A fine day at the beach

Golfer's Diary

Yes, it’s true. I spent more time in the sand than David Hasselhoff.

Now that the terrible joke from Happy Gilmore is out of the way, we can get started.

I had yet another special round this past week. My Aunt Jeanine and Uncle Happ (it’s really my mom’s cousin and her husband, but they were always aunt and uncle to us growing up) came up from the Pittsburgh area for a few days and Happ brought along his clubs. He’s brought them up the past few times they’ve visited, but our schedules just haven’t aligned.

Picking a course to take him to was tricky. There are so many in the area that I love and want to show off. Mother Nature helped make the decision for me, however. With all the rain (though it was beautiful on the actual day we went), the choice was obvious — Cassadaga Country Club, which is always the driest course after heavy rain.

In Happ’s bag was his newest toy — a TaylorMade M6 driver, which retails for $600. He won it in a raffle earlier this year. Side note: He won a year’s membership for one of his local courses in this same raffle a few years ago. Not too shabby, huh?

After struggling with my driver for the past round-and-a-half, I was pretty nervous stepping up to the first tee box. Happ and I have exchanged golf stories for years. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. Well, I smoked my drive over the creek and right down the middle of the fairway. My exhale was probably audible. I had my drive back…or so I thought. In fact, spoiler alert, for the rest of the day I played somewhere between ‘garbage’ and ‘laughable’ on the vaunted Scale of Horrendousness, which I assume is a real thing and definitely not something I just made up.

Happ, meanwhile, was surprisingly good. I don’t mean that to be insulting, but I’ve seen plenty of 70-year-old guys swing golf clubs and none of them looked as smooth as Happ. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised since we have talked about golf an awful lot for years. And that driver! A perfectly hit golf ball is one of the most satisfying sounds in sports alongside the pop of a mitt, the swish of a basketball net and the clang of a ringer in horseshoes.

As nicely as Happ was hitting the ball, CCC is a tricky course to play for the first time. The greens, while immaculately curated, take some getting used to. Hint: Everything breaks towards the lake. Everything. So that added a few shots to Happ’s total, I’m sure, but he seemed to take it in stride. In fact, he putted a whole lot better than I did and I’ve played the course dozens of times over the years.

Going all the way back to the title of this article, yes, I spent some time in the bunkers during this round. Remember that awesome drive I had on No. 1? Well, after horribly lifting my head and toeing my second shot, my third shot dropped straight into the sand. Lovely. I believe it was my first shot out of a bunker this year despite playing several times at Cassadaga and a round at Shorewood — both courses that have plenty of sand hazards. While I’m a self-proclaimed master of teaching people how to hit out of the sand, I’m historically bad at it myself. I just can’t make myself follow through. I can’t do it. So to absolutely nobody’s surprise, my attempt just barely cleared the edge of the bunker and didn’t reach the green.

Thankfully, my next look from the beach went much better. I yanked my drive on No. 5 to the left, so I was hitting a blind second shot straight up the side of the hill. I hit what we both thought was a perfect shot, forgetting that there was a sand trap right there. D’oh! Remembering to follow through, however, I hit what might be my best sand shot ever. You could almost hear the backspin on the ball as it came off the club. It went just a few feet past the pin, which I turned around for a par. Not a bad save for a terrible drive and a third shot from the sand.

My final sand shot was never technically in the bunker. Allow me to explain. My second shot on No. 9 was a hybrid that was hit as well as I can hit that club. The ball was crushed dead straight down the fairway. Unfortunately, there’s a pair of bunkers in front of the green and I watched the ball roll right for one. When we got up there, I couldn’t find my ball. It absolutely had to be in the sand. Well, it must have used the edge of the bunker like a ramp because it was just on the other side. What a lucky break, you say? Not even a little bit. The grass on the top of that mound is extremely long. There is plenty of sand up there just from people hitting it out of the bunker. My feet were so far below the lie of the ball that I joked I needed a little kid’s club. It was an exceptionally uncomfortable spot to be. I did what I could and poked the ball out, but it rolled quite a bit past the pin. I really might have been better off hitting from the actual sand.

The lesson from this article is follow through when hitting from the sand, for goodness sake.

Until next time, golf is great. Go get some.