It has been a while since I posted so I wanted to take a walk (pun intended) down memory lane. I wrote this back in September 2021 after my first and only trip to Gamble Sands in Brewster, WA. An experience that changed me in so many ways, but in retrospect, truly rewired my brain in terms of how I experience the world through golf.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had an experience that was truly pure. I mean that that kind of experience that brings you back into your body, and you actually experience a moment in the present - yeah, that kind. I hadn’t had one of those in a long, long time. Well, that is until just recently.
It wasn’t one of those "treat yourself moments" that you reward yourself with after a hard day's work, and it also wasn’t some self-improvement revelation that came into focus after years of relentless study and growth. This moment found me, and it serendipitously found me when I wasn’t looking for anything or even trying to do anything in particular at all. It found me on a golf course.
The game of golf is unquestionably seductive for a person like me; you see, I find solace in the focus of a task, and golf is a breeding ground for “tasks”. So naturally, whenever I feel overwhelmed or that I’m lacking control of my life, I gravitate towards golf. (Every seasoned golfer reading this is face-palming themselves right about now.) Now why in the hell, would I, a self-proclaimed sane person, reach towards golf of all things unyielding for a sense of calmness and control? (As I now know: Golf. Fights. Back. You. Dumbass.) You’re having a shit day and want to go escape your problems on a golf course? What in the world makes you think you’re not also going to have a shit day full of a whole new set of problems on the golf course? Here is how it typically goes: I was having a shit day, all I wanted was to do was play hooky from real life on the course for one afternoon. Then, Behold! Golf in all its callous glory, holds up that dirty mirror to my face and says: “Oh hey! I see what you're trying to do here, so guess what? Here’s one more thing you can’t seem to get right”. Seriously? Was it so much to ask that I get like, a couple hours of respite from my hot garbage life? (*Golf scoffs*) – apparently, it was. When taking on one menial golf task to conquer for the day in the quest for victory over the daily grind – golf has a savage way of chuckling at your meager plea for sanity and order. I live in Washington State, and in my experience thus far, golf is comically not the “tree in a forest (ironically) full of them”. Golf can be cold and indifferent in your hour of need. Alas, I keep coming back.
So why am I still at it? What does golf give back to me? To be honest, I haven't been golfing that long, so I really don’t have an answer for that... yet. But what I will say, is that I keep TRYING. Trying what for? I couldn’t say exactly, but damnit I’m going to do this with intention. Could it be love? Love makes us do crazy shit so that tracks I guess.
So here's how this "trying" seems to play out: Each time I arrive at the course I set an intention for what I wish to get out of my experience that day. And after each round, or grind at the range. Now is about when you might ask: "So, how's that working out for ya?" Well, to be frank, it's kind of a mixed bag. I'm trying to get out what I put in, but unbeknownst to me, golf seems to be playing by its own set of rules, which also happens to be the most confusing game of call and response, or rather bait and switch.
Alright, Sidebar - I had a yoga instructor in college who was in summation, fantastic. She taught with the disposition of a moody housecat, and I’ll never forget her “realness” in such a seemingly strict and devoted pedagogy as yoga. She showed us [her students] many things, but one day she led us in a practice that in effect stood out to me among the others; it was unlike the practice of so many other sports, arts, and hobbies I had taken up in the past. In this lesson, she taught us how to approach each session, not by setting a deliberate intention, but rather, by letting your practice meet you wherever you’re at that day. To truly meditate in the present state of wherever (or whatever) you were in that day; and that is enough – and it is plenty.
This lesson completely re-framed the idea of ‘practice’ for me: it wasn’t about trying to morph into perfection, it was about trying not to gain a sense of control or fight your “realness” for that day. It was about being just what you are (happy, sad, tired, pissed-off…) and letting the practice flow through exactly that. Say,. you’re happy-go-lucky that day? Then, have a joyful practice. Pissed-off about something at work? Go on and have that angry grind. Hungover and just want this practice to be over as soon as possible? Flow through your poses with the laziness of a post-big mac food coma. And it clicked: we're not always going to be in optimal condition for a highly efficient experience, regardless of your mental training or physical fitness. So as an amateur, although intention can be a powerful and mindful exercise, it can also be confining, and at times even a let-down. This happens when we aren’t rewarded after expelling bounds of valiant effort and aren’t emotionally grounded enough to understand why. So in the meantime, with so much life (and golf) yet to be played, how do abandon our need for efficiency and abandon our intentions? How can we just simply exist in the moment and why is it so damn difficult? (This is all relevant I promise.) Alright, onward -
I haven’t played all of the fanciest courses yet, and although I enjoy the rare experience of dabbling in the sexy destinations that golf has to offer, I find myself more focused on getting my money’s worth at those courses, rather than actually enjoying the round - as an amateur golfer that lives a modest lifestyle, you can imagine how that typically pans out. So, when I found out that my work schedule had placed me out in BFE Washington one week; I grabbed my golf buddy and dragged her in the car with me to visit a couple of job sites and squeeze in 1 round and a 1-night stay at Gamble Sands. I figure: when am I going to be out there again? I might as well sneak in a round at a course I’d been wanting to visit. Truth be told I had actually tried to plan several golf trips to this exact spot over this year, but each attempt had fallen through for one reason or another. So call it fate, or don’t call it anything, but this place had been calling out to me, just when I had all but given up on my golf trip dreams, I settled for a one night pit stop, just to say I had played it.
I’ll spare the pleasantries of our stimulating check in process at the resort, which is not to say the rooms and views aren't *chef's kiss* delicious, but you've been patient enough with my context building, and I'd rather get to the point here and roll right into the good stuff -
I’m on the first tee box. It was early September and the weather was great, albeit windy. My friend and I got paired up with a couple of older gentlemen who were nice enough. We put some music on in the cart, grabbed some drinks, and set sail. It honestly didn’t hit me at first, but the details of this experience would soon enough be deafening my senses in an otherwise silent place. Everything about this day was so un-intentional, and yet it was perfectly designed to give me exactly what I had been missing for so long. The warm sun on my skin, the chirp of a single cricket, and the spectacular views. Good Lord, those views; Reigning over a sprawling high desert course overlooking acres of orchards grazing the banks of the Columbia River. The sky and surrounding hillsides are painted in oranges, pinks, and gold. Even the hush of wind blowing away the pervasive thoughts of everyday life relentlessly trying their hardest to pull me away from this luscious dreamscape. They tried and failed. There was literally nothing that could take me away from this moment. It was like the rest of the world had fallen away, and in the middle of this ubiquitous view, I found myself again. I found myself in this moment, or rather, it found me, right there smack dab in the middle of a golf course. And it was like the universe singled me out - to show me that one random whimsy decision, brought one of the most ‘in-body’ experiences I have ever had. A true moment of singularity when I could sense everything happening to me all at once. The sights, the sounds, the company, the smell; each of these feelings all wrapped me up in one big mesmerizing hug that I might try to stay in forever. It was the greatest gift. And to think, I never set an intentions on this day; in fact, I did just the opposite. I did not spend hours grinding at the range to earn myself a treat at this fancy course. I certainly did not try to have this experience. The universe just decided that it was my time; it was time to come back to earth and be reminded of the beauty of “realness” that one random day at the golf course can bring. I was just a real person that day, passing through on my way to work, checking something off my list – just doing things I might have been doing on any other ordinary day; and then all at once, it became extraordinary.
It wasn’t until I got home that I learned that this kind of experience not uncommon place to the seasoned golfer, and although everyone’s story is different, those who have had the pleasure of this special kind of round say that it defines why they continue to play this ridiculous sport. While unpacking my car and grabbing a much-needed bite to eat after several hours in the car, my husband asked me about my round. As I am standing at our kitchen counter shoving food in my face, and trying to describe my indescribable experience, I can see his leading questions are more subjective than usual... the joy of my response is obvious in the smile slowly spreading across his face. We finished our conversation and I headed off to bed, writing off his excitement as genuine sympathetic joy, which honestly the most that anyone can hope for while regaling big-fish stories of their round to anyone who wasn't there. But, I would later learn that he had sensed my revelation hadn't clicked just yet, that what I had experienced was more than just a round of golf. He later regaled my storytelling at a gathering of friends a few days later and in an excited tone he shares: “Oh, she had ‘The Walk’”. So, it has a name, as simple as it is important. I will forever be changed by ‘The Walk’, and although one could wish this feeling for every round, I don’t think I’ll spend my efforts trying to chase this elusive dream. It is not something I was looking for to begin with. My efforts are better spent writing down this memory and trying to preserve some little piece of heaven that was given to me that day. And in the meantime, I will try, to try less.