HAC -what kind of man are you?

HAC coming up. Neighborly competition? I think not. In a different era, men from various burgs and shires would practice at archery, throw rocks at targets, hunt together, and sometimes to war together to fight bandits or some invader. Through this they got to know the measure of each other. Today, we live among strangers, driving to work like faceless cod schooling along the currents, and try to figure out who exactly it is our wives are talking about. Golf is all about getting the ball in the hole and not about that at all. Your scores will say one thing, but your behavior in the face of tribulation, your resilience, your resourcefulness, your truthiness, all will say other things that your wives have not a single clue about. See you at Legacy.

Hyperion, the substitute teacher

Wakonda Club is being revised. The old growth oak trees were shading too much of the greens for too long and had a tendency to fall after a bad storm. Climate change had rendered the summers too hot for grass seed laid down in 1930. So this past spring, the membership, which I believe has an extraordinary high number of golfists, decided to remake the club with the mission of making one of the toughest golf experiences I have ever had even more challenging. Trees would be felled (and double more planted) to allow for sunlight to hit the greens. The trial greens on Wakonda upper #2 and #10 showed that the new putting surface could equal what I experienced at Bethpage Black the week after the Open and the TPC in Jacksonville the week before the Player’s for the entire season. Wakonda shut down last weekend.

So where do I go? We were given a list of courses that would offer discounts, but the one club that welcomed us with open arms was the Hyperion Field Club, no green fee, just pay for the cart. I got to play the front nine yesterday. The pro shop was welcoming and got me situated on their excellent practice facilities. Getting out on the nine, I google-mapped myself on my new iPhone, located via GPS, changed to satellite view, and got to see the entire layout from space -try it next time you’re on a new course -a great reason to get the iPhone.

If Wakonda is the beautiful, mysterious, raven-haired forty year old socialite that you began an affair with out of college, Hyperion is the tall summery blond next door that invites you in when your demanding paramour is off to Rio for a facelift and whatever else. While Wakonda demanded your constant and utmost attention and slapped you fiercely for transgressions, Hyperion doesn’t mind so much -she scrunches her pretty face, goes “oh no” and gives you a peck on the forehead. Number 8, which turns to the left and goes up a hill like a tanned leg stepping up a diving board ladder, didn’t mind so much when I hit my drive off the toe into the trees to the right. 

First of all, I found my ball. 

The approach was 160 yards up hill to an elevated green with tree limbs blocking a high iron. I chose to punch with my hybrid 3, keep it low and run it up. Did I say run it up? Wakonda would shriek, “that’s for peasants and Texans!” and throw her sherry glass at your head. My ball ran up the slope like a rabbit, Evel-Knieveled and rolled up the tier to rest 6 feet from the hole. 

But fellow Wakondans before you celebrate, there are mousetraps in that dress. I took a triple on number 9, slapped silly for thinking the hole was easy. 

Hyperion is a different experience, and in the end demands no less attention or imagination than Wakonda. It is in great shape. The facilities are top-notch and the staff are professionals. 

I ended up shooting my handicap, but I lost no balls. 

No. 11, the carnival hole -hey you, with the face!

The tree on the right of the frame blocks the approach to a green which is sunken and hidden from view. It is just taller than a 60 degree wedge’s ball flight, and snags and deflects balls into a pit below and to the right which is about 10 feet lower than the green. The green tilts away from the fairway making it very hard to stop a low shot. The best shot from the right is a fade with a mid iron which lands at the end of the fairway and rolls onto the green. Needless to say, you’d rather be left, but there is a long bunker and then a row of oaks. I love this hole because success is rare.

Truth or consequence

If life is a metaphor for golf, then all the pitfalls of adulthood are just bad lies, water hazards, and traps. To move forward, we have to get out of the trap, put the ball in the hole, and move on. Our golf score is the sum of the choices that we make on the course. Our life score is no different, and when it comes to life, most of us play with handicaps, and very precious few of us are scratch. 

Tiger’s win and my brain chemistry -too much of a good thing

You always hear people talking about great sporting events they witnessed on TV. I remember Reggie Jackson’s 3 home runs in the 1977 World Series, 1980 miracle on ice Olympics Hockey final, Nicklaus’ 1986 Masters victory, and Tiger’s 1997 Master’s, and last year’s Super Bowl. In fact, Tiger leads the list of things that have inspired me -his Pebble Beach Open, his first tournament win, his Hoylake win, and on and on. The funny thing is that I have become a bit numb to Tiger’s otherworldly greatness. Maybe it is because I am in medicine and can understand his pain and pathology. 

Bottom line is that we’ve seen Tiger do it too many times. It’s like having a regular table at the best restaurant in Manhattan -the extraordinary when it is too frequent, becomes ordinary. Tiger will now have to shoot consistently below 60 per round to impress me. Rocco, now that is impressive. That he could keep pace with a phenomena like Tiger is something that he’ll keep forever, but losing will stand out most in his mind, because he had too many chances to close it out. Even so, how could he?

A thoughtless round

I played today -with Dr. Lee who lives here in my parents’ development. Concentrating hard not to think -to empty myself of wants and desires, to be situationally aware and in the moment, I played 18 holes and notched an 88. I had one 3 putt. It would have been lower had it not been for a quadruple bogey on #3 where I perseverated on trying to smack a fading 6 iron. Even so, I had 6 pars including a sand up and down, and I missed 3 or four more pars by inches. 

I focussed on the process of picturing a shot or putt shape, club selection, wind direction, grip, address, stance, and a mindless swing (which is in there). I also picked up on the importance of rhythm. The ball contact was pure, the putts ended up closer to the hole, and the three putss were fewer. 
Now, to watch the playoff. 

"Thinking instead of acting is the number-one golf disease."

Sam Snead is the source of this quote. I played 18 today on my parent’s course, Summit Green, shot a 96. I hit 12 out of 18 in regulation, and 4 more were chip-ons. I was without any extraneous thoughts tee to green, but putting gets on my brain. I three putted just about everything, and even had a 5 putt! My conclusion is that putting is the one activity that challenges the brain, and the thinking interferes with execution. With the drive and approach, I choose a target line, choose a club, set up a draw or fade, and swing away. I’ve got to stop thinking…

You are the One, Neo

I just saw Tiger’s performance on prime time. He is injured, grimacing in pain with each stroke. Despite this, he makes eagle on 13, chips in for birdie on 17, and then eagles 18. We saw history, particularly if Tiger wins the Open and then retires because of a bum knee. This was like watching a Rocky movie, only without Tiger bellowing “Elin!!!” Maybe tomorrow…