What the sport of golf means to people is extremely difficult to put into only 140 characters on Twitter, since at any one moment golf can be any number of things. It can be a moment of triumph as you break 80 for the first time or crushing defeat as you 3-putt your last hole to lose a match. It can hold moments of pure joy and jubilation after you hole out for eagle and disbelief and heartbreak on the next as you pump two tee shots right out of bounds. The emotional rollercoaster that is the game of golf is unique in that unlike most other sports, there is no one to share in your victories or your failures. There’s no team to pick you back up after you just 3-putted to lose the biggest tournament of your life. There’s no one to blame when we play poorly or practice for hours without improvement. We’re often fighting ourselves out there as much as we are competing against other players, playing an exhausting game of mental chess to keep our confidence up in high-pressure situations.
What other people do has no effect on our game whatsoever. We are not playing against other players, as much as we are playing against a course: an inanimate, unfeeling thing, even if it does not always seem like it. So those who do not play the game ask “Why? Why do you put in all these hours to play a difficult game that drives you crazy? Why do you spend the money to play a game that humbles you?” The answer is as simple as it is complicated: we love it.
Hitting that shot out of the trees and onto the green is why we love golf. Hitting that crisp iron from the fairway and seeing the ball roll onto the green or dropping in that snake from 35 feet to save par is why we love golf. We play for those moments – when a putt is tracking five feet out but you know it’s going to fall, readying yourself for the most authentic Tiger Woods fist pump the game has ever seen. And we LOVE how it humbles us. It challenges us: pushing us to our limit both mentally and physically. It does not matter if we shoot three straight 93s – we will come back that fourth day and shoot a 72. That’s golf.
We love that we learn something new about the game every time we play it. We experience the challenge, learn how to get out of tough situations or persevere through adversity to grind out pars and bogeys when birdie isn’t an option. We learn how to control our emotions (I know it took me years of playing to get the right temperament for competitive play), and how to think through adverse situations. Golf teaches its players more than any other sport in existence – that I have no doubt. We are all students of the game, and only a select few in this world have obtained the title of “master.”
So – we finally come to it. What is golf to me? #GOLFIS lifelong love. We will play and follow this game until the day we die, and we’re still young, aren’t we? We have decades of golf ahead of us, decades of Tiger pumps and long drives. Decades of lazy Sunday afternoon rounds with friends and high-pressure tournaments. Golf is a love/hate relationship that we keep coming back to, no matter how many times we have fallen short, for those heart-pounding moments of triumph. We love it. It’s not always easy to explain why. We even doubt it ourselves at times, but we do, and we always will.
As players of the game, we are its Ambassadors, and it is our privilege to expand the game to those who have not yet experienced it. Ever wonder why some people can’t watch golf on television? It’s because it is not relatable. Those people do not understand what it is like to stand on the Par four 18th tee needing only a 5 to break 80 for the first time, or in the Pro’s case, needing a birdie to win the U.S. Open. They don’t get goose bumps when they hear the iconic Masters music every April. We know what that is like, and as Ambassadors, we can pull our friends and family into our game, and show them why we love it so much. Organizations like Golf 20/20, Nextgengolf and their partners are trying to do just that.
Golf has many barriers to entry, ranging from difficulty to financial cost, but these organizations are finding ways to make golf more inviting and accessible to those who have never played before. Whether it is through activities like Kwik Golf or Top Golf (if you don’t know what those are Google them – they are super fun), or just bringing a few friends to the range to knock it around for an hour, we can attract players to the game who would have never otherwise picked up a golf club. Honestly, I was skeptical at first. I was a purist and thought, “Well if people cannot accept golf in its current form, then they should not play it.” But the more clubs we put in peoples’ hands, no matter how we do it, the stronger and more lasting our game becomes. It is as simple as that. If these variations of the sport can win people to golf, and have them experience the sport we love, then let’s expand it. It is our job, as Ambassadors, to do so.
By: Bob Bonney