In the last few years, I have become obsessed with the game of golf. In the Winter months, I pine for the first day of no snow, when I will be able to actually see my little white orb bouncing down the fairway. Each summer day, the thought of “How can I escape my daily grind to catch a few moments of golfing Nirvana?” is rattling around somewhere in my brain. As the season winds towards it’s apex, I begin to rethink this obsession.
When I was a young boy, my brother and I would head off to the Turkey Farm Par 3 golf course for the occasional 9 holes of golf. My dad was an avid golfer, but being a veteran of “the war to end all wars”, spent very little time mentoring us on the sweet science. As a result, we were left to our own devices. The devices involved rummaging together a set of crappy old clubs from our neighbors basement and begging for a ride out to the course from one of the more amenable neighbor parents. I don’t remember improving much over the brief number of times we did play golf. I do remember hitting lots of scratched up old balls into various lakes, rivers, and thickets.
Fast forward to 52 years later: I picked up golfing again about 10 years ago when I hooked up with a bunch of old geezers that ran a golf league at a local course. After buying a new set of clubs and taking a couple of lessons, I was good to go. It was pretty rough the first year, but my skill level gradually improved. This was mainly due to playing just about every day for a year. My handicap gradually improved to a certain level, and has essentially been locked there for about a year. Probably the first thought that comes into your head is “Gee, if I practiced one thing for a year, I would be pretty friggin’ good at it!”. Well my friend, you have never played golf. All I can say is that I now know about 100 golfers, at least half of which have been playing for 40+ years, and none of them ever get any better. Every golfer I know has moments of greatness. We birdie a hole, have 5 pars in a row, shoot under 80, etc. But these “King for a Day” events are fleeting and brief. My brother used to clonk me on the head with such wise sayings as “You play golf so much, so why do you still suck?”. I decided that his mind need to be elucidated with the wisdom that I had gained in the prior year. So a few years ago, we head down to Hilton Head for a week of continuous golf. We played every day, and did not improve one bit. That shut him up … for a minute.
I said all that to say this. Eventually we all get as good as we can get and never get any gooder. That’s just the way that the world works. It takes a major perturbation of a steady state system to push it to a new steady state. Digging through one of my old thermodynamics books, I pulled out this insightful statement.
“In systems theory, a system in a steady state has numerous properties that are unchanging in time. This means that for those properties of the system, the partial derivative with respect to time is zero.”
In layman’s terms, that means you gots about .0000001% chance of getting any better once you have reached some arbitrary level of ability at golf (the steady state). In fact, I have met loads of golfers that have taken loads of lessons and still whack the ball deep into the forests, lakes, river, and streams on a regular basis.
My conclusion is that I have reached steady state and that no matter how much I play, I will never get any better. Writing this article now has made me realize that I must accept this simple truth and enjoy the ride. One of my golfing buddies had this very wise statement, which I now need to commit to memory.
“The goal of most golf hackers is to get in a cart, race around, and get off the course as quickly as possible. They have it all wrong. The goal is to be on the course as long as possible.”
Pretty smart guy, for a golfer. I’ll end with a song
It’s a pretty nice course on a Saturday
And the golf pro gives me a smile
‘Cause he knows that it’s the first tee that I’ve been comin’ to see
To forget about their life for a while
All content copyright of Christopher Hammond