I had developed a slice that could put a Titleist tattoo on a bird and saw off a tree-limb on the same rightward curl. The problem lessened after some lessons, but would not disappear. Then, on a sunny May afternoon, it hit me. Unfortunately, it would also hit someone else.
I would correct my slice by aiming to the left, the ensuing swoop leaving the ball meticulously placed in the middle of the fairway.
My friend Jeremy and I were playing the $12 Drumlins Country Club public course where the grass was the same cut everywhere but on the green. Directly parallel to us sat the first tee of the get-that-leaf-off-the-fairway private course. A few lifeless trees separated the rich from the 'fore!'.
On the first hole, I nestled my tee a half-inch deep in the moist dirt and placed my scarred ball on top of it. I addressed the shot as a normal golfer would, then swiveled 45 degrees to the left.
I paid no mind to the foursome meandering along about 175 yards away on the private layout. I reared back and let a rip with an over-taped driver, eagerly awaiting the sight of my ball swerving to the right and plopping onto our fairway.
On contact, I knew I'd hit a rope. The ball raised to about eight feet in the air, and then leveled out at about six feet, making a beeline toward the private course.
"Give it time," I thought to myself, certain my natural slice would take over at any instant.
It didn't. An older fellow waiting behind me sensed disaster.
"Fore!!" he yelled, as my ball picked up speed and raced toward the group on the adjacent hole.
Walking away from my divot, I added a 'fore!' or two of my own. They were so far away that our cries were barely audible. A portly middle-aged man in the distant foursome began to turn his head toward the noise.
It was a sound I will never forget. Imagine whipping a golf ball at a hollow tree from close range. The sound of the collision arrived at our ears a second or two after impact. The shot hit the portly man square on the head, as the line-drive had stayed at eye level throughout its 175-yard trip.
Man down. Man down hard.
"Oh!" Jeremy exclaimed.
The wounded player's wife came tearing toward the clubhouse, shrieking, "Call an ambulance! Somebody call an ambulance!" My jog became an all out sprint as I rushed toward the man, hoping he'd pop up with a smile on his face. No such luck.
He rolled around on the ground like a beached whale with a visor on. Blood gushed from the side of the man's head.
"I'm so sorry sir," I frantically began, feeling like I had just swallowed a bag of tees. "Are you okay? Sir, are you okay? I'm so sorry."
He continued to roll around, but didn't respond.
The other two men who had been playing gave me a dirty stare, as if I had been aiming at the guy's head or something. Well, maybe I had been, but I wasn't trying to hit him. I was just correcting my slice.
"Jeremy," I said, my voice shaking as sirens began to blare in the distance. "Can I go to jail for this?" He simply chuckled as only a college buddy could.
I figured an ambulance would come, not New York's entire golf-accident rescue brigade. I could only imagine the country club's reaction to the giant tires rolling along its rolling terrain.
One ambulance stormed onto the fairway. Then a second. Then a third. Then a giant fire truck. Then a police car. The police car! I was going to jail. Six-to-ten years for sure.
The man remained conscious as paramedics dabbed at his cut with cloths and bandages. He knew where he was. He knew what had happened. He was going to live.
After a par-5's worth of apologies and explanations, the man was carted onto a stretcher and taken to the hospital. A course employee had to file a report. Once I made sure he wasn't an undercover cop, I cooperated.
"Did you yell fore?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied.
He scrawled a few lines onto a clipboard and walked away.
"Hey Adam," Jeremy said. "You forgot your ball."
The weapon sat in the grass 20 yards from where it had done its damage. It stayed right where Jeremy found it. I did end up finishing the round. Sure, I only took a hack when there wasn't a player within 500 yards of me. Sure, I used a pitching wedge and a putter exclusively over the final 17 holes. But I did finish the round.
When I got home I called around the area hospitals looking for my victim. I had never found out his name, so I described the situation.
"Hi, have you had anyone come in to the emergency room who got hit in the head with a golf ball?" I asked.
On my fourth try I found him. The hospital employee said he was not seriously hurt. The next morning I found out his name and called him at home. My victim was a bit dizzy and had a nasty cut, but was going to be fine. His co-workers sent him a construction hat decorated with golf balls. I wouldn't be surprised he carries the plastic headgear in his golf bag, just in case.
It took me a while to use that driver again. I slowly progressed, teeing off with a seven-iron for a while, then a fairway wood. About two months after the incident, I pulled the culprit from my bag. Aiming straight down the fairway, I watched as my tee shot soared high in the air before curling right and landing in a deep forest. I was more than happy to take a drop.
We all love golf course rankings, but there's quite a bias involved, huh? Host a major championship and you're basically guaranteed a spot on the list. What about the average duffer who's more impressed with the beer list than the slope/rating - or prefers friendliness over the fine, imported lotion in the locker room? Where's our list, hackers? Answer: Right here.
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