Hands up who has had embarrassing moments out on the course during a round of golf. Thank you, as expected everyone has raised their hand. Golf the game can be demeaning to the player. It can bite the hand that feeds it. Golf: a round-up of the real story. We stand on that first tee with high hopes and expectations. Many of us are brimming with optimism and this is despite the fact that the majority of competitive rounds have their fair share of low points. It is a tiny bit like the memory of child birth, in that somehow we block out those really awful moments and focus on the overall outcome. Of course, giving birth is a far more miraculous and rewarding experience but you get my analogy with the memory aspect of it.
Rounding Up Memories Post-Golf
In my own experience, I sometimes come off the course with a good feeling even though it has been a downright dirty time in parts. It helps if I have finished well, of course. It is like we only have room in our memory banks for a limited appraisal of the match. Human beings, as a general rule, prefer to take away something positive from their experiences and golf is no exception to that. My last round contained some decidedly low moments with club in hand. You know those holes where you stripe an excellent drive down the fairway and then proceed to make a complete balls up of it from there.
One consolation prize I suppose from experiences like this is that golf has helped me develop a thicker skin out there.
A Golfer’s Story Is Rich With Abasement
Casting my thoughts back to my formative years (this is where I get to blame stuff on my upbringing) – I remember being somewhat afraid of my father’s reactions to my failures. Quite likely most of this was inside my own head and dad’s frustrations in terms of causal material lay outside of my remit. Whatever the objective truth of the matter subjectively I was a mite sensitive to f*** ups. Golf, of course, is a minefield of potential disasters just waiting to explode in ignominy in your face.
I observe and hear the echo of admonishments from fathers to sons out on the golf course in the self-imposed rebukes prevalent in four balls. Perfection lies well out of reach of most of us a majority of times in golf.
I mention this stuff because it is the psychological grist for the mill when competing at golf. We seek to perform seamless tasks with a multitude of golf clubs or tools in a wide variety of geographically challenging settings. We are propelling a small white ball around a vast arena in search of a small hole signed by a thin pole with a flag atop it. I mean what can go wrong? The fact that this happens 18 times over nearly 5 hours in all sorts of weather shouldn’t be a problem, right? Golf a game claimed by the Scots as their own invention. Although the Dutch have something to say on that score.
“In this game you have 18 holes to shoot your best somehow. Where have all my divots gone?”
Thanks for summing it up so succinctly Loudon. Personally, I have rarely wondered where my divots go to. Taking a divot and its size, shape, and direction have been of interest to me, however. Disappointment is what this article is actually about, I suppose. The sheer volume of disappointment prevalent in the average round of golf, perhaps? It is rare, indeed, for me to have a round of competitive golf where my level of disappointment in my own playing ability does not exceed my sense of personal achievement. Maybe, this is just my own BS and I should see someone about it. Golf is an exploration, however, and in that spirit I continue to trek into its deepest parts. I know that I am not alone in dealing with the disappointment inherent within many rounds of golf. Chatting to other players and sharing insights into our weekly adventures at the coal face is part of the clubland experience.
Some folk give the game of golf a try and decide that it is not for them. My own brother is one such individual and my vision of us sharing a brotherly bond around the small ball game never eventuated. I actually bought him a set of golf clubs from my winnings from a minor prize at Lotto many years back. These clubs gather dust in the shed at his place, as do so many sets of golf clubs around the globe.
“These clubs are made of wood and iron, but they are not magic wands.”
Loudon Wainwright III tells it true in his wonderful song. Golfers often times wish that their clubs were magic wands. Transporting the dimpled pill to distant greens is, on too many occasions, a Herculean task and beyond the ken of the average golfer. Disappointment rises up within the hearts of golfers when they witness the watery demise of their balls into ponds. Saying farewell to an old friend, Maxi or Wilson, can choke one up in the heat of battle out there. The Stoic golfer has no time for tears, however, he or she must keep on marching toward that finishing line. Fishing out another golf ball to replay the shot or to pay the penalty from the red line at point of entry is no place for sentimentality. Sucking up disappointment is a regular dietary input in the game of golf.
Scrambling is a large part of the golfing repertoire in most rounds of golf. Sure, you may have the odd round where you hit most greens and fairways in regulation but for the average golfer this is not par for the course. Getting the back of your calves caked in sand from the bunkers is all too frequent for most golfers. Chipping and pitching in hope of getting up and down are de riguour. Doing whatever it takes to make par from wherever is the name of the game for the golfer who makes up the majority of those who play.
Disappointment drips from the golfer’s psyche like an engine losing oil.
I used to tote my daddy’s bag.
Shoulder up that bag.
I saw him sweat and I heard him swear.
Balls fall into sand traps and balls drop into ponds.
I’m way over par!
What do we do? Some of us, most of us, block it out. We shut out the real memories of those disasters in bunkers. We freeze out the f*** ups off the tee with driver in hand. Rather, we selectively remember the good stuff, that short highlight’s reel. In this way, we can front up again next week to do it all again in hope of mastering the course. To get in front of our own game in our bid to play proficiently. These are the methods by which we stem the bleeding from the black hole of disappointment. Golfers of the world I salute you and your short term memory. Golf: A round up of the real story. Forget it, who needs it, it makes depressing reading.
“ “I wanted to kind of walk tall and feel confident stepping into every shot. I wanted to be grateful and just embrace like, hey, the way my heart is racing right now and … these difficult holes coming up, I mean, this is why I got into this game. If you don’t like it, then you’re not going to be here very long. So learn to embrace it and enjoy it.”
Spieth’s self-reflection is a good reminder for amateur golfers, too. Whether it’s after a bad shot or following a poor round, focus on the positives and continue to build confidence around the aspects of your game that are working well.”
Robert Sudha Hamilton is the author of How To Play Golf: Like A Winner, The Stoic Golfer, & The Golf Book: Green Cathedral Dreams