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Core Samples

It’s not that we went directly from winter to summer this year, but the shoulder season formerly known as spring certainly remained in the witness-protection program well past its due date. With the "Summer Solstice" looming, something had to give.

This past week or so we’ve been all over the map temperature and precipitation wise but, for the pure of heart, a couple of windows did appear that allowed for engagement in the warm weather pursuits. Myself, I went out a couple of evenings and swung a club at a ball.

As one of the worst natural athletes of my or any other generation, there is much irony within my long love affair with the sport. As opposed to Mark Twain’s witty aside that "golf is a good walk spoiled," I have always found it to be a most favorite, if oftentimes hilarious, pastime.

Keeping score is all sidebar. It’s much more about salvaging a triple-bogie from the middle of the fairway than summing up strokes taken for the entire round. It’s about learning to let go of the often-misspent past. In other words, it’s about the "foot-wedge."

This particular shot is most often employed when the lie of the ball is deemed "unfair" and, in the opinion of the player, justice is not being served. The decision is then made to pivot the foot in such a manner so as to bring the toe of the golf shoe into contact with the ball and prod it toward a more suitable platform.

The foot-wedge should never be performed in a furtive fashion. If anything, it should be flaunted! Drawing attention to it in advance is quite good form. A truly effective foot-wedge embodies an aesthetic quality not unlike an improvisation from Jackson Pollock or John Coltrane.

Admittedly, this is all a lot like "Willie’s rules," as the Willie Nelson scoring system came to be called following his purchase of his very own golf course down along the Pedernales River outside of Austin.

When playing Willie’s course, penalties can be incurred for "excessive displays of affection (violators must replace "divots" and are penalized five strokes), having more than twelve in your foursome, or wearing "bikinis, mini-skirts, skimpy see-through, or sexually exploitative attire — except on women." He’s strict, that Willie!

No doubt, down that way, the foot-wedge is most often performed with a Tony Lama or a Justin Roper and is known as the "three-step." One of golf’s great mentors, Harvey Penick, came from Austin. Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw were two of his star pupils. When it became obvious that I couldn’t tell Crenshaw from George Bush, I fell off his bandwagon.

But, back to the scene of the more recent crimes against nature — that being the "home of the foot-wedge," Wasatch Mountain State Park Golf Course up on the west bench of Heber Valley.

Once the sun recedes, the lower reaches of the Snake Creek drainage cool off, prompting many duffers to adopt the layered look. I’m not saying it’s been like one of those early spring golf outings where you have trouble telling your ball from the hail, but it hasn’t felt much like June either.

Rumor had it that Steakhouse had been keeping the head covers on his woods even while hitting from the tee. His drives were straighter than usual, of course, but how could they not be?

But I digress. We were discussing the proper care and feeding of the foot-wedge. The first variable would concern whether you employed the left-footed or right-footed pivot. Golf shoes are designed specifically not to pivot so reconfiguring the cleat pattern on the shoe in question is where the "art" comes in.

For duffers of my persuasion, the true "sweet spot" in golf is that fixed point on the sole of your golf shoe upon which your foot turns in place in order to reposition your golf ball. And this time of year, when your course of choice is battling back from a winter of discontent, it is sweeter than ever.

Sure, under winter rules, you could always pick the ball up and place it in friendlier confines, but where’s the joy of improvisation in that? There’s nothing quite like the subtlety of movement within a properly deployed foot-wedge. Not only does it involve grace under pressure, but poetry of motion.

Back in the day, when a more clandestine approach ruled its use, masters of the genre were known to elevate a horrible lie to a tee-like setting without ever actually looking directly at the ball. An observer from afar would witness nothing more than the player selecting a club from his bag and, quite within the rules of the game, brushing away a leaf.

Voila! The ball, which had, only seconds before, been rooting with the rutabagas, now found itself, through some obscure telekinesis, hovering nanometers above the turf. Nothing less than a perfect lie from which to snap-hook the subsequent shot deep into the bulrushes bordering the water hazard two fairways away.

So, just because the sun stands still on the Solstice, there is no reason your foot should. Ponder taking a midsummer pilgrimage to Wasatch Mountain, the Stonehenge of the Heber Valley, and thwart all evil spirits with that most illustrious of all pagan rituals, the foot-wedge. A garland of "St. John’s Wort" and "Kikuya" grass probably wouldn’t hurt either.

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.


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