Golf is hard.
For anyone who has played the game for any period, this statement is as obvious as claiming the sky is blue.
In contrast, the game also possesses qualities that make it a remarkably simple pursuit at times.
So too does golf endlessly frustrate some.
And yes, the game also acts as a stress reliever for others.
"The scope of where any golfer’s game could reach is seemingly endless. And this search for improvement beyond one’s physical skills or time constraints can prove enormously difficult."
These two sides of golf, however, can be easily forgotten when a golfer finds themselves entrenched in one camp, completely ignoring the other.
Both contradictions becoming personally apparent once again recently.
The concept of hitting a stationary ball to a stationary target doesn’t seem like a difficult task. Once you factor in a player being allowed 14 different implements specifically designed to perform a function and achieve a certain distance and height, that can be custom built for each individual, it should be even easier.
However, golf offers a number of unique aspects that see the game take on an extreme difficulty.
For one, there is always room for improvement.
No golfer has ever completed a perfect round of golf. (Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il aside).
Players who successfully beat their handicap in a competition round then aim to lower their number by which golfers measure themselves.
Professionals might aim to win a major after they capture a regular Tour event.
The scope of where any golfer’s game could reach is seemingly endless. And this search for improvement beyond one’s physical skills or time constraints can prove enormously difficult.
Despite each of those formerly mentioned 14 clubs having a specialised design, there is always new clubs. There is always something different to try.
More bounce or less on your lob wedge. A shaft with less torque, or maybe a higher kick point. A thicker putter grip. The possibilities are endless.
And so, experimenting with these basic implements becomes common place, and for some, more difficult to use.
So too does frustration often rise exponentially for many golfers the more they play and even the better they get.
There is remembering that swing thought that worked last time on the range. Or maybe it is the tip from the YouTube video watched the night before an important round. Perhaps a lesson from a PGA member who stressed the importance of alignment, or backswing position at the top, or using the ground, is running through your head as you stand over your first drive of the day.
"There was the positive experience of being able to hit something hard and see it fly away in the night sky after a tough couple of days emotionally."
There is also the standard we hold our game to once we have achieved what might be the best golf of our career.
'I used to hit it longer, Pete would be 30 metres behind my drive.'
'Two years ago my handicap was four shots lower and I just can’t seem to get back there no matter what I try!'
On the flip side, last week I personally witnessed a first-time golfer pick up a club built for someone with opposite physical measurements and a sometimes decent golf swing with above average clubhead speed.
This absolute beginner then proceeded to take a stance, a 10-finger grip and as the driving range session went on produce consistently straight shots of varying quality, included amongst them a blade 7-iron struck in the middle of the face running out to 100 metres with a slight draw.
Easy game isn’t it? Even if this beginner didn’t believe the results were as good as they were. (Just another golfer with a belief they can be better).
Beyond the impressive natural ability and simplicity of the golf swing that you might not find in an instructional manual but did exactly what was intended, this golfer was also releasing frustration, rather than experiencing it as so many others on the same driving range were on a Wednesday night.
Unlike those turning away in disgust at a mis-hit or ball that didn’t behave exactly as planned, there was the positive experience of being able to hit something hard and see it fly away in the night sky after a tough couple of days emotionally.
Like most all golfers, each of these experiences have been a part of my personal journey in the game and despite being aware of them, they will all return at some stage or another in the future.
But, after watching how ‘easy’ this incessantly ‘hard’ game can be, as well as its ability to take away stress and frustrations built up away from the course, some of the best shots in recent memory managed to appear in my next round. Forgetting for once former glories and using the round to remove frustration rather than cultivate it.
And therein lies the beauty of golf and its two sides.