The Canadian Open finished at Glen Abbey Golf Course in Oakville yesterday, and the scoring amazed me for the strokes under par. After 72 holes played, the leader board showed the winner, Jhonattan Vegas at 21 under par. Put another way, for 288 recommended strokes, he only needed 267 to win $1,000,000 dollars.
21 under par is a pretty astounding number in the PGA Tour. But it reminded me that I have played at Glen Abbey, many, many years ago, and I recall that I finished just the front 9 with a 57, or 21 strokes over par. I have not been back.
Since then, my golf game has not improved. Despite lessons, innumerable outings, new clubs, golf magazine subscriptions, disciplined score keeping, fastidious handicap calculations (28.6), spiffy shirts, and an unbridled optimism, I still come up with a couple extra strokes per hole, delivering a consistent 108, +/- 5 strokes. 36 over par any given day.
The reason this occurs is obvious to me now. After years of recording and analyzing scores, yardage, accuracy, putts and penalties, my game is consistent. First, short drives. Second, wide drives. Once in the rough, always in the rough. If most holes require 2 strokes to hit the green, I will usually take three and maybe four.
Next, sorrowful putts. Regulation calls for two. My putts will usually be two, but I can make a three, even a four happen so easily that the gallery of geese standing nearby shake their heads in dismay.
I have reconciled and accepted my numbing under-performance. And like a professional, I have studied it and dissected every misstep, and have now come up with a new way to measure and find success.
The Knucklehead Count
It’s not the lackluster shots that dampen my game. Sometimes I get away with some brilliant shots which compensate. What ruins my game is the knucklehead shot.
A knucklehead shot is a bizarre, inept moment of inattention enhanced by extraordinary clumsiness. Knucklehead putts that are marred by a scuffed green or a bouncing putter. Knucklehead approach shots are skulled wedge shots that rocket with malice waist-high over the green and, nearly hitting a startled partner, end up in a bunker. A knucklehead bunker shot is hit so fat that the ball barely rolls up three feet to rest under the lip. A knucklehead fairway shot usually involves a 5-wood grinding the ball deep into the turf before skittering 12 feet to a stop.
Knuckleheads generally can be validated by quickly taking a second ball, and repeating the stroke with consummate perfection. In other words, lacking my inattention and clumsiness, the prior shot could have been brilliant. Unfortunately, but to its credit, the game of golf requires physical and intellectual honesty, so the knucklehead counts, and the beautiful do-over doesn’t.
I break out scores on my card to show putts, fairway, yardage, accuracy and penalty strokes. But the most important score is the knucklehead count.
Because I have accepted my game. The only thing that changes is the knucklehead count. When I finish up, I can look at my score, and have this quiet moment of calculation: “I shot a 108. But take away 9 knuckleheads and I could have had a 99. Wow!
When people asked me how my game was, I used to respond, “Pretty good! I found three balls and only lost two!” Now I measure success, and surprisingly, happiness, by low knucklehead counts.
It’s a great game, even for the knuckleheads.
Thanks for reading! Please share with your earnest golfing friends who are still looking for that perfect game.