In fear of the optimistic golfer

It’s a refreshing thing to hear optimism on the golf course.

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Inside Golf where Michael Green writes a monthly column.

Many of us weekend hackers are so focussed on the golf shot that finished in the water, the duffed chip shot and the missed putts that we forget about the good shots we played.

Nevermind the double-bogey, what about that great recovery shot to get you back on the fairway? Or the chip shot that almost went in the hole? And that last putt, that went in didn’t it?

But there is a particular breed of golfer who thrives on being optimistic when watching other golfers’ shots. And optimistic remarks are often made when optimism is the furthest thing from your mind.

It usually goes something like this. You tee up your golf ball and hit an average shot. It’s not a great shot. It’s not even a good shot. Not even close. And although it starts out in the right direction, you dropped kicked it, it has come off the face all wrong and you know it will end up slicing towards the trees no matter what direction you’ve started it moving.

But for the optimistic golfer, those milliseconds are all he needs for him to assume it’s a good shot. In fact, the superhuman abilities the optimistic playing partner allows him to (wrongly) perceive that it’s not just a good shot – but a great shot. And he’s not shy to say so.

“Great shot!”

What? Really? Was he watching the same shot you just hit? The ball arcs across half the width of the fairway, bounces into the rough and careers into the bushes on the right. It irks you that the shot was so poor, but it gets your blood boiling to hear that someone thought it was great.

Of course, they’re only being nice. And many of these golfers would love to have your golf swing or send the ball such a distance.

Sometimes they’re just keen to give you a little confidence boost but they’re often just a little too quick off the mark in predicting how well you’ve just hit your golf ball.

It’s a little like the weekend hacker version of “Get in the hole!”, only slightly less annoying. And no one in their right mind would expect one of your balls to actually ever “get in the hole” just as soon as you’ve sent it on it’s way.

There are cases though where the early “Good shot!” call looks like the right one, before the golf ball seems to take on a mind of it’s own and head toward trouble.

Only a few weeks ago a playing partner smacked his tee shot down the middle, a fellow golfer remarked “Good shot!”. And we all agreed.

But as the ball reached the peak of its trajectory, the deceptively strong winds escorted it towards the group on the next tee.

“Fore!”, we all yelled before it landed safely a good 20 metres in front of the cowering golfers head.

In the space of three seconds, the golf ball had gone from being a “Good shot!” to one in which the phrase “Fore!” was barked. How fickle this game can be and how quickly things can turn for the worse.

Perhaps these optimistic golfers have it right all along. Very few golf shots are in any sort of trouble within a few hundred milliseconds of leaving the club face and very few of us have any real idea of where it will end up.

It’s in this few milliseconds we should really be proud of our golf shots. Give it a quick “Good shot!” – while it still applies.

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