This past Saturday, exactly one month before my 58th birthday and after about 17 years of playing golf on a consistent basis (as opposed to playing consistent golf) I got my first hole in one.
Stats for those of you scoring at home: #3, Lake Merced Golf Club, 146 yards, 7 iron Titleist AP-2, Bridgestone RX-whatever.
Slightly more interesting aspect of the shot: I stuffed it. Every other time that I’ve come close I’ve watched the ball either come to rest close to the hole or trickle past it. This meant some moments of anticipation as I waited to see if indeed this was going to be the day. But then, wouldn’t you know it, when it actually happens there is only the sense of having hit what looked and felt like a good shot, seeing the ball descend at the pin, hearing that ‘whunk’ sound a ball makes when it hits a flagstick and then the ball disappears. No anticipation, just shock and a little disbelief.
The hole in one as a phenomenon: We golfers are vastly outnumbered in this world. Our sport is derided and misunderstood. But everybody understands a hole in one.
Implications of that rarity: Nothing better expresses the huge differences in outcome in our game that result from microscopic variations in angle, impact and speed. Take my shot for example. If I hit it just a hair harder given the firmness of our greens and my lack of backspin I’m probably looking at a double breaking downhill putt for birdie of 18 feet. Hit it half a hair harder and the ball ricochets off the stick and possibly into one of the deep bunkers Rees Jones put all around our greens. Launch the ball with the same force but at just a slightly higher angle and my ball probably rolls off the front into this little swale just below the green.
Further implications: Nothing better expresses the randomness of our game. Had we not had some heavy (and very unseasonal) rains earlier in the week my ball might have bounced off the lip of the cup instead of taking a gouge out of it. Every time we strike the ball we launch it on a journey where it collides with all variety of matter, mineral and vegetable. The winds push our shots this way and that and even without a breeze the humidity in the air tugs invisibly at the ball.
Final implication: You’d think holes in one would be distributed somewhat rationally, right? Of course not. This is golf. This weekend I found out that all these golfers who are far better than I still don’t have one. Further proof of the randomness of this game.