Tar Heel Golf Notes: May 2017

Henry A. Lister
Carolinas Golf Association Rater

Golf’s Big Lie.

The big lie in golf is that we play it for fun. That is only partially true and on the verge of being an alternative fact. The truth is we play the game to see how well we can play a game using equipment poorly designed for its intentions. We are driven to see just how well we can execute a desired shot, to find the right club, the right ball, the right shoes that will allow us to hit the ball better, farther, straighter and less frequently.

After a round of golf it is not unusual to hear a golfer say, “Well, that was fun,” with all the sincerity that can be mustered. But what is really being said is, “That was interesting.”     The meaning there is that good and bad shots combined into a string of play that sometimes placed the player in unfamiliar or frightening settings or into a calamitous situation. It is similar to being thrilled with a roller coaster ride on which you almost threw up.

Of course, we say it’s fun! If we didn’t our non-playing friends would chide us continually about our progress, such as, “How did your handicap get so high?” Or “Why did you take 48 putts today?” We deflect attention from our performance with statements like, “Oh, I only play for the pleasure of being outside amidst mother nature. Score doesn’t matter to me,” when in fact we assiduously keep track of every hole’s score. Most of us keep USGA handicaps and ask others what their handicap is in a constant effort to gauge our ability against others.

Further revealing of golf’s competitive nature is the obsession with equipment. We must have high performance clubs and balls, distance measuring devices, golf bags and cloth­ing. With over $3 billion of revenue spent every year, manufacturers create a dizzying myriad of products to help golfers lower their scores, hit it farther, escape from hazards and surf the fashions of the times. Golfers are not shy to strut around displaying their incompetence.

And you think it’s all in the pursuit of “fun?”

Now I am not knocking the fact that golf is fun. It is, especially when you acknowledge that you are constantly learning, getting better and working to be better. The quest for improvement and to perform soundly is at the heart of a game that can move you from joy to despair in just a few minutes.

We measure ourselves against other golfers as well as Old Man Par, ever on the alert for that one elusive element that is going to pull it all together. To keep one’s arm straight, head down, wrist pronated, weight shifting but not overly so, swing inside out, pinch the ball on contact, have soft hands on chip shots, keep ourselves still when putting and not to pick up our head to watch the ball fly until AFTER it’s struck are the keys to having fun – that is making good shots and posting low scores. I, too, love getting the ball in the air, flying it the right distance, hitting my target and hitting the ball well with tiresome repetition.

That is the goal of golf. It’s time we say it loud and say it proud, golfers seek perfection.

So, as golfers we need to embrace the competitive soul of golf, to admit that we strive to play each shot better than the last and that our score matters to us. It’s okay, a little competitiveness never hurt anything. Playing hard but fair is a good thing, and measuring ourselves against some standard makes us aware of what and how we are doing. But to say we ONLY play golf for fun is a lie.

Hobbit Golfer 2017 index: 26 rounds. Ave­rage score 83, CGA handicap = 7.5. “One min­ute you’re bleeding. The next minute you’re hemorrhaging. The next minute you’re painting the Mona Lisa.” ~ Mac O’Grady