Golf in the Age of Coronavirus

I’ll always remember the week of March 15-21, 2020 as the time when normal went out the window. With the world on edge, my family out of town, and the parameters of my professional work changing by the minute, I had a whole week to myself and lots of time to reflect on what all this rapid change means for my life. Naturally, I turned to golf as a means for sorting through my thoughts and emotions. During the dawn of what feels like a new age, I spent seven straight days exploring what affects the covid19 pandemic is having on my life. The most meaningful of those many hours were the ones I spent on the golf course.

Golf has always been a calming source in my life. Even when I’m playing poorly, the game takes me away from my most weighty stress points. During this week of troubling news cycles, falling stock prices, and intense professional challenges, I was able to retreat to the golf course each afternoon for some of the most cathartic outings of my life. In total, I played 90 holes of golf and by the time I finished the last of them I felt both exhausted and ready to do my job as a father, husband, professional, and writer in the coming months.

This wild week began with me leaving my wife and daughter a few hours away in Pensacola to stay with my in-laws for a few extra days after we all attended a wedding there. What originally was supposed to be a couple of days away turned into an entire week after both my wife’s job and mine slammed the brakes on our normal work schedules. With my family a few hours away, I was left at home to get things in order for what will assuredly be a new normal in the coming weeks. Besides picking up some supplies, working from home, and getting other affairs in order, I spent the remaining hours in search of my center out on the golf course. Thanks to social media, I already had a great system in place for documenting my thoughts through it all.

At the start of this year, I decided to use my Instagram page to share a brief golf story each day. That exercise has been both fun and therapeutic. I have come to treasure the short daily notes as they reflect my experiences in golf in a raw and honest way. I’ve found that those golf stories also have a tendency to connect with my readers and friends in a convenient and rewarding fashion. Some of those stories have come from observations made on the course during the day of the post, but many are the result of memories, theories, and believes I have formed about golf over the years. My posts from this week were a great way to share my takeaways about what golf means in this moment and how it has helped me and surely many others during this strange crisis.

As I was plumbing the depths of the game as part of my week-long walkabout, I spent time connecting with friends(although at a distance), appreciating both good shots and bad, and discovering that my favorite game may just be the perfect prescription for these tumultuous times. Those thoughts and feelings come out in my Instagram posts from the week. With my family now home, I’m taking a break from the course for a few days, but I wanted to put those posts together and provide some additional insights into what I feel was one of the most unique weeks of my adult life.

What follows are the daily accounts of that week and the posts that resulted from the golf I played.

Sunday, March 15

The week began on Sunday afternoon, where I played 18 holes with friends after coming off the road. We played until dark and it was a perfect appetizer for what was to come in the days ahead. My first round of the week was a good reminder that golf can indeed be a great way to combat anxiety by focussing only on what I can control. With the Sun going down and my swing falling into rhythm,  I felt like I was at the start of an important journey inwards.

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Golf Story 74/366: Take a deep breath. Hold it in for a few extra seconds. Exhale and find your center. Stress and anxiety may be all around you but that doesn’t mean you can’t arrive at a state of personal peace. Golf is good for this. A long walk can awaken the soul, especially on the golf course. The repetitive nature of the game has the ability to distract from the pressures of everyday life. There is hope for anyone who is unafraid to become lost in the process of playing golf. Golf is powerful in many ways, most of all because it helps to forget about the pervasive problems that would otherwise dominate your thoughts. We all need to mediate and this beloved pastime is a way of doing that. Golf is a means for quieting the mind. Let the game lead you there. Take a deep breath, hold it in, and slowly exhale. Everything else is just the space between swings. ——————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #golfmeditation #meditation ##playorperish #brokenteesociety #golfstory

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Monday, March 16

By the time my Monday came to a close, our office had decided to move to a remote working arrangement for the foreseeable future. With many of the events and meetings that we plan as part of my professional life canceled or postponed, the way in which I work was being disrupted, to say the least. As for golf, the debate over whether courses should stay open was quickly heating up. My nine-hole round that night inspired a short acrostic poem on the subject.

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

After a full day of working from home, I slid out to the golf course for our Tuesday night skins game. It felt strange that we were still able to host this weekly outing considering the state of affairs sweeping over our world. To be honest, I felt conflicted. As bad as I wanted to be on the golf course with my friends I also felt a societal obligation to comply with the behavioral changes needed to keep the covid19 virus at bay. Despite those conflicting feelings, we played on. The time on the course that evening inspired a post I was proud of. It also sparked the idea for a video essay that has been very well received.

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Golf Story 76/366: I’m not sure if golf is appropriate right now or not. Regardless of the answer, I’m certainly glad I’ve got the game in my life. The world seems to be emptying out and home has become our newest frontier. It’s hard to know if golf can fit into that equation for the foreseeable future. The challenges of our time dictate that we keep away from one another but golf is best enjoyed with friends. I believe we can still play responsibly together but it feels like that might be a bit selfish. On the contrary, I can do without a great many things, but golf is how I find my center. Unfortunately, it’s starting to feel like something I’ll have to sacrifice soon. I’m not sure what comes next, but I hope golf can still be part of it. I’d hate to lose out on a single day of golf because each time I play I learn some new truth about myself. There are so many ways in which this game has brought peace to my mind and calmness to my soul. Lord knows I need those things right now. Perhaps golf will be there again tomorrow. If not, I’ll have to just play in daydreams. ———————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #playorperish #golflife #golfstory #whyilovethisgame

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

My favorite playing partner is my dog, Leon. I’ve expounded on our golfing relationship many times, but this week it felt important to include him in my outings. With my family out of town, Leon was my closest companion for most of the week. I always encourage my followers and friends to take the dog on the course if they can. That night, Leon and I were joined by another friend and his dog for a walk which was a highly enjoyable experience.

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Golf Story 77/366: Dogs get cabin fever too. There’s no better place to walk the dog than on the golf course. We all want to stretch our legs, imagine if you had four of them! The golf course is an ideal place for enjoying nature, getting some sunshine, and finding composure. Remember how much a walk on the course can help improve your mood. The same can be said for our K9 friends. If your are heading to the course these days, take the dog with you if you can. A happy dog is one of the great joys in life. If the golf course brings you joy, it’s easy to see how it can do the same for your dog. Abide by the rules, show common courtesy and train your pup up well. You’ll both be glad to have more golf in your lives. ————————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #golfstory #golflife #playorperish #whyilovethisgame

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Thursday, March 19, 2020

When I arrived at the course late Thursday afternoon, I saw that our maintenance staff had pulled the cups up so that they stood a few inches out of the hole. The bunker rakes had also been removed from the course. This trend was sweeping across the golfing world as a way to reduce touches on shared surfaces – a recommendation by some golf organizations for safe play during the pandemic. Seeing this change to the game left me with a strange feeling that things will be different for quite some time.

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Golf Story 78/366: The stock market may be down, but the rounds of golf being played this week are increasingly high. Anxious times persist, but many people want to find comfort on their home course. Economic commentary is particularly loud among the golfing crowds. These are strange times at the country club. The global economy may be slamming on the breaks, but there are still a few bets to be made among friends on the first tee. The remote nature of work and claustrophobic enclosures of home have brought golfers out to get some sun and enjoy the game. Golf is a different these days though. The rakes are gone and the cups are in position to minimize touches. There are also fliers on the pro shop wall to signify that the tournaments have been canceled and member dinners moved from the calendar. Carts are wiped with cleaning solutions and the staff are working lightly. These are golf’s little gestures to help a larger cause. It’s hard to see an end in sight and impossible to make a putt. When will we get back to normal? As Gramps always tells me, “it won’t be as long as it has been.” ————————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #golfstory #golflife #whyilovethisgame

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Friday, March 20, 2020

For the first five days of the week, I played at my home course – Capital City Country Club. By the time Friday rolled around I was ready for some fresh scenery. Fortunately, a good friend of mine is a member of the new Seminole Legacy Golf Club a few miles down the road. The course is quite a challenge and I’m glad I caught it on a good day. I had one of the best ball-striking rounds in months and walked off the course with a sense that maybe I had found a sharp version of my game again. It was the kind of round I only find a few times per year.

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Golf Story 79/366: Somedays my game clicks into place and the golf just makes sense again. Hell, when I hit it on the screws for 18 holes, the whole world makes sense. It’s funny how golf can make even the strangest of times more joyous. A good long walk and some crisp ball striking is a great prescription for when life gets crazy. In times like these, it’s good to get lost in something we love. Finding that zone isn’t easy, but boy does it make for a good day when I can. I hope to have more good days like that soon. Lord knows I’ll be happy to have some deep level distraction while we all sort through what happens in the months to come. ——————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #golfstory #playorperish #golflife #whyilovethisgame

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Our club was supposed to have a tournament that day, but we wisely canceled with so much disruption occurring across our community. With time on our hands, twenty or so of us decided to have a small event ourselves – a two-man best-ball competition. Feeling good about my game I liked my odds to win a few bucks, but perhaps the long week finally caught up to me. I played terribly, but the day was not lost as a good friend and fellow competitor had the best round of his life. I saw him have an out of body experience, going birdie-eagle-eagle-birdie on the back nine en route to a score of 67. Like many, he’s got a lot on his mind right now, but as I watched him slip into a state of deep relaxation on the course I was reminded again of the power golf has to improve our mindsets and overall well being. After the round he had, I don’t think he’ll ever see golf the same. The week as a whole had a similar effect on me.

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Golf Story 80/366: We all carry the weight of everyday emotions squarely on our shoulders. However, golf can allow us to forget that pressure from time to time. We worry about our jobs, family, and other heavy matters, but those who play golf can find relief in the game. Golf can transport us. It can lift our hopes. Golf is a way to disperse the weight we carry. Every so often, through golf we can find a higher plane of thinking. Relaxed and without worries, this is the desired mentality. It’s amazing to watch when someone is playing with that capacity. It’s life changing when it happens to us. The hardest thing to shake off in this existence is the dense weight of our worrisome world. Golf is a means for overcoming extenuating forces though. If you can let go, even for a little while, great things will come. ——————————————— #golfiseverywhere #swingwalkrepeat #golfstory #playorperish #whyilovethisgame

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I hope you enjoyed this recounting of my golf experiences during the strange and unstable times of the covid19 pandemic. This week was one of the weirdest and most enlightening of my life. I wanted to pull all the content I made together into one article so that folks can digest it as they please. Adding some insights to that work in retrospect was also a good way to relive the experience. I’ve got a feeling I’ll want to come back and read all this again myself someday too.

I’m not sure what will happen in the coming months, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to come back to golf as a way to find my center during these trying times. Life may be a bit different and things will certainly be tough, but I believe this wonderful game is well suited to help us all get through it.