We often need little reminders in our lives. Mine came a few weeks back, courtesy of a magical day when the world gave me a little poke about how and why I chose a life so closely tied to golf.
The game many of us love has been a constant part of my existence since the age of ten. I just turned 49 so you can do the math. I took my first job in the sport in my early teens, and I never looked back.
Along the way though, it was easy to get caught up in the trappings of being so entrenched, as both a golf journalist and a golf professional. It is an intense little world, one where I, like many, now have social media obligations that don’t follow a “regular” schedule. The pace of a 24/7 industry intersperses into all parts of your life. You delve deep into conversations about every aspect of the game each day, and, in the process, you often forget what drew you to it in the first place.
Ask the question to any golfer about what makes the game appeal to them and often you hear about the courses, the destinations, the challenges of getting better, the rituals of their regular game, or even equipment. But, at its most primal form, you can take that all away.
I’d forgotten that again and a little trip to play a remarkable municipal golf course in the heart of Orlando, Florida, re-established it for me.
Winter Park (WP9) is an austere test in a well-heeled area of Orlando. Once a country club with as many as 36 holes in play, it is now just nine. But a very special nine. Recent redevelopment has re-entrenched it back in the community and made it a golf course that has brought many world-wide visitors. They are all attracted by fine architecture, a fun layout, and one of the best values in the world.
It was here I found myself on a Friday in January strolling the fairways in a gaggle of ten people, nine of which were playing. Yes, we had special permission to be playing in a ninesome as we had the two course architects alongside, but we also did a replay with a sixsome, so it was well-accepted.
The beauty is that the group played quickly (we pushed a threesome all day), tried to hit quality shots but basically disregarded the scorecard, and funneled much of our energy into conversations about the game (often while shots were being hit), laughter, and generally appreciating our good fortune. Canadians, Americans, an Aussie – all golfers and, while connected through the industry, not necessarily previous acquaintances.
We had lunch between nines, like old friends, walking across fairways to a local patio on a cool but sunny day.
Throughout the entire time I found myself looking around alot. Rarely focussed on hitting a good shot nor worrying about any result. Camaraderie was paramount – leading me to strip down 30+ years of my golf affair and return to the clarity of my youth.
Nothing matters more in the sport than the people that play it. There is no requirement for a snooty club, or a bag full of hi-tech equipment. You just need good people to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with. Golf provides the common bond to bring us all a little closer to each other.
Think about that this year, and enjoy the season, and the people, ahead.
– Scott MacLeod, Associate Publisher, Flagstick.com