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Getting In the Swing: A Beginner’s Story

Posted on 15 March 2011

Golf shot

By Suzanne Wolfson

There was a time, not long ago, that my eyes would glaze over when the subject of golf came up in conversation. I placed golf in the same category as bowling; an activity I simply viewed as being in the “probably never” column…golf landed a notch above bowling because it was played outside. Give me a racquet, give me skis…a horse, a bike, a good hiking trail. Show me some action! But golf? I just didn’t get it.

And then one balmy Sunday a couple of summers ago, my boyfriend, a golfer, suggested a visit to the driving range at Poxabogue, where he presented me with a 7 iron from his old set, showed me a grip, told me to look at the ball, keep my head down, my left arm straight, and have fun. I did! I was by no means instantly addicted, but it was a nice way to spend an afternoon, and since I didn’t expect to be good at it, there was no reason to get frustrated. How refreshing! I continued to hit from the range that summer, and early in the fall we were invited to play in a friendly benefit scramble. On the 3rd hole I knocked the ball right up onto the green, and two putted for par. Nothin’ to it!

And that’s when the trouble started.

One good swing, the feel of a sweet spot, the sound when solid contact is made, a little ball arcing into the distance and plopping oh-so-nicely onto a velvety green fairly close to a stick with a flag on it… and you think you know something. You actually get fooled into believing that since you’ve just done it, you should be able to do it again. It’s logic, right? Repetition and all that? One moment you’re doing what you’re supposed to and it feels good, and the ball lifts up and goes reasonably straight… the next moment it’s like somebody took off your arms and replaced them backwards and upside down. Horrible business. Obsession begins.

I took lessons, went to golf school in Vermont, watched lessons on the Golf Cihannel, studied sketches of a swing in relation to a pane of glass, got subscriptions to golf magazines. All this, coming from someone who once couldn’t understand why golf tournaments were even televised! Did any of it help? Sure, depending on my mood and ability to absorb way too much information. Often I’d get out there and nothing at all could make a difference. I’d be so sure that the “giant breakthrough” I had on the last outing would guarantee a new day at a new level. Well, maybe that one thing was working, but now something else was horribly wrong. For a while, I could only hit with irons, but then I bonded with my 5 wood. How wonderful! Until I realized I could no longer hit with my irons. -My driver? Huh. We won’t discuss.

I last played in early November, and retired my clubs for the season. But spring will be here sooner or later, and for some weird reason, I’m convinced that THIS is the year my game will finally morph into something respectable… I can FEEL it, deep down. I mean…. I was right on the brink at the end of last season…I could practically taste the smoother rhythm in my swing. I’m absolutely sure that huge strides had been made, and I was ruthlessly cut short in the midst of my progress by the onset of winter.

Or is that just what happens when you get some separation? Memory fails; plays a trick on you; makes you imagine you left off better than you really did. Is that the deal? Well what if it is? So I get another chance to dump a ball into a crevasse at Island’s End’s 16th hole; it’s still one of the most beautiful spots on the East End. I get another shot at sending a ball up the Goat Hill cliff, and whether I make it or not, there’s some really good calamari and an ice cold beer to be had later on the porch of the old clubhouse overlooking Shelter Island. All I know is, at this moment I have a great sense of optimism. My clubs are still on hiatus for the winter, but as I pass them in the basement on the way to my skis, I give an affectionate pat to my bushy-maned horse head driver cover, and say “You and me – we’ll get along just fine this season – I can feel it…”

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