I was standing at the driving range, pondering or probably watching back yet another swing video. There were tuts, sighs, groans, euphoria. There were shanks, thins, tops and flushed shots. There were club slams with a sprinkle of ‘what a shot’. It all made for interesting viewing and background noise as I stood in my own bay, in my own thoughts, in my own golf swing in my own pursuit of perfection. The driving range is one of those places, so simple from the outside, so complex when you’re in it. So rewarding yet equally infuriating.
A Friday afternoon and the clientele changed. From the quick lunch time hit, to the retirees, to the non Friday afternoon worker, to the post Friday work debrief, to the end of a working week range session and sesh! What a variation of people, of standards of golf, of needs for the place. Yet, the same objective, to hit a small white ball, as close to ‘perfect’ as possible. Amazing really.
I go to the range to practice to try and get that little bit better than I was yesterday, and I guess, to work. That’s just one of my offices, and for that I’m fortunate. Many do the same, many go for a release from everything else, many go for the social aspect linked to the game. Do you know what’s amazing, we can chase perfection alone, with friends, with family, with anyone of any age and ability. And to me, that’s what makes golf unique and one of the many reasons I love the sport. Not that I love being alone. But we can enjoy the beauty of the game alone, or with others.
The driving range is an incredibly different place from the golf course. The hoodies and the jeans and the trainers. The joggies. The tradesman trousers, some still with a pencil behind their ear and paint on their hands. The shirt with the tie that’s just been whipped off. The couple of clubs carefully chosen for that practise session. The glove, or lack of. The golf shoes, or lack of. The noise of the ball dispenser. The noise of rapid gun fire as you scrape and hit, scrape and hit. The noise of the tractor picking up balls.
So very different to the looks of the smart jumper with the collared shirts, that blends gracefully with carefully chosen trousers and belt. That go smartly with a specially chosen pair of shoes. The contrasting difference in noises different from the shouts of fore, the whistling trees and bushes. The noise of the ball going in the hole. The sweep of the sand. The muttering of playing partners going up the fairway, the trolley cascading across the gravel path to the next tee. The flag getting put back in the hole. The same game, yet worlds apart.
Not many other sports practice and compete or play the game in such different environments. Swimmers train and compete in water, up and down a pool or loch. Footballers, run around with a football at their feet on any patch of grass, tennis players have a court, a playing partner and net between them. Us golfers either stand simultaneously in a line battering balls up a field. Or chase after a ball around a series of fields for a few miles and up to 18 holes whilst trying to do it in the least shots possible.
When we talk about perfection in golf, what is that though? On a range, is it ball strike, swing shape, how pretty it looks, or what it can do? Or a certain shot, or how far you hit it? On a course, is it all of the previous or is it the score? To each individual it is different. At the end of the day I earn money through my score. But I gain confidence and pride through ball strike. I guess I chase both. Flushed shots in the chase for the lowest score possible. But who isn’t chasing perfection at the range? I know I am.
You turn up to a range at a tournament. There aren’t just golfers and golf clubs, there are training aids and all sorts. If you don’t have a training aid are you actually working? Yes, we have all seen how they can help our golf, but have we lost the feel for learning, learning by doing things how we will do them on the course. Is perfection now numbers? Or is perfection being able to play a certain shot at a certain time with a successful outcome. All these tools, yes I think they are beneficial as they can help each and every golfer in their own unique way, but there is certainly a time and place for their use.
I chase perfection. I am a perfectionist. I don’t know whether to blame golf, diabetes or my previous employment as a house keeper for my perfectionism traits. I couldn’t leave a room unless the towel was folded immaculately and there wasn’t a crease on the bed. I can’t leave the range until I flushed the last shot. I can’t go to bed happy if my blood glucose levels are out of range. Everything I do I want it to be perfect.
Saying that though, I want the range to help me be the best I can be. Whether that is ‘perfection’ on a certain day, or just simply being satisfied, and always, enjoying the process of getting better. That’s one thing I love about golf, you can always get better.
The next time you go to the range, step back for a minute and have a look along the line, see what you see, hear what you hear. Think of how lucky you are to be there. Embrace the chase for perfection, and I’ll try and meet you there.