It’s become a running joke on social media that Golf Magazine’s esteemed writer Alan Shipnuck has never carded a hole-in-one. What makes this particularly galling to Mr Shipnuck are the reports of aces from novice golfers, children, and otherwise undeserving participants in the game who have managed this feat. His lamentations of this injustice, of course, has led to a flood of comments and responses on Twitter from what seemed to be every member of the Hole In One Club in the TwitterVerse offering sympathy (mock or otherwise) to his misfortune.
I am here to commiserate with Alan, as I, too, have remained ace-less over my nearly 40 year nondescript golf career. Oh, I’ve had my near-misses, and have actually witnessed at least 15 such shots by various playing partners (including my dear friend Sharon) – so if you have yet to card a hole-in-one, get me in your group [you hear me, Alan?] and your chances will increase dramatically.
[The Mad Scientist of Golf, Bryson DeChambeau, recently left the ranks of the Ace-less Club by holing out on the 16th at Augusta. Not a bad way to go.]
No doubt, a certain amount of luck involved with holing out a shot. One I witnessed came from a golfer who dug out a divot the size of a toupee on his tee shot. His ball landed about 25 yards short of the green but struck a sprinkler head, which propelled the ball onto the green and eventually into the cup. And I’ve heard plenty of stories about shots bouncing off trees, skipping ponds, and committing other physics-defying acts before finding the hole.
But there are certain golfers that seem to have a knack for shooting aces. Art Wall Jr., winner of the 1959 Masters, officially recorded 45 of them. And there was a fellow who belonged to my old club in Virginia named Charlie Smith who at last count had 13 – I haven’t seen Charlie in a number of years; it could be higher now.
We had a hole-in-one pool at that club that had about 100 members; whenever anyone made one, everyone had to pay that person $10. At the time the pool started, Charlie had already made 9 aces. That year, I believe we had 5 people collect on the pool. Charlie, whose best friend described him as one who rubs two nickels together in hopes of producing a quarter, was not one of those five, so when the next year came around, he took himself out of the pool, grumbling that his time was over and wasn’t going to pay out any more money.
Smart move. He only made three aces that season.
Then there’s my old golf buddy David, with whom I played lots of golf from my days as a member of the Sports Club at The Four Seasons in Irving, Texas. David and I had a standing “dollar a yard” bet on any par three that we played; i.e., if one made a hole in one on a 120 yard hole, he would collect $120 from the other person. Sure enough, one morning we stood staring directly into the sun on the 2nd tee on the Cottonwood Valley Course (one of the two 18’s at the Sports Club), which that day was playing 133 yards. We verified our bet, and David hit a gorgeous shot right at the flag. Because of the bright glare of the sun, we weren’t sure of the result, but as we approached the green it became apparent that the ball had disappeared into the hole.
Naturally, David was quite excited and decided to call his wife Sylvia with this news. The conversation went something like this:
David: Honey, guess what? I just made a hole in one!
Sylvia: Wow, that’s great news!
Sylvia: Geez, why couldn’t you have done that in a tournament where you could have won a car or something?
When he shared this conversation with me, I told him that he should have at least mentioned the $133 I owed him for the hole-in-one. “I don’t think it would have made much of a difference,” he sighed.
So maybe making a hole-in-one ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Someday, I’d like to find out.