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Opinion & Analysis

A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: February

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As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge because I want to taste the brine.

Here you’ll find the second installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here.

He could never explain his given name. Why would a German family name their son “cirE”? Some mistook it for Sire and thought him presumptuous. As a lad, with fingers crossed, he hoped that other kids hadn’t the intellectual gumption to search a Gaelic dictionary, where they would find the translation of … wax.

Why do mothers name their children such odd names, and why don’t fathers object? Flip’s father had made a career of objecting to every sincere and frivolous pursuit the boy had undertaken. Why not object to cirE? Flip stared into the morning sun, preferring the more-than-momentary blindness, and surmised that the old man knew that it was a battle he couldn’t win. Carry this bowling ball around for nine months, pulling on organs, muscles, and bones, and don’t let me pick his name? uh-UH. Stored it all up and took it out on the kid.

Considering the brief nature of February, cirE “Flip” Hedgebow feared that planning was overrated, and that much was beyond his control. He had transitioned many times before, from south to north and from north to south. After a few years, he gave little thought to each move. Yet, despite experience and wisdom, he felt possessed by neither. Flip was not wrong; the turbulence roiled beneath the surface of his calm demeanor. Work a pro shop long enough, and you learn to pass emotional tsunami off as a wink and a nod.  If you can’t, you don’t last.

February was an odd month in the Sunshine state. The amateur snowbirds had departed, and the fairly-experienced ones began to arrive. Difference? Amateurs arrive for the first month of the new year, bask in the warmth, then head home for two or three more months of cold, and get sick. The fairly-experienced brood (usually 4-5 years into retirement or freedom) had figured this out, through pain and suffering. They made their reservations one month later, stunned that time was available for them. There was a reason for that, but Flip wouldn’t consider it for a pair more of fortnights. What the departure of the amateurs meant, was lower revenues, across the board.

Amateur snowbirds bathed in the deceitful glow of recent loosenings. They spent like there was no tomorrow when, for most of them, there were too many tomorrows. Their departure meant that registers wouldn’t ring (his mentor used that expression) like the chapel on Sunday. In the world of cirE, registers were tablets that used Square, and chapels didn’t do business like they did in the past.

The fairly-experienced crowd had settled into a February routine. No longer trying every new thing, they spent their Valentines month in nearly-perfect symmetry. They knew which restaurants to frequent, and which sales would appear in windows, at which appointed hours. Frivolous purchases were no longer their wont, as the writing on the wall began to show in greater clarity. Flip cared nothing of this…he cared about the diminishing returns and the lightening of his pocket clip. This generation suspected that March was the better month for rolling into northern Spring, but those who held those dates, weren’t giving up before a literal fight to the finish. So February it was.

Something else that the February armada offered, was time on the lesson tee. They weren’t giving up on youthful potential and conquest, at least not on the golf course. What they could not offer in the clubs, they could occasionally summon when money was on the line, and that would have to do. The majority of them accosted Flip over matters of distance and new drivers. The savvy ones asked when he could show them a shot or three around the green, or from the trees. If Flip ever had to run a Calcutta to save his life, he lived in the certainty that those savvy ones, those scramblers, would be the ones to back. Since all of them paid, the lesson tee was a bonanza.

No matter the month, Florida was a gold mine compared with New York. No taxes, and even the most frugal snowbird tipped and bought more than folks in rural Empire state. Flip’s nest egg needed to swell a few sizes, like the Grinch’s heart, before April Fools’ Day arrived. Something else that needed to swell, was his peripheral vision. For the second time in as many months, the potency and potential of the red-haired woman escaped his notice, as did the farewell wave she gave to Flip’s next student. Good things come to those who wait, but do they also come to those who miss?

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What makes a golf course ‘tough?’

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I found this past weekend’s golf to be some of the most entertaining and thought-provoking of the season. While the men of the PGA Tour found a challenging and tough Muirfield Village, the women of the LPGA were getting a taste of a true championship-caliber layout at Olympic Club, the sight of many historic U.S. Opens.

In both cases, the best players in the world found themselves up against courses that fought back against their extraordinary skills and talents. Though neither course appeared to present fairways that were ridiculously narrow, nor greens that were ultra-fast and diabolical, scoring was nowhere near the norms we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the professional tours.

So, that begs the question – what is it exactly that makes a course tough for these elite players? And is that any different from those things that make a course tough for the rest of us?

From my observation, the big difference for both the ladies and the men was the simple fact that Muirfield Village and Olympic shared the same traits – deep rough alongside each fairway, deep bunkers, and heavy rough around the greens. In other words — unlike most of the venues these pros face each week, those two tracks put up severe penalties for their not-so-good shots — and their awful ones.

Setting aside the unfortunate turn of events for John Rahm – who appeared to be playing a different game for the first three days – only 18 of the best male players in the game managed to finish under par at Muirfield Village. That course offered up measurable penalties for missed fairways and greens, as it was nearly impossible to earn a GIR from the rough, and those magical short games were compromised a lot – Colin Morikawa even whiffed a short chip shot because the gnarly lie forced him to try to get “cute” with his first attempt. If you didn’t see it, he laid a sand wedge wide open and slid it completely under the ball — it didn’t move at all!

On the ladies’ side, these elite players were also challenged at the highest level, with errant drives often totally preventing a shot that had a chance of holding the green — or even reaching it. And the greenside rough and deep bunkers of Olympic Club somewhat neutralized their highly refined greenside scoring skills.

So, the take-away from both tournaments is the same, the way I see it.

If a course is set up to more severely penalize the poor drives and approaches — of which there are many by these players — and to make their magical short game skills more human-like, you will see these elite players struggle more like the rest of us.

So, I suggest all of you think about your last few rounds and see what makes your course(s) play tough. Does it penalize your not-so-good drives by making a GIR almost impossible, or is it too challenging around the greens for your scoring skills? Maybe the greens are so fast and diabolical that you don’t get as much out of your putting as you think you should? Or something else entirely?

My bet is that a thoughtful reflection on your last few rounds will guide you to what you should be working on as you come into the peak of the 2021 golf season.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: My 3-wood search, Mizuno ST-Z driver, and Srixon divide golf ball review

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I am on the search for a 3-wood this year and talk a little about my top 3 that I have been hitting. Hit on the pros and cons of each option and what might be in the bag next week. The Mizuno ST-Z was on the course and a really good driver for players who want forgiveness but don’t need any draw bias. The Srixon Q-Star Tour Divide is a cool 2-tone ball that makes short game practice more interesting.

 

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: How to turn technical thinking into task-based think in your golf game

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The mind can only be in one place at a time at 40 bits of information per second. To build a golf swing this way would be like an ant building New York City this way: a most impossible task. When you are task-based you are using the human self-preserving system, that works at 40 million bits per second, choose wisely.

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