I’ve made a decision to play more golf. As I’ve mentioned before, golf has been the one sport I simply can’t seem to get comfortable with. So, I’m going to make the commitment and put in the effort to become average. While becoming “average” doesn’t seem like much of a goal, it is when you’re struggling to get past awful. I’m not looking to shoot par, or join the senior tour. My desire is to be able to be paired up with any group and feel comfortable that I’m not going to embarrass myself.
So with this new plan to get better at golf, I made a little resolution to challenge myself and play golf three days in a row. What’s the big deal with that? Well, it meant going out as a single and probably being placed with a group of strangers. No only does that challenge my awkward social skills, it means embarrassing myself in front of strangers with my lack of golf skills. For you extroverts maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal. For us introverts, trust me it is.
Day one and I forced myself to go to the course. I thought about just going to the driving range, but made myself go into the pro shop and say the dreaded words… “do you have any slots open for a single?” Oh, happy days – not only did they have room, the course wasn’t busy and I was able to go out by myself! It worked out perfectly. I forced myself to overcome social anxiety and got to relax and play without anyone watching. It was a very enjoyable experience and I actually played ok. Probably because I wasn’t in my head and simply enjoyed the course.
Day two and I was much less anxious. I drove to the course and… the parking lot was packed. I nearly turned around and left. But to my credit, I forced myself to head to the pro shop and say the magic words. There wasn’t going to be any solo golf this time. I was paired with a couple of young guys. They were laughing and joking around. The pro clearly knew them. He said, “I know these two look like knuckleheads, but they’re good guys”.
As we went out to the first tee, they certainly didn’t look like golfers. Late twenties, early thirties maybe. Both looked like ratty skater dudes. Flat billed ball caps. T-shirts. Baggy shorts. Lots of tattoos. I thought to myself that they couldn’t be very serious about golf, so at least I won’t be too embarrassed. As we were waiting to tee off I noticed they were both wearing flip-flops. How committed a player could you be in flip-flops? The group in front of us moved on to the green so I stepped up to tee off. I actually managed to hit a decent shot. Not terribly far but dead center in the fairway. One of the guys yells “Steady Eddy, that what I want to see all day!” I was quite pleased with myself.
Now this first hole was a par 4, slight dog leg to the right, 300 some odd yards. I’m waiting for my two partners to tee off, but they’re just chatting away. I’m waiting. And waiting. Finally the group ahead clears the green. Skater guy number one steps up in his flip-flops and crushes a massive drive that lands on the green. Skater guy number two steps up in his flip-flops and also crushes his drive, landing just a few feet short of the green. I was speechless. Whatever stereotype I had of what a golfer looks like was blown away. I’ve never seen, in person, someone hit a golf ball like that. It’s one thing to see a massive drive from the pros on TV. But you have no appreciation for how far 300+ yards is until you see it in person. And these freaking guys did it in flip-flops. Why am I so obsessed over the footwear? Because I just bought a pair of fancy new golf shoes. Nothing like feeling foolish standing there in my shiny, brand new, fancy shoes while these guys crush it looking like they’re on their way to a beach party.
I did ok on the second hole, and then the nerves of playing with these guys got to me and the wheels came off. They were super nice and very supportive. I realized they would normally play back on the pro tees, but were playing up on the closer tees for me. They gave plenty of encouragement, but it was clear I was holding them back from their normal pace of play. Eventually they asked if I would mind if they jumped ahead a hole to play a bit faster. Of course I didn’t mind as it worked out well for me and them.
Before they left we shook hands and said the standard pleasantries. But one of the skater dudes did leave me with a bit of advice. He was quiet for a bit and then said, “You know, I think most problems with the golf swing can be fixed by just being more still”. And off they went.
I don’t know if that’s good golf advice or not… but it certainly felt right. It was an interesting experience. A wise, tatted up skater dude who crushes 300 yard drives in flip-flops. The next day I got rained out, so we’ll have to wait to see what the next round brings and if stillness is the secret. One thing is certain. I’m clearly trying too hard. Maybe I’ll put the new shoes on eBay.