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18 holes and a feeling of normalcy

  • The Shattuck Golf Club in Jaffrey. STAFF PHOTO BY BEN CONANT

Published: 6/9/2020 9:13:04 AM

As I stood on the first tee at Shattuck Golf Course last weekend, the normal jitters came about.

What if I hook into the woods? What if I top the ball and it goes 10 feet? What if I miss it all together?

After all, I don’t play golf much. Once, maybe twice a year, if I’m lucky. Long ago I stopped worrying about being good at golf. I realized I’d have to play a lot more to have any type of consistency and I, for one, don’t have that kind of time. 

But I’ve grown to just enjoy being out on the course, whacking a few balls around in the fresh air. And to be honest it’s something that’s needed now more than ever.

Like a lot of people, I haven’t done much in the last two and a half months. Walks with the family, trips to the grocery store and the dump, and the drive through at the bank pretty much make up my time in the outside world since the coronavirus brought life as we know it to a screeching halt.

So this 10 a.m. Sunday morning tee time was more than just my first round of the year – it was my voyage back into society. I got together with three of my oldest friends for a round of 18 and five hours of what equated to a feeling of normalcy. And if you’ve never been, the scenery that surrounds Shattuck, especially on a clear day with views of Mount Monadnock, is one that can’t be beat.

We took a little different approach to just the traditional scoring. We of course kept real score, but one of my buddies came up with a system where every six holes, we teamed up with a different member of the foursome and played for skins. The best score took the hole and if there was a tie it carried over to the next hole.

I was the lucky one who earned honors thanks to a flipped up tee pointing toward me, so as I starred down the first hole, I tried to remember what I do know about swinging a golf club – keep my head down, nice even swing and follow through. With my trusty 3-iron in hand (by far my most consistent club), wouldn’t you know it, I knocked that first tee shot right down the fairway. Another good shot followed, and that’s when that false sense of hope sets in; ‘maybe this will be my best round ever?’

But it didn’t last.

I duffed a shot, had some issues with my short game and putting and it led to an opening 7. Now I love par 3s. I can’t hit it long off the tee, so a reasonable shot at getting on the green always brings that what-if thought to mind. The second hole is down hill and looks appetizing when you approach the tee box. But like so many times, a good tee shot led to a bunker, across the green to the rough and a 5 on the scorecard.

Holes 3 and 4 were not much to write about, as I got a snowman (8) and another seven. But at least it was better than 5 and 6, both included lost balls and that slight embarrassment of reporting a 10.

The 7th always gives me an uneasy feeling, as your tee shot must carry 140 yards at least to the landing spot in front of the wide, shallow green. Go short and you’re taking a drop, go long and it’s the same result. Shots to the left or right or center, and there’s a possibility you can find it. My tee shot got over and went a bit right, but seemed like it was something I’d be able to find. No such luck. A drop, a not so great chip and a couple putts led to a 6.

I finished off the front with another 7 and a 6 to make the turn with a 66, which would have been great if that was the score after 18. Sadly it was not.

The back 9 started off with a snowman and a seven on the par 5 11th. The 12th is a par 3 and another one that requires a good tee shot or you’re going swimming. I cleared the water, as it landed just at the edge of the brush, but once again couldn’t find it and was forced to take a drop and a resulting 5.

After a 6 at the 13th, I had a great putt that came up just short on 14 that was the difference in a bogey and double bogey. But there was some redemption on the par 5 15th, as I sank a 12 foot putt that not only saved double bogey, but had me winning my first skin.

I was riding high after that and it didn’t matter much that I finished off the round with an 8, 6, 8 on the scorecard. I had truly contributed to at least one of my team’s scores.

Overall, I finished the day with a 126, which equals a +54. Not going to win any tournaments with a score like that, but to be honest I didn’t really care. The temperatures were perfect, it was a nice mix of sun and clouds – and I wasn’t relegated to my backyard.

I felt at ease at the Shattuck, with employees wearing masks, seeing a thorough cleaning of the carts after use and enough space between tee times that a busy day on the course didn’t make it feel rushed.

And for those five hours, it felt like the world around me wasn’t filled with worry and guidelines. Of course the mask and hand sanitizer I brought in the cart was a reminder, but it was still nice to be out. In the fresh air, the sights and being around people that I haven’t seen for a while – albeit at a safe distance.


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