Why do people play golf?
What attracts so many to spend money, consume time and make other sacrifices poking a little white ball along the ground? Why do some gravitate toward it and others never seem to get it?
All competitive ventures offer a multitude of measuring devices that provide systematic methods to tell interested parties how well they have done.
Usually it is the final outcome or the presentation ceremony that is the best indicator of the competitive efforts, but only one team or one person can win. Does that mean everyone else failed or did each acquire a bit of success depending on certain factors?
For example, take the competitive opportunities available in hockey, beginning with a six-year-old child.
In order to play the game at any level, the player must first learn to skate. Hundreds of hours are spent building the leg strength and balance along with the coordination to artfully push with one foot and glide with the other and then alternate by pushing with opposite foot and gliding with the other.
All the while, the young player must develop other skills such as shooting, passing and checking. Once these skills begin to take hold, their minds can be trained using details that include the blue line, the red line, penalties and scoring goals. With experience comes the fine tuning required for details that are ultimately called strategy.
Many of the skills can be taught and many can be learned but all are limited by natural ability and desire.
Desire is made up of a cross-section of various components that either increase or decrease the player’s willingness to spend time and/or money to both participate and/or develop their skills. It comes from within. It is the difference between being first to the rink at dawn and the last to leave at dark or showing up for a few hours once in a while.
One young player with the most desire will repeat a basic motion so many times they will wear a hole through a piece of three-quarter-inch plywood while learning a specific kind of shot. They will wear the edges off a puck until it becomes rounded.
Why does one player get pleasure from such a burden of labor while another gains enjoyment from five per cent of the effort?
An even more more difficult question is how do you expose the game to a person who has never played it?
Regardless of natural ability and desire, some people enjoy certain activities whether they are participants, spectators or otherwise motivated. We constantly hear that we, as golfers, have a responsibility to grow the game.
What does that mean? If you knew what it meant, how would you do it? Over the past couple of decades, thousands of new courses were built and hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment were produced. Isn’t that growth?
Associations, organizations, groups, individuals and corporations have spent large amounts of time and money to try to entice young boys and girls to play golf. Some of them have incredible desire, some have incredible talent, some are retained and some move on.
Why? What is it that appeals to some and not to others?
In the 1960’s there was a saying used by young people when they were trying figure out their life paths. They called it finding one’s self.
Supposedly, it was possible to hitchhike across Europe with little or no money, live in hostels, do odd jobs for a few weeks and then be blessed with a revelation that would guide you for the rest of your life because you had found yourself.
I’ve never thought it was that simple. I started looking for myself when I was about 13 or 14 and in many parts of my life I’m still looking. Perhaps, I enjoy the search.
What has this got to do with golf?
What I found with golf is that for me, it began with an interest in how to grip the club, how to swing and how to hit the ball. As my skill level improved in swinging the club, I was quickly challenged by a need to learn chipping, pitching, putting, sand shots, driving, iron play etc.
Then, it happened.
All the books I read, tournaments I watched, people I talked to were all “windows.”
The information each provided was available to me so I could learn the various skills. I loved the sunshine, the hours of practice, working around the course, talking about technique, playing different courses and eventually competing in tournaments. I loved the golfers, the staff, green grass, burned out rough and the hundreds of trees.
One day I discovered not only were all of these wonderful things were each a window into something more. Something beyond the superficial message each sent me was an increasing number of new things to learn, new people to meet, new opportunities.
My golf bible, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, not only told about how to stand and how to hold the club, it told how my idolnBen Hogan believed it should be done.
The words were reflected back to me as I read them and tried to form the unity to hold the club in a manner called the grip. It was also a window into the thousands of hours spent by Mr. Hogan as he practiced traveling down the road in a quest for excellence and perfection.
I felt as though he was talking to me. It was like we were friends and knew each other. He talked about how he toiled and failed. Then, he toiled and he won, but as I read his book and tried to decipher his exact meaning I came to a connection with him; an understanding of his message.
He specifically says “If you do these few things every day for a short while, you will improve.” I could feel his arm and my shoulder reassuring me as I struggled.
Another of the windows in golf allows you to look inside yourself and study your very being. Why did you not do as well in today’s round as you did yesterday? What thoughts and events led to you sinking an important putt and conversely, those that gave cause to a less desired result?
What does it mean to grow the game? It means understanding what golf means to you. How it sends the message to you that says enjoyment.
There are hundreds of factors for every person that attracts them to play golf. If we truly are interested in growing the game, we will try to discover what our windows are and then share them with others.
It isn’t a commodity.
It cannot be traded, bought or sold. It’s more like a friend, someone you respect and care about, someone you want others to know.
It’s someone you are proud to introduce, someone who provides you with a window through which you can experience life in a way that is private, unique and they share it with you.
If you want to help grow the game, once per year invite someone you know who has never played golf to join you at the course for a few hours. Show them around the clubhouse and the pro shop, putt for a while and hit a few range balls. Give them a window into the world of golf.
You won’t be sorry and neither will they.