By Norm Crerar USGTF Contributing writer – Vernon, British Columbia

I am a casual golfer. I was a 10 handicap at one time, but now am a lot older, creakier and crankier; the handicap is now a multiple of what it once was. As I have mentioned before, I have been teaching skiing for 50 years (some of those years with your esteemed USGTF president). I take golf lessons and really enjoy not only fixing my swing, for at least a short period of time, but discussing the nitty-gritty of teaching and how to be most effective in helping people improve. I read too many golf magazine articles and access too many golf tips on the internet. I have to take a break once in a while and “smell the flowers.”

I also have to confess…I am a bit of a golf ball hound. The resort course my wife and I are members at here in British Columbia, has a lot of knee-high grass next to many of the fairways that would please the eye of any hay farmer. Where there aren’t hay fields, the fairways are surrounded by park like wild lands of trees and shrubs. I have been intimately involved with just about every aspect of this wonderful off-fairways nature offering. When I am having one of those handicap-altering days and am asked, “How was it?” my answer is in the positive: “I had a great day. Lost 12 balls but found 15!”

So, I collect these golf balls and wonder what story each one has to tell. When I need a brain break, I quite often wonder into the tall grass areas near the first tee of one of our resort’s courses. There are always golf balls to be found there, and in great numbers. Golfers, especially out-of-town visitors, are more prone to “first-tee jitters” than regular members. They grip the club too hard, swing too fast, rip it off the top, have 10 too many swing thoughts, and the ball is into the grasses. Do they go looking for it? Most times not as the grass is thick, too far from the cart path, and their buddies have just picked themselves up off the tee box from laughing and loudly telling their friend his “skirt got in the way.” Or, the golfer took a mulligan, the second ball hit the fairway and his playing partners have moved on and are not about to wait for him.

Most of the balls I find off that first tee are brand new. Who would think of not using a new ball to start a golf outing? Many have corporate logos on them. I don’t feel bad pocketing these items as they are usually from a tire company, a car company, an insurance company, etc., where I have spent heaps of money. They didn’t give me any FS (free stuff), so when I pick up the ball, I feel like it belongs to me as I have already paid for it!

Then the wondering sets in. This ball is way off-line. Was it a left-handed golfer slicing, or did that right-handed golfer absolutely yank it? How hard did they swing and how disappointed were they right off the first tee? How was the rest of their day? Was this ball – 50 feet off the tee and 50 feet right – from the cigar-puffing chubby chap with the bad shorts and socks pulled up too high I saw on the driving range? And whom I heard talking about the “Titleest schwag” he got instead of “Titleist corporate gifts”? Or this pink ball 280 yards out and 30 yards right? Did a lady golfer actually hit it that far, or was it one of those NHL hockey lads at the course today that had run out of ammunition or had lost a bet?

There is a member at our club who has had to stop playing golf due to a debilitating illness. His only physical attachment to the golf course is when his wife takes him out in the quiet evenings and they look for golf balls near the fairways. The word is he has found some thousand golf balls. Therapy for him.

As a golf teaching pro, your students may need some therapy time. Suggest that the next time they hit it off-line they should spend a few minutes to find the ball. Chances are they will find two more and know that the people leaving them behind were having a worse day than they were!
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