The Golf Standard

I really like talking about theater, and I really love talking about art. All kinds of art. It’s all good with me, if you know a lot about sculpture, I will sit in rapture, even though I barely notice sculpture. I also love disciplines that are treated as art by their practitioners. My friend Ehren, although not technically an artist, is a fellow “enthusiast” (which my wife calls me. Often. As a mild insult…) and I will talk to him about anything.

I should say that I also like talking about sports. When my friends Steve and Deb picked the Tampa Bay Bucs as their team (they live in Chicago, but when they picked teams, the Bucs had just won the Super Bowl) (man, they’re *laughing* now, tell you what…) I started watching a little football, and then when Tampa Bay went in the shitter, I started calling them.

I’ve got some teams I like. Lakers, Nets, Teams With Funny Guys On Them In The NBA, Charlotte… these are teams I like. Boston, Indiana, Teams With Guys Who Used To Be On Sacramento, UTAH… not so much. I loved Andre, hated Pete Sampras. I love Martina, TOTALLY loved Capriati… Etc.

There is no love like the love I have for Carolina. That’s a whole ‘nother blog. I have felt feelings as strong during a play or a movie, but it is a different thing. It’s just… It can’t be explained. It would take me forever. Some of you know. It’s a love unlike any other.

Now, in terms of playing sports, I like to have fun, but mostly at other people’s expense. I have played five sets of tennis in an afternoon, and it wasn’t best of five – I lost every set. My friend Mac (normally that would be a hot link, but he is, seriously, the worst blogger *ever*) and I would play basketball with our friends, which consisted of the two of us standing in the middle of the court talking about movies while eight guys would go back and forth past us.

We sucked. And we quit. I’ve been bad at every single team sport, but individual sports are pretty good for me. I was a good wrestler, an okay bowler, a pretty good, y’know, checkers player, etc. However, about two years ago I took up golf, and I’ve been lost every since.

I’m not good, but the nice thing is that nobody is. Everyone is a crappy golfer, you will very seldom meet someone who will nod “yes” when you say “are you any good?” I don’t hit it very straight, I don’t hit it spectacularly far, but GOD…

I don’t know what to say. It’s white as hell, it’s not great for the environment, and it has a horrible history in terms of exclusion, I know that. That’s not what I’m talking about, I’m talking about the tuning fork that goes off in your soul when you strike the ball. I’m talking about the dance you have to do, the choreographed moment of dance that you have to do right in order to do *anything*.

Again, I could go on and on. But here are some things I discovered about myself while swinging a club.

– You don’t achieve more by trying harder. You achieve more by doing each simple step you need to do, and those steps will come together to make something great happen.

– Every day you will have to remain open to changing tiny things in your habits in order to stay productive.

– Every single moment is an opportunity to do something spectacular.

– Your good moments last only for that one moment. Your bad moments just keep adding up and adding up.

– One bad shot, then one horrible shot, then one bad shot, then one amazing shot is par. One great shot, then a second great shot, then one bad shot is, two shots later, a bogey.

– Every six months someone comes up with some new thing that is gonna make your life better. Sometimes it’s based in science, sometimes it’s a new faith, but they will always try to make you think this is the secret. It’s a lie.

– If you want to go 140 yards, you can whack and top a 9 iron, hit an 8 iron perfectly, hit a 7 Iron nice, take a lot off your 6 Iron, take a half swing with your 5 Iron, tag your 5 wood or wack the crap out of your 9 wood.

(Why do I have a 9 wood? Better question, why do I have a pitching wood that looks like a pooper scooper? And why do I have a 560 cc head driver that sounds like a shotgun blast and hits the ball 285 yards even when I swing it? I have these things because my father in law and brother Ian are a) crazy, b) love me and c) obsessed with golf.)

– Every time I try to do something, it doesn’t work. Every time I just do it, it works. I know, I heard Yoda say it, and I read it in the Tao Te Ching, but it didn’t sink in until I picked up a club.

– The more golf I play, the better I write.

All this, and I’ve only played for a coupla years. I’m willing to bet that everyone out there either feels like golf is better than I do, or they totally hate it. It’s worse than religion or politics, but I just totally adore it.

0 thoughts on “The Golf Standard

  1. ken

    I miss golf. I used to play a lot. When my schedule was lighter (1993-1998), I used to have a standing tee time every Friday at 1:30 at Peter M. Jans Municipal Golf Course in Evanston, IL (crappy but charming little public course, par 62, $12 for a round of 18 holes) and I’d play with a buddy who was a waiter and also had Friday afternoons free. If it was above 40, we’d play *every* Friday. There was a great article in the WSJ last week about the male bonding involved in a round of golf. It’s true, my golf partner and I talked about everything for four hours a week, 30 or so times a year for five years.
    Now that time’s much more precious, I barely get out for a round or two a year. This last year was likely the first year ever in which I didn’t play a single hole of golf in 25 years of playing the sport. Sad, really.

  2. Anne D.

    Awww, Ian, I wish you could have met my dad while he was still alive. You could have talked each other’s ears off about golf. He started playing when he caddied as a teen — the only way he could afford to play. It was his passion all his life, and he got pretty good at it. Mom was definitely a “golf widow.”
    Dad tried to teach me to play, and I just couldn’t focus. I liked rumbly active sports (played hockey in college).
    Dad’s golf story is here:
    and a little tribute in response here:
    Enjoy the links, Ian.

  3. Deb

    Ok, LOOK. We did *not* pick the Bucs “because” they won the Super Bowl. We didn’t even KNOW the Bucs had won the Super Bowl. Everyone laughs at the way we chose a team (should’a picked the city we lived in, or the city we’re from, or even the mascot we liked best). LOOK. Neither of us knew much about the sport of football, both in how it’s played, and the NFL players and teams. Growing up with a fairly repugnant attitude toward football, we did some scientific research to ensure that we’d persevere. We wanted a) a decent-enough team that would showcase the sport best (i.e., not commit a lot of penalties or play sloppily) so we could learn it, (b) a team that had a good chance of keeping our morale up by not losing ALL the time (like the Bears), and c) a team that would be played nationally as much as possible, as we didn’t yet have DirecTV. We asked as many football enthusiasts as we could, given our criteria, who would they suggest we follow? And the answer was pretty universally, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
    The real testament to our commitment and loyalty as fans, is that we stuck with them as they *immediately* tanked, and have continued to stick with them through the present. They’re “our team”. “Our guys”. We have an affinity for them that isn’t any less than if we’d grown up in Florida, or had a thing for pirates. Had we followed the Bears or the Giants at that time, we probably wouldn’t have stuck with the sport. I don’t think our reasons were any more arbitrary than picking a team just because you’re from that state or went to that school.
    All of the above is said with a smile, by the way.

  4. hilary

    i appreciate your words on golf, even though i don’t play; there’s a reason so many people are obsessed with it. so many people can’t be wrong. i can imagine that it’s a great lesson in simplicity and focus; of being in the moment–of maintaining a certain zen. speaking of zen, i just wanted to say that i LOVE andre agassi, and he will be sorely missed from professional tennis. I just love him love him love him, and stefi too–and there’s just no one else in the tennis world who can replace his energy and heart right now. so there.

  5. Sean Williams

    Hey, Anne D! Your dad was from Skaneatles, which is the home to Mir Beau, where my wife and I run off to hide from the world. It’s a lovely, lovely place.
    Deb, hate the game, don’t hate the player. You chose the Bucs based on math and best bet guesses, it had nothing to do with personality or pride or anything organic. You stuck with them because you’ve never admitted you were wrong.

  6. Deb

    Sean. We chose the Bucs based on a desire to learn a sport, not on what “math” might make them winners. How were we supposed to have pride or affinity for personality, or “anything organic” when we knew absolutely zero about the NFL? Had we decided to root for the Bears, not only would it have been just as blank a slate, but we were afraid would have given up. Pride and personality are learned behaviors/traits. If I never ate vegetables growing up, but decided I’d like to add them to my diet, and I didn’t want to start out with lima beans or cauliflower because then I might be put off from vegetables forever, so I asked people what veggies I should try, and they said, “Hey, everybody loves yams,” and I tried them, loved them, and branched out to broccoli and spinach and corn, wouldn’t the experiment have been a success? We weren’t looking for a “winning” team. We had no basis for pride, no knowledge of personality, to begin with. My friend is a Broncos fan because her brother was a Broncos fan. No affiliation with Denver, Colorado, Plummer, Shannahan, nothing. But she is one of the most die-hard, long-term fans you’ll ever meet. Is that any more arbitrary a reason for picking a team to root for than ours?
    And the fact that I’ve never been wrong about anything, including last year’s NFC South Champions, is just gravy.

  7. Annie

    I’m a latecomer here, but this golf/male-bonding discussion brings to mind a comment my good friend Jon made many years ago, shortly after his dad died. He was writing about how he and his dad would play golf on Jon’s rare visits home, reflecting on his dad’s game: “It makes me sad just to think of his swing. It was so humble, so awkward, so good-natured, and so much like him.”


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