Monday, August 20, 2007

"Playing" Golf

I am a golf nut. Although I have a lot of routine obligations, I have a fair amount of freedom regarding when those things need to be accomplished. Consequently, most weeks I can play 63 or more holes of golf at a lower-tier private club with a challenging, well-maintained golf course, a decent bar, and bare bones amenities everywhere else. In the summer I live for golf.

I first joined this club 12 years ago when I was working full time, but I really started to play a lot after I retired. Slowly my scores improved from over 100 to the low 80's, and I shot two 79's for my best rounds ever. Then, due to over-golfing, I developed so many aches and pains that I had to stop. This year, after a two-year break, I've been playing again and staying healthy. I love it, largely because at age 63 I can still compete with much younger players. My current USGA handicap is 15, and it's going down.

Why is golf such a great game? The #1 reason is that you compete with yourself - everything depends on you alone. Lose your concentration and lose a stroke... make a bad decision and maybe lose two strokes or more... you have nobody else to blame. The #2 reason is that golf requires both power and finesse. It helps a lot to hit a drive 250 yards or more, but it's equally important to correctly read a three-foot breaking downhill putt and put it in the hole. The #3 reason is that you can have a great social time, get good exercise (by walking, like I do), and compete at a high level at the same time. Lastly, the handicap system means that I could play a meaningful match against Tiger Woods, since he'd have to give me 20 strokes or more.

Aside from my own struggles to improve many aspects of my golf game, the thing that most frustrates me about golf is the players who don't have fundamental skills but complain when they hit poor shots. These guys go right from their car to the first tee with no warm-up. They have a poor grip on the club, they position the ball incorrectly, and they swing like they're killing snakes, yet they complain bitterly when they hit the ball sideways. Although laughing at another player's shot is bad manners, I assure you that a full-length comedy could be made on any Saturday at the golf course. I would provide a few laughs myself, no doubt.

My father, who died at 62 from heart problems caused by rheumatic fever, was an excellent golfer. He was strong but he never tried to overpower the golf ball. He often practiced his short game in the back yard and he believed that "scores are really made from 100 yards in to the cup". I can still see him walking to the car on a Saturday morning with his garish yellow pants and a goofy hat, smiling as he waved goodbye while thinking about the fun that awaited him. Only now can I really appreciate all he tried to teach me, and I wonder if he knows I still hear his voice when I step up to the ball. "That's the shot, Dad, just like you showed me!" Thanks for the help, old man.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Isn't it wonderful?

I played Sunday, and then gave myself Tuesday off, to play a new course.

It is beautiful, deceptively difficult. The greens however were cut by the superintendent that maintains hell. My best guess is an eleven or twelve on a Stimp meter.

Now and again I three putt. I never four putt. Until this week. If you missed the hole you have at least a six footer, and that's on an uphill putt. I exagerate, but that's how I felt.