Why I Love Golf

There are few sports that I love more than golf. In fact, there are few anythings that I love more than golf. Whenever I am on the golf course, even if I am playing badly, I feel a powerful love for everything and everyone and have a big smile on my face that seems glued there.

I know why this is. Because out on the links, it’s just me and the ball, me and the game. Any personal struggles are left behind, all regrets, mistakes, not in the picture. Even the positive aspects of life are sitting back there, waiting for me when I walk off the 9th or 18th hole. For the next few hours, I am walking through a manicured landscape, swinging a stick and watching a ball propelling into the air and landing somewhere over there.

I don’t expect much from golf. I’d like to get the point where I can consistently hit bogie, par, and the occasional birdie. I don’t hope to some day reach a competitive level – it’s too late for that anyway. And this, I think, is the most compelling thing about golf for me. Pure enjoyment.

I’ve always been one to be a bit hard on myself. Noticing that I had some natural talents, I was never one to let myself get away with not aiming high. But somewhere along the way, something bad happened – I let this overwhelm me. I grew jaded, to the point of ignoring my God-given abilities. I compared myself to lofty “idols” or “heros” that only accentuated the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be. I became discouraged.

That never happened with golf. I never try to push myself too far beyond my current skill level, I can skip a few days and notice that I can still return to the course with the same unfettered joy and enthusiasm. Golf, for me, is a respite, a refuge. I don’t feel any cosmic responsibility to face it down.

That’s why I love golf.

Control Is 1/2 Reconciliation

Today, I was out on the links playing eighteen holes with a couple of friends. I wasn’t playing my best – a few bad long game shots can really add up, especially when about ten golf balls end up in the shrubs, the water, or the trees. Although I hit mostly bad shots, there were a few here and there that I wouldn’t mind taking credit for – the kind that keep me coming back. And that got me thinking, somehow, about control.

How much control do we actually have?

In a golf game, one would hope for a fair amount of control – especially if he is an experienced golfer. But even then, how much control does he have, and how much of it is in the hands of the wind, the greens, the dryness or wetness of the grass?

And even excluding these environmental factors, what about internal ones? Like a slight miscalculation? An oversight? A one degree movement of the wrist that casts the ball into the bunker?

The idea is that if the golfer keeps coming back, he gains enough experience – deals with enough “hazards,” inside and out – to where he gradually gains more and more control. More control over his internal factors – his posture, his swing, his mentality. But what about the external factors?

Pro golfers are pro because they’ve gained more internal control, but I’m not convinced that they leave the environmental factors up to the gods. Their methods of control must include the environmental factors, must dance with them, no matter how adverse. The pro golfer uses them to his advantage.

So, in a way, control is admitting that half of the game is not at all being in control. It’s not like the pro golfer controls the direction of the breeze, the slope of the fairway, or the position of the hazards. Rather, he nods to them, and devises a way to have them work in his favor.

A great pro golfer can provide the illusion that he is bending heaven and earth to get that ball in the hole in so few strokes.

Perhaps he is, in a way.