We have concluded Day 1 of Golf Camp. Golf Camp was Roy’s idea. He felt that we should have a joint hobby, instead of the assortment of individual hobbies we have at present. I’m not totally sure how he settled on “golf” as a front-runner for this joint hobby. He arrived at this Master Plan of Taking Up Golf Together in the middle of the winter, of all times, and the Go To Golf Camp Plan followed pretty quickly thereupon. So here we are, attending a 2-day Golf Camp, as a pair of never-evers. He is technically not a “never” ever, having done something once that he refers to as “Pitch-N-Putt” – I have no idea what this is, but it evidently took his fancy in a strong way about twenty years ago. For myself, I refuse to count the numerous trips I’ve made to the Putt-Putt (or, as they call it around here, Mini-Golf). I am a huge fan of Putt-Putt, especially the courses that involve things like giant sculptured dinosaurs, or windmills where you have to knock the ball through a hole while avoiding the rotating blades.
Golf Camp has proven remarkably devoid of giant dino sculptures and rotating fairway elements. Actually, so far, it’s proven pretty devoid of actual fairways. This is because we have a small cadre of never-evers, and before this morning, I did not know how to hold a club. We spent a good long time on a putting green. It was covered with very short fine grass and had a lot of holes in the ground with little flags on poles stuck in each hole. I have seen these flags in Putt-Putt, but we always took them out of the hole before trying to put the ball into the hole. This is not what we did this morning.
After we got the hang of putting, or at least, we used up all of the time that was allocated for putting, we moved on to “chipping”. Putting involves a “putter”, which looks exactly like the Putt-Putt club, except that the putter is not covered with a rubber coating. Chipping is something you do with an “iron”, which is actually made out of “steel”. This differentiates that club from a “wood” which is actually made out of “steel” as well, unless it’s made out of “titanium”. In no case is the “wood” made out of “wood”.
Everyone says it’s easy to be lousy at golf, but no one mentioned that you need to learn a foreign language along the way.
So there we are, learning “chipping”. Chipping is what you do when you need to putt, except that the ball is not sitting on grass that is short enough for putting. It is, instead, sitting on the “fringe” the “apron” or “that area around the putting place that is covered with grass that is longer than the putting place but not as long as the fairway”. I came up with the last one myself. You have to swing the iron, which has a little line on the top of the “head”, which is really the “bottom”, between the “toe” (which is the end of the “head”) and the “heel” (which is the back of the “head” where it is stuck on the stick, which is not really a stick at all, but a “shaft”. There’s something in between the shaft and the head but I didn’t catch the name of that thing. It sounded strangely German.). You line everything up and you make a very short swing – this should be a very short swing, because if you swing it even as much as you swing the club for Putt-Putt, you will send your ball rocketing away at the speed of light, across the green and into the “rough”, which looks like an ill-kempt backyard lawn. I learned this about 500 times. You also have to hit the grass and make a “pfut” noise with your club on the grass.
After that, it was time to learn to “drive” which does not involve a golf cart, boo, but involves another “iron” and a “wood”. It is also where the “tee” comes into play. Roy turned out to be surprisingly effective at driving, using the exact same motion (as far as I could see) that he employs when returning a tennis ball or hitting a baseball in the batting cage. The Golf Pro indicated that this was Not Optimal, but Roy was the most successful at moving the balls in the desired direction and to the desired distance. I disgraced myself repeatedly by “whiffing” – delivering a bitchin’ swing while completely failing to make contact with the actual ball. I think of it as an “air shot”, or, more simply, “dammit”. I did get the hang of the “follow-through” pretty quickly. That is the part where you wrap the club all the way around and wind up with your back toe pointing into the ground and gazing down the ball’s trajectory with a Serious and Calculating Expression.
I had persistent problems with my balls either blooping 8 feet away after I’d walloped them, or getting some air and velocity, but shooting off to my right instead of going straight. This is a “draw” or a “fade” but I’m not sure which, because it involves different directions for lefties versus righties. Yeah.
Fortunately, I was able to find out why both of these things were happening, because Day 1 concluded with a short video shoot and a group analysis of the shots in slow-mo. I was happy to realize that – even if I cannot seem to do it properly – I was able to immediately identify the source of both of these problems. I will not, however, bore you with the Details.
Here are my big take-aways from Day 1 of Golf Camp:
1. Your feet will get wet. I did not want to invest in Golf Shoes until I knew whether or not Iliked golf, so I went through the day in a pair of canvas LLBean deck shoes, in a sunwashed nautical green. Don’t laugh. They went beautifully with my matching skort (mushroom) and golf shirt (dark green). Looking good is Important. Almost as important is that this pair of shoes, being deck shoes intended for use on an actual boat deck, has the best traction of any of my available shoe collection. Unfortunately, they were saturated at the toe before we made it over to the putting green, and they didn’t dry out with further usage. Golf is surprisingly wet.
2. It kills the back, but in ways I didn’t expect. I would have thought the twisting stuff, but no. If I heard it once today, I heard it fifty times, at me (and another fifty times per each of the other three members of my group): DO NOT SWING WITH YOUR BACK. SWING WITH YOUR HIPS. Fortunately, I was the best at this out of our group of 4, so I don’t anticipate any screaming agony. No. The back-killing stuff comes from spending vast amounts of time crouched over the club and ball with your butt sticking out, your knees bent, and your arms hanging straight (STRAIGHT ARMS: another thing I heard fifty times) in front of you.
3. I thought there were a bunch of muscles that you only ever use for riding horses, but this is not true. You use them also for golf. All these weird muscles in your core, it’s the exact same stuff you use for posting the trot and riding a canter. It was nice to be ahead of the game onsomething.
4. It is a serious work out. I thought How taxing can this be, standing about for four or five hours and swinging a little club? The answer is: Very. I was wiped by lunchtime. There isn’t going to be any difficulty about sleeping tonight, not unless the middle of my back and my hips and my forearms and my feet and my hands start to stiffen up. The morning is going to be a real thrill, I can tell already. We stopped at the grocery on the way back and bought a thumb of ginger to chew to head off the post-exertional muscle soreness. And I have a tube of arnicare, and Roy – blast him – took a Preventive Advil before heading off to Golf Camp this morning, and took another one before dinner. I wish like hell I could take that stuff, because Tylenol? It’s a joke. Maybe there are 10 people on the planet that Tylenol has any analgesic effect whatsoever on, but I sure am not one of them.
5. It is full of Jews. On the way up this morning, Roy observed that he expected Golf Camp would be full of Jews. I said “I hope not” and “why” in the same breath. He replied that this is the last “dress rehearsal” Golf Camp (lower price) before the season cranks into high gear with Memorial Day weekend, and that loads of Jews would be taking advantage of the cut rates. Then he wanted to know why I hoped not. This is a little bit complicated. See, our area is on the Migratory Path for New York City folk who want to rusticate in the country. They pour out in the first wave when they have kids, because the City really isn’t a great place for having kids due to a general lack of backyards and other convenient greenspace for playing, and due to the general presence of very high prices and big crowds. Then they pour out in the second wave when they retire. There are several locations to which these waves pour out, but by far and above, the most popular destination for New York City Jews who are pouring out is Western Massachusetts (where I live) and Southern Vermont (where the Golf Camp is). This is a seriously mixed blessing, because when the New Yorkers pour out of the City, they bring a lot of amenities with them. On the other hand, every Jew in my area expects, automatically, that every other Jew in that area they meet came from the City too, and they invariably, inevitably, launch into a full-blown game of Jewish Geography. This is like Twenty Questions with the end-goal of identifying the particular Three Degrees of Separation between any two of them. That means approximately 15 minutesper pair of “Oh, you’re from the City? Where?” “Oh, I grew up in the Bronx too! Which part!” “Pelham Parkway? My parents lived there for ten years. What grade school did you go to?” and “Upper West Side? The 87 block, or the 112 block?” “Yes! My brother’s wife’s uncle’s father was the rabbi at that synagogue! He retired back in 1962. Did you know him?”
Listening to a horde of people pair off and list off every street address in Manhattan, the Boroughs, or New Jersey that they ever occupied, while triangulating with JCCs, synagoges, public schools, and yeshivas is bad enough…if you, like me, are not only not from the City but do not have any blood relatives who live, or have ever lived in the City. There’s only so much time I can spend discussing my mother-in-law’s apartment building in Queens. What is worse that Roy gets infected with the spirit of Sholem Aleichem and inevitable begins to channel Tevye the Dairyman, as immortalized by Topol’s depiction in the film version of “Fiddler on the Roof”. This must be seen to be believed. So, no, I did not find the prospect of endless iterations of Jewish Geography – in which I cannot participate because no New York City Jew appears to know that there is a substantial Jewish population outside of the Northeast and Los Angeles, heaven forbid, in Texas – let alone know anyone from there. And all this going on to the wildly expressive gesticulations of my spouse, and the introduction of Yiddish slang like “OY!” and “So, nu?” into every fifth sentence. The worst part is when he starts to repeat everything I’ve said, only with a question mark at the end.
“The Pro said to pick up our clubs outside.”
“The Pro said to pick up our clubs outside?”
“Our clubs? They’re outside?”
“Outside the clubs are?”
“Why are you repeating everything I say as a question?”
“Me? I’m repeating everything you say as a question?”
“A question? I’m repeating?”
“Everything you say? As a question?”
“I’m leaving now.”
“You’re leaving now?”
“I should shut up?”
etc. You can see why I wasn’t jazzed when the spectre of an entire Golf Camp full of Jews – all of whom would be current or former New Yorkers – was raised.
Unfortunately. Unfortunately. Unfortunately, other than Roy, I was the youngest person at Golf Camp by twenty years, and that includes all of the Pros. And the Roll Call?
Herman and Myrtle Katz
Abraham and Stella Levy
and so on. (None of these are the real names, but might just as well have been). So. Yes. A Golf Camp not only full of New York City Jews, most of whom knew each other and so zeroed straight in on Roy to play Jewish Geography with him, but a Golf Camp full of Septuagenarian New York City Jews. Which may, to some degree, account for my current state of exhaustion.
Back to the golfing, I appreciate the fundamentals as much and probably more so than the next guy, but I’m kind of hoping that tomorrow, we learn How To Use The Golf Course. Because I’m sure that I’ll have nightmares tonight of teeing off at the 6th tee, and shooting straight for the 5th hole, or something equally awful. And I wouldn’t know what to do if my ball went into the rough or the sand. I would also, of course, like to learn How To Drive The Golf Cart.