THERE’S a golfer at Wakehurst Golf Club on Sydney’s Northern Beaches who shot 46 Stableford points a couple of weeks ago.
Big deal, right? It’s a good score, and we’d all enjoy shooting it, but it’s 46 points, not 59 off the stick. He’s also off 13, so you’d assume there’s a little fat in there as well, a little waggle room. Who knows – he might have blown out from two or three on a horrid trajectory over the past couple of years. Thirteen. You can see him mumble it when asked what’s he’s playing off:
But still, 46 points! Ten-under! It was a good enough score for Stan, my joke-telling neighbour, to barge down our hallway and share. I’m not even sure if he knocked.
“Andrew? Andrew? Listen to this!” he said in his broad Irish accent. “And, and,” Stan went on after celebrating the score, “the best bit? Apart from the wipe and the one-pointer? He did it with four clubs!” And he’s nodding at me. “Four. Four! Cun ye belieeeeve ut?”
“Which four?” I asked, feigning disbelief. Knowing Wakehurst, which is a tight, mean little track, I guessed it couldn’t have included driver. Wrong.
“Driver. Fiver. Pitcher. Putter.”
“Would I lie?”
“Possibly.” And then he told me a joke, which was on the giggle side of funny and left me believing 46 points off any handicap with four clubs is pretty bloody good.
A week later, I was playing with a couple of mates, both of whom are handy, one especially so. Or, more likely, he’s handy in the used-to-be way. Like, he was almost a scratch golfer but kids and life and work have added up to him leaking shots. He’s blown all the way out to 3, I think. Or 2.9. But really, if he went in comps and got validated, he might find the number a smidge closer to the average human.
His problem, by his own admission, is that he tries too hard. He knows the game he has, but can’t seem to find it when he wants it. So this day, after tripping over his bottom lip from the first to the ninth hole, we suggested trying something different, inspired by Franky Four Clubs. Instead of hitting the laser-like pin-seekers he was after, we suggested he try something new, something fun. Like, why not try hitting a shot you wouldn’t normally hit?
“Manufacture something,” said the other bloke. “How about a raking hook into that par-3? I bet you can’t start the ball over there, over the middle of the dam, and bring it all the way back to the hole, over there.”
“Why would I?” Mr 2.9 said.
“Because you can’t hit it straight, and it might be fun. Because you’re hitting big draws anyway. Because your round is cactus stuffedess and it doesn’t matter. Just because.”
“Fair enough,” he said.
So he’s pulled his back foot way back, done something funky with the face of his club and had a lash. It literally started over the middle of the water and turned towards the hole with the arc of a well-slung boomerang. Brilliant. Long, over the back and utterly dead, but quite fantastic to watch.
Mr 2.9 started laughing. “You try,” he said.
So we did and our balls went ‘plonk’, bringing him instantaneous joy. But, not for our loss, it was for his gain.
“This’s what we used to do as kids. We’d try to hit these ridiculous shots. It was fun;
it’s how we learnt to work the golf ball.”
For the next couple of holes he hit big cuts, low zingers, high hooks – everything but the darts he usually yearns for. It was a revelation. He had teeth; we could see them when he smiled. He got chatty and resembled a bloke who was out for a game of golf and a bit of fun.
On the 15th hole he turned and said, “Watch this.” I looked at his feet, trying to figure out what kind of loop he was going to hit, but the set up was pretty normal. “Backspinner,” I mouthed at the other mate.
Mr 2.9 swung at the ball. A swing, not a hit. Pffffft was the sound, a little explosion in the earth, a scorch mark and the ball was off. Straight, true, gorgeous.
“I think I’m back,” he said. But he wasn’t smiling or being a smart arse; it was a statement of truth. He was back. “It was mucking around hitting stupid shots,” he said. “It’s like it reminded me how to get the clubhead in the right spot.”
It got me thinking about Mr 46 from Wakehurst. With four clubs, 46 points is a great score. It must have been fun being forced to hit shots he would probably never hit, with shapes he’d never considered. It has to be good for your game, right?
Hitting mad stuff was a revelation to our Mr 2.9. Maybe it’ll work for you, too.