I love playing golf. Scratch that: I love everything about golf. Getting up early in the morning, walking for many a mile, searching for the ball, putting: all things that often send golfers mental I still love and I really can not explain why. I was never a golfer as a kid: cricket was more my thing and my Dad has only really come to the game through me. My first experience of the game came when a mate of mine from school (Neil Leigh: 5ft 5in and built like a brick outhouse) and I started to load the clubs into his old Cortina and head to Karana Downs Golf Club on every other day of school holidays in our final year of school. It was a great deal they had back then: $10 to play all day with a pie and a drink.
Right from those earliest games, when I was woeful, I was drawn to the game. Back then (some would say what has changed) I hit a high fade, could not putt, could not chip and was easily frustrated. Actually, I confess not much as changed but for the fact I rarely hi,t a high fade anymore.
So what was it back then that hooked me? I had pause to consider this and my ongoing love affair with the game as I rushed to try and get 9 holes in yesterday afternoon in the fast descending bad weather at Coolum. Any sane person, having just sat through 8 hours of a work conference would have just wanted to get into his car and go home. Instead here I was hunched down in my car trying to change into my golf clobber and rushing to get on the course.
Back to the key question: what hooked me? There are a few options that I often hear when discussing this topic:
- A round of golf is 4 to 5 hours out in the great outdoors that I would probably otherwise spend indoors watching sport, indeed watching golf. This answer does not wash for me. Regular readers of my twitter feed will know how much I love a few hours spent on my couch watching sport so this answer is not the answer.
- It is an opportunity to catch up with your mates and have a chat for an extended period. No, that is not it. If I wanted to catch up with my mates I would call them or I would catch up with them at the pub.
- It is a sport that former sportsmen can play. If I was given the option and the body would allow me to I would still be playing cricket but I would still be playing golf anyway. In theory I get this one but in practice I don’t think it washes: plenty of blokes I play golf with have never really played sport.
So, those theories dispelled, I think I have the answer. Right from my first round of golf there was always that one shot or that one hole, in amongst a score card then littered with scores of 7, 8 and sometimes more, that I hit (or in the case of a hole, that I played) perfectly. The ball, just for that hole, avoids the water, whizzes off the club and all of a sudden the putt is easy to read and you nail it. That is the shot or the hole that you talk about with your mates at the 19th hole and it is the hole that you remember the next time you are packing your golf bag for the next round.
17 years have past since my first round of golf and whilst my score cards are now less littered with triple and quadruple bogeys and a score in the triple figures is a real rarity, I still have rounds where I need that perfect shot or hole to keep me coming back. One such round was yesterday at Coolum. After no warm up and the rush to get on I was just woeful. So woeful that for the first time in a long time I had a 10 on my card after the first hole (lots of water around Coolum I have found). On my second hold (par 3 11th) I judged that I could hit a soft 8 iron the 129 metres to the front of the green where the hole had been positioned by the greens staff. In a moment straight out of the movie “Tin Cup” my first shot was as pure an 8 iron I can hit, BUT it was just a little to the right and I put it in the water. Normally I would have taken a drop but I was incredulous: 8 iron was the right club so I reloaded … three times. I hit four of the best 8 irons I have hit but my radar was off by a metre at most and each one hit the water. Needless to say at this point I took the advice of my playing partner and took another double figure score.
What happened next is what keeps me coming back to the golf course. After a short walk to the tee of the long par 5 12th amid much swearing from me and good natured ribbing from my playing partner, I stood over the ball with my favourite club (9 degree stiff shafted Callaway Razor driver for the golf junkies) and just swung the club as hard as I could. And that was the moment: the swing was a great swing, the impact of the club on the ball gave off only a minimal “ting” and I knew that the only place it was going was about 260 metres down the middle of the fairway. Which is where it was heading when I looked up. From the depths of despair, or better put the watery depths of the par 3 11th, I was on top of the world again having just hit a drive about as well as I can hit it.
That is what keeps every hacker coming back to the golf course in my view: that one shot or hole in the previous round.
Of course there is the other side of that perfect shot or perfect hole that truly is the hacker’s lament that I refer to in the title. It is the moment immediately after the perfect shot or the perfect hole where the hacker says to either himself or everyone around him (quote censored for obvious reasons): “why can’t I do that every time?”.
Which all gets me back to my love of the game: I am never going to be a good player of golf. Bad knee, bad hip and bad shoulder plus a lack of desire at the age of 34 to pay a coach to tell me everything I do wrong have put paid to notions of my game being anything other than hackery for the rest of my life. I love the game (having established what hooked me and why I come back every time) because, no matter how badly you play, there is always another round to play, on a new course or an old favourite, which could be that round where it all comes together you repeat that perfect hole for the full 18.
It may be your next round or it may be your last round, but the hacker will keep coming back with the hope that today is the day all thanks to the mindset that manifests with the hackers lament.
All that being said: anyone for a round this weekend?