They say golf is the game of a lifetime.
In that you can play golf for a lifetime, whoever they are is certainly right, but perhaps even more correct in that it requires a lifetime to fully understand the game.
The Millennial in me, with a warped attention span, should be turned off, right? Wrong. As good as we may be or as knowledgeable as we may think we are, there is always something to be learned from golf. There is always more to know about this game.
Take the mental game for example. The robotic forces of the golf swing are always repeatable, but they are kept teetering on the edge of mistake thanks to our emotions. The space between our ears affects which club we choose, how we grip that club, how fast we make that club move backward, how high we stop that club, on which plane that club moves downward, how we finish that movement and how we take the above and spin it into a tornado of thought we don’t soon enough forget before performing once again minutes later.
That’s a head-full of thoughts when we stand over the ball. Besides that, it makes up just one of many reasons why golf is never a stagnant game. It perpetually asks for further understanding from its many pupils. The 2016 golf season will be no different.
The start of each golf season is like the first day of school. In front of us sits a summer’s worth of tests, quizzes and lesson plans. Anyone whose interest lies in becoming the best golfer they can be does not settle. Their competitive juices and thirst for birdies keeps them from accepting “breaking 80” or “bogey golf” or “a round with zero doubles.” They don’t view golf as a game with no room for improvement.
Standing on my self-supported podium of Door County golf, I plead for you to start fresh this year. Approach the game this summer like a freshman on campus, yearning for the next letter in your personal golf Cryptex.
That mindset will undoubtedly uncover some prior misconceptions. There’s a better way to swing. There’s a better way to practice. There’s a better way to warm up. There’s a better way to approach each and every shot.
It’s true, there is.
What tells me so? The greatest players in the world keep learning it, week after week, year after year. Forty five-year-old Phil Mickelson, halfway through his third decade of professional golf, found a new coach and retooled his swing. He did so to better compete with the 20-somethings on tour who hit it further than him.
Three winless seasons were his inspiration, but Mickelson realized there was more in this game for him. It’s a psychological golf lesson we can all use whenever it seems we’ve peaked. If one lesson leads to another, then one lesson is all it takes.
Sean Zak is an assistant editor at GOLF Magazine and Golf.com in New York City, where he has learned that writing about golf is just as difficult as playing it. Although he may have graduated to the Big Apple and is falling in love with the city, he’ll know it will always lack one important thing from his adolescence: the Door County sunset.