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The Worst Shot in Golf (But, For the Love of God, Don't Dwell on It)
Skull, slice, yip, yank, top, tug, chunk, whiff, shank, clank, hook, block, smother, flub, duff. Indeed, our golfing f@#!-ups come in all shapes and sizes.
Chances are, when Flanders is breathing down your neck in your tension-filled grudge match, one of these saboteurs will be your nemesis. Your downfall. Your demise. But which of the aforementioned villains is the worst? Indeed, there is one that belongs in its own demented camp. So vile, so despicable, and so evil we walk with much trepidation whenever one lands nearby.
First, let's get to a few of the pretenders. Personally, I've always had a close relationship with the clenched-teeth, smother-hooked scud missile that leaves behind a vapor trail as it screams hard left and burrows deep into thistles 50 feet in front of the tee. The superior acoustics of this particular shot - especially when it ricochets off a garbage can, the ball washer or a couple of cars in the parking lot - is also worth noting. However, the real reason why I'm touting this shot's virtues is because I'm just really good at hitting it. It's an aeronautical marvel. A fan favorite that the boys are always quite amused by.
Of course, one of the things I pride myself on is the fact that this heat-seeking smoker is actually a "good player's" miss. That's right, even some of the best players in the world are prone to a nasty hook when the pressure gets high. I think of Severino Ballesteros, God bless the good Spaniard, coming down the stretch in the 1986 Masters (that Nicklaus won). Seve sniped a beautiful left-to-left torpedo that dive-bombed into the pond fronting the 15th green with such conviction it must have scared the living daylights out of the catfish hunkered down at the bottom. By his own admission, it was the shot that signaled he was no longer one of the greatest in the world. Hogwash! I thought it was brilliant. I could relate.
On the other hand, people who curve it right have a few compelling things going for them as well. For starters, the slice is, aerodynamically speaking, far superior to the snapper any day. The ball simply yearns to stay airborne. And, in the case of a poorly placed water hazard, there's always the possibility of skipping it across . . . that is, if you've got enough topspin on it. Yes, the head-high, three-skipper onto dry land is always a crowd-pleaser. A real rabble-rouser. Add in alcohol and you've got a moment.
However, in many circles the the banana ball is considered inferior and weak. Unlike the hook, which can run forever, the cutter doesn't seem to go anywhere. Like Napoleon Dynamite's stud-muffin brother, it's somewhat flabby and feeble. It's the fat auntie who never gets married.
But is the slice the worst shot out there? Absolutely not. Not even close. And before you start bad-mouthing me for belittling your chronic, over-the-top puffball, know this: Johnny Miller says you can win the U.S. Open with a cut, but not with a hook. And Lee Trevino famously quipped, "You can talk to a fade, but a hook won't listen." I couldn't agree more. Not only is my hook deaf, it's blind and stupid, too.
To get to the worst of the lot we've got to delve deeper. If you wince in pain at the very mention of the word, then we know we're getting close. But we're not quite there yet.
Some would say that the flat-out whiff is about as shameful and appalling as they come. I mean, there can be nothing redemptive about complete, utter and absolute failure in administering a blow. Can there? But consider this: typically, when one whiffs, there are anomalous variables at work; i.e., the ball is six feet below your feet in a gutter, the ball is lodged eight feet high in a sycamore tree, or you can't actually see the ball at address because it's plugged in a pile of dog poo, or something like that. In each case, a fearless swat at the ball - even if all that meets the clubface is air or excrement - is to be wholeheartedly admired, appreciated and applauded. So the whiff is clearly out of the running.
Disclaimer: We are nearing the declaration of what is, unequivocally, the worst shot in golf. No drum roll please. There should be no fanfare around it either. Sadly, this cannot be avoided or denied. The most heinous hell-raiser of them all is - run for cover if you can - the squirting, fart-awful shank. Not only is this dysfunctional little bastard an embarrassment to anyone who has ever known it, but its contagious and downright deplorable nature is one that was, surely, forged in the fiery furnaces of hell.
Indeed, the mere mention of the word causes pain and discomfort. Actually, I'm starting to feel queasy even now. Something in my psychosis is changing. Excuse me folks, I think I need a shower. And definitely a drink.
Andrew Penner is a golf professional, writer, and photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. His work has appeared in many leading golf and lifestyle publications in North America and Europe. Andrew is also a 20-year member of the Canadian PGA and still teaches the game on a part-time basis. When not on writing or photography assignments, he enjoys chilling out in the backyard with his three boys and his wife, Dawn. Feel free to visit Andrew at www.andrewpenner.com. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.