I find that the game of golf is not played against a competitor but rather the opponent is, in reality, the golf course itself. The effort to maintain a balance between aggressive and conservative play is constantly on my mind as is the awareness of wind and other factors seemingly beyond my control. If I am to play well, I must constantly adapt my club and shot selections to the ever-changing conditions.
The drive to win, to beat my opponent, is always there but it is the grass of the fairways, long grass of the rough, and tightly-mowed greens that stand in my way. I must sometimes strike the ball with great force while preserving tempo and balance. I need to express my creative nature in the form of correctly calculated putts and soft hand-influenced chip and pitch shots around the greens.
I never really win but merely play well. There has never been a round of golf played when mistakes were not made on the eighteen holes. Perhaps that’s what, more than anything else, keeps me returning to the golf course time and time again; the feeling that I can strike the ball better, get the correct pace on those difficult chip shots, and more accurately measure the pace of putts.
The game of golf is both exasperating and exhilarating. In the span of a few hours, I can experience the distress of a poorly struck tee shot and the joy felt by the sound of a putted ball falling into the cup. But neither sensation lasts very long as another challenging shot awaits; until the golf ball falls into the hole on the eighteenth green.
However, the magnificent strike of the ball, its beautiful flight through the air, and the landing in the precise spot targeted can form a memory that will last forever; particularly if on a par three hole the first strike of the ball propels the sphere onto the green and into the hole.
Golf, more so than any other sport, requires that the mind form a positive image of the event, the shot. All negatives must be excluded from the thought process. Yes, there is a water hazard between my ball and the green but the problem is easily solved as I can visualize the ball sailing well above the water. There may be an out-of-bounds area just off the right edge of the fairway but it in no way comes into play as my picture of the ball’s flight places the ball well left of that area and ultimately landing on the green.
As beautiful as the sight of a well-struck towering long drive may be, it is the shots from the shortest distances that are by far the most important, and yes the most difficult. The accepted technique for putting defies the most logical of thought.
Hold the putter’s grip lightly yet one should keep the wrists firm. Bend at the waist but not too much. Although the ball has been struck and rolled away from the putter’s face, accomplished golfers know they must keep their heads down. Whatever you do, do not look up. “Look up and you’ll see a bad shot.”
Don’t swing the putter with the hands but rather use a pendulum motion with the shoulders. However, one should under no circumstances tighten the shoulder muscles. Allow the putter to swing under that motionless head which has remained looking down at the ball which is then on its path, sometimes to who knows where.
Now whatever you do, don’t strike the ball with too much force but one should always get the ball to the hole. It seems that I am all too often reminded that short putts rarely find the bottom of the cup. Now, as for those aggravating yet beautiful undulations on the greens, one’s best guess is all there is. Oh, some folks walk the path to the hole in an attempt to feel the ups and downs but when it’s all said and done experience and a keen eye are the best tools.
Computations relating to the number of strokes taken on each hole and the final tabulation are generally dictated by the honesty and integrity of the golfer. I have found, and on the scarcest of occasions, that my addition as it related to someone’s score didn’t quite match their number. On those occasions, I ask myself the same old question. If the golfer has fudged a little with their score what have they truly achieved; can they fool themselves into believing they are a better golfer than they are?
Some essentials are required if one is to become proficient at the game of golf. Golf balls, tees, and properly fitted clubs are just a few of the needed assets but by far the most important resource is purely intangible; imagination. Good golfers have the ability to, at least in their mind, imagine all manners of shots.
Should the next shot go over, under, or around the hazard? Is it better to hit the shot as long as possible? Might not that make the next shot more difficult because of its close proximity to the green. Would it not be wiser to lay it up and make the next shot easier? Then there’s that difficult long putt. If the golfer attempts to make the putt maybe the ball will roll quite some distance beyond the hole if missed? It might be more prudent to lay it up making the ensuing putt a “gimme.”
The game of golf can often be such a cruel and unforgiving sport. The landing of a shot an inch here or there can place the golf ball in a body of water or out of bounds. The memory of that shot can torment the striker of the ball for days, weeks, or even months. That swing and its sour result can be sometimes replayed over and over again in the golfer’s mind.
Golf, what a difficult and unique game it is and one that can become so very addictive. I personally find that I am never completely satisfied with my ball striking, my putting, and certainly not with my score. I guess that’s why I enjoy the game so much. It forces me to constantly strive to be better. The game makes me look deep inside myself as I critique every decision and shot I make during a round.
A morning on the links brings the warmth of the sunlight to my face, the vision of acres and acres of rolling green hills, and the odor of newly cut grass. The water in the ponds glistens as that morning sun bounces off the shimmering liquid. However, it’s the much-anticipated challenge that, more than anything, draws me back to the course. It is the decision making and required vivid imagination which beckons to me; that challenge to bring out each of my abilities to their fullest. I do so love this great game.