I can say from experience that there is little that is more exciting in golf than holing out – be it for a hole-in-one or for an eagle from the fairway. On the other hand, holing out at the wrong time can be a rather frustrating experience. I can say that from experience as well.
Once, in the mid 90s, while playing an executive course in northwest Seattle called Interbay, I yanked a 9-iron OB on the fifth hole. I took my penalty, re-teed, then proceeded to hole my third shot for par. My playing partner was thrilled. I merely shrugged. It was a hell of a good par, but bittersweet for sure.
If only my brother Scott, who would go on to have a career in conflict resolution, could have been so philosophical during a round a few years earlier on the quaint 9-hole Wawashkamo course on northern Michigan’s Mackinac Island. Playing the short par-4 sixth hole that day, Scott had just a 9-iron to the green. He made a quick backswing, dipped his right shoulder, then chunked the shot – leaving it some 30 yards short and right of the green.
Livid, Scott threw down another ball for a practice shot. This time the swing was rhythmic and balanced. The ball landed on the green, took one high bounce, struck the middle of the flag pole, then ran down the stick into the hole. What might have been an eagle two was instead just a really good meaningless shot.
Nevertheless, our dad Ken, who was treating Scott and I to our round that day, was as proud as a father could be. Excitedly, he yelled his congratulations to Scott. who wasn’t of a mind to graciously accept the praise. He stood silently in the fairway, hands on his hips, the disgust on his face as obvious as a neon sign.
Sensing an opportunity to turn the screw, I showered my big brother with compliments, eventually eliciting an angry insistence that I shut up. By the time Scott had managed to advance his real ball onto the green, he and Ken were arguing over his reaction to the hole-out as well.
“You should just enjoy a great shot,” my father told him.
“This game just never gives you a break,” my brother countered, echoing a familiar refrain.
I smiled as the debate continued like that for the next few holes. And ever since I’ve loved telling my brother that his meaningless 9-iron that day is the greatest shot he has ever played.