Like so many, my experience with golf up to that point had been with the two far ends of the spectrum: putt-putt and driving ranges. I gave up putt-putt when I stopped going on junior high dates, and though I love driving ranges—there's nothing quite like hitting a golf ball really fucking far—I always gnarled my hands with blisters by, number one, never really knowing how to hold a driver properly, and, number two, always trying to hit the golf ball past some unattainable distance or structure. It was time to move on.
My first nine holes with my vintage clubs was only a few months back at the Robert A. Black public course on Pratt between Western and Ridge. I wore cutoff jean shorts, a T-shirt, and tennis shoes. I pestered my golfing partners—one of them Reader managing editor and self-proclaimed golf pro Jerome Ludwig—about what irons to use at what distances. (Because of my very limited golfing experience, I'm clueless about any sort of middle game). I unknowingly flouted rules, like "Do not roll your push cart onto the green" or "Do not mash the sand down with your club in a trap." And I hit golf balls in directions I didn't even know existed (north-southwest or west-northeast). The Masters looked a lot easier than this.
Every once in a while, though, I was able to nail a heater of a drive right down the gut of the fairway, receiving a moment of surprised kudos from my three-person gallery of golfing partners. Just one shot can make up for all the mulligans and ten-shot holes.
"But it's shots like those that curse you," one partner told me. "It gives you a reason to come play again."
And sure enough, I've hauled my haggard set of clubs back to Robert A. Black twice since my first outing, a little cockier each time and a little worse each time. And like any good golfer would do, I've started blaming the poor, defenseless clubs.
I wasn't frustrated during my first run at the course, because I knew so little of what the hell I was doing. If I hit a ball 40 yards past the hole or five putted on the green, who really cared? It was hilarious. But now that I know the rules—replace the divot, damn it—and know that a seven iron usually equals about 150 yards, the clubs are screwing me over. My driver's grip is super ragged, I'm pretty sure my pitching wedge is too short, and my putter might as well be a Twizzler. I get it now, Tiger. Life is hard.
So I'm at a crossroads. I can hit a golf ball far and straight; I've seen myself do it. What gives? Do I look into buying a new set of clubs to misguidedly direct blame upon, or do I start faking chronic back problems, a la the aforementioned Jerome Ludwig?
Whatever the direction may be, I'm beginning to understand why those clubs sat in that basement for so long.