There’s a hole on one of my favorite local courses where success has eluded me for years. For me, it’s the hole from hell.
On paper, it’s not particularly difficult. A par 3, it has two sets of tee boxes; one to the left of the green and the other to the right. From the tips on the right, it measures 180 and change, while from the other, it’s around 160. The large green is shaped like a ski slope, falling steeply from a height in the rear down to a pond on the front edge. The pond is probably forty yards from front to back and extends well to the left and right. The far edges of the pond are surrounded by trees, so any shot must pass over the pond and through the gap.
Neither of those two distances represents a problem for me. The previous hole— the par 4 sixth – has a green which is guarded by a front greenside bunker. On that hole, following a decent drive, I generally find myself in the fairway a hundred sixty yards out. And on nearly every occasion, a seven iron is sufficient to fly the bunker and land deep on the green. I’m also quite proficient with a five iron or a hybrid from 180.
But on the par three seventh, my usually reliable clubs never deliver predictable distance. From 160, a seven iron invariably falls short, landing in the pond. So does the six. And the five. My hybrid-four always has the distance, but on that hole for some reason slices the ball into the weeping willows (a quite appropriate tree for that hole). And Old Man Willow, of course, dumps the ball unceremoniously into the pond.
When I’m not dumping the ball into the pond, I’m hitting a ballooning shot that lands on the near shore. Or, knowing that my tendency is to fall short, overswing and top the ball fifty yards down the fairway.
The hole had gotten so frustrating that at one point, I adopted the strategy of hitting a three wood off the tee, driving the ball past the green into a stand of trees. From there, I could chip it back and try for a one putt – assuming that I hadn’t parked the ball adjacent to a tree trunk.
It’s the water, I suppose, that is the source of my grief. While I know – intellectually – that the pond should have no effect, the fact that I’ve lost so many balls there weighs on my mind. When I get up to the tee, I immediately start thinking that I shouldn’t’ start thinking about losing my ball.
The good news, though, is that I birdied the hole last week. I hit a pure seven iron off the tee (with a junk ball I had found under a leaf on the previous hole). It landed above the hole, and rolled down to within two feet. After a short tap, the ball was in.
So maybe the jinx is broken. Or maybe it’s just that the ball I found was a lucky one.