinking took hold. By the end of the round I was begging my mind to go blank for one shot just to see how it might turn out. Instead it started forcing me to consider not only the current shot but also the next.

    I want to unscrew my head and shake its contents out the window. I wrap my arms around her and feel the cool skin of her waist. She presses her lips softly to mine. The familiar taste sparks us both. A series of relays clicks and releases inside me, releasing heat in a long, luxurious wave. I smile. My brain, which I thought had shut down for the night, has become interested in the proceedings.

    It wants to offer some suggestions. It asks whether I had a breath mint after the cheeseburger with onions for lunch. My eyes widen. I lower my mouth to hers. I change tack, going for her neck instead, just as she turns toward my lips. Her jaw and my forehead collide. I go for her mouth again, but this time my lips part as hers close. I seem to have forgotten how to kiss my wife. My hands feel clammy. I love you. I plead with my brain to mind its own business.

    It insists on staying involved. My ardor has turned into a mix of performance anxiety and anger—the same combination I usually experience on the golf course. Then I realize it: the overthinking that took me down on the course today is taking me down in the bedroom tonight. Or at least I get really ticked off. Our teeth knock together. Every golfer, prior to every round, expects to play better no matter how poorly his previous round has gone. In this way, the recreational golfer has a mental advantage, for in no other sport do participants maintain such persistent optimism without a shred of rational evidence to support it.

    My hat and pants are the same as yesterday, but the shirt—forest green with a bit of yellow trim at the sleeves—is crisp and fresh, comfortable and breathable, fresh out of the bag, pins removed, creases 97 The Sweet Spot ironed. Inspecting myself in the mirror before leaving the house, I could have sworn I was looking at a touring professional.

    It somehow keeps this up for 18 holes, producing a score even uglier than usual, and, for good measure, a pulsing sensation above my left eye. Steph and I agreed this morning that last night was simply one of those nights. She removes my hat and giggles at the matted mess underneath. I hoist her into my arms, carry her up the stairs and toss her onto the bed. I pause. Did I say that? It was inside my head. So you were lousy, big deal. It happens. Forget it. What does that have to do with anything? I slow down. Steph smiles. Grounding the club is prohibited in bunkers or when playing from any marked hazard.

    Ground under repair GUR An area of the golf course that is being repaired. A free drop is allowed if the ball lands in an area marked "GUR". Groove the crevices on the face of a club that are designed to impart spin on the ball. Golden Ferret Term used to describe holing out from a greenside bunker. Good-good When both players in a match agree to concede each other's putts. Hacker an unskilled golfer. Half In match play, a hole is halved or tied when both players or teams have played the same number of strokes.

    In some team events, such as the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup except for singles matches in the latter competition while its overall outcome remains in doubt , a match that is tied after 18 holes is not continued, and is called "halved", with each team receiving half a point. Handicap A number assigned to each player based on his ability and used to adjust each player's score to provide equality among the players.

    In simplified terms, a handicap number, based on the slope of a course, is subtracted from the player's gross score and gives him a net score of par or better half the time. Hands a term used to describe a player with too much wrist movement in their putting stroke causing inconsistent putts. Hard pan Hard, usually bare, ground conditions. Hazard any bunker or permanent water including any ground marked as part of that water hazard. Special rules apply when playing from a hazard. Hole A circular hole in the ground which is also called "the cup", 4.

    Hole in one Getting the ball directly from the tee into the hole with one stroke. Hole in one insurance Since it is customary to purchase a round of drinks after achieving a hole in one, insurance is available to cover the cost. Hook when unintentional is a poor shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves sharply to the left may occasionally be played intentionally but is difficult to control. Hooks are often called the "better player's miss", thanks to the fact that many of the game's greatest players Ben Hogan, for instance have been plagued by the hook at one time or another in their careers.

    A shot that follows the same direction but to a lesser degree is referred to as a 'draw' and is often intentional. The curved shape of the flight of the ball is a result of sideways spin. For that reason "hook" does not refer to a putt which "breaks". Hosel The crooked area where the club head connects to the shaft. Hitting the ball off the hosel is known as a shank. Interlocking grip grip style where for right-handed players the pinkie finger of the right hand is hooked around the index finger of the left.

    Inward nine The back nine holes of a golf course, so named because older links courses were designed to come back "in" toward the clubhouse after going "out" on the front nine. Iron a club with a flat-faced solid metal head generally numbered from 1 to 9 indicating increasing loft. Knock-down A type of shot designed to have a very low trajectory, usually employed to combat strong winds. Knitted jumper A jumper created by the art of knitting. As worn by most golfers. Lag i A long putt designed to simply get the ball close to the hole.

    Lay-up A stroke played with a shorter range club than is possible in order to position the ball in a certain spot. This may be done to ensure a more comfortable next stroke or to avoid a hazard. Lie i How the ball is resting on on the ground, which may add to the difficulty of the next stroke. Line The path the ball it expected to take following a stroke. This is of particular importance on the green, where stepping on another player's line is considered a breach of etiquette.

    Links A type of golf course, usually along a stretch of coastline, Loft the angle between the club's shaft and the club's face. Loose impediment A small natural item which is not fixed or growing, solidly embedded, or stuck to the ball, such as a small stone or leaf. Unless found within a hazard players are generally permitted to move them away, but if the ball is moved while doing so, there is a one-stroke penalty.

    Match play a form of golf play where players or teams compete against each other on a hole-by-hole basis. Medal play style of scoring in which the player with the fewest strokes wins. Most professional tournaments are medal play. Also known as "stroke play". Member's bounce any favorable bounce of the golf ball that improves what initially appeared to be an errant shot. Mis-read A mis-read is to incorrectly discern the correct line of a putt.

    Mulligan A do-over, or replay of the shot, without counting the shot as a stroke and without assessing any penalties that might apply. It is not allowed by the rules and not practiced in tournaments, but is common in casual rounds in some countries, especially the United States.

    Nassau a type of bet between golfers that is essentially three separate bets. Money is wagered on the best score in the front 9, back 9, and total 18 holes. Nine Iron A club which is highest in the "iron" family. Used for short distance shots. Open Face When in relation to the target line the club face is angled away from the player's body, i. Open Stance When a player's front foot is drawn backwards further from the target line. Used to fade the ball or to prevent a hook.

    Ostrich The single hole score of -5, or five under par. The only way this can occur is with a hole-in-one on a par 6. This score has never been achieved and it is unlikely that it ever will considering the dramatic length and rarity of par 6's. See Par score. Outside Agent Is any agent not part of the match or, in stroke play, not part of the competitor's side. Referees, markers, observers, and forecaddies are outside agents. Wind and water are not outside agents. Outward nine refers to the first nine holes, so named as links golf courses were set up where the first nine holes went "out" away from the clubhouse.

    Out-of-bounds the area designated as being outside the boundaries of the course. When a shot lands "O. Out-of-bounds areas are usually indicated by white posts. Overlapping grip See Vardon grip. Pace the speed at which a putt must be struck to get to the hole. Pace and break are the two components of green-reading. Par apocryphally an abbreviation for "professional average result" , standard score for a hole defined by its length or a course sum of all the holes' pars. Pin Slang for "flag stick".

    Pin-high Refers to a ball on the green that is positioned along an imaginary horizontal line through the hole and across the width of the green. Pitch a short shot typically from within 50 yards , usually played with a higher lofted club and made using a less than full swing, that is intended to flight the ball toward a target usually the hole with greater accuracy than a full iron shot. Pitch mark another term for a divot on the green caused when a ball lands.

    Players must repair their pitch marks, usually with a tee or a divot tool. Play through Permission granted by a slow-moving group of players to a faster-moving group of players to pass them on the course. Plugged Lie a bad lie where the ball is at least half-buried. Also known as a "buried lie" or in a bunker a "fried egg".

    Plunk a lie where the ball is on the lip of a lake or other water hazard. Plus handicap a golf handicap less than zero. A 'plus' handicap golfer must add his handicap to his score. Pop-up a poor tee shot where the top of the club head strikes under the ball, causing it to go straight up in the air. In addition to being bad shots, pop-ups frequently leave white scuff-marks on the top of the club head, or dents in persimmon clubs. Also known as "sky shots". Pre-shot routine is the steps an experienced player goes through to get ready for his or her shot.

    It usually involves taking practice swings and visualizing the intended shot. Pro a professional is a golfer or person who plays or teaches golf for financial reward, may work as a touring pro in professional competitions, or as a teaching pro also called a club pro. Pull a poor shot played severely to the left; as opposed to hooks, which curve from right to left, a pulled shot goes directly left. Punch shot a shot played with a very low trajectory, usually to avoid interference from tree branches when a player is hitting from the woods.

    Similar to the knock-down, it can also be used to avoid high winds. Push a shot played severely to the right; as opposed to slices, which curve from left to right, a pushed shot goes directly right. Similar to the "block". Also, term used in match play where neither competitor wins the hole. Putt a shot played on the green, usually with a putter. Putting green a green usually found close to the club house used for warm up and to practice putting. Putter a special golf club with a very low loft that makes the ball roll.


    The final tournament is six rounds holes for men and five rounds 90 holes for women. Range Finder a measuring device used to determine one's relative distance to an object. In golf, they are most commonly used to find out how far a player is from the hole. Release the point in the downswing at which the wrists uncock. A late release creating "lag" is one of the keys to a powerful swing.

    Rough the grass that borders the fairway, usually taller and coarser than the fairway. Rutter a small headed niblick for hitting the ball from a cart track. Sandbagger a golfer that carries a higher official handicap than his skills indicates, e. Sandbaggers usually artificially inflate their handicaps with the intent of winning bets on the course, a practice that most golfers consider cheating.

    Also known as a bandit. Sand save when a player gets up and down from a green side sand bunker, regardless of score on the hole. Sand save percentage is one of many statistics kept by the PGA Tour. Sand trap see bunker. Sand wedge a lofted club designed especially for playing out of a bunker. The modern sand wedge was invented by Gene Sarazen. Sandy or Sandie a score of par or better that includes a bunker shot. Sandies are counted as points in some social golf games. See Funnies. Scotch foursomes In scotch foursomes teams of 2 players compete against each other.

    Players alternate hitting the same ball. If Player A teed off on the first hole and Player B holed the final putt, Player B would not tee off at the second, meaning that Player A could, in theory, play every tee shot on the round. Scramble when a player misses the green in regulation, but still makes par or better on a hole. Scrambling percentage is one of many statistics kept by the PGA Tour. Also a two or four man format, similar to Best Ball, except in a scramble, each player strikes a shot, the best shot is selected, then all players play from that selected position.

    Scratch golfer a player's whose handicap equals zero. Shamble a format, similar to a scramble, where every player hits from the tee, the best tee-shot is selected, and each player holes-out from the selected tee-shot. Shank a horrible shot in which the golf ball is struck by the hosel of the club. On a shank, a player has managed to strike the ball with a part of the club other than the club face. A shanked shot will scoot a short distance, often out to the right, or might be severely sliced or hooked. Shrimp a severe hook, named because it resembles the shape of a shrimp.

    Shooting your age A round of 18 holes where a given player has a score equal to, or less than, a player's age. For example, an eighty-year-old man who scores an 80 has shot his age. Shoot your my temperature usually an uncomplimentary term meaning to shoot a score of Short game Shots that take place on or near the green.

    Putting, chipping, pitching, and green side bunker play are all aspects of the short game. Skin a skins game pits players in a type of match play in which each hole has a set value usually in money or points. The player who wins the hole is said to win the "skin", and whatever that skin is worth.

    Skins games may be more dramatic than standard match play if it is agreed by the players that holes are not halved. Then, when any two players tie on a given hole, the value of that hole is carried over and added to the value of the following hole. The more ties, the greater the value of the skin and the bigger the eventual payoff. Slice a poor shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves sharply from the left to the right. A shot that follows the same direction but to a lesser degree is referred to as a fade or a cut and is often intentional.

    For that reason "slice" does not refer to a putt which "breaks". Slope rating Slope Rating is a number, from 55 to , used to determine the level of difficulty of a golf course for a bogey golfer. An "average" course has a slope rating of Snap hook a severe hook that usually goes directly left as well as curving from right to left. Also known by the somewhat redundant term "Pull-Hook". Snowman To score an eight on a hole. So-named because an eight 8 looks similar to the body of a snowman. Sit Telling the ball to drop softly, and not roll after landing.

    Society An organized group of golfers, usually not affiliated to any individual golf course. Members are often drawn from the same workplace, profession, alma mater or other association. Span Move your marker when in the way of another person's line of putt. Speed a term used to describe the pace of a putt. Proper 'speed' of a putt will either hole the putt or leave it about 18 inches beyond the cup.

    Sprachle play badly, Scottish term. Spray To hit the ball with a grossly inconsistent direction compared with the intended target in a seemingly random manner. Stableford A points based scoring system. The number of strokes taken on each hole relative to par translates into a set number of points, with the winner being the player who accumulates the highest number of points. Stimpmeter A device used to measure the speed of putting greens. Stroke Play see Medal Play Stymie To block another player's putting path to the hole with one's own ball.

    Now an anachronism since the rules of golf permit marking the spot of the ball on the green, thus allowing the other player to putt into the hole without obstruction. Sweet-spot The location on the club face where the optimal ball-striking results are achieved. The closer the ball is struck to he sweet-spot, the higher the Power transfer ratio will be.

    A golf swing is made up of a series of complex mechanical body movements. A perfect golf swing is regarded as the "holy grail" of the sport, and there are many approaches as to how to achieve "perfection". Tap-in a ball that has come to rest very close to the hole, leaving only a very short putt to be played. Often recreational golfers will "concede" tap-ins to each other to save time.

    Target-line the straight line from the ball to its intended target, also extended backward past the golfer's rear foot. Tee A small peg, usually made of wood or plastic, placed in the ground upon which the golf ball may be placed prior to the first stroke on a hole.

    May also refer to the teeing ground. Teeing ground The area from which you hit your drive or tee shot. The teeing ground for a particular set of tees is two club lengths in depth. The ball must be teed between the markers, called tees, that define the teeing ground's width, and no further back than its depth. Tees are colored, but there is no standard for colors.

    The "teeing ground" refers to one set of tees. Most courses have at least three sets of tees, some have more than twice that many. The areas where tee markers are placed are called "tee boxes". Tempo the smooth change of the speed of a player's swing from first movement to ball strike. Ten finger grip grip style with all ten fingers on the club. Also known as the Baseball grip. Thin shot a poor shot where the club head strikes too high on the ball.

    When taken to an extreme but still at or below the centerline of the ball it is known "blading" the ball. Through line When putting, the imaginary path that a ball would travel on should the putted ball go past the hole. Usually observed by PGA players and knowledgeable golfers when retrieving or marking a ball around the hole. Through the green The entire area of the golf course, except for the teeing ground of the hole being played, the green of the hole being played and all hazards on the course. Topped an errant shot where the club head strikes on top of the ball, causing the ball to roll or bounce rather than fly.

    Turkey Three consecutive birdies during one round of golf. Unplayable A player can declare his ball unplayable at any time when it is in play other than at a tee , and can drop the ball either within two club-lengths, or further from the hole in line with the hole and its current position, or where he played his last shot. A penalty of one stroke is applied. A ball declared unplayable within a hazard must be dropped within that hazard.

    Up and down Describes the situation where a player holes the ball in two strokes starting from off the green. The first stroke, usually a "pitch", a "bunker shot" or a "chip", gets the ball 'up' onto the green, and the subsequent putt gets the ball 'down' into the hole. A variation is called "up and in". Vardon grip A common grip style in which for right-handed players the right pinkie finger rests on top of the left index finger. Also known as the "overlapping grip", it is named for Harry Vardon, a champion golfer of the early 20th century.

    Vaulting dormie A possible occurrence in match play when a player converts a lead into a victory without passing through dormie, a guaranteed minimum of a tie at the end of regulation play. For example, converting an 8-hole lead with nine to play into a 9-hole lead with eight to play, or converting a 1-hole lead with two to play into a 2-hole lead with one to play. Wedge A type of golf club; a subset of iron designed for short range strokes. Whiff An attempt to strike the ball where the player fails to make contact with the ball.

    A whiff must be counted as a stroke. Wood A type of club where the head is generally bulbous in shape except for the clubface. Named because the head was originally made of wood, although almost all are now metal. Worm Burner A shot that is hit low and hard. The yips a tendency to twitch during the putting stroke. Some top golfers have had their careers greatly affected or even destroyed by the yips; prominent golfers who battled with the yips for much of their careers include Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, and, more recently, Bernhard Langer.

    Skip to content Skip to primary sidebar Skip to footer. A Ace When a player hits the ball directly from the tee into the hole with one stroke. B Back nine the last nine holes of an 18 hole golf course. C Caddy or Caddie A person, often paid, who carries a player's clubs and offers advice. D Dead TV-broadcaster slang for a shot in which there is no favorable outcome possible. E Eagle A hole played in two strokes under par. F Fade A shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves slightly to the right, and is often played intentionally by skilled golfers. H Hacker an unskilled golfer.

    I Interlocking grip grip style where for right-handed players the pinkie finger of the right hand is hooked around the index finger of the left. K Knock-down A type of shot designed to have a very low trajectory, usually employed to combat strong winds. L Lag i A long putt designed to simply get the ball close to the hole.