There Comes A Time 

Tom Velarde
Golf Professional
Black Mesa Golf Club
La Mesilla, AZ

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We always will come to crossroads in our lives that a decision we make will have major impacts on our future. In golf these decisions are seemingly constant and challenging. I can see this for the average player in my bride and my customers who take lessons.   

I never give too much thought as to layup areas, as for me they are relatively flat and easy to hit as the area is generous and my next shot is from a wanted distance.

Now for everyone else you face a layup into an area a little larger than a cart with the slope a little less than the super G at the Olympics. As all good design will dictate, the run off area is either water or rough that will resemble hay being in need of harvesting. Often, just to give us a little more heart pressure, they will put an OB in place just to mess with us. 

My bride and I played recently and I watched her hit a layup on a forced carry to a par 5. Now the shot she was hitting really does not matter, as with all of us the only shot that matters is the one we are faced with. She used one of her woods trying to hit the cart path sized area and watched the ball dribble into the heavy rough. Why don’t you just hit it further, I asked? I can’t, she said, and put the club back in her bag with enough authority to compress the springs of the cart. Her look told me I should put on my teacher hat and make this a teaching moment. Try a different club, I said, she looked at me and said no club would work. Then she uttered the words we learned to fear “you try it”. Well, I grabbed my wedge and was going to show her how, and she said, no hit a 5 wood. Ha! No problem, I can just hit a little slap cut up the throat of the layup and bounce it on the green. As I took my stance and was ready to strike a beauty of a shot, she said, “no, just use your left hand and put the right hand behind you.  

My hand got a little clammy and my lips became dry, while my knees did not wobble I must admit they were not really sturdy. You see, I knew there was no way in heck I could hit that 5 wood 80 yards into a cart sized landing area. My first attempt looked familiar to her as it dribbled into the rough. The next 4 were not better. She encouraged me to tee it up, which only made it worse. Now groups behind us were ordering beer to watch what would become known as the “real teaching experience” as I now broke a sweat with determination.  

Every ball I hit never came close to the area I wanted. The vultures watching were now quiet, as every cat call and hoot had been used, just sad looks at a sobbing man who could only be consoled by the wise woman in the cart with him. See this is why you taught me to be a good chipper of the ball because the next one from down there is easy. 

There comes a time in our lives when we realize that the wisdom of golf strategy may be in the person who faces the situation with whatever their limitations are. A tour pro most likely can hit a one handed shot well, a club pro maybe can. This husband now looks at some of these shots and can only say “where do you think you want to chip from.” Our game can teach us humility easily. Watch us, we will be the group going around those forced carries.   

Tom Velarde is the Manager at Black Mesa Golf Club in Espanola, New Mexico, just northwest of Santa Fe. For more information or to reach Tom, email