Monday, November 7, 2016

Drive For Show, Putt for Dough.

Everybody buckle in, I’m about to tell you something that we all already know, and have heard a million times.

Are you ready?

Here it is.

Drive for show, putt for dough!

I warned you…I did warn you.

We all intrinsically understand this age-old maxim, even though most of us don’t spend much time thinking about it ahead of time.  You know what I’m talking about – you get on the course, you strike out two solid bags of balls onto the driving range, you loosen up practicing your putting while waiting in line for the Starter to call out your name…

…and then as soon as you get on the #1 teebox, you completely forget about putting.

Feels good...feels good.......nope, it's in the woods.  Two off the first! 

Maybe your personal casual rules allow for “two off the first tee” – with the heavily-leaned-on addendum: “…if needed (and it will be your golfmates who ultimately tell you whether it is needed or not…you know the drill).”  Maybe your personal serious play involves playing every single shot as it lies…no matter what.  All of these personal inclinations and degrees of severity aside, the simple truth always remains the same:

As soon as you tee off, putting is the furthest thing from your mind.

And we all know how that first hole goes, too.  Your best friend and/or your regular golfmate and/or the guy that the Starter paired you off with all play slightly differently.  One of you shanks into the woods, just ‘cus your swing speed was a little too high in your zeal to get to the short clubs.  One of you drives it clear down the center, with a backswing smooth as butter.  One of you takes a more strategic play and lays up into an area that is primed for a precision strike towards the hole, emboldened from your experience with the course.

And none of that is a problem, because you know that your own game is your own game, and your own game is in your head – after all, the game is 50% physical and 90% mental.  Sir Shanks-a-lot makes a brilliant recovery shot from the woods, and that is okay…his game is his game.  The Straight Shooter slightly flubs the second shot, but is still in good shape, and that is okay…his game is his game.  The Specialist makes the safe shot with accuracy, but is still a long way out from the green, and that is okay…his game is his game.

At this point, every one of us is totally within our own minds, in our own headspace, and we’re exclusively focused on the singular process of getting to the dance floor.

And that is totally okay…our game is our game.

And then…the oh-so- satisfying plunk of the ball of our choice – Bridgestone Tour B330, Callaway HEX Diablo, Nike RZN Black, Titleist DT Trusoft, Srixon Q-Star– landing on that immaculately tailored surface.  We can hear the hollow thud of the deck being struck as we roll out to our next future stroke – it doesn’t even matter that we’re not physically close enough to actually hear it, because that sound has played itself in our minds over and over and over for years...we know what that sound sounds like, and we hear it in within our skulls.  We look forward to repairing our divot with our trusty tool as we approach the fruits of our labor and look forward to the next challenge.

Time to put on your dancing shoes.

That’s right, we’ve landed on the green… we can put away everything else, take our glove off, and pull out ye olde Texas Wedge, safe and secure that we won’t be using it to punch through any long stuff.  Now we go into Dancing Mode; the Green has extended its right hand to us, and we we’re ready to grab it with our left and lead in the Tango of the Worthy.

We’re thinking about the undulation of the deck.  We’re thinking about where the sun is in the sky so we can know which way the blades of grass are bending to reach the light and how that will affect our next stroke.  We breathe in and out in metered and practiced movements as we practice our pendulum – some of us both before and after we ever even take a look at our lie.  We’re ready for battle.

Then, invariably, it happens.

We hear the echoing clatter of someone else’s ball bouncing about in the cup.



Sir Shanks-a-lot managed to recover and pierce the heart of the green like it was a dartboard.  Straight Shooter pulled just a little bit, and found himself leaning on his back foot with his sandwedge.  The Specialist played as was his plan, and still has two putts to close out for par.

So, Whodunnit?  Who is the mystery man who plugged the cup and nailed the early par?  We pop our heads up like gophers to see which one of us is pumping his fist in victory.  And, at least in our minds,

It is always the one who least deserved it.

As if to twist the knife after it has already been driven home, the words we all know are coming actually come.

“Drive for show, putt for dough, babeeeee!”

And we breathe deep, and remind ourselves…his game is his game.  Then we close out the hole on our own terms, as much as that is possible.  Congratulations are extended amongst the participants, we shove our short sticks back into their holsters, record our (most-times)honest accounting of the incursion to the unforgiving arbiter of The Scorecard, pull our gloves on tight, and accelerate our cart in such a way that doesn’t spill our beverage from our Styrofoam cup.

We console ourselves with the knowledge (or listen to others actively explain to us) that “the greens weren’t rolling right,” or “did you SEE that ball jump right there on the way to the hole?”  We consistently give in to our own regret and listen to our golfmates’ lamentations of “…if only...”

And we do everything we can on the next teebox to believe that the previous hole never even happened.  This is a new hole.  A new future.  A new chance.

The truth is that we have all been on both the giving and receiving ends of this experience – be it on the first hole or the fourteenth.  We have enjoyed the jubilation when it is our own personal victory, and we have endured the jocular celebration of another that is the equivalent of a Running Back or a Wide Receiver spiking the ball into the End Zone.  Depending on who we are, there a no stakes, low stakes, or high stakes – whether we are our own greatest opponent or we’re playing for drinks at the 19th hole or whether we’re playing a high-dollar game for skins.   In every case, hole by hole, our challenge is the same: we have to not let it go to our heads, and we have to stay within our own game.

And that is the beauty of the sport.  In no other sport are we our own referee.  In no other sport is there an accepted and accredited “par excellence,” to which we strive to both conform and exceed.  In no other sport are we expected to keep track of our own statistics so that we might best understand how we stack up, and where we need to improve.

It is the glory and the pain of the sport known as Golf.

Although we may either from-time-to-time or regularly enjoy the spirit and experience of competition – after all, it is only in the face of competition that we may spread our wings and grow – in the end, it is always Us versus Ourselves.  It is ourselves against ourselves when we are not on the course, and it is ourselves against ourselves when we are on the course.

There is no other truism so absolute in Golf as:

Drive for show, putt for dough.

What do you think?

What have been your experiences on the golf course?

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Us Versus Ourselves.