Ben Hogan is quoted as stating, “A good round of golf is if you can hit about three shots that turnout exactly as you planned them.” During the eight holes of golf I played yesterday, I hit exactly two shots that fit my definition of truly turning out exactly as I planned them.
The second good such shot occurred from a par three tee, where I was able to judge the carry distance, wind, and pin position almost perfectly, and stuck my approach in close. Executing that sort of nervy shot is thrilling enough, but usually happens once every round or two.
On the other hand, my first truly good shot of the day was of a less common variety and much more exciting to me. It was that rarest of golf shots, the perfectly executed blind approach shot.
The 10th hole at Kearney Hill Golf Links is a devilish short part four that is designed to force decisions born of contradiction and incomplete information. The green slopes significantly from front to back, running away from the fairway and approach, with the high front of the green making most of the green’s surface blind from everywhere except the narrow approach.
There’s a certain regression analysis involved in every golf shot. Distance. Wind. Temperature. Elevation and elevation differential. Turf firmness. Incline. Pitch. All of these variables, and countless others, go into the calculus of trying to produce the perfect shot.
A blind shot, not being able to see the target or where the ball is going to land, or both, adds a degree of difficulty that is purely a matter of mental discipline. It requires an element of faith and a trust in one’s own abilities to try to hit the successful shot to a blind target.
Yesterday was the rare occasion where I found myself in the middle of the fairway, approximately 120 yards from the flag in the back right pin position, the lowest point on the green. Perfect, right in between clubs.
I could barely see the top third of the flag stick due to the moguls between the green and myself, including that little standalone mound just a few feet from the green in the narrow fairway approach.
The wind was hurting and from my left, and the ground was sopping wet from the steady dose of rain we’d had the past 24 hours, so I knew that I could hit the ball hard and it would likely spin to hold the green. Punch shot time!
I took an extra club (9-iron), moved the ball back in my stance a few inches, choked down a tad, took the club back about three-quarters my normal turn, and swung as hard as I could thru the ball.
THWACK!!! As I held that hackish, abbreviated follow through of a knock down, my ball flew like a low bullet, just left of the flag.
And that’s it, that’s all I could see. Once the shot is hit, that’s when the real adrenaline unique to a blind golf shot kicks in.
I hit my shot well, flush contact in the middle of the club face, which I was particularly proud of for the first hole of the round. However, I had no idea if I would be rewarded with a good result. It could be on the very front of the green, it could be 10 yards over the green or one of the many points in-between. But I thought it might be a good one.
What do you do after you hit a good blind shot? You walk quickly. The excitement and anticipation grows with each step, getting closer to seeing if your calculations and execution were correct.
It’s a feeling that isn’t replicated within golf. There are other exciting feelings: crushing a drive high and far, watching a shot cozy up towards the hole, draining a critical putt, all exhilarating in their own way.
Yet those are all instant feedback moments. On a blind shot, it’s the waiting, the mind racing quietly, considering all of the likely outcomes without clue or confirmation.
I had to walk about 100 yards after I struck my shot before I was able to see the entire green. As I walked up with my partner, I saw one ball on the front third of the green.
Surely that wasn’t my ball, was it? I had hit mine far too hard to come up 20 yards short, hadn’t I? My heart shrank a little.
As I continued walking around the side of the green, about the time my partner confirmed that the ball we saw was his, there it was! Almost pin high, 10 feet left of the hole, a yard or two away from a serious ball mark, indicating my guess about the shot spinning on the soft green surface was correct.
My heart grew three sizes. I had done it. I had hit the ball where I wanted to hit in exactly the manner I had wanted to hit it with nearly perfect execution.
A golf shot. That it was a blind shot that delayed gratification of meeting the challenge made the accomplishment all the greater. There isn’t anything else like it in the game.