My friend Beth, who lives on the 6th hole of a golf course in metro Richmond, recently posted about the futility of talking to a golf ball. She is correct, of course. If your ball starts right, is SLICING to the right, and is being windblown to the right, no plea of “GET LEFT!” is going bring it back unless it either strikes a tree or Sasquatch appears and bats it back into the fairway. That ball will no more listen to you than a spouse trying to get their mate’s attention inside the two minute warning of a tight football game or during the final scene of Gray’s Anatomy,
None of this matters to most golfers. Of course, there are expressions that are absolutely required regardless of the hopelessness of the situation – and some that sometimes work, all logic put aside.
For example … “Get a kick” is a good, all-purpose plea, useful when your ball needs to bounce a certain direction to avoid a hazard (excuse me . . . “penalty area” is the preferred nomenclature, thanks to the Great [Mostly] White Fathers of the USGA) or, worse yet, going out of bounds. Said “kick” can come from a mound, a tree, or for that matter, another golfer who didn’t hear you scream “Fore!”
Note that in this example, we don’t specify a direction; we are merely begging the ball to stay away from harm. The minute one commands a particular re-routing, all bets are off and the golf will either sigh or swear, and then either re-load or take a penalty drop.
“Get legs!” and its corollary, “Hit a house!” (the former when a putt is hit too softly; the latter when it charges past the hole) are generally futile pleas. “Get in the bunker” is generally delivered sarcastically upon striking a misdirected shot – although, if said bunker borders a body of water, the sarcastic tone changes to one of imploring, as it’s much easier to hit out of sand than water.
“Skip!” is a rather tricky proposition, typically uttered when a golfer hits a low screamer over water that will most certainly not clear, but hopes that the ball will act like a skipping stone. My favorite recollection of a skipping ball occurred back in 2010; when playing in a two day tournament in Chase City, VA, my partner John (The Frenchman) Bennett on consecutive days skipped a shot across the same pond on the same hole to help us to a third place finish, a fact recorded in the Mecklenburg Country Sun, complete with photograph.
To this day, The Frenchman has no idea how he pulled that off.
Talking to your playing partners ball can be fraught with danger, no matter how well intentioned. For some, “early calling” a shot – for example, exclaiming “good putt” to your buddy’s effort, only to have it lip out – is an unforgivable sin. My old friend, the late, inimitable Mike (Squeaky) Calhoun (whose vocabulary on the course consisted of two words that rhyme with “trucker”) once threatened to cut someone’s heart out for early calling one of his putts. “Keep your motherf*cking, c*cksucking mouth off of my ball,” Squeaky squawked at the unsuspecting soul, who didn’t utter a word for the rest of the round.
So . . . I make no judgement as to whether a golfer should talk to his ball or not. But he needs to understand the risks, as well as the consequences.