2: I Hate Golf—I Love Golf!

2: I Hate Golf—I Love Golf!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

I Hate Golf—I Love Golf!

I’m not saying my golf game went bad, but if I grew tomatoes, they’d come up sliced.

~Attributed to both Miller Barber and Lee Trevino

I used to be an 11-handicap golfer. That was before “slope indices,” before “soft spikes,” before golf carts even.

Today, fully equipped with the latest technology, I am a 22-handicapper going south.

Yes, way back then my woods, crazy though it may seem, had wooden heads. The shafts were of shiny metal. No titanium, no matched graphite, no range of flexes.

The golf balls would smile back when you mishit a wedge shot or topped a 6-iron. Slice a 4-iron and you could see the seemingly endless rubber band that wrapped around the ball’s rubber core.

I could hit the ball a ton back then. I could get out of sand traps and two-putt greens, too. I have happy memories.

In 1947 I even defeated Chad Brown, a friend at the post office. In the tournament I beat Chad 8 and 7, finishing him off with a fearless, curling fifteen-foot birdie putt. I admit I caught bon vivant Chad on an Excedrin day.

Back then I played in the high 70s.

Today, though I try to play a fair amount, things are different. Chad Brown would kill me. Everyone else does.

I slice off the tee, losing distance in the process. My long irons sting my hands. The ball is seldom airborne. Nor can I chip. Putting? Forget it.

It’s not the equipment, for I have the latest in technology. I have four Tight Lies, but mine go straight up. I have great Titleist DCI irons—Black Cats, too. I have Cobras given to me by Hale Irwin himself. I have a big 975 Titanium Titleist driver, also a Taylor Made bubble driver and the biggest Bertha ever made. My high-performance wedges run the gamut—fifty-six degrees, fifty-eight degrees, sixty degrees. I have ‘em all. I even have an “Alien.”

My golf balls are high-tech. Zylin Covered XLs, Tour Distance-Wound 90s, the Slazenger 420s. You name the kind of ball you like, I’ve got it.

Sometimes I play with a guy worse than me. He’s into all this high-tech stuff. He goes, “I sure like the feel of these new balatas,” or “This new baffled 3-wood really works for me.” Or “The only putter that makes any sense at all is the Scotty Cameron—that Tel3 is so true. Talk about center cut. I have three of them Scottys—I love the Microstep and the Teryilium insert.”

The poor son-of-a-gun hasn’t gotten a wedge off the ground in the last three outings and his baffled 3-wood emerges from the fairway carrying a divot the size of an adult toupee. The last time he two-putted a green was when I gave him a four-footer.

He goes, “This new Maxfli Multi-layered Revolution lands quiet. I can just feel the difference on my wedge shots—on my putting, too.” Sure, right!

High tech is great. Don’t get me wrong. Look at Davis, Tiger and Freddie; but let’s face it—high tech hasn’t solved my web of problems.

Practice is my main problem. I hate it. I am allergic. I break out in a rash if I go out and hit practice balls. I can’t help it.

Putting is the worst part of my game, followed closely by sand play and chipping. A good friend, a guy who supported me as president and was respectful back then, put it rather succinctly last week when he said, “George, you stink.”

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago out at Muirfield—a course on which a guy like me should be forbidden to play—I invoked the “no-laughing rule.”

My playing partners agreed—“Okay, no laughing.”

I put them to the test. In one sand trap I flailed away four times, before going in the pocket. I found brooks and eddies that Jack Nicklaus didn’t even know existed when he laid out this monster.

Things were dragging for me. I was thinking, “Why do I need this? I am seventy-four. I have a boat and a nice wife—why this torture?”

But then on the sixteenth I hit a perfect 9-iron—long and straight with a lot of spin on it. It stopped but six feet from the hole. My partners were ecstatic. “You’re back!” “What an effort!” “You pureed that one.”

But then came my turn to putt. I admit my attitude was negative as I lined up for my downhill putt. I pushed it off to the left. It gathered speed as it ripped past the cup, stopping about six feet away. But I had another six-footer to make coming back.

I jabbed my second putt. It took off like a cruise missile. The direction was great. The speed was wrong. It lipped the cup and was whiplashed violently off course. Four and a half feet still to go for putt number three.

I froze over the ball, my long putter wagging like a vaulter’s pole. I came back slowly, and then literally shanked the putt. As it careened off to the right, the “no-laughing rule” was broken. They didn’t mean to hurt my feelings—for fifteen dreadful holes they had been careful not to. My partner knocked away my remaining four-footer. “A gimme!” he says.

As I have done several times before, I decided right then and there to give up golf. I hate it.

But after a two-week moratorium I was back.

Playing with our Cape Arundel pro, Ken Raynor, I felt inspired.

The first nine was bad—the chipping and putting betraying me.

Then came the magic. On the par-4 eleventh, my drive was fine. I then topped my 5-wood shot—a scorching grounder that stopped sixty yards short of the green.

I pulled out my fifty-six-degree Cleveland Classic-588. My swing was surprisingly smooth. The “True Temper” shaft gave me that velvet feeling. I felt the grooves gently spin the ball. I felt the “touch” of my Tour Distance-90. It feathered on to the green—landing like a butterfly. Breaking gently to the right, it meandered sixteen feet, right into the hole.

Golf? I hate it, sure, but I really love it.

I’ll be on the first tee tomorrow at 6:50 A.M.

~George Bush
Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul

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