Integrity of golf verifies my first hole-in-oneby J.W. Miller on 07/16/18
You’ve heard the question: “If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” There’s a similar enigma that affects golfers - not all golfers but some golfers - including yours truly. That question is: “If a golfer who is playing by himself gets a hole-in-one does it count?” I am happy to report that I faced such a dilemma last Thursday when I recorded the first hole-in-one of my golfing life.
Normally, I play with a regular group, but on Thursday our tee-time was too early for me, at 7:50 a.m. I prefer tee times at least an hour or so later so I can have a cup of coffee and get in a morning workout that includes core stretching and a 3-mile run/walk. The golf shop is on my running route, so on Thursday I passed by and looked at the scheduled tee-times. Looming large was a huge open gap between a 10:54 a.m. group and a 1:02 p.m. group. That would be perfect for me to go out alone around 12:30 p.m. and speed through 18 holes in about three hours.
The first three holes were not memorable when I came to hole No. 4, a par-3 over a pond that is notorious for claiming errant shots. I have fed the fish there on occasion, but I am not particularly fearful of the shot. The hole was 122 yards from the tee, so I pulled out my pitching wedge and took a mighty swing. I hit the ball well and watched as it arced high and slightly to the left of the hole. I am not one who spins the ball at will, but for some reason the ball hit the green about a yard in front of the flag and took a noticeable twist to the right … and straight into the hole!
I couldn’t believe it. Not me, the avid but average 15-handicapper! I am not worthy! As I was driving toward the green, I knew I would spy the ball hiding behind the flag, with its tongue stuck out, its thumbs in its ears in perfect razz posture. But when I walked hesitantly toward the hole, I didn’t see that. I peered into the hole, like a climber peeking over a ledge into the Grand Canyon. Indeed, I saw my beloved ball at the bottom of the cup, putting on lipstick in front of a mirror and combing her hair in preparation for a lifetime as a treasured relic of one unlikely swing.
You can find all kinds of advice on how to act after you hit a hole-in-one. Obviously, you let out a shout and jump around and don’t forget to take a picture of the ball in the hole. I did all of those things, but there was nobody to share them with. So what was I to do next? I wanted to call my golf-crazy brother and brothers-in-law and my kids and the Lovely Miss Jean and tell them … what?
Yeah, I did it but nobody saw me. I began to panic. My exaltation turned to trepidation. Did my first - and maybe only ever - hole-in-one even count? I remembered the haunting words of George Costanza who once told Jerry Seinfeld: “It’s not a lie, Jerry, if you believe it!” My hole-in-one wasn’t a lie, but as Ronald Reagan suggested, it is a truth that needed to be verified. But how?
According to the website of the U.S. Golf Association: “The Rules of Golf do not address the issue of the validity of a hole-in-one.” However, the USGA recommends that the validity of a hole-in-one be measured by five conditions, including “If attested by someone acceptable to the Committee.” So I figured the “committee” in this case was the course administrators who uphold the Rules of Golf and any local course-specific rules. I drove to the pro shop and laid it all out.
I told them I was playing alone, that it was the first hole-in-one of my life, and I wanted to know if they recognize it in the absence of a witness. The director of golf looked me in the eye and said: “You witnessed it, didn’t you?” I nodded my head. “Then it was witnessed by somebody acceptable to us.” Huzzah!
Golf is said to be the only sport built on integrity of the participants. The athletes police their own play and call fouls on themselves such as penalizing an out-of-bounds shot. For non-golfers, that means if you hit a ball into the water on No. 4, you can tee up another ball after you penalize yourself one stroke. So although you are back on the tee, you are essentially hitting your third shot for scoring purposes. I count all my shots, good or bad, and assess all required penalties. I feel comfortable that my first hole-in-one is legal, validated and an achievement that I can sharing with you!
And for the record, I was so shook up by the experience that I got two pars and six double-bogeys the rest of the round! Honest!