Sunday, November 18, 2007

Golf: An Amateur’s Guide

Thought that might get your attention. Now, on to business .... let's talk golf.

Golf, the “sport of kings”. Or is that tennis? Or maybe squash…..I’m pretty sure there is a racket involved. To be honest, I have no idea what sport Kings play, although I am certain that Don King is involved in boxing in no small manner. Also, I’m pretty sure “The King” Elvis Presley did some surfing in one of his movies. Additionally, I seem to recall a scene in Macbeth where the title character plays a midmorning ‘Texas Scramble” three-some on the back 9 with Donalbain and Fleance. Whatever the case, I think it is fair to assume that at some point in history a “king” played “golf”, therefore my original statement stands.

Golf is universally recognized as the most infuriating of all sports. It’s level of annoyance lies somewhere inbetween that of Reality TV and Rosie O’Donnell. Amazingly, as maddening as it is, more people choose to play golf than Water Polo, Australian rules football, and lawn darts combined. Whether it’s hitting the links with Stew and Brian from the office, or an early morning duo with dad, people everywhere are choosing to thrash around a small white orb with astronomically expensive metal alloy and carbon fiber sticks.
In order to help alleviate this bizarre affliction that is infecting our country, I have taken it upon myself to create a user-friendly guide for all you golfers out there. Drawing from literally hours of experience, the guide will help lead you through even the most challenging courses, all the while steering you through the many subtle nuances of golf etiquette. With this guide in hand, you will be on your way to a great golf game.

I will begin with a word on the scoring rules of golf. First and foremost you must realize that the objective is get the lowest number of strokes. I spent a year and half thinking the opposite, and thoroughly clobbering all of my opponents. A “stroke” is one swing of your club where you make contact with the ball, and is so named because of the number of cardiac arrests poor ones have caused. The most useful scoring device in golf is the “mulligan”, which allows you to redo a poor stroke. Although you should be warned that repeated use of mulligans may cause your opponents to call you a “cheating bastard” and cite the official “rules” that don’t allow for mulligans. Just ignore them, and accept that you were never that popular at the office anyway.

Your round of golf will begin at the tee box of the first hole. Insist that your partners tee up first. Watching them clobber their balls laser straight 250 yards down the fairway will inspire you to do the same. When it comes your turn, be sure to utilize the ball washer, and then carefully browse through your club selection. When Pat offers the friendly suggestion that you “move it along” because there are other golfers waiting behind you, simply ignore him. Choose a 3 wood, take a few practice swings, and then put it back and pull out your driver, cockily saying you’re “pull'n out the big guns”. Follow this up with a double click of your tongue, a point of your finger, and the most suave and smug wink you can pull off. When Brian starts to loose his temper, that’s your cue to tee off. After a few wildly out of control practice swings, crank a wild slice into the trees 150 yards down; this will lull your fellow golfers into a false sense of security. Remember, golf is a mental battle more than anything else.

When you go to look for your ball in the woods, keep in mind that a courteous player is always mindful of the players waiting behind him, and it’s probably best to take a penalty free drop in the rough well outside of the trees. From here, if you make the proper iron selection, you should be able to make the green in as few as 6 strokes.

A word now on the use of irons. Remember that it is important to always take a “divot” with an Iron stroke. A divot is a chunk of surface sod uprooted from beneath your ball and was named after Lord Earl Divotting who was quite famously a total sod. Learning to slice out just the right divot can take some time. Try not to be discouraged when your 5 Iron shot hits the ball "high", and sends it skimming a foot above the ground, and then off a tree and finally to rest on the paved golf cart path. Also, ignore the mocking laughter of your golf partners and jarring pain in your arms as your next shot "cuts" too "deep" into the paved path and sends a shower of sparks and a shattered club into the air.

With just a few more carefully placed iron shots, you should now be in range of the green. Here’s where your ‘short game’ comes into play. With the usual exaggerated thoroughness, select your club. An open face club or wedge should do the trick. Be sure to boisterously and arrogantly declare your selection, adding that “just the right amount of backspin should let me clear that bunker and then draw my ball back to the hole.” Now with just the right amount of finesse, clobber the ball to hard and clear the green. Remember to blame the “down hill lie” for the poor shot. I cannot stress this enough, always blame the down hill lie.

When you finally make the green its time to pull out that cruel bitch mistress the putter. One rule of etiquette to note before we continue; it is important that you always walk between the hole and your opponents balls causing small deviations in the green that will upset their putt. When you purposefully go out of your way to do this for the 5th time, Phil will most likely object. Your response to this objection should be a childish, guiltless sigh, followed by “come on Phil, its just a game, relax.” Before he has time to respond, shift quickly from innocence to white hot rage and say “Alright, Phil, fine! We’ll knock you back a stroke! Are you happy?” Now quickly stalk off to the next tee box, there’s no need to retrieve your ball, just get clear of the area before Phil’s exasperation manifests itself vocally.

Back to putting; it’s critical to remember that putting requires a tremendous amount of subtlety, finesse, and concentration. When you ‘three putt’ a simple 4 foot shot, it’s only healthy that you release that built up concentration and energy by unleashing a unholy string of sacrilegious profanities so deprived and scatological that they’d make a Marine blush. At this point, your golfing buddies may start actually fearing you, or at least they will question your mental stability. Remember, golf is a psychological game, so embrace their fear, and use it to your advantage.

On the next par 4, your strategy should revolve around taking 6 or 7 strokes and then ending up in a bunker just in front of the green. The sand shot is one of the most feared shots in golf. A tactic that works well in the bunkers for me is this; have your first swing cut deep under the ball, spraying Stew with several cubic feet of sand and moving the ball 2 inches forward. Without stopping to apologize, quickly swing again, this time hitting the ball "high" so that it flies low and hits the rim of the bunker, and roles back in. Following a number of single word exclamations, tee up on the ball, swinging “100%”, and send it well over the green. Follow these key points, and you’ll have nothing to fear in the bunker.

If you follow this general outline, you should find your golf game improving drastically. That or you’ll eventually run out of people willing to golf with you, and will be forced to give up the sport. It’s a favorable outcome either way.

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