According to the old joke, it’s called golf because all the other four-letter words were taken and – like most jokes – there is some truth in that.
Yes, all the fun four-letter words were accounted for by the time golf came to be a thing. But the word most closely aligned with the game is, in fact, perfectly acceptable to use in polite society.
It’s hope. H-O-P-E. And it is possibly the most dangerous four-letter word of all.
According to dictionary.com there are a number of definitions of ‘hope’ depending whether it is used as noun or verb.
And closer scrutiny suggests that all can, in fact, apply to golf (for most of us, anyway).
Used as a noun, hope is defined as ‘The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best’.
Hands up if this doesn’t apply to your golf game? Every round, indeed every shot, starts this way for most of us. And if it doesn’t, it should, because the alternative is bad for your game.
As a verb, when used with an object, dictionary.com says hope means: ‘To believe, desire, or trust’.
This, too, is an important attitude in golf. Surely, if you don’t believe, desire or trust that good shots can happen, can they?
“Hands up if this doesn’t apply to your golf game? Every round, indeed every shot, starts this way for most of us. And if it doesn’t, it should, because the alternative is bad for your game.”
(In reality many of us probably don’t truly believe that we can play the shots we are attempting and there is likely a good lesson – and several mental game sessions – in that.)
And finally when used as a verb without an object hope is ‘to feel that something desired may happen’.
In this context hope is the ideal word to sum up the almost universal want to be better at the game. It also explains the existence of the golf industry.
Every golfer wants to be better than they are, a truth that applies equally from Rory McIlroy to the lifelong duffer.
For McIlroy that means working diligently on what coaches call the ‘one percenters’, improving in tiny increments areas of perceived weakness in his game.
For most of the rest of us it means buying new clubs or watching instruction videos on the internet in the hope that something will ‘click’ and we will magically be better next time we play.
It is this sentiment that golf equipment makers tap into with their marketing and they are messages we all willingly buy despite knowing, deep down, we are deceiving ourselves.
A new driver, wedge or putter will definitely make a difference to your game but it will not improve you as a golfer. Not in any meaningful way, anyway.
The only way to really improve is to make a commitment most of us are frankly not prepared to make.
To get coaching and set aside time to practise. You know, all the boring stuff.
It’s easier – and in a funny way more satisfying – to just continue to hope. Like an old pair of slippers, it’s familiar and comfortable.
And who doesn’t love an old pair of slippers?
Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, iSeekGolf, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
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