Prac­ti­cal tips for en­joy­ing the (game) of golf

Gulf & Main - - Golf -

GOLF’S HIS­TORY

The game at one point—se­ri­ously—in­volved a stick and a rounded lump of coal. The game re­port­edly evolved from the Nether­lands (Dutch word kolf means club) to Scot­land, where it was re­fined to a stick and a leather ball. Even Ro­mans played a form of the game with a bent stick. English no­bil­ity played “gowf,” which by the 17th cen­tury was “colf.” King James II of Scot­land pro­hib­ited play­ing of “gowf” be­cause of its distractions. The game in 1592 was listed as a pur­suit to avoid on Sun­days. The Royal and An­cient Golf Club of St. An­drews is rec­og­nized as one of the first or­ga­nized clubs but is pre-dated by the Mus­sel­burgh Links golf course in Scot­land (around 1600). The (Bri­tish) Open Cham­pion­ship played this year at Royal Birk­dale Golf Club just com­pleted its 146th tour­na­ment. Ul­ti­mately golf is a hy­brid of cul­tures and in­no­va­tions, and what­ever was ly­ing around or could be pulled from trees to adapt.

HOW IT WORKS

Golf’s nov­elty is amaz­ing. Play­ers walk (or ride carts) on a huge tract once en­dowed to cat­tle or mag­pies, to­day soaked with peo­ple in funny clothes. Holes on the course are nor­mally screened by land­scap­ing or nat­u­ral bar­ri­ers, and al­most al­ways in di­rect line with your shot. Birds and other crit­ters of­fer the only distractions, but those are mild and even re­lax­ing af­ter the wash of ev­ery­day noise. Here’s the fun part: You get to smack a small and dim­pled ball around the par­cel with a mal­let, hop­ing to place it in a hole in as few strokes as your skill al­lows. The goal is to re­fine your game to the point that you match―heaven for­bid, even fewer than al­lowed—the num­ber of strokes as­signed to each hole. Golfers tra­di­tion­ally end the round, head to the 19th hole to cel­e­brate, share tall tales, ex­ag­ger­ate, all in great fun. Mil­lions of week­end golfers ex­pe­ri­ence the high­est of highs, heart­break­ing lows. It’s called a game for just that rea­son.

A golf course tra­di­tion­ally is 18 holes, but it varies from place to place. Bonita Bay in Es­tero, for in­stance, has five dif­fer­ent 18hole cour­ses, el­e­gant ameni­ties even King James II of Scot­land would have ap­plauded. But the tra­di­tional course is 18 me­an­der­ing holes boxed into a cou­ple hun­dred acres, in­su­lated by nat­u­ral “haz­ards” such as cart paths, empty wa­ter jugs, ran­dom dogs run­ning off with your ball, plod­ding four­somes and the loud­mouth on a cell­phone parked in your fair­way. Most pri­vate cour­ses are mem­ber-owned, mean­ing play­ers want a chal­lenge but enough cush­ion to al­low com­pet­i­tive scor­ing, or the so­called “mem­ber bounce” play. But that’s not al­ways the case. The so-called ex­ec­u­tive course tra­di­tion­ally is nine mostly par 3 or short par 4 holes, meant for quick turn­around and back on the road to make the noon sales call.

BEST TIP

Keep in shape! A real hand­i­cap is not hav­ing the en­durance or flex­i­bil­ity to en­joy a round. Be pre­pared by stretch­ing, prac­tic­ing your golf swing and lis­ten­ing to what your body is say­ing. It’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant for older golfers to stretch in ad­vance, loosen the lower back and glutes. Nice-and-easy fluid mo­tions re­sult in a healthy swing and a great round of golf. The surefire calamity in golf is tight­ness cou­pled with try­ing to “kill” the ball. Keep your head still and swing eas­ily. And drink plenty of wa­ter dur­ing your round. Hy­dra­tion, hy­dra­tion, hy­dra­tion! Learn to slow down and en­joy the mo­ments in par­adise.

FINAL THOUGHT

Ul­ti­mately golf’s charm is a few hours with your bud­dies, co-work­ers and, hope­fully, with a spouse, son or daugh­ter. There’s noth­ing like a round of golf for strength­en­ing friend­ships.

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