At the driving range at my club, golf balls are promiscuously available. There’s a big steel bin, like a junior Dumpster, and you can help yourself. The balls don’t pop up automatically on rubber tees, the way they do at some ranges, but they might as well. Some golfers scarcely look up between shots. As soon as one ball is gone, they toe another into place.You spend more time on a practice shot if you own the ball. Because you have to pick up after yourself, you think about ways to tighten your landing pattern. Because you pace the yardage as you walk to retrieve your balls, you learn how far your irons really go.
In a practice area at County Louth Golf Club, in Baltray, Ireland, a few days ago, I watched a member practicing the old-fashioned way. When he was finished, he walked in a loose spiral around his target, using a wedge to flip each ball into an open bag, which he held in his other hand. He never bent over. He seldom dropped a ball.
We chatted in the parking lot later, and he told me he was practicing for the member-member. His name is Richard Murray, and he’s my second favorite Irish golfer.
I met my favorite Irish golfer two days later, at the Island Golf Club, in Donabete. She’s twelve years old. She was on the practice green, sinking ten-footers as though they were tap-ins. Her mother and father told me that golf is her favorite thing in the world. I got my camera and asked her if she could sink one more—and she did. Remember her name: Shannon Mohan.