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Opinion & Analysis

18 hints of joy in golf



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: Email David:



  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

      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.

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Opinion & Analysis

How valuable is hitting the fairway, really?



Hitting more than 50 percent of fairways has long been considered a good goal for amateur golfers. The winners on the PGA Tour tend to hit 70 percent. I have long maintained, however, that it is not the number of fairways HIT that matters. Instead, it is the relative severity of fairways MISSED.

Think about it. By the one-dimensional Fairways Hit stat, every miss is the same. A perfect lie in the first cut is exactly the same as a drive in a hazard… or even OB. There is nothing in the 650+ PGA Tour stats about this. In all, there are 60 stats in seven categories that relate to driving performance, but none about penalties! Like PGA Tour players don’t make any?

Let’s see exactly how important the old tried-and-true Driving Accuracy (Percentage of Fairways Hit) really is. To test it, I used two data clusters: the 2017 PGA Tour season (14,845 ShotLink rounds) and my database for the average male golfer (15 to 19 handicappers – 4,027 rounds).

For the graph below, I started with the No. 1-ranked player in the Driving Accuracy category: Ryan Armour. He certainly was accurate by this measure, but why did he only rank 100th in 2017 Strokes Gained Off the Tee with a barely positive 0.020?

Next I looked at the actual top-5 PGA Tour money winners (J. Thomas, J Spieth, D. Johnson, H. Matsuyama and J. Rohm), the 2017 PGA Tour average, and all PGA Tour players that missed the cut in 2017. We all know the significant scoring differences between these three categories of players, but it’s difficult to see a meaningful difference in the fairways hit. They’re not even separated by half a fairway. How important could this stat be?

For those that have not tried, our analysis includes Strokes Gained and Relative Handicap comparisons. That enables users to easily differentiate between FIVE MISS categories below based upon severity. The final three categories are what we consider to be Driving Errors:

  1. Good lie/Opportunity: One can easily accomplish their next goal of a GIR or advancement on a par-5.
  2. Poor Lie/Opportunity: One could accomplish the next goal, but it will require a very good shot.
  3. No Shot: Requires an advancement to return to normal play.
  4. Penalty-1: Penalty with a drop.
  5. OB/Lost: Stroke and distance penalty, or shot replayed with a stroke penalty.

As we are fortunate enough to work with several PGA Tour players at Shot by Shot, we have access to ShotLink data and can provide those clients with the same valuable insight.

Let’s see how the frequency and severity of driving errors relates to the above groups of players (removing Mr. Armour, as he simply helped us prove the irrelevance of Driving Accuracy). The graphs below display the number of Driving Errors per round and the Average Cost Per Error. Note the strong and consistent correlation between the number and the cost of errors at each of the four levels of performance.

Finally, the average cost of the errors is heavily driven by the three degrees of severity outlined above (No Shot, Penalty, OB/Lost). The graph below compares the relative number and cost of the three types of errors for the average golfer and PGA Tour players. The major difference is that PGA Tour players do not seem to have a proper share of OB/Lost penalties. I found only TWO in the 14,000+ ShotLink rounds. While I accept that the most severe faux pas are significantly less frequent on the PGA Tour, I also believe there must have been more than two.

Why so few? First and foremost, PGA Tour players REALLY ARE good. Next, the galleries stop a lot of the wayward shots. And finally, I believe that many of the ShotLink volunteer data collectors may not actually know or care about the difference between a Penalty and OB/Lost.

Author’s Note: If you want to know your Strokes Gained Off the Tee (Driving) and exactly how important your fairways and the misses are, log onto for a 1-Round FREE Trial.

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Opinion & Analysis

Yo GolfWRX: “Are you betting on Tiger Woods to win the Masters?” (Bonus: A March Madness-inspired shot attempt)



Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky discuss a variety of topics including Tiger Woods being the favorite at The Masters. Also, a Fujikura Pro 2.0 shaft unboxing, Knudson paints the new TG2 studio, and Tursky tries to go viral during March Madness season.

Enjoy the video below!

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Opinion & Analysis

Tiger shoots opening-round 68 at Bay Hill, is now the Masters betting favorite



It’s happening. Tiger Woods is playing good golf, and the Masters hype train is full-steam ahead. After opening at 100-1 odds to win the Masters, Tiger is now the favorite to win at Augusta in 2018, according to Jeff Sherman, an oddsmaker for (according to his Twitter bio).

After 9 holes (he started on the back nine) at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill — where Tiger has won eight times — he was sitting at 3-under par. What also happened at that time was Sherman updated Tiger as the favorite to win the Masters. Clearly, bettors and Tiger fans had seen all they needed to see in order to put their money down on him winning another Green Jacket in 2018.

Related: See the clubs in Tiger’s bag

On the course’s third hole, however, with water looming left, Tiger hit a foul ball with a 3-wood off the tee and later realized the shot had gone out-of-bounds. Tiger was hot under the collar after hearing the news, and he threw his 3-wood headcover backwards in disgust as he started walking back to the tee to reload. He salvaged double-bogey, and he then made three more birdies coming home to complete his 4-under par round of 68; one of the birdies was a 71-footer after which all Tiger could do was smile.

Woods currently sits in a tie for fifth place, just two shots behind the leader Henrik Stenson.

Can Tiger win at Bay Hill for the ninth time? Will you bet on Tiger as the favorite to win at the Masters? Will Tiger win the Masters?

The questions above would have seemed ridiculous to ask just a month ago, but they’re now legitimate. Welcome back to the spotlight, Tiger.

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19th Hole