Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I had my last golf lesson last evening. I should say, it was the last lesson in a set of five I signed up for at my local public golf course. The class got to play on an actual par-three, nine-hole course, though we only played two holes. Our instructor, Matt, is a chipper pro, very helpful and friendly and adamantly, almost obstinately optimistic. No matter how poorly a ball was hit, he’d find something to praise – the swing, the stance, the effort.

I have been going to the driving range and hitting bucket after bucket of balls to almost no good effect. If I had been making the same mistake over and over, I could have done something to correct it. But I topped some balls, struck the ground on others, sliced some and hooked other balls I hit. Once in a great while, I’d hit a good one, but I could no more see what I was doing right than what I was doing wrong.

Then this past Saturday I went over and there was an older man berating a much younger one – his son, perhaps – about his stance. "Bend your knees!" he shouted at him. "Arms straight, lock those elbows!" The hapless young man couldn’t hit the balls any better than I could, and at last the man turned away and began hitting beautiful drive after beautiful drive by himself. Grateful the tirade was over, I took my place on the line and bent my knees, and locked my elbows and by God hit a beauty. And then another, and another. They didn’t go far, only about sixty or seventy yards, but that was twenty yards farther than I’d ever hit a ball. And I could do it almost every time. It was wonderful. I will be forever grateful to that angry man.

And glad Matt didn’t use that method on us, it would have destroyed my pleasure in the game aborning.

My first drive off the tee on the actual course wasn’t too awful, it went straight out for about sixty yards. That was the only good stroke I made, but at least I wasn’t the worst player in the class. My other strokes were merely bad, not disgraceful. One unfortunate classmate seemed to have forgotten everything she’d learned, I think because we each had to take a stroke while everyone else stood and watched.

Now I want to play some more. I want to play all nine holes of the par three. All the way home I thought about the bad strokes and what I did wrong and how I would correct that my next time out. My current set of clubs was purchased for five dollars at a garage sale and included the bag and cart. My woods are made of real wood – they are beautiful, but I need a good driver, one of those titanium things. I don’t know if I’m ready for a better set of clubs; I think I’ll play this summer with these old ones. But if in the autumn I’m still playing, I think I’ll see about getting a nice second-hand set.

Here’s another hint for beginning stitchers. How may times have you been told not to tie a knot at the end of your floss, but to run it under some other stitches to fasten it down? That’s all very well when there are some other stitches to run it under, but what to do when you’re starting out? I tie a knot, BUT then I go down through on the right side of my fabric about eight stitches down from the starting place. Come up from the wrong side at the starting place, and begin stitching. Five or six rows down, snip the floss on the wrong side near the knot and discard the knotted end. Your floss is fastened down by the other stitches. Isn’t that cute?

Yesterday was my thirtieth wedding anniversary. A few more and I’ll have been married half my life. Question: Would I do it again? Answer: Yes.

I’ve been working on three things, not counting my golf swing: The galley proofs of Blackwork, Chapter Six of Buttons and Bones, and the short synopsis of what might be the pilot of the Betsy Devonshire mystery television series. I think of the three the last is the one with two chances: fat and slim, so I’m working hard on not getting too worked up over it. The other two are dead serious. I really like Blackwork, and think it might be one of the best, if not the best, of the series so far, so I want it to be really clean and sharp. And it’s important to get things right in the early stages of a novel, so I’m trying to focus in on Buttons and Bones. So why, when I go to bed at night, do I find myself wondering the next steps would be if I actually got an offer for the television rights?


Karen Olson said...

Love golf. Stopped playing for a few years after we adopted our daughter, but she's 12 now and we just got her her first set of clubs. She's taking lessons at the rec center this summer. We took her out on a three par course in Cape May last summer and for someone who'd never hit a ball in her life, she did fantastic. My husband and I are thrilled that she likes it and we can all actually play together!

Julie (Chloe's mom) said...

Old clubs, bought for $5 are part of the reason you have trouble. Buy a new, (yes, NEW) mid-priced set from a golf shop that will fit the clubs to you. I'm 5'9", and when I finally got a set long enough for me I was astounded at the difference they made. Use those pretty wood woods to decorate the den, because that's really all they're good for. Let us know what a difference it makes. Golf shoes help, too.

When you go to the driving range, don't start out hitting your driver. Start with a short club, a wedge or 9-iron, and hit a few balls with each club, working your way up. I can tell you from bitter experience that hitting at the range is hard on your joints, because you don't have that recovery time between shots that you have when walking the course. Don't overdo the pounding, and you'll enjoy it more. Have fun!

Monica Ferris said...

Oh, Julie, what good advice! Thank you over and over. (Because I do wear myself out hitting the long balls again and again.) And maybe I should get a decent set of clubs.

Karen Olson said...

My brother was a pro for a while at a course in West Palm Beach and taught at the Yale University course and he says that it's not clubs, but the way you're hitting the ball.

He always said that when you swing, imagine you're lifting a sack of potatoes. It does work.

Betty Hechtman said...

Happy Anniversary. It's kind of a weird feeling when you realize you've been married more years than not. I passed that a while ago and don't even say how long I've been married anymore because it makes me sound too old.

Anonymous said...

WOW Monica. I must have missed something here. A Betsy Devonshire TV series. Be still my heart. My first thought was who would be cast in the role of Goddy.
Can you tell us which network are you dealing with?