Playing Through

Typically the winter weather in Atlanta is mild compared to other parts of the country. Californian by birth (Southern), season changes are still a novelty even after 30 years of living in Georgia. The last few years February and early March seem to have the winter bite that you would expect from December and January. That said, tiny violins withstanding, getting out and actually playing a round has been a non- starter the last two weeks. So when the weather turned a bit and temps hit 70 (for a day), I jumped at the chance to at least get a 9 spot in after work. Works out nice for me as my son is on the high school golf team and their home course is our local neighborhood course and he had a scheduled practice. I never know what to expect out there when my playing and practice time have been limited. Aside from putting in my basement, I really haven’t swung a club. Having no expectations are often a blessing.

Teeing off on 1, foregoing an actual warmup, I striped a 3 wood down the middle deep leaving a little pitching wedge into the green. Left my wedge about a yard short of perfect with a front pin placement. Lipped out the short birdie chip leaving a sweeper for par. Hit a nice driver on an uphill par 5, laying up with a 7 iron left myself 85 yards to the back pin placement. Knocked it tight to 6 feet making birdie. Starting to feel good, nice rhythm to my swing. As I’m riding to the 3rd hole I see a twosome up near the green thinking I may see a little traffic after all. Not trying to get 18 in here, 9 is the goal, we have plenty of sun light. Hit a very good 5 wood fading it to the end of the fairway, which drops off into a little valley of sorts. The 3rd hole is all about placement. Pulling up to my ball, I notice the twosome, one of the guys is still trying to make the green, the other guy is stalking his putt trying to figure out the line. At this point, I pull my laser just got get an idea of yardage so I know which club to pull. I’ve done this a million times, if the flag is in, I like to get an idea of the number so I can take the time to visualize what I’m trying to accomplish.

Things get weird all of the sudden. I’ll call him Fuzzy for the purpose of illustration. Fuzzy stops stalking his putt and looks my way. Now, I’m 100 yards away, but I feel like we are standing in the center of some old western town. I’d go for my piece, but all I have is another ball and a divot tool. It’s a standoff, golf style. Don’t think I breached protocol, but maybe he took it as an insult that I would dare to laser the flag while it’s still “his” green. Keep in mind, his buddy is still coming up from nowhere with zero chance of knocking it the inside of 20 feet. I’m not angry or intimidated, just perplexed that Fuzzy is miffed at my actions. I’m a single, I should play faster by rule. The stare down is a good 30-40 seconds, no exaggeration. At this point I can’t decide if he’s looking to wave me on or he’s just trying to assert his golf dominance. I place my hand on my clubs and pull out my phone to wait out this cat making a tour putt. He goes through his pre shot, then he freezes over the ball, to the point I’m thinking he might be stuck. Finally, he strikes the putt, of course knocking it 5 feet by….slick downhiller, I’ve done the same thing from that very spot. His playing partner has got his to a 10 feet after the doomed pitch shot and two putts. Still, I’m not agitated just yet, bad holes happen to the best, no need to get upset. To his credit, Fuzzy lines up his comebacker, pre-shot, freeze and then strikes a good putt making it. At this, he pulls the ball from the hole and looks my way, still just kind of staring, finally he starts the walk off the green.

A pretty funny take on the stare down…..albeit these two cats are legends.
Now I’m irritated. I’ve done nothing wrong here in my view. I’m just playing golf. Not hitting into guys, not standing in the fairway in a aggressive manner, just playing golf. Insert inner dialogue “Fuzzy is going to see how this hole is supposed to be played….jackass”. I line up my shot as they are pulling away in the cart. You can clearly see the 3rd green from the 4th tee box. I wait to hit till they are on the tee box. Again, making sure they are clear and I’m not being an ass hitting right when they get in the cart. We’ve all shanked a few, better safe than sorry. I feather a nice sand wedge to about 4 feet under hole. I look to see if Fuzzy has seen it…..”oh yes he has”…a little victory. Will he let me through is the question? They are still on the tee box as his partner is lining up his shot. I make it back to my cart as they are driving away from the tee box. I pull my 5 wood on this shortish tricky par 4 and stand on the tee box fully expecting to wait for them to clear the fairway. At this point, he waves me through, wildly with some vigor. Playing through is a litmus test usually either validation or an indictment of the state of your game.The key is to take your time, same routine, no worries about you slowing them up. Just missed the fairway, fanned a 8 iron to the right on my approach. I was able to play it down for a par and give them a wave as I made my way to my cart. No words were exchanged, just the wave of recognition.

The whole mysterious exchange kind of hung with me the remainder of the round. I actually got 17 in which is a real feat given how late I started. We “spring” ahead this weekend with our clocks so it wasn’t because of the additional sun light. 2 and half hours, 17 holes and I swear I played at a pace thinking I had all day to play. Kept mulling the idea, if I had done something to precipitate that kind of reaction from the guy in front of me? Always strive to play a good pace, but by no means do I consider myself to be a very fast player. If anything, I think I take too many practice swings and I think way too long on putts.

This correlates nicely with the topic of slow play. When should you let the group behind you play through? In general, if you are in a foursome and you have a twosome or less behind you, you should probably let the other group through at some point. Especially if you have a hole open in front of you or there is a decent gap between your group and the group in front of you. Odds are, there is space behind the twosome which may make your golf outing a little less stressful. Now you only have to worry about all the hazards in front of you, not the guys waiting to tee off behind you. If there is a single behind you, they are probably a “player”, no harm letting them through in almost all scenarios. The only time I wouldn’t let a single mow through is if I’ve been waiting on every tee box as it is. There are times the spacing gets out of hand and you can have two different groups waiting to tee off with another group still in the fairway. Those are days you wish you were somewhere else.


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