On Losing It

Forgetting how to play.

Through work, I am afforded the privilege of playing more golf than my pay grade would normally warrant. As a result, over this (rapidly ending) season, my game improved from mostly terrible and occasionally ok, to mostly ok and occasionally good. My ball flight improved from a weak low shot to a boring draw, and I added a reliable check and roll chip to my short game arsenal.

Inevitably, my scores went down, but most importantly, my range of scores narrowed – with the occasional very good result happening with much greater frequency than the exceptionally bad. Best result was a +3 for nine holes (7 pars). I had more birdies this year than in the previous seven years combined.

One evening in mid August everything changed. I was playing with two delightfully interesting strangers (rare treat) and while my start to the round was terrific – two greens in regulation and two pars – my game started to fall terribly apart after that. I wasn’t so worried or annoyed that I wished never to play again, but the next day I invested in a trip to the range to see what was up.

It was worse. Much worse. I am struggling against the inevitable cliche of describing the experience as “never having played before,” but I am finding it inescapable. It simply was like that. I struggled through 80 balls, unable to make anything even approximating a shot. Violent and low slices with my Sand Wedge ran rudely down the range, and perpendicular to the flights of better balls.

I left wondering if it was all over. I was far from convinced of such a gloom, but I was well familiar with the almost paranormal stories about (shudder) yips. For the uninitiated, while yips in golf is most routinely a putting woe, it is more generally applied to all sporting actions involving motor skills that mysteriously cease functioning. How to fix them and why they happen is not fully understood, but they happen at all levels, with many examples of careers stalling, and sometimes, ending.

The shortstop who forgot how to throw to first base. That tennis guy who lost serve. All those free throw guys. Dartitis. Squirly and elusive patchwork might be necessary to cure my condition, and without guarantee. My mind drifted to thoughts of golf chemo. Imagine finding yourself, say, unable to turn a tap, or tie your shoes, and yet all the while able to perform myriad analgous tasks.

I was fine by the next day, and without any special effort. I blocked the notion from my mind and played. Still, every once in a while my upper body stops turning mid swing, the face of my club wide-open, I hit one of those low slicing freaks, and I suddenly find myself thinking of an otherwise charming August evening.

Robin Lindsay


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