Golf? Really?

What I’m about to pound out on this keyboard may come as a bit of surprise to some. Others? Not so much. I’ve thought about this quite a bit lately and chuckle to myself every time I think about it. Especially because of my opinions about it in the past. Since 2017 I’ve worked with combat veterans who are struggling. Many conversations are had and some tears shed. Working thru each struggle is personal and scores of people have to take their own path thru what is challenging them. One thing is common among all. To overcome those mountains in life a person has to have some sort of routine. There has to be activities that allow that individual to release. Nature is a power place to be and a place that provides for that release. Getting outdoors has so many benefits be it physical conditioning, fresh air, seeing beauty, hearing sounds of the wild, feeling plants, trees, animals and tasting wild edible plants berries and seeds.

My background being primarily military from 26 years of service and a bit of a hillbilly being from the Ozarks in Southwest Missouri, has offered me amply opportunity to be in outdoors settings. From deserts to mountains, swamps to snow, I’ve been in it all. Physical activity like hiking, hunting and sports are important to me. One activity I thought I’d never really get into was golf. Folks like me with my background used to make fun of golf. We say things like, “Shooting guns. Like golf, but for men.” Maybe a defense mechanism, against something people aren’t good at doing, is making fun of it. At least that’s the camp I fell into. I’ve played golf off and on since I was a pre-teen. I still have my first set of clubs I ever owned. Yep!! The “Woods” are actually made of wood. Throughout the years I’d smack balls with a buddy or go play 9 holes on some golf course on a military base. I remember my buddy, Dave, and I playing the course in Grafenwoehr, Germany in 1999 while on a short break from maneuvers. Between then and 2017, I probably played three times, not including hitting balls in Tikrit, Iraq and Kuwait in 2003 and 2004.

Fast forward to 2017 I was invited to play with a buddy while at a convention in Orlando, Florida. He offered to pay the green fees, rent my clubs, buy some “Stogies”, and pay for the beer. How could I pass that up? I objected but once he offered all those goodies, I had to say yes. While out there, something happened to me internally. Maybe it was the beer and the belly laughs, but we had an awesome time! We didn’t keep score and just enjoyed hanging out whacking balls around the course and taunting the gators in the ponds. Later that year I was asked to play in a 4-man scramble fundraiser. I wasn’t particularly good, shooting around 110 for 18 holes, but with a scramble everyone is a hero on at least one stroke. I left that tournament feeling surprisingly good. In 2018 I was asked to play in another scramble and jumped at the opportunity, remembering the fun I’d had in the past. Since then, I sank deeper into my golf obsession and actually bought a set of clubs on “Marketplace” for $60.

This year has been a completely different story for me. I actually bought a set of really good clubs and studied golf. I’ve watched hundreds of videos from Rick Shiels and Danny Maude, along with Butch Harmon and many others, on the techniques and intricacies of golf. My mother-in-law bought a golf practice net for me last Christmas which has endured thousands of balls being fired at it. I practiced all thru the past winter which prepared me for the spring. See, I’m a bit of an addict. When I learn something new, I want to know everything about it. I’m mechanically minded so I have to understand the “How” before the “Why”. Once I understand those, I attack the mechanical aspect so as to perfect the motion and process. Just in the past 6 months I’ve played over 400 holes of golf and continue to hit the ball everyday in my shop, into that net.

El Tigre Golf Club at Paradise Village I played last week in Puerto Vallarta.

Recently I’ve had talks with other veterans and non-veterans who’ve teased me about my obsession with golf. One thing I need to explain is how I play golf. I play “Bryan Golf”. Meaning, I don’t keep score, if I don’t like where the ball landed, I move it and after 2 putts on the green I pick it up and move on. Why do I do that? Because if I take it too seriously the fun train disappears. I have to keep it light. When explaining to others why I enjoy it so much I tell them, “It’s simple. I’m outdoors getting Vitamin D, exercise, and fresh air. It relieves my stress by not taking it too seriously. I honestly prefer to play alone (being a combat vet you shouldn’t be surprised). Lastly, it’s learning a new skill and practicing to perfect it”. When mentoring another person one thing I really try to impress upon them is to never stop learning. We are like machines built to learn. When you stop exercising your brain “muscle”, it stops getting stronger. That’s why I read, write, watch, and practice all things golf. My goal is to achieve proficiency. Will that ever happen? Ha! We shall see.

Circling the wagons, golf as a “Wellness Practice” and an opportunity to get outdoors are two great reasons to pursue it or another activity like it. With the wealth of information on the “interwebs” these days, there is absolutely no reason a person should not learn new skills. Maybe look at something you once poked fun at and try to understand why others enjoy that particular activity. The best way to grow is through struggling. When we are challenged, we are forced to make tough decisions and presented with an opportunity to QUIT or ENDURE and continue mission. Some other great outdoors individual activities that can be affordable are archery, fishing, disc golf, hiking, and biking are a few examples. Those can open doors to other activities and, more importantly, to new relationships with others who you may have never come into contact with. Never stop learning and never stop daring to do remarkable things!!

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