Hot Water Bounce by Jamie Kirkpatrick



My friend Cuz is known for his—shall we say—‘colorful’ language on the golf course. I wouldn’t talk to my worst enemy the way he talks to his golf ball, but every once in a while, he says something mysterious that upon reflection makes profound good sense. Like the recent time he yelled “COLD WATER BOUNCE!” at his ball in flight.

Not wishing to play the golfing fool, I wasn’t about to ask him what that meant. On we went.

A few holes later, same thing, except this time as the ball flew through the air, he started yelling “HOT WATER BOUNCE! HOT WATER BOUNCE!” I still didn’t get it. Maybe Cuz was just messing with me, but that’s not really his style. He’s got enough on his hands with his own game.

Later that day, I ran into my friend Key who knows Cuz well; in fact he’s his cousin, hence the genesis of the nickname. “I played with Cuz today,” I said. “One time, he yelled at his ball to take a ‘cold water bounce.’ Another time, he screamed ‘hot water bounce.’ What’s he talking about?”

Key looked at me. “You don’t get it?” I responded with my best blank stare. “Think about it,” he suggested. “When you walk up to the sink, where’s the cold tap? Where’s the hot tap?” It took a few seconds to sink in (so to speak), but then all of a sudden, I got it. Cold on the right; hot on the left. Cuz was asking the ball to bounce right or left depending on the situation. Duh!

As with most things that happen on a golf course, this epiphany got me thinking about the bigger game—the one we call life. Rarely in life do we ever get a straight ahead bounce. Sometimes we hope for a cold water bounce and sometimes we ask for a hot water bounce. Depends on the situation.

It seems to me that for the last couple of years, we’ve been getting an awful lot of cold water bounces. Contentious appointments to the Supreme Court and other federal benches, an increasingly isolationist foreign policy, dubious trade and tariff policies, impulsive economic decisions, disastrous environmental legislation, children in filthy cages at the border and ICE deportations, a foundering health care system, tax cuts for the wealthy, disappearing public education, the war on a free press, Twitter tirades and racist rants, even the recent vainglorious Fourth of July extravaganza in Washington, DC—all cold water bounces. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that we’ve bounced far enough to the right. I’m ready for a few hot water bounces.

The problem, of course, is that in the game of golf, it’s almost impossible to control the way the ball bounces. The type of grass on the fairways and greens, the wind, the spin on the ball, even a sprinkler head can have an awful lot to say about the way any given ball will bounce and roll. It’s that capricious quality that makes golf so exhilarating and so frustrating at the same time. But golf is only a game; our constitutional democracy certainly isn’t.

They say it all evens out in the end, that for every cold water bounce, there will be a hot water bounce. I sure hope they’re right—whoever ‘they’ are. I suppose it’s even possible that there will be a faucet bounce every once in a while, a straight ahead bounce requiring no body English to favor the ball’s trajectory, forward progress that’s good for all. What a concept! But until that happens, you can bet I’ll be leaning left, looking for a hot water bounce.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” was released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is


Letters to Editor

  1. Bob Moores says

    What a great article! I couldn’t agree more. Doesn’t seem like we can get that hot water bounce until next year at the earliest, though.

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