I used to go to the course to play golf. Now, I go there to work golf. I haven’t played for a long time, and the work I now do sometimes borders on the laborious. Five years ago, whenever I heard those folks older than me complain about all the yardage they’d lost over the years, I’d scoff and think, “I’ll never let that happen to me. I’m in good shape and just as strong as I ever was. Yeah, that’ll never happen to me.” Wow! Was I ever wrong.
I can still hit my drives and fairway metals pretty well, although not even close to where I used to hit them (just five years ago). And I’ve noticed a twenty-yard drop off in each and every iron. I used to hit an 8-iron 150 yards. Now I’m lucky if I can hit a 6-iron that far. It’s hard for my heart to listen to my head when I select a club. My heart keeps saying, “C’mon, you can hit it that far. You just have to try harder.” Yeah. And the harder I try, the shorter it goes. Another odd thing about my irons: I can hit a 6-iron straighter (though shorter than I want) than I can hit a wedge. The shorter the distance to the pin, the more off-line I hit it. Odd and really distressing. But it’s more than lost yardage or irons off line. I once was considered a good chipper and putter. Now, whenever I’m faced with a pitch or chip, it feels like I’m holding a snake, a wedge rattler or cottonmouth. And the more I think about all the chunked and bladed chips, the more likely one or the other is bound to happen. I think chunks are worse than blades. At least a bladed chip goes forward, but a chunked chip can sometimes go only a foot. Really embarrassing.
Then there’s putting. The hole has shrunk to about half the size it used to be. And there are some days when it’s as small as a silver dollar, or maybe even a fifty-cent piece. I’m now a man who is, no matter how long the putt, trying to two-putt, to avoid the dreaded three- or four-putt. I can’t seem to keep my eyes on the ball until it’s well on its way. I just have to see how bad I’ve missed it. Way too often it comes up way short and I hear one of my playing companions say, “You didn’t hit it,” and I want to say back, “God, I know I didn’t hit it! Do I look stupid?” But I never say it for fear he’ll come back, “Yes, you do look stupid.” Then the next time, my hands will simply explode into the ball and I hit it disastrously long. When that happens, usually there’s just stunned silence from those watching.
My friends all say I only have to give it some time and I’ll get over this slump. But I’m pretty sure it’s not a slump. It’s a view of the future. When the work gets too painful, I’ll give up this idiotic, frustrating, damnable game. Oh yeah, I’ll probably be dead before that happens.