The Long Ball

I am an average golfer. In fact, the average men’s handicap is 16. So is mine. Nothing stands out about my game. But, for an old guy, I can smash the ball.

Unfortunately, I haven’t hit a fairway since 1968.

I’ve hit everything else:

  • buildings- houses, condos, churches, clubhouses, mini-malls, concession stands; vehicles- cars, trucks, semi-trucks, golf carts, bicyclists, delivery vans, lawn-mowers, rowboats, powerboats, sailboats.
  • stationary objects- ball washers, benches, power-lines, fences, telephone poles, traffic signs, buoys, billboards; people- joggers, kids, caddies, family members, other golfers, course marshals.
  • water- swimming pools, lakes, rivers, streams, washes, runoffs, creeks, marshes, ponds, big puddles, oceans.
  • vegetation- trees, bushes, hedges, reeds, ivy, long grass, hay, corn fields, bean fields, kikuya, clovers.
  • and the saddest of all- animals- I’ve hit dogs, cats, crows, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, seagulls, ducks, geese, swans, snipes, roadrunners, deer, crocodiles, snakes, gophers, squirrels, chickens, pigs, and , of course, cows- lots and lots of cows.

I hit a lot of cars in parking lots. So many that I can actually tell what kind of car I’ve hit by the sound it makes. BANG! "That’s a 1995 black Nissan Maxima with the sport package and dealer installed LoJack." BONK! "Blue 1997 Chrysler Mini Van with the entire Phantom Menace character set spilled all over the floor in the back." BING! "1984 red Corvette owned by a guy with lifts in his shoes."

I yell FORE a lot. I have my own delivery. I used to just yell loud and long: FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRREEEE!

But I noticed people are so used to the word, they don’t even duck and cover. So now I follow the long FOOOOORRRREEEE! with a repetitive FORE! FORE! FORE! FORE! What this communicates is "I’m not kidding, Lumpy! I smashed it and it is coming right into you! Better hold up your golf umbrella like a shield!"

I’ve had to learn to yell FORE in different languages. In France I played a course just north of Cannes. I bashed a ball into the wrong fairway. I yelled "QQQQUUUAAATTREEE! QUATRE! QUATRE! QUATRE!" This isn’t the right word. "Quatre" means "four". It didn’t seem to matter. French people started running around like the German army was on the move. I apologized to them as best I could but I don’t think it helped. I could hear one of them talking about starting the "La Resistance" again.

Last year in Palm Springs I hit a drive into a swimming pool. The next day I hit a ball into the very same pool. I saw both of them at the bottom. It was 125 degrees outside. The water looked inviting. No one is around in Palm Springs in August. It was likely the owners were in Canada or back East. I jumped in and grabbed the golf balls. As I climbed out, I looked up to see the owner in the window. He wasn’t smiling. I walked back to my cart and drove off. It was so hot my clothes were dry in 38 seconds.

In 1994 I played a round with my brother at his country club in Houston. One of my drives on the back nine took off at 3000 miles an hour. You could hear the ball yell, "Yeeeeeooooowwwww!" It rocketed exactly six feet off the ground like a stealth bomber flying under radar. First it went straight down the middle of the fairway. At 200 yards it took a hard left turn and headed toward a house. I could feel my brother thinking, "Oh, no! My dumb brother is going to smash one of my neighbors windows. I’m sorry, Fred. Joe was never right. I didn’t even want to bring him golfing. Too dangerous. But he’s kind of lonely. Desperate and dateless. I mean, he seems to get dates. Well, first dates. Second dates seem to be less common for him. Sorry Fred. It won’t happen, again." The ball smacked into one of the columns fronting the porch and shot across the fairway and settled in a ditch.

One time I was playing at a resort course in Palm Desert and it started to rain. I was soaking wet. That didn’t stop me from swinging as hard as possible. I made a huge swing on the fifth tee and the ball went dead right. The club flew left like a machete slicing the air. It flew up and over a condo. Clang! It bounced on the roof. The sliding door to a condo flew open. "I saw the whole thing", an old man laughed. "Wow! That was something. Wait a minute." He appeared up on the roof and threw down my beloved Ti-2. "Wow!", he repeated, "That was something."

Jim Murray, the late, great sportswriter for the LA Times, once described Arnold Palmer as having a swing that looked like a drunk on a driving range at midnight. My swing looks like a drunk getting electric shock treatments at a driving range at midnight. I do take the club back relatively slow. Then I lash at the ball like it insulted my mother. Last year at Rancho Park I swung so hard I drove my driver into the ground and the ball popped up and went BEHIND me. Not only didn’t I make it to the ladies tee, I didn’t make it to my own tee.

My golf pro says I shouldn’t worry about power- that I have enough power already. That what I need is control. Wrong. There is never enough power. That’s half the fun of golf. The big ball. It doesn’t matter where it goes. Just so it goes FAR.

I’m never on the fairway. Ever. I see the fairway from the tee. And then I can see it again looking back from the green. I don’t wear golf shoes. I wear hiking boots. My golf bag is equipped for deep woods expeditions. I have a compass, maps, a machete, an ax, rope, sleeping bags, matches, a Coleman Stove, and a golf hat with a light on the front like a miner. When I play desert courses I bring a camel.

I have found some interesting things in the deep woods. In Orange County I found several fossil sites now being excavated by University of California paleontologists. In Ohio I discovered an Indian tribe in the Hocking Hills that had never been seen by man. In Texas I came into a clearing to find my ball had hit an old oil derrick. The impact made it crank up for the first time in 100 years. When I got there the oil was shooting 100 feet in the air.

There are benefits. I took my girlfriend to Palm Springs last week. She knows absolutely nothing about golf. After watching me for three or four holes she said matter-of-factly, "You hit it far."

Then she said, "It doesn’t go very straight."


About Joe Ditzel

Joe Ditzel is a keynote speaker, humor writer, and really bad golfer. You can reach him via email at [email protected] as well as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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