Golf is an interesting sport, the young seem to think they can dominate the wily veteran through sheer power, but I am not so sure. Bernhard Langer at this year’s Masters was schooling the young guns until the last round; although he had a tough last round, he did finish in T27, not bad for a 58-year-old! For the first three rounds, he used his guile, experience and confidence to stay in the hunt and that kind of golf wisdom is generally gained from experience.
This reminds me of a game of golf about 25 years ago that taught me many lessons I never want to repeat. The main lesson was to never underestimate my opponent, regardless of what they look like, swing, or equipment they use; and never think that you have them beat before you start to play!
I was afforded the opportunity to play at the Essex Golf and Country Club with some members. There were four of us and we were all paired with a member. My playing partner (I cannot remember his name, however, for sake of ease I will call him Charlie) was a 73 year-old gentleman who definitely had a zest for life. He said that he loved to play golf, but was slowing down a bit. As a 29 year-old golfer, my ego soared as he nonchalantly started setting the hook! Of course, I did not notice the hook, only the bait dangling in front of my eyes.
As we drove to the first tee in his cart, Charlie was chatting about the course and how he was a member at Essex for many years. He talked about how often he played this course and that he loved how his game seemed to fit playing from the white tees. Next, he asked if I minded playing from there and as the guest, I readily agreed. Hint number two flew over my head faster than a jet plane!
After the first hole, I shot a par and he shot a bogey. I was feeling quite confident about the situation and this is when he set the hook. Charlie indicated how even our games were and suggested we make the game a little more interesting. He suggested we play for drinks in a stoke play format! Hint number three rushed by like the water through a locks!
I guess you can all figure out by now that this round cost me two drinks. One for the front nine and one for the back. I cannot remember the exact score, but all I remember is how I was schooled that day and I learned a very valuable lesson about golf! It was not that he beat me or reeled me in like a marlin, but how he played that still impresses me.
The lessons I took away from Charlie’s game was this:
- Play within yourself. Charlie did not hit the ball far, but he knew exactly how far every club was going, its direction, and when to use what club. He never over-swung!
- Take what the course gives you. If he did hit a wayward shot, he measured the situation and maximized his next shot. Sometimes it was a punch out, other times it was a 75 yard shot down the fairway. He always set himself up for the next shot and did not compound his woes trying to squeeze too much out of his recovery shot.
- His short game was amazing. He only hit the ball about 175-200 yards at the absolute farthest. However, I think his up and down percentage for par or bogey was in the 80s.
- He knew the course. He played the course so many times, he knew all the good and bad locations. Using this knowledge, his course management was fantastic. He sometimes hit a shorter shot to make sure his position for the next shot fit his game perfectly!
- He loved the game of golf. Charlie never stopped smiling. He always had an encouraging word and gave me sound advice without hesitation. His enthusiasm was infectious! I have never had so much fun losing a game of golf!
I have used many of the lessons Charlie taught me over the years. I like to think that my game has grown to a point where these lessons are second nature, but sometimes I am not so sure. All I know, is that those two drinks were the best investment in my golf game ever!
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!