Thursday, June 25, 2009

Uh Oh... Caught the Golf Bug

This is such a retirement cliché! I am now hooked on golf. I almost never played before, but now I browse the weather forecast looking for nice days to get to the golf course. If there is only a small window of clear weather, then I can at least sneak in a trip to the driving range. We had a rainy spring in Chicago, but I already have a golfer’s tan. How did this happen?

My dad was a dedicated golfer. He played every weekend, sometimes on both Saturday and Sunday. It was, in part, a social event for him, as he was part of a regular foursome. They would golf early, and have brunch at the club before heading home. When we kids were little, I remember Dad taking us to the driving range as a special treat.

You can’t become a competent golfer by playing once or twice a year. That’s just impossible. But now… We have more time, and we can walk to a 9-hole golf course on the lake. I knew I was committed to trying when Ron surprised me with a beautiful set of clubs two years ago.

It’s hard to have a bad outing when the weather is beautiful, the course is green and fresh, the lake is sparkling and the birds are tweeting. But there are only so many mis-hits you can suffer before beginning to get frustrated. Golf is a muscle memory sport – so the more you swing badly, the less opportunity your body has to experience how to do it right. The worse you do, the more strange things you try to fix what’s wrong. Generally, it just worsens. The golf gods always let you hit just enough really good shots, to keep your hope alive – just to be dashed again and again.

Failure drove me to a golf lesson when we were in Nevada last month. Hallelujah! Mary Ochs, “my” LPGA pro teacher, was fabulous. In an hour lesson (with another freebie 15 minutes), she pinpointed my major issues and coached me to correct them. I hit some balls that made me literally shout with joy! This is the pleasure of golf. It’s so challenging that when you finally do something right – it’s totally exhilarating. I’m still at the point where each time I address the ball, I have a whole checklist I have to work (elbows in, knees bent, butt out, back straight, head down, weight on balls of feet, eyes on ball, relax grip, twist hips, full follow through, etc.). In time, these should come naturally with less thought.

Ron and I still play “best ball” on the course (we both play from the spot of the best shot between the two of us), to keep the game moving and be courteous to the more experienced golfers behind us. Now, some of the best balls are mine! Sometimes I am hitting glorious drives out of the tee box, straight down the fairway. My putting is so-so, but shows promise. I get tired after nine holes (still a lot of swinging to little avail), so a half round is perfect.

I’ve got the golf bug something bad. Gotta go. I need to book a tee time.

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