October 8, 2010
The month of October often produces some of the highlights of my golfing seasons, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that regard.
By now, my golf swing is about as dialed in as it could be, after playing a few dozen rounds since the spring. I can read Shawnee Country Club’s greens like the pages of an open book, because after playing those few dozen rounds, I’ve putted all over most of those green surfaces.
The talent deficiencies that help keep my handicap hovering around bogey, such as a tendency to butcher chip shots at the worst possible time, have also toned down a bit.
The combination of these factors means that my October scores tend to hang around the mid-80s, instead of the infuriating 90-somethings. I’m not so troubled by an opening double-bogey, because I’m so sure I will soon offset it with a par or the occasional birdie. My handicap drops back down to what it was at the beginning of the season, or thereabouts.
To some extent, the onset of fall weather, with this experience occurring so many times before, also helps me relax a bit while playing. I know I usually play better this time of year, and so I do.
The early leaf falls, helped along by the nor’easters that blow through here, reduce the concern I might otherwise have if my golf ball rolls into the edges of the treescape. My recovery shots are not so much at risk of nicking a bunch of leaves and going where I don’t want to be.
There’s also a lot to be said in favor of playing in long pants and a light sweater, instead of sweating through every stitch of your summer clothes in mid-August.
I think the fall weather gives golfers another signal that helps their game, by creating the conditions for it to be put into proper perspective.
It won’t be long before the winter is upon us, and that means we won’t always be able to meet our friends for the usual weekly Sunday round. That sometimes produces a certain elegiac quality to these fall rounds, reminding us that we shouldn’t be so focused on our scores, but on enjoying our friends and our surroundings while we can.
It’s amazing what not thinking about your scores can often do to lower them.
Sometimes I just wish I could keep that attitude throughout the season.
Leaf Rule time
October also means it is time to remember to invoke the Leaf Rule during your casual, non-USGA-sanctioned rounds with your friends.
It’s not an official rule. Officially speaking, if a ball rolls in among the fallen leaves, and you can’t find it after the official five minutes allotted to search for it, then you’re supposed to treat it as a lost ball, and suffer the scoring consequences.
When the Leaf Rule is invoked, however, all is well with the world. Look for your ball where you know it went, but once the five minutes are up, drop a new ball nearby and swing away without further ado.
No, it’s not “legal”—but it can make a fall round of golf a lot more enjoyable.
A recent Ruling of the Day from the USGA’s website could give some golfers an idea about a situation that they might find useful, in the right circumstances.
Under Rule 24, players can take relief from certain immovable obstructions, such as a cart path or a wall that also marks the out-of-bounds line, without incurring a penalty stroke for doing so.
The Ruling of the Day asked what to do if a player taking relief from an immovable obstruction drops the ball in a spot where another immovable obstruction would interfere with the swing.
The answer was simply yes. After all, the ball is still affected by the obstruction, even if the player’s drop put it there.
If a player can foresee this possibility as he comes up to his ball in the first instance, he might be able to arrange his upcoming drops so as to improve his scoring chances considerably.