October 16, 2009
Occasionally you will experience a round of golf in which a severe weakness of some aspect of your game stands out in stark contrast to the rest of it.
I had one of these occurrences several years ago. My golf ball landed in fairway or greenside bunkers several times. On each occasion it took at least two shots to escape the sand, if not three.
That nasty round led to a golf lesson with Devon Peterson, the PGA golf pro at Shawnee Country Club, devoted solely to bunker play.
Doing what he taught me and practicing it several time eventually paid off nicely.
I can’t say I look forward to having my golf ball land in a bunker, but I don’t have any worries about what will happen with my next shot, either.
More recently, what some might laughingly call my chipping game showed up in earnest during an otherwise pleasant Saturday afternoon round with Jim Hutchins.
It began with the first hole, a 383-yard par 4, whose green I almost always reached in two with a driver and 7-wood. My ball sat in light rough, a few yard from the front edge of the green, with the hole only a few steps beyond that edge. Using my sand wedge, I made my usual chip swing.
The ball reached only halfway to the hole, stopping in the fringe area in front of the green.
A Texas wedge and a short putt led to a 5 for the hole, one more stroke than I should have made.
Things didn’t improve on the second hole, a par 5. My approach shot landed on a downhill slope, about 20 feet from the green and about 40 feet from the hole.
I took a few practice chips, and flubbed the shot a total of 7 feet, still in the hillside rough.
The next chip shot screamed across the green, past the hole and into the rough beyond.
The next chip shot rolled onto the green, but just barely, leaving a long putt that I didn’t make.
Geez, was I a happy camper.
I’d like to say that my chipping woes stopped after those two holes, but that wouldn’t be a true statement.
Thankfully, several pars and routine bogeys, where I didn’t have to make any chip shots, kept my overall score close to normal.
As we were finishing up the round, something Jim Hutchins said really hit home.
I think this is how he phrased it: “If you would ever frigging learn how to make a frigging chip shot, you would take five to six strokes off your frigging handicap.”
Hutchins didn’t actually use the word “frigging” in his remarks, but this is a family-friendly newspaper. Nonetheless, I was in total agreement with him.
This wasn’t the first time one of my playing buddies had pointed out the obvious to me, but I can be stubborn.
However, something about my near-total lack of chipping ability on this particular round, combined with Jim’s forceful suggestion of the benefits of improving my game in this respect, was truly inspirational.
Another focused lesson from Devon will be scheduled.
This chipping problem isn’t something I’m likely to fix by searching among the couple dozen or so golf instruction books in my library.
It’s all well and good to read the advice in the PGA Manual of Golf that “a chip is more like a putt than a full swing,” but knowing that and doing that are two very different things.
The good thing about this situation is the timing.
Focusing on developing a good chipping stroke is a nice objective for how to spend the upcoming off-season. With a lesson or two and a lot of practice, by next spring I might even reach the handicap goal that Jim described in such colorful terms.
That would be so frigging cool.