This I Believe
I believe in the 7-iron.
If you are a golfer, you too probably believe in the 7-iron. In fact, if you have a 7-iron, go and get it. Or get your favorite iron, whatever it may be – mine is the 7.
Remember, don’t strangle it – just about a 4 out of 10 on the squeeze-scale.
Waggle it a bit. Feel that weight at the bottom.
Now imagine it: it’s gray and cloudy, only a breath of wind. It’s not quite cold – just brisk enough for a wool hat and a windbreaker to feel good. Dry socks in dry golf shoes. The grass is plush and fresh and crisp, almost like its been starched for the occasion.
The white wooden tee is cool between your fore and middle fingers. The new ball is slightly tacky in your palm. The tee goes smoothly into the earth and holds firm, no wiggle.
179 yards away the pin stands straight-its flag motionless with that characteristic hang. The small dark green is ringed by a thrice-terraced fringe. Bunker left-front. Jail in the woods on the right and in the yawning ravine below. Triple-bogey everywhere you look.
Solid 7 though, so, o.k. The smooth iron is cold in your hand. Grip resting on the thigh while you tighten the glove. Little finger and forefinger meet and hands wrap. Damn that feels good. Loose, rhythmic practice swing. That’s the one.
Set up. Calm. Head turns halfway for a look at the spot. Inhale. Exhale.
Pure. Just pure soaring beauty, truth. And the world is gone.
Look now. It sails out an up, boring its way along the imagined line, hanging flawlessly for a split-second. It falls of its own will – gravity has no power here. The ball is traveling in its own dimension as it bounces softly near the pin, spins and rolls to a stop about 4 feet from the cup.
I will miss the putt. That is why I do not believe in the putter.
But I believe in the 7-iron. I believe in many small things and moments. I’m not sure why I believe in these things. Maybe it’s because sometimes they are the only reasons left to a skeptic who so badly wants to believe in something. And so, for me, something like a cleanly struck golf shot is soulful. My heart fills and breaks simultaneously with the magic of it, with the briefness of it. And so I remain optimistic thanks to the great, knee-bending beauty found in such things as a 7-iron.
Let me be clear: I do not mean to use golf to make some point about life. I am not trying speak metaphorically about courage, risk, humility.
I believe in the 7-iron precisely because it is just a joy in and of itself. And yet how strange, how idiosyncratic is the joy of the 7-iron?
What a peculiar little pleasure. What a mystery!
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