A few months ago in Golf Digest I read about a guy who made a commitment to become a better golfer. He had trouble breaking 100, but he decided he could and would become good at the sport, so he practiced every day. In a year, if I remember the details accurately, he had gotten down to scratch. Today he is the head golf pro at Pebble Beach.
My aspirations in the golf world are not as lofty as his: I will be perfectly fine being hired by Cypress Point.
As much as my instinct is to disbelieve his story, amazing things can happen when people believe that amazing things can happen—then work like hell to achieve their desired results. To that end, after I verify my existence via caffeine ingestion, I will work like hell on my chipping. Then write a story I set aside long ago.
As I spent nearly an hour and a half hitting chip shots with my 64-degree lob wedge to a small, raggedy practice green at the Rancho 3-Par course, I realized that until today I had never really practiced before. Yes, I have hit balls on a range, but I have usually hit three to five balls with each club, either hit them well or poorly, or hit some of each, then headed to the course. And I've spent 20-minute stretches on putting greens, not ever, to my knowledge, unlocking any secrets. But today I worked only with one club, hitting 10 balls towards the pin tucked only two paces on the green, trying time after time to put all 10 balls on the putting surface from distances of from 10 to 20 yards, out of thick rough, light rough and off of hard-pan. I hit circuit after circuit, with total and complete inconsistency. I would think I "had it," opening my left foot, putting the lob wedge far forward in my stance, then taking a smooth swing, telling myself to accelerate through the shot and not to try to help the ball up, only to chunk the next three shots. Of course, adding that negative "don't try to help the ball up" mantra sabotaged my progress, so my swing thought became solely "accelerate." And I eventually put all 10 balls on the putting surface, six of them within six feet.
So that's what it feels like to practice the game of golf. Who knew?
Golfers, I suppose.