I play golf twice a week. That is, I dress in shorts and polo shirt and spend a few hours hitting a golf ball somewhat aimlessly around a golf course. I do this with a few other men of lesser and greater talent at it than I. It only vaguely resembles the golf you might see on your TV screen. We do not hit those incredibly long drives, splash the ball out of a sand trap to within a couple of feet of the hole, or sink 65 foot putts. The courses we play are considerably shorter than the ones the pros play. And we don't even play them from the back tees. This is a bit demoralizing when I watch the pros at work. It's at that point that I realize I am not really playing the game. Any par 4 hole greater in length than 400 yards is, effectively, a par 5 for me. This is because it is extremely unlikely that I will hit two shots in a row that will total a distance of 400 yards. And I am not alone. The vast majority of us out on the courses are rarely breaking 90. We are basically just the cannon fodder of golf. Our purpose in the sport is to spend money on golf equipment and lessons in the vain hope that we might actually improve. It's how the golf industry survives and prospers.
I have to admit I am better than when I started. After all, I couldn't break 100 for close to 6 months after I first started and then it took me another year plus before I broke 90. And that's where my improvement slowed to a snail's pace. I am stuck in the mid 80s. I have only broken 80 twice; 31 years ago and this past year.
I have two golf "lives". I first started playing back in the mid 1970s when I was about 25. I started on little par 3 courses, moved up to executive courses, and finally went for the regular courses. Golf was relatively cheap back then. It only cost $2.50 to play the municipal course in San Diego. I bought a set of off the rack clubs for about $80 at some point. I played for about 10 years and just kind of gave it up. Life interfered, you could say. I had just gotten remarried and had moved to Virginia. I had other things on my mind and golf had been on the back burner for some time. The clubs sat in my garage until 2002. Realizing that I was moving toward retirement, that I needed some exercise, and that I missed playing golf, I decided to get back into the game. Ok, ok, I am sure Tiger Woods had something to do with it also.
I dragged out my old clubs and went down to the range and hit some balls. Surprisingly, I hit them ok. Sure, I messed up a bit but I hadn't picked up a club in 15 years (except to move them from one garage to the next). Still, the clubs were old so I needed to buy new ones. Not wanting to invest too much into it, I picked up a set off the shelf at a Sports Authority store. These turned out to be very well suited for me. At least for the next couple of years while I tried to regain my form of 15 years prior. It wasn't a very good form, mind you, but it served me well enough.
After a few months, my game started to improve a bit. My handicap dropped from a 20 to 22 then to a fairly solid 17 or 18 and stayed there. When your game stagnates, a golfer's natural reaction is to blame everything else but his natural ability. This is when the buying begins. A new driver, new irons, new putters by the truckload. This is the period in a golfer's life where he is most valued by the golf industry. They can now sell him lessons and new equipment, each of which will tease him into thinking he can actually get down into the 70s even as he's getting older, less limber, and (face it) weaker. As this happened to me, I remembered a man I played a few rounds with when I was a young man. He was 90 years old. He could hit the ball maybe 120 yards with a tail wind. But he could shoot his age and he was happy just to be upright, mobile, and out on a golf course.
My advice, which I have taken to heart, is learn to accept your innate ability and go back to loving the game itself.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago