Thin edge of the wedge
Vacation trip out West makes me realize just how much I miss my clubs
Published on Thursday, Aug. 02, 2012 11:45AM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Aug. 08, 2012 03:38PM EDT
It was as if The Big Golfer in the Sky had brought together all the elements required for a perfect round of golf -- just for me.
The weather at the Westlake Golf Course just outside Los Angeles was hot and dry -- perfect for a good round of vacation golf while visiting family. The course was in excellent condition, waiting to be beaten like a Toronto Maple Leaf during a playoff run. The price ($21 for 60-plus types) was beyond my dreams and my companions were among the few relatives I might hand-pick for such an occasion.
But most important, I had the one thing that all golfers need, even more than a set of clubs and the number of the nearest distress line: a ready-made excuse.
This wasn't anything as questionable as my usual excuses -- a sore back, aching elbow or low barometric pressure. This was a bona fide reason to explain any shots that might go astray and threaten passersby.
Partly due to the incessant rise of airplane baggage fees and the fact we weren't driving an 18-wheeler, my clubs had missed the trip and I was forced to rent a set. Now, the clubs in my rented bag weren't guilty only of being ill-suited to my physical dimensions, strengths and weaknesses. They were a mix-and-match batch of battered brands that appeared to have been dredged out of a pond after being interred there by angry golfers.
One was so old I swear it bore Ben Hogan's autograph -- not a factory-stamped signature but an actual hand-written autograph.
That latter observation may have been the product of too much sun and too many Gatorades, but there's no denying these were all a far cry from the tailor-made TaylorMades that had been crafted specifically for me after hours of testing my few strengths and impressive list of weaknesses.
But as difficult as it was to play with clubs that were a half-inch too short with grips more suited to a violinist's hands than mine, I soon realized that the biggest problem was in the wedge department.
The wedge issue centred on the fact that I had only two -- a pitching wedge and sand wedge. That was half what I had in my own bag, now sitting at home no doubt grateful from the rest I had granted it.
I realized then how much my approach to golf has changed thanks to all those wedges. Back in the old days, before I took on this project, I was comfortable only with my pitching wedge, which I could hit with relative accuracy from 100 to 110 yards (relative being the key word here.)
So, on every hole, I aimed to land my approach shot that far from the green. It was a relatively (that word again) successful approach, so much so that I often used it on 140-yard par-threes -- though not by design. The problem was that when I miscalculated (ahem) and landed the ball less than 100 yards from the green, trouble quickly followed.
Trying to hit a three-quarters shot with a pitching wedge worked about as often as a Mitt Romney speech.
But with my new team of wedges, which included a 52-degree club and an A-wedge, I could hit the green from all kinds of distances -- except, of course, when I didn't.
Without my new wedges, I was lost and found myself once again shooting for the 100-yard mark. But when I missed, which I usually did, trouble ensued.
There was an 80-yard approach shot that I skulled so hard it bounced off a truck on a nearby highway and may be in Mexico by now.
Add in an ancient driver and a putter that produced a pair of three-putts and I can easily explain the 92 I shot that day.
With my own clubs, I easily could have shot, say, 91.
But the important thing was that I had an excuse, which is all a golfer can expect.
PROGRESS UPDATE: This vacation allowed no opportunity for practice, but the fact I once again threatened to break 90 is encouraging. Who knows? Maybe a week away from the practice greens might help me. Sure, and a week of eating cheesecake might help me lose weight, too.
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Why doesn't golf love me back?
Chris Zelkovich has accomplished many things in a journalism career that has spanned almost 40 years. He has worked as a reporter, editor and columnist for a variety of newspapers and his work has appeared in several magazines. His 12 years in golf have been somewhat less distinguished.
Bradlee Ryall is a Class 'A' member of the CPGA and Director of Instruction for the Braeben Academy. Nominated for the Ontario PGA Teacher of the Year award in 2009, Bradlee has studied and trained with some of the best golf instructors in the world at the David Leadbetter Golf Academies and served as teaching professional at some of the greatest golfing destinations in the world including the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, Canada.