Barack Obama might have abs that are the envy of men half his age and the ability to command a crowd of 100,000 with his speeches.
But when it comes to the decidedly presidential sport of golf, well, to put it diplomatically — he’s only a little smoother on the links than he is in a bowling alley.
It wasn’t until Obama teed off as the president-elect a few times during his Hawaiian vacation that his golfing skills — or lack thereof — really showed.
I’m afraid the last thing you’ll ever hear me do is bust someone’s chops over his golf game. I’ve gotta be completely honest with you: knowing that Obama’s skills – or lack thereof – on the greens amount to less-than-PGA status makes me more likely to identify with him. As for people suggesting that he needs to have a goal of leaving the White House with a single-digit handicap, may I recommend that a good golf game should be way, way down on the list of priorities for a president?
Most of we who golf will go our whole lives without sinking a hole-in-one on any course we play. (Putt-putt not included here, although there might be some who’ll never do it there, either.) Not so for young Drew Gray of Illinois. Drew aced the 5th hole at Yorktown Golf Club in Belleville, IL, and that’s something because Drew is 5 years old.
Now, it doesn’t really count for a standing because the course is a par-3 course, but I personally don’t care: an ace is an ace! Besides, even if the whole is only 75 yards, Drew’s gotta be – what? – 3 feet tall? Scaling that to my height would make that somewhere around 400 yards, an ace that would be tattooed on my chest for all time, I assure you!
Well done, Drew! Keep swinging!
There are 2 of golfing’s claims that tend to bring up smiles and are also widely considered to be axiomatically true: First, that golf represents a valuable business tool in that it can get you an hours-long meeting with folks who might not otherwise give you 10 minutes in their office. Second, that a bad day golfing is better than a good day working.
I’d have agreed with that 100%… until yesterday. Well, maybe I still agree with that, but it’s a lot closer of a race between agree and disagree than usual.
We had a golf outing set up with some important folks from our accounts and it had to be scheduled several days ago so we could get everyone there. When we do that, I always like to keep my eye on the weather forecasts so we can gracefully pull out of the round in the event of thunderstorms and the like. (Meaning, that we put together an alternate event.) Yesterday’s heat wave, on the other hand, kind of slipped under my radar. Our tee time was 7:29am, and that’s the only thing that saved us as the day’s temperature rose to a DC-area record breaking 102° at Reagan National Airport. To say those last few holes were a real chore is an understatement.
As we cleared off the last hole and headed into the clubhouse, we watched as a foursome mounted up in their carts and headed to the 1st hole tee. To just be starting a round when the temps were already that high and the humidity was putting the heat index at close to 110°… well, I’m just glad it wasn’t me.
One of the new expenses of my time that I’ve been working on is the game of golf. I started last year and have made enough progress that I can reliably play with clients and not besmirch my company’s name. (So far.) Up here in Connecticut while on vacation, I decided I was definitely going to get in a game so I hit the local par-3 course.
Now, a par-3 course is pretty much what it sounds like. The holes are all designed and ranged to be done in 3 strokes per hole. That makes for a much faster round of golf than on a full-size course and it allows for most of us to concentrate on the short-to-midrange game. I only pulled out my driver twice today.
Which is not to be confused as having done really well. I scored a 90. On any of the other courses I’ve played that would be worth a bottle of Dom Perignon, 1990. Being a par-3 course, however, shooting par would give you a score of (18 holes x 3) 54. A 90 is just a tad over that. It’s not the worst you can do (that’s a 108) but it shows a need for a lotta work.
Still, like the man said, a bad day golfing is better than a good day at work. Me? I’ll take that 90, any time.
Various things so far this year have managed to keep me very busy around the house so I haven’t had the chance to log a round of golf in 2007. Until yesterday, that is, when business actually brought me out there. The first 6 holes were nothing less than torture (for me and my foursome, I think) and just goes to show that time at the driving range will not guarantee a good round.
We played at the South Riding Golf Club and the course was pretty nice. And while my performance was definitely in the “minor embarrassment” category, I wasn’t the worst in our group. As they say, you don’t have to run faster than the tiger, you just have to run faster than someone else running away from the tiger. I just don’t want to be the worst guy on the course.
There’s an interesting hole on the course with the tee box right on the shore of a lake that runs right over to the green on the other side. I believe this hole proves my theory that the gravitational coefficient of water is much higher than land. I teed up twice there and both times my drive left the tee pretty much normally only to arc right into the water within 10 yards of the shore. It’s gotta be the gravity, I’m tellin’ ya.
I’ve managed to get my wife interested enough in the sport that she’s going to take lessons with me this upcoming month. I’m looking forward to that and I’ll let you know how that works out.
In my quest to pick up the game of golf the last month has represented something of a setback. A medical issue that knocked me out for a couple of weeks, uncooperative weather and general business stuff have all conspired to keep me off the driving ranges and, certainly, off of the golf course. Yesterday, however, we finally managed to get a foursome together and hit the course. As usual, the weather forecast for our tee time was for showers and thunderstorms. It certainly looked like it was going to hit, too, but we got lucky and the front blew through.
And when I say, “blew through,” I mean it. The winds that followed those clouds sure brought lovely skies and sunshine, but also dropped the temperature about 10° and were strong enough to actually blow the balls off the tees on some of the holes. As luck would have it, 2 of the par-5 holes were lined up so your shots were forced to go directly into the wind.
Quick note: in such circumstances, do not stand with the player teeing off directly upwind of you. When he smacks a divot into the air, the grass, mud, and sand will all be caught in that wind and come straight back into you. Specifically into your eyes. Not fun.
I was having a fairly good day with my irons. (We won’t talk about the woods, which is why they never left my bag after the 3rd hole.) On one of these shots, I pulled out my trusty 5-iron, lined up, let fly and got some great air under the ball, a truly happy-looking shot. Right up until the ball reached the top of its arc and the wind halted its forward progress completely. A 5-iron will usually launch the ball in a flatter ballistic arc and allow the ball to keep rolling when it hits the ground. The higher the iron’s number, the higher the arc and the more vertically the ball will hit. A 9-iron will generally hit the ground a “stick” so it doesn’t roll from where you aim.
This shot that started off looking like the perfect 5-iron hit landed so close to straight down that the ball didn’t make it 9 inches from where it impacted. Fascinating, but hardly the kind of shot you hope for. The rest of the round was played like that with us trying our best to figure how much wind there was up where the balls were going. Interesting day and very fun. We have a client golf meeting coming up in a couple of weeks so I need all the practice I can get.
For the past month or two I’ve embarked on an effort I’d avoided for years. I’m learning to golf. How I came to this juncture is a long story for another day but suffice it to say I’ve found myself in need of enough skill on the links to avoid seriously embarrassing myself or certain organizations I represent on occasion. I have no illusions about being the best golfer at my office, for example. I just don’t want to be the worst.
I’ve gotten myself a bag load of decent clubs and a set of shoes that I can now stand on the side of a bunker without slipping in. I’ve even played a couple of rounds so far but, for the most part, I’ve been practicing. In terms of golf, practice means you’re at the driving range smacking golfballs out into a field somewhere. To say I’ve improved is an understatement. Where my first shot at this sport saw me hitting the ball no further than 50 yards and with no tighter accuracy than a 120° arc generally centered in front of me, I’ve managed to reliably drive off the tee to around 180 yards and I can now hit a ball with my irons to land within 20-30 yards of my intended spot, so long as it’s not more than about 100 yards distant. I’m pretty happy with that and I’m looking forward to playing the next round of golf in about a week or so.
Staying in practice being necessary, I hit up all the normal golf fiends at the office yesterday to see if anyone wanted to hit a bucket of balls downrange at lunch. Normally, I can get at least 1 to come with me. Not so yesterday. For various reasons, everyone was booked up tightly enough that they couldn’t hit the range with me and still make it back for their meetings. I might not have gone yesterday but the weather here was so good (temps and humidity way below normal!) that I decided to just go alone. I got to the range, bought my bucket, and grabbed a spot near the center of the firing line.
My practice regimen starts out with a 9-iron hitting for accuracy to a flag near the center of the range. The first hit put the ball within 5 feet of that flag. So did the second. And the third. The fourth landed so close to where my 1st had landed that I doubt there was so much as a club-length between them. I did equally well with the 7-iron and the 5 after that. Still amazed, I switched over to my driver to go for the distance.
I have a mean slice. That means I can usually count on my drives bending at least a little to the right. Not yesterday. Five drives right off the tee flew out like they were on laser-guidance straight out away from my position. I hit a total of 20 drives and every single one of them went out past 200 yards. On 2 of them, the ball reached the fence at 230 yards, right at the base of the fence. Every one of those drives went straight out and hit the ground within a 10° arc of my centerline.
To finish off, I usually pull out the pitching wedge or the sand wedge and work on the short game. Both of these clubs are designed to give you lots of altitude and short distance. You use these clubs when you want to place the ball precisely and have it stick where it lands. Properly done, the ball is almost falling straight down when it hits. To give you a target to shoot for, this range has a couple of baskets that look like giant basketball hoops angled so the top opening is almost facing you directly. The object is to put the ball into the net hanging from the baskets. I’ve only done it once before.
Yesterday, I managed it 3 times. And I came really, really close at least a dozen more. The upshot?
No. One. Was. There. To. See. It.
Oh, yeah. God’s got a sense of humor. And it’s a dry, burning sense of humor, at that. I can’t even tell my co-workers about it, either. They’d never believe it. Perfect, it seems, only happens alone. Ah, well. Back to the clubs…