Yesterday's Magazette

10 – Golf Rule

My Most Important Golf Rule

By William D. Canavan

I was blessed with some good times and a ton of good friends while I was growing up. It is fun to reflect on some of them—both my friends and the times we had. One of my best friends, whom we all called Charcs, gave me a call one summer evening and said he had booked a tee time for early the following morning. Charcs was an extremely good and patient golfer. I was extremely good at taxing his patience. That is why I usually never got excited about golf—not that there is anything bad pertaining to golf—just that there is something bad pertaining to my golf. I have chased a few people off of other fairways and greens by my unconventional play. Maybe it was our harsh, intense warning screams that scared them. Possibly, people had just heard of how many previous golfers I had wounded. Most likely, it was my horrendous slice. I accepted the invitation.

So the following morning, I climbed out of bed an hour earlier than normal, fifteen minutes to dig my old set of clubs out of storage and forty five minutes to bend them back into reasonable playing condition. I actually found a two-inch piece of dried sod on one of my drivers, which I left there for better control. That is one of my rules: old sod increases velocity.


It was on the 8th hole of a beautiful spring morning, the birds sitting in trees with their helmets and Kevlar vests on, chirping updated reports to each other as to our whereabouts. I actually had just finished watching Charcs have an excellent, well-disciplined shot, which set him nicely on the green, and was headed into the trees to find my golf ball thinking, “I can do that.” Charcs always seemed to find my ball. I think he used to put extra effort into it just to irritate me, or maybe because it was the only oblong ball from tree abuse. The fluorescent orange color had nothing to do with it.

It had settled in a respectable position, just left of a cottonwood tree with some serious trunk diameter. The only thing blocking a clear shot out of the woods was a smaller birch tree. Now, my plan was to attempt to hook around the tree, but Charcs, knowing that my hook was a terrifying slice like all my other shots, kindly offered some friendly, uplifting support while putting on his high-impact, shatterproof sunglasses. He suggested I attempt to just chip over the tree, taking the extra stroke, but getting me back onto the fairway with a chance for a better follow up shot. If I did not get completely over the birch, most likely the ball would get through the higher portion of branches. He supported his advice with that fact that in golfing, “trees are 90 percent air.” If I ever run into someone who has actually had a tree fall on them I would be curious to see if they agreed with that.

Another rule in my golf digest: When in doubt, power it out. I personally feel that chip shots over trees for better follow up shots defeats the purpose of getting out of bed early to hit a little ball around a big area of grass. If we really needed to talk about percentages, there is far more open area on a golf course than there are trees. This, of course, includes the parking lot and all surrounding roads and hillsides. Therefore, if I hit it hard enough, the odds were that I would get a better position, get closer to the green, and save that extra stroke. I expressed this in return and he patiently shrugged and stepped behind a tree.

It was time to prove myself. I lined up for the best hook shot I had ever attempted, took an enormous breath, and went into “blast mode.” I remember the dirt and the grass spinning through the air as if a rescue helicopter was hovering above us. Every bird within five miles turned pale. I saw the bark explode off of a tree trunk way-the-hell to my left and the echo of a crack that sounded like a 357 magnum—and it kept happening! I think I left a divot in the ground that produced water. The shaft on my club made a kind of strange vibrating hum that I could still hear when driving home that evening. In fact, I burned my hand on it when I put it back in my bag!   Charcs had served our country in the military, so when the dirt and grass settled, he was just standing there having a cigarette. My knees were weak and my back hurt for some reason, and I think I might have been hyperventilating.

When we stepped back out onto the fairway, we both looked at the green. I suppose you think I am going to tell you my ball was there. No, that would be lying. Like innumerable balls before that one, I never saw the thing again. I am sure when it stopped careening through the hillside that it had a cut in its cover and the rubber bands were unraveling from within. I just dropped another ball, hit it, and we chased after that one, which eventually made it onto the green. Then, I putted about eight or nine times and applied another one of my rules: The mandatory nine-count. I never take a score higher than a nine—it is unrealistic.

When we got through with the full eighteen holes, we had a few beers in the club house and a whole lot of laughs. I went home that evening relaxed and content. That is when I made up the most important rule of golf: Always golf with good friends; friends who will accept your strange golf swing and your drives that take off like a waffle ball hit into a strong crosswind. Good friends who will walk through trees and weeds and mud, shoulder to shoulder with you, to find a little ball the size of a walnut.

Speaking of shoulders, mine are too bad to be able to golf anymore, but I won’t ever forget that day—or a few other times when we stood shoulder to shoulder, or back to back. That about sums up the rule thing, doesn’t it?

William Canavan is a part-time freelance writer and author, published throughout the U.S. and twice in Canada, which includes magazine circulations in Australia, Korea, Japan, and throughout the UK. He has written greeting card copy for several card manufacturers. He also received a “1st Choice Award”  from Yesterday’s Magazette in 1987.

Vol. 37 No. 1 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Spring- 2010


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