August 15, 2003
I want my handicap back.
The truth is that my competitive standing in relation to par was never all that fabulous. At best my official handicap index only reached as low as 13.5, and that was several years ago.
Since then, however, it climbed back up to where it was over a dozen years ago, to a high of 24.2 or so this spring.
It hurts just to mention that number.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. I had it all planned out. If I had myself fitted for new irons, I would surely be able to increase my greens in regulation, and lower my scores even more.
After all, I’d been using a set of Austad® Ambassador Irons for many years. How much better could I be if I switched from a set of catalog clubs to some famous brand?
The Ambassadors were nice clubs. They bore a remarkable resemblance to Tommy Armour 845® irons, and they were the clubs I used to bring my index down to 13.5. Nonetheless, I decided to make the switch.
I was fitted for a set of Titleist® DCI Black Oversize Irons. They were a degree or two flatter than normal, and an inch longer than normal. The steel shafts were stiff instead of the regular flex I had in my Ambassadors.
The first few rounds were a bit surprising. It took a while to figure out that a 5-iron shot with the Ambassadors was a 6-iron shot with the DCIs, and so on throughout the set.
In addition, there was no noticeable, consistent increase in accuracy, which I initially chalked up to simply not being used to them. Surely things would turn around.
In the meantime, however, a few other things occurred. I was elected to the board of directors for Shawnee, and one year later became club president. I then agreed to serve another year as club president.
Even though past presidents warned me, I don’t think I fully appreciated what this tour of volunteer duty would do to my golf game. After a while, whenever I played at Shawnee I was reminded of the warning given by Satchel Paige, the famous baseball player: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
That didn’t help.
Over the same period of time, I also gained weight. I can’t imagine the extra 30 pounds helped me to maintain the exact same swing with the DCIs, since they were fitted at a time when I weighed at most 155-160 pounds.
Considering these two factors and my general lack of talent, perhaps it was no surprise that my handicap crept up.
By the time my term as president and on the Shawnee board ended last October, I planned to do three things: enjoy playing golf again, lose the weight, and lower my handicap.
So far these goals are two-thirds accomplished.
I’m having fun again on the golf course. The 30 pounds are gone, thanks to Dr. Atkins and my obsessive-compulsive personality.
On the other hand, my handicap showed remarkable staying power, until I made another decision–go back to the Ambassadors.
I cleaned them up and practiced on the range a few times before trying them out on the course.
Soon I began to see signs that I might be onto something. A full seven-iron shot to 8 inches from the par-five 17th hole one day gave a pleasant hint, for example. Three-iron shots to the middle of the par 3-4th green on several consecutive rounds provided other clues. My 18-hole scores began to improve, and I’ve dropped three handicap strokes from the high point earlier this spring.
The old saying is that it’s not the piano, it’s the player. It’s also true that the path to improvement is never a one-way street. Nonetheless, I think I’ll keep using these old irons from a catalog, and see if the improvement will continue.