I had played the front nine by myself, playing three balls on most holes, and doing some experimenting. All I had seemed to gain from my experimenting was a very sore back. But, after taking some morphine on seven, I was finally starting to loosen up a bit on ten.
Ten is our hardest hole, playing 415 yards to a green fronted by a pond. Unless you hit a solid tee shot, ten becomes a lay-up hole where you try to wedge it up and down for your par. And today, after a short drive, I had to do just that, laying up to 100 yards and wedging it to six feet, I made what Steve and I call a "Peter Cole par." Peter is a short-knocker who still manages to make par after par using his short game. I made a nice par on eleven, which is another tough par four when it's into the wind. Then I made birdie on the short, par four twelfth. Things were going pretty well.
But I was still doing some experimenting with ball position, thinking that I had allowed the ball to start inching too far back in my stance. I'd moved it up and was really hitting it well. But, as Harvey Penick said, you should take one or two aspirins, not the whole damned bottle. After two solid shots, I had a perfect wedge yardage to a back pin on thirteen. But, as I stood over the shot, I thought, "I've done well moving the ball up in my stance, why not move it up a bit more?" The result was a skulled shot over the back of the green and a bogey.
On fourteen I was still fiddling with my ball position and drop-kicked my tee shot about 80 yards. Instead of getting mad, I said to Steve, "Let's see if I can't make a three from here." That's become my way of dealing with stupid shots. Instead of getting angry, I just try to see if I can minimize the damage.
So, I proceeded to follow that lousy tee shot with a fat wedge shot that nestled into a lousy lie thirty yards short of the green. The ball was sitting in a muddy hole on the edge of the rough. Rather than get annoyed, I tried, despite the lie, to hole the next shot. Instead, I knocked it 35 feet past the damned hole. Double bogey was now looming large. But I still just said, to myself this time, "let's try and hole this putt and get out of Dodge."
I stood over that putt, tried to focus with all my might on the front of the cup, and damned if I didn't roll it right in. Steve, meanwhile, had hit his tee shot short and left of the green, fluffed his pitch to about ten feet, and missed his putt for par after he saw my 35 footer go in. We had both made bogey. That's golf. I left the green feeling like I'd got away with something, and Steve was left to wonder how on earth we'd halved the hole.
But this attitude I've managed to develop has really helped. Instead of getting mad when I hit a stupid shot, I just try to see if I can manage to get away with it by hitting a good shot, or at least not hitting another stupid shot. It doesn't always work out, but it makes me better company. It also saves me having to climb trees to fetch clubs I've thrown. And it sometimes infuriates my opponent when I get a half or a win on a hole I probably should have lost. That's my new approach to golf. Don't get mad, get even. Besides, I'm really not really good enough to get mad.