Several years ago I found myself paired with a stranger on the Magnolia Course at Walt Disney World. The man, a plastic-sign mogul from Racine, Wis., or some such place, was a high handicapper who played unremarkably except for the fact that his drives—his drives—were unfailingly lovely, soaring fades of about 225 yards. After marveling silently for nine holes, I complimented him on this part of his game. On the 10th tee, he asked if I'd like to try his driver. I said yes.
The club was called the O-fer, manufactured by some mom-and-pop company in Ohio. What made the O-fer so deadly was that it was, literally, a bastard club. Its head was the size and weight of a driver, but its loft was that of a three-wood.
Go easy, I told myself. Experience had taught me that I could deface the top of the club head by launching one of my classic moon shots. But I crushed the ball, which came to rest 230 yards from where it had begun its majestic flight. "I gotta have this," I said to my newfound friend, though the statement was as much a supplication to God, a plea for deliverance.
So I ordered one, to be delivered overnight. When it arrived, I tore open the carton and lovingly removed my miracle cure, my talisman. A few days later I broke out the O-fer at a local golf course. To my horror, though, my maiden shot was a sickening squirt into some thick underbrush almost directly to the right of the tee box. On the following hole my shot traveled 40 yards. On the hole after that, my wormburner stopped 100 yards away.
Enraged, I hurled the club down the fairway. But like many of my tee shots, my toss duck-hooked into the dense woods. I stomped off toward my ball. "Aren't you going to look for it?" one of my friends asked, laughing. "It's a brand new club."
He was right. When I arrived at the edge of the woods, I came upon the densest growth of poison ivy I had ever encountered. Despite the day's sweltering heat, I took a plastic rain suit out of my bag and put it on for protection. When I emerged from the woods, unsuccessful in my search, an elderly couple playing behind our group stared in disbelief at me.
The O-fer was gone. Today, 10 years later, it probably still lies in that poisonous thicket, its ebony head rotted out and chewed by bugs to a fine powder, its once gleaming shaft turned to rust.