It's tough to deal in absolutes when making golf resolutions. In 2010, I'd like to get a hole-in one (I've witnessed two, neither off my own club), play a round with Natalie Gulbis at Bel Air Country Club and get through Amen Corner at even par.
But you can't just will yourself to the first tee at Augusta National. It's not like sticking to a low-carb diet or trading your Pringles for a Precor. The phrase "you can do anything you put your mind to" definitely does not apply to the long bunker shot.
So you make systemic changes. Fine tune a few things here. Break a few bad habits there. Stick to your guns and maybe at the end of the year you've shaved a stroke or two off the old handicap. Or maybe you're just enjoying the game more.
With that in mind, here are nine New Year's golf resolutions from the Devil Ball staff:
Get every makeable putt to the hole: The next original joke I hear that includes the words "skirt" or "purse strap" or a question about whether my husband plays golf will be the first, but the fact remains that "never up, never in" is one of the great truisms in sports.
I'm going to call this one the Tom Watson rule. His run at the 2009 British Open was captivating, but watching that putt on the 72nd hole ranks as one of the most heartbreaking televised sports moments I've ever witnessed. Lord knows I've watched more than my share of personal birdies and pars fall victim to a tentative stroke.
Let's all be confident in our reads, put firm, convincing strokes on those putts and sink a few for Tom in 2010. (Confession: I stumbled on this resolution about three holes into a Jan. 1 round – for some reason I'm predisposed to thinking putting a ball 18 inches past the hole is worse than having it come up a rotation short of the cup. But after a quick internal pep talk, I regrouped and made four birdies in a span of 10 holes.) (Romig)
Enjoy the challenge of putting: Tour veteran Brad Faxon, one of the game's all-time greatest putters, put it best when talking about Augusta National: "I try to have as much fun as I can on the greens. Everyone gets so uptight, but you might as well enjoy it when you're there." That advice should apply to whatever course you play. If you don't have that kind of approach, if you stand over the putt in fear, you're doomed. The bet here is that you'll make a lot more putts with this attitude. (Arkush)
Hit driver on one fewer hole per round (for starters): A lot of us will read a putt from both sides of the hole or spend an eternity in the fairway looking for a friendly sprinkler head, but when it comes to the tee box it's driver or nothing on all par 4s and 5s.
Why no thought process on what could be the most critical shot of the hole? Is the extra 15 yards really worth bringing that bunker into play? Would I rather have a full club into the green rather than an awkward half sand wedge or tweener club? Is this par 5 a three-shot hole regardless of what I do off the tee?
For some golfers putting the driver back in the bag can feel like waving the white flag, so here's a thought: always arrive at the tee box without a club in hand. This is easier for us walkers, but as long as you're not holding up play, why not survey the hole before selecting a club? If you are hitting driver 14 times a round, there's a good chance you're either playing a boring course, or you're playing right into the architect's hands. (Romig)
Learn the rules of golf: For someone who plays 50 or more rounds per year, my grip on the rules is tenuous at best. I don't expect to immediately know what to do when my ball comes to rest in a piece of fruit or on a mound of fire ants, but knowing the different types of relief available from different types of hazards should be second nature for someone of my experience level. And I've also noticed people love to either give out poor advice when it comes to rules, or people are too polite to give a playing partner an unfavorable ruling. If you're going to quote the rules, make sure you've got 'em right. (Romig)
Rethink the value of the ironic golf outfit: I mean, even if it was Bad Slacks Day on your annual buddies golf trip, you never know when something like that will come back to haunt you by, say, surfacing in a popular online golf blog. (Romig)
Return to Bandon Dunes: They've opened a new course (Bandon Trails) since my last visit, and a fourth course (Old Macdonald) has a preview loop open. This falls under an umbrella resolution which is to experience more new golf courses in 2010. Traveling to play golf is easier said than done in this economy, but with tough economic times comes good golf bargains. My email inbox is flooded with discount golf offers from local courses and many short weekender golf trips have become more affordable. Heck, even Pebble Beach has lowered its rates below $400 (barely) and waived the overnight stay requirement for NCGA members. (Romig)
Refuse to make myself miserable: This may be the toughest task of all as I'm guilty of this infraction oh, well, maybe five times a round. I might be going for my personal record and yet I'll still find a way to berate myself at the worst possible moment. It is during times like this that I must recall the great line from Peter Jacobsen: "You're not good enough to get mad." (Arkush)
Throw a club, once, just to remind myself why I don't throw clubs: Tommy Bolt had it right – there's nothing quite as satisfying as throwing a club. Problem is, as soon as that club's left your hand, you feel like a total idiot. And no, just because Tiger does it doesn't mean I can too. There's lots of stuff that Tiger does that I can't do … the golf gods and my wife have seen to that. (Busbee)
Bring a non-golfer to the course: This one requires a special kind of patience, but it can be phenomenally rewarding. Maybe you're bringing your significant other to the course – and a marriage that can survive one teaching the other to golf is a marriage that will last. Maybe you're bringing your kid to the course, and if so, you're creating memories that will last forever. And maybe you're just bringing your non-golfing buddy along to teach him or her the ways of the game. Just remember – teach them everything that they'll know, but not everything that you know. (Busbee)
The tee is yours Devil Ballers, what are your golf resolutions for 2010?