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Golf - Luck vs Skill

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Last month, I had an opportunity to play in a local fundraising tournament. On the ninth hole was a closest to the pin contest. Our group was one of the last to play the hole which featured a 50/50 prize. The closest shot was eighteen inches from the hole and though most of my playing partners were reluctant to donate their $5, we all did to support the cause.

When it came time for me to hit, everyone began to give me a hard time saying that I could not hit it closer. I responded by saying that I did not want to hole the shot as it would cost me about $700 in drinks for everyone if the ball found it’s way into the hole. I then told everyone on the tee that I would split the difference and hit it nine inches from the hole to claim the prize.

I selected my club, took a few practice swings and prepared to take my swing. Just before I pulled the trigger, someone from the crowd yelled , “no pressure”. I calmly stepped away from the ball, smiled and went through my normal pre swing routine.
Convinced that I would not be rattled by the small gallery a second time, I stepped up to the ball, made my swing and watched as the ball flew high from the elevated tee and right at the flag. I prayed for it not to go in and after the ball bounced twice it came to rest 9 inches from the hole. Babe Ruth would have been proud!

Again someone from the crowd yelled “lucky shot”. I simply smiled and walked down to the green and made our team putt for birdie. I did end up winning the contest, but later wondered whether the shot was a result of luck or skill!

I have always believed that great shots and low scores were a result of hard work and many hours of practice. Gary Player was once quoted as saying, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.’ This seems to imply that if you get good enough at the game of golf, bad breaks don’t seem to have as much of an impact on your score.

There are two types of luck in golf, good luck and bad. You can have bad bounces, bad lies and even bad sets of circumstances like a ball that lands in a divot in the middle of your own fairway. You can have shots that hit tree limbs and putts that rim the cup only to sit on the edge without falling in.

You can have lucky shots like balls that bounce on to the green after hitting sprinkler heads, rocks and even rakes that are lying innocently beside the green. Sometimes golf balls even have the ability to walk on water.

You can have chip in’s and make eagles and birdies from the fairway and even make a hole in one! They say that the odds for making a hole in one are 12,500 to 1 for amateurs and 7,500 to 1 for professionals.

Luck is nothing more than an illusion, created by humans to define something that they can’t rationally explain.

They say that if you compare your bad luck to your good than you usually break even. The one thing that I do know is good and bad breaks are and will always a part of the game of golf.

Bill Clinton once said about life and golf, “You get breaks you don’t deserve both ways, but I’d rather be lucky than good”!

Next Week: When to Buy New Clubs
Previous Week: Learning Patience in Golf

Cameron Burechails
(Head Golf Professional) Cranberry Golf Resort
(Teaching Professional)The Georgian Bay Golf Academy
(705) 441-0865