There’s an oft told joke that golf was given a four-letter name because a different four-letter word that starts with “F” and rhymes with “luck” was already taken.
Golf is, as anyone who has played it can attest, no doubt a frustrating sport.
“The best advice my coach ever gave me was to take two weeks off and then quit,” someone I once played with quipped after hitting an errant tee shot.
Sure, there are other sports that are also challenging and can drive a relatively sane person straight to the nearest insane asylum. My apologies to the PC police if that’s not what they’re called anymore.
In tennis, you can play a flawless 25-shot rally and run your opponent ragged, the way Andre Agassi used to—only to watch their final desperation forehand, the one that was heading three feet wide of the doubles alley—clip the top of the tape and trickle over to your side of the court, inside the singles line—as you helplessly stand there like a deer in the headlights cursing at that bigoted net-cord.
In tennis, you can also win more points overall than your opponent and still wind up on the losing side of the trophy, as happened to Roger Federer during the remarkable 2019 Wimbledon final against the elastic Novak Djokovic.
In football, you can throw six touchdowns for 350 yards along with zero interceptions and still lose, as happened to Eli Manning’s Giants against the Saints in 2015.
In baseball, the ump can call what should have been strike three, ball four, and what should have been ball four, strike three. A perfect game can be broken up with two outs in the ninth inning by a blown call at first base and a broken bat bloop single over the outstretched arms of Derek Jeter can win the World Series and end a Yankee dynasty.
In basketball, you can score 64 points and your team can still lose, as happened to Michael Jordan’s Bulls versus the Magic in 1993. In basketball, you can also run the full length of the floor (94 feet) without dribbling the ball, and the ref won’t call a travel.
But all joking aside, very few sports, if any, are as consistently frustrating as golf, yet still worth the commitment.
So much can go wrong, and almost nothing ever goes right, which is why almost no sport feels more rewarding when it does work out.
You can hit a great drive in the middle of the fairway and then manage to chunk the next shot with your 6-iron, creating a divot the size of the Grand Canyon.
One minute you’re Tiger Woods at Augusta, and the next minute you’re Happy Gilmore at Furry Creek. The golf gods always know how to humble us.
In the somewhat rare event (depending on ability), you can three-stroke your way to the green on a 600-yard par-5 hole after hitting an excellent drive, followed by a great 3-wood and an outstanding chip shot—your reward is to avoid making a mockery out of putting and praying you don’t wind up with an unfortunate double bogey or 2-over par.
On the other hand, there are very few things more satisfying than grabbing a 5-iron 170 yards out and watching the ball land two feet from the pin. Or hitting a putt 15 yards out that breaks exactly how you thought it would—as the ball somehow finds the hole.
In golf, as in life, your biggest opponent and your greatest obstacle are often not the bunker that looks like it has more sand in it than South Beach or the pond with the gator screaming your name; it’s yourself. If you allow the physical obstacles on the course to psych you out, you are almost guaranteed to fail.
There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
Obviously, hitting with the correct technique is important, but equally important is not allowing your anger and frustration from a bad stroke or a series of bad strokes to prevent you from playing to your potential.
In golf, much like tennis, having the right attitude and a short memory are key. Recognizing how to self-correct in the middle of a round is vital. Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged and talk yourself into throwing in the towel by the 4th hole, but you have to remind yourself that you paid way too much money to stop now! Plus, there’s always time to turn it around. Even if you’ve played abysmally through 17 holes, there’s still a chance for par on the 18th hole.
The golf gods usually reward us with at least one otherworldly shot per round, just to keep us coming back so they can laugh at us again.
Not only can you learn a lot about yourself from playing golf, but you can also learn a lot about others—including those who are honest and those who are not. There’s a reason they call it a “gentleman’s” game.
We have all played golf with the guy who seldom hits it on the fairway and seems to need several more strokes than us to complete the hole, yet miraculously claims they somehow got par, while we settled for an honest bogey.
One wonders if these people feel compelled to lie about their golf score; what else are they lying about when they’re not on the golf course?
Perhaps, Joe “I’ve never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings” Biden can answer that one.
Maybe most importantly, golf teaches you how to be patient and how to overcome failure, something that is inevitable for everyone who has ever lived.
It teaches you to block out negativity and to remember that no matter how poorly you’re playing, there’s always another day to play equally as bad.
In bowling, people drink to celebrate getting a strike or a spare. In golf, people drink to forget everything that just happened.
But, in all seriousness, golf is a great game to play. The combination of power, precision, and touch is a beautiful thing to watch.
And regardless of how you’re playing, at the very least you’re outside and not in a cubicle or a classroom.
What could be bad about that?