Sunday, June 14, 2009

Green Card

Playing golf in CZ is not as easy as in the US, where you just show up and flash some green . . . here, you must be accredited by the Czech Golf Federation (CGF) . . . in some ways, it is entirely understandable & desirable . . . . I mean if most of your players are very new to the game, since golf was considered the foppish undertaking of the very wealthy, until very recently . . . as it was in the US many years ago . . . then you really do need some way to orient players to the game and ensure they have at least the minimal skills to get around the links . . .

Of course, here, they call it the Golf Field, or Golf Court, or Golf Park, which are not exactly wrong, but unusual . . . but I have to admit I have come to admire & enjoy this new POV . . .

So it took me a couple of weeks to get organised to getting my accreditation, my Green Card from the CGF, even tho’ my clubs had come over in an air shipment only a few days behind us when we moved – but I was sick, I tell you, I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without gasping, from my lung infection that I feared was H1N1, much less hump around 18 holes, but eventually I felt well enough that cabin fever drove me out to Golf Hostivar for a training session to qualify for a Green Card.

I have no car, so I had to hump my clubs onto the train, then onto a bus . . . this was the first time I took the bus, and heuristically finding the bus while carrying clubs is an adventure itself, but eventually, 15 minutes late, I found my way into the shop and found my trainer, P. (an alias I have assigned him in a Kafkaesque way . . . 8^D . . . ). He helped me buy 50 balls and we went out to the driving range for my training.

So, first, he said, “Do you have some weakness in your game in particular that you are wanting help with?”

I said, “No . . . I just want accreditation for a Green Card, so I can play golf.”

He nodded amiably, and asked “How long have you played golf?”

“About 45 years,” I said . . . “I play to about a 17” . . . and I handed him one of my Kokopelli Golf Stance Blog calling cards, which he examined dubiously before putting away in his pocket.

“Well, warm up a little bit, then take a 7 iron and we will watch you hit a few balls to see how you go.”

If you don’t know, I don’t like a warm-up, I like breakfast instead, but I didn’t think I was gonna get breakfast, so I half-heartedly made a few swings, then tried to hit a few balls . . . what I wanted to communicate to him was that I hadn’t played in 6 weeks, and I have so many moving parts in my swing that I was gonna be very rusty, but the language difficulty inhibited that – the first 3 I hit were over-the-top blades . . . I knew the problem and I just wanted to work it out, but P. jumped right in, apparently in genuine pain:

“You must stand more upright, and you must hold the club with your hands more close together, and you must grip the club more loosely, and you must swing/sweep with the left arm and not hit with the right hand so much . . . and there may have been more, but I know all that, but I got my own way, what I call Dave’s Way, or the Kokopelli Golf Stance, or now, The Pukka Way of the Bohemian Duffer, but it took me a while to get it across to him:

I showed him I knew the grips, the Vardon, the Overlapping, and my own baseball grip, and I explained that my hands hurt any other way but mine,

I showed him I knew the proper stance, but I explained that it hurt my back after a while, unless I crouched in my baseball stance,

I showed him I knew the proper swing, but I explained, as best I could, that my baseball swing was based on my own needs, not theoretical bests . . .

So, perplexed and hurt by my uncoachability, P. signaled me to hit a few more balls. So I hit a pippin, a high 7iron with a tight draw, but P. was unimpressed – I guess he figgered it was an accident. So I hit a couple of high fades – my swing was slowly coming back, I was staying back behind the ball better and my swing was slowing down . . . this seemed to mollify him some, and he said, “let us see you hit a few 5irons”. So I did, with the high fade he seemed to favor . . . I didn’t like it so much, it might have been the wind, but they were drifting over out of the range onto a slope where some sheep were grazing . . . I was afraid I was gonna one. P. Seemed marginally happier, but he repeated his critiques, which I acknowledged with a hand-signal for each, but rejected as kindly as I could. P. was kindly but adamant that my technique was wrong . . . and I can’t argue with that, but that doesn’t change anything.

Now P wanted me to hit a wedge, and pointed to a bucket-net, “try to hit that” he said. Well, sure, I clutched up and bladed my first two attempts. My 3rd try was good but long – I had no idea how far it was and when I asked him he didn’t say, as if he didn’t understand, but he said “not so far”. I tried half-a-PW, but it was still long. P. wanted to coach me some more, but I waved him off, changed clubs and hit half-a-SW . . . it didn’t go in, but it was a near miss . . . I hit 4 or 5 similar and he was satisfied, but he had another point: “when you finish your swing you must hold your pose . . . that is how the teacher can see what you have done . . . and everyone will know from your green card who your trainer is, and so you must hold your pose, so that they will know that you have been properly trained!” Well, I’ve always been from the Arnold Palmer school of slash-&-slosh, and – oddly enough – I’m a little shy to “hold a pose” after a shot -- back in Texas, holding a pose is a good way to invite sardonic comments from your playing partners, but I told him, “Don’t worry, P, I won’t embarrass you.”

He said, “Now hit a chip just there by those 4 balls” pointing to foozles of someone else 15 yds. in front of the tee. I wasn’t sure where he was pointing, but I took a 7iron and chipped it to his obvious pleasure and relief, “Just so!” he said.

P. wanted me to hit a fairway wood, then, and I was all over that – too much so, and my first 5wood went into the fence on the right off my club-toe. He had another litany of critiques, but I just raked another ball over and hit a hard hook. I slowed down then and hit 4 or 5 back onto the hump and the sheep seemed to start to move out of danger, much to my relief. I tho’t I was winning him over, but he said, “now, take a 3 wood and hit it straight, if you can.”

Well . . . I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, and I needed him to get my green card, so definitely needed not to piss him off, but that hurt MY feelings . . . but I just rolled a ball over onto the mat (gee, I hate hitting of those dang mats, they hurt my wrists) and spanked a 3wood with just a whisper of fade on it, close enough to straight that he grunted his acceptance, if not his approval . . . after a couple others, he said, ok let me see your 1wood.

OK. I was warmed up, and I’m not saying my swing is molasses-slow, but I DO give the head of the club time to get around, usually, and I did, and I busted one, high, tiny-draw, and flying about 250m . . . that’s meters for you Americans, just round it off to 275 yds. P. was finally impressed: “Your best club!” he said, as if he could take credit for teaching me that . . . “yeah, that and chipping is my game,” I drawled, but that didn’t register with him. . .

P. had another lesson by then, and needed to go, so, I just finished off my bucket hitting 3 woods, alternating hook & slice . . . I’m not really that good at it, but it sure would be a good skill to have . . .

But that’s not the end of it . . . you have to take a written test on Golf Etiquette and play a few holes with the trainer to show you have some basic course management skills, at least those of a 54 handicap . . .8^D . . . to make a long story short -- as if that were still possible -- P. remained unimpressed by my skills but was willing to pass me along for a CGF Green Card with a 54 Handicap.

So, armed with his Diploma, I ventured over to Erpet Golf Centrum at lunch one day, where the Green Card is a simple cash-transaction, at that point . . . The Erpet sports facility looked really posh, with a swimming pool, yacht club, and tennis courts, in addition to the admin–offices of the CGF, and I got there relatively easy by train, tho’ I had to commute down the red-line from Chodov to the yellow-line at mustek, then out to Erpet – and back. Plus a short walk, where I didn’t know where I was going. At least I didn’t have my clubs with me . . .

That was a couple of weeks ago . . . the CGF puts you into the computer right away, so I’ve played twice already, but my actual Green Card wasn’t ready until this week . . . I’ll had to go back over there and pick it up. I’m be glad to be done with it. For this year, anyway. . . now to just get that handicap back down to 17, or better . . . 8^) . . . meanwhile I have my first tournament at Club Praha this weekend . . . I hope there's no prize money to accept . . . if was to quit fooling around and shoot in the 80s, that 54 handicap would drop me down to the 30s for 18 holes . . . and the Czechs have entirely too much interest in implements of medieval torture for my taste . . . 8^D . . . just remember, every castle has a dungeon, and most every castle has a golf course, now . . . so-o-o-o-o-o . . . I'm just trying to lower my handicap to trim a bunch of duffers by sandbagging!


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