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Opinion & Analysis

Why do we love golf?

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There’s often a point in a round of golf, most typically after my second consecutive double-bogey, when I wonder what I’m doing, why I’m wasting my time and money, and if I’m really enjoying myself.

This usually passes with a good tee shot, a nice iron approach or a made 20-footer.

Sometimes I wonder though, do I really love golf? And if so, why?

[quote_box_center]“I think it’s the best sport once you’re in your 40s,” Mark, who I guessed was in his 50s, told me at Whispering Palms. “There’s physical skill required, mental obstacles to overcome, an element of skill and luck on every shot.”[/quote_box_center]

“I know I can hit the shots, not every time, but most of the time,” said Jeremy, a white-shirted 30-something golfer wearing a red hat and matching red shoes. “And in that second-and-a-half when I’m swinging, every bit of concentration I have is focused on the challenge of hitting the ball just right.”

So, it’s the challenge of golf we love?

[quote_box_center]“When I visualize a shot before I hit it and then hit that shot,” Brian told me at Dos Lagos. “When the ball is in the air, it’s nothing short of orgasmic.”[/quote_box_center]

And I backed away from him as he went to the tee.

“I can hit a shot sometimes,” Paul, a 12-handicap at Santa Anita, said, “that’s as good as any pro could have hit from the same spot.”

“Dude, they’d never be in the same spots you’re in,” said his friend Ari.

“Hey, remember who’s winning the match,” Paul snapped back.

Maybe it’s the competition with each other that makes us love golf?

[quote_box_center]“You’re really only competing with yourself,” Daniel told me at Redhawk. “And with the golf course, I suppose. But you can’t really ever beat the golf course.”[/quote_box_center]

“I love to play in tournaments, men’s club or SCGA,” Ramon, a 9-handicap, said. “You have to play the ball down, play it into the hole, no mulligans, and everyone has to play the same course, the same wind, the same hole locations. You get an honest measurement of yourself, your game against everyone else’s.”

“Yeah, it confirms how bad you suck,” his friend, I think, Ruben answered.

Maybe it’s that camaraderie we love?

[quote_box_center]“I’m playing with my little brother and two guys I’ve known since elementary school,” Weston offered at the short course at Brookside in Pasadena. “We give it to each other pretty good every hole. Then we continue it after the round in the bar.”[/quote_box_center]

“I’ve been playing with this same group of guys now for three years,” said Tim, a 10-handicap wearing a Puma hat, an UnderArmour shirt and a Nike belt over Adidas shoes. “We play a serious game except when we’re making fun of each other.”

“After every shot you hit,” said his cart partner Nick.

“You don’t laugh when I drive it like 50 yards past you,” Tim responded.

So, maybe it’s crushing the ball that makes us love golf?

[quote_box_center]“There’s nothing I enjoy more than a big drive,” said Ellen, who is tanned, muscular, short, and the owner of a 15-handicap. “I hit it 180 off the tee. I suppose that’s not long by men’s standards, but I’m usually at least 30 yards past the other girls.” It turns out women really do dig the long ball, especially when they hit it. “Then,” she added, “if I knock it on the green and make a birdie putt, that’s the best.”[/quote_box_center]

Perhaps it’s that element of conquest we love?

“I had a 74 Sunday,” Evan, a 7.1 index, told me at the turn at Brookside. “I double-bogeyed the first hole then played the last 17 even par.” And I didn’t understand that, because I’ve never broken 80 after a first hole double. “I was in some trouble on 18,” he reminisced. “I was blocked by a tree in the rough; I had to hit a low liner under a branch and curve it into the fairway to run up between the traps and onto the green. That was the shot of the day.”

Maybe we love golf for the creativity it requires?

[quote_box_center]“I love reading greens,” Leigh told me at Escena in Palm Springs where the putting areas have lots of undulation. “You don’t have to sink the putt to feel like you’ve hit it well. When I curl a 35-footer over a mound and down to tap-in range, getting both the break and the speed correct, I think that’s pretty cool.”[/quote_box_center]

“I think the real creativity comes in the short game,” said Owen who had just finished 18 at Indian Canyon South with a tap-in par from a clever chip up and over a trap and down to the hole.

“That’s because he doesn’t hit many greens in regulation,” his buddy Jonathan told me. “I think the creativity comes from trying to imagine the shot I need to play into the green. You have to calculate the distance, the direction, the obstacles to avoid, the wind, the trajectory of the shot, and what kind of roll the ball will get after it lands. And then you have to choose the right club,” he said.

That must be it; it must be the choices we have to make that make us love golf.

[quote_box_center]“Golf’s all about choices,” my friend Adam said. He’s a 15-handicap and sometimes he chooses to play the white tees instead of the blue. “I could hit driver or 3-wood off the tee. I could bump-and-run or fly the ball to the green. I could chip or pitch with a lob wedge or a 9-iron. I could even putt the ball out of the trap instead of using my sand wedge if there’s no lip. The only choice I don’t have is whether to count all of my strokes.”[/quote_box_center]

Okay, then. It could be the choices, or maybe it’s the creativity, the conquest, crushing it, the camaraderie, the competition, or the challenge; it’s hard to say exactly why I love golf.

I guess it’s a combination.

Why do you love golf? Tell us in the comments section below. And check out Tom Hill’s humorous golf book, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth at 7-ironpress.com – use the coupon code GOLFWRX for free shipping of the paperback.

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Tom Hill is a 9.7 handicap, author and former radio reporter. Hill is the author of the recently released fiction novel, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth, a humorous golf saga of one player’s unexpected attempt to shoot a score he never before thought possible. Kirkus Reviews raved about A Perfect Lie, (It) “has the immediacy of a memoir…it’s no gimme but Hill nails it square.” (kirkusreviews.com). A Perfect Lie is available as an ebook or paperback through 7-ironpress.com and the first three chapters are available online to sample. Hill is a dedicated golfer who has played more than 2,000 rounds in the past 30 years and had a one-time personal best handicap of 5.5. As a freelance radio reporter, Hill covered more than 60 PGA and LPGA tournaments working for CBS Radio, ABC Radio, AP Audio, The Mutual Broadcasting System and individual radio stations around the country. “Few knew my name and no one saw my face,” he says, “but millions heard my voice.” Hill is the father of three sons and lives with his wife, Arava Talve, in southern California where he chases after a little white ball as often as he can.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Mike Adams

    Apr 30, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Why do we love anything? And why do we repeatably do anything?

    It’s for the drugs man – our brains operate on four key chemicals and golf is a wonderful source of dopamine. Imagine how a shot needs curve under a tree over the bunker, then recall the necessary body movements in your mind, then execute the stroke and watch the ball exactly perform your mental prediction – and pow! Dopamine hit. Exactly the same as a gamblers hit when winning the jackpot. (And the assumption that the result was based your own skill is just as misplaced).

    A few good shots of Dopamine are enough to get most people back to the course. And the reason that some people love the game and others can’t stand it, is probably because a few of use were lucky enough to make a centre club face strike when we first tried the game.

    We are all junkies, it’s just a question of how you get your chemicals.

    Cheers

    mike

  2. Al

    Apr 29, 2015 at 10:46 am

    It’s the stupidest game in the world, but I love it because I hit shots that amaze me. Downhill lie in light rough, green 30′ away and ~8′ above the ball, downhill all the way to the hole — Deadsville. I proceed to consciously forget about score and flop it on the edge and it rolled into the hole for eagle… but just hitting one dead straight right at the flag from 100 yards with such a coarse aiming method seems like performing a minor miracle. Still, it remains a love-hate relationship.

  3. cb

    Apr 28, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    The feeling of a great iron shot is the addiction for me. If I’m playing bad I sometimes feel like I should just give up the game (not like Im relying on it for income) but then I hit a great iron shot and the addiction starts all over again

  4. Jason

    Apr 28, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    It’s a challenge, but to me the best part is having my son, my dad and my brother out for an afternoon hitting some good shots and having a few laughs at the not so good shots (as long as they’re not mine). 🙂

  5. rer4136

    Apr 28, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Just read John Updike’s The Camaraderie of Golf I and II. He really nails it.

    • Andrew

      Apr 28, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Golf provides ordinary men (and women) with momentary glimpses of greatness – bolstering our own belief that greatness is in fact possible. Not necessarily the greatness we see on ESPN or Golf Channel. Our own greatness. We may never achieve the consistency of a PGA pro, but in striving to perform at a higher level (in any facet of our lives) with increasing regularity, we move closer to the excellence each of us was born to pursue. It’s all about the pursuit.

      When it comes to golf, many will wax on about the beautiful surroundings, the camaraderie with friends, etc. But let’s face it, if you want beautiful surroundings you can go hiking. If you want camaraderie with friends, basically any shared interest will do. These are, of course, valid reasons to LIKE golf as a hobby and a great bonus of playing the game. However, for those that LOVE golf, it’s not a game, a hobby or a social outing. It’s a pursuit.

      In its purest form, the human spirit drives us to continuously seek out and overcome new challenges. As is often forgotten or misunderstood, the pursuit of excellence ought not be some draconian death march where happiness is sacrificed in favor of some specific achievement. On the contrary, the pursuit of excellence (or at least continual improvement) in any worthwhile endeavor is perhaps the most fulfilling use of one’s time – a path to pure joy.

      For many young children (especially boys) athletics become the most natural and captivating outlet for the expression of, and the pursuit of, excellence. When a young boy watches professional sports with his father, that young boy is almost certainly scripting a slow-motion mental highlight reel of himself one day competing at the highest level, just like his heroes on the field. The father likely reminisces about how he did the same when he was a kid. If this young boy is blessed with natural athleticism, he may well become a star on his high school team; maybe even play in college. However far his innate talents and physical attributes ultimately take him, the pursuit will undoubtedly be valuable, formative and deeply fulfilling.

      Eventually though, with very few exceptions, the jersey and cleats will be retired in favor of button down shirts and penny loafers. The glory days of conquering opponents, of always working to get faster, stronger, better will give way to a reality that is more…mundane.
      That is not to say that professional life is inherently unfulfilling. For those who are goal-driven, there are degrees to earn, sales targets to hit, promotions to earn…plenty of opportunities for “professional-development.”

      But for many, their motivation in this new “real world” is more practical than inspirational. There are bills to pay and mouths to feed. But there are no dragons to slay, no records to set, no rivals to beat. Something is missing, and you want it back.

      Hence, our love of golf.

      I firmly believe that humans are born with an innate desire to pursue excellence. This part of us never dies, although it can wither away painfully if we keep it locked up in cubicles of indifference. Although accessible to those whose athletic prime has past, Golf is far from indifferent. One or two degrees of face-angle rotation can be the difference between humiliation and perfection. Like a well-fought battle back in one’s glory days, a single round of Golf can knock you on your ass, give you a few glimpses of glory, and inspire you to get better.

      Here’s to the pursuit.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What makes a golf course ‘tough?’

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I found this past weekend’s golf to be some of the most entertaining and thought-provoking of the season. While the men of the PGA Tour found a challenging and tough Muirfield Village, the women of the LPGA were getting a taste of a true championship-caliber layout at Olympic Club, the sight of many historic U.S. Opens.

In both cases, the best players in the world found themselves up against courses that fought back against their extraordinary skills and talents. Though neither course appeared to present fairways that were ridiculously narrow, nor greens that were ultra-fast and diabolical, scoring was nowhere near the norms we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the professional tours.

So, that begs the question – what is it exactly that makes a course tough for these elite players? And is that any different from those things that make a course tough for the rest of us?

From my observation, the big difference for both the ladies and the men was the simple fact that Muirfield Village and Olympic shared the same traits – deep rough alongside each fairway, deep bunkers, and heavy rough around the greens. In other words — unlike most of the venues these pros face each week, those two tracks put up severe penalties for their not-so-good shots — and their awful ones.

Setting aside the unfortunate turn of events for John Rahm – who appeared to be playing a different game for the first three days – only 18 of the best male players in the game managed to finish under par at Muirfield Village. That course offered up measurable penalties for missed fairways and greens, as it was nearly impossible to earn a GIR from the rough, and those magical short games were compromised a lot – Colin Morikawa even whiffed a short chip shot because the gnarly lie forced him to try to get “cute” with his first attempt. If you didn’t see it, he laid a sand wedge wide open and slid it completely under the ball — it didn’t move at all!

On the ladies’ side, these elite players were also challenged at the highest level, with errant drives often totally preventing a shot that had a chance of holding the green — or even reaching it. And the greenside rough and deep bunkers of Olympic Club somewhat neutralized their highly refined greenside scoring skills.

So, the take-away from both tournaments is the same, the way I see it.

If a course is set up to more severely penalize the poor drives and approaches — of which there are many by these players — and to make their magical short game skills more human-like, you will see these elite players struggle more like the rest of us.

So, I suggest all of you think about your last few rounds and see what makes your course(s) play tough. Does it penalize your not-so-good drives by making a GIR almost impossible, or is it too challenging around the greens for your scoring skills? Maybe the greens are so fast and diabolical that you don’t get as much out of your putting as you think you should? Or something else entirely?

My bet is that a thoughtful reflection on your last few rounds will guide you to what you should be working on as you come into the peak of the 2021 golf season.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: My 3-wood search, Mizuno ST-Z driver, and Srixon divide golf ball review

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I am on the search for a 3-wood this year and talk a little about my top 3 that I have been hitting. Hit on the pros and cons of each option and what might be in the bag next week. The Mizuno ST-Z was on the course and a really good driver for players who want forgiveness but don’t need any draw bias. The Srixon Q-Star Tour Divide is a cool 2-tone ball that makes short game practice more interesting.

 

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: How to turn technical thinking into task-based think in your golf game

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The mind can only be in one place at a time at 40 bits of information per second. To build a golf swing this way would be like an ant building New York City this way: a most impossible task. When you are task-based you are using the human self-preserving system, that works at 40 million bits per second, choose wisely.

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