Nice Drive, Five

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”

-William Feather

About two months prior to the world closing down, I got the opportunity to play golf in Fiji. It was an amazing trip and I was also hitting the ball pretty amazing as well. Surprising, after the chain of events that caused me to travel for almost two entire days to get there. That’s a story for another time though.

I was hitting the ball off the tee so well I actually picked up a nickname from my playing partners over the first two days of the trip.

“Five.”

I was crushing the ball with the driver on every hole that I could, many times well past the 300-yard mark. The problem was that every shot on the hole thereafter was fairly awful.

I’m certain that this wasn’t the first time this nickname’s been used. Let me explain the idea behind it.

Most golf courses have 3 different hole length ranges that dictate what the par is for each particular hole. Par 3’s, par 4’s, and par 5’s. As you may have learned from a previous episode of whatever this newsletter thing is, par is the number of strokes it is expected for an expert golfer to get the ball into each individual hole.

Par 3 lengths for men are generally somewhere between zero and 250 yards, par 4’s are usually 251-470 yards, and par 5’s are anywhere from 471-690 yards long. Par 6’s exist but are fairly few and far between. Par 4’s are generally the most common.

Normally, (for decent male ball-striking players) par 3’s don’t require you to use a driver. Good players can hit a ball much further than 250 yards and they would be hitting the ball past the hole with a driver. 

Par 4’s, though, are frequently where players pull that club from their bag when teeing off. When a hole is 400 yards long, most of the time it’s beneficial to get the ball as close to the hole as possible with the first shot, therefore necessitating the use of the longest club.

Anyways, my playing partners kept saying, “Nice drive, Five,” every time I’d crush the driver. Most likely a phrase that’s been thrown around for ages.

They were all older guys and I was consistently outdriving them. What I was not doing, however, was outscoring them.

My problem was that, even though I was getting the ball closest to the hole every time I used that club, I wasn’t getting the ball into the hole within the expected amount of strokes after that. Par 4’s are the most common hole length on most courses, but it was taking me five (or more) strokes to get the ball into the hole.

Hence, the nickname “Five.”

Not a good sign when other golfers measure your game in relation to par.

Like I said, I was crushing the ball with the driver. But with every other club in the bag, it wasn’t going so well.

I couldn’t seem to get the ball onto the green with my second shot, sometimes even with my third. By the time my ball had landed on the putting surface, I was way behind the 8-ball.

Remember, a golf hole is only four and a quarter inches in diameter. A regulation-sized golf ball is about one and two-thirds of an inch in diameter. Attempting to get a really small ball into a really small hole is exceptionally difficult, especially when you’re 40 feet away and only have one stroke left before you exceed par.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Golf is hard, but this isn’t me making excuses. The desire a golfer feels to shoot par is immensely intense, but it’s definitely not life or death.

The fact is, I’m not telling you this story to boast about how far I can hit a drive or gain pity for the fact that I couldn’t chip or putt, it’s to show you that just because you do one thing well doesn’t mean that you’re going to be successful.

Getting off to a great start is helpful, but with all things in life, it’s not what gets you to the finish line. 

Success comes when you have done every part of the job so consistently well that the universe has no choice but to reward you for a job well done.

It’s like in bobsledding. Just because a team got a great push at the top of the hill doesn’t mean they’re going to make it to the bottom with the fastest time. They still have to maneuver the sled all the way through the course well. If the whole run isn’t perfect, you can bet that they aren’t going to be taking home the gold at the Olympics.

Sorry, I don’t know what bobsledding has to do with golf, I just watched Cool Runnings recently and I freakin’ love that movie.

“Sanka, ya dead, mon?”

I digress. The point is that success comes to those who perfect all parts of their game, not just rely on the ones they’re already good at. It doesn’t matter if it’s golf or bobsledding, or even business.

In order to succeed, you have to get good at every part of the process. In golf, that entails learning how to use the other 13 clubs in the bag.

Regardless of the fact that I could hit the ball off the tee miles further than the old guys I was playing with, they could hit the ball well with all of the clubs in their bags. That meant that the dependable, straight down the middle shots that they were able to hit were moving them closer to the hole over time, while I was probably out looking for my ball in the brush somewhere. 

It kinda reminds me of the tortoise and the hare.

Slow, steady, consistently well-executed, and persistent little steps add up to one big overall success.

Then there’s me, out in the wilderness, because I tried to eat the entire sandwich in one bite.

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