a call for clemency to us duffers

May 31, 2008 ·

i think us average joe duffers are a little too hard on ourselves. we don't shoot the score we want, we miss some putts, we don't hit the fairways, and we can't seem to stick our approach shots on the green. skill level or a factor of where we have to play? a combination of the two in my mind. i offer a modicum of relief we can all take to ease some of the pain in our shortcomings as golfers.

what i'm positing is that we don't have the luxuries pros do. sure, they have the problem of total yardage to worry about, but they have so much more terrain for forgiveness. look at what we usually have to play on. courses where the fairways are about as wide as a hallway and greens that have the diameter of a wading pool. contrast that with the broad expanses of a six lane highway for fairways and the lake sized span of greens the pga tour features.

okay, i exaggerate for effect, but it's pretty obvious. they have a lot more real estate to play on than we usually do. we are certainly not granted any forgiveness for even the slightest mishit to the left or right. not only is there more real estate to play on, but often times the way the golf course is laid out into the plot of land it has poses some interesting if not abnormal approaches.

not only just the width of the fairways or size of the greens, but general course conditions overall we unwittingly tolerate. i mean tee areas so hacked up you can't find even a small patch of grass for your tee. fairways that have been scorched by the sun so that they more closely resemble the cart path. greens that are a patchwork of barren areas and unrepaired divots. throw in the mix the usual proximity to a well-traveled road or train tracks to subvert our concentration and we falter more. let's not forget the caliber and nature of the other golfers we have to play alongside too. people who don't repair ball marks, cut huge swaths of turf out of the fairway, suddenly forget the word 'fore', and the bane of my particular existence, slow players and/or overcrowding.

this is no knock on any course in particular or the state of a lot of courses out there. a number of factors are at play, but primarily it's simple economics. your local course either didn't have that much land available to them or in order to service a certain part of the golfing population, kept the land smaller for less costs to pass along (land tax, maintenance, etc).

when we mis-hit a shot and it goes astray, we pay a far greater penalty than the pros. if we don't hit the fairway, we don't have a nice second cut of rough, it's right into the fescue or deep rough we contend with. no favors there to help us recover. if we non-pros hit a somewhat errant tee-shot, would that land us on the edges of a tour fairway as opposed to the rugged shoulders of the courses we normally play? does that approach shot land on the fringe or is it just a green in regulation on a tour stop with a long putt to follow?

let's also not forget that the pros have about 50 marshals and countless members of the gallery on every hole to help them find an errant shot or. i think most of us would appreciate even one person, other than our companions, who can be down the fairway watching every ball struck to locate its position. sometimes you think you know where it is, but mystifyingly it disappears.

i guess we could shell out the extra bucks for some much more well manicured courses that have more terrain, but golf is expensive enough and we all can't play at the top courses. some of us just like getting out there to hit a few balls or are more cost conscious. in some respects, it's as if you're paying for some measure of leniency from the golf gods when you play these swankier courses.

i think all this makes us better golfers though. forces us to play a tighter game. teaches us greater precision. instills in us a measure of humility. emboldens perseverance. golf is a game of momentum and confidence. how can we build either when we stand in the face of conditions that hold us back? rather than practicing good golf play, we are practicing our save shots or hitting a ball 8 inches above our feet. doesn't promote anything but frustration does it?

it frustrates us to no end that we are more acutely punished for the courses our lot in life grants us access to. the sport is frustrating enough as it is. that we can't always take the kinds of chances we want because the penalty is too high. i understand the game of golf is about penalizing us for the errors we make. but comparatively, the punishment is seemingly more severe for those who need the greatest alleviation and mercy from it.

i'd like to challenge the pros to take a shot at some of the local courses we play on and see how they fare. they may tear the course up, but they may also stumble on some of the idiosyncrasies of a course we blithely submit to every time we lace up the spikes. those drives that go a little astray and fringe-bound on the tour, are now in the woods. the approaches that are 30 feet from the pin are now a wedge shot for an up and down to the pros. i think it would be interesting, at least in a prove-me-wrong sense.

by no means am i saying that the pros have it easy. it's a career to them and they have a lot more at stake and a lot more that they have to put in to remain competitive. but that's not us weekenders. it's not our livelihood. we can't put in the time and money to play at that level, we have day jobs. i just think there is a big gap in what our skill level affords us and that required to play the courses we do.

so golfers, don't be so hard on yourselves. look at the conditions you have to play on, you're bound to err. take a deeper perspective of your golf game and say to yourself "yeah, i'm playing pretty good all things considered."




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