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When Golf Turns Deadly…

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The story you are about to read is largely fictitious. I say “largely” because it is based on an actual phone call that I received one day from a man that I had never met. The story that follows is based on that same conversation.

I later found out that the scenario that this man described was a product of his imagination, the purpose of which, was to convey in no uncertain terms, his level of desperation. What I would soon learn was that for this man golf was more than just a game. He was euphoric when he played well, but when his game went south it was as if his life was coming to an end. And at that point for him, THE GAME TURNED DEADLY.

Before reading on you should know, that as the saying goes, the man who you will soon meet is not “the sharpest knife in the drawer.” This leads to some humorous moments as he pours his heart out to the operator. That is where our story begins.

I was working as a dispatcher part-time for the local police department. There were three of us, including my supervisor. The phone rang and it was my turn to take the call. “911” I said. “What is your emergency?”

“I’m standing on the edge of a bridge,” the panicked voice began. I wasn’t sure but it sounded like a man on the other end.

“Slow down sir. Which bridge,” I asked in calm voice, remembering my training.

“I’m not going to giveaway my location. You’ll send someone.”

“Sir, we are just trained to ask that question in case there is an emergency,” I countered.

“Would jumping off a bridge qualify as an emergency,” he said sarcastically.

“Yes sir, that certainly would qualify as an emergency.”

“I’ve stood in this exact spot before. This time I’m going to do it,” he said with what sounded like a certain degree of conviction.

“Sir, you are going to do what this time,” I asked?

“I’m going to throw them in,” he replied.

“Are there others with you that are in danger,” I questioned.

“You bet they’re in danger—big time.”

“What do you mean by THEM,“ I asked with some concern?

“I don’t want to talk about them now,” he said. And then adding, “In any case, they’re dead to me.”

I switch my microphone to the off position. My supervisor had, up until that point, been listening only to my side of the conversation.

“Sharon, I’m not sure, but we might have a genuine problem here,” I said. “A distraught man. A possible suicide with hostages. Maybe you should alert the police so they’re ready to move on this quickly,” I added.

She nodded in agreement. I switched my mic back on.

“Sir, I need your help. Who is there with you,” I stated authoritatively. I must have thrown him off balance, because this time he answered.

“You want to know who THEY are,” he said, his voice becoming more animated. “THEY are my golf clubs. And here is is something else. Based on the number of bizarre shots that I hit with them, I’d swear sometimes that they are the spawn of the devil.”

That was the first time in my career that I’d heard that excuse.

“Let me get this right. You’re standing on the edge of a bridge with the river below. You have your golf clubs with you and you are thinking about throwing them over the railing. Do I have that right,” I asked?

“I didn’t tell you there is a river below. How did you know that,” he asked suspiciously?

“Why else would there be a bridge,” I answered?

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I never thought of it that way,” his voice drifting off at the end.

“You said you were getting ready to throw your clubs over the edge of the bridge,” I said.

“Yes, I’m very close,” he said.

There was a long pause as if he were thinking, and then he added, “And I might just join them. “

I switched off my mic again. Sharon was now sitting next to me listening to both sides of the conversation. “What do you think. Do we have a jumper?”

“That’s hard to say exactly,” she said. “And we don’t have a location yet, so it is a moot point,”

“Maybe the he police could determine his location using cell towers,” I suggested.

“That’s a good idea,“ she said. “I’ll get them on the line while you’re talking to him.”

I nodded in agreement. I switched my mic back on just in time to hear him say, “I don’t think you are taking me seriously. I have my golf bag right here. I’m hold it in my arms like a damn’ baby. Me or them?”

I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was becoming more and more agitated. “Don’t jump,” I said emphatically. He was quiet for a moment. I thought now was a good time to ask. “What ‘s your name?”

“Dan” he replied.

“What’s your last name Dan?” I asked.

“I’d rather not say right now,” he replied

“That’s fine, Dan. We’ll do it your way.”

“What should I do next,” he said? “My swing has gone to hell.”

“I can help you. I’m a golf professional,” I said.

“Come on. You’re a switchboard operator,” he said with a measure of doubt in his voice.

“I’m only doing this part-time. I’ve been teaching the game for more than 40 years,” I explained.

“How lucky does that make me,” he said with just the slightest hint of optimism in his voice.

“Dan, I want you to stay in contact with me. Do not hang up. Can you do that for me,” I asked? I sensed that something was missing in his life: maybe a meaningful connection, another person who cared both about him — and, of course, his golf clubs.

“Yes, I can do that,” he replied contritely. “What should I do next,” he asked.

“Dan, I want to ask you a question. Do you believe I can help you,” I asked him point-blank.

“Yes, I think you can help me. But this is serious. Like I told you earlier—my golf game has gone to hell.”

“Yes, so you said. Would you like to hear what I think after listening to you, “ I asked?

“Sure,” he replied.”

“I think you’ve been traumatized, and because of what you’ve experienced, you‘re are not thinking clearly. There is no need for you to jump off the bridge. Now your clubs —that’s a different matter. Of course, that means that unless you quit the game entirely, you’ll have to buy another set to replace them.”

I continued, “Have they been giving you a lot of trouble lately,” I asked?

“They have dragged me through hell and back,” he answered. “Especially the driver. I’ve never driven the ball so poorly.”

“What should I do next, he asked?

“Dan, are you familiar with the phrase from the bible that says, ‘If thy eye offend thee then pluck it out,'” I asked.

“There is nothing wrong with my eyes. I have 20-20 vision,” he answered with obvious pride.

“Dan, you missed the point completely. I’m referring to your driver. I think you would agree that your driver offends you. And so, the bible is suggesting that you should ‘pluck it out,’ which in this case means dispose of it,” I explained this point as if I were his bible-school teacher.

“That wouldn’t bother me one bit,” he replied. “That club has always given me the creeps. Maybe it is possessed.”

“Could be,” I said. “Have you ever seen the head spin around in a circle,” I asked jokingly?

“Yes,” he said excitedly. “There was that one time when it came loose..”

“No, Dan. That wasn’t what I was talking about,” I replied.

“OK. What’s next,” Dan asked?

“You need to show your clubs who’s in charge. The inmates are running the asylum. I want you to take the driver out of your bag.”

“I’ve got it. What’s next?”

“How has the headcover been treating you?”

“Fine, I don’t have a beef with the headcover.”

“OK. Take it off and set it aside,” I said. “Now take the club in your right hand and wrap your fingers tightly around the handle.

“How many knuckles should I see when I grip it?”

“Dan, forget about your knuckles.”

“Where should the “V” of my right hand be pointed?”

“You can forget about that,” I replied.

“OK. Now what?”

“Wait, are you right-handed?”

“Yes.”

“I want you to lift the driver above your head and then smash it down on the pavement as hard as you can. I continued, “And if you see a black puff of smoke as it hits the ground, then it’s absolute proof that the club was possessed.”

“Really?”

“No, I’m kidding you. Go ahead now,” I said with some authority again.

“Really?”

“Just do it,” I said. “You’ll feel better,” I added.

“OK. Here goes. I’m going to put the phone down. Hold on.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” I said. The next second I heard a crashing sound. In a moment, he was back.

“I did it,” he said. “But there wasn’t a puff of black smoke,” he added.

“Dan, we talked about that. “How do you feel?”

“Great,” he said. “Now what.”

“Take the pieces and throw them over the top of the bridge. A sort of burial at sea without all of the pomp and circumstance.”

I could hear him fumbling around in the background. “OK. I did it. What’s next.”

“Well, the rest of the clubs just saw what you did to the driver. They are probably pretty scared thinking they’re next. I’d suggest that you put them in the trunk of your car,” I said.

The phone went quiet for a moment and then he was back. “OK. I put my clubs in the trunk. Now what?”

“Did you have any problems?”

“The 4-iron game me a little trouble. His was sticking up out of the bag. I think he was looking for a way to escape. I slapped him upside the head and he slipped back down into the bag.” he said.

“What did the other clubs do,” I asked.

“They just stood there looking. I think the 4-iron was the ring-leader,” he added.

“You may be right about that, but that’s water under the bridge, I replied.”

“Very funny.”

“Which brings up the subject of the bridge. Which one are you standing on,” I asked.

“The Mendota Bridge,” he said quietly.

“Dan, here’s what I’d like you to do next. I’d like you to climb into your car, put the key in the ignition and start driving. You are only 15 minutes away.”

“Away from where,” he questioned.

“You are 15 minutes away from my home course, which is located on 66th Street and Cedar Avenue next to the airport—Rich Acres.

“I know where it’s located. I played there once a few year ago,” he volunteered as his mood seemed to brighten.

“I done here in five minutes. I’ll meet you there and give you a free lesson. How’s that for a deal,” I asked?

There was quiet on the other end. “Are you still there,” I questioned.

“Yes, I’m here,” he said.

“What’s the problem,” I asked?

“Do you have a driver that I can borrow?”

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As a teacher, Rod Lidenberg reached the pinnacle of his career when he was named to GOLF Magazine's "Top 100" Teachers in America. The PGA Master Professional and three-time Minnesota PGA "Teacher of the Year" has over his forty-five year career, worked with a variety of players from beginners to tour professionals. He especially enjoys training elite junior players, many who have gone on to earn scholarships at top colleges around the country, in addition to winning several national amateur championships. Lidenberg maintains an active schedule teaching at Bluff Creek Golf Course Chanhassen, Minnesota, in the summer and The Golf Zone, Chaska, Minnesota, in the winter months. As a player, he competed in two USGA Public Links Championships; the first in Dallas, Texas, and the second in Phoenix, Arizona, where he finished among the top 40. He also entertained thousands of fans playing in a series of three exhibition matches beginning in 1972, at his home course, Edgewood G.C. in Fargo, North Dakota, where he played consecutive years with Doug Sanders, Lee Trevino and Laura Baugh. As an author, he has a number of books in various stages of development, the first of which will be published this fall entitled "I Knew Patty Berg." In Fall 2017, he will be launching a new Phoenix-based instruction business that will feature first-time-ever TREATMENT OF THE YIPS.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. truckee golf

    Oct 5, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Nice picture of Donner Lake!

  2. Vancouver Mellencamp

    Sep 11, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    No.

  3. ImVinnie

    Sep 11, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Wow…… those were 5 mins I wont get back.

  4. Bishop

    Sep 11, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    So, how’d the lesson go…? Ha ha

  5. Grammar police

    Sep 10, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    I stopped reading at “their”

  6. Al

    Sep 9, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    I no longer carry my beloved driver.
    I just mounted it above the fireplace along with an old musket I bought at a pawn shop.
    My 3-wood is all I carry and I hit it 180 yards, maybe 200 at best, straight and narrow. Sometimes I can squeeze a fade out of it.
    I also reduced my set to a 7-wood and 5-7-9 irons with three wedges and a Bullseye putter. I carry them in a ‘Sunday’ bag along with balls, gloves and tees, the bare minimum. No umbrella so on occasion I play in the rain — wet.
    I walk alone during twilight golf and play 9 holes with two balls. I am a recluse on the golf course, a 9-hdcp playing recluse. Life is good.

    • acemandrake

      Sep 10, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Similar to you, Al: I walk (& carry) 9 holes but with fewer clubs…12° Driver, 5 hybrid, 8, PW, SW, putter.

      “Life is good”

      • Al

        Sep 10, 2017 at 12:41 pm

        Udaman, aceman…. but you are still holding on to the fantasy of the driver whereas I’ve abandoned that dream? Are you thinking about dropping the driver and packing a 3-wood? Otherwise your quiver of clubs are admirable. You are truly a golf philosopher who “knows thyself”.

    • Al

      Sep 10, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      Oh, I failed to mention that my “9-hdcp” is not with only one ball in play…. it’s “best ball”, since I play the 2 balls on each shot. It’s a “mulligan” handicap. LOL

      • Double Mocha Man

        Sep 10, 2017 at 3:12 pm

        I oftentimes play just 9 holes in the morning… going off the back 9 before the crowds have turned. So nobody ahead of me, nobody close behind me. I’ll play 2 or 3 balls for fine-tuning of the ol’ golf swing. But my first ball is the one I score with. But it’s still a “cheat”. Since I generally play alone for these rounds I can’t count the score for my handicap anyway.

        • JimW

          Sep 11, 2017 at 4:31 pm

          And if you play 3 balls for 9 holes that’s like playing 27 holes (3 balls x 9 holes).
          You already know how to walk, it’s scoring with the ball that is the challenge.

  7. Double Mocha Man

    Sep 9, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    That was a long route to the punchline.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Mastering the basic pitch shot

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As promised in last week’s post about basic chipping technique, this week let’s move back to that dreaded “half wedge” range; I get so much feedback that this is the place where “wedg-ilepsy” so often sets in.

I have to give credit to a friend for that term, and I will admit that I have suffered from “wedge-ilepsy” at times throughout my golf life. It’s like the putting yips, in that it is a maddening “disease”, but there IS a cure. My experience and analysis is that both stem from a drift away from good basic technique—which begets terrible results—and the spiral begins.

But, back to the subject matter at hand today – those mid-range pitch shots that are longer than a chip, but considerably less than a full wedge swing. Please bear with me today, as this post – by necessity of the subject matter – is a bit longer than usual.

As I repeatedly admit, this column is not a substitute for instruction from a PGA professional, but I’ll do my best to give you some basics to work on for this range of shots. And I believe those basics start with the same fundamentals I outlined for chipping last week. You might want to refresh those HERE.

As I’ve written many times before, all golf shots are infinitely easier to master if your starting “geometry” is sound. That means solid posture and ball position, and a grip that is light for maximum feel and to help maintain a slow, smooth tempo. You should feel control of the club in the last three fingers of the left hand, and a light touch in your right fingertips to optimize feel and to keep you from getting quick – it’s almost impossible to get too fast in your swing if your right grip is very light.

Mid-range wedge play is only about distance and trajectory control. Unfortunately, there is just no shortcut to developing that. It takes commitment to a technique, and practice time. I strongly suggest that at least half of your range time – whether a dedicated practice session or your pre-round warm-up – be given to this part of your game. Do that and your scores will reflect the dedication.

While some promote the notion of different swing lengths relating to a clock face, I think this shot is most reliable and repeatable when you make a “half swing” that is long enough to foster some rhythm and tempo. And I think that swing length is where your hands and forearms reach a point at or just past having the lead arm roughly parallel to the ground at the end of this shortened backswing. That allows you to make a mini-swing, longer than the chip shot, but shorter than a full shot.

Once you have found that comfortable backswing length, you can make the same length basic “mini-swing” and achieve the desired distances for this shot by changing clubs and altering the speed of the forward rotation of the body core.

I like to use the analogy of driving speed. And you never swing a wedge at “freeway speed”. That’s for your longer clubs only.

For your longer pitch shots, I like to think rotating my body through impact at “country road” speed – 55 mph and relaxed. Just below that is “city driving”, slower and careful. And for the shortest shots, that forward swing – from the same backswing position – is “school zone” speed, which is the most precise and careful pace of all.

But for all these shots, the key is to finish the backswing! You want to feel the end of the swing and then allow your body core to begin its forward rotation into and through impact and follow-through at your desired speed.

I know many of you are wintered in, but you can learn this technique in your basement or garage. Just take your wedge and practice this approach to see how it feels. Once you have found your comfortable backswing length, and have become familiar with these three speeds, you can further dissect your “distance chart” by learning how far each of your wedges flies and rolls out with these three speeds, and even further by experimenting with gripping down on the club various amounts.

It’s hard to explain this completely in a single blog post, but that’s my best effort. Let me know where you want to get more, and we’ll continue this dialog as long as you wish.

Keep those emails coming, OK? [email protected].

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: New Callaway Epic drivers and fairways + Apex hybrids!

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New Callaway Epic drivers are better than last year! Three different drivers offer options for every level golfer. Epic Speed is lower launching and easy to work the ball, Epic Max LS has a penetrating flight but good stability, and the Epic Max with its higher launch and maximum forgiveness. The new Apex hybrids are easier to hit and more user friendly than last year.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Golf Test Dummy with Chad Ferguson

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Today, we have a great conversation with a fellow YouTuber Chad Ferguson on the evolution of teaching and Chad’s first couple of lessons with Wisdom in Golf. A lot of our students have been saying how they appreciate his take on our methodology, and it’s very refreshing to hear another unique perspective on learning and acquiring skills in golf.

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