Sunday, August 27, 2017

Back in the swing

There was only a moment's hesitation.

I mean, it had been six years since I last picked up my golf clubs. That's because as much as I enjoy playing golf, I had a part-time job where I worked four hours every weekday afternoon.

Prime time tee-off time. By the time I got off work, there was either not enough daylight left in the sky, or I was too exhausted, or it was too hot, or I was just too disinterested to hit the links.

I had a list of reasons not to play longer than my unused stand-up putter, so my clubs sat in the closet. For six years.

Until Thursday, when I went to the driving range.

Kim said it was time. What was I waiting for? My part-time job had ended. For years, I'd told her I was going to play golf in my retirement. Well, here it was. In fact, here's $20. No excuses. Buy a bucket of balls.

Whenever I take a lengthy break from playing golf, I make sure I go to the driving range as a way to get my timing back. I remember a decade or so ago, when I had taken a brief respite from mass producing bogeys, I'd walked up to the tee, waggled my driver, took my swing ... and completely missed the ball.

That was never going to happen to me again. A trip to the driving range for me is always a precursor to a trip to the links.

And Thursday was it.

I bought a large bucket of balls with the money Kim had given me. I walked up to the tee box just a couple of paces from two pre-teens, who were practicing hitting hooks and slices all over the place with their grandfather. Hmm. I was pretty sure I didn't want them to see me completely whiff on my first swing of the day, but there was nowhere else to go.

They were the source of my hesitation.

I chose my 8-iron to start off. It's a club I usually have great confidence in, so I took my first ball and put it on the AstroTurf mat. I gripped my club. I relaxed my shoulders. I took a deep breath, set my feet, kept my head down, slowly began my back swing, and then, whack! Contact. I hit the ball.

It rose into the air, tracing a trajectory that was developing into a work of art. I couldn't believe it. I followed the flight of the ball until it landed near the 100-yard marker, straight ahead of me. Wha...? Did I do that?

I hit about 10 more balls, with maybe one or two mis-hits. Most went straight. Most went past the 100-yard marker. Oh, my.

Then I went with a 5-iron, an inconsistent club for me. But each ball I hit went mostly straight, landing near the 150-yard marker. It was like old times.

Then I pulled out my driver. I had a gentle hook that I couldn't get rid of, no matter how many cures popped into my head (open your stance; close your stance; move closer to the ball; mover further back, etc. It's amazing how much thinking you do standing over a golf ball). But each drive was approaching the 200-yard marker. I'll take that.

I finished up with my 7-iron. I was getting a little tired and a little less focused, but overall, I was pleased. Hitting a golf ball mostly straight and into the air was still part of my game. It was kind of like riding a bicycle, you just never forget how to do it. I think it took me a little over an hour to go through the bucket.

I don't want to give myself a false sense of accomplishment here. I know driving ranges are totally different than golf courses. A plastic mat in the tee box is a big advantage over a ball sitting on natural grass. The driving range is designed to hone your skills, not to brag on them.

But I'm thinking of playing on a little executive golf course next week. My putter will be a challenge for me because, you know,  I haven't read a putt in six years. But at least I'm pretty sure I can get to the green in two or three strokes.

Bogeys never sounded so good.

Kiiiiiim! I need $20...

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