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Golf … Why Not Just Quit The Game?


Admit it. At one time or another you’ve wanted to quit the game of golf.

Not just a club-throwing, wedge-bending, ball-throwing-in-the-pond moment—an all-out, clubs-in-the-basement and tend-to-the-garden-for-the-rest-of-the-summer moment.

For most of us, that delirium passes and we are turned back on to the game by the human safety switch of a short memory. But I have a friend who did just that after a particularly poor round last spring. He up and quit the game—for good.

He looked at us, his regular playing partners, as we were walking off 18, and announced his exit from the game. He told us it was a relief knowing that he could just quit, and he told us he felt instantly free from the pressure of chasing unreachable goals.

We knew we would miss him, and the two of us who weren’t his match partner knew we would miss him even more, considering the amount of Nassau dollars he had invested with us.

Our friend’s hard work, dedication and steadfastness in life had eventually led to success, both personal and business—but not so with golf. Thousands of dollars spent on equipment, lessons and country club memberships had left him with feelings of frustration and being “stuck.”

He had made the mistake many of us make comparing golf success with the other endeavors in life. Golf may indeed parallel life in many ways, but it has its own unique and ever-changing measuring stick. If we don’t adapt with the game, and change our expectations and attitudes along the way, we are damned to hold ourselves to a standard we cannot achieve.

Maybe I learned that lesson a few years ago, when in addition to playing with my usual golfing “peeps,” I started to play with some of the local retired guys who are 10 years my senior. These gents were still having the usual dances with demons we all do, but were nonetheless still happy golfers despite diminished length, limping gaits, poor vision and the like. They had learned to put golf in the perspective it deserved: it’s a game they weren’t ever going to beat, but one they could get along with for a long time. One of them jokingly claims that analogy works for his relationship with his wife.

Carl Hiaasen, who wrote one of the best golf books on quitting and returning to the game, “The Downhill Lie,” offers a host of humorous reasons for how golf keeps him in its grip, but he narrows it down to one common element. “That’s the secret of the sport’s infernal seduction,” he writes. “It surrenders just enough good shots to let you talk yourself out of quitting.”

Like all things in life, attitude is everything, and as your game changes, you need to adjust your expectations along with it. Stay positive.

Maybe you can’t boom it 250 yards off the tee anymore, but you can still compete. What else in life has a handicap system to make everyone, regardless of ability, able to play on an even level? Above all else, remember your life is probably better with golf, and your golfing friends, in it.

My friend who quit the game, you ask? He came back to golf slowly like a lover who realized maybe he didn’t have it so bad after all. He missed the camaraderie and even the harassment. Did he settle for less? Maybe. Or maybe he just settled in.

If you hate something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s probably golf and you’re going to be stuck with it for a long time.

— Jim Finnegan