I think we all can say that much of who we have become is a result of where we have spent most of our time.
For me, most of my adult life has been spent in and around the golf course. I have been surrounded by many types of people – rich and poor, old and young, weird and normal, and mean and nice. I would say most any type person you can imagine has passed through the golf course door at one time or another. To say my experiences with people have been diverse would be a bit of an understatement.
Early in my career, I had not yet acquired the knowledge of the human species that I now possess. I was naïve and convinced that I had the social skills to deal with any type of person. Regardless of how they felt, I thought I could win them to my way of thinking with a little bit of wit, humor and my special brand of loveable sarcasm. It did not take long to realize how wrong I was.
It was literally my first year on the job and one of my very first golf lessons. The student was a young lady who had never played before. She showed up excited but very nervous. In our initial conversation I found out that she was a Saint Bernard breeder. Sensing how nervous she was I thought I would ease the tension some with my unique brand of humor.
I commented to her that I thought she had a pretty easy job. A good Barry White album and a chilled bottle of red rose and she should have a house full of slobbering canines in no time. Inside I chuckled at my witty comment but I quickly noticed she did not find the humor in it. There was an eerie pause in the conversation. At that point I realized that she was nervous and nothing that I said was going to change that. In short, I could not control her or the situation; all I could do was accept the situation and move forward until it got better.
I see this tension and nervousness a lot in golf. Many people do not want to play with new people, play in tournaments, play when it’s busy or even take golf lessons due to their fear of confronting an uncomfortable situation. The result is that many people do not get to enjoy all that the game has to offer.
Were you nervous asking someone out on a date, nervous when you got your driver’s license, nervous when you got married, nervous going to the doctor or nervous your first day on the job? Of course you were. Being nervous is a part of life, but imagine all we would have missed out on should we have shied away from anything that made us nervous or uncomfortable.
I wish I had some cute saying to pass along, but the truth is that only you can control this situation. All I would offer is that you are missing a lot in golf because you think you stink at the game. The truth is almost everyone stinks at it, so you should fit right in.
Mike Jennings is the head golf professional at Pine Oaks Golf Course. For more information on instruction or events at Pine Oaks, call 423.434.6250.