Golf Camp Day 2 delivered on everything I needed it to. Rain, mess, blown shots: basically, a small window opened in the fabric of reality and shot us all into our Future As Golfers.
Fortunately, most of the rain happened on either side of the 9 to 3 window that was Golf Camp for the day. This meant that we all needed jackets because the skies were in a constant state of Threat Level: Orange. This doesn’t sound nearly as bad as it was, for a combination of reasons.
The obvious thing, right, is to just wear the jacket all the time. The basic challenge to that approach is that the climate was on rapid-cycle bipolar: for one five minute stretch, it would be drizzling (wear the jacket or get wet), for the next, the clouds would open up and let some sun through for a rapid warming effect (take the jacket off or swelter), and for the next, the clouds would return sans rain but with a friendly little cutting breeze (wear the jacket or freeze). There was also the option of a combination of the above. So even a simple, straightforward hike would have been an extended series of take the jacket off, put the jacket on, take it back off, put it back on, take it off, rinse, lather, repeat.
A further challenge was presented by the fact that we were not on a simple, straightforward hike. We were walking (sometimes driving) from point A to learn and practice Golf Skill 1 to point B to learn and practice Golf Skill 2 to point C to learn and practice Golf Skill 3, etc. My experience was that any of the Golf Skills were virtually impossible to execute with a jacket on unless that jacket was fully zipped up. There are so very many ways to screw up a golf swing or a putt, and one of those is certainly to get the flapping tails of a jacket tangled up with the club. Some of the other stuff, like the “full swing” (which is opposed to the “half swing,” the “toe-up swing,” the “chip,” the “putt,” and the “blast”) were impossible for me to execute in a jacket, because the jackets didn’t give me the range of motion I wanted in either my shoulders or my hips.
And, given the heavy dependence golf seems to place on Field of Vision, there could be no serious question of wearing the hood.
Beyond this, what with moving about so frequently, taking the jacket off presented its own difficulties in Where To Put The Blasted Thing. It was easy for the (very short) time that we had a golf cart. There’s a rack in the back of the cart that appears made with the intent of receiving wadded-up jackets. Unsurprising, as there is also a rack in the cart that has been made specifically to hold a bunch of golf balls, and it has tiny little holes in it as well for the purpose of suspending tees. But for the rest (majority) of the time when we didn’t have the golf cart, the jacket shell-game turned into “Where can I put this thing on the ground so that I won’t lose it?”
It is surprisingly easy to lose things on a golf course. I don’t just mean hitting the ball into a forest or a lake. I mean losing stuff like clothing and clubs. I nearly lost my jacket twice, and that was only on the driving range and putting grounds. The Pro told us that at the end of the season, the clubhouse would have custody of something like 300 clubs that had been left out on the course. He actually showed us tricks to minimize the probability that some of those Lost Clubs would be ours.
So, Lesson One for the day: How To Leave The Course With Everything You Came With.
In addition to learning how not to lose our personal belongings, we did also – happily – learn How To Use The Golf Course. Even more happily, this included a lesson in How To Use The Golf Cart. A surprising number of people in our group were intimidated by the golf cart. For me, however, it has been a long-term desire to pilot one of those things around. It’s a tiny, slow, Off-Road Vehicle. Huey moves faster than the golf cart, and that’s even only at his extended walk. He’s also bigger than the golf cart, come to think of it. So there we are, broken into two groups of two (married couples separate because our Pro was not born yesterday). And the Pro? Riding the back bumper of the cart like a street urchin hitching a ride from a trolley. Off we went, over hill, over dale, to the 17th tee, where we learned several valuable lessons:
There are a bunch of places you can tee off from, and the decision is driven by sexism (a separate and easier “Ladies’ Tee”) and ageism (a separate and even easier “Senior Citizens’ Tee”). The “real” golfers (men) tee off from a Hard Place and the Super Golfers (professionals) tee off from the other side of the planet. Our group being what it was, the Pro told us we’d all be teeing off from the same place, and a Yiddisher Debate instantly sprung up over whether we were “more like” a group of women, or “more like” a group of senior citizens. Roy was on the Senior Citizen side. I was not. Being who and what I am, I felt that teeing off from any spot other than the “Mens’ Tee” would be a Disgrace…yet I had to acknowledge that my drive was such that I’d be lucky to knock the ball from the Mens’ Tee to the Ladies’ Tee, let alone get it onto the fairway. Ultimately, we concluded that the Ladies’ Tee would be the appropriate spot.
The Pro taught us how the Real Golfers decide who goes first, which involves flipping a tee. No, really, it does. Whoever the pointy end of the tee faces, goes first. Repeat until the tee has pointed at everyone but one, that person goes last. Then we learned about the “scramble” – a concept that everyone in the group took to instantly. I know how Lori’s Rules of Putt-Putt operate, which is that I take the lowest score on the hole, regardless of who actually hit the ball, and that everyone has an unlimited number of “mulligans” (do-overs). I assumed that for Real Golf, you just hit the ball until it got into the hole, and that Real Golfers would not respond well to the Lori Takes The Lowest Score at every hole, and that I had to deal with Cold Hard Reality. Which, for me, would be Par 25 on every hole, given my lack of ability to drive the ball and my erratic putting. It was clear, as the Pro introduced the “scramble” that my concerns had been equally shared among the other members of our little tribe. The “scramble” – I love it that this is common enough that there’s an official word for it – means that everyone hits a ball, and the group picks the best one, and everyone else puts their ball there and hits from that position for the next shot. It’s like “best out of four” on every shot. And you wind up with only one score. Which has the collateral benefit of reducing the score, eliminating lengthy searches for the ball in a lake, forest, bog, or swamp, and speeding up the game.
Lesson Two for the Day: How To Suck At Golf Without Pissing Off Everyone Else On The Course.
It’s a truism that everyone sucks at golf, except for the pros. The question for me is not “Will I suck at golf?” because the obvious and clear answer is “Yes”. Why should I be unlike every other non-golf-professional citizen of the planet. The question for me was “Will I suck at golf so badly that I make a public nuisance of myself and must either never use a golf course, or hang my head in shame and disgrace if I do?”
Thanks to the “scramble” – and to our Pros earnest recommendation that whoever is ready to take their shot is the next person to shoot – the answer to that question is “No”.
What a relief. I’ll be able to golf on a course.
We were told that the raison d’etre of the “scramble” is Corporate Golf Tourneys and Charity Functions – both of which, as an accounting professor, I actually have cause to attend from time to time. Apparently, my concern about sucking so badly that I make a disgraceful nuisance of myself is common enough to keep warm bodies out of these events, so the general consensus about how to deal with those (tremendously valid) concerns is just to ensure that there is no individual score, and that the game keeps on moving along. I can get behind this 100 percent. As can Roy, who has vowed that any golf playing we do in the foreseeable future will be “scramble” style. This also works well with the tremendously valuable advice from our Pro to not keep score at all…for, he said, “at least a year.”
Our experiences at the 17th hole drove home all of these lessons, and a few more. After the intense debate – to the orchestra of sound from the complicated Golf Course Grooming Machines, and the pitter-patter of drizzle – we all teed off. To my utter shock, I hit a decent one and drove my ball a halfway reasonable amount of distance down the course. To my total lack of shock, the blasted thing went well wide of center and landed in the rough. One person made a usable hit. Another dribbled the ball out of the tee box and down a hill. And Roy? Wailed away with his powerful yet frequently inaccurate drive, and sent the ball shooting away through the fog. And, even with all four of us watching, we couldn’t see where it had went.
There’s nothing like trying to track a speeding white ball 2″ in diameter through a fog, I tell you.
Since my years of playing tennis with Roy have taught me a lot about his high-velocity yet minimally-accurate projectiles, I was fairly certain the thing had shot off into the fog to the right, even further than my ball had gone to the right. Another member of our party, however, was convinced that they’d seen the ball land well over to the left. An extended debate up there on the tee box in the fog ensued. Ultimately, the Pro ushered us into the carts and we took off. Roy decided he would prefer to learn to use the cart under my tolerant and (now) expert eye. I suggested he stick with the Pro like everyone else had. An extended debate on the cart path in the fog ensued. Ultimately, Roy took the wheel and started rolling us down the path. I kept an eagle eye out in the area I suspected Roy’s ball would have landed, and was rewarded by the vision of an unusually white and tiny patch of the fog. I leapt out of the (moving) golf cart and launched away towards it. “I FOUND YOUR BALL! IT’S OVER HERE TO THE RIGHT!” I said, immediately before sinking in up to my arches in some kind of grassy swamp. Recall that I mentioned that the rain mainly affected the hours after and before our Golf Camp. My sneaker instantly filled with nasty brackish muddy water.
“UGH!!!!” I said, several times, as I continued to hop over towards the ball. I retrieved it, and then my own ball, from the bog, and rejoined the crowd. The Pro said he would have got the balls, but I wasn’t too sure I’d have been able to find it again in the fog. Then we all hit from the position of the only decent shot off the tee. That guy’s ball went directly into the water on the second shot. CHING! One down. The other three shots resulted in one that was obviously poor, and two that were debatable.
So we had a debate. Another one. We’re not even to the FAIRWAY and we’ve already had three debates.
Lesson Three: Don’t Go Golfing With People You Hate To Argue With.
This part, I was happy to find, was just like Putt-Putt.
We played another half of a hole before we needed to adjourn to the driving range. I had a similar set of experiences as the day before, to wit: every once in a while, I’d hit the ball exactly right, which fueled the desire to hit another 40 balls until it happened again. Me and every other person on the driving range. All of us, like rats in a cage with a lever that dispenses an occasional treat if it’s pressed frequently enough. This time, I was thinking about the video from the day before, and attempting to remedy some of the more obvious problems, but I was still getting a pain in my mid-back from crouching over the ball. Oy.
From there, we learned about the “bunker”. The “bunker” is the formal name for the “sand trap” – i.e., that huge pool of yellow sand that interrupts the sweeping green contours of the golf course. We used the bunker to learn the “pitch” which is pretty similar to the “chip” except that you use a different club and you bend your wrist. I did not do well at the “pitch”. Ultimately, the Pro came to help trouble shoot this situation, said “STOP. What club is this?” Now, there are about 100 different kinds of clubs. I’m sure the real number is much lower, but it feels like 100 of them. I looked at the bottom of the club where the number is written, and I said “It says 5”. “You can’t pitch with a Five Iron!” he said. “That’s next to impossible! No wonder!” and gave me another club that looked like it said “5” on the bottom.
“That’s not a 5,” he said. “It’s an S.”
An “S”? Without going into the question of why it’s even possible to have an “S” that can be confused for a “5”…why “S”? Everything else has numbers.
“S is for Sand” the Pro said.
Oh. S is for Sand. Naturally. S is for Sand. Then the penny dropped. The bunker. S is for Sand, which fills the bunker. Ah. A special club for hitting the ball when it goes into the sand.
At a certain point, one just stops asking pointless questions like “why”.
He was right, pitching with the Sand club was a whole lot easier. When I wasn’t accidentally digging my club into the grass and displacing a huge chunk of it There is, naturally, a special term for that, too: the “divot.” There is something sold in the Pro shop called a “divot tool” but I don’t know why I’d want one of those when it’s abundantly clear that I am perfectly capable of manufacturing a “divot” with my own clubs, including my “wood” (which I have been told should not be possible). Then we learned another golf swing, the “blast” which is how you get the ball out of the sand once it’s there. Again, I seemed to have a disproportionate amount of difficulty with this one.
As we stood about, debating again, after the Pitching and Bunker Lesson, the penny finally dropped on why I was having so much trouble. Everyone had unconsciously adopted that jaunty Golfing Pose where the golfer rests the head of the club on the grass and leans slightly on the handle of it with an outstretched hand. And as I noted this, I noted another thing too: that the two guys – who were both of a height…as I am as well, being built on the Amazon line – weren’t tilting to execute this pose…but I was. I asked them both to stand up straight and show me where the club hit them on the arm: for both, the top of the club came up well over the wrist.
My club didn’t even come up to the wrist.
Why? Because, dammit, when they’d tricked me out with a set of Loaner Clubs, the person who did this took one look at my midsection, noted the mammaries, and said “Ladies’ Clubs”.
Without also noticing that I am average height for a man.
So this whole time, I’d been using a set of clubs that were a full inch-and-a-half too short. Which explains the whiffing, it explains why getting my club in the proper position required crouching or a deep knee bend, and why it is my middle back that is aching from the swings.
Lesson Four: Be Sure The Clubs Are The Right Height.
The longest club in the bag is the Number One. It’s “the driver”. The one that Real Golfers use to hit the ball off the tee, because it has the most power in the pack, partly because of its length. And in my bag, the Number One was the length that a bunch of the driving irons should be for my height. I switched off to that one on the driving range, and it’s amazing how much that improved things.
So that was Golf Camp. As soon as we finished, it started raining in earnest.
It seems that Roy’s request that we Take Up Golf as a couple is going to carry the day. We stopped on the way home to get golf shoes.