I’m writing this while sitting on the deck of a golf resort, overlooking an uphill tough par 5 hole that I’ve only reached in two one time in the dozen times I’ve tried. All day long, foursomes of hackers like me pull out the long guns and take god awful hacks to reach the green in search of the elusive eagle or birdie. Me, I’ve come to respect the design of the hole; which includes a deep grass lined “gully” bisecting the fairway at about the 200 yard mark, tempting the “big sticks” to fly it from the tee. Time and time again I watch balls tumble into this abyss, only to be “hacked out”, leaving nearly impossible third shots to reach the green. The right side of the gully flairs open, ready to feed errant shots out of bounds
On the other hand, I watch more realistic golfers-many of them women- hit a shorter club off the tee to avoid hitting into the hazard. They place themselves in perfect shape for a nice second shot that only leaves them a short wedge shot to the green where they stand a much better chance at a putt for birdie or par. Undoubtedly, many of these folks previously found themselves at the bottom of the abyss and had learned their lesson.
I’m one of those who learned the hard way, experiencing the full effects of the sinister design on more than one occasion. As a result, I now swallow my pride, pull out a shorter club, content with knowing if I hit three decent short shots I stand a decent chance at par or even an occasional birdie.
Knowing many of us firefighters are also golfers, there is an analogy here. How many times have we pulled up to a fire (the hole), took a quick look at the rudimentary picture of the hole on the scorecard (size up), and decided to “go for it”, only to have to bail out figuratively or literally within a few minutes?
How many of us then decide to add insult to injury by trying a risky second shot and going for it instead of simply hitting the ball safely back into play where you have a variety of options in saving par or minimizing bogies? As many of us firefighter hackers know too well, we often make things much worse and we eventually walk off the green thinking we ought to just pack it in and head to the 19th hole.
Well, on the fireground we don’t have that luxury (although I still incredulously hear about those who do the reverse-head from the 19th hole to the fire). Nor, do we have the luxury of using the best wood in our golf bag (the pencil) to fudge our score. Fire keeps perfect score, and stands ready to penalize and literally disqualify anyone who breaks the rules.
As I close in on the end of my fire career, I’m concerned about the influx of new firefighter golfers; those who have spent hundreds of hours on the practice range, hitting hundreds of balls off of artificial surfaces towards familiar targets. Bolstered by what they read in magazines and watch on TV (helmet cameras) they perfect their swings, building unrealistic self-confidence to the point where they feel ready to tackle the black tees before they have even played a round on a real course. Sooner or later, they will have to step onto the tee box of the longest and ugliest par 5 fire they can imagine. Yet, they won’t have the luxury of seeing all of the hazards or even knowing the yardage it takes to reach the green. But, I guarantee, they will be tempted to pull out the “big dog” they used on the practice range, ready to give it an all-mighty whack. With luck, their ball lands in play, allowing a safe second shot that has a chance of success. Or, it reinforces this unrealistic expectation and simply allows another opportunity for luck to leave.
All of us firefighter golfers need to remember not only the importance of practice, but even more importantly the need to understand the hole layout and accepting our abilities in getting the best possible score on any given hole without hitting into the abyss.
Hit it straight folks, and do everything you can to finish all 19 holes OK?