Thoughtful Thursday: Stop, Look, Listen

Golfers up and down the UK are counting down the hours and minutes until they can enjoy the same rights as those of us fortunate enough to live north of Hadrian’s Wall.

March 29th might not go down as one of the most historic dates in golf but it is unquestionably significant. All those practice swings in the garden and putting strokes honed on the hall carpet will at last be put to the test on real, rather than imaginary golf courses.

Booming drives, well struck iron shots and putts holed from all over the place will finally be realised. Well they might not actually be realised but at least golf nuts up and down the country will be a step closer to achieving their dreams.

Before you step on to the first tee and start whaling away with your driver, stop, look and listen.

STOP – In advance of removing the headcover from your driver and swinging off your feet, take a moment to appreciate your surroundings and be grateful for the opportunity to play the game you love for whatever reasons. You have waited this long, a few more seconds won’t do any harm. 
You never know, you might just see something you have never noticed in the past. Is the sky normally so blue at this time of year? Are the trees normally as green? Is the gorse always in bloom before April? Open your eyes and take a full 360 view, chances are you will start to truly appreciate the beauty of nature, which can never be a bad thing. After all, you probably play golf because you love being outdoors. You love it but do you ever actually appreciate it?

LOOK – Observe and recognise all the hard work that the greenkeepers have done in your absence for your enjoyment. You have probably been dreaming of this moment for quite some time, so please do not take it for granted.
Don’t the tees look great without dozens of divots and scuff marks? That fairway looks inviting doesn’t it? Has that bunker down the right always looked like that or has it been reshaped? Aren’t the greens so much better to putt on without numerous pitch marks on your line? 
We all want to putt on perfectly manicured greens, so rather than relying on the greens staff or other golfers to maintain these magnificent surfaces, buy a pitch fork and use it at every opportunity.

LISTEN – Regardless of how many times you have played the course before, have you ever really thought about the questions the golf course, or indeed the designer or architect is asking of you?

Is the architect asking you to hit it long and straight on every par 4 and 5, or is he asking how you can fashion a par by plotting your way round the course and using your handicap wisely? Fairways and greens in regulation are obviously something you should aspire to but if your handicap is 15, be happy rather than disappointed if you only hit 50% of them. 

The best players in the world rarely hit more than 70% of greens in regulation and their fairways hit numbers are even lower.

Is this going to be yet another year where come up short with pretty much every approach shot because you have under clubbed? Don’t base your club selection on that one shot you hit two years ago with a 7 iron that went 170 yards downhill, downwind. 

Think about where the trouble is and make sure you take more than enough club to take that trouble out of the equation. Can you carry that front bunker comfortably with whatever club you have chosen or will it take your absolute Sunday best? Leave your ego in the car park before heading to the first tee. No one really cares that you hit a drive and wedge at the first, especially if your wedge came up 15 yards short of the front edge of the green.

Set yourself the task or challenge of trying to get your approach shots past the flag. Take note of how often you achieve it and if it made a difference to your scoring.

Above all, remember what you have missed about playing golf and how much you enjoy the experience, regardless of how you play. 
It’s probably been a while since you last struck a ball out of the heel, toe or sweet spot, so don’t expect too much. Low expectations often lead to good performance whereas unrealistically high expectations can leave you one bad shot from anger and frustration.

Play well, have fun enjoy every minute of your experience of playing the game you love.