Only A Game? So Why am I So Damn Mad When I Play?
Call it a game, a sport, a science — golf by any other name still beats crop-dusting or accountancy by a well-struck 5-iron. One “plays” golf if doing it in the proper spirit. The term “work” only applies when you try to go all Bubba Watson and hit a 155-yard hook to 10 feet from the pine-straw. That’s what you call hard labor.
Now if only one could coolly withstand the cruel swings and errors of this challenging pursuit instead of melting down like a polar icecap and ruining a well-deserved respite from the real world. Face the cold, hard facts: you’re never, ever going to be Tiger Woods — hell, even his kid Charlie could give you seven a side and take your money.
So why is it that otherwise well-adjusted Joes and Janes get so amped up and angry every time they shank a shot, smother-hook a drive or yip yet another three-footer? By what unattainable standard does one measure oneself to get depressed and downhearted like B.B. King when failing to break 90 or 100? Maybe your great expectations need to be scaled back a bit — if only for your blood pressure’s sake.
I once complained to a golf pro that my head was so full of nagging swing thoughts that I could barely initiate a backswing, like listening to a radio stuck between stations. I’d been watching Moe Norman videos, Phil’s chipping drills, reading Hogan’s Fundamentals again, all to no avail. “Dave,” he whispered with equal measures of amusement and pity, “it’s a game, just enjoy yourself!”
That never occurred to me. Enjoy a round of golf? Isn’t that tantamount to putting on a party hat to go to the dentist? I approach a round of golf like an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) man: I see nothing but landmines between myself and the beckoning flagstick on the horizon. Always expecting the worst, I am more than happy not to disable a slumbering goose with a mis-struck iron. Forget birdie — I’m just trying not to kill any freakin’ birds!
Perhaps the best way to approach golf is to be more like Buddha than Bubba: “Pain in life is inevitable, but suffering is not,” quoth Gautama. “Pain is what the world does to you, suffering is what you do to yourself.” So your beautiful drive wound up in a sandy divot? You’d do well to smile beatifically at the random vagaries of time and space and quit grousing to the golf gods. Trust me, if they do exist, they really couldn’t care less. Take a number, pal.
It so happens my own brother is one of those classic, self-flagellating hotheads, the kind of guy known to throw a wedge in a water hazard after dunking an approach shot. The word “anhedonic” comes to mind, an inability to experience pleasure. For him, golf isn’t a welcome escape or a relaxing day in the park, it’s waterboarding minus the CIA interrogators, and hell on his playing companions. Talk about collateral damage.
Bro, in the immortal words of a million golf pros talking to a million hackers: “You’re just not good enough to get mad. Let’s go have fun!”