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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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The 19th Hole (Ep. 165): One-on-one with Shane Bacon

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Host Michael Williams talks with the co-host of the Golf Channel’s Golf Today about the Open Championship and Collin Morikawa’s place in the history books.

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What’s old is new again

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All of a sudden, today’s newest trend in golf is yesterday’s clubs.

Golfers are making a move towards old classics the way car enthusiasts would ogle a classic Porsche 911 before they would look twice at a new Tesla Model 3. On the spectrum of art to science, Tesla is peak science and focused on efficiency in every fathomable way. The other will absolutely get you from A to B, but you are more likely to have a smile on your face while you take the detour along the water while enjoying the journey to get there. It is the second type of club that is enjoying this latest resurgence, and I can’t get enough.

New businesses are springing up to refurbish old clubs such as @mulligansclubmakers and @twirledclubs with price tags approaching (and exceeding) the RRP at the time of release of many of the clubs in question. These old clubs are often found in pictures of major champions being used in the 1970s and 1980s, which serves to make them more valuable and interesting to enthusiasts. Other clubs are simply polished examples of the clubs many of us owned 25 years ago and now regret selling. The more polish on an old blade, the better, with classic designs from brands like Wilson Staff, Mizuno, or MacGregor seeing demand and prices increase every month. Seeing these old clubs reimagined with shiny BB&F co ferrules, updated shafts, and grips can get some golfers hot and bothered, and they will open their wallets accordingly.

Around 15 years ago, I bought an old set of blades from the brand Wood Brothers. For many years, I was unable to find out a single thing about those clubs, until @woodbrosgolf came out of hibernation this year onto Instagram and into a frothing market for handmade classic clubs from a forgotten past. I was able to get information that the blades had come out of the Endo forging house in Japan, and my decision to keep the clubs in the garage all these years was vindicated. Now I just need an irrationally expensive matching Wood Bros persimmon driver and fairway wood to complete the set…

Among other boutique brands, National Custom Works (@nationalcustom) has been making pure persimmon woods with the help of Tad Moore to match their incredible irons, wedges, and putters for some time, and now the market is catching up to the joy that can be experienced from striking a ball with the materials of the past. There is an illicit series of pictures of persimmon woods in all states of creation/undress from single blocks of wood through to the final polished and laminated artworks that are making their way into retro leather golf bags all over the world.

There are other accounts which triumph historic images and sets of clubs such as @oldsaltygolf. This account has reimagined the ‘What’s in the Bag’ of tour pros in magazines and made it cool to have a set of clubs from the same year that shows on your driver’s license. I hold them wholly to blame for an impulse buy of some BeCu Ping Eye 2 irons with matching Ping Zing woods… The joy to be found in their image feed from the 70s and 80s will get many golfers reminiscing and wishing they could go back and save those clubs, bags and accessories from their school days. If you want to see more moving pictures from the era, @classicgolfreplays is another account which shows this generation of clubs being used by the best of the best in their heyday. Even better than the clubs are the outfits, haircuts and all leather tour bags to match.

It seems that this new generation of golfer – partially borne out of COVID-19 — is in need of clubs that can’t be sourced fast enough from the major OEMs, so they have gone trawling for clubs that were cool in a different time, and they want them now. Those golfers who match the age of the clubs are also experiencing a golfing rebirth, as the technology gains from the OEMs become incremental, many are now finding enjoyment from the classic feel of clubs as much as they are searching for an extra couple of yards off the tee.

Either way, the result is the same, and people are dusting off the old blades and cavities from years past and hitting the fairways more than ever before. With the desire shifting towards fun over challenge, they are even creeping forward to the tees that their clubs were designed to be played from and finding even more enjoyment from the game. If only I hadn’t got rid of those old persimmons in high school…

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The Wedge Guy: Top 4 reasons why most golfers don’t get better

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A couple of years ago, I attended a symposium put on by Golf Digest’s research department. They explored the typical responses as to why people quit or don’t play more – too much time, too expensive, etc. But the magazine’s research department uncovered the real fact – by a large margin, the number one reason people give up the game is that they don’t get better!

So, with all that’s published and all the teaching pros available to help us learn, why is that? I have my rationale, so put on your steel toe work boots, because I’m probably going to step on some toes here.

The Top 4 Reasons Golfers Don’t Improve

  1. Most golfers don’t really understand the golf swing. You watch golf and you practice and you play, but you don’t really understand the dynamics of what is really happening at 100 mph during the golf swing. There are dozens of good books on the subject – my favorite is Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.” But pick any good one and READ IT. LEARN IT. It will help you immensely if you understand what the swing is really all about. Use a full length mirror to pose in key positions in the swing to match the drawings and photos. All the practice in the world will not help if you are not building a sound fundamental golf swing.
  2. Learning golf doesn’t start in the middle. A sound golf swing is built like a house. First the foundation, then the framing, roof, exterior walls, interior, paint, and trim. You can’t do one before the other. In golf, it all starts with the grip. If you do not hold the club properly, you’ll never accomplish a sound golf swing. Then you learn good posture and setup. If you don’t start in a good position, the body can’t perform the swing motion properly. With a good grip and a sound setup posture, I believe anyone can learn a functional golf swing pretty easily. But if those two foundations are not sound, the walls and roof will never be reliable.
  3. Most bad shots are ordained before the swing ever begins. I am rarely surprised by a bad shot, or a good one, actually. The golf swing is not a very forgiving thing. If you are too close to the ball or too far, if it’s too far forward or backward, if you are aligned right or left of your intended line, your chances of success are diminished quickly and significantly. The ball is 1.68 inches in diameter, and the functional striking area on a golf club is about 1.5-inches wide. If you vary in your setup by even 3/4 inch, you have imposed a serious obstacle to success. If you do nothing else to improve your golf game, learn how to set up the same way every time.
  4. Learn to “swing” the club, not “hit” the ball. This sounds simple, but the golf swing is not a hitting action: it’s a swinging action. The baseball hitter is just that, because the ball is in a different place every time – high, low, inside, outside, curve. He has to rely on quick eye-hand coordination. In contrast, the golf swing is just that – a swing of the club. You have total control over where the ball is going to be so that you can be quite precise in the relationship between your body and the ball and the target line. You can swing when you want to at the pace you find comfortable. And you can take your time to make sure the ball will be precisely in the way of that swing.

Learning the golf swing doesn’t require a driving range at all. In fact, your backyard presents a much better learning environment because the ball is not in the way to give you false feedback. Your goal is only the swing itself.

Understand that you can make a great swing, and often do, but the shot doesn’t work out because it was in the wrong place, maybe by only 1/4 inch or so. Take time to learn and practice your swing, focusing on a good top-of-backswing position and a sound rotating release through impact. Learn the proper body turn and weight shift. Slow-motion is your friend. So is “posing” and repeating segments of the swing to really learn them. Learn the swing at home, refine your ball striking on the range and play golf on the course!

So, there you have my four reasons golfers don’t get better. We all have our own little “personalization” in our golf swing, but these sound fundamentals apply to everyone who’s ever tried to move a little white ball a quarter-mile into a four-inch hole. Working on these basics will make that task much easier!

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