I dove into the ubiquitous and frustrating game of golf about eight years ago. If you approach it in the correct manner, it is very tactical, notwithstanding the silly outfits. Shooting instructors and caddies (the guys who haul a golfer’s sticks around, stroke a duffer’s ego, and dispense sage advice) have much in common.
There are fish stories and there are golf stories. Then there are shooting stories. There are guys who claim all manner of shooting feats that they just can’t seem to pull off on the range no matter how many times they try or how fancy their ordnance is.
How is this similar to golf? Take the hack who shows up with a handstitched, name-embroidered leather golf bag with custom irons to the tune of about $15,000. Perhaps the guy couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat, but damn if he doesn’t look pretty in the clubhouse.
Others might wonder, “Who is that guy? Is he on the PGA Tour? Have I seen him before on TV alongside Tiger Woods?” This all goes away when Junior steps up to the first tee and promptly hits a blazing 40-yard drive into the first water hazard, whacking a duck in the lips in the process.
This is not too dissimilar from the guy with a custom-made $9,000 sniper rifle who loads the rounds into the magazine backward (true story). I love these guys. Without such characters, life would be boring.
Then there’s the guy who launches a drive deep into the bushes well out of bounds. This is the guy who will turn to the caddy and softly state, “That doesn’t count….” This is like being in a gunfight, missing the bad guy and telling him that the shot you just launched by him didn’t really count. I don’t know if the bad guy cares one way or another, but the fact remains that a miss is a miss no matter how you slice it.
Caddies will take this action in stride and enthusiastically agree that that was the worst manufactured Titleist ProV-1 golf ball ever made, which is exactly why our intrepid golf hack went out of bounds. (A really good caddy will promise that he will promptly give Titleist a call and give them a piece of his mind on their manufacturing process, to which the duffer heartily agrees.)
Shooting instructors get this from time to time. Reloads are one thing, but factory ammunition from a reputable manufacturer is generally reliable and will outperform the shooter. “You know, I think these rounds are really off or extra heavy because they’re going right under the stupid target.” Now you have three choices here: 1) agree and let things go, 2) gently explain that the shooting flaw may not be all that ballistic in nature, 3) give Federal Ammunition a call and give them a piece of your mind. They really like these calls because they add some humor to their day. (Golf caddies know that tips are pro-rated in direct proportion to ego enhancement. Shooting instructors not so much.)
Of course there’s the guy who moves balls when he shouldn’t, uses his foot to kick the ball out onto playable grass (referred to as a foot wedge), or otherwise breaks the rules and expects the caddy not to notice and certainly not to comment on this egregious violation of the rules.
And while there are no rules in a gunfight, there are rules in man-onman competitions and qualifications. A decent instructor will catch these guys and nail them not for cheating, but for being caught doing so.
At Camp Pendleton, I once observed a former SEAL Team 6 instructor make a BUD/S class do forward rolls for 800 yards on hard-packed earth, which took about five hours. He ordered this because one member had been caught cutting a run short and another tried to short circuit a shooting course, i.e. cheat—bad karma for the frogs. Try playing or shooting better rather than bending the rules, and it will make a difference when it really counts.
Some golfers switch out sets of clubs as often as I switch out socks. Here’s the rationale: the steel’s too soft, the loft on the clubs is all wrong, the shafts don’t flex enough, the grips are no good, or the clubs just suck overall.
In shooting we get: the barrel’s bent, the rifling’s worn out (after 50 rounds), the sights are way off, the lock-up is no good, the stocks are throwing me off, the magazine is making my rounds go low (or high), or the firearm just sucks overall.
I could have made a fortune buying up all those inoperable firearms over the years and reselling them. I’m in the wrong business—golf manufacturers figured this out eons ago. Walk into any golf shop, show them your clubs and by God, can you believe it? They’re friggin’ outdated! You need the new whappin’- frappin’ clubs. What were you thinking? Your clubs are no good. Get these and in no time it’s the Masters for sure. “Yeah, but these are only a year old….” They’re no good, brother—you need these for only $999.99!
Technique is technique, no matter how you cut it. Golf instructors will tell you to be fluid and smooth and let the club do the work. Sound familiar? Smooth is smooth and jerky is jerky.
If I could apply what I know about shooting to golf, I’d be on the PGA tour. Watch the club head go through the ball (stay on the sights through the shot). Don’t look for the ball going downrange as you swing (don’t look at the target as you’re firing). Don’t force the club (don’t force the trigger). Don’t be distracted by cliffs and water hazards (don’t be distracted by your opponent). Concentrate on the golf shot of the moment (concentrate on the firing shot of the moment).
Caddies and shooting instructors are there to guide you in both endeavors. Listen to the caddy and your shots will improve. Listen to a credible instructor and the same will apply. A really good caddy can demonstrate a golf shot just as a genuine shooting instructor can demonstrate any given shot.
Here are some tips. Lose the ego. It’s probably not the equipment but you. Golf balls and bullets don’t lie—either they’re in the hole or on target or they’re not. It’s best to keep silent and let your performance speak for itself. Practice to your weakness. Be honest with yourself.
Last but not least, your wife will find out about a new set of clubs just as quickly as she’ll find out about a new firearm.