I try to remember all the good shots: the bombed drive, the approach knocked stiff, the incredibly unlikely putt that goes in.
At some of the more memorable courses I’ve played, I’ve tried to hold on to a memory of at least one good shot with some success, even as the years stack up in my mind.
Unfortunately, all too often, I remember the failure to execute, the terrible miss, the unforced error. What lingers in my memory bank is what should be otherwise utterly forgettable.
That ill-timed shank, that failure to execute on a forced carry, that untimely skull from the bunker; those are what I tend to remember most vividly. For better or worse, that’s how I’m wired.
In the course of the round, I’ve learned to not let such an episode derail an otherwise enjoyable experience. However, there’s no reason to try to forget these failures, as I’ve learned look back with amusement and have a laugh.
In fact, I can recall two occasions from more than 10 years ago that I hit a shot so badly that yelling “Fore!” was woefully insufficient. These may or may not be the only times I’ve nearly killed or maimed someone in my vicinity on the golf course.
And now, through the miracle of Google Earth, you can retroactively laugh at my pain with me.
The summer home from my first year of college (that’s 1998 for those of you keeping score), I and three of my friends played what I believe may still be the slowest, longest round of golf of my life at Charlie Vettiner Golf Course in Louisville. If I remember correctly, the round took over 6 hours.
Needless to say, there was a substantial wait on every tee box. This kind of idle time gave rise to all kinds of story telling, reliving glory days, and general shenanigans and mischief.
By the time we reached the 11th hole, there was at least a two group wait on the tee box.
After 20 minutes of cutting up and general hooliganism, it was our finally our turn, and happened to be my honor on the tee.
The 11th tee box is elevated 40 or 50 feet above the dogleg left fairway below. It is one of those tee boxes supported by railroad ties that prevent the utter collapse and washout of the turf surface.On this fateful day, the tee markers were right up near the support beams supporting the front face of the tee box.
At the top of my backswing, one of my buddies releases what can only be described as an episode of flatulence of epic sound, force, and duration.
Realizing my own loss of control mid-swing, I think I actually began swearing before I’d even made contact with the ball. What happened next can only be described as surreal.
I came over the top and pounded my ball almost straight down flush into the top corner of the railroad timber. The ball caroms off the wooden structure and flies straight back over all of our heads It rises majestically to clear the 5th green complex 50 yards directly behind us, and the golfers putting out thereon, and winds up at the end of the 5th fairway some 75 yards directly behind us.
I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this story over the years, giving comfort to playing partners that shank a tee shot in ways that defy physics by regaling them with this tale of my negative 75 yard drive.
Luckily no one was injured or even in serious danger of my wayward shot. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for another horrible episode several years later at on the 12th tee at Tates Creek Golf Course.
For the life of me, I can’t remember why I decided I needed to swing as hard as I could on that particular tee shot. Maybe I’d just take a quadruple bogey on the hole before. Perhaps the prevailing wind in our face was particularly strong that day.
Regardless of the underlying reason, what happened, and what almost happened that day, would haunt me rather than amuse me but for a few inches.
I’m a firm believer in staying well out of the line of sight or potential line of play on anyone about to strike a golf ball. And if I do happen to feel it’s okay to proceed ahead of someone about to play, I make sure to keep my eyes on them until the shot has been taken.
However, even the most cautious golfer would probably feel safe standing a reasonable distance away, slightly ahead of a golfer at 10 or 15 degree angle. As it turns out, though, that used to be right in my danger zone.
While I was teeing up my ball and preparing to swing, one of my partners casually strolled to the trash can, probably to empty the cart of some snack wrappers or empty beer cans.
Little did he know that he was putting his life in mortal danger. Somehow, my tension-filled steroid-jerk of a swing left creating such an awful angle that I caught the ball flush and hit it straight right with all the force I could muster.
It couldn’t have missed Slim’s head by more than a few feet, if that much. I remember laughing the incident off, though I’m sure everyone was probably horrified at what was almost a tragic accident.
Perhaps the reason I remember this awful shot is the lesson I learned that day. I’m a much better golfer and ball striker today than I was when this episode occurred. Nonetheless, I never tee off with someone even the slightest bit in danger of being hit by my drive.
I have plenty of other terrible shots in my portfolio, past and present, but these two I think I will always remember. In neither instance would yelling “Fore!” have been of any value, as events unfolded far too quickly and unpredictably.
I’m glad to still have these memories, both for the bitter tastes of failure and danger, and the sweet laughter they continue to produce. Every once in a while, I’ll see a pro make an equally dubious shot, and feel a little better that maybe they do, in fact, play the same game I do.
From an alleged witness, via email, Slim states that story is Benghazi level spin, and he’s never been to Libya.
“I play with good golfers, scratch and plus, and would never stand that close to their intended target off the tee box, and definitely not 10 year ago Dave Hill. I’m pretty sure I was basically in-line with the tee markers, and (he) managed some sort of insane, super-inside and stuck swing that basically resulted in (him) hitting the ball at least 75 degrees right of your intended target, OFF THE CLUB FACE.
It hit the tree I was standing under, right above my head. If the tee hadn’t been elevated, I probably would have died. We actually had a random with us, and that dude might have picked up and left right then.”