By Andrew Penner USGTF Level III Member, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaFlubbed Photo by judemat Skull, slice, yip, yank, top, pop, tug, chunk, whiff, shank, clank, hook, smother, flub, duff. Indeed, as teachers, our student’s mess-ups come in all shapes and sizes. If only we could smite them from the earth (and, along with them, the gimmicky pop schlock recordings of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Jessica Simpson). Chances are, when Flanders is breathing down your neck in your tension-filled grudge match, one of these saboteurs will be your nemesis shot. Our downfall. Our demise. The reason why we’re not making millions on the pro tour. (Of course, life as a teaching pro isn’t half bad, is it?) But, which do you think of the aforementioned villains is the worst? Like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I’ve always been partial to the clenched-teeth, smother- hook shot that leaves behind a vapour trail as it darts straight left and burrows deep into the thistles fifty-feet in front of the tee. This, partially, is due to the superior acoustics of this shot (I particularly love the machine gun-like sound when the ball ricochets off certain buildings, tin siding, or cars in the parking lot), but also because I’m just really good at intentionally hitting this aeronautical marvel. It’s definitely a fan favorite, too. Of course, one of the things I pride myself in is the fact that this heat-seeking smoker is actually a “good player’s” miss. That’s right, even some of the best players in the world are prone to big, nasty hooks when the pressure gets high. I think of Severiano Ballesteros’ shot coming down the stretch in the 1986 Masters (when Jack won). So full of passion whenever he played, Seve sniped a beautiful left-to-left snapper that dive-bombed into the pond fronting the 15th green with such conviction it probably ripped through the lining at the bottom of the pond, as well. By his own admission, it was the shot that signalled he was no longer one of the greatest in the world. However, a lot of our students out there could certainly relate. Of course, people who curve it right have, I must admit, a few things going for them when it comes to their off-centeredness. For starters, the cutting swipe is, aerodynamically speaking, far superior to the hard-left slinger any day. The ball simply yearns to stay airborne. And, in the case of a poorly placed water hazard, there’s always the possibility of skipping it across… that is, if you’ve got enough heat on it. Unquestionably, the headhigh, three-skipper onto dry land is a perennial crowd pleaser. A real rabble-rouser. Unfortunately, however, in many circles the banana ball is considered inferior and weak. Unlike the hook, which can run forever, the cutter doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Like Napoleon Dynamite’s stud-muffin brother, it’s a bit flabby and feeble. But is the slice the worst shot out there? Absolutely not. Not even close. Johnny Miller says you can win the US Open with a cut, but not with a hook. And Lee Trevino famously quipped, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.” I couldn’t agree more. But to get to the worst of the lot we’ve got to delve deeper. If we wince in pain at the very mention of the word, then we know we’re getting close. Surely the flat out whiff is about as shameful and appalling as they come. I mean, there can be nothing redemptive about complete, utter, and absolute failure in administering a blow. Or is there? Typically, when a student “whiffs,” there are anomalous variables at work. The ball might be six feet below the feet in a gutter, lodged twelve feet high in a sycamore tree, or you can’t actually see the ball at address because it’s plugged in a pile of dirt, or something like that, in which case a fearless swat at the ball, even if all that strikes the clubface is air or excrement, is to be wholeheartedly admired, appreciated, and applauded. So the whiff is clearly out of the running. AND THE WINNER IS….. Drum roll please. My vote is for the humbling, out of the blue, awful shank. And I know I’m not alone in this. Not only is this dysfunctional little surprise an embarrassment to anyone who has ever known it, but its contagious and downright deplorable nature is one that, one can only surmise, was forged in the fires of hell. And to take a quote from Forest Gump, “That’s all I’ve got to say about that!”
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