When I play with the people I usually play with, I get a view of the game that may be a bit different from what most people see. While vacationing at Ocean Shores, WA for Memorial Day weekend, I got a good taste of what normal people play like.
When I say normal people, I mean people who don't regularly play on country club courses, people who don't go out and buy a $500 driver when it comes out just to see if it improves their scores, people who ACTUALLY DO drop their pants around their ankles and hit their second shot red-faced and bare-assed when their tee shot doesn't make it past the women's tees. These were my playing partners today.
I showed up at the course around 10:30, hit some range balls, and was eventually sent out to the first tee to wait for my group to show up. I watched a variety of players walk up to the tee box and use the most interesting swing techniques to get the ball in play. No two alike, nothing like the "correct" swings I am used to trying to emulate and nearly every one of them still effective at getting the ball into play. When my threesome shows up, they immediately apologize in advanced for what will be a slow day but I say that we're all there to have fun. One of them hasn't played before, another hasn't played more than a few times and the third plays at this course regularly, but hasn't played since last fall. Two of them have woods that are made from -- wait for it -- wood! It turns out that most people play with the clubs they have had for years and don't treat Saturday as "go try out new equipment day."
They each tee off with shots that skip along the ground to between 75 and 125 yards off the tee box. I take my 3 wood and hit a tail wind enhanced 280 yard drive right down the middle of the fairway. They are impressed, I am shocked but try to play it cool ;) I end up missing the GIR but sinking an improbable 15 foot putt for par and I am feeling like a golf god!
The feeling fades, though, as I lose one ball on each of the next two holes by pulling shots into the river and end up with double bogeys on each hole. The play is really slow and I am making the best of it helping the guy who hasn't played before figure out the difference between clubs, how to hit sand shots and where to find his ball. He has an interesting swing where he keeps his arms perfectly straight and pivots at the waist to hit the ball. He takes about 12 practice swings before each shot and then generally skitters the ball along the ground around 50 yards. After a while, I show him how to hit down on the ball instead of scooping it and then the ball starts flying. The next shot goes well over the green (it turns out that a 4 iron wasn't the best choice of club from 85 yards) but on the next hole, he ends up parring a par 5! At no point, though, did any of them get upset with their topped or chunked shots. They just walked up to it and hit again, counting each stroke they took and having fun just hitting the ball.
I shoot a pretty mediocre 47 on the front 9 in 2 hours and 35 minutes and when they stop at the turn to wait for some other friends behind them, I go ahead to the back 9 as a single. From that point, I don't see anyone else on the course for the rest of the day. The pace of play speeds up dramatically as does the quality of my golf shots. I par 3 of the first 4 holes and finish the back 9 with a 41 in 1 hour and 25 minutes. My 3-wood was generally very good today. No subsequent 280 yard drives, but on the par 5s, I would generally be on the green after 2 shots with it and a wedge. Wedge play was good. Irons were weak on the front 9, but good on the back. The high point there was that the longer distances seem to be starting to lock in. I was hitting 140 yard 8 irons and 185 yard 4 irons so that was encouraging. There was a stiff wind all day long which would grab a lot of shots so it was tough to say how much was me not hitting straight and how much was me not taking the wind into account enough. The fairways were pretty narrow, with houses on either side for most of the course so my driver never came out.
In all, it was a fun day on the course with some very friendly local folks who showed me a different part of the game that was fun to see.