This weekend I went to the driving range. The last time I swung a club before that was almost three years ago, probably soon before I left for college. My interest in golf started when I was about 5 years old. I was obsessed with Tiger Woods for the longest time. I watched a ton of stuff about golf, I read a ton about Tiger Woods, I also played a good amount of golf starting around 10 years old. When I learned to play golf I didn't just learn about the act of hitting a small white ball with a metal club, I learned a bunch of life lessons like discipline, respect, and tons of other important life stuffs. For being such a large part of my life for so long it was a little weird that it had been so long since I had played.
My golf swing is pretty much fully in muscle memory at this point. The first swing I took seemed alright, the second swing seemed OK. I put a ball on the mat, swung, and missed. Shit. Did I lose all those years of playing golf? No, probably not. I can just try again. Swing again. The ball bounced probably 20 feet in front me. At least I hit it? Golf, like most things, requires a ton of practice. Practice is important, not many people are good at things instantly and even after they get pretty good they always know there is a long road ahead of them. I'm not that good at practicing things. Practice can include doing something over and over again but without actually focusing on getting better, looking at mistakes, seeing why you made them, trying to fix them, and trying not to make those mistakes again what is the point of practice. Practice takes time. I've been practicing programming for a long time, I've been practicing living for even longer. I feel like I can get better.
I switched clubs around every couple of hits to see how far I could hit stuff now considering it's been almost 3 years and that I also had back surgery last year. When I did get a good swing in I hit the ball a little farther than I remember which was exciting. Those good hits were few and far between though. Most of the time I hit the ball poorly and it went short or it just went off in a random direction. Right after you hit the ball you can pretty much instantly tell if the swing was good or not. Where the ball hit the face of the club, if you pulled or pushed the club face in a certain direction. After taking in that information you can try to correct for the next swing. Try to keep my head down, try to not go so quickly into my back swing, follow all the way through, try to keep the correct posture, try not to get angry at myself for sucking. I feel like self-control is a really important part of playing golf. Being able to control whatever feelings come up right after a shot and not let those feelings affect the next shot. When you are competing you are probably competing against yourself more than you are against other people.
I've been hitting balls for probably 30 minutes at this point. My hands hurt a bit, probably because I was gripping the club too tightly, also probably because I only use my hands to type and I have soft hands or whatever. I got some more balls from one of my brothers and I decided to then hit 10 balls with every other club (9 iron, 7 iron, 5 iron, 3 wood, driver). At this point I was hitting things pretty consistently so I tried to make every one of these shots count. Pick a point to where I want the ball to go, line up, and then focus. Another thing that I think is a big part of golf is focus. Apparently Tiger Woods's father tried distracting Tiger while he was about to swing by moving around and making noise. General things to distract Tiger while he needed to concentrate the most. A driving range is not a quiet place, there are other people there hitting balls, people talking, and general city noise. Standing over the ball, blocking out anything else that is happening, and then taking a swing.
Prepping for a shot can be pretty nerve-racking, getting to the ball, gauging the distance, deciding what club to use, lining up the shot. This all happens before you stand over the ball. Once you stand over the ball you are almost at the point of no return. You can step back if you are unsure, reassess everything, and then go back to stand over the ball again but at some point you are going to have to draw your club back and hit the ball. You can't hesitate in the back swing either, it makes the shot worse. Once you start drawing back there is no going back, you practiced for this moment, you got all the way to this point, if you are doing great, great! This shot should be no problem, right? But what if this shot is the shot you fuck up? What if you are doing poorly? Well obviously this is going to be another bad shot. But you've practiced for so long. You think you picked the right club, you think you know how hard to hit the ball. It all just comes down to this moment.
I got to my driver, for the longest time almost every time I hit my driver my shots went consistently to the right, I had hit my driver earlier that day and today was no exception. I wanted these last 10 balls to count though. I placed the ball on the tee, lined up, and stood over the ball. Swing. To the right. Ok. Focus. What did I do wrong, what do I need to change for the next swing. Ball. Line up. Get ready. Swing. Ok. A little better. The next two balls were a little bit straighter than the first two. The last three balls I hit were pretty straight. Maybe I didn't lose all those years playing golf. I went inside to hand my basket back and the guy at the counter said I had some nice shots. That was pretty great to hear.
As with most things I don't know when I'll play golf again. Probably sooner than three years. Golf directly was, and indirectly is such a huge part of my life, playing this weekend brought back a lot of golf memories that I hopefully will remember for a long time. Like that time I almost got a hole in one at Button Hole. My dad was so excited. It was two inches away.