Humbled by My Favorite Game

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Sure, the ball location wasn’t that great, but here I was, 20 feet from the pin on the 18th hole at the wonderful Bandon Trails Golf Resort. My approach landed in a steep bunker but I had a shot. Alas, the difficult uphill lie resulted in me striking the ball “fat,” taking more sand than necessary, and the ball traveled half the distance than I’d hoped. Nevertheless, I was on the green, so I turned to look for the rake to clean up my mess and then sink the putt. What happened next was beyond bizarre.

My playing partners, instead of complimenting my recovery with a “nice shot” were, instead, focusing their attention on my golf ball, admonishing it to “settle, settle” with an alarming chorus. I hadn’t expected that, and looked up from my sand maintenance in time to see the ball rolling, not toward the hole, but away from the the pin toward the front of the green. What’s worse, the fairway and the green blended into a slope that leveled some 40 yards back down the fairway from this difficult, elevated green, and that’s where my ball finally came to rest. Unbelievable; to have been so close and now so distant—and a far-more difficult flop shot as my next challenge. No fun.

But that’s where I got it all wrong and, reflecting how I dealt with this and several other difficult situations at those beautiful golf courses, it’s clear I need to work on my mental game. Furthermore, and remarkably coincidental, this morning’s paper featured a story about a wealthy high-handicapper who got to play a pro-am event with our town’s only claim to a PGA professional. The two were teamed up at the Bob Hope Classic in Palm Springs and, although their team didn’t finish in the money, the guest player had a hoot and happily overcame his propensity for perfection by remembering to focus on “the 3 F’s: fun, friends, and flora.”

Just having the ability to play Bandon Dunes should be ample gratification for any golfer in this lifetime, much less having it a scenic 3-hour drive from Ashland with affordable “winter” rates for Oregonians. The courses are admittedly challenging, and one employee figured that, coupled with the stiff winds characterizing both days, the course was probably closer to a par 82 than the 72 as stated on the scorecard. Here we were, holding 10 handicaps, and the likelihood of shooting a 92 was, well, something we couldn’t have anticipated considering none of us had done it in years. As it turned out, a 92 would have been a good score for ANY of us as we settled our bets over beers after the round.

What I left with is the need to better adapt to whatever challenges I’m confronted with. Take as much time as possible to evaluate these new challenges (in my situation, how important it was to examine the slope of the green and carefully consider the optimum landing location for my ball). Acknowledge the skill the course designer (in this case, Ben Crenshaw) implemented into the design to confound players like me. Proceed with the best shot in my bag and, while perhaps not executed as planned, bank that experience for my next round.

And a next time there will be; it’s so enjoyable to hang out with long-time golfing buddies, all blessed with the ability to experience such a gorgeous setting. The 3 F’s.