Well, after six weeks without touching a golf club, I found myself with a few friends and a Tuesday morning tee time at a course down in Long Beach. The first hole was pretty straightforwardandhellip; with a wide fairway and an expansive green protected only by a few bunkers wide to either side, the shot seemed pretty simple. Pick the right club for the distance, hit it straight, and Iandrsquo;ll be putting for birdie on a par-3 to open the round. Since I hadnandrsquo;t swung a club in such a long time, I decided to use an 8-iron and hit it softly, rather than taking the 9 that I would usually use on a hole thatandrsquo;s 120-yards out. So I take out my 8-iron and line up my shot. Everything seems fine. My backstroke still feels comfortable, but on the way down, I could feel my club head move off of plane and I miss-hit the ball, sending it wide right as a nasty slice. It landed in some reeds near a pond, so I had to take a shot with a wedge at a weird stance, balancing myself on a slick grassy slope on the banks of a pondandhellip; the shot came out decently; it landed on the greenandhellip; but it landed a ways away from the pin. Two putts later, I had holed out with a bogey to start my first round in months.
Knowing the game of golf, and how to play it mentally, I knew that I had to put my shoddy first hole out of my head and focus on the next shot. This one was difficult! It was a short par-3 (about 100 yards or so to the pin) but the incredibly narrow green with a pin right up front was protected by water on the front and left sides, and a steep slope with deep rough on the right. I had two optionsandhellip; Hit it long onto the back of the green and avoid the water and slope, but leave myself with a long birdie putt that slopes towards the water, or andldquo;go for itandrdquo; and attempt to land the ball on the green in an area the size of a Hula Hoop. As a famous golfer once said about the Augusta Course in Georgia where they hold the Masters Tournament, andldquo;The shot was like trying to throw a football onto a sidewalk 200 yards awayandrdquo; andhellip; accuracy was everything. Since my last shot had been set up conservatively and turned out sorely, I decided to go for broke and land in that hula-hoop for a short birdie putt attempt. I took out my pitching wedge the club in my bag that Iandrsquo;m most comfortable with and have been using the longest, and lined up my shot. I knew that the high 54andordm; loft of my pitching wedge would land and stop, so accuracy and depth were everything. I focused on the pin, and could even see it in my periphery while I was staring down at the ball that I was about to hit. I took a deep breath and calmly made my swing. The ball sailed up off of the tee, landed a little bit to the right of the green on the slope, and rolled back down, slowly stopping on the green within inches of the pin! It was a truly amazing shot, and I made birdie on that hole by kneeling down with the butt of my putter and holed out billiards-style!
Now, I wonandrsquo;t tell you about the rest of my round, because it was terribleandhellip; but this one shot is the one that I remember. I couldnandrsquo;t have placed the ball any better if I were playing with a pen on a pad of paper. This all got me thinking about the importance of golf equipment. On my first shot, I decided to swing my rarely-used 8 iron, which turned out to be a mistakeandhellip; but on the second tee, I reached into my golf bag and chose the club that Iandrsquo;m most comfortable with, and although it was a much riskier shot than the first, it paid off for me in spades. So never underestimate the power of a good set of golf equipment combined with practice! Just because your driver keeps slicing now doesnandrsquo;t mean that a new driver will fix it. Just practice, practice, practice and get comfortable with the clubs you haveandhellip; before you know it, youandrsquo;ll be making amazing birdies like I did on the second hole on Tuesday morning!