Notes from a duffer
I don’t play a lot of golf, and consequently I’m not a very good golfer. But you can learn a lot about life by playing golf.
Don’t overthink it. There’s a tendency when you step up to the tee to think about your grip, your stance, your backswing, what direction you’re facing. And then you either top the ball or slice it off to the right or squib it sideways. Sometimes it’s better just to take a nice, easy swing.
Be honest. Did you know that when you intend to hit the ball, but only catch air, that counts as a stroke? It’s also a stroke if you accidentally tap the ball and it moves about a millimeter. You have to count those, because in golf you keep your own score. This isn’t a problem for me because my scores are usually so high that I have to take the maximum number allowed per hole no matter what. But if you’re a good golfer, these frustrating non-stroke strokes can pose real ethical challenges. Golf helps develop strong moral character…it is hoped!
Ask for help. Sure, that baseball swing might work for you some of the time, but a golf swing is not a natural, intuitive thing. You have to learn how to do it right, and that usually means taking a lesson. Lessons will screw up your game for a few days, but eventually they pay off.
You accomplish more when you work together. My favorite kind of golf is Best Ball, when you play with several other people and just hit from where the best shot landed. Of course, if you’re playing in a tournament or a scramble you have to use everyone’s drive at least once, and this can be a challenge.
Dress for success. If you’re not very good, you can at least look good. Golf clothes have gotten a lot sportier over the years, and when you walk around in your Under Armour shirt and Nikes, you might feel more confident, and confidence might even translate into competence.
The harder something is, the more satisfying the accomplishment. We played golf in Wyoming this summer after a torrential downpour. The course was open, but carts weren’t allowed and we had to carry our bags – so much work! But it helped me play better, probably because of rule number one – I was too tired to overthink it. And after that round no one needed to work out in the gym.
Some things are a mystery. Ever hit a ball, watch exactly where it goes, and then can’t find it? I play with bright pink golf balls, and I’ve lost them under trees or in the rough when there’s simply no explanation for why they aren’t where they landed. Down the rabbit hole? Abducted by aliens? There are things in this world that we simply can’t explain.
Golf will drive you to drink. There are days when your game is so bad that all you can do is head for the bar. That’s okay, but don’t make a regular habit of it.
And remember, all those people out there on the course are probably just as bad as you are, or they would be golf pros.