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Friday, November 4, 2011

Oh golf, how I love ya (and hate ya)

I have been trying to play the game of golf for a long time now.  How long?  Certainly long enough to know that it is one of the most humbling things a person can do.    Let me explain why.

Most games or activities when you do it for awhile you generally get better at it.  If you play the piano or if you work on crosswords or "fill in the blank - pick anything" you learn the ins and outs and improve.  With repetition you can develop skills.

Okay. I suppose to some extent I have learned more about golf over the years.  Over time I have watched others play, taken a few lessons, read "how-to" books, and learned the lingo of golf. " Keep your head down" and "turn from the waist towards the flag" and "bend the knees slightly, butt out."   I know the etiquette of golf.  "Farthest on the green putts first" and "don't step in someone's line".  "Always mark the ball before lifting it."

I enjoy the social aspects of golf immensely and love being in the great outdoors.  Golf courses are beautiful places!  I live in an area that has many courses and I love being on them and seeing the gorgeous terrain and the birds and animals that live around them.   I also love the exercise I get from golf.  I know some people will differ with me, but golf can be good for the ole body.  Especially for me, a high handicapper.  I swing and hit the ball many, many times each round.  The swing action is good for the waist, the squatting to look at putts is good for the legs and butt, and when I walk a course I get some cardio work done too.

So, yes, these are reasons I play golf and continue to go at it. 

But, now, let me talk about the "humbling" part.   For me, when I start a round of golf I have hopes and expectations.  I must admit I think to myself "maybe I will score well today!"   For some reason I usually do have a pretty good first hole.  I get off the first tee well.  So, that builds my hopes a little higher.  I tell myself this might just be a good game of golf today!   

Mistake!!!

Golf is a game where the brain is very active.  Pretty soon I start thinking too much...I am trying to remember how to hit the fairway wood, and chip up...and then putt accurately. I'm counting each and every stroke.  A bad shot?  My brain says "Oh no, I shot  poorly and got a 7 so next hole I have to hit the ball well and make up for the bad shot. "  In golf whenever I try "too hard" I get worse.  I start to tighten my grip or swing too hard.   Then it's downhill  from there.

So I'm in this beautiful environment and I get mad at myself, and a bit embarrassed.  Golf is a game of honesty.  You don't lie about your score.  You deal with it. 

Now, here's another humbling aspect of the game:  On a rare occasion I play a pretty good round for me.  As we say "the golf god" is kind that day...or perhaps my body is just in sync better, or my brain is staying out of the way.  Who knows!   But it does happen!    A good thing, right?   Yes - and no!   So, now my expectations have gotten bigger and my brain plays more tricks on me.  

You know, the PGA commercials that say "these guys are good!" when talking about the pros on tour?  How right that ad is!  They amaze me how they seem to stay calm and focused at the same time.  Can you even imagine playing the game with those huge galleries watching, not to mention the millions in the TV viewing audience?  And playing for thousands of dollars?  I play enough golf to know they are really, really incredible!

So, I admit I do not practice golf like I should.  I don't like to go out by myself and practice on the driving range, or spend time hitting ball after ball out of a sand trap.  The pros do. 

So, then my brain tells me "no wonder you are no good...you don't practice. What do you expect?" But, then it happens....  I hit an amazing shot that gets plenty of loft and goes in the direction I want it to go!  My partners on the course say "great shot"!   Why, thank you.   Oh...but now I have to hit the ball again.   Oh no. I get nervous." I want to do TWO good shots in a row.  Maybe I can make a par!"
Stop it brain!!!

I know if you are reading this and play golf you are totally understanding me.  I think we all have the same thoughts, perhaps some more often than others.   Golf is a game where you never really achieve a goal.  Or if you do finally hit a score you do like, you than try to better it.   You learn to stay humble and thankful at the same time.

Oh golf, how I love ya - and how I hate ya!  

 

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