My 20 year old cat nailed me to my recliner last night and I’d finished the Sunday crossword, so I was stuck searching for something on the tube that would keep me moderately entertained. I’d had enough football so I ended up watching the Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo playing lesson shows on the Golf Channel. I typically avoid those things like the plague because I can’t help trying things out and it invariably screws up my game, but I’m so far in the toilet right now I figured it wouldn’t matter.
Distance control came up with Romo a few times, including the predictable things about getting better distance with a smooth, easy swing and regulating distance with backswing length instead of how hard you swing. I could empathize with Romo here, because trying to regulate distance with my irons is a skill I definitely come and go on. Sometimes I’m pretty good at it, and other times any change from my full swing results in truly horrendous shots.
The best guy at distance control that I’ve ever played with is not a particularly good golfer in any other way. He doesn’t have an official handicap, but he’s lucky to break 100. He proudly claims the Wal-Mart sporting goods stocker as his golf pro, and he has more movement in his putting stroke than anyone I’ve ever seen. He twists and dances away from the ball as he putts, I guess to get a good look at the ball as it rolls anywhere but into the cup. On the other hand, he’s entertaining to play with and plays quickly.
Despite all this, he can control the distance he hits his driver in amazing ways. He’s as long as I am with a full-out swing, but he will pull driver at times I might hit a hybrid or an iron for a lay-up and he’ll bunt the thing just the right distance. It’s harder to tell how much of his distance variation with his irons is intentional and how much is accidental. All of his swings look about the same to me, and all are followed by a grin and his signature remark – “I took a little off it.”
A few years ago we were playing a course I’d never played before and we came to a par 3 with a lot of elevation change. It was dramatically downhill to a pond just in front of the green, then slightly uphill to the green. There was a steep uphill slope behind the green, and the wind was blowing strongly from tee to green that day. The hole was measured at 150 or so from the tees we were playing.
After a lot of thought I pulled my pitching wedge, guessing that it played about 120 with the wind and the hill taken into account. My friend hit first, and hit an 8 iron onto the green. This caused me to second guess my choice, so I switched to a 9 iron and hit it a good 20 yards up the slope behind the green.
When I glared at him he smiled and told me what I knew was coming – “I took a little off it.”
I’d ask him how he manages to do that, but it’s hard to get him to focus. You think that pro at Wal-Mart can help?
(Fake book cover and photo by Charles Prokop)