She didn’t deserve this fate. Not then, not there, not like that. The only golf club I have ever loved is gone.
If 2020 has taught us anything it’s to never think you have hit rock bottom, because that’s when life decides to drag you down further. Believing the nadir was reached when Nick Faldo threatened to streak across Augusta (some things can’t be unimagined), I discovered a deeper dimension of the abyss last weekend. Leaving my muny’s driving range, I stood my bag next to my car while opening the trunk when my cell rang. Distracted, I hustled into the front seat to answer the call, warmed up the car, put it in reverse … and immediately felt a collision. I’m not sure what it sounded like, because the sensation of my heart free falling into my stomach was too overwhelming. And no, I didn’t think I ran into someone; I knew what happened.
My clubs were on the pavement, and in case there was any doubt how that came to pass, a very nice gentleman strolled over and remarked, “I think you backed into your clubs.” The irons and wedges were nicked but OK, the driver and putter were saved by their covers. I grabbed the bag by its handle and yanked it up, only to see one club had turned into two. For 15 seconds, or maybe it was 15 minutes, I stood with its pieces in hand like Roy Hobbs examining a broken Wonderboy. It was my 3-wood. My beloved, trusty 3-wood.
Now, this affinity might seem odd. A golfer is prone to fall for his clubs, sure; in fact many of our significant others think we love our equipment more than them—and to that we plead the Fifth. But intimacy is usually reserved for irons and putters because they produce sounds and feels no Etta James song could match. Wedges, too, with our affection so great we stamp our initials onto their backsides. And perhaps no club draws more infatuation than a new driver, with its guarantees of faster speeds and bigger gains (although it’s just that, infatuation, for that lust will eventually move to the new new driver).
The 3-wood? Most view it as a tool. No emotion attached, there to merely fill out the set. This, friends, is deeply wrong.
For the 3-wood is a closer. It is used in tight spots and trouble and desperation. The driver has the glamour, yet it’s often the 3-wood summoned to clean up the driver’s mess. It’s no coincidence that most equipment contracts on the professional level are for 13 clubs. Once tour players find their 3-wood, it is a weapon they will not replace. Just ask Henrik Stenson, whose rapport with his 3-wood is so strong that we’re pretty sure it’s included in his will. Simply put, the 3-wood does the job that others cannot.
You better believe that applied to my 3-wood. She was pure and long, stone cold and true. She had so much pop my colleague Alex Myers believed she was “hot,” an illegal club. He would shake his head when she was out, always mumbling, “I don’t know how you can live with yourself.” The accusation only added to her mystique; she was an outlaw.
Was she perfect? She was not. Like most outlaws, she was rough around the edges. She was born old, the club’s so-called innovation essentially just outdated technology wrapped in a bow as new. As manufacturers continued to make clubheads bigger and easier to hit, her profile was small and compact with little room for error. It appeared her makers forgot to put the last coat of paint on her, or maybe it just wore off that easy. It had flaws. I contend it was character.
Besides, she could play. Boy, could she play. She could pierce the sky with a fierce draw that would land with the softness of a fade, a trajectory that deified all we know about science and God. She soared on perfect days and somehow got better when the weather got worse. We were together for just five years, but I know her highlight reel better than I know details about my own life. Not an exaggeration: I was 264 yards out for a near albatross at Tobacco Road’s first hole in 2017; I don’t even know my blood type.
But I won’t bore you further with her exploits. Everyone has a club like that, and its accomplishments are not what makes him or her special, is it?
No, what makes a club loved is something far more simple. It’s seeing the club emerge from the bag, knowing the outcome isn’t in doubt. It’s about its feel and sound that, if only for a fleeting second, makes you imagine you’re under the lights. It’s about the moment before you put it on the ground, holding it in front of you, grip down, head to the clouds, when all of creation is in harmony.
So all of creation seemed pretty damn dark and cruel and lonely in that parking lot. My 3-wood split in half by the very person she brought so much life to.
I am not sure where to go or what to do. There are plenty of replicas of her online; perhaps I buy a new one, add a roman numeral behind her name and proceed forward. That seems like cheapening what we had, a dishonor to her legacy. Of course, I laid her to rest in a recycling bin next to broken Christmas lights and empty beer cans, which is not exactly the burial rite of queens.
But what was I supposed to do, give her a Viking funeral? I checked on that and the port authority hung up on me. Besides, experiences, feelings, and love cannot be encapsulated by flaming effigies. My golf club might be gone. Its memories are eternal.