How To Ruin a Good Golf Shot In 7 Easy Strokes (or how writing is like golf)

We all know THAT kid. You know him. The one that strikes out in softball. The one always picked last for basketball. The one who looks like a fish out of water trying to do a push up. I was never THAT kid. I did well at all the sports I tried. If I was not all-star quality at all of them, I was at least decent. So while I had sympathy for THAT kid, I had never been him. Until today. For Father’s Day, I got to go golfing. Since the birth of my twin daughters, I’ve played less and less golf each year as I just don’t have the time I used to have to play or practice. Yet my golf had settled into a level of play I was happy with.

I no longer shot a really low score, but I also never duffed the ball. I may not par as many holes as I used to, but I bogeyed more than I triple bogeyed. I could play and enjoy the day knowing most of the time things would be O.K.

Things changed when I stepped to the first tee this morning. I was playing with a friend I’ve known for decades, and two new guys. I stepped up to tee off first, feeling good and ready to put the ball in the fairway. I pulled the club back, kept my head still, brought the club down in what I felt was a nice arc and a smooth swing. Then the club passed over the ball. By several inches. I looked down, incredulous, the ball still on the tee. I hadn’t had a swing like that since my early learning days. I had completely whiffed.

My friend laughed, as he should. The two new guys tried hard not to do the same while I could only imagine what they thought of this yahoo. I played it off, raising my hand to shade my eyes, pretending like I was looking down the fairway at a ball soaring in flight, rather than one stuck on the tee. I took a step back, another practice swing, a deep breath, then stepped back to my ball. I swung again, trying to slow things down and relax and this time I struck the ball. Well, that’s being generous. The ball dribbled sideways off the tee box to the left, barely leaving the tee box.

I shook my head as my three playing companions told me to hit another one.  I picked up my ball and put it back on my tee. Now I was starting to worry. I cleared my mind, brought the club back and swung yet again, hitting the ball about thirty feet, forward and to the left, and behind a shrub. No one is ever behind this shrub. Ever. I had become THAT kid. For the next ten holes, things didn’t improve. Towards the end, I did manage to hit a few decent shots, but not many.

This is how writing is like golf. If you don’t practice your craft, eventually the quality of your work will suffer. To be a good writer, you must try and write as often as you can, every day if you can manage it.

I am going golfing again next Saturday. Between now and then I will make several trips to the driving range to practice. When I was younger, I had great sympathy for THAT kid, but never thought I’d be him. I believe with enough effort this week on the practice tee, I’ll regain some of the game I have obviously lost. I will also make sure to write every day, so I won’t become THAT writer.

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