I’ve always said that hope springs eternal in the hearts of all dogs and golfers. No matter how bad it gets out there (and it can get very, very bad), golfers find a way to look on the bright side. At the extreme, this can go so far as to question the space-time continuum and the laws of gravity (“How did that not go in?”). But more often, it’s a casual comment meant to comfort a friend, matter-of-factly exaggerate one’s own abilities, or find a credible object of blame (weather, wind, body parts, not enough breakfast — the list of golf excuses is as long as Donald Trump’s neckties).
Herewith, a random catalog of things we say on the course and what they really mean.
“I didn’t quite get all of that one.” — A 120-yard wedge shot just came up 20 yards short of the green.
“I hit that really good.” — The tee ball has taken off at quite a good clip, with a good-looking apex and impressive distance; it just happens to be 50 yards left of the target.
“That’ll play.” — Said to a playing partner after a tee shot that never gets more than 10 feet off the ground and ends up in pine straw just off the fairway, but with nothing obstructing the second shot.
“No worries, we can find it.” — The ball has just been hit into a thicket of trees and sawgrass where few people have been since the designer laid the original plot.
“I caught that a couple grooves too low.” — The ball has just been skulled with a 5-iron, careening up the fairway like a 10-year-old running to the bathroom.
“Why didn’t that break toward the water?” — Uttered by a player who has three-putted the last five holes; he’s missed this putt two feet to the right thinking that a small pond at the back of the green would bend it into the hole.
“Too many people have walked around this cup. What’s wrong with people anyway?” — The putt broke three feet in front of the hole and ran four feet by it.
“I don’t have my ‘A’ game today.” — And I didn’t have it yesterday, or last week or the week before that.
“Man, I was hitting right into the grain.” — A 15-foot putt has come up three feet short and the player is professing a deep knowledge of agronomy, particularly a granular knowledge of poa annua growing patterns; this begs the question, of course, as to why the putt wasn’t hit harder to compensate for “the grain.”
“You should be fine over there, it opens up.” — This comment is meant to provide a temporary sense of relief to the player who just lost the tee shot to the right and will end up taking a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie, hit the approach shot 30 yards short of the green, skull the next shot behind the green, duff the chip and walk off after a three-putt with a solid 8.
“I’m just waiting for the green to clear.” — Said sotto voce by a player standing 220 yards away from the flag who hasn’t hit the ball that far in a straight line since Tom Kite won the U.S. Open.
And here’s the ultimate, round-closing, universal disclaimer of poor play while still saving face. Repeat after me: “I played really well today, just couldn’t score.”