Beginner’s Eye: The Golf Experiment

This week, I went golfing and got my vaccine. Let me tell you which of these hurt more.

I’m new to golf. Previously, I’d gone to a driving range once, and to a golf course (9 holes) once. To give a bit of context, the course I played was turned into a PetSmart MANY years ago. So, let’s just say it’s been a while.

More context. I live down the street from a lovely, affordable golf course.

Even more context. My brother is obsessed with golf. He’s mentioned it once or twice on our podcast, if you’ve had the chance to listen to it.

So, with the courses freshly opened after lockdown, we got to spend Memorial Day on the green. (My brother works for an American company, so even though we live in Canada, he gets US Holidays off.) (I’m a performing artist who gets to decide when I work, so no judgement for spending the bulk of a Monday afternoon getting some fresh air, alright?!)

How did it all turn out?

So much fun. And also, INFURIATING!!!!!

If that doesn’t sum up the beginner’s experience for most things, I don’t know what does.

  • I kept missing the ball at first, and then again near the end.
  • I could not for the life of me control in which direction the ball was headed.
  • The shots I wanted to go far barely moved forward at all, and the ones I wanted to hit closely went waaaayyy too far.
  • I was exhausted by the time we got to the 9th hole. We played the full 18.

Now luckily the fact that I teach improv to beginners has granted me a little more perspective than the first time I played over a decade ago.

Missing the Ball

Once or twice, missing the ball is hilarious. But more than that, and it’s beyond frustrating. I kept thinking to myself “I can hit a softball no problem, and this ball isn’t even moving. What gives?” Well, a few things give – and pardon my being crude but – let’s compare ball sizes for one. Second, I’ve been playing softball since I was a little kid. Most summers of my life have been spent in some capacity playing softball. “These are two completely different sports.” I had to remind myself and give myself a little grace.

If you’re brand new to something, it’s totally normal to miss a few shots.

No Ball Control

OK, I’m really starting to enjoy the amount of times I’ve written “ball” in this post so far. But it’s true. Step One complete. I hit the ball! Success. Now comes an even more difficult part: controlling the ball! We were super slow on the course, and had a couple parties play through – and many of them had difficulties getting the ball to go where they wanted. These folks have probably been playing for years and it was still a challenge. Sure, they recovered a bit more easily than I did – but again, this was the second goshdarn game of golf I’ve ever played in my LIFE.

Getting good at your craft takes practice. The proverbial 10,000 hours

Just because it felt like 10,000 hours out there on those 18 holes, in essence, I still have 9,995 hours to go.

Can’t Predict What’s Going to Happen

OK maybe when you get a bit better at the game, you can start to get a better sense of where your shots are gonna go. But certainly at this point, the results of my shots were completely unpredictable, which at times was extremely frustrating. But what the hell am I gonna do about it? I can’t go back in time and change the way I shot. You keep moving forward. Keep the ball rolling, literally, in this case.

I remember back to the first time I played. I was embarrassed at how poorly I was doing. I got angry at myself when my score was so much higher than par. I got angry at my golf partner because he was better than I was. (He had, in fact, played before.) I was a big ball of frustration. At least now, I understand those feelings, and when they came up, I accepted this as part of the process. Yes, your ball is going to all over the place, at times seemingly out of control. But the more you work on it, the more control you will wield. The more confidence you’ll have. The less you’ll need to blame it on the wind.

I certainly couldn’t predict my husband breaking my brother’s driver in half when shanking a shot. You want to talk about something that’s both hilarious and embarrassing? Sometimes your teammate will throw you an unpredictable shot too.

You are not alone in this game.

Fatigue

I could not believe how tired I was playing golf. Really when you think about it, you’re just walking around whacking a ball from time to time. It turns out doing that for four hours straight takes its toll on your body and your mind. My feet hurt, my legs were stiff, my shoulder’s were angry and I started making more and more mistakes. This thing that was at first fun hard was getting actually really hard.

I think is an important side note. If it’s not fun anymore, and you’re starting to resent it – it’s OK to take a little break. Come back and try again another time. It obviously important to know your boundaries and step away if the thing is no longer bringing you joy or servicing your needs in some capacity.

That being said, we finished the course.

I believe the reason I was able to finish the course is because the three of us were encouraging each other along the way. Looking out for each other if we lost our balls. Cheering each other on if we made it on the fairway. Championing our good (and not so good) putts. The people you surround yourself with truly impact your view on the whole game.

Now…

In case you’re not getting it, this whole article is a metaphor for improv. As an improv teacher, I should have probably made that more obvious at the get go. Go back and read it again. Learning something new is hard. Get in the present moment and enjoy the journey. If you need a reminder, take 10 years off and then try again.

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