The Conversion of a Reluctant Golfer
I’ve just finished my first golfing vacation, having played 7 rounds of golf in 8 days. A year ago this would have been unthinkable.
For years most of my family has had a love affair with golf. They play golf together, watch golf on tv, and talk about what’s going on in the golfing world. Sunday dinners are planned around tee times. And I couldn’t have been more bored or uninterested with the subject. I was raised being a tournament tennis player and then as an adult I fell in love with yoga over 10 years ago. My yoga practice has kept me connected to friends and helped take the edge off of work related stress which I’ve long been prone to. My career is in insurance and software, and I focus on the marriage of these two industries that are very different but desperately need each other.
And then Covid happened. Yoga studios closed, and when they were allowed to reopen the idea of breathing together in a hot room just wasn’t something I was up for. My husband suggested I go to the driving range. Although it was probably the 1000th time he made this suggestion, I figured one spring day I might as well go since there was hardly anything else to do. I found my beginner clubs that I bought 10 years earlier and hardly ever used and headed out to the driving range.
After an hour of chopping my way through a bucket of golf balls, my husband spotted me as he came off the 18th hole. While I thought he would be impressed to see my nearly empty bucket of balls, he looked a little concerned. “You’ll need some lessons if you’re going to do this” he said, “and your clubs are awful”.
To keep things easy going, I answered “uh-huh”. I finished my bucket of balls and went home. My golf was not good. My shots kept going far off to the right. My eye hand coordination seemed non-existent. But I knew no one is a one hit wonder in golf so I went back to the driving range a few more times.
After a couple weeks of this I signed up for a golf lesson package. Again, there was nothing else to do, and I began liking the outdoor restaurant at the golf club where I could eat and almost forget that Covid-19 existed. I started to recognize a couple of regular faces and enjoyed saying hello. And after a couple of golf lessons I could appreciate that they were helpful.
Now my husband was suggesting we should actually play golf together. Again I resorted to my non enthusiastic “uh-huh”. Going out on the golf course seemed unnecessary, after all I was enjoying my driving range time, my lessons, and the outdoor restaurant routine. Why mess it up with actually playing golf. After sensing his annoyance with my obtuse communication on the subject, I said “sure, let’s go play golf”.
And then everything changed.
When we arrived to play golf I was confused how this was going to work. Turns out we weren’t taking a golf cart, we would be walking the golf course. Walking the golf course had never entered my mind. My English born and raised husband laughed and said “you Americans love your cart golf”. Cart golf – not an expression I had heard before but I understood what he meant. “Don’t you ever take a cart? I asked. “No, never” he said, “not unless I have to”. Okay, so we would be walking. Not a problem. I’m flexible.
As we approached the first tee I didn’t know there were red tees for the ladies. But upon learning this I instantly knew I should embrace this concept. My husband went first from the blue tees and got off a good shot but it went off to the left. Darn it he scoffed. Then I was up. Not knowing what my routine should be I took a half hearted practice swing, and then got serious to hit the ball, and swung. I missed the ball completely. After regrouping from embarrassment, I swung again. By the grace of god my first drive off the first tee went fairly straight, got a little air, and managed to carry about 80 yards. Yes! My eyes lit up and my smile was ear to ear. Wow, off to a great start I thought. And as I walked down the fairway to hit my second shot l was full of anticipation.
And that’s how it happened. I was hooked. Walking down the fairway to hit the next shot is a feeling that I instantly fell in love with. Every step coincided with thinking about my next move. What club should I use? How far away is the hole? What happens next if I hit the shot well, what happens if I duff the ball? I remember my second shot was a duff. And my third. Nevertheless I managed to enjoy the front 9 in true beginner fashion. The back 9 was another story and was a grind, as I was mentally exhausted with the experience at this point. But I kept walking, one hole after another, bringing my awful clubs with my beginner strokes with me.
I knew that I loved to walk. I never realize golf was a walking sport until that first day on the course. How American of me.
In golf, it’s painfully obvious that hitting decent shots significantly enhances your enjoyment of the sport. So I started going to the driving range almost daily after work and taking my lessons much more seriously. I looked forward to the weekends when I could play a round on Saturday and Sunday.
And then the best part came. I played golf with my parents, my brother, and other friends. I reconnected with a former childhood tennis friend who took up golf years before me, and I quickly saw that she was an excellent golfer. I was inspired. She said to me “Margaret, I could never beat you on the tennis court in high-school but now I can beat you in golf.” I knew I had my work cut out for me. So I made goals. My goal that first summer was to be able to drive 200 yards and to get a birdie. My next lesson couldn’t come soon enough.
For me, golf is also about what I’m not doing when I’m golfing. I’m not in front of my laptop. I’m not zooming from one video meeting to another. I’m not worrying about sales or software releases. I’m not worried about being too intense for people around me. I can bring my intensity instead to the golf course, and walk down the fairway lost in my second shot and my third shot. I listen to the birds. I pay attention to the grass, the sun, and the wind. I appreciate golf etiquette.
Now four months later I’m flying home from my first golf vacation. This spring I plan to get a handicap and join a ladies league. My original golf goal has already been upgraded to wanting to drive 250 yards. And as far as getting a birdie, I’ve got that accomplished, but never on a Par 5, so that’s still on the to-do list. There are more lessons in my future. And yes, I now own brand new golf clubs. Needless to say, we had a great vacation together.
By Margaret Lett Ph.D