When I tell folks that I quit playing golf, there’s often a look of confusion followed by a perplexed, “Why?” It’s not like I’m walking around, declaring, “I quit golfing. Hear ye, hear ye, I’ve quit the game of golf.” I’ve been quiet about so it’s taken some time for most of my friends and clients to discover that I’ve tossed this game to the proverbial curb.
Before I tell you the why, you need to know what kind of golfer I was.
On an active year, I golfed maybe ten times. Half of those would be in scrambles (team golf) and the remaining half would likely be with work-related individuals.
When I’d be on the course, I never drank a beer or consumed alcohol. I took it serious when I played - too serious. I wanted to be good, although, not enough to take lessons or practice regularly. There’s the disconnect. You can’t get better without practice, especially golf.
I was the guy would could hit the ball hard one shot and then dribble it five feet the next. It would slice wildly off the tee and then hook madly from the fairway. I was all over the place.
One fall, I was lucky enough to be invited to play The Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. This is one of the premier golf courses in the world. The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and is the home of The Memorial Tournament, a PGA stop.
The invitation came from a client when they found out I had a visit planned with my father in Ohio while they were staying at the Village. I gladly accepted. However, my ten year-old golf clubs had originally been purchased used from Play It Again Sports and were beat to hell. I had recently lost my 4 iron when it somehow became wrapped around a tree following an errant shot.
I looked up Muirfield and realized what kind of place I was visiting. I couldn’t walk in there looking like a scrub. I had to up my game.
A quick trip to Wide World of Golf and roughly $500 later, I had a new set of clubs with golf bag. That money for a game I played maybe ten times a year. Oh, I also bought a box of Titleist golf balls, too. I couldn’t play with the balls that were in my bag. Those scuffed up balls were good enough for Spokane, but not for Muirfield.
I grabbed the clubs and went to the range to test them once before my trip. I put on my ratty golf shoes and stood next to the new clubs. Crud. I still looked like a scrub albeit with new clubs. I needed new golf shoes. I ran to another sporting goods store and bought a pair of shoes. Again, all of this was for a game that I hardly played.
An Eye-Opening Round of Golf
When I arrived at Muirfield, I was blown away by how gorgeous the club was. It truly was spectacular.
Then the worst round of my life started.
The course showed me just how truly impressive professional golfers are.
The fairways weren’t flat and forgiving like the municipal courses at home. Balls disappeared into creeks that ran along the edge of the fairway. Along the edge! What kind of cruel mind does that?
The greens were like hitting a tabletop. Once I hit a shot in the middle of the green and smiled with confidence. Our caddy said, “That’s off.”
I said, “No, it’s in the middle.”
“Watch,” he said, as the ball continued to roll further away from us and down the opposite side.
Our caddy was extremely helpful and gracious. He never once snickered at my poor shots. He always knew exactly where my ball landed. When they were lost to the water hazards, he quietly said, “You’ll need to drop over there.”
I went through a box of golf balls by the time I reached the 15th hole. That’s twelve balls. Twelve! I had to bum a couple balls from my client to finish out the day.
When the round was finally over, my tail was between my legs and I wanted to get as far away from my golf clubs as possible.
The Turning Point
The next year rolled around and I wasn’t excited to play. The Muirfield Incident (as its now known) was still vivid in my mind. I eventually accepted an invitation to play the Spokane Country Club as the guest of a friend. He’d also invited Ryan, a property manager, to go along with us. Ryan was several years younger than me and had a cool, laid-back attitude. I always liked him and enjoyed our talks about real estate.
It was a beautiful, sunny day as the round started.
Immediately, my golf game reared its ugly head. The wild shots returned, both in length and control. I could feel my temper, boiling.
Finally, when one shot went into the water, I muttered an expletive. I was immediately embarrassed.
Ryan smiled. “Why get upset?” he asked, dropping a club back into his bag. “We’re out of the office on a beautiful afternoon. I’m not even keeping score.”
I watched him walk away with a smile on his face. He was happy and I was upset at a game I rarely played and, frankly, didn’t enjoy.
From that point on each time I shanked a shot, I looked up at the sun with my eyes closed and felt its warmth on my face. “Who cares?” I would say. I referred to it as The Zen of Ryan that afternoon.
When the day was finished, I didn’t care about the score, for the first time not frustrated by the game of golf.
I only played a couple more times that season, each time out I practiced The Zen of Ryan and realized that I liked being outside, but I disliked the game I was playing.
When winter rolled through, I tucked my clubs in the closet. When spring approached, however, the idea of playing golf, filled me with dread. I didn’t want to be out on the course, losing my temper over a little white ball again.
I pulled out the clubs, my hardly-used pull-cart, and all the other accessories I’d bought over the years. I photographed them and put an ad on Craigslist for $300. It was a steal and in less than a day, I had a full price offer.
When the buyer saw the clubs and pull-cart, he said, “These look almost new.” I’m sure he wondered if they were stolen. I told him I finally realized that I wasn’t a golfer and wanted to focus on other things. He gladly handed over three bills and it was done.
I no longer had to pretend I liked golf.
Now, when clients and co-workers ask, “Do you want to golf?”
I can say, “I don’t golf.”
That gets an odd response every time. As a commercial real estate broker, it’s assumed I must love golf.
Instead of wasting five hours on a golf course, though, I’m free to spend that time elsewhere.
I can spend it with my family.
I can spend it hiking, which I’ve discovered I like doing.
I’ve taken up disc golf which is incredibly fun, free and can be done in a fraction of the time.
I can work out.
Heck, I can even work if I want.
The list is endless of things I’d rather do than golf.
How Does This Relate to Personal Finance?
First, golf was expensive.
Most times, golfing cost me money. If I went golfing with friends it was at least $40 with green fees and splitting a cart. I realize that we have very affordable golf fees in Spokane County, but even that’s expensive for an activity you don’t enjoy.
We might also get lunch or some other grub while on the course and that’s expensive as hell. I already told you about purchasing my golf clubs. Thinking back, it was ridiculous that I spent that money.
I wasted cash trying to impress people. That’s a classic signal that I was doing something wrong.
Second, I got into golf because I thought it was expected of me.
Early in my career, it was suggested I learn how to golf so I could do deals on the course. Guess what? I never did a single deal out there. Maybe that’s because I was a horrible golfer, I’ll admit that.
However, if it took me five hours on the course to pitch a client that a deal was good for them, then I’m a horrible broker. Why do I need to schmooze a client to get them to believe they should buy a property? If the numbers don’t convince them, why would a little white ball and metal stick change their mind.
It’s a lie people tell themselves so they can get out of the office.
I don’t have a problem if you want to go outside. Just don’t feed me a line about it being good for business. You can accomplish everything you say you’re doing while golfing, in less time, away from the course. Plus, you’d be able to enjoy your round of golf more.
Do you really want to golf with a client? Do they really want to golf with you?
Third, golf affected my emotions negatively.
I never felt like a better person afterwards. I would get upset for playing horribly. I’d often go home in a foul mood to my girlfriend. She’s a very positive person and if I came home with a negative attitude, conflict was inevitable.
When I play an hour of disc golf, I come home happy and laughing. I never keep score. It’s just fun to be outside doing something I did as a kid.
I can hike for several hours and enjoy nature. I feel uplifted by that experience.
Golf never did that for me.
Do you have something in your life that is affecting you negatively?
Is it time you removed it fully and moved on to something more fulfilling?