How to Play Golf the Right Way
One of the best things about golf is that it can be played by anybody, regardless of their athletic ability, age or strength. To golf well, you don’t necessary have to have a powerful body or athletic prowess. It can be enjoyed by the weak, the very young, the very old and everybody in between.
But while anyone can play golf, hardly anybody can play it well.
What Makes Golf Different
Unlike most sports – which reward those who can score the most points, run faster or farther than anyone else, or are the most aggressive and fearless – golf is built around the economy of movement. The goal is to score the least number of points with the fewest number of strokes.
That may sound easy, but it’s actually incredibly difficult. Such qualities as patience, wisdom and serenity are at least equally important as experience and skill. Golf rewards people who are smart and calm and penalizes those who are anxious and aggressive.
To see this up close, tune in to any televised golf event and compare it to any other sport on TV. You will find ponderous competitors who stroll patiently from hole to hole and who calmly set up their shots, compared to football player, hockey players and players in other sports who are trying to be as tough and aggressive as they can be.
The Long Game and the Short Game
When it comes to improving your golf game, it’s often helpful to think of golf as being two different sports: The long game and the short game.
The long game is what everything that happens between the time you tee off and your ball finally lands on the green. Depending on your skill level and the difficulty of the hole’s design, this can be anywhere from one or two shots to up to 17 before you “hole out”, or reach the maximum allowable strokes on a single hole.
The short game is what you do when your ball is on the green and you are trying to get it into the hole. While putting may seem like a straightforward task – you simply tap your ball in the direction of the hole and hope it goes in — there actually are an infinite number of variations for any single hole, including distance, direction of the green, wind speed, how fatigued you are, where the other player’s ball is located, and so on.
This duality of golf is what makes it interesting and difficult at the same time. To be a better golfer, you have to develop multiple skill sets. Perfecting just one – such as being able to drive the ball far or being an expert on the putting green – is no guarantee of your overall success. You have to teach yourself to be a complete, well-rounded player because every flaw will add points to your total.
Variations in Courses
Every football field is exactly 100 yards long. Every basketball net is exactly 10 feet off the ground. Every pitcher’s mound is 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate. Players in these sports enjoy a predictability that golfers don’t have.
That’s because no two golf courses are exactly alike. Some have confounding dog legs or endless fairways. Others feature devilishly placed traps and water hazards that hungrily consume golf balls like jelly beans. Still others are located in places where abrupt, heavy winds are a constant reality or are so exposed to the sun that how long you can survive in the searing heat must be taken into account.
Even the same golf course is likely to be very different on one day from the way it was the last time you played there. Holes are routinely moved around on the greens to mix things up. Grasses grow longer or are cut back further in the roughs. Water hazards can grow larger or smaller depending on recent rainfall. Sand traps can be moved by the wind or re-formed intentionally by sadistic grounds keeping crews.
The Mysteries of Golf
“Practice makes a man perfect” may be the mantra of most other sports, but with golf it’s not always true. In fact, for many golfers – even the most experienced pros or country club regulars – the more they play, the worst their game gets. And there are golfers who have played for decades but become so frustrated with the game over time that they don’t enjoy it anymore.
The slightest change in your backswing or the way you shift the weight in your hips can have devastating consequences on your drives. It’s easy to psych yourself out when preparing for an important putt. Skill and experience are always the most important qualities in a successful round of golf.
It’s not at all unusual for somebody who has never golfed before to shoot a lower scoring game than other players who golf weekly or daily. And a hole in one – which in theory can happen to anyone – actually hardly ever happens to anybody at all.
The Zen of Golf
So what’s the right way to play golf? It’s not to win money or gain fame and adulation or to improve your game or even to shoot for your all-time lowest score every time you set out to play.
The right way to play golf is to relax and enjoy and appreciate every moment of the experience of playing golf. That’s the Zen nature of golf: The harder you try, the less likely you are to succeed. But the less you care about the final outcome, the more rewarding the experience.
About the Author – Raji S, the author of this guest article writes occasionally on behalf of Golfshire Club, an uber luxurious resort to play golf in Bangalore, Karnataka. Measuring 275 acres and approximately 7000 yards, Golfshire Club ranks amongst the finest golf courses in India.