The Golfing Gods

When it comes to holing-out from the tee, the Golfing ‘Gods’ pay scant regard to a golfer’s ability. They don’t have a quota system in place, and they certainly don’t enact gender balance. Righteousness plays no part, and unerring shot-making accuracy has never guaranteed success, either. Engaging US author, Chris Rodell, coined a beautiful phrase about having an ace: ‘A religious person will call it a blessing; a sinner will call it luck.

Rarely, did Hogan aim at the flag

A strong oral tradition enveloped master ball-striker, Ben Hogan, who, it was incorrectly reported, retired from golf without holing-out in competition. Prior to the widespread adoption of fibreglass flagsticks, the wooden “poles” (prevalent during the first half of Hogan’s career) could produce diabolical rebounds, leading to the notion that Hogan settled for an imaginary “two-foot” circle. Mancil Davis, a professional golfer who played briefly on the USPGA and Canadian tours—with a staggering fifty career aces to his credit—is well qualified to comment. After meeting with Hogan, Davis set the record straight: “Hogan, in fact, made two aces. According to the great golfer, ‘I would have made more if I aimed at the flag, but rarely did.’ ”

The odds of any individual golfer attaining the ‘Holy Grail’ are in the vicinity of 30,000-43,000- to-1 against. Yet during the compilation phase of The Register it became apparent that the incidence of multiple aces by individuals is surprisingly common.

Once you get the first one....

Like other things in life, the issue may simply revolve around breaking the ice. And in the moments leading up to having another ace, do the multiple-ace-achievers experience what leading Irish golf professional of yesteryear, Harry Bradshaw, described as: ‘That certain tingle in my fingers’? Legendary British writer and humorist, P G Woodhouse, would no doubt scoff—a man who wrote whimsically of: ‘Fat-handed, random luck’. Pleasingly, the odds for golfers’ holing-out—as a collective set—become much brighter. And if that wasn’t the case, there wouldn’t be any need for this publication.

Any rational assessment of the subject-matter, however, will merely bring on an acute case of bewilderment. The ‘how and why’ phenomena approaches the realm of the para-normal: beginners have aces with their first shot; one-game-a-year hackers find a way to hole-out; eighteen handicap golfers make it happen; a husband-and-wife-team will have aces on consecutive shots. Against this background, seasoned golf professionals abound, who, are yet to open their account.

Some aim for the hole!

Reading the golfers’ narrations within, we learn that some players have the temerity to actually aim for the hole! If only this attitude could be bottled and sold; yet, it’s worth pondering that such boldness doesn’t cost any more in annual fees and, as far as I’m aware, a ‘cup’ tax doesn’t exist. The late Harvey Penick, author of Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from Lifetime in Golf (1992) schooled his students, including Mickey Wright, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, to ‘Take Dead Aim’. Startling in its simplicity, Penick nominated this advice as the most helpful in his entire book. At the grass-roots playing level, though, we’re more likely to place self-imposed limitations on our shots, and do so in concert with general vagueness as to the correct club selection. Sabotaging our own efforts, it would seem, is a worldwide golfing shortcoming.

When pouring over the raw data destined for The Register, it struck me how some clubs produce ace-yields in the vicinity of fifteen to twenty per annum, while other clubs struggle to record a solitary ace. And then, five years may elapse between aces. Does the latter scenario reflect a golf course with only a couple of par-3s? Are these short holes too long for the members’ playing skill? Does it point to a club membership with an unusually high average handicap, or one in a remote location possessing a smaller than average membership? Perhaps some course superintendents lie awake all night devising fiendish pin locations. All supposition: more power to P G Woodhouse!

A bit of glory for us all - at least a chance

The rank-and-file member is unlikely to ever take out the Club Championship. The Monthly Medal, though possible, is almost out of reach for most, too, given the usual Stroke-play format. Is it any wonder, then, that the prospect of finding the cup ‘in one fell swoop’—a falconry term—is sustaining and irresistible. Surely it wouldn’t matter if the ace materialised as result of a ‘grubber’, or following a friendly ricochet of a rake—as I sheepishly confessed to the Daley household in 1971 after a practice round at Apollo Bay Golf Club. The Register is limited to ‘competition’ aces only, and, thankfully, it is beyond our scope to highlight the socalled “perfect” aces: those with a parabola and trajectory to satisfy any purist’s notion of a good form. So take your ace whenever or however. And when all the hoopla has died down, hopefully your hole-in-one insurance will cover the nineteenth-hole expense.

Keep trying for the cup

Paul Daley