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golf, a lifetime of experiences

It’s a fact that there are better ways to get exercise than playing golf, but the fact remains that you are walking. Even if you ride in a cart, some walking is required. You are stretching your muscles and burning calories. Relaxation, to some degree is also possible, since you are in a serene setting. Almost all golf courses are specifically developed to enhance the beauty of the course property itself, or adjoining scenery like mountains, lakes or the sea.

Golf is also a lifetime of challenges. Except for the game of chess, I cannot think of another game that can be so challenging that it seems that it can never be mastered.  So be aware if all is going well with your game today, I can almost guarantee some part will not be working the same tomorrow, or even on the next hole. I hate to admit the number of times I would sink a birdie putt on one hole only to “screw up” my drive on the very next hole. Always changing, always a challenge, and a game you can play as long as you can stand, walk and endure 9 holes, which takes about 2 hours to play.

There is a reason golf friendships last a long time.  Not only are you playing a great game outside with others you have a common bond with, but there is also consistency and regularity because your foursome will meet at least weekly.  And, ah yes, there is gambling.  Sometimes for money, but not always, sometimes it is for a beer or many times just bragging rights, but it’s still important.  The best part is if you lose today, you could win the round next time. Some of my fondest memories with close friends are times we spent on the golf course.  We rag friends when they miss one foot putts or flub shots, but then praise them when good shots are made.

Families can also experience a special bonding on the golf course.  My friend Mike S. from Blount County played in a father-and-son golf tournament in Waynesville NC for many years. He always talked about the tournament and looked forward to the special time he was going to have with his dad and brother. The tournament became even more special when his two sons started playing golf and joined the group.  Mike was then playing with his two sons, father and brother. Even though Mike saw his sons on a regular basis, he admitted that to have his sons, father and brother all together on a golf outing was truly special.

I played with my dad several times, but when I moved to East Tennessee to attend Milligan College we did not have the opportunity to play . We played a few times after I moved South, but in retrospect, not nearly enough.

Friendships are made through the game. Several years ago I was at the driving range at the Wee Course in East Knoxville.  I was half way through a large bucket of range balls, but kept pulling the drives to my left.  Since I could not fix the problem, I decided to abort the practice, since things were only getting worse. I asked the guy next to me if he wanted some extra balls.  He said yes, and asked if I would be offended if he told me why I was pulling the ball to the left.  I told him I would not be offended, since my swing has been a project in motion for many years.  His name is Mark Franklin, and he suggested I focus on keeping my left shoulder up during the downswing. He said he noticed that I was “dropping” my shoulder as I started the downswing which caused me to pull the ball left. Mark explained that by keeping my shoulder up, I would be able to get to the left side and hit down on the ball as my rhythm and momentum complete follow through.  I tried his suggestion and it worked. Keeping your shoulder up during the swing is like lining up to the target. You have the sensation that all body parts are lined up as they should be, when in fact they are not. In this case I would have never guessed my shoulder was dropping during the downswing, because I felt certain in my mind that I was keeping it elevated as it should be. I have since raised my shoulder, lowered my shoulder, opened and closed my stance to correct swing problems, but Mark and I have remained good friends. We live in the same part of town, so if schedules permit and the weather isn’t too crappie, we play golf, sometimes two times a week.

As I have matured in the game, I have become a more consistent player.  My handicap is still double digit, but I truly love the game and do what I can to help others get involved in this lifetime sport. I have taken my grandchildren to the driving range and putting greens. At this point I’m just trying to whet their interest, making golf fun. I guess that’s why Putt Putt Golf is so popular- keep the game fun! As they become junior golfers I will continue to focus on the game’s enjoyment and character building, ie responsibility, dedication and sportsmanship. I will also talk to their parents about taking lessons with a PGA instructor, so they can learn the basic movements correctly. I taught myself to play and consequently learned improper basic movements I have spent many years trying to unlearn the improper movements, as I would try to replace them with the right ones.

Even though I am a double digit handicapper, I would not trade my golf history and experiences for anything. I love the game and plan to be as competitive as possible for hopefully many years to come. Those individuals who have never played have, in my opinion, truly missed out on one of life’s wonderful experiences.