I'm not a terrible golfer.
Sometimes I play terribly, but I'm not terrible. So why is it the one thing I do on a regular basis that causes me to experience true frustration and anger so often? Why am I not a great golfer?
I started playing golf as a kid, stopped playing in college, but took it up again when I entered the workforce as a banker. I'd play golf for work, but having kids at a young age meant that I didn't have too much time to practice or play on the weekends. I was a decent golfer, able to make a good shot or two, but not good enough to brag about it. Lack of free-time was my built-in excuse when I played poorly.
That began to change when my son wanted to start playing. He really began to play when he was about eight and, ever since, he's been an avid golfer (he's now 22). But he was a busy kid with other activities, so it wasn't like he and I were playing a lot while he was growing up.
Then he went off to college, and (since my daughter left home years before), Julie and I became empty-nesters. There are good and bad points of this stage of life, but one of the good points is that you find yourself with a lot more free-time to pursue such things as… golf!
I decided I was going to make my big push to finally get my golf game into shape. I bought new equipment, started taking lessons, practiced diligently, started reading books about golf; I did all of the things one would do to improve oneself, and I practiced a lot!
And the result? Well, I'm not terrible.
I can't figure it out! In every other aspect of my life, whether it was school, work, relationships, other sports…the more effort I put in, the better it worked out. It doesn't mean I became great, but I always was able to see the results of my efforts become tangible progress. There are some aspects of my golf game that have become better, but it seems like I'm always squeezing a balloon: improvement in one direction seems to cause some misshaped result in another. It's driving me crazy!
What's my problem? Is it because I'm getting older and less able to learn (old dog/new tricks)? Is my spine no longer flexible enough? Am I taking the wrong lessons or do I have the wrong equipment? Why am I obsessed with this silly game?
The answers to those questions probably don't even matter. I'm not going to stop trying. I'll probably never be "good", but I believe there's something noble in the quest to get better. Most of us find moments in our lives that we hit a great shot, or make a great presentation, cook a great steak, or make an unlikely sale, and it's then that we get a glimpse of perfection. It only takes one great golf shot to make that day's struggle worthwhile. The other day my son and I both birdied the same hole at the same time. That one moment was worth many rounds of frustration.
In the end, there's value in the struggle. Am I the best father/husband/friend/boss/financial planner in the world? Nope, but I continue to work at those roles every day. Even if improvement isn't obvious, I'm a better man for the effort. I'm a better golfer for the effort, even if it doesn't show up on the scorecard. I'll continue to struggle for those moments of perfection amidst a sea of double-bogeys.
After all, I'm not a terrible golfer.