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A HOLE IN ONE - MY SECOND!
After hesitating for many days, I have veered around to writing this hub to share an exhilarating golfing experience with my friends.
It was an ominous, cold and foggy Monday morning on 31st January this year as two course mates, Lieutenant General Narendra Singh SM, VSM and Major General (retired) SK Dhawan VSM, joined me for a round of golf at the Army Course in New Delhi. The fog had become very dense, almost as if an opaque white cloud had descended on us, as we were readying to tee off. We deliberated on our course of action - whether to wait a while and even whether to play at all. Not surprisingly, the conclusion was quick and unanimous: Inclement weather never did an illustrious army stop. Accordingly, with much gusto, one foot-soldier and two equally enthusiastic signalmen teed off and pressed on with the game. Visibility was just about 15 to 20 yards and we could not see where the ball was to be hit. For each shot we would consult with the caddy and select the club depending on a rough estimation of distance, and we would aim generally towards the direction where he said the green should be. Despite - or maybe because of - the limited visibility and our shivering in the damp cold, the first three holes went quite well for each of us.
The fourth was a par 3. One of the caddies opined that the pin could be near the back of the green since he had seen it there the previous evening. I did some mental arithmetic and estimated that the distance from the blue tee box to the pin should be approximately 185 yards.
[The map below is a satellite image of the fourth hole. The fairway is running across the middle of the map at an angle of about 45°, with the tee box being left of the centre at the bottom, and the green with its protecting bunkers a little right of the centre at the top of the map. Despite many attempts at trying to comprehend how the map may be annotated, I have not been able to do so. Any guidance in that would be much appreciated.]
I pulled out my recently acquired Taylormade Superlaunch 4 hybrid, teed up the ball, aligned myself in the general direction since neither the green nor the pin was visible, and swung the club, with a silent prayer on my lips that the ball not go out-of-bounds on the left. The impact felt good and the follow through was perfect, but it seemed to me that the ball had taken off slightly towards the right. My caddy, however, told me that there was a slight draw (ball curving leftwards) and it should be on the green. The two generals also took their shots.
We walked up towards the green, and when we reached there, one ball was visible on the green, while another was a little short of it. The third was nowhere to be seen. My caddy and I assumed that the one on the green was mine, but it was Dhawan's. The one short of the green turned out to be Narendra’s. The loyal caddy and I started searching for my ball in the trees and rough on the right of the green. Not quite happy with my shot, I muttered, “I told you it was going towards the right.” The caddy's face dropped, almost as if the bad shot was his fault! We widened our search to include the road and even the drain on its other side. But there was still no ball to be seen.
In the meanwhile, Narendra had chipped his ball onto the green, and Dhawan's caddy walked up to the hole to lift the pin so that he could start putting ... and then he called out loudly, “There’s a ball lying here in the cup!” We ran up excitedly, and sure enough, it was a Pinnacle Gold, numbered 1 in red - my ball!
First there was disbelief all around. Slowly it dawned on us that I had indeed done the almost impossible and scored a hole in one. By now my heart was beating at twice the normal rate and I could feel the rush of adrenalin as my face lit up and glowed ... it was an intoxicating high. My buddies were elated too and much happiness was written on their faces as they congratulated me. Even the caddies were delighted. And now it was my caddy's turn to tell me, "I told you it was a great shot with a nice draw to it."
There was much banter, handshaking and back thumping. I tried being humble and said that it was a fluke, but my admiring friends would have none of that! It took some time for the hoopla to subside. Finally, we composed ourselves and moved on to the next hole.
In golf, a hole in one (or an ace, as it is often called in the USA) is scored when a player hits the ball directly from the tee into the cup with one shot. It does not matter whether the ball lands straight in the cup, or ricochets off a tree, or skims over water, or is deflected by another ball lying on the green, or bounces a few times before falling in the cup. The only requirement is that it should be struck once from the designated tee box, and it should conclude its journey in the cup. This is possible usually only on a par 3 hole. Most par 4 and par 5 holes are much too long to reach in a single shot.
Those unfamiliar with the game may not realize how difficult it is to drop a little white ball in an only slightly larger cup by hitting it with a stick from one or two hundred yards away. Luck has as much or more of a role than skill in acing a hole in one. Skill is required to land the ball close to the pin on the green, and not overshoot it. After that it is luck. And sometimes it is all luck and no skill - as would be the case of a wayward ball heading into some trees, bouncing off a branch to drop on the green and roll on to fall into the cup.
Martha Beckman had said, "Man blames fate for other accidents but feels personally responsible for a hole in one."
None of us could have seen the flight of my ball, but I do realise that luck had a very big role in my hole in one that foggy Monday morning. This was only the second time that I have ever had an ace. The first was on the 13th hole (165 yards) at the same Army Course in 2006 when I was playing a practice round alone with my caddy. That one, even if I had reported it, would not have counted for the record since two 'credible witnesses' - as stipulated - were not present.
This time too, despite having two very credible witnesses, I did not report it to the Club Secretary. Dhawan had a previous appointment and had to run after 9 holes. Narendra, who was visiting from out of station, had to leave suddenly after the seventeenth hole when he got a call informing him that his daughter was being hospitalised. Left to myself at the end of the round, I chose to just give handsome tips to the three caddies, and head home!
Various organisations have calculated the chances of making a hole-in-one and their findings differ. According to Golf Digest , "One insurance company puts a PGA Tour pro's chances at 1 in 3,756 and an amateur's at 1 in 12,750."
Ireland's National Hole in One Club puts the odds much longer for an ace: 33,000 to 1. And an article in Navy Newsstand , citing Sports Illustrated as its source, put the odds even higher at 45,000 to 1 for "scoring a hole-in-one on a typical par-3 golf hole."
Interesting Trivia About Holes in One
Some golfers play for years without shooting a hole in one, while others manage to do it at an early age. Jake Paine was just three years old when he shot a hole in one on a 65 yard hole in Lake Forest, California. The oldest player is Harold Stilson, from Boca Raton, Florida. He was 101 years old when he aced the 108 yard 16th hole with a four iron at the Deerfield Country Club in 2001. I know many amateurs – including some low handicappers - who have never had a hole in one. Their one real wish is that they get an ace at least once in their lifetime. Who can tell when that might happen – any one of them might be lucky in the very next round he or she plays.
Arnold Palmer said that he remembers his first ace more clearly than he remembers his first kiss! Quoting from his website: “Most golfers treat their aces the way they do their grandchildren. They cherish them, tell stories about them to perfect strangers and they daydream about the glorious day when they can celebrate having another one.” He’s had 19! Aces, not grandchildren.
Many US Presidents have played golf but only a few of them have had that lucky shot. Dwight Eisenhower aced a 104 yard par 3 at Seven Lakes Country Club, California in 1968, seven years after relinquishing office. Richard Nixon had an ace at Bel Air Country Club on 4 September 1961. Gerald Ford used a five iron to ace a 157 yard hole in Memphis. There were no aces for either of the Bush's, nor for Bill Clinton who was an avid golfer.
The longest hole in one in was hit by Robert Mitera in 1965 at the Miracle Hills Golf Club in Omaha, Nebraska. He used his driver to ace the 10th hole from 444 yards! Mitera couldn't even see the flag from where he teed off. He realized he'd aced the hole when he arrived at the green and another golfer told him his ball was in the hole.
Norman Manley, of California, holds the record for most holes in one - 59! Manley shot his first hole in one in 1964 and aced four holes in 1979.
During regular play or club level championships it's rare to have a video record of a hole in one. PGA and other major international events are however covered live by many cameras at vantage points. It is therefore easy to reconstruct the sequence for a hole in one at such events. Here is an interesting video on the ten best holes in one on the PGA Tour.