“Golf is stupid,” she said. “It’s literally so hard, and yet, all I want to do right now is go back and keep trying to get better.”
I agree. Golf is hard.
Like really hard. Maybe even, the hardest game ever invented.
The idea of getting a ball, less than 2 inches in diameter, into a hole, 4 and a quarter inches in diameter, hundreds of yards away, is somewhat insane.
It seems unfathomable. Impossible.
Especially when you’re first starting out.
As a newbie, it must seem unthinkable. Someone hands you a stick with a bend in the end and a tiny place to hit the ball with and tells you to go for it. It must sound like an extremely fruitless endeavor.
Most people whiff and miss the ball completely with the first few swings. Then, they might overcompensate and hit the ground three feet behind the ball. Slowly but surely, they start to make contact, first hitting the top of the ball with the bottom of the club, and watching it skitter across the ground in front of them, but then, eventually, as they gain more experience, striking the back of the ball with the face of the club.
It reminds me of the first time I can remember hitting a really solid shot. Now, I used to hit a ball around our “backyard” when I was a kid, (we grew up on a 20-acre ranch, so space wasn’t an issue) but it took me over 10 years before I was confident enough to take that swing to an actual golf course.
At first, I would just go with my friends on the weekends, a way to get away from the world and hang out, drink beers, and screw around. We didn’t care much about how many strokes it took to get the ball in the hole, we were counting how many beers we could drink and how many joints we could smoke before we were physically unable to hit the ball anymore. Not that we could hit it very well anyways.
But little by little, the game seemed to become more important to me, and it wasn’t long before I started taking it more seriously. The more effort I put in, the more confident I became, and eventually, I was showing up at the course by myself and being randomly paired with other players.
On this particular day, I started off by myself, but by the third hole I had run up behind the two-some that had been in front of me.
They waited for me on the third tee, a 400-yard par 4, and when I got there they asked if I’d like to play with them. Generally, I’d ask to play through due to my shyness but they said they were only going to play two more holes and I figured what the heck, I can handle a couple of holes.
They were a couple of older guys, you know the ones, who look like they’ve been playing for half a century and never make a mistake. They hit their drives, 250-ish yards, straight down the middle.
Now, it was my turn. The nervousness washed over me like a tsunami. I felt my hands tremble as I teed up my ball. It fell of the tee. I picked it up and put it back on. I felt the sweat in my palms as I gripped my club. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe as I stood over the ball.
I swung with all my might, thinking I’m going to impress these guys, and somewhere in the middle of my swing, I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a split second.
I duffed it.
Light penetrated through my eyes just enough to watch my ball bounce through the dirt in front of the tee and come to rest at the beginning of the fairway, not even 100 yards away.
Shame flooded my body. Now, what would these guys think? I wanted so badly to impress them and I had only embarrassed myself. Anger replaced shame. I was fuming inside because I knew I could do better.
Rage propelled me forward. I knew that I was going to have to hit a near-perfect shot with my 3 wood, around some trees, to have any shot at a decent score, (like I could even break 90 then, ha!).
As I lined up to my ball, I felt the nerves set in again. A split second later, the anger washed them all away. Somewhere, deep in my mind, I refused to disappoint again.
I topped it.
The ball came to a stop some 20 feet in front of me. By now, I was sure these guys were regretting their kind invite. I stepped over the ball once more, the same club in hand.
“Whatever,” I thought, “I don’t even care anymore.”
I hoped that the ball would be lost so I could put down a new one. Like it was the ball’s fault, right?
This time I cranked it.
It started off really low. I thought maybe it would slide right underneath the branches of the tree it was heading for. It was dead on target.
As the ball flew further, however, it started to rise. Not like it was on a high trajectory like it was actually climbing the air!
My breath seemed to catch in my throat. I’d never seen a ball do that before. I heard my playing partners let out an “ooh” and then I watched as the ball crashed straight into that tree.
“Man! If that tree wasn’t there, you’d be on the green!” one of the guys said.
“I wish I could hit it that hard, especially without wearing shoes!” the other said.
(Oh yeah, I left out the part where I was barefoot during all of this. I often play that way, and often play better that way.)
Pride welled up inside me. I wasn’t sure why because my ball had hit the tree but they seemed so excited that I couldn’t help but feel good.
I think about that shot from time to time. I know it wasn’t the first time I hit a good ball, but it’s the one that always sticks out in my mind. I wonder if it’s because I had to go through some adversity to get to that point.
Golf is hard. Not just because of the little ball or the little stick you hit it with, but because it often takes some time and effort to hit a good shot. Sometimes, it takes years of failures.
But, if you stick with it, if you keep trying, eventually, you hit that one that you remember, the one that makes everyone say “Ooh,” and “Ahh,” and that’s the one that keeps you coming back.