When I’m feeling frustrated with my game, my mind floats back to my first year golfing, when my dad and I would spend hours at the range and around the green. I’d beg him to “really play golf.” meaning I wanted to play nine holes, or at least the practice course. But we didn’t even hit the practice course that first year, as my dad insisted we “start with the basics.” He told me that I needed to lay down the groundwork first. So, we started from scratch. Grip. Stance. Swing. Learn the clubs. Then we put it all together at the range and on the greens. Those range balls didn’t go far, and my chips were pathetic.
Yet, my dad continued to have me hit balls, adding tips between the duffed shots.
Duffing shots tends to take the fun out of golf for the average person. For a 9-year-old, it feels like pure torture. Supremely frustrated, I’d ask my dad, “When am I going to get this?”
My dad wouldn’t really reply to this question. (Maybe he wondered the same thing.) He’d just throw more balls to me. Even the good shots that received his praise resulted in more balls. I became pavloved into believing that no matter what I did on the course, I’d just have to hit more shots.
In the midst of hitting, putting, and chipping something like 300,000 balls, my dad was also hitting, putting, and chipping. Often after he noticed me doing something wrong, he’d tell me to stop and watch his demo. “See what happens when you just slow your backswing down.” I’d follow his advice- again with about the same amount of success I had on my own. To this, he’d tell me, “Have patience.”
And then he’d throw me more balls.
As you can imagine, that first summer had more bad than good shots. However, towards the end, I started to get it. My hard work paid off, as the next summer, I had a foundation to work with and I graduated to the practice course. Of course, this didn’t go well, and I was back to asking, “when am I going to get this?” Again, my dad would throw more me balls – this time in the form of having us go to the range after we played a round on the practice course. It was grueling, but slowly, I improved.
The following summer, I thought for sure we’d be ready for the “real” course. Nope. Not at first. Again, more practice. More lessons. More balls. I couldn’t understand why we weren’t playing golf yet. I also couldn’t understand why I was still having bad shots.
But then the golden moment came and we played the real course. Slowly it started to come together. As I got older, I saw the logic in laying down a good foundation before going head first into a game that can be frustrating to even the seasoned player. It dawned on me that I was never going to “get” golf completely; there’d always be things I could do to improve my game. This is part of golf, and part of life as well.
I now realize that “getting it” is really about understanding that no golfer ever “gets it” completely. Yet we all still try. It’s in the process of this struggle that we learn our biggest lessons. The game teaches us that determination and hard work are the keys to not only succeeding but also learning about ourselves along the way. Putting all of this together is the beauty of golf.