Sunday, March 22, 2009


I have been suffering from what I call "Golf-22" for my entire adult life. Golf-22 is an expression I have coined for the condition where you don't play well enough to get excited enough to want to play more to get better.

A little history: I grew up playing golf, as did my father and his father before him. When I was four or five, I used to chase my dad down the fairways at Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City with an old sawed-off wood, whacking a whiffle golf ball in a way that more closely resembled polo than golf. When we moved to Milwaukee in 1967 and joined Tripoli Country Club the following spring, my siblings and I played in the junior golf program. It was how we passed our summers. If you play enough golf in competitive situations, you will eventually become pretty good at it. By the time I was fifteen, I was shooting in the low eighties. But then I went through a growth spurt and the wheels came off. Whatever feel I had for the game disappeared. I couldn't even qualify to play on my high school's varsity team. After graduation, I stopped playing golf altogether. For almost ten years.

When I picked up the game again in my mid-twenties, at the prompting of friends and family, it was like starting over. I still had a decent swing, but every shot was a crap shoot. I could hit the shot I intended once in a while, but more often I sprayed the ball all over the place or chunked it badly. My scores were terrible. Golf was so incredibly frustrating that it was no fun at all. I once walked off a course in the middle of the tenth hole. I went home and cleaned my garage. And I had more fun.

I have been in that mode for about twenty-five years now, playing only four or five times a year in the hopes that a miracle will occur and I will play well for a change. Anyone who plays golf knows that this is ridiculous; you can't get better if you don't play frequently. But given how badly I play, especially when I once played so well, there is little motivation to play more: Golf-22.

All that is going to change this golf season. I joined the men's club at Redlands Mesa, and they play eighteen holes every Wednesday. If I play in every scheduled event, that works out to thirty-two eighteen-hole rounds. That's more golf than I have played in the last eight years. If I don't get substantially better, then there is no hope. The men's club season kicked off yesterday morning with a "1 Gross & 1 Net" event, and the four-man team I was on won it by six strokes! My handicap is so high that the three holes I somehow managed to par helped us secure a twelve-under-par net round. How's that for motivation?

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