What I’ve Learned From Golf – So Far

Golf is wonderful game that is one continuous wild ride.

One day you are making 80 feet worth putts and the next you miss four three-footers. There are the weekends when your drives are laser-like and then comes the month when your drives have no pep, no vigor, no zip.

What’s really crazy maddening is when your best and your worst show up on the same day. One hole you are putting for birdie from 2 ½ feet, two holes later you are asking your partners, “Was that an 8 or a 9?”

As 7-time Major winner Arnold Palmer said, “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening -- and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”

I started playing golf in the Fall of 1974 when I was just out of college and teaching at a boarding school in New England. The assistant athletic director was a golfer who was always looking for someone to play with when we had a morning or afternoon off. I will never forget what he said as we headed for the first tee the first time, “Don’t worry about your score and when I tell you to pick up, pick up.” I have no idea what I shot that day or how many times I had to pick up, but I do remember having a great time.

For Christmas that year I asked for golf clubs. Santa put a set of Jack Nicklaus Golden Bear irons and woods that he found at Sears under the tree. Golf and I have been friends ever since. Well, that’s not really true. Some days we are great friends and on other days we don’t even look at each other. I get it. That’s golf.

Over the last 46 years, the give-and-take relationship I have with the world’s greatest game has taught me many, many things, including:

The first hole counts. It is NOT a warm-up hole.

There is a difference between “keeping your head down” and “keeping your head still.” Your chin should be up, not down in your chest.

Take every putt seriously. As one of Mulligan’s Laws states: “Nonchalant putts count the same as chalant putts.”

Be patient! You don’t hit anything on your backswing.

Don’t let a double bogey ruin your round.

Cute shots aren’t smart shots!!!

Unfortunately, The Theory of Everything can’t explain why you pull everything to the left when the pressure is on.

Golf isn’t a fair-weather sport. Don’t let cold, rain or wind beat you.

If you are up big, don’t let up on the accelerator.

A new club can change your life. (Just ask Mr. H.)

A good drive on the 18th hole has stopped many a golfer from giving up the game.

Practice. There is no substitute.

Don’t peek! That goes for full shots, pitches and chips and PUTTING!

Relax your grip. Tension kills distance.

Never, never give up. You can come from way back – 3 down with 5 to play – to win your match.

It’s okay to add a little color to your game. Buzz Willard has taught me that.

Mistakes – either by yourself or your opponent – more often than not determine the outcome of the match.

If in doubt, take out the stronger club. Think about it. When was the last time you went over a green?

Submit a flight plan before you hit each and every shot.

And, first and foremost, golf is responsible for so many of my great friendships.

Play Away!
Allan Stark

*cover photo credit - DoodleMooseDesigns

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