The Thrill of Hope

The wildest par 3 I’ve played is the 4th hole at Shiskine Golf Club, “Crow’s Nest.”  It’s 128 yards and plays nearly 100 feet up a massive rock formation.  From the tee you can see a walking path and two aiming markers.  The marker on the left is a flag that is raised and lowered so you can tell if the green is clear.  The marker on the right is where you’re supposed to aim.  I struck the ball well, and it flew on my intended line.  The ball cleared the edge and disappeared. 

Time never moves more slowly on the golf course than when you’re waiting to see the outcome of a blind shot.  Was the ball on the green?  Long?  Could it have gone in the hole?  I was filled with hope as my two playing partners and I walked up the mountain towards the green.

Every spiritual tradition seems to bring up the theme of hope this time of year.  Anytime we have hope, we’re participating in something that’s been going on for thousands of years.  And golf is full of hope.  It gives us space to practice hoping, and can teach us about hope and the way it influences our scores and enjoyment.

The Value of Hope

When I played college golf, I was not a hopeful golfer.  Any hope I had was usually gone by the first hole.  If I started out well, I now had something to hold onto and protect.  If I started out poorly, I resigned myself to the fact that that was just going to be a bad day.  I never had any great or memorable rounds because I was not in a hopeful state of being.

As I’ve gotten older, I see that it only takes one shot for everything to turn around.  At the Vision 54 Academy, Pia NIlson and Lynn Marriott teach students to rate their shots as: Great, Good, Good Enough, and Needs More Information.  The “Needs More Information,” is getting at the idea that regardless of how poor the shot was hit, the hole isn’t over and you never know what might happen on the next one.  This is a hopeful mindset that keeps me open to seeing all possibilities.  By having this mindset I’ve seen scores go down.  Even better, the stories of each round have gotten far more interesting.  I no longer get stuck on the bogey train.  I don’t assume all my drives will slice after slicing the first one.  More often I follow up poor stretches with great stretches of golf thanks to this hopeful mindset. 

In the ancient traditions, people are reminded on a yearly basis of hope, but in golf we can be reminded of it each and every shot.  After each shot we have the opportunity to give up or to remain hopeful that the best shot of your life could be the next one you hit.

How to Hope

There’s a fine line between hope and expectation.  I can hope for a good score, but when I expect to post a certain number, it never works out.  If I go into the day expecting certain course conditions, pace of play, level of service, or amount of stimulating conversation, then I am always left disappointed.  I’ve found that I need to go into each day hopeful that I might experience or witness a miracle on the course and keep that hope alive the entire round.  

How else could you explain a 60 foot putt that goes in the hole, a hole out from the fairway, or the best drive you’ve ever hit in your life, other than a miracle?  Golf has taught me this balance between hope and expectation and showed me that the more I can stay hopeful regardless of the circumstances, the more miracles I will see, and the better scores I will shoot.

The Thrill of Hope

As the three of us reached the green, we saw two balls about 30 feet from the pin.  We paced quickly to see which two survived, and I was relieved to see mine on the green.  After a routine two putt we moved on to the next hole, which, to our amazement, was another par 3 hitting straight down the hill toward the ocean.  Our shots found the putting surface, and we descended the mountain, hopeful of what the rest of the day had in store.

I’m thankful for places like Shiskine that make it easy to play with hope and joy.  It’s experiences like this that have helped me focus on having this state of being as I play my home course or with my routine group.  The ancient traditions have it right: being hopeful is an important part of being human.  It’s truly a thrill that golf gives us the chance to experience it more often.

Andy Hayes
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3 Comments

  1. The other four-letter word for golf!

  2. TurtleHacker

    A bible verse that includes hope and playing golf is:

    Romans 12:12 ~ Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

    Sums up what I need on the course for sure.

  3. Andy –
    Nice article. Once I became a positive minded golfer, I seemed to get good bounces much more frequently then when angry or thinking negatively. My saying is after a bad shot “No worries, I have a club for that”.
    At my level golf should be not only fun but lots of fun – Stemming from trying to meet the game’s challenges without getting too uptight.

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