The Witching Pedge
by Marc Friedlander


magic on the course

Bethpage State Park Yellow Course, 14th Tee


When I first started golfing, the best drivers were made of persimmon, the longest hitting pros drove the ball an average of 275 yards, golf shoes had pointy metal spikes, and the leading player on tour was Jack Nicklaus (which I guess could span a few decades, so let's say I took golf up seriously in the early 1980's). 

I've always been a player who looks like he should be pretty good, but for some reason, isn't.  I can shoot a 90 (on a very good day) but I'm far more likely to shoot a 110. I have a nice rhythmic swing, I have reasonable length, I have reasonable golf sense, I have the capability of hitting some very good shots, but I have trouble with consistency and hit bad shots as often as good shots, disastrous shots as often as great shots.  Nevertheless, I loved to play and I struggled on through the Nicklaus years, the Norman years, the Various Player of the Moment years, the Tiger years, and then I put much more time into my music and I stopped struggling at golf.  For the last 10 years or so I've played much less, and now when I do play, I'm delighted to break 100, if I even bother to keep a score and still have the card at the end of the round.

I played one round last year and didn't play at all this year until Labor Day, when I headed off to the Bethpage Yellow, not even sure I would be able to walk it, much less play it.  Well - I had no trouble walking it and I played well above my expectations.  I was hitting fairways, hitting greens, hitting a lot of good golf shots!  I think I shot a 98.  I went back the next week and played even better, and the next week better than that!  I was really having fun again, playing golf.  Everything was coming together in my mind, about my swing.  My tempo, my hand position, my putting.  I had a round where I had 6 pars and 6 bogeys - and of course the inevitable "others", but I was playing better golf than I had in years. Here, after all this time, I was set to start playing the best golf of my life. 

The next week I got a tee time at Bethpage State Park for the Yellow Course (they have 5 courses of different colors, incuding the (in)famous BLACK course).
Night before I watched some YouTube golf videos - you know they have some great lessons there.  Next day I got to the course in plenty of time so I could hit a bucket out, and I was really psyched.  I kept repeating some reminders from the videos that I had written down on a slip of paper.  Reminders for me, mantras to the Golf Gods. 

Tempo Tempo Tempo.
Hands at the top.  Hands at the top.
Pitch shots - Hinge and Hold.  Hinge and Hold.  Hinge and Hold.

At the range I hit a bucket out.  I was pumped up, I was warmed up, I was ready.

Of course, you know what happens next, because this is golf.

First hole on the Yellow is a 375ish dog right.  Need at least 220 + off the tee to fully clear the dog.  Big bunker right center about 250 out,  woods right. 

First drive is always tough. I said my mantras - I swung.

Solid - I hit it out into the fairway, left of bunker, in perfect shape.  YES!

Second shot - a weak 5 wood to 60 yards.  At least it was straight.
I now have an easy pitch shot to the middle of the green.  A bogey here (or anywhere) is a successful hole for me.  And I'm here in 2 on a par 4.  It's a PSP! (Par still possible)
I love starting well.  Shapes the whole day.  Now I have to put it on the green.  I'm often good with my wedges.

I watched the pitch shot lessons on YouTube.
I practiced the pitch shot at the range just now.
Hinge and Hold.
Hinge and Hold.

Now, hmmm, which club to hit.
I pulled the pitching wedge (for any non-golfers reading this, I'm not being sarcastic here in any way - for your information, there are several different wedges with different names that I might have selected - which was my concern at the moment).

Now then, Pitching Wedge (that I affectionately Spoonerize and call the "Witching Pedge").

Perfect lie.

practice swing - Hinge and Hold
practice swing - Hinge and Hold
practice swing - Hinge and Hold

I step up to the ball.
Come on Witching Pedge.
real swing - Hinge and Hold

I made absolutely PURE contact.
This Hinge and Hold business is magic.
Too much magic.
I looked up and saw my ball sail over the flagstick and over the green.
@!%#$ it!
I'm behind the green in second cut lying 3.
But it's still a BSP! (bogey still possible).

Blade the chip.
Lying 4 hole high but still in second cut.
Finally a good smooth swing and it rolls toward the hole.
4 feet left for double.
Almost goes in.
Backhanded it in for a 7.

And as I said, the first hole often shapes the whole round, and the rest of the round was no improvement.  Some good swings, lots of bad swings.  Think I ended up with a 102 but that's not even right because I picked up on the 12th - which to add insult to injury is the easiest hole (I did give myself a 10 for the hole, though).

Not a total loss - it was a beautiful day, and I managed to take a picture of a remarkable rainbow on the 14th tee, created by the sudden spouting of the sprinklers.

Once you've had this strange obsession - that of inducing small dimpled spheres to fall into cylindrical cavities marked by pennants on sticks in somebody's lawn - you can't give it up.

Guess I'll be out again next weekend.




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