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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

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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