Loving the Links: Golfers Find Peace and Patience on the Green

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No one really knows when or where the game of golf first began. Surely its roots could stem from a person swinging a stick toward a rounded, grounded object to propel it forward. Although the origins of golf are somewhat unclear, many historians agree that modern golf came into existence in Scotland during the fifteenth century. Players of this new diversion quickly became so obsessed that by 1457 King James II had to ban the game because he claimed it distracted military members from archery and other necessary training.

Professional young male golf player on knees and arms raised with putter in hand on golf green being overjoyed as golf ball drops into cup.While the rules, clothing styles, and equipment have certainly changed throughout golf’s 500-plus years, there’s one thing that has remained constant: golfers tend to be consumed with the game.

A National Golf Foundation study released in 2009 found there were 28.6 million golfers older than six in the United States that year. Golf Magazine that same year conducted a survey and discovered that the average American golfer spent $2,776 annually to satisfy cravings for the links. Is that obsession or just true love of the green?

Sting From a Ray Won’t Keep Golfer Away

Greg D'Andrea

Greg D’Andrea

Yes, golfers worldwide are passionate about the game. Just ask Greg D’Andrea, self-proclaimed “average golf hack” and contributor/co-founder of blog Golf Stinks.

D’Andrea, also known as “Stinky Golfer Greg,” writes a variety of golf-related topics that include book and product reviews representing the run-of-the-mill golf hack. At 14, he was propelled into the sport “kicking and screaming” at his mother’s insistence.

Twenty-five years later, he won’t even let injuries keep him off the course. On a vacation to golfing hotspot Hilton Head Island, SC, he was “boogie-boarding in the surf just after a round of golf, when I was stung on the hand by a stingray. I didn’t even know what hit me until 5 hours later, the pain wasn’t going away. My buddies took me to the emergency room, and I was told by a nurse, ‘Yep, that was a stingy.’ I had to soak my hand in scalding water (don’t try to ice it like I did) for the next two nights, get a tetanus shot and take antibiotics for 15 days.”

Sharp barb notwithstanding, Stinky Golfer Greg wasn’t going to let excruciating pain from a sting keep him away from his swing! He remembers that it was a ”good thing it stung me on the top of the hand; otherwise I’d have never been able play the next 36 holes!”

D’Andrea isn’t one alone with his passion for the game. Fellow golf enthusiast and blogger Josh Babbitt, marketing director at The Hackers Paradise, even found romance through the game, admitting that he “used a golf bag to propose to my wife.” Now that is true love.

Hooked on Golf Early in Life – to Finding a Career

Mike Vegis

Mike Vegis

Like many lifelong golfers, Mike Vegis was holding a club before wearing a school backpack. He has film footage of himself aged four, hitting a plastic golf ball around the yard of his boyhood Michigan home. He  “grew up a country club kid and spent all of my summers at the Riverside Country Club in Battle Creek, Michigan. In high school, I worked there as a cart/bag room attendant.”

The golf attraction was so strong that Vegis’s career path came full circle—from working for two Capitol Hill congressmen, to sailing the Caribbean with Windjammer Barefoot Cruises to full-time employment with Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Charleston, South Carolina.

Before working at Kiawah Resort, Vegis even took his annual two-week vacations in Monterey, California, to work in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament, “working at contestant registration, hospitality, photography even bag transportation—you name it, I did it.”

Know Thy Golf Etiquette

Neil Sagebiel

Neil Sagebiel

The game of golf relies on the integrity of its players, and golfers are expected to show consideration for others and to abide by the rules. For the most part, golf is played without the supervision of a referee. Regardless of their competitiveness, golfers should be disciplined and show courtesy and sportsmanship to others.

Neil Sagebiel, editor of Armchair Golf Blog and author of The Longest Shot and Draw in the Dunes, offers short-and-sweet words of wisdom to beginning golfers, “learn the rules and golf etiquette. Play ready golf.”

Basic golf etiquette includes consideration for other players; keeping a good pace so golfers don’t slow down or even hurry others; being ready for your turn; and repairing divot holes before moving on to the next hole.

Practice Keeps Frustrations at Bay

Jeff Palopoli

Jeff Palopoli

If you’ve ever seen the 1996 comedy Happy Gilmore, remember that Happy (played by Adam Sandler) neither practiced golf etiquette nor kept his temper in check. After he took his unorthodox, hockey slapshot-style golf swing, he became frustrated. And when he became frustrated, which was often, Happy simultaneously threw his golf club and a tantrum.

Most players agree that golf can be an aggravating game at times—just look how that little white ball makes some golfers react! Jeff Palopoli, a lifetime avid golfer and golf blogger at Good Walk Reviews, offers some sound advice for preventing Happy Gilmore behavior, “golf is an incredibly frustrating game and can humble anybody in a hurry. As a beginner, you have to be patient and not expect miracles right away. There are so many facets to the game that go even beyond physical capabilities. I would say just have fun and if you want to get good at it, commit a lot of time to the driving range and practice greens.”

Define Your Goals

Erick Peterson

Erik Peterson

Babbitt adds that beginners should determine their golfing goals. Before getting worked up, decide if you’re playing for amusement, for the company of friends, to improve your game, or just to enjoy the beauty of the course. Yes, slow down and enjoy the sights because most golf courses have spectacular views, “if you want to use golf as a game for fun, then play for fun and remember to take in the scenery. If you want to be competitive and improve, get instruction early on.”

A golfer since age nine, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort Director of Communications Erik Peterson has one last tidbit to offer to the golfing novice, and that is simply to enjoy the game. “Make having fun and enjoying others’ company the number-one priority. Although golf can be seen as an individual sport, it’s best enjoyed with laughter and camaraderie.”

Hi-jinks on the Links

Byron Kalies

Byron Kalies

It is not all perfect etiquette and calm meditation on the green. In fact, any golfer asked will have a favorite story to share. Some will tell of meeting a famous golfer on the course, while other reminisce about a career round. Still another group loves to share tales of hi-jinks on the links.

Writer Byron Kalies, who admits that golf has taken over his life, has penned the book Tenby to Celtic Manor: A History of Welsh Golf, and is conducting research for his upcoming book, Golf Course of Anglesey, among many other golf-related articles.

He recounts the fun he had playing a practical joke on a tardy member of his golf foursome. After waiting as long as they could, “three of us were on the first tee, waiting for the fourth member. We saw him sauntering toward us and decided it would be fun to turn around and look toward the 18th fairway. We did. Our late colleague placed his tee and hit a tremendous drive. Feeling thrilled with himself, he was amazed that we were practically doubled over with laughter. He was less than thrilled as he walked down the 18th fairway after his ball as we strode down the first.”

Lifetime Love of the Game

Golf is one of those sports that many can play most of their adult lives. Statistics from the National Golf Foundation show that 5 percent of American golfers are younger than 30; while 19 percent are aged 70 and older. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see three generations golfing together in a foursome.

Despite associations with male-only boardroom business discussions, it’s a sport enjoyed by both sexes. Nearly 77.5 percent of players are male; while the remaining 22.5 percent are female.

It’s hard for those who love the links to ever satisfy their golf cravings. Some plan international  travel or vacation home purchases around the sport. Funding your dream golf trip can be possible with a reverse mortgage. Thankfully, whether golfers are truly gifted in the game or just out of the fun, there really is no age ceiling or skill requirement. D’Andrea reminds all players that even if “they don’t have much talent, they can still enjoy the game the way 90 percent of all golfers do—for recreation.”

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