September 2, 2005
The real trouble started by thinking I could hit a big sweeping hook around a few trees with a fairway wood from 180 yards out, and actually have the ball land on the green.
Everything went from bad to worse after that.
On the other hand, I learned a valuable lesson from an experience at Shawnee Country Club during a recent Sunday round.
The golf ball took off nicely, and even started turning left a bit. Then it dove into a fairway bunker about 65 yards from the 17th green.
The ball looked innocent enough, sitting up on top of the sand and with plenty of space to clear the lip of the bunker. I took a few practice swings with the lob wedge, trying to feel how to hit the ball first and make it land on the front of the green.
I remember taking a half-swing, and thinking “Whoops!” immediately after impact.
The ball shot across the green at a low angle, and disappeared down the slope toward the creek that divides the 17th green from the white and blue tee boxes for the 18th hole, on the left side of the small bridge crossing the stream.
For once I was hoping to hear the sound of ball hitting tree, but there was no such reassuring thwock, with a ricochet that would bounce it back onto the green.
Golfers are nothing if not hopeful.
I walked down by the creek and searched a patch about 30 yards wide and deep in all directions. There was no sign of the golf ball anywhere, not even in the clear running water of the little stream.
Eventually I stood on a small rise on the 18th hole side of the creek, looking at what appeared to be a perfectly fine landing area for a short hop across the water. The grass was longish but not wet, and the creek itself was only a few feet wide at that point.
Surely I could just take a few steps back and then jump over the creek to make the shortcut back to my golf bag.
My left foot landed first, about a foot or so past the far side creek edge. It immediately sank down a foot and a half deep, into the muck I didn’t know was there when I jumped.
As my left shoe disappeared below the mud, my only thought was to swing my right foot further up the small slope and keep going forward, so I wouldn’t fall backward into the creek.
This move was only partially successful. I think the fact that my left leg was still in mud up to my calf for the first part of that maneuver may have been one of the reasons.
I felt myself falling forward, as both feet then left the ground.
I remember feeling the impact on my left shoulder and, soon after, my left rump as I rolled up the slope to a stop a few feet away. Mud and water coated my left leg, and there were obvious signs of “ground contact” on my clothes.
It was over in a flash. Then my playing partners began to laugh and hoot.
John Eustis said, “It looked like you were on fire, and you were trying to do the stop, drop, and roll drill.”
Tom Wright shook his head and said with his most regretful voice, “I don’t know, Fritz. I’m only going to be able to give you a 2.5 on that one.”
Rich Phillips said, “I hear a commotion and I turn around, and the next thing I see is Fritz’s a** up in the air, spinning. It’s the damndest thing I’ve ever seen.”
So here’s the playing lesson for this week.
Even if you think the ground on the other side of a creek will hold you if you jump, don’t bother. Use the cart path and bridge instead.
You might think a middle-aged golfer would know this already, but sometimes you just have to discover these truths for yourself.