Why didn’t I offer to finish the round on foot?
I wanted to break 80 pretty badly this year.
If you aren’t sure what that means, I wanted to finish a round of golf in under 80 strokes.
I made a list of golf goals at the beginning of the year. This was objective #1.
I haven’t achieved it yet.
I’ve come close on multiple occasions but it seems like it’s getting further away as the year begins to wind down.
I shot 83 (my personal best) at least twice and ended at 84 more times than I’d like to count.
Each time felt like it was going to be the one.
But each time I got myself into trouble, and instead of doing something simple to mitigate the issue, I stepped on the gas even harder and ended up shooting myself in the foot.
The closest I came, happened late one evening. I was on pace to score a 77 and break 80 with a resounding smash. We got to the tee box on 15 and the cart attendants came out to tell us it was time to bring the cart back. We asked if we could finish the hole, knowing full well that I was going to try to make it all the way through before they came back to end my chances.
That interaction must’ve changed something. It must’ve gotten in my head and fried some wires. When I stepped over my ball I could feel that something was off. I felt rushed. I swung but I knew it wasn’t going to go well as soon as I made contact.
I watched my ball sail out to the right, fading more and more every second, and saw it plunge into the sagebrush lining the edge of the hole. I shook my head as I walked back to the cart.
Why didn’t I offer to finish the round on foot? How did I let such a small conversation affect me so much?
I found it lying in the dirt, not completely under but close to a grouping of bushes. It wasn’t a clear shot towards the hole, it would have to clear the bush blocking the way, but at least I’d have a swing.
I decided I couldn’t afford the penalty stroke for taking a drop, being that I was so close to attaining my goal and just went for it.
My clubhead came down a little steep and as it made contact with the ground I felt it dig in underneath the ball. I watched as my ball popped up weakly and fell back to the earth, 10 yards in front of me. It landed right in the bush blocking my way.
Blood rushed to my face. I could feel my anger beginning to boil. “How could you be so stupid?” I asked myself. Not for the bad decision-making, mind you, but because I flopped on such an important shot.
The bush was holding my ball out on the edge by two or three little branches. “Hittable,” I thought. Not exactly preferable but possible.
I was going to have to hit it from here because now I definitely couldn’t waste another stroke.
Terrible, terrible decision.
There was no way to control it even if I hit it perfectly. Which I didn’t.
I finished the hole with an 8, leaving me on pace to shoot 81. Not good.
This only made me more anxious on 16, which I proceeded to make a mess of also.
Luckily, the cart attendants came back and told us it was, for sure, time to go.
I was so angry that I had let my score slip away that I couldn’t be anything other than ecstatic when they had ended our round early.
There’s no way to know what the result would’ve been had I been able to finish out that day. Maybe I would’ve gotten my first hole-in-one on 17 and made up some ground. Who could say?
The one thing I do know is that I probably would’ve come much closer had I just taken the penalty and gotten my ball back in play.
I’ve noticed that we mortals, tend to get ourselves into trouble, and instead of making the better decision, we try to dig ourselves out and end up digging ourselves in deeper. We see the slightest sliver of hope and it blinds us to all the other bad outcomes because we’re so locked in on the one possible positive one.
But when the odds are stacked against us, chances are it isn’t going to end up well.
So the old cliche must be true. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
It may hurt your pride and push you closer to the edge than you feel comfortable with, but it’s the only way out.
Take the penalty stroke and get back on solid ground.