Fast Friends and Strangers
On Fridays I play golf…alone. I have not been able to find a group that needs “a fourth” nor have I been able to form my own group (yet). I keep trying and it seems to never pan out. For the most part I don’t mind playing alone. It’s sort of like going to the movies alone, and if you haven’t done that you should. It gives you this sense of freedom that is hard to explain. The same goes for playing
golf by yourself. I imagine this experience I have when playing golf alone is like when someone meditates; you have no distraction, all of the action you create is centered on you and that action. It’s very quiet and peaceful allowing your mind to rest.
When I look for tee times as a single I always look for a time that has not been already booked by another single or small group, I want to be the first one on the tee time. This way I’m not “crashing” anyone else’s party. It also puts me in a good starting point to play alone. When I show up to play and no one has joined in on my tee time I set my expectation to be that of a Zen like quiet for 18 holes, just me and my game.
From time to time I am paired up with another group or single to help manage the pace of play on the course that day. I don’t mind when this happens, in fact it is a unique aspect of the game and I fully embrace it. Getting matched up with another group as a single has been a good experience for several years now. The company is almost always good. Everyone is welcoming, we share stories about work and family. Usually there is some light trash talking and a bit too much instruction. In other words, our newly formed group of become fast friends. Perfect strangers are blended together with a common bond, golf. We track each other’s tee shots, look through the weeds trying find each other’s errant shots. We practice all the golf etiquette as if we have been playing together for years. We play with the same rules, use the same protocols, and support one another like long lost friends…for four hours.
When the round ends and the 18th pin is placed into the cup of the final hole the good-byes begin. Genuine smiles and “good rounds” are shared, one last dig about the shot on 16, and reminders about swing rhythm before shake hands and call it a day. We then begin our short walk to the carts and I always feel this awkward silence in this moment; I wonder if we should try to keep this going as a regular outing, or just leave it as great moment of like-minded strangers playing golf? We go from fast friends to strangers in a blink of an eye. I’m not sure if there is any experience like this? My Wife equates the golf experience to traveling on a plane. That is similar in the sense your sitting with the same folks for hours at time, so you can get friendly with your row mates. And at the end of the flight they go walking off, never to be seen again. Now, if you were to help your row mate with their PowerPoint presentation, review their quarterly report, or adjust their vacation itinerary I would agree completely, but usually that’s not the case. As usual by the time I wrap my brain around these concepts the rest of the group has already left, leaving me in the same Zen like quiet I experienced when I arrived.
When I started planning this journey to the oldest public golf courses in the US I thought only about the historic nature of these golf treasures. As I walked the course I would learn about the course history, and in a way, I would be playing a round with ghosts. I’m now beginning to understand that there is a bigger picture here. I don’t want to play with ghosts, and don’t get me wrong they’re invited, but I want to focus on bringing people to the game of golf in a more traditional way. Playing golf on the oldest public golf courses in the US with “fast friends” sounds like a great idea…see you on the course!