Practice is the road less traveled on the road to good golf

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Rodney Harwood

I don’t know why I bother, because my idea of warming up before a round of golf is bending over and putting the tee in the ground.

But I was talking to defending 2A state medalist Patrick Azevedo of Othello the other day about practice habits. I’ve played to a 15-handicap for 40 years because I don’t practice. I mean, getting better takes hard work, and I’d rather just complain when it don’t go straight.

Anyway, Patrick was telling me about the road going to his house out in the country. It’s a quarter mile and using all of my fingers and toes, I calculated it to be around 440 yards as the golf ball flies. I guess Patrick tees it up and drives it down that road (maybe 20-feet wide) to increase his accuracy off the tee. Somehow envisioning him pounding golf ball after golf ball down this one-lane road to the entrance way, seems like more fun than standing on the practice tee at the driving range.

It also makes sense that after hitting golf balls down the road, it must make the tee shot on the course, any course, look like driving it into a potato patch off Highway 17.

“It really does help,” Azevedo said, wolfing down a sandwich at the turn during Thursday’s practice round for the 2A District 5/6 Tournament at Lakeview Golf & Country Club.

I got enough trouble keeping it out of the weeds at the Links at Moses Pointe, let alone down the road. But I do have a one-lane gravel road story.

In 2005, I finally took that dream golf vacation to St. Andrews, Scotland and for some reason decided I needed a new driver for the occasion. I bought a Taylor Made out of the reduction bin at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Course, didn’t bother hitting one single practice shot, threw it in the bag and off I went to Scotland.

The Scots are hideous in their golf design. They actually think the wind is part of the game. “Aye, even the crows are walking today.”

I played nine of the 14 days and I’d swear every fairway from Dundee to the Highlands is 25-steps across, at least it seemed that way. On Day 1, I don’t think I had a single fairway in regulation and almost ran out of golf balls by the turn. Since the driver was a graphite shaft, I didn’t bother snapping it over my knee. But I did take it out of the bag and leave it in the hotel for the remainder. I didn’t even want to carry it around.

I was telling this Scot my sad tale of woe on the train from the Highlands to Glasgow where I was going to fly out the next day.

“So tell me laddie, where is this club?”

I went down the to end of the car and took this misery stick out of the bag and brought it back to where he was sitting. Apparently, taking a full golf swing in the aisle of a moving train doesn’t even rate a second glance in Scotland. This guy takes three-four swings as if to drive it 300 yards before handing it back.

I’d made the mistake of telling him how much I paid for it, so when he asked, “How much would you be needin’ for that club?”

Oh, I don’t know, $200 American? “That’s more than you bloody paid for it!” Where I couldn’t tell the difference between a shilling and a guinea, the Scots are all over the exchange rate. OK, fine, whatta ya give me?

He peels off a half a dozen 20-pound notes ($120), which is probably 50 bucks less than I paid for it. But considering this transaction was taking place on a moving train on the way to the airport, I was way happy to unload that bogey-maker.

Every year around the British Open I go outside and listen to the wind. “Aye, I never should have bought this flippin’ piece of junk from that bloody yank.”

Golf is a fickle mistress and the spoils of the game go to those who work for it, no matter how narrow the road less traveled.

Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at

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