It's often said by accomplished golfers to lesser players, "You're not good enough to get upset."
Golf doesn’t owe you a thing, they might say. And they’d be right: I hadn’t put in the time.
If you’re doing nothing right, you don’t deserve to be frustrated when everything is wrong. You can’t be mad at golf if you haven’t even tried, in all truth, to know and understand the game and its rhythms and its sweet dissonance.
It’s rare, on the golf course, when the clashing chord resolves itself into the purest harmonic triad, and it is rarer still to know exactly why. The minor-key stuff, though we might not hear it at the time, will always be among the most beautiful, like the tap-in bogey that started with a drive into the trees.
Which is a way of getting around to saying that all the lessons in the world don’t mean anything until you take it to the golf course.
But first, I had work to do.
OLD DOG UPDATE
I didn’t realize how much I missed the dude until I hit golf balls in front of him for the first time in a month. Family business took Tom Staskus to California, during which time I practiced about as much as anybody would who knows he doesn’t have to get in front of the teacher for a while.
But I did practice, and though I thought I’d been practicing right, it took about two swings for Staskus to pinpoint one or two issues.
First are the feet, the engines of the lower body that power the turn of the torso while the arms and hands that hold the club go with the flow. I didn’t know it, but I was passive with my feet and lower body, and that left all the work to the arms.
I wasn’t getting to the right place at the top, because I was not letting the shoulder turn take the club back, but rather lifting my arms to places from which I could not possibly start down on any path but outside-in. Call it what you like: Casting, over-the-top, terrible, horrible, with few possible outcomes other than weak ones.
Our practice session a week ago Saturday was our best yet. Something clicked, and Dr. Tom had the rare experience of feeling like he’d gotten through to me.
TEST NO. 1 – FEB. 22
I couldn’t have forecast the nice, then the awful, followed by the mostly OK and the pretty bad. And then there was the weather.
I was on No. 5 at Tumwater Valley, in my first round of golf since October, when we segued into the hail-blowing-sideways portion of the program. It was a good time to break for lunch.
At that point, I had just striped my drive and followed up with a pretty good fairway wood. I never found that ball – in seconds it was camouflaged by hailstones.
I was sorry to stop, because I was beginning to feel like it was feeling like I felt it should feel like when it’s feeling right.
He can tell me and tell me, Staskus had said, and it won’t mean a thing until I feel it.
I went back out after lunch, during which time the sun came out for a minute. I got in 12 holes, and it felt good. Not bad for openers.
TEST NO. 2 – SUNDAY
Eagles Pride at Fort Lewis was pretty in the half-sunlight in my first round with other people and a scorecard since this project started. My game was not half bad about half the time.
Staskus had worked me hard the day before.
Even when he’s being pretty specific, Staskus likes to keep it simple. When he’s speaking generally, he’s even simpler: You don’t have to swing hard to hit it hard; watch the club hit the ball; and finish your swing.
I wrote down all the big numbers on the front nine, and they added up to a really big number. It wasn’t all bad – there were a few times I heard the “snick” of a well-struck ball – but too often it was back to bad habits.
On the back nine, I started swinging easier and stopped swaying back on my takeaway (I tried to “stay in my hip,” in Staskus’s words) and I broke 50, with strokes to spare.
Not perfect, but it never will be. My misses were better, and that I count as progress.