September 19, 2009

This Game Of Golf IS Supposed To Be Fun

There are days that the world is a beautiful place to be a part of – the sun is shining, the temperature pleasing, flowers are abloom and troubles seem to be as far away as Mars. It’s in those moments that all is well and life is good.

Except on a golf course, or so it seems if you watch players going about their rounds on nearly any course on a gorgeous Saturday morning. Instead of enjoying the beauty of the day and the game itself, all too often we as golfers spend our time on the links completely obsessed with the numbers we mark on our score card, and hardly a round can go by without some frustration and consternation that things could somehow be better.

I one was playing with a well-rounded friend, one who loves to golf, fish, hike, camp and spend time outdoors. He had just had a horrible hole in a casual round where no money nor pride was on the line. We rounded a corner and sitting in a tree was a Peregrine Falcon. They are the fastest living things on the planet, and capable of reaching 200 MPH (322 Km/H) when they strike down on their prey. The fairways of a golf course are an ideal place to see exactly that: a grey streak hurtling down from the sky on a soon-to-be-departed rodent that will quite literally never see it coming.

A Peregrine is quite a rare sight in this part of North Carolina, one you might only get once in your life...if you are lucky. I pointed this out to my friend, a fellow who normally enjoys that sort of thing. His reply shocked me. "F_ing seven! Can you believe that s__t?"

That is a man whose priorities are very much out of order. He'll make plenty of sevens in his life, as will anyone who ever chases a little white ball down a pasture towards a stick far in the distance. But seeing one of nature's ultimates, something he'll probably never lay eyes on in the wild during the rest of his days?

Ask yourself: if you beat down your handicap by ten strokes, will you be able to apply to play on a professional golf Tour? Probably not. On the other hand, if you go in the wrong direction, and you fail to break your worst score of the past two years, will that mean you are going to lose your job and your home, or will your children suddenly hate you? Undoubtedly not.

Competition is a good thing, it stirs the blood, it steels the nerve and sharpens our gaze. It gives us the acute joys of success and failure, and in golf, that can be on the same hole. Winning is of course great fun and hard work that seems easy. Even in victory, one would do well to remember that with winning, there is also losing, and no matter who the player, given time they will feel both sides of that well-worn coin. It is the nature of this thing, and both winning and losing are good things. A man who wins too often and too easily is rarely challenged and even more rarely humble. One who loses constantly is almost invariably downtrodden and pessimistic. One side tempers the other and both are a necessary part of the sporting life.

All too often, we take competition too far and far too seriously. A casual round with friends is not the Battle of the Somme. A Nassau is not the Civil War. Nor is a putt delicate surgery with a beloved child’s life hanging in the battle. The golf, it is supposed to be fun. Battles, war and operating rooms, those are truly serious things and different matters entirely. That's hard to tell, however, if you go to a challenging spot on most any golf course on a weekend day and watch the players traverse that part of the terrain. It won't be long until you hear words and phrases that blanch gentle ears, and maybe even a thrown club to boot.

All in the name of fun? Get real.

Consider this the next time you hit a poor shot and are tempted to fling your club into the turf: golf is a game.

Keep in mind when you almost get a hole in one: that's great, but your kid's smile matters even more.

And set your mind to it on the first tee when your card is blank and the promise of the day lay in the shiny new ball in your hand: have fun, have grace and make good memories you’ll pleasantly recall long into the future.

“You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry, don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” - Walter Hagen


  1. I rarely throw my clubs - typically I laugh-off a bad shot (so I'm usually laughing my a@@ off the whole round). But a few rounds ago I pulled one OB with my driver and fired the club off the tee-box. Needless to say, I broke the shaft. I agree, you shouldn't get too angry with yourself on the course - especially when it can cost you money. Ironically though, it forced me to use my hybrid off the tee for the last couple rounds and my play has actually improved somewhat.

  2. I've had several people tell me they don't "understand" golf. I usually reply, "It's 2-4 hours spent in beautiful surroundings, with people you like, getting some gentle exercise... and no one can get to you. If you hear a cell phone go off on a golf course, you know that person doesn't understand golf."

    Invariably they look at me for a minute, then smile and say, "I can understand that."

    In our rush to improve, sometimes we lose track of the real reasons we love the game. You hit the nail right on the head.

  3. Well said. Sure I may be on my own quest to drive my handicap down, but I guarantee you there isn't a round I don't enjoy. Besides, my little goal is really a good excuse to play as often as I can.

    However, I do not have fun when I play with someone who whines and complains the entire round. During my worst rounds I laugh, sing, cheer, and usually dance.

    Some think I'm a bit crazy on the course, but I certainly don't think anyone would say I don't have fun. It is definitely possible to be competitive and have fun at the same time!

    BTW, sunset rounds are the best time to catch wildlife. Especially this time of year.

  4. So true. Golf should be beautiful and fun, sadly for many it's neither.


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