Birdies, Bogeys, Burpees

Optimism is starting every round of golf with hopes of it being one of your best rounds. For me, it would be anything under par. It would mean rebounding from mistakes that are bound to happen. My wild hopes generally start to fade after a sloppy front nine and/or blow-up holes anywhere during the round. Golf truly tests my endurance for humility…and I relentlessly choose to take the same exam. Over. And over.

The other day, I was playing at a relatively innocuous course and by all means, I should expect to shoot something in the 70’s. But I kept making the kinds of mistakes that deserve a slap in the face. My heinous playing partner gladly offered to do the honors, but I didn’t want to give him and his fleshy paws the pleasure. At one point, I started to lose the desire to grind – this is where you dig deep and try to enjoy yourself despite being on a bad date. It takes incredible imagination and effort.

I devised a game to mentally challenge myself. It would later become a physical challenge as well. If you’ve ever done more than 20 burpees in a row, you would know what it’s like to hate life. Here are the seemingly benign moves:BurpeesThe challenge went like this: I would do 10 burpees for every bogey and deduct 20 for every birdie. Talk about self-flagellation. I was reminded of one particular scene in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code where Silas, the Catholic monk, flogged himself for having impure thoughts. It’s a good time to point out that golf spelled backwards is flog. It’s an equally good time to question my own sanity.

I ended the round with 8 bogeys, 4 double bogeys, and only 1 birdie for a total of 140 burpees. I did them promptly when I came home. On my yoga mat. In my underwear. If I’m going to suck at this game, I might as well build up my physical endurance.

I don’t know where the lesson lies in all of this (don’t be stupid?), but I will admit that the challenge helped me rediscover a purpose during a bad round. On 18, I drained a 30-foot putt to salvage an unlikely par and it felt as though the angels came down and pardoned those 10 extra burpees. In that one moment, I felt a huge sigh of relief. I felt blessed. These are the moments that bring me back to the game.

Believe in Unicorns

When you consider these ballpark numbers…

  • Worldwide golf population is estimated to be around 60 million
  • US golf population is reported at 25 million (and shrinking)
  • National Golf Foundation estimates roughly 20% are women (this is shocking to me)
  • USGA estimates 25% of men card a single-digit index (this means they’re relatively “good”)

And my profile…

  • Asian female
  • Age-wise, I’m younger than Tiger Woods and I can be Lydia Ko’s mom
  • I card a single-digit index

You’ll begin to realize that my kind does not exist in too many places. I got into this game through sheer boredom and I stayed because of sheer determination.

Too School For Cool

My earliest exposure to golf happened at the University of Texas in Austin. I took an intro to golf class for one semester in…1997 or 1998 (need to check the records)…definitely after Tiger Woods dropped bombs at the Masters in 1997 and made golf somewhat interesting.

However, my first attempt at picking up the game was anything but interesting. The instructor was nice but the instructions were painfully boring. There were too many rigid rules and a ridiculous amount of decisions on the rules. For the record, there are 34 rules…from which over 1,200 decisions are made. We didn’t have to learn all of them, but needless to say, I was way overwhelmed. I changed the graded course from what I thought would be an “easy A” to a pass/fail course.

Range? What range? We were hitting practice balls at the intramural fields and then collecting them with shag bags. Fortunately or unfortunately, none of my shots went much further than 100 yards and yet, I had blisters on top of blisters…on both hands…despite wearing a glove. I never made solid contact with the ball for an entire semester. If swearing caused blisters, I would have had them in my mouth as well.

The most memorable oh-shit moment came during our final test when we had to go play 9 holes at Hancock (if my faded memory serves me right). Like a true Longhorn, I hooked my first tee shot into the woods and the ball came to rest near a SNAKE. Basically, I remembered nothing else after the freaky first hole. I certainly didn’t recall enjoying myself. Miraculously, I passed the class and after that semester ended, I was also happy to pass on golf. In hindsight, the class failed to properly introduce me to the game and I should have gotten a refund! It took a bigger miracle to hook me back and I’ll share that in another post but here’s a short list of suggestions I would have passed back to my instructor:

  • Learn from us first by understanding WHY we even came to you
  • Engage with us on an individual level – a one-size-fits-all approach does not work
  • Save the boring rules for later – most of it can be learned in context, on the course
  • Advocate the game, don’t just instruct it – having heart makes a big difference
  • Challenge us by creating achievable obstacles during practice
  • Provide ways for us to practice outside of class – tuition should include free range balls
  • Let us watch the collegiate golf team play
  • Don’t make it feel like school
  • Keep it light and fun! (ok, the snake wasn’t your fault)

Attrition is said to be THE greatest challenge for growing the game. Somehow, I managed to buck the trend.

Why I Dream Golf

I love golf even though it’s responsible for my inability to stop swearing. As a serial golfer (someone who can’t quit a crazy behavioral pattern), I caught the bug over 15 years ago and have been pursuing it ever since. I’ve got it pretty bad y’all..enough to start a blog!

The truth is, I don’t love everything about the game and I’m not surprised by the golf industry’s overall decline. The fact that the US population continues to rise while the number of golfers in this country is dwindling suggests that…no one is going to read this blog…so I shouldn’t fret over what I write…and I’ll use ellipses however I wish dammit…

This is my moonshot attempt at making a positive and lasting impact. I’m daring to grow the game by being the change I want to see…by sharing my stories and perspectives…by connecting with others who desire to give back…and by relentlessly chasing a little white ball around the golf course and thereby staying humble and hungry.

Ready. Set. FORE!!!