1. Nervousness or tension that causes an athlete to fail to perform effectively, especially in missing short putts in golf. – The Free Dictionary1
2. I meant to do that. – The Nut
I will never be good at golf.
There are many sports I have been able to teach myself to excel at with observation and practice, but golf has never been one of them.
Sometimes it feels like I really have no excuse. I dated a golfer, for god’s sake. My house overlooked the golf course he trained on. The house I lived in before that happened to share a fence with yet another golf course, and on top of that, there was a driving range not five minutes away.
Basically, I’m the equivalent of someone who was raised on a houseboat but never learned to swim.
Not for lack of trying, you understand. My father used to take me to the driving range with him sometimes on weekends so we could hit a couple of buckets of balls. It was a satisfying activity, whacking small objects into the air one after the other…when I actually did hit them one after the other. Truth be told I spent just as much time whacking the actual air as I did making contact with golf balls, and there was no denying that even when I did connect and the ball went somewhere remotely desirable, it was more thanks to luck than my inconsistent hot mess of a swing.
When I was old enough to ride my bike to the driving range instead of waiting for my father to be in a golfing mood, I would often grab a handful of change and head over there to spend the afternoon developing blisters on my hands, determined to hear the perfect sound of the ball springing off my club more than just a handful of flukey times. But it was no use. As far as I was concerned, my swing had fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.
This was by no means limited to regular golf, either. I once burst into tears of frustration at my own miniature golf party because after approximately twenty or so strokes, I still couldn’t manage to complete the hole with the loop-de-loop.
(My skill at miniature golf has not improved by much, but ever since I learned to swear in frustration instead of crying, I do enjoy the game a great deal more.)
Eventually I gained enough maturity to see past the frustration and attempt a little in-depth self-analysis. And I realized my real problem with golf was, somewhat ironically, always overthinking things. With most sports, I’m able to sort of let go and just feel my way through. But something about golf puts my brain into overdrive.
Where’s the ball what am I doing with my elbows am I swiveling my hips too much how’s my grip oh man I can already tell I’m swinging too low yup way to hit the artificial turf moron ow that kind of hurt my arms okay set up again and this time aim a little higher OMG IS THAT GUY STARING AT ME BECAUSE I SUCK SO BADLY?
I don’t know why this is specific to golf, but to be fair, sports themselves don’t always make a lot of sense.
And when I first heard the term “the yips”, all I could think was yes, that’s exactly it. I’m obviously no pro athlete, but the rare beauty of a shot I can hit once in a blue moon proves there’s nothing physically stopping me from having a decent swing. It’s my head that creates the problem. The second I have any kind of golf club in my hand, every part of me tenses up. I lose all measure of control or smoothness in my actions. My brain knows exactly what I need to do, but then it crams so many superfluous and distracting thoughts on top of that knowledge that I become incapable of following through. Literally.
You’d think figuring that out would maybe help me learn to loosen up somewhat.
When we moved and I was no longer a short bicycle trip away from a $2 bucket of balls, I took it as a sign and just sort of let golf go. But in Grade 12, our gym teacher decided that we had had enough of running laps and being cooped up in gymnasiums to last us a lifetime, so we started going on field trips every second Friday to pursue slightly less conventional but infinitely more amusing Phys. Ed. activities like go-karting, roller hockey, and even curling, which was a surprise hit.
We also went to the driving range. The very same one my dad used to take me to.
The good news was almost everyone was as useless with a golf club as I was.
The bad news was most of them had never picked up a golf club in their life, whereas I had a long history of being useless with one.
Our gym teacher had brought a large assortment of clubs for us to try out. I was hunting around for one that was the right height for me when I saw something wonderful: a left-handed club.
Could it be? I wondered. As a born southpaw who had developed defensive ambidexterity at an early age to combat the travesty of left-handed scissors, I had grown accustomed to playing a good many sports right-handed. But what if I just wasn’t meant to be a right-handed golfer? Could this lefty club be the solution to my problems?
The short answer: No.
The long answer: HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL no.
You know when you see a child playing with a really elaborate marionette, and they have no idea which string does what so they just pull on everything, and suddenly arms are spinning in anatomically impossible ways and the marionette’s leg somehow ends up behind its ear?
That’s kind of what it felt like trying to golf left-handed. I think I would have been more skilled at golfing with garden implements à la Tin Cup than I was with that sinistral monstrosity of a club.
I ditched the lefty club after I almost kneecapped myself with one of my own ricochets, and went back to the clumsy but infinitely less dangerous familiarity of a right-handed 5-iron.
I didn’t hit much that made me proud for the rest of the afternoon, but I didn’t cause myself grievous bodily harm either. That was as close to ending on a high note as I was going to get.
Today’s blog post was brought to you by the letter Y, the number 56 over par, and the GripItAndRipIt Challenge, AKA the Blogging A to Z Challenge.
1 “yips.” TheFreeDictionary.com. The Free Dictionary, 2015. Web. 29 April 2015.