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How to Play Golf – or Not , a personal perspective

Updated on June 10, 2011

golf lessons

How to Play Golf - or Not , a personal perspective

Origins of the word Golf

Well Golf! This word reputedly has it's origins as an acronym for "gentlemen only, ladies forbidden". however according to, "that's a common old wives' tale. Or, in this case, more likely an old husband's tale". A pity but it makes for a good tale. Furthermore thy go on to say:

"No, "golf" is not an acronym for "gentlemen only, ladies forbidden." If you've ever heard that, forget it immediately. Better yet, find the person who told you and let them know it's not true.

Like most modern words, the word "golf" derives from older languages and dialects. In this case, the languages in question are medieval Dutch and old Scots.

The medieval Dutch word "kolf" or "kolve" meant "club." It is believed that word passed to the Scots, whose old Scots dialect transformed the word into "golve," "gowl" or "gouf."

By the 16th Century, the word "golf" had emerged.

Sources: British Golf Museum, USGA Library"

Sport as I grew up.

Now when I was growing up golf simply did not come into my lexicon. Sure we read about Gary Player and Bobby Locke but these were newspaper stories about South African sports legends and far removed from our world of reality. My father did not play golf. His friends and our immediate family did not play golf. Come to think to it we were not really a sporty family at all. Perhaps this fact accounts for some of the disconnect with my Dad. I played Soccer (A team at primary school). In high School I participated in Rugby (mostly age group A teams), Swimming (represented my school and province at age groups)and tennis. This was balanced by my being a member of the choir, chess and debating teams. My folks did not relate to this sporting part of my life.

Sports, involving a stationary ball.

You will notice that I do not mention any sport where the ball stands stationary. Into this category falls cricket and, in later life, golf. I actually seem to have a failure in my make up when it comes to hitting stationary balls. But I am getting ahead of myself.

As I grew up I became more aware of golf and cricket. My fathers' lack of participation did not extend to being a spectator. My dad was an avid cricket fan and listened to every international match on the Radio. We did not have television in South Africa until the seventies. He also followed the exploits of Gary Player in the newspaper. However, in our upbringing golf was an elitist, pursuit followed only by the wealthy and privileged.

I eventually played quite a bit of cricket and could field very well (moving ball - note) and bowl a bit. Here the ball moved in my hand under my control, hence I became a spin bowler.

The bug bites or does it?

After I had begun working, I noted that more and more of my colleagues played golf. I also noted that a lot of golf tournaments were played in working hours. Aha, now my canny brain figured that if I could play golf, I could get some time off to play and join in the festivities at the 19th hole. Also the guys were always talking about the prizes that they had won.


At any rate, I eventually had few lessons. Inter Alia

  • Keep the forearm stiff.
  • Hold the club with the correct grip.
  • Have an easy natural swing.
  • Let the ball do the work.
  • Hit through the ball.

All of this was easy in theory, but in practice a different story entirely. Now hitting the ball was one thing. But there are many clubs in a bag. Each has a different purpose. Each has a different loft giving a different elevation and in turn (in theory) giving different distances with the same mount of effort and swing. Then there was putting. The greens were different speeds and had a bias to a different direction. That is, if you hit the ball straight it would veer left or right or even (sometimes) go straight. So you had to "read" the green and play left or right or straight with the natural turn (or bias or rub) finishing off the shot for you at the end of the roll.

Joining a Club and playing

So this was a relatively easy game or what!

I bought all the right gear and joined a club. You could not get a handicap if you did not play for a club. You could not play in a tournament (organized game) without a handicap - catch 22. The handicap was a method of ensuring that no matter how good or bad you were, you could play on an even footing with your fellow players. Again in theory, very simple. You start off as a 24. In other words you get 24 free shots before the count of actual shots played begins. These "free shots" are dispersed throughout the 18 holes with initially one shot per hole, plus 6 others added to the more difficult (or usually longer holes). Each course that you played on determined where the free strokes would be applied. Okay, now so far so good. As you improved your handicap was lowered until you became (again in theory) a scratch golfer. That is you had no handicap and no free shots.

The More you play the worse you get!

Now I discovered that the more I played the worse I got! I also learned that once you were 2 shots over your allotted number of shots for a hole you picked up your ball and put a circle around the allowed score plus 2. An example of this would be (for me) a par 3 short hole with one shot allowed (4 shots) but I had already played 6 and was not within putting distance of the hole. My card would be a "ring 6" at this point.. Therefore the first holy grail of golf is to score better than 100 shots. An average course was, say par 70, plus 24 frees 94 and if you then scored all ringed scores you would be shooting 120. So breaking "a hundred" would mean you were getting close to a par round for your handicap. Well, I discovered this is not so easy. You are trying to hit a stationary ball around 300 yards to a small hole twice the width of a golf ball This is a bit like trying to put a man on the moon at a specific spot with some accuracy. I wonder how many NASA controllers were golfers? So in this case the better I got, the worse I got. I have never really gone beyond a twenty four handicap. That is until I "gave up" golf.

Giving up Golf

There is a different form of the game called "Medal Golf". Medal golf entails counting every shot. Now in our club we played medal golf once a quarter overr 36 holes (two days golf). This form of golf was torture because every shot counted and you knew what you were in for. Also as all the club members were there, the course was full and the high handicaps (me) teed off at the back of the field, meaning a late start and a late finish. Then the after event (the 19th hole) tended to go on a bit.

After once such weekend, arriving very late both Saturday and Sunday My ex wanted to know how we played in the dark. Did we have floodlights? Seeing as I was a bit "two sheets to the wind" I flippantly replied "No we use night clubs!'

Wisely she waited until the next day and said "Golf or me - choose". I unwisely chose her, but, honestly though, my golf was going nowhere.

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    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Gwendymom Thanks for stopping by and commenting as always your support is very much valued. Golf for me is a love/ hate game as you can see. And , horror of horrors I am due to play next Thursday and I have not touched a club for a year. watch this space for the round of golf from hell!

    • gwendymom profile image


      10 years ago from Oklahoma

      Sixty, this was informative and funny. As always a great hub from you. I hate golf. That is the worst game in the history of sports. I might be a little biased as I am a golf widow and can't play the game to save my life.

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Marisue A pleasure and Thanks to you . Everyone else can now enjoy too!

    • marisuewrites profile image


      10 years ago from USA  for the what it was, was football / Andy Griffith  (thanks Clive for allowing the link, I thot someone might enjoy the silliness of this old tape...)

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Sweetie Pie. Music and golf of course Bing crosby and Dean Martin were golfers too. Thanks for your kind comments. much prreciated.

      Marisue I hope you find it If so enjoy!

      Nolimits Glad you enjoyed the hub. thanks for stopping by and commenting.


    • profile image

      NoLimits Nana 

      10 years ago

      Great hub, very funny video. Some of my shots look like that!

    • marisuewrites profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      I had forgotten the baseball one....I'll go see if I can find it on youtube and listen again....wasn't he the funniest on those recordings?? Was always good for a giggle or chuckle. Oh, bring back the humor of those days. =)) (thanks for the golf cart compliment)

    • SweetiePie profile image


      10 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Fun hub. I really am not a fan of the game, but you make it sound interesting. I think the only thing I like about golf is that one of my favorite musicians plays the game.

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Patti I absolutely agree. You need to start as soon as you can walk to develop a "natural swing". Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting . As always, much appreciated.

      Rodney as you so rightly point out, golf is my handicap. To the best of my knowledge (apart from my age) the only one. Thank you for your loyal support once again.

      William. You are so right I missed the freudian slip about he ball doing the work. but as I keep saying. I can play any game (or could when I was younger) with a moving ball! Thank you so much for reading and adding your valuable comments.

      justmesuzanne Yes it is true that some golfers are just a "natural" but they are special and few and far between. Thanks for stopping by and enhancing this hub with you comments.

      Marisue. What can I say. There was also the clip on baseball, the one where he (I forget who) goes on about the one side goes in and the other side gets them out and the side that was out goes in and the side out now tries to get back in by getting the in side out etc . It is also hilarious. I think you probably would do a good job looking cute on the golf cart. I agree the 19th hole is the best part of golf.

      Thanks so much for once again adding value to my hubs by your comments.

    • marisuewrites profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      I view golf much as Andy Griffith did the game in "What is Was, Was Football."  If you've never heard his recording of that, you should  It's quite funny.  I never understood the fun in chasing that little hard white ball all over hilly, tricky, slanted ground or hitting it out of a sand pitt. 

      So, I guess the bug has not bitten me.  However, I love driving the golf cart and trying to look cute.  IF the weather is cooperative and under 85 degrees.  I especially like the festivites at the 19th hole.    Your night club remarks was priceless!!

    • justmesuzanne profile image


      10 years ago from Texas

      What a wealth of information! My ex-husband loves golf and is a natural. He can walk out onto the course and win a tournament after months of no practice! I will forward your article to him. :)

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      A fun hub, Sixty. It's a very perplexing game, but I'll never give it up. The five points you make on "lessons," tell the whole story, except we usually learn to keep the forearm "straight" not "stiff," and let the "club" do the work, not the "ball." I know this because I sometimes play with good golfers, not because I am one! I love the video. It's very funny, but if you can follow it, that guy really gives you a lot of good advice.

    • Just_Rodney profile image

      Rodney Fagan 

      10 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      Good one there Sixty, golf does seem to be your handicap. It is always easier to hit a moving ball, also itdoes usually go where you want it to.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I like the bit about "night clubs." That's a good one. To me, golf is difficult and I'm off the opion that Tiger Woods would not have been such a successful player had he not begun almost as soon as he could walk.

      Thanks for the Hub. :)


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