As most folks that know me and/or follow this page have come to realize is that my relationship with the game of golf is problematic most of the time. In Facebook relationship status terms," it's complicated."
I have a trip coming up to Louisiana here pretty soon and the plan is to pretty much play golf for 3 or 4 days. So you can imagine my abundant great joy at my last two outings being utter disasters. As in barely getting the ball into the air. As in looking like I had never touched a club in my life.
People sometimes say that tennis is a lot like golf. People who say that are idiots. Tennis is nothing like golf.
Even while enduring my worst ass kicking on the tennis court a spectator could deduce that I could play tennis at a certain level of skill and that maybe the other player was just too good that day or I was having an off day. That would be about it.
There are days on the golf course where it looks like I don't know which end of the club to grasp. Last Sunday was one of those days. This is not good seeing as how I have this trip coming up which is largely dedicated to playing the damn game. So I contacted my friend Jerry to see if I could get a lesson in.
Jerry is an interesting guy. Seventies. First met him through his brother-in-law who is my Baptist preacher golf buddy. Jerry also competes on the Senior long drive tour. He knows a thing or two about striking the golf ball. And he has a tendency to make things very simple. Simple is what I need.
"What have you done to yourself this time?" he said by way of greeting as I approached the lesson tee.
I told him that, quite honestly, I was playing like radioactive dog shit. He nodded. Told me to step up and hit a few balls. I was topping them and pulling them. You know. Radioactive dogs hit.
"You're delofting the club again," he said. "You've got that forward press going with your hands again."
He pulled a wedge out of my bag. He held it up in front of me.
"The Ping iron is a marvelous feat of engineering," he said. " It will do exactly what you make it do. And you are making it hit worm burners."
Check ball position. Pull hands to in front of right hip. Start right shoulder going before the backswing.
Bang! Nothing to this game.
"Now we are gonna change how you set up. What did you teach over there at Catholic?"
"What did you teach?"
"History and choir mostly."
"Ah! An artist. Not a technician. Did you sit behind the desk when you taught?"
"Well no. I walked around the room when I taught. What's this got to do with golf?"
"This. I've known you a couple of years now. You can't stand still. You walk around or rock back and forth while I talk."
"So when a guy as fidgety as you spends a lot of time over the ball he starts fooling around with his grip and everything else. You try to think the ball down field. We're gonna change that. This is how you set up from here on out."
He took a club. Walked over by me. He started walking to the ball.
"I'm looking at my target. I'm not looking at the ball. I stop at the ball. I hold the club straight out to get my alignment. I put the club on the ground and I aim the bottom part of the club at the target. I take one more look downfield. I hit it."
Bang. He hit it.
"And I let it go. Whatever happens I let it go. I let the swing go. I let the result go. I let it go until the next shot. And I do it all over again."
Now this was pretty zen stuff for an older Baptist. But I have to admit this approach made a lot of sense. He's right. A fidgety guy like me doesn't need to commune over the ball. Bad things start happening when I have to time to think about it.
Walk up and hit it. And let it go.
"This is supposed to be recreation right?" he said. "Go have fun with your buddy down there. Eat a bunch of good food. Call me when you get back and tell me about what all you did down there."
Let it go.
M doesn't always go clergy on me but she says there's a larger metaphor at work here as well. I don't always go "touchy feely" on her but I think she's right.
The game of golf can impart life lessons.
OK. Maybe that's not what M is getting at. And I don't much believe that anyway.
But I get Jerry's larger point. And I'm gonna let it go.
Maybe next I can cut down on my cussin' out there on the course.
Nah. Some things aren't possible.