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The Anti-End of Year Post: Reclaiming Golf

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Dave Wilber

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newyear_300.jpgI can't stand reading end of the year, wrap-up writing. Nor can I stomach the end-of-the-decade spench that I am reading everywhere. It's just as if the writers and broadcasters and anyone else with shredded newspaper for brains has to do this. I feel like I need a shower after reading most of this mindless box ticking drivel.

And yet there has been this little voice in my head telling me that I am supposed to write something recapping something or another. Non-conformity is my bag, so I have come up with a solution. Partly inspired by one of the best pieces of golf writing have ever seen from Lorne Rubinstein, here. This is the passage that had me mesmerized but the whole thing is just awesome. If you don't go read the whole thing, just read this:

"I urge an experiment for the new year: Play with a half-set; leave your rangefinder at  home; play some solitary golf in the half-light of an evening; walk if you are able to; try match play; play some foursomes, or alternate shot golf; play nine holes more often, or fewer. You might find different ways to enjoy the game, maybe more meaningful ways." - Lorne Rubinstein, Recapturing Golf

I have always been a greenkeeper. At least since I was fifteen. 38 or so years. And I am proud of that. Even when I stopped growing grass and began advising others, I never got rid of the attitude. Of the joy and the lifestyle. It had enriched my life and at the same time been costly. I'm OK with that. The sacrifices and the struggles have made me who I am. And only time will tell if it was worth it. 

The sacrifices and the struggles have made me who I am. And only time will tell if it was worth it...

I cannot forget the day that I first turned up for my new summer job on the golf course. I knew nothing of golf, and certainly nothing of keeping greens. But I had good people around me to teach me, to hassle me, to love me and to push me. We worked our hearts out that summer. I mean it. We did. And I was hooked. We opened a new golf course that summer and when I saw the first golfers hit the greens that I had shoveled topdressing sand for and sink putts, it was a feeling of pride like I had never felt.

I've come to understand that few people in the world will understand the pride of preparing a sporting surface to support the play and competition. We are, without a doubt a club of our own. With rules and language and history, we rule an area that few understand and that many take advantage of. 

...few people in the world will understand the pride of preparing a sporting surface to support the play and competition. We are, without a doubt a club of our own.

Now all this talk about what golf should and should not be. The jabbering of the scared rabbits, sure that Top Golf and virtual indoor computer generated whack-a-ball will end our existence. The braying of the donkeys who want their cigars, Bluetooth, GPS and robotic halfway house servers fills the air. We need 7 holes. No, we need shorter balls. No, we need more Tiger. No, Yes, No... Horseshit. All of it. Nobody knows a thing about what the game will become. Any more than Old Tom himself could have predicted Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters in 1986. 

The late Dan Jenkins once told me that the best part of his role in golf was to make fun of the culture and to revere the sport. I love that. It was curmudgeonly said in a way that understood that there is a grand canyon between golf as a passion and golf as a social experiment. Jenkins never resisted tell the stories of both.

I admit in the last decade wanting to run from golf and from turfgrass. I actually tried a few times. I availed myself of learning the nursery and perishable plant transportation business and I found out that I had about as much passion for the world of nursery work as I did for having eggs dropped on my head from spy helicopters. That is to say, zero point zero.

Cannabis? Same story. Let the stoners be with their medicine. I don't care. But I did learn how to shape glass into amazing objects from some very high people. It's not my scene. Simple as that.

But I care about golf and turfgrass. I care about design and architecture. I love Turfheads. I care. Deeply. And even when I thought I didn't, I did.

Wisdom: It isn't a matter of IF, it is a matter of WHEN. You will have a moment, if you haven't already, when doing anything else but keeping greens sounds amazing. You will. And for some of you, it may be time to exit the left stage and find your passion. But if you know that you know... you owe yourself some honesty. It won't be easy. You won't get rich. Your body will hurt. Your mind will be torn. You will be underappreciated. You will not be understood. Your loved ones likely won't get it.

You will have a moment, if you haven't already, when doing anything else but keeping greens sounds amazing. You will. And for some of you, it may be time to exit the left stage and find your passion...

And you will have one of the greatest lives you can possibly imagine. Ever.

Lorne Rubinstein  talks about reclaiming golf in such a perfect way. He talks about giving up the gadgets and just enjoying. He talks about finding new ways to do old stuff, about doing more with less and less being fun. Now relate this to your own experience, to growing grass. Can you reclaim the older ways that worked for years? Can you scrap the gadgets and the tech and just listen for a bit? Get down and smell the turf? Can you share your passion with others without a chip on your shoulder? Can you present your product proudly without having to feel like keeping up with anything? Can you feel what your grass is telling you? Can you get excited about the little things?

I urge you to experiment. Reclaim The Golf for yourself, and watch what happens to the world around you. It will get better. There's my New Year wisdom. And therein lies my wrap up of a decade of my life that has been the very worst and the very best. To me, just being here and being able to share this with you is a victory of beating astronomical odds against me.  No doubt you faced similar but different challenges. That's one hell of a way to end a year and a decade. 

Here's to Reclaiming Your Golf!

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And you will have one of the greatest lives you can possibly imagine. Ever

Not All Heros Wear Capes Dave. Thanks for the words of wisdom. I am such an enormous fan of golf as we used to play. 

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It does not take away from your well-expressed and heartfelt piece but for a long term professional, you must recall that it is the green you are keeping, not the greens.  As you say, greenkeeper.  You are not casual with the care you give to the green (in fact, multi-hued), stand firm in the language and don’t give in to the common, erroneous use of the terms.

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9 hours ago, Charlie gow said:

It does not take away from your well-expressed and heartfelt piece but for a long term professional, you must recall that it is the green you are keeping, not the greens.  As you say, greenkeeper.  You are not casual with the care you give to the green (in fact, multi-hued), stand firm in the language and don’t give in to the common, erroneous use of the terms.

I think I got it right. One is a Greenkeeper. One keeps the Greens. 
 

But thanks for reading. For that, I am appreciative. 

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