A Matter of Perspective

SKY-High banana-slices out of bounds…fat/chunked chip shots…fried-egg bunker lies…tee shots landing in fairway divots…slow play…lip-outs…water balls…three-putts…

…I enthusiastically cherished every single one of them last month.

Following three months of government-imposed “prison time” here in Victoria, I was chomping at the bit to be able to (FINALLY) tee it up again on the golf course.

Those of you outside of the Melbourne Metro area will never, ever, truly be able to understand what life has been like here in “Alcatraz”. (Though, in other states, it may seem more like “Stalag-13”, with Colonel Klink at the helm, and Hogan’s band of Heroes escaping the camp willy nilly).

At any rate, for those of us who strictly followed the rules, it has been an oppressive, deflating experience. Not just for the lack of golf, but for the lack of being able to do…well, anything.

So, on October 19th, when the prison doors were unlocked, and we able to breathe the fresh air of liberty beyond the barbed wire, it literally brought tears of joy and relief to many of us. Actual tears. No longer would we feel the anxiety of being 5.1km from camp to get a loaf of bread; or having our pre-rehearsed excuses at the ready to explain to Sergeant Shultz why we were out of our barracks at 8:01pm. We. Were. FREE.

Best of all, we were allowed to enter the gates of our golf clubs, which have all been SERIOUSLY affected (sadly, some fatally) by a lack of business.

Arriving at the carpark, my excitement was palpable. I was REALLY looking forward to being able to swear at a golf ball instead of swearing at our state government. That said, I was optimistic, but also realistic; I knew my game was going to be rusty. So as I approached the first tee, I set the ‘expectation bar’ low. Really low. Like, US-Politician-in-an-election-year low.

They were so low, in fact, that I teed off the first hole without really caring where the ball went. I was just happy to be hitting something other than a lob wedge in my back yard.

And that lackadaisical attitude had an unexpected benefit: by caring less, I enjoyed my golf even more.

I was so happy to be out on the course that, for the first time in ages, I couldn’t care less about my actual golf game. Whether I drop-kicked my tee-shot, duck-hooked my approach into the cabbage, or thinned my pitch shot over the green, I was so happy to be on the course that I really gave these mis-hits very little thought. In fact, I actually laughed at some of them.

I realised that I was actually living in the moment. I wasn’t fuming over “that last $#!& shot”, or obsessing over “That upcoming monster hole” or even being distracted by family/work/world issues. I was right there, on the course, at that moment, simply just “being”. And I somehow played a lot better than normal.

It also gave me pause to reflect on the things that REALLY matter. In golf, and life.

Golf, for many of us, is a never-ending chase of perfection, and a battle against disappointment. Our drives could always have been straighter, our chips could have been closer, and our putts fewer. We are never truly satisfied. Even on those rare occasions when we have a “Day out”, we still regale our mates with lines like “…and I even left a few out there”. Regardless of our skill level – from beginner to seasoned professional—the game is seemingly designed to tease and taunt us, with perfection always just out of our reach. It’s no wonder the game is so frustrating!

But when we compare our struggles on the course to our struggles in everyday life (especially during Covid), there really is no comparison. None. How can we compare a lost ball to a lost loved one? How can we fume over a ‘slow’ five-hour round when there are people in hospital who would kill just to walk in the sun for five minutes? How can we justify berating the Super for bare patches in the fairway, when there are people suffering severe rough patches in their lives?

It’s all about perspective. And I, for one, am resolute in my new-found goal to keep everything in perspective: sweat the “small stuff” less, cherish the things we have, and simply just “be”.

(That said, I’ll probably still grumble about unrepaired pitch marks on the green…but at least I can fix those.)

Anyway, stay safe, and stay strong!

See you (from 1.5m) on the fairways!

Richard Fellner

(Story originally appeared in Inside Golf)

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