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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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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Speed release patterns and restriction removals for the best golf of your life

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If you’ve been keeping your head or practicing to steer your golf club towards the target. Or worse, restricting your backswing because you feel a loss of control, you are setting yourself up for constant disappointment because your anatomy was designed to yield.

 

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On Spec: Club fitting isn’t magic! Also, Lydia Ko and Stewart Cink win again

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On this week’s episode, host Ryan Barath covers everything from Lydia Ko’s comeback win on the LPGA tour, to why club fittings aren’t some magical thing that’s going to instantly lower scores.

It also covers Stewart Cink’s win at the RBC Heritage and offers a sneak peek at the GolfWRX Best Iron list of 2021.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

Fix your golfing back pain, Step 2: Early stage rehab

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others. 

You can find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

This article is No. 2 in a 4 part series.

Step 1 – The Importance of Assessment

Step 2 – Early Stage Rehab

Step 3 – Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns

Step 4 – Building global strength for prevention of future injury

Introduction

Now that we have identified the source of the back issue through assessment, it’s time to start working on the underlying causes, in order to reduce pain and decrease the likelihood of re-injury further down the track. 

In our experience, mechanical back pain in golfers caused by physical issues is most often caused by one or more of the the following 4 issues, with many amateur players displaying the entire collection!

– Lack of Mobility at the Hips and Mid / Upper Back

– Poor Posture

– Misalignment and Muscle Imbalances

– Weak Core Muscles

Because pain is likely still a factor at this stage, we need to proceed with caution and focus on rehab work that is low intensity and has a low risk of causing a pain flare up.

With that in mind, in ‘Step 2: Early Stage Rehab’ we are going to address Mobility, Posture and Misalignment / Muscle Imbalances. These 3 areas can be improved upon, and should have a positive impact on pain reduction, even if back discomfort is still restricting larger, more global movements.

Step 2.1 – Improving Mobility in Hips and Mid / Upper back

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine (lower back) falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected.

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation forces in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:

Hips

We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercise Circuit – Hip Mobility

1) Self Massage Glutes – 45 secs each side

2) Cross Leg Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

3) Prone Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

4) 90 90 Hip Mobility – 5 reps each side

Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

1) Self Massage Mid / Upper back – 60 seconds

2) Upper Back Extension – 30 seconds

3) All Fours Rotation – 5 reps each side

Step 2.2 – Improving Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

The 3 major spinal curves: 1 – Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this has had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures.

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

The muscles responsible for holding your posture are located deep in the body and close to the spine. Strengthening them can be tricky, as we don’t really have a lot of conscious control over their activation. Hence posture being such a difficult thing to remember! The combination of the 4 exercises featured below help provide the stimulus to those deep muscles that, if trained often enough, will automatically hold your posture in a good position.

Suggested Exercises – Strengthening posture muscles

1) Wall Posture Check – 30 secs

2) Posture Cue – 60 secs

3) Posture Cue Knee Lifts – 10 reps each side

4) Arm Press – 15 reps

Step 2.3 – Fixing Alignment Issues and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right, back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and / or below.

For example, if we have short / tight / overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knees to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain, then this would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance.

In the next article; Step 3: Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns, we will show you the progression of exercises and key technique principles to build up the strength and movement patterns to return to regular exercise and golf.

If you would like to see how Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

If you would like to access training programs designed for elite and recreational players, then check out the following resources and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:

Articles
Golf Fit Pro App (iOS)
Online Training
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