A Green-side Bunker and A Beautiful Man Who Changed My LifeI learned a most valuable lesson on a short par four in Scottsdale, Arizona.
A wide fairway that slopes left to right the only real trouble is a very deep green-side bunker that protects a small green that undulates aggressively.
The genius of golf holes like these is that they dare the golfer to go for the green with their drive. The reward is not worth the risk.
The hole should play as the easiest on the course. A smart golfer would hit a 7 iron off the tee starting down the left side of the fairway is the best play as the slope will take the ball to a flat spot on the right side of the fairway. From there, the approach shot should be no more than 125 yards with a perfect angle to attack the flag. Two putt, par. Move on.
I was not a smart golfer.
I teed the ball high. Pulled my driver and setup for a power fade. I visualized. The perfect shot would start up the tree line on the left, fade 30 yards, just clear the greenside bunker, land with sidespin and hold the green for an Eagle chance.
I swung. Perfect. I held my follow through and said something predictable like, “Be the one!” You say that when you think you have hit the perfect shot. I had…
Close to the perfect shot. I saw the splash of sand.
I said a very adult word and waited as my playing partner Dan hit his tee shot. Down the middle and safe.
I was steaming as I walked to my ball. It was worse than I could have expected. Buried into the face of the bunker, with an overgrown grassy lip, blocking a follow through. The ball would be 3 feet above my back foot, and the only way I would be able to leverage any shot would be to have my left foot stuck into the sand, hip high. It would be a miracle to walk away from that hole with less than a bogey.
More very adult words were muttered and I was really acting like a baby as Dan walked up.
The Safe Play.
Dan had retired after making a lot of money working for Nokia. He was fond of telling me to invest in a 401k. He lost his 401k in 2007.
He was a bit of a dolt to be honest. Not for losing his money but just in general. A real paint by numbers kind of guy, which is no crime… but, he gave a lot of advice.... He walked up to my ball. I was still saying adult words under my breath.
“You know what you have there?”
My eyes were as black as Activated Charcoal Powder.
“What you have there, is an opportunity to excel!”
Then he walked to the green to fix his divot. I felt like punching him in the damn snout. I circled the green trying to imagine a possible shot. A professional would hit the green maybe ten percent of the time… what could I do?!
“What you have there, is an opportunity to excel!”, kept running through my head. For all of Dan’s history of well intentioned animal manure advice, this one little idea began to stick. Then it clicked. I understood.
I walked to my ball with a new attitude. I dug my plant foot into the sand and stuck my lead leg in to the embankment. I took my grip, opened my club face, aimed well left of the flag and visualized hitting, the now possible shot, as I repeated the words, “This is an opportunity to excel.”
I swung. A blast of sand later and me nearly falling down in the process, my ball cleared the lip and the damn thing landed like a dollop of Body Butter, caught the perfect downhill undulation in the green and came to rest 12 feet from the hole!
“Wow! What a shot!” Dan yelled. He really was a nice guy you know. I feel like I was unfair before. “Fantastic!” He continued.
I raked the bunker a changed man. It was all attitude. I had the wrong one before.
A green-side bunker did not happen to me. I made the green-side bunker my reality by making an unwise decision from greed. That is was why I was so mad. To know better and still make the mistake is the worst.
So when life “conspires”, take the challenge, you just might pull off the perfect shot. And if not? Do not despair! The next opportunity to excel is waiting for the right attitude which you will be ready for.
Living life is not about results, it is about cultivating attitude. The results you seek will come. Or at least the results you need will come… I three putted and still got a bogey.
May the process be your destination.
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