It was an overcast morning in early October. The temperature was fluctuating between 30 and 40 degrees, and the forecast called for the first snow flurries of the year. Despite the bitter cold, a small armada of brave souls decided to embrace the harsh conditions and head to the local golf courses to squeeze in one more round before the clubhouses closed for the winter. Why would these people choose to spend two to four hours of their weekend bundled up in a golf cart instead of comfortably indoors? To put it simply: for the love of the game.
As a hockey player, I may be particularly biased in my adoration for golf. Those who spend most of their time in the winter on the ice are almost pre-conditioned to spend their summers on the links, as the end of the hockey season typically coincides with the beginning of the golf season and vice versa. I quickly learned that there was no better way to spend a spring or summer afternoon than on the golf course.
What is it about the sport that entices so many people to dress up and spend their free time swinging at a ball with sticks that can cost an arm and a leg? The answer lies in the fact that golf is much more than just a sport.
Golf, at its core, is a social experience. While the skill aspect of the game appeases our competitive sides, remove the scorecard from the picture, and a round of golf represents a great opportunity to spend time with friends. Moreover, these friends are physically there with you, rather than on the other end of a text message or a tweet. The jokes and stories that are told throughout the round are always more memorable than how well you shoot that day.
Golf is one of the only sports where you do not need to be good to fully enjoy playing. As long as you are able to shrug off a bad shot or hole and laugh at yourself, you can fully enjoy the game regardless of skill level. The average round for me begins as a semi-serious mission to actually shoot a low score and degenerates into a hodge-podge of goofing around and reciting “Happy Gilmore” quotes around the fifth hole or by the time I hit my fifth ball in the lake – whichever comes first. It is the joking around with buddies that keeps one looking forward to the next tee time.
Along with the social benefits that come from playing 18, golf has an unrivaled aesthetic appeal. Playing a round gives you the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in its most serene form. Instead of toiling in the monotony that daily life can provide, you can escape to a well-groomed paradise with sprawling fairways and lush greens. Although I must say the beautiful prairies of Willingers quickly lost their appeal after I shank my approach shot into them.
So, as I was waiting to tee off during that bitterly cold October morning, with my usual polo shirt and shorts exchanged for a sweatshirt, a beanie and winter gloves, I had a slight epiphany. As I looked down the fairway at the beautiful landscape while enjoying an adult beverage an added perk once you hit legal age, I realized this was as good as it gets. I lined up my drive and took a second to think about the close friends, laughter, the great outdoors and the chance to temporarily remove myself from the trials of everyday life – in other words, all the things golf lets us enjoy.
Then, I sliced the ball into the creek.