Just over a year and a half ago, Gretchen and Jeff got married. To celebrate his pending nuptials, Jeff’s friends decided his bachelor party should have all the excitement and brazen sexiness of the man himself.
We went golfing.
For seven of the eight of us, golf was either something we loved to do, or something we hadn’t done in years. For me, it was the first time I’d set foot on a golf course since I went sledding down the fairways behind my dad’s work as a kid. And, like any first timer, I stunk.
With a rule in place to stop at 3-over par to keep the game moving (the 5+ hour round needed a lot of help with that moving), I made less than the max twice. The bogey on the par-5 5th hold felt like a great victory.
And just like that, an addiction was born.
It didn’t start out particularly auspiciously. I bought an issue of Golf Digest. I started watching PGA Tour events on the Golf Channel. I bought Tiger Woods ’14 for the PS3. In December — almost 4 months after that first round — my wife took advantage of a Cyber Monday deal and bought me a beginner set of clubs.
Throughout the winter of 2013-2014, those clubs gathered dust — but I was gobbling up any and all information I could get into the mechanics and soul of the game. Part of that process was learning that (contrary to popular opinion) golf is not a “fat, old man’s game”, but (if done right) a physically challenging game that demands both strength and flexibility… two qualities that commuting 110 miles round trip and sitting in an office all day hadn’t bestowed upon me.
So I started walking more.
Whether I was walking around George Wright G.C., the muni near our home, or just walking around our neighborhood, the universally accepted 10,000 step benchmark became my goal.
I also started using the gym at work. That (if you know me, you won’t be surprised by this) led to new aches and pains, which led to physical therapy to help repair my (ugh) weak glutes, quads, and hip flexors — all important muscle groups in the golf swing. On top of increasing my strength in those areas, I began a new routine of stretching twice a day.
Then, in March of last year, I took advantage of a Groupon for a one-hour golf swing analysis at CityGolf Boston, an indoor golf practice facility in downtown Boston. No surprise: the analysis found my golf swing was wholly lacking in what it needed.
And with that, my amazing CityGolf instructor, Patrick McCarthy (say it in as much of a Boston accent as you possibly can and you’ve just about got it right) took on one heck of a challenging assignment: teaching me to not only hit a golf ball far… but straight.
A year later — through at least 40 lessons, at least as many evenings at the driving range, and a couple dozen rounds at the local par 3 course — I’ve learned a few things about this ancient game.
Golf isn’t as expensive as they make it out to be, but it’s not cheap, either. A bucket of balls at the driving range are $5-10. A round of golf is anywhere from $14 to $100. And 0n top of that beginner set of clubs, as I’ve improved, I’ve needed to replace my driver and hybrid, and am looking at doing the same for my irons. Close-outs and used clubs are my go-to choice (like many others, which may explain TaylorMade’s poor sales results last year), but at $100-200 a club, the costs add up fast.
Having a goal unrelated to losing weight is a great way to lose weight. On my quest to learn how to swing a golf club, I’ve increased strength, become way more flexible than I was just a year ago, and lost 15 lbs. I stand up taller than I did. My clothes fit differently. My wife gawks at me (she added this line herself.) Not a bad tradeoff.
Having a supportive spouse makes all the difference. From buying that first set of clubs, or buying my UP24 band to track my physical activity, to agreeing I should get out to the driving range late enough into the season that my golf instructor has to tell me to stop, Meg has been behind me (sometimes pushing) all the way.
It’s not about how you compare to the pros, or even to your friends. Sure, you play to beat your friends, or whoever you’re competing against in a tournament — but in the end, golf is entirely about competing with yourself. Outdriving your previous long. Hitting purer irons than you ever have. Holing more putts. And having the humility to accept that no… you’ll never play like the pros.
For me, it’s less about my ability to drive it as far as Bubba, or hitting wedges like Phil, or putting like Luke Donald.
Instead, it’s about playing like the octogenarian at the par 3 course when I’m an octogenarian. Unlike most other sports, golf is a game that I can (and will, God willing) play for the rest of my life.
And for that, I have to thank Jeff and his band of merrymakers that one day in August.