One of my favorite things about being in the golf business as a retailer and an instructor is getting to see people grow in golf. While the details of each person’s journey are different I’ve noticed that there is a trend in the way a person becomes a golfer. You can’t call yourself a golfer just because you’ve played the game.
Becoming a true golfer happens in steps. Most of us didn’t even know we were taking these steps but they just happened. We were just going out to the driving range with our dads. Our buddy invited us to the golf course and we had nothing else to do. The driving range was the only place open that still served beer. Etc, etc, etc… However it happened, it was the first in a series of events that led you to where you are today.
The first step of becoming a golfer is a phase of denial. You weren’t really going to play that silly game, you made fun of it in high school but you were just going to try it once because your were pressured into it or just wanted to see what the fuss was all about. At this point you can tolerate being terrible because you weren’t really trying. Although it was frustrating when that little old lady beside you on the driving range was knocking it 50 yards past you. This is where the game works at your mind. You’re confused as to why you’re so bad when you are so good at everything else. You see people with a 10th of your athletic ability making it look so easy. You’re confused when you see regular Joe’s out on the course not just doctor’s and lawyers. Everyone around you seems to have a tip and you still don’t know what all that “square, “open”, “over the top”, mess is about. At this point you don’t know what to think of the game, then you hit “THE SHOT”.
The second step is a phase of confusion usually ushered in by “THE SHOT”. You know that first shot – where you barely swung at all that felt so solid that it created a sensation that you’ve never felt before. It went high and straight and landed what had to be 400 yards away. You’re amazed at how good it feels accomplishing something you now know to be so hard. At this time you’ve reasoned that if you’re buddies are going to keep asking you that you need to buy a set of clubs so you do. At this point a lot of us are still in a bit of the denial phase so we don’t spend a lot of money on our first set because we’re still unsure of how long we’ll keep this up. Remember the Bowflex that you hang extension cords on in the garage?
The third step is a phase of frustration. This is when you get tired of being the worst golfer in your group. All of a sudden you find yourself watching The Golf Channel, taking golf tips from complete strangers at the doctor office waiting room, and you’ve broken two lamps and cracked the coffee table by taking swings in the house. Golf isn’t quiet the center of your leisure time but you think about it when your with other pastimes. You figured out that your fishing pole has a graphite shaft made by the same company as your golf clubs. When you were on a picnic you noticed that the grass in the park would be perfect to hit shots off of and consider bringing your wedge next time. You now notice every golf course you pass while driving and catch yourself watching swings instead of the road. My friend – by now you are straddling the fence to the fourth step. Golf is beautifully irritating and you’ve vowed to get better.
The fourth step is determination. Your now showing some promise but to get to the next level you have to make your biggest commitment yet. It’s time to get a real set of golf clubs. You’ve watched enough infomercials and seen your 120lb accountant buddy knock it by you long enough to figure out that the reason you’re not a better golfer has to be that crappy set of clubs you have. I mean you hit it 300 (or so) that one time and the only reason you’re not doing it every time is because you don’t have the new Super Duper Raging Titanium 460 Banger Stick 2010. So you go to the golf store to find the weapons that will have the golf course crying mercy. Then, after you call your significant other for permission explaining to them that you’re not spending $1500 on toys but on sophisticated equipment that will make you a better partner, parent, and humanitarian, you’ve blown through step four and are into the last step of becoming a golfer.
Step five is acceptance. You’ve become a golfer and there is no turning back – mainly because of all the promises you made during the “permission” period of step four. However, step five isn’t one you go through rather than live in. It is in this stage where you’ll find many other ways of loving golf. Through golfing trips, golf lessons, golf stories, and golf tournaments you’ll notice that the sport is more a part of you than any other game you’ve ever played. You talk about the PGA Tour professionals like you know them. You’ll buy silly golf gadgets that contort your body and wear them proudly at your local driving range. You’ll put off things that seemed once so important just to chase around a little white ball and in all the ups and downs and birdies and bogeys you’ll find that if given the choice it’s the only thing you would ever want to do.
Brannon Watson is the Head Golf Professional and Owner of the Arkansas Golf Center in Conway, Arkansas.