Golf in a crisis
We have all had our share of misery in the months of March and April as we return to the golf course. We’ve had late snow and rainy, soggy days. When we look back on those weather-related problems in the past, they pale in comparison with the issues and dangers we face in 2020 as we confront a global pandemic. The great game of golf seems puny and insignificant compared to the battles fought every day in a struggle to protect and save lives. As I contemplated a President’s Letter during a global crisis, I asked the question, “What can golf offer us at a time like this?” To my surprise, the answer is quite a bit. We’ve all known that as a game, golf offers any number of life lessons. Some of those lessons are particularly relevant in the trying times we are all facing. There are four lessons that strike me as important.
I was listening to the steady torrent of news about the coronavirus several days ago when I heard an interview with Chrissy Houlahan, the Pennsylvania Congresswoman who represents a lot of our Member Clubs and members in the 6th congressional district. Representative Houlahan noted that now is the time for “overclubbing.” Her point was that it is better to overreact in a life or death crisis than underreact. I loved her golf analogy. I know when I see a hole with a large pond fronting it, I’m going for the 6-iron rather than the 7-iron just to be sure to clear the penalty area. The reaction of our state and local officials in the GAP geography reflects that same prudence. We can all be grateful to them that they’re doing their best to keep us “dry” by overclubbing, and we all need to overclub here, too.
Protecting the Field
We all know the expression “protecting the field” in stroke play competitions. We know that an individual’s score isn’t as important as ensuring that everyone in the competition has a fair chance based solely on his or her ability and skill. Similarly, no one person’s health rises above the health of the community at-large. The constant admonitions to practice social distancing and other health measures were not solely directed at keeping some people healthy, but asking everyone to take serious steps to avoid, even unknowingly, infecting others. Protecting the field in golf preserves the integrity of the competition. Protecting the field in the case of COVID-19 saves lives.
Maintaining Calm Under Pressure
Standing over a four-foot putt with the game on the line is unnerving. As the memories of all of the four-footers I’ve missed flood my brain (and given the number I’ve missed, it would be more like a deluge), my palms start to sweat and my hands begin to strangle the putter. This reaction, of course, virtually guarantees I’ll miss the putt. Times of greatest stress call for us to use all the techniques we use to maintain our calm when under pressure whether those be deep breaths, mindfulness or anything else that helps us, a least temporarily, keep the demons at bay.
Focus on the Next Hole Not the Last One
All of us have walked off the green after a catastrophe of a hole. I remember one memorable disaster that included two OBs, a water ball and three in the bunker. Thank God for equitable stroke control (I know that has since been retired) because I didn’t have the calculator I needed to determine my score on the hole. There’s nothing harder to forget than a true calamity, yet we know that winning requires focus on the next hole. No one doubts that this pandemic has been a crisis of epic proportions. Yet we can all focus just a little on the next hole and look forward to happier and healthier times. To all – be well and stay safe!
T. Quinn Spitzer