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Opinion & Analysis

18 hints of joy in golf

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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:

[youtube id=”bGijqpUGqyc” width=”620″ height=”360″]

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

5 Comments

  1. George Steiner

    Aug 12, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Being called “Kid” when you’re over 50.

  2. Dave

    Aug 7, 2013 at 8:26 am

    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…

  3. mehmet saglam

    Aug 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for the feedback on the site

  4. Debra Wutke

    Aug 2, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    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.

    • David Zinger

      Aug 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      Debra:
      Thanks for the feedback on the site. Like the idea of a foursome on the 19th generating their own list. Joy can be par for the course.
      David

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Opinion & Analysis

Slow play is all about the numbers

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If you gather round, children, I’ll let you in on a secret: slow play is all about the numbers. Which numbers? The competitive ones. If you compete at golf, no matter the level, you care about the numbers you post for a hole, a round, or an entire tournament. Those numbers cause you to care about the prize at the end of the competition, be it a handshake, $$$$, a trophy, or some other bauble. Multiply the amount that you care, times the number of golfers in your group, your flight, the tournament, and the slowness of golf increases by that exponent.

That’s it. You don’t have to read any farther to understand the premise of this opinion piece. If you continue, though, I promise to share a nice anecdotal story about a round of golf I played recently—a round of golf on a packed golf course, that took a twosome exactly three hours and 10 minutes to complete, holing all putts.

I teach and coach at a Buffalo-area high school. One of my former golfers, in town for a few August days, asked if we could play the Grover Cleveland Golf Course while he was about. Grover is a special place for me: I grew up sneaking on during the 1970s. It hosted the 1912 U.S. Open when it was the Country Club of Buffalo. I returned to play it with Tom Coyne this spring, becoming a member of #CitizensOfACCA in the process.

Since my former golfer’s name is Alex, we’ll call him Alex, to avoid confusion. Alex and I teed off at 1:30 on a busy, sunny Wednesday afternoon in August. Ahead of us were a few foursomes; behind us, a few more. There may have been money games in either place, or Directors’ Cup matches, but to us, it was no matter. We teed it high and let it fly. I caught up on Alex’ four years in college, and his plans for the upcoming year. I shared with him the comings and goings of life at school, which teachers had left since his graduation, and how many classrooms had new occupants. It was barroom stuff, picnic-table conversation, water-cooler gossip. Nothing of dense matter nor substance, but pertinent and enjoyable, all the same.

To the golf. Neither one of us looked at the other for permission to hit. Whoever was away, at any given moment, mattered not a bit. He hit and I hit, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes within an instant of the other. We reached the putting surface and we putted. Same pattern, same patter. Since my high school golfers will need to choose flagstick in or out this year, we putted with it in. Only once did it impact our roll: a pounded putt’s pace was slowed by the metal shaft. Score one for Bryson and the flagstick-in premise!

Grover tips out around 5,600 yards. After the U.S. Open and the US Public Links were contested there, a healthy portion of land was given away to the Veteran’s Administration, and sorely-needed hospital was constructed at the confluence of Bailey, Lebrun, and Winspear Avenues. It’s an interesting track, as it now and forever is the only course to have hosted both the Open and the Publinx; since the latter no longer exists, this fact won’t change. It remains the only course to have played a par-6 hole in U.S. Open competition. 480 of those 620 yards still remain, the eighth hole along Bailey Avenue. It’s not a long course, it doesn’t have unmanageable water hazards (unless it rains a lot, and the blocked aquifer backs up) and the bunkering is not, in the least, intimidating.

Here’s the rub: Alex and I both shot 75 or better. We’re not certain what we shot, because we weren’t concerned with score. We were out for a day of reminiscence, camaraderie, and recreation. We golfed our balls, as they say in some environs, for the sheer delight of golfing our balls. Alex is tall, and hits this beautiful, high draw that scrapes the belly of the clouds. I hit what my golfing buddies call a power push. It gets out there a surprising distance, but in no way mimics Alex’ trace. We have the entire course covered, from left to right and back again.

On the 14th tee, I checked my phone and it was 3:40. I commented, “Holy smokes, we are at two hours for 13 holes.” We neither quickened nor slowed our pace. We tapped in on 18, right around 4:40, and shook hands. I know what he’s been up to. He understands why I still have a day job, and 18 holes of golf were played—because we both cared and didn’t care.

There you have it, children. Off with you, now. To the golf course. Play like you don’t care.

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Opinion & Analysis

Golfers: Go easy on yourselves!

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Heres a fact for you: nearly half of all golfers will never break 100, according to the National Golf Foundation. Less than that will ever break 90, and only five percent will ever break 80. Golf is not an easy game, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Period.

I’m not here to go all Zen golf on you; I can only speak from personal experience, but the moment you accept that, regardless of your ability to score, you can have a lot of fun, the more you will truly enjoy the game of golf.

When I first learned to play, like many, I was not very good. Everyone I played with was way better than me, and although I don’t remember a lot of those early rounds, I can remember moments of feeling embarrassed for my play. It wasn’t because of the people I was playing with, they were all very helpful and patient, but for some reason, I knew that I was not helping the group. It is those memories that allow me to make sure no matter who I play with now, I make them feel welcome on the course and help them any chance I can.

We all started somewhere, and regardless of how many rounds we have played or how low our handicaps have gotten, we need to be accepting that anyone that takes the time to try and play golf should be afforded the opportunity to learn and enjoy the game.

Even with my current level of play, the insecurities of being a newbie creep in from time to time, I never want to feel like I am the reason my group is being slow—although I must admit that with my normal pace of play that’s not usually an issue. I played a round very earlier in the year during a trip to Florida where I was paired with what I would call very regular golfers, players who generally break 100, but struggle with aspects of their game. Even then, just like when I was 10 years old, I was having a hard time out of a bunker one the second hole and after blading one into the pond on my second attempt (give me a break, it was my first round in four months), I just walked to the green, tended the flag, and told them I’d take my ESC (equitable stroke control) number for the hole. Thas describes my golf game, and I’m OK with that.

Too many golfers get caught up in how the pros play—from the tips, bombing drivers, expecting to make six birdies a round. Players on the PGA Tour are like the aliens from Space Jam (I just seriously dated myself) the Monstars. They have every skill imaginable, and get to do this for a living—you better believe they are going to be good at it. There is NO reason as a 10-15 handicap you should be slamming clubs and stomping your feet for missing a green from 150 yards. It’s just part of the game. Heck, even Rory McIlroy misses greens from time to time. Do you ever hit it like Rory?

Expectations are part of the human ego, and if we don’t manage them properly, we will always feel like we are inadequate. In reality, we should approach every challenge (even something as simple as golf) with the idea that today I have the opportunity to be great, but there is also the equal chance I will fail. We learn from failure, we improve after failure, and it’s not something we should be scared of.

No matter your score, make it fun, enjoy the day, embrace the challenge. Your expectations can make or break what to take from every round of golf you play, and if you think for a second this is the worst golf ever played—trust me it’s not. It’s just one round of many bad rounds played every day, and the next round is your next challenge. Honestly, you’re not as bad as you think you are.

Go easy on yourself. Golf is a lot more enjoyable that way.

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Podcasts

TG2: LPGA Tour caddie Chris McCalmont

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LPGA Tour caddie Chris McCalmont joins us to talk about his 12-year career as a caddie. How volatile the job market is, the money they make, and what he loves about caddying. Chris also makes some interesting comments on slow play and what can, and cannot, be done about it.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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