by Jim Corbett
Keeping score is an aspect of the game of golf that can sometimes cause confusion. It’s not that scoring in golf is complicated — you hit the ball, it counts as a stroke, you hit it again, it counts again. The part that is confusing is the relative importance of the score.
The score is the final expression of the whole event, boiled down to one number. But don’t lose sight of the fact that like any great adventure, if you focus too much on the destination, you’ll miss the journey. The score that you keep after each hole is just an indicator or a milestone that marks your progress through the game.
Too often we approach a hole and put pressure on ourselves to get a certain score, when we should really focus on our swing — that which gets us where we want to go. If we swing properly, the shot will go well. If the shot goes well, the score will be satisfying.
Think back on your game. Does the joy you derive from the best hole you ever played come from the fact that you achieved a certain number? Or does it come from remembering the detail of how you hit the shots, where they landed, how you felt as you watched the ball in flight and the pride you felt as you approached the ball after that great shot and now sized up your next opportunity? It’s usually the latter.
Too often in golf and in life, people place too much emphasis on that one little number at the end of the game. Like people who have bumper stickers that say, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” I doubt that Henry David Thoreau had a poster on the wall of his cabin at Walden Pond saying, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.”
Of course not. He had a poster on the wall that said, “Simplify, simplify” — or maybe he simplified his life so much that he didnít even have a poster on the wall at all! Thoreau said that a person’s wealth is measured by the things he could afford to leave alone. Now, Henry David probably never once set foot on a golf course, but he had a very low handicap at life. And that’s good.
Golf can lend great insight into life by providing a greater understanding of the dynamic between quality and quantity. In golf, the more strokes you take, the worse your game is. Lots of golfers joke about how they are “really getting their money’s worth” when they are having a bad day, because on a strokes-per-dollar basis theyíre doing really well. But any one of those golfers would, no doubt, gladly trade an 80 for the 100+ they’re hitting and know that the 80 stokes they took were 80 quality shots.
Life is like that too. The more you take, the less significant the whole experience becomes. Just think of anyone you admire, or think of anyone who represents to you some sort of national hero or personal mentor. Typically we admire these people, not because of how much they took, but because of what they gave. The whole point of scoring in golf is to take no more than you need to get through the round. And the less you take, the better you do.
In golf, as in life, the players who finish the game without having to take a bunch of extra, meaningless strokes are the ones who are successful. The people with the bumper sticker about the toys should take up golf. They might change their bumper sticker to: “The one who dies with the need for the fewest toys, wins,” or just donate car altogether.