“Next season I’m going to really take my game seriously.” Those were the words I spoke to the club professional, and surely they were words that he had heard before from others. I had just finished my third round of the year having not picked up a club since my pre-law school days. It wasn’t a particularly memorable round, but there was a feeling of peace and tranquility that I experienced while on the course that told me that this was now going to be my game.  

“You have a good looking swing. We hope that you do”, was his response.  I didn’t know it then, but his response was not merely being polite to a customer but, rather, a genuine statement of hope that I would follow through on my words. On that day, five years ago, I unknowingly embarked on a journey. A journey that has evolved, expanded and one that continues to this day – this is my journey to scratch.

This monthly column will look at the game from the aspect of the aspiring amateur. From dealing with the frustrations of the game, the confusion of the rules to the constant bombardment of big promises made on infomercials promising that this club will be longer, straighter and more consistent than any other club…well, at least until the next generation of that club is released. This column will chronicle my journey from shooting 102, watching countless hours of golf videos on the internet to my current goal of competing on a mini-tour. Above all else, it is my hope that this column will educate, entertain and, perhaps, motivate someone to join me on this journey by picking up the game or striving to improve their game.

How did I get here?

Growing up in Toronto, Canada in the 1990’s, my summer was dominated by baseball. That may sound odd for two reasons. First, it dispels the myth that Canada is buried in snow all year round and, second, shows that we do play sports other than hockey. My friends and I would wake up early during summer vacation and go to the park. We would play all day until the local league would take over the baseball diamonds.

Golf was not a game that we would play. Sure, we would go to the putt-putt centre and occasionally use the driving range but heading out on to a golf course was just not something we did. Baseball stayed in my blood until the age of 32 when it became clear that the body doesn’t recover as quickly after the age of thirty. I knew I needed another hobby. I was a boy of summer and golf seemed like the perfect fit for me so off to the driving range I went.

Having played baseball since I was very young, I didn’t find it difficult to hit the ball – it was, after all, just sitting on a tee. Hitting it where I expected to go was a much different story.

Bucket after bucket of range balls would find their way on to the tee only to shortly after find their way on to the grass 50 yards ahead of the tee. “This game cannot be this f***ing difficult” was said on more than one (hundred) occasions. The frustration was getting to me, but I couldn’t stop trying again. It was as if I was trying to prove to myself that I could actually hit the ball in a respectable manner.  

Then it happened – the sweet sound of the ball striking the centre of the club face and the ball traveling through the air exactly as you could see it happening in your mind’s eye. That feeling of your upper body working perfectly in conjunction with your lower half and following through to a nice full and controlled finish was as satisfying as a cold glass of water on a hot day. I was hooked. This game would be mine.

Internet to the rescue…I thought

As the autumn gave way to winter, the game of golf enveloped my mind. I became a golf junkie and tried to consume as much information about the swing as I could. I viewed hours and hours of content on YouTube and “learned” about grips, a one-plane versus two-plane swing, ball position, tee height, differing compressions of golf balls and the like. About the only lesson I actually learned was that there is too much damn information. Admittedly, that didn’t stop me from continually watching and reading anything golf related, but at least I was aware (I think) that I was incredibly confused by it all.

By the time the spring rolled around, I had much more information in my mind but didn’t have a better swing and was nowhere near as consistent as the internet had promised me. I decided that I would need to empty the bathtub and try to flush all that “knowledge” I had gained over the winter and start over. My focus shifted from hitting it far to hitting it straight.  By the middle of the summer, I was starting to hit it far and straight. This, of course, could only mean one thing: it was time for new clubs. Back to YouTube, I would go.

After “extensive research”, I settled on an affordable set of golf clubs that were available at my local golf superstore. I expressed my interest in the clubs and got set up in the golf simulator with an opportunity to try them before purchasing. I was amazed by the results. I was hitting the ball as well as I had ever hit any ball before. I marveled as I watched the projected flight path paint the screen and careen down the simulated fairway.  It didn’t take too many swings to persuade me that I had found the right clubs – and they were right off the rack. I proudly slapped down my payment card and exited the store with my new toys and ventured off to the driving range.

As I struck my first shot, I felt an unkind vibration rattle up the shaft and into my hands. “Ouch, that didn’t feel right”, I thought. Then it happened again. And again. By the fourth time, my attitude had quickly shifted. “This f**king club sucks” was my new thought. I packed up my clubs and went home.

The following day brought about marginally better results. They still weren’t as good as what I had experienced in the simulator, but I excused that to using “range balls”. I assumed that I would grow into the new clubs and I was convinced that I was ready to tackle the challenges of the golf course. I was about to learn how humbling the game of golf can be.

To be continued…

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