Yesterday in her Therapeutic Misadventures blog, my friend Martha Schaefer wrote about golf based on her day spent photographing a Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament.
I learned to play golf many years ago when I worked for companies large and small. I wanted to participate in the golf outings that make up a key part of sales meetings, reseller conferences and other corporate events. Not playing means that you stay in the clubhouse organizing the dinner or run the spouse event. In neither case does one spend time building relationships with the executives and sales people who can make your job easier and help with your career.
I started by taking lessons with a female golf pro, something that I think is essential. I have taken lessons with men and they just don’t understand the difference in physiology. They kept trying to get me to play more like a man, which was never going to happen. Instructors also help novices to understand golf etiquette, which can be more daunting than the actual strokes. Golf lessons teach you how to play the game, but sometimes the game has lessons to teach you.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Once I got out on the course and started playing, I learned my strengths and weaknesses. A strength is that I can take a good shot at the ball when I drive off the tee. A weakness is that, no matter how hard that shot is, the ball will go about 150 yards down the fairway and no further. On a short hole, this is fine. When facing a 450-yard monster fairway, I joke that I can make it to the green in 12.
That means I prefer best-ball scrambles to a straight game. Best-ball means I can take advantage of a man’s long drive down the fairway and he can take advantage of my straight-line drive.
This is particularly valuable on a dog-leg fairway. I drive straight, dropping the ball right at the corner of the dog leg. The men try to cut the corner off by hitting across the rough. This works great in Arizona where the fairways are pretty open. In New England, not so much. I would wait and listen to their golf balls going clack-clack-clack as they bounced off the tree trunks. Then we would motor on to my ball, sitting white and pretty with a straight line to the tee.
A Long Meditation
As I played more, I learned that golf can be as much a meditation as it is a game. For several hours, you think about little but the game:
- Where’s the green?
- How long is the fairway?
- What club should I use?
- Where did the ball land?
- Where’s the green?
- Is there something between my ball and the green?
- What club should I use?
- Repeat as necessary.
Those concern allows for small talk with your foursome but don’t leave room for worrying about the big things in life. That much focus for that much time clears the mind wonderfully. Even the “Oh, crap,” moments keep your mind on the game.
More Lessons from Golf
Other things golf has taught me:
Water hazards have magnetic powers. Those pretty blue ponds, lakes and streams seem to draw balls toward them with supernatural strength.
Teeing off on a hole at Copperhead in Tampa, I saw a water hazard off the right. But I usually hit straight down the fairway so I wasn’t too concerned with a problem in that direction. I approached the tee with confidence and dropped three balls in a row into the water. They stayed there, too, because courses in Florida place hazard lines for a reason—large, green, scaly reasons with big teeth.
- One good shot goes a long way. You may blow your score on the entire course but what you will remember is that One Good Shot that made you feel great. Playing off-season at The Sagamore in upstate New York, I put my first shot into a bunker. The next shot got me out of the sand but looking at a big pond between me and the green. I had a choice between whacking the heck out of the ball and hoping I made it across the water or dinking a small shot to the water’s edge and then hitting over it. I was angry with myself about the bunker and in no mood to dink so I whacked. My ball sailed straight and high, over the water and onto the green. Another member of the foursome said, “So when are you going on the circuit?” That happened many years ago and it still makes me feel good.
Golf courses are beautiful places. You may get a sense of this when driving past one in your car but you really have to get out there to see how pretty many of them are. Beyond the perfect landscaping, colorful flower beds, and heavy mulch of the clubhouse area, courses become more wild and scenic.
That makes them not only beautiful to look at but attractive to wildlife. I have seen fox, coyote, hawk, turkey vulture, great blue heron, rabbit, fisher cat, soft-shell turtle, snake, deer, and, of course, alligator. I missed the black bear in New Hampshire, though.
- Golf courses are designed by men for men. This is changing as more courses figure out that they can benefit by providing suitable amenities for women players. After taking advantage of the bar cart, men can just go off into a rough and relieve themselves. This is more difficult and much more unpleasant for women. The obvious solution is to not drink anything and that’s the tactic of choice for most female players unless you know that a potty hut exists somewhere out around the 5th and 14th holes, far from the clubhouse. Not drinking, obviously, means less profit for the bar cart so country clubs and public courses alike have a reason to build those outhouses.
I don’t play much anymore, mostly because I no longer have the opportunity to participate in many best-ball scrambles. I live next door to a golf course, though, so I can still appreciate its beauty. In the off-season when the fairways are empty I walk around the cart paths like it’s a park. The front nine is compact and looks like fun. The back nine poses a more of a challenge, to put it mildly.
I recommend the game highly, though. Its’ worth playing just for the lessons.