The Journey to Improve

I’m not used to being bad at things. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to quickly find success in a number of ventures, whether they were academic, professional, or athletic. Here’s a little confession: I’m sort of bad at golf. Maybe bad is a little strong. I’ve played two full years and have broken 90, but I’m not nearly as adept at this game as I would like to be. I’m certainly not as good as I expected to be the first time I went out to play. I still remember the first time I swung a driver at a golf ball. I was truly amazed that the ball didn’t go straight. As it tailed off into a wetland to my right I wondered what was wrong with the club. My lofty expectations were attributed to video games and some success I’d seen with a baseball bat in my hand, so it was pretty crushing to shoot a 130 that day, especially since I was granted more than my fair share of mulligans. However, the defeat I felt didn’t break my spirit. It did the opposite. I made it my mission to learn how to play golf. Oddly, my average score is around 40 strokes less than that pivotal day, yet I feel like I have farther to go than when I started.

I’m always amazed at the silly things we do to make ourselves better at golf. I certainly wouldn’t have attempted to learn to program computers on my own, but I’ve spent countless hours at the driving range trying to teach myself how to swing. I’ve read magazines and books, watched videos, and asked everybody I know how to make that little ball go where I want it to. The accumulation of knowledge and practice has certainly made a difference, but I do have my regrets. I’ve spent many dollars and many hours working on things that weren’t wrong and I’ve incorrectly tried to fix things that were wrong. That doesn’t make much sense. What’s even crazier is that I know I’ll probably do it in the future too.

I’ve taken some lessons and they’ve done wonders for my game. I went from the 130’s to the 120’s to the 100’s and now the 90’s pretty quickly after working with my teaching pro. Still, I’m more hesitant to call him when things are wrong than I am to call the local course for a tee time. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s reality.

This year I’ve made a concerted effort to improve my game and it’s paying off. I’m hitting the ball straighter, higher and further than I ever have. I don’t slice the ball anymore and only hit a few fat shots a round versus the dozen or more I used to hit. My scores have improved. Not as much as my ability to hit a golf ball, but learning to score is different than learning to swing. I still make stupid mistakes and don’t always realize the effect that each swing I take has on my total score. That being said, I’m still not satisfied. I’m shooting scores that many recreational golfers will ever shoot, but I don’t want to be average. I want to be better.

I’ll be spending my time at an indoor facility with another teaching professional this winter. I have plans to make today’s good scores tomorrow’s bad ones. I want to sniff at breaking 80. I want to make more than five birdies a season. I tell myself that I’ll be happy if I get to that point, but part of me knows that I’ll be just as concerned with the next milestone once I reach this one. Through it all, I have to remind myself that this is just a pastime. I’m never going to make a dime from golf unless I happen to bet a buddy a couple bucks. As my mother always told me, “It’s the journey, not the destination.” It’s that thought that helps me keep from getting too angry when I top a drive up next to the ladies’ tees. I have to laugh it off and understand that it’s just a game and I’m a lucky guy that gets to play it. It’s almost selfish to be angry at something that brings such pleasure.

As my season enters its final couple months I’d like to think I will be able to go out and forget about my score for awhile, but it’s not going to happen. I still need to break 85. I still need to tell the 90’s good bye forever. I still need to grab an extra 20 yards off the tee and drop four more putts a round. I’m going to do them all too. I’m not sure exactly when it will happen, but eventually it will. Either way, I’ll be smiling while I’m trying. So, take heart, fellow hackers! You are not alone and there is hope for us. If it’s looking grim, just shake it off, hit the next ball and hope some more. As you work on whatever goal you have I’d like to invite you to stop back here every couple weeks. I’ll be sharing the ups and downs of my journey and maybe we can learn from each other along the way. At the least, we’ll have somewhere to celebrate our victories and complain about our failures. Thanks for reading and best of luck out on the course.
Ryan H.

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Ryan Hawk
Editor and writer Ryan Hawk lives in northwestern Illinois with his fiance and son. He's been a writer for The Hackers Paradise for two years and has been involved with a number of THP events.