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
- Being outdoors in fresh air with good company.
- Playing a round of golf with your dad.
- Watching in awe as your 3-year-old swings a giant plastic orange golf driver with a fluid and natural tempo.
- Feeling the freshness and possibility as you open up a sleeve of new golf balls to start a round.
- Hearing the sweet sound of the clubface making solid contact with the ball.
- Observing a long putt that pauses for just a moment before cascading into the cup.
- Offering your partner a tip and seeing instant improvement in his or her game.
- Engaging in a sport that offers you delivery service of a beer to celebrate or commiserate the round while you are still playing it.
- 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.
- Playing Pebble Beach, St. Andrews or any other iconic track.
- Hitting a terrible shot that thunks off a tree and ends up 11 inches from the hole.
- Never waiting on a tee box all day, because everyone is maintaining a rapid pace of play.
- Hooking your drive into the woods, finding your ball plus a few others, and realizing you have a clear shot to the green.
- Experiencing the vicarious joy of having someone you are golfing with make a terrific shot or score a hole in one.
- Kibitzing in nonstop playful banter with your partners giving you more laughs than swings to complete your round.
- 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.
- Finishing a round feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and re-energized with eager anticipation of getting out again immediately.
- 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.