By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
Today, May 6th, was the second day of the re-opening of our Washington State golf courses. So of course, two of us ventured out to play 18 holes.
First mistake, if you are going out for the first time, 18 holes can be somewhat demanding. Each time you swing you put tremendous torque on your lower back. That, after 100 or more strokes (did you think either of us was actually “good” at golf?) can really wear on you. In fact I had to skip a couple of holes as I was just too tired to play all 18.
But wow, the sun was out, and it felt just great on my face. I note that this particular public course had zero incidence of face masks. All the golf course employees were just walking around mask free. Frankly, as we were out in the sun and fresh air, it didn’t bother us.
They had Covid 19 “rules” posted prominently as you entered the “pro shop.” Among them were: “No more than one customer at a time in the pro shop.” Credit cards only – no cash (although it seems to me if you are going to handle something – whether plastic or cash, you can leave a trace on that item).
There was no 19th hole. You could buy a soft drink from a machine in the pro shop – but their café was closed.
When you think about it, golf is a particularly stupid game. Most of us are not really good at the game. So your afternoon is spent chasing a little white ball trying to find it in the deep grass and weeds (as opposed to out on the closely cut fairway).
I consider a good afternoon of golf not by the score (which I don’t keep), but rather how many golf balls I “consume” in the day’s play. As it turned out, today I wound up with one more ball than I started out with. There, just sitting in the middle of the fairway – where anyone could easily see it, was a nice crisp Titleist. It’s hard to imagine someone playing that hole and not being able to find their ball. Oh well, plus one for me.
The best thing about my game is a suggestion made by the driving range pro who gave me some lessons. He watched me hit the ball in just about every direction except straight ahead (which is where you want the ball to go). Turns out as a retired baseball player, my golf swing is actually a baseball swing. That means, among other things, I can’t keep my left arm (I’m a righty) straight. So the pro suggested I buy a used driver club with a very square head. He suggested (and he was right) that the square head would straighten out my baseball swing.
Well since I purchased that club, I am not only hitting my drive off the tee (using the driver) dead straight, but it magically has also straightened out all my other club swings. So I can now proudly say I hit the ball straight – but with meager distance. But I’ve been told that hitting the ball straight, particularly with our Pacific Northwest courses is far more important than distance. See we tend to have somewhat narrow fairways – with lots of beaconing woods and deep grass along the fairway edges.
Let me contrast that with the Florida courses I learned to play on. Those courses have water everywhere. One of the first things I learned about golf (in fact true about most sports) is that the ball tends to go where you are looking. So if you play like I first did, and always seemed to be looking at whatever water hazard was on that hole, voila, that’s where the ball wound up. It took me months of concentration to break that habit.
Interestingly, I took a high performance driving course (race driving for amateurs). On the track they mentioned that if and when your car got in trouble, say entering a skid, it was important to focus your vision on where you wanted the car to go. If you made the mistake of looking at any obstruction on the track (say a tree or post) that’s where the car would go.
They told us of studies done by various states in looking at accidents. In almost every case, when a car would hit a tree, they would ask the driver what was the last thing you remember before “impact.” The driver would say: “I kept seeing a tree that I didn’t want to hit.” Guess what, that’s exactly what they wound up hitting. Something about eye hand coordination. Where your eye was looking, your hands would manipulate the car into hitting what you were looking at.
So, on with the insanity. Golf: A perfect way to spoil what should have been a nice leisurely walk in the outdoors.