I’m not serious about golf, I play for fun… What?

So you make a tee time as a twosome and they put you with another couple to fill out the foursome. Everybody meets up on the first tee and introduces themselves. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a woman tell me her name and immediately say just that. I’m not serious about golf. I play for fun. What I am supposed to do with that? Or they are self deprecating and tell me they aren’t very good but they play for fun. Trust me I am at a loss. Usually I just smile as I move farther away. Lets not encourage more conversation. Here’s the thing. I am quite serious about golf and I also play for fun. Its way more fun to play if you’re good at it. Don’t tell me you aren’t very good. I’ll figure that out pretty quickly. What I love about the game of golf is how it rewards you one day and beats the hell out of you the next. It’s a game that people can play their whole life from a toddler to ninety. It is also a game that uses a handicap system which enables golfers of every skill level to play together in an equitable manner. It can be great exercise as well. It is one of the few things Rene’ and I have in common and it is a nice way to spend a few hours with my boy.

My Dad played when I was just a little girl. Back then there were sand greens and we would run ahead of Dad and fill the cup with sand and then rake the sand. He would hit his shot onto the sand and there was no cup to putt into. He was not amused and it didn’t happen often. It was hilarious. In those days when you golfed with Dad he handed you a three iron and a ball and told you to stay behind him. He couldn’t hit the three anyways so no loss to his game. The year my Dad died I had just landed in Charlottetown PEI. We were in our hotel room when we got the call. We were out east for an anniversary party but we were doing a mini golf trip as well. Seventy two holes in seventy two hours. Basically golf four games in three days. The first game was the day after my Dad passed away. We found out quite late at night and we stayed up half the night chatting about my Dad. The next day I was tired and sad but we went to play the first game. We were paired up with a nice couple and all was going well. Suddenly I shanked my shot almost sideways. Hit a building and it ricocheted into the rough behind a tree. It was impressive just how bad I hit that ball. It was then that I looked at my club. My three iron. All of a sudden I was five years old again holding my Dad’s three iron and making bad shots. I burst into tears and Rene’ ran over and held me in his arms as I sobbed into his shoulder. He knew. My tears slowed and I smiled. I felt better and I picked up my clubs and carried on. It wasn’t until later that evening we were toasting my Dad in the pub when I thought about the other couple in our foursome. What went through their minds that day. They didn’t know my Dad had just died. We laughed at the story they would tell about the crazy serious golfer who cried when she made a bad shot and the weird husband who consoled her. What a spectacle we made. Just goes to show that you shouldn’t judge people. You never know what causes some of their actions.

I still have my Dads clubs. I think he bought them in 1955. The “woods” are wooden. Not so today for all of you non golfers. Technology has come so far and when we look back to the early greats, what they did with pure skill is even more impressive. Lingo and terminology change as well through the years. I came across the original names for some of the clubs once and wrote it down. There were 5 woods back in the day. The #1 was the driver as it is still known today. The next in order from 2 to 5 were known as the bassie, spoon, cleek and baffy. The irons were number 1 through 9 and each had a name. They were driving iron, mid-iron, mid-mashie, mashie-iron, mashie, spade mashie, mashie niblick, pitching niblick or lofting iron, and last but not least the niblick. I understand that the sand wedge was in play in the 1930’s but other wedges came later. Thank goodness for that as they are my most reliable clubs.

As equipment changed throughout the years, so did the rules. Even though I played for years I still didn’t play completely by the rules. There are no Golf police who call you out. Until a club championship. One year I was on the third hole of the Ladies championship at my home course. I hit my tee shot over some bushes into a nasty spot. I declared the next ball a provisional and started to head over towards the area where I thought my first ball had landed. My friend Charlie then asked me, “Do you really want to find that ball?” She was right. If I found it I had to play it. It was in a truly tough spot to get out of and it wasn’t out of bounds or red staked where I could easily take a drop. The second provisional ball was sitting out there so beautiful on the fairway. I was sitting at three shots with my stoke and distance penalty. If I found the ball and I played it I might end up with a couple more strokes and be no further ahead. See, in a tounament you have to play by the rules. So from that day, I have counted every stroke, putted every putt. Taken the crappiest penalties and my handicap showed it. I miss short putts quite often so Rene’ calls me a sandbagger. Someone who deliberately tries to get a higher score in order to keep their handicap higher. Then they shoot the lights out in a tournament or against other players using the handicap system. Unfortunately I am not a sandbagger. I am a terrible putter.

There is also something called a gimme. If a putt is quite short often other players will say “That’s a gimme”. Meaning you can make that so just pick it up and count the stroke. You don’t have to actually putt it in. In my house we call it a take me. I will pick it up when I feel like it. You will find out fairly quickly in a tournament who takes a lot of gimmes. Their tournament scores are always much higher than their regular season scores. If you don’t practice something you will never be good at it. Golf is a game of practice for years and still go out and suck now and again. I had a neighbour named Suzanne who was very “A” type perfectionist. She took golf lessons for three years before she ever played a game. She was uncomfortable in her skillset. We were in a fun tournament and needed a fourth player so we asked her to come. She was nervous but I convinced her. She was amazing! We took home first place in the tournament and she was so surprised. She didn’t realize that most golfers in this world just aren’t that good. Her course management skills needed work because she had never been on a course before. But she had the ball striking down pat.

I have a rule where I won’t golf with three men. They tend to be very respectful towards each other but forget the etiquette when the “girl” gets up to play. Little things. Pulling their cart just slightly ahead of the tee box where it is now in my line of sight. Offering advice. Forgetting I am even there. Los of time men just drive away blissfully unaware they are ahead of my shot. Because they didn’t watch my ball. I once got four pars in a row and no one even noticed. Rene’ never gives me or anyone advice. He says when he is good enough to play the pro tour he will charge for his advice. I played years ago with a gal Rene worked with. We were in a weekly ladies group together. Women who worked in Crude Oil Marketing. The girl was almost 6 feet tall and could pound a ball. She told us a story about golfing with her hushband and another twosome caught up to them so they joined up. Her husband teed off and then Karen stepped up to tee off as well. One of the newcomers then told her that it was okay if she waited until they hit and she could move forward and hit from the “ladies” tee. She just smiled and said thank you but she always played from the same tee as her husband. After she hit her ball the two men came up and took their shots. The one who made the comment duffed his ball and it only went a short distance. She turned to him and said “Its okay if you want to hit from the ladies tee!” I loved that story.

In my life I have received good advice from three people and their advice has served me well. Once was a guy named Dave. He was a computer programmer and I worked with him at Petrocan. He had once won the Alberta amateur championship and also held the course record at my home course for many years. He told me to concentrate on the weight of a shot when putting and not get overly nuts about aiming. His reasoning is that you will never go left or right of the hole by ten feet but may hit short or long by ten feet. Weight is everything. Sometimes when I hit a putt that misses the hole by an inch and stops 8 feet away, people will tell you what a great shot it is. I want to just reply nope! That was a shit putt. Now I have to come back 8 feet and I have little confidence it will go in. Society says I have to smile and say thank you. So I do. Another time I was listening to a guy on the radio. He says to play to your advantage. There are things we do well and there are things we do a little less well. I do not carry fairway woods. I can’t control them, I don’t hit them well and they take up room in the bag better suited to clubs I can hit. So after my driver, my next club is a 3 iron. I can’t hit it more than 170 or 180 yards on a good day and the control can be off. My pitching wedge is a perfect 100 yard club. Anything closer than 60 yards is hit or miss. So if I am 200 yards out, I hit my pitching wedge twice. One hundred yards and then another hundred yards. I know I will be on in two shots. I am playing to my advantage. Once during a game a man had seen me duff many a chip shot and suggested when I was close to the green and there was no crap in the way I should use my three iron to putt from off the green. It has enough weight to hit it farther without pulling the shot, it has a little loft to get over the longer grass and I won’t send it flying who knows where like a wedge would. It worked beautifully. I often do that now. My wedges have come a long way and my game around the green is the best part of my game. I am grateful for all those three who helped me along the way. And to Jay, former Pro extraordinaire. I went to him after a bad game and asked for a sand lesson. When the lesson was over he left me alone saying I couldn’t leave until I hit ten in a row out of the sand. Good ones. I wasn’t allowed to hit any cars in the parking lot which wasn’t too far away. After an hour I left never having reached his target. I can do it now but that is after twenty years of dropping fourty balls into the sand and hitting them out. And yet, I still screw up sand shots. Amazing!

The most important part of the game in my eyes is etiquette. Before you step onto a golf course everyone should buy a book and turn to the chapter on etiquette. My children often shush me as I am a chatty cathy and they were constantly shushed as children learning the game. There is a new breed out there and it isn’t always about etiquette. There is the guy who is in such a hurry to get to his next shot that he is standing by the green waiting to putt while three other people are still making their approach shots. These guys make great targets. There are the guys in carts who play fast and are on your ass to hurry up even though there is a group in front of you. There are those who like to play music. I am not a fan. There are those who spend too much time looking for their lost ball as if they are gold plated. Keep the pace dude. There are those who use it as a drunk fest. Again not a fan. I carry my clubs and Rene has a push cart. People in carts always want to help me. Ride with them. They will carry my clubs if I want to walk. I am a member at the course. I can afford a cart. I CHOOSE to walk and carry. Its called exercise. And training for the west coast trail. There are those who regale you with their knowledge of the rules. There are those who don’t bother to rake the sand after they hit out of it. There are those who tell you to take another shot after you hit a bad one. No thanks I will play that one.

At the end of it all, Golf is a game you play against yourself. I learned many years ago not to be nervous on the first tee when there are lots of people waiting. They aren’t watching you. They aren’t judging you. They are just waiting for their turn. Once you step onto the first tee you are in competition with yourself. My oldest daughter once told me she liked me best on the golf course. I am focused and quiet and calm. Not my usual personae. I play golf because I can. I am privileged to have had the opportunity throughout my life to learn the game. It is a game I can play with my husband, my kids and even my grandkids. It is a game for life. I can play alone. When my mom died I played early games alone as I talked to her. It was a healing time. I have a book called quantum golf. What I take away from that book is that my body knows how to play the game. If I remove my mind from every shot I will play well. Its not about pride or bragging rights. It is a time for meditation and calm. Being closer to nature and God. I have learned that life is very much like golf. There are good days and bad. How we deal with them will determine the next day or game. If we react with frustration and anger all lessons may be lost. If we react with calm and acceptance we are better able to move forward and do better. I am serious about golf. I am a pretty good golfer. And I play for fun. Just like life. How about you? You don’t have to tell me if you are a good golfer or a good person. I will figure it out.

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