Joy in golf, really?

Can you really find joy in golf? There is no joy in a score that approaches or exceeds triple digits, hitting a bunker shot that sails over the green into another bunker or missing a three foot putt and failing to record your lowest score ever.

Seventy five years ago, we learned there was the Joy of Cooking and 41 years ago our suspicions were confirmed with the publication of the Joy of Sex. But is there joy in golf or is joyless golf par for the course?

You can lay down your VISA card and purchase a pair of FootJoys, but this is joy only for the soles of the feet and may not touch your golf soul. And have you noticed that FootJoy is not so certain that we can find joy, and have abbreviated their brand to “FJ,” which could also stand for foolish jerk or forever jinxed?

“Oh my goodness,” I can hear you say as you read this post.

“I hope he is not into another one of those golf articles about finding our bliss when I have trouble finding my ball in three inches of fescue, or taking two drives off the same tee box only to realize I have lost both my balls in the woods.”

I am not suggesting you “bliss out” on the first tee and merge with the ball so that you and the ball achieve some cosmic oneness. What I do want to suggest is there are always scents or a sense of joy in golf that can reward us and keep us playing.

Sometimes these joyful moments are spectacular, such as Shawn Stefani’s hole-in-one at the 2013 U.S. Open in Merion on Sunday at the 213-yard 17th. If you did not see this shot, pause your reading and watch the video here:

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It was enthralling to see the 4-iron shot bounce off the side of the mound on the left side of the green and take the long roll culminating with the ball tumbling into the cup, and a thrill to watch Stefani and his caddie engage in their bouncy and joyful celebration of the shot. When he arrived at the green, Stefani kissed the spot where the ball hit before beginning the slow roll descent to the cup. Yet Stefani ended up tied for 59th with a score of 19-over-par that included an 85 in Round 3. We must find joy where we can, and realize that it must not only be contingent upon a miracle-like shot.

Of course, you know what it is like when you are upset and someone tells you to calm down. That is the last thing you need to hear. So I am not telling you to find joy — I just want to offer you 18 hints of joy that can be found in golf, because even one moment of joy can ease the pain of a terrible round. The 18 hints are just a short primer for joy and I am sure you can find your own hints of joy.

18 Hints of Joy

  1. Being outdoors in fresh air with good company.
  2. Playing a round of golf with your dad.
  3. Watching in awe as your 3-year-old swings a giant plastic orange golf driver with a fluid and natural tempo.
  4. Feeling the freshness and possibility as you open up a sleeve of new golf balls to start a round.
  5. Hearing the sweet sound of the clubface making solid contact with the ball.
  6. Observing a long putt that pauses for just a moment before cascading into the cup.
  7. Offering your partner a tip and seeing instant improvement in his or her game.
  8. Engaging in a sport that offers you delivery service of a beer to celebrate or commiserate the round while you are still playing it.
  9. Taking in the beautiful views and vistas on the course while smelling the earthiness of freshly cut grass as you hear the swish swish swich tempo of distant sprinklers.
  10. Playing Pebble Beach, St. Andrews or any other iconic track.
  11. Hitting a terrible shot that thunks off a tree and ends up 11 inches from the hole.
  12. Never waiting on a tee box all day, because everyone is maintaining a rapid pace of play.
  13. Hooking your drive into the woods, finding your ball plus a few others, and realizing you have a clear shot to the green.
  14. Experiencing the vicarious joy of having someone you are golfing with make a terrific shot or score a hole in one.
  15. Kibitzing in nonstop playful banter with your partners giving you more laughs than swings to complete your round.
  16. Being the first person to tee off early morning on the back nine and feeling both peaceful solitude and robust connection to the course and game.
  17. Finishing a round feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and re-energized with eager anticipation of getting out again immediately.
  18. Drifting to sleep at night with images of great shots, good rounds, and gratitude for the wonderful golf friendships you have made.

As Walter Hagen said: “Don’t hurry, don’t worry, you’re only here for a short visit, so be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” I encourage you to experience many scents of joy in your next round.

Where do you find joy in golf? I would love to read your joyful responses in the comments, thank you.

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David Zinger taught Educational Psychology at the University of Manitoba for 20 years focusing on counseling psychology and how to teach adults. His master's thesis was on humor in counseling. During this time he has studied and kept a keen interest in the various elements of golf and performance psychology.

David lives in Winnipeg, Canada so he contends with six months of snow hibernating his limited time to golf. David is primarily focused on employee engagement and runs a global network of 6000 members focused on the topic. Many of the key principles of engagement also apply to golf: connecting to results, energy, strengths, progress, performance, meaning, and moments.

Although David only plays golf occasionally he has a passion for the game that dates back to being a $2.00 a round caddy at 12 years of age for Riverside Golf Club in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He enjoys playing golf with his wife Susan and they both relish each having a hole-in-one.

Website: www.davidzinger.com
Email David: david@davidzinger.com

5 COMMENTS

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  1. One of the life lessons I’ve been lucky enough to learn is GRATITUDE. It’s pertinent since we can so easily forget, on those less than stellar ball striking days, to be grateful for the privilege to enjoy this game and all the gifts it bestows upon us. Here’s an example of what I’m grateful for:

    1) The maintenance crew’s hard work to create quality turf conditions.
    2) A beautiful setting in nature.
    3) The opportunity to pull off a difficult shot.
    4) As a golf instructor, I get to share my love for the game with others.
    5) I’m lucky enough to have made birdies and eagles, but still eagerly awaiting my 1st hole-in-one.
    6) The anticipation of a golf trip to Bandon Dunes.
    7) New golf clubs.
    8) Playing a course for the first time.
    9) Beating my personal best score.
    10) Confidence with the putter.
    11) A quality practice session where I learned something new.
    12) Seeing someone get hooked on golf for the first time.
    13) Fixing my ball mark near the pin.
    14) Developing lifelong friendships.
    15) The 18th hole as tall, majestic trees cast long shadows across the fairway around sunset.
    16) The anticipation of a new golf season on that first warm spring day.
    17) Waiting to go for the green on my 2nd shot on a par 5.
    18) Hitting the sweet spot.

    Finally, this thought has has helped me to keep the proper perspective in life:
    -I am one of the fortunate people in this world that doesn’t have to worry about where my next meal and clean glass of drinking water will come from-
    Perspective can make or break one’s outlook in golf and life. If you make a conscious effort to be grateful for what you have, your life will be better – pure and simple…

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your 18 Hints and suspect a foursome on the 19th hole could quickly contribute another 18 to the list. These are just some of the reasons I get on a course every chance I get. Thank you for putting this great game in perspective.

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