First Cut: An Ode to Golf
When life gets out of whack, the first thing I usually do, like many others, is to seek out comfort and find the familiar. For most people reading this, that would include being on the golf course. But what happens when the game is forced to go dark? What happens when we are left without not just the game, but the friends, laughs, experiences, fresh air, exercise and vitamin D the old-fashioned way?
Unfortunately, we found out, and it wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but life started to feel … I guess you would say … heavy. Right? You felt it too? OK, so there are many different factors that come into play for each individual that get you to this point, but the end result is the same. Just an overall blanket of “Yuck.” Life can be sneaky. It doesn’t let you recognize when you are taking a deep dive until you actually hit the pavement.
A DAYDREAM REALIZED
After some daydreaming about past rounds, I realized that what I missed most was something I never thought I would go without. I missed the freedom to merely play the game. Period. I missed a simple high-five after someone makes a long putt or an unlikely up and down.
I missed tending the flagstick. Say what now? Yes. Tending the flag. I missed it. Still do. Something I never thought I would say much less actually have real feelings about.
One afternoon during the height of quarantine (when Costco was out of toilet paper and I was failing at homeschooling my kids) I aimlessly wandered into the garage and plucked a random golf club out of my staff bag. Ironically (or instinctively), it was my 8-iron, my favorite club. I simply gripped it and made a half-hearted waggle, even though it was more pronounced in my head. That is all. I merely gripped the club and was immediately comforted, like a kid with her favorite stuffed animal.
Even though it is entirely possible this was just in my mind’s eye, I swear I could actually smell fresh-cut grass. I closed my eyes and pictured myself in the fairway of my favorite golf hole. In that moment I had a brief reprieve from thinking about all the hardships people all over the world are facing right now. It felt familiar. It felt good. It felt … dare I say it … NORMAL. After loosening my death grip on my safety blanket, I returned it to my golf bag and held onto the feeling I had just experienced, realizing it had been a minute since I last enjoyed it for real.
Fast-forward a few weeks, and now, with understandable restrictions, we are able to play the game again. My brothers and I decided to get out for a round of golf with our dad at the neighborhood public golf course where we grew up. We figured that would be the best way to celebrate Father’s Day.
We all have high aspirations when it comes to our performance and execution on the golf course. But aspirations should not become expectations…
We dashed to Mission Trails GC, where as kids we played hundreds of rounds of golf, most of them together. (Mom was happy to stay home with the grandkids.) Yes, we had all been missing the game and the ability to play it as a family. But the appreciation of being there, simply being on the golf course with each other again, was tangible. We were together (and six feet apart).
As we approached each hole, we shared a memory or a lesson learned. This happened to be the golf course where, at 6 years old, Phil threw his golf club for the first and last time. He had recently played in a group where players were throwing their clubs and getting upset after bad shots and, in his little mind, it looked “cool.”
Only it wasn’t. Especially to our dad. So when Phil threw his little club, before it even came to rest 20 yards down the fairway, dad informed Phil that he was done. His exact words were, “Golf is supposed to be fun and it is a privilege to play the game. Since you don’t seem to be able to enjoy this right now, you will not play. Put your clubs in your bag and simply walk along.”
As we were all putting out on the green of No. 8, our dad extended his arms, slowly turned around as he glanced at a specific spot and declared, “This is where I felt a little tug on my shirt and Phil announced that he was confident he could have fun again.” And then reminded us that from that point on, Phil never threw a club or got visibly upset after a bad shot. Lesson learned.
Let us not ever forget how lucky we are to be able to play this great game. We all have high aspirations when it comes to our performance and execution on the golf course. But aspirations should not become expectations, because when you expect the unlikely, you are often met with disappointment. That is not what the game is about. Not even close. It’s about everything that I just talked about.
Let’s take full advantage of the joy this game brings, and everything else that comes with it. Now that we know what it is like to have to go without, let us appreciate every minute that we are afforded on the golf course.