Slice It

One of the best qualities in the game of golf is that it can be produced in so many varying fashions. When a foursome can include any grouping of teenagers, fathers, grandfathers, wives, great-grandmothers, daughters, etc., it’s a rare, beautiful thing. Inherent to this quality are different body shapes, expectations and, most distinctly, different swings.

Striking a dimpled sphere straight around 100 mph is never easy, but that doesn’t mean that everyone at the Easter reunion — yes, everyone — can’t do it. Two-hundred-and-fifty yards (give or take a few) and on the short grass is the universal goal, but there are so many ways of doing it. I just want to say there’s no shame in being the ugly golfer, so long as it gets the job done.

Sure, there are ways of using the game to its maximum, lucrative potential, and to do so, you generally have to swing a pretty stick, but for the rest of us mortals, a decreasing handicap is a pretty fine alternative. Results matter most.

The (once) almighty Tiger Woods has changed his swing many times in his career. Nowadays — naturally, since he hasn’t won a major championship in more than five years — many people have criticized him for the move. He struggled to compete at the British Open last weekend, making the cut but finishing 69th and well over par. Playing better than him (by five strokes) was Tom Watson; 64-year-old Watson, plugging along playing with an AARP card in his pocket.

He’s doing it as smart as can be, though, because he plays golf with what works. He plays golf with what feels right.

Now I would be insulting the gods of hyperbole by directly comparing Tom Watson and my father as golfers, but that last paragraph is exactly how my father plays golf. Age and a dislocated shoulder from high school baseball have limited his upper body flexibility, so his full swing looks a lot like the typical half swing. It’s odd looking and prompts some confused looks whenever people let us play through. (Well, it’s either that or the cargo shorts and the mid-sized white socks draped over his calves.)

Nonetheless, that swing generates a wicked slice; a very wicked slice considering the distance the ball travels. The important thing, however, is that it usually finds the fairway (or at least more often than my aesthetically-appealing, swing-harder-and-you-might-hurt-yourself type of strike). It loops out to the left, making tree lined fairways a “tough course” for him, but like clockwork, it careens back right and sinks to the grass.

It works. For him, it’s what feels right.

He’s lethal on the green, so just like most amateur golfers, his game balances out and it’s fun for the entire foursome. In the end, flashiness is for the famous and prettiness is for the pros. The fact that you’re playing is the most important feature in this equation.