Each year, Halloween serves as a reminder that people actually enjoy being scared, to the point they seek it out by watching horror movies or going to haunted houses. As golfers, we can get our frights by playing the sport we love . . . and love to hate. There are plenty of moments throughout a round that can spook us better than any weirdo with a mask could by jumping out of a coffin.
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With that in mind, we compiled a list of the seven “scariest” moments in golf.
The mental gymnastics of being waved through are unlike any other feeling in golf. On one hand, you’re thrilled to get past that slow foursome and start humming around. On the other, you now have an audience of judgy golfers who say things like “Take your time!!” and “No rush!!” In reality, the whole point of playing through is for you to, quite literally, not take your time and rush through. You never, ever want to be the person who plays through and then makes the group behind you wait on a shot after they allow you to play through. While all these thoughts are racing through your head, you’re expected to execute golf shots? Terrifying stuff.
As the great Alan Shipnuck has said, the shanks are like a virus that lives inside of you forever. Just when you think you have the game figured out, the dreaded S-word occurs in the middle of the round, causing you to question your entire existence. The goal on the very next shot is to not do it again, so you play a trap draw or you shorten your backswing or you putt it from 50 yards out or you pick up and slump your shoulders as you walk to the next tee, where you’ll inevitably insert five new swing thoughts before taking the club back. Heaven forbid you actually do hit another shank, and suddenly that yard work your wife wanted you to do instead of playing seems like it would have been a more fun way to spend your Saturday.
That right-to-left draw is cooking for you? Got the power fade working? Once you grab hold of that swing thought, you never want to let go. Then, you arrive at a hole with water all down the left side (draw player), or out-of-bounds is just a few yards off the right side of the fairway (fade player). Time to completely overcompensate and aim even further right or left, thus causing you to hook it or slice it even harder. Or, you try to shape it the other way, something you haven’t attempted since the Bush administration. I’m sure that will work out well and not completely alter your golf swing for the next three months. At this point, you’re considering writing a strongly worded letter to the course architect, and possibly egging his house.
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Picture this: you’ve hit a FIR, then a GIR, leaving yourself with a 15-foot uphill look at birdie. Next stop: PGA Tour. “I’m going to give this a run,” you tell yourself. And for once, you do! “At least you gave it a chance,” your partner says, condescendingly. Now you’re facing the dreaded downhill, four-foot comebacker just to save your par. What the hell happened? Sixty seconds ago you were prepared to Monday qualify into next week’s tour event, and now you are staring bogey or worse in the face, depending on how hard you hit the comeback putt. Four feet from glory or multiple sleepless nights. No pressure.
Whether it’s Merion, Bethpage Black or your local muni, there’s always a chance of a crowd surrounding the first tee box. People might be eating, waiting for their tee time, or just stopping as they walk by out of respect when you’d rather them look away and keep it moving. Your “escape” from life has now morphed into the meme of Joaquin Phoenix’s “The Joker” making terrible jokes up on stage while no one laughs, the difference being those watching might actually laugh depending on how bad the tee shot goes. “Just get it in the air,” you plead with yourself before rolling one about 15 yards, thus setting up a second shot that the crowd can still see from their vantage point. Two embarrassing shots for the price of one. That pile of leaves at home is calling again.
If you buy a home on a golf course, you’re sort of asking for some property damage. But that still doesn’t mean it won’t be a headache for all parties involved when a ball inevitably crashes through a window. For most, the scariest moment isn’t the crash, though. It’s the moment of silence as the ball sails directly toward the home. Same goes for a highway or a parking lot. No sound is a good sound.
Normally, you play for fun on the weekends with your buddies and everything inside of the leather is good. But once or twice a season, you like to try your hand at a serious competition, be it the club championship or a state championship qualifier. On the first hole, you’re on in reg and your birdie putt comes up a few feet short. In your $2 Nassau at your home course, that’s a scoop n’ score par on your way to the next tee. In a real event, your partner is asking “You want to mark it or finish up?” Few moments are as nervy as remembering you have to rattle the bottom of the cup the rest of the round, and it can go one of two ways: you bang the first one home and allow yourself to breathe, or you jab it past and begin to play defense for the next 17 holes.
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