Learning to Love Golf Again
by Matt Bateman – @oneputtblunder
Most of those who follow me on Twitter know that I have had both hips totally replaced. Many have read the story of what lead up to the surgeries and my return to the game. I wanted to dive a little deeper into the mental part of it, not so much during the round but why I play and how I forgot that when the pain took the game away from me.
I am not one to carry low expectations. Before my hips really got bad, I was pretty much right at scratch and getting better. Good rounds were even par or better and bad rounds were 76-78. 80’s was a disaster, and then things changed. The pain became too much, scores started getting worse and worse and my joy of the game was starting to vanish. In 2012, I played 3.5 rounds.
In summer of 2012, I had my surgeries and was able to work and return to the course in late fall but the joy of playing again was short lived. I was not living up to my own personal expectations for how I felt I should play. Knowing me, those expectations were probably too high and I thought it would be like jumping back on a bike. In early 2014, I was just not enjoying playing at all and my game was suffering. It culminated with a case of the shanks that would not go away. Trust me, if you have never seen a 3 handicap shank his way to back to back rounds of 93 and 108 you do not want to. I was ready to sell my clubs and just quit.
Quitting is really not my style, so even though I have been pretty much self-taught I decided to seek the help of a teaching Pro – John Kostis, son of CBS broadcaster Pete Kostis. I was in full self-destruct mode in our first session, missing the clubface on pretty much every single shot. Well to make a long story short, after a 4-hour long session, Kostis had me finding the clubface again and making good contact.
During this time I also realized I was going about things the wrong way. There was zero reason for me not to savor every moment I had on the golf course. I had been given an opportunity to come back to the game pain free and instead of being stuck at home on a couch miserable, I could be out in the desert enjoying the tranquility, the challenge, the company, and the peace that comes with being on a golf course again. After all, this was one of the main reasons to put myself through these surgeries and do all the hours of rehab.
I realized that because of the rehab and practice I was looking at golf too much like work and something I had to do vs something I did because I loved it. I am not a spiritual person in any means but golf was always my way of centering myself, no matter how bad my week was or what was going on in my personal life, golf was my reset button. There was nothing that 18 holes could not make me forget for at least those 3-4 hours out on the course.
Starting back in early summer, I was able to find my way back to savoring every moment I had out there. After all I went through to be able to play again, there is no reason for me not to enjoy every round. I learned to laugh off bad shots. Sure, I still have my moments of frustration on the course, but getting angry for a minute then laughing it off has been a better remedy than letting it stew for the rest of the week. This game has given so much to me in the 20+ years I have played it. Golf has helped me through some dark times, and I have made some great friends and playing partners along the way.
People always say golf is an individual game and while that may be partially true in the sense of scoring and tournament play, I disagree. Golf is an inherently social game and the friends we make along the way are one of the biggest reasons I love the game, and I am so happy to have some great ones in my life to share those special moments with.
A note from Herb:
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Matt. I am proud to know that I have been able to follow this all from afar. It means the world to me that you found your love for golf again. You and golf are both incredible and you deserve each other.
Not many people, and maybe not even you realize how much of a part you played in making golf such a major part of my life. You started it all with that invite 2 years ago. That was the beginning of the Golf Misfits trips. It is because of you, Matt Bateman, that Courtney and I began traveling to meet our beloved members of the #GolfFamily.
The rounds of golf that I played with you are some of the greatest times I will ever remember.
Thank you, friend. You are one of the best and always will be.