I wonder if Lefty won. (I'm writing this one with Lefty in the lead, waiting to tee off for his third round of the British Open.)
Last week, I was given my annual opportunity to play a bit of a real life Al Czervik, Ty Webb, or maybe more appropriately, Danny Noonan.
Every year, a good buddy of mine invites me to play golf with him at his country club. It's a nice place, relatively nearby. Tuesdays are half-price days for guests, and so, we typically play on a Tuesday.
He's a great guy, a good golfer, and a hall-of-fame athlete.
Typically, when we play, our foursome is made up of a mix of athletes and non-athletes alike. This time, it was a threesome — all of us athletes.
Not knowing the secret handshakes or all of the unwritten rules of a country club, and being 6-foot-9 (and given the pastel and patterned on-course clothing cues I picked up from my golfing grandfather), I probably stand out a bit like Al Czervik.
Being an above average golfer, particularly for someone who plays a handful of times each year at most, my buddy laughs and shakes his head at how well I hit the ball, a bit like Ty Webb. And, having had my first job at a golf course when I was 11, after spending two summers as a caddy in college, and being from a lower, non-country-club-affording tax bracket, I guess I'm a bit like Danny Noonan too.
I have to laugh a bit during my annual peak behind the curtain, upon seeing how the other half of the golf world lives. Don't get me wrong, as a golfer, a hard-worker, and with a general want to be a bit better off, I'd love to have the means to have a membership and spend the occasional Saturday and/or Sunday putting on some well-kempt country club greens at a club and with a membership of my own.
But, just as assuredly as, having bartended my way through school, I learned how, and perhaps more importantly, how not to act like a [jerk] when dining at a fine restaurant; having worked at a golf course, been raised by common sense, down-to-earth parents, and perhaps, in part, having played sports at a high level — I'd like to think I would carry myself a bit differently, or at least that I already do.
A few things I noticed and/or that I notice upon each visit to the Bushwoods of the world:
First and foremost, getting the latest and greatest golf gadgets each season, including the newest iteration of high-end irons, etc., does not and will not make you a better golfer. You may turn heads around the pro shop and/or on the putting green or the driving range. People will take notice and will wonder if you play to the sort of single digit handicap that those clubs suggest and/or warrant. Alas, your Barkley-esque, grotesque golf swing, errant shots, and erratic temperament will give you away.
If there's one thing that is the most off-putting about country club golf it is hearing hackers talk about how their new clubs helped shave several strokes off of their score.
If there's another, it's the annoyance of the near constant, seemingly non-stop putting green and/or driving range chatter of a bunch of non-athletic, overly-cerebral, hackers (again, of the golf variety) going on and on, and on about their swing thoughts, swing habits, swing tips and tricks, swing adjustments, and any and all other swing-related nonsense that they've recently picked-up or been given by their teaching pro.
Again, you'd think everyone on these putting greens and driving ranges, and country club courses played to a plus-two handicap or better. The truth, in fact, is far from it.
When it came to golf, I was somewhat spoiled as a kid. I used to go to the weekly $2-3 per hour, group, youth lessons on Wednesdays at Wakefield. I had my first job at that same golf course at 11.
I cleaned clubs, cleaned carts, and picked balls from the driving range. It was there, on the range, where I would linger and try to listen and to pick up tips from the teaching pro as he gave lessons to golfers in their 30s and 40s, that I probably learned the most myself; later trying to teach myself the same lessons.
As a result, my swing fundamentals and fundamental knowledge of the mechanics of a solid swing and to the mental approach to the game are fundamentally sound.
I was also spoiled when it came to clubs — getting the latest and greatest as a gift from my parents when I was just a sophomore in high school. I still play those same irons today, some 22 years later. They still hit the ball straight — often straighter and farther than the newer, latest and greatest of today's clubs played by friends, which is to say, they still get the job done.
In a lot of ways, the golfer who has a swing-related excuse and/or corrective thought at the ready in response or as a near reflex to every one of his/her miss-hit and missed-putt is like the guy/girl in your regular basketball pick-up game who continuously calls-out "my bad" after every obvious(ly) bad play.
Don't tell me you know why the shot was bad because of [fill in the blank with the swing flaw you know you have/did that caused your shot]; don't think through your miscue aloud with some sort of articulated alacrity about how your teaching pro has you working on [fill in the blank with something about your hands or your swing path].
Golf is a sport. Be an athlete, become more athletic, and/or take an athlete's approach and mentality to it. Swing. Putt. Play.
If I'm fading my drive or spraying my irons, I know (just) enough to figure out how to fix it. It's a lot like my jump shot in that way. But, it's strange. The private, invite-only basketball runs I play(ed) in are, in some ways, the polar opposite of these by-invitation-only, pay-to-play nice golf course country clubs.
Private (basketball) runs are set up as such to minimize (or keep out) the freshly-geared, look-good-first play-good-second (or never), incessantly "my bad-ing," just bad basketball players who think they play and/or know the game like the guy their fresh Jordans are named after whilst hoisting up some of the brokest jumpers you'll ever see (literally hurting their own teammates by being out of position and not having the first clue about where to be on the court), trying to "make it rain."
Quite to the contrary, country clubs seem set up to invite and/or to be overly-inclusive of the well-attired, well-off, certainly well-equipped, overly-self-assured hacker (again, golf-related usage of the term).
But again, don't get me wrong. I can't wait to go back again next year; all that talk of fresh new golf gear and cerebral swing thoughts be damned.