This has not been the best summer of my life. In fact, I might even categorize it as the worst in recent memory.
That’s because I have been nursing a broken wrist, which has kept me off the golf course the past four months and away from the caddies, pros and playing partners who have been so much a part of my summers in the past. So, there have been no Nassaus or hog presses since March. No manhood-robbing insults on the first tee, and no match-winning putts on the final hole. And perhaps most depressing of all, no post-round beveraging with my foursome on the porch that overlooks my home course.
Hey Sergio, whine all you want about unseen demons and lip-outs, but at least you have been able to tee it up.
To be fair, there have been some positives to my life on the injured list. My closets and desk drawers at home are as organized as they have been in years, and I am back to reading books. And even though I am around the house much more often on weekends, I have successfully convinced my wife that yard work of any kind might seriously retard my already sluggish recovery.
But I am able to bring her a glass of water, or two, when she is done mowing the lawn.
The greatest revelation, however, is the pleasure I have been getting from golf even as I am not able to play – and the perspective that comes from being around the game without actually having one.
Consider the mornings this summer that I have gone out with our golf course superintendent in my capacity as our club’s Green Chairman and helped him set pins. I am an early morning person anyway, but being on those grounds at the break of dawn, with dew coating the verdant fairways and greens, a cup of hot coffee in my hand, a border collie running alongside our utility cart and flights of mallards and teal darting overhead makes that an even more enticing time of day.
Then, there are the different ways I am able to see the course when I am not concerning myself with making as many birdies and pars as possible. I notice the condition of the grasses more clearly as our super points out different agronomical issues and explains why he is watering one place this day and spraying another. I discern even more closely the subtleties of our putting surfaces as we look for places to put the pins. And I appreciate more than ever before how tee and pin placements work with each other to present a challenge that is both unique and fair.
I find that riding around on those mornings also allows me to view the course from places that even a golfer as inherently prone to spraying the ball as I am has never really seen before. We stop on knolls and rises and take in the terrain spread out before us as if for the first time. It gives me a new and even greater sense of appreciation for the deft way the architects laid out this course, and how they made such good use of this land.
Being out on the course as a spectator in the morning has also allowed me to witness exactly how hard our maintenance staff works, and understand how little time they have to get our place in prime shape every day. And riding around during tournaments, as I did the other day when we had a fundraiser for a scholarship trust we run for our caddies, enables me to observe others enjoying the game without that vision being impaired by concerns about how far over par I might be, and why I keep hooding my long irons.
I also get to see how the course plays for all of our members, which helps us determine the best ways to maintain and set up the layout for the widest possible ranges of ages and abilities.
Of course, I am not going down to the club as much as usual, and I miss those drives on a Saturday or Sunday, with music playing loudly in my truck, the windows rolled down and the unabashed enthusiasm as I get closer to the course and those first tee shots of the day. But being absent as much as I am has had the added benefit of sparing me the regular harangues and complaints Green Chairmen so often hear from their fellow members whenever they step on the property.
None of this is to say, however, that I prefer my current state of affairs, and I am hoping beyond hope to get back to playing the game as quickly as possible, even if it means returning to that frustratingly erratic game I possess and dealing with at least as many of those psychological demons that appear to be dragging down Sergio.
After all, playing is what this game is all about.
But it doesn’t hurt to take a different look just by riding around.