Monday Meanderings–Why Do I Do This to Myself?

I golf, or pretend to anyway. Once a week when I’m at home and more often in the desert where membership includes unlimited golf, I’m out there. I’m a really, really pathetic golfer. I have the highest handicap they allow (for those who don’t know about golf, that’s not good). I mutter words to myself I don’t usually use. I often ask myself why I engage in such tortuous sport, and yet, I love the game. Why?

Photo: V. Slotto

Photo: V. Slotto

• Golf is a game in which I compete against myself. It goads me to be a little better,  to work a bit harder in order to shave a stroke or two off of my score, and learn from my mistakes.
• My game improves when I remember to relax and let the club do the work. When I try too hard, swing too hard, all sorts of bad things happen, often ending with a splash or a lost ball.
• It teaches humility. Almost every time I think I’ve licked a problem, the next time out I fall flat on my face.
• Golf is a game of focus. When I remember to keep my eye on the ball and set aside the hundreds of swing thoughts that can pop into my mind, the shot will do what it’s supposed to.
• In golf, I’m learning to not worry so much about what others think. I promise you, if you’re not a pro, and out to impress your foursome, you will be brought down.
• It’s a game of the present moment. How many putts have I missed when I think, If I make this, I’ll have a birdie (or, for me, a par). See the caption below. Things go better if you just take it one stroke at a time.
• Golf teaches me to laugh at myself. If I couldn’t see the humor in some of the mist-hits I come up with, it would be so depressing.
• Golf is a sport you can do well into old age. This year at our home course in Palm Desert, we have a lady who belonged to the 18-Hole Women’s league. Now that she’s turned 90, she thought it might be a good idea to become a Lady 9’er instead.
• It’s exercise. As one who has done everything possible to eschew the e-word, who has nary a drop of athletic DNA, golf is fun. And it gives you a handicap to level the playing field.
• The game is played in the beauty of nature. Most courses offer landscapes that highlight the characteristics of the natural environment. Reclaimed water is used to maintain the greens and fairways. The course I have been playing this year here in Northern Nevada plays host to rabbits, coyotes and so many other species of wild life and birds. The “rough” consists of the natural desert. There are signs on some of the area courses warning golfers not to try to retrieve their balls from these hazards because of rattlesnakes.

"My" hole at Pinehurst #2. I drove the ball to about 4 feet from the hole and was so excited I missed the birdie putt. Photo: D. Slotto The Zenith of My Golf "Career"

“My” hole at Pinehurst #2.
I drove the ball to about 4 feet from the hole and was so excited I missed the birdie putt.
Photo: D. Slotto
The Zenith of My Golf “Career”

Of course there are downsides to golf. For one thing, if you take yourself and your game too seriously, it can be miserable. Also, until recently, it has been considered too expensive to be easily accessible to many people. That is true in many cases. There are courses I would never be able to play because of the greens fees. My golfing highlight occurred at Pinehurst #2, the course that will host the US Open next year…and that happened only because my husband won an all-expense-paid vacation there by participating in a survey about golf equipment preferences.

Efforts are underway to make golf available to more people—for example, The First Tee Program, that introduces the game to children of all income strata and is supported through donations.

I’m not sure why I chose to write about golf this week. It’s an activity that gives me a bit of balance in my own life, that demands focus, and lifts my spirit. Except on those days when I do feel like tossing my clubs in the water hazard.

May each of us find balance in our life. For those of us who write, it’s too easy to be wrapped up in our heads, settled in front of our laptops, isolated from everyone and the beauty of nature. I guess, bottom line, my hope is that we each will find joy aside from that which writing gives us. And that we may learn the lessons it has to offer, whatever it is.

Footnote: I will not be doing much blogging this week. Sometimes a girl just needs a break. It may be, if the weather keeps on like this I won’t golf…this kind of wind can make it even more challenging. And then there’s the garden, begging for attention. Have a happy week, writing and blogging and whatever else you do. Blessings.