A few years back, a European study concluded that golfers live longer than the general population, and are healthier overall. Having spent the majority of my adult life watching people play golf (and since I own mirrors) I immediately questioned the validity of that claim. Digging a little deeper, the study stated that playing golf (especially if you walk) is actually a pretty decent cardiovascular workout. To be precise, 18 holes on a cart is equivalent to an aggressive hour on a treadmill (twice that, if you walk and carry your clubs). I was intrigued, because in a vain attempt to stave off my impending mortality, I had started going to the gym – but hated being at the gym, more than a millennial hates a five-day work week.
You see, I’m just trying not to die. Partially out of spite – because everyone assumes that my wife will outlive me; and the thought of her retiring on my insurance cheque, when I paid 100% of the premiums, sort of irritates me. And partially because I’m over 50 – and I think I saw the Grim Reaper drive past me on the 401 the other day – (it was a bony old dude in a 1981 Lincoln Town Car – is that him?). I’m not trying to get down to my high school playing weight – just hoping to get to a weight where everything doesn’t hurt when I walk upstairs.
I figured that playing golf (even if it took longer to get the same workout) was more social, more fun, and didn’t make me feel like a gerbil on an exercise wheel. And it worked. I took off the same amount of weight, in the six months that I spent playing golf, as I took off in the six months that I spent in the gym. I played more golf in 2019 than I have since my kids were born – in total. That’s not hyperbole, it’s a mathematical fact. My son is off at University, and my daughter is a 21-year-old girl, who often forgets that I exist. My wife has never much cared what I was up to, as long as the kids weren’t bugging her for a ride and the horses had hay – so the stars lined up perfectly for me to play pretty much every night until dark.
Which brings me to the 2020 golf season. Last winter, I had planned to be back in the godforsaken gym, but thanks to COVID-19, the gym was closed. For a few weeks this spring, I couldn’t even golf. But this coming summer – is the Summer of Doug. I need a goal; and long ago, I gave up on the dream of a single digit handicap (or factor, or whatever I’m supposed to call it now), so I’ve decided that my goal will be to play all 33 GolfNorth courses between now and next Halloween. It has been interesting to see how people are reacting to my proclamation that I am going to try to play that much golf. My daughter said, “GolfNorth has 33 courses?”, and went back to texting (that reaction wasn’t surprising). The surprising one, is the assumption that anyone who is playing that much golf, is obviously a poor husband/father / employee.
Years ago, I was interviewed by Hugh Kirkpatrick, a legendary Superintendent from Westmount GC in Kitchener. I didn’t get the job, but he became a mentor to me for years to come nonetheless. During that interview, he asked me what my handicap was. I lied. I told him that it was higher than it was, because I thought that it would make me seem like I was a harder worker, if I said that I didn’t have time to play very often. His reaction caught me off guard. He said that to properly understand the needs of their clientele, that I was obligated to play the course often. Furthermore; that I had to play with the members on men’s night. And lastly, that I would be expected to take lessons (if necessary) to get down to a 15 handicap (average for Ontario at the time).
On this point, like countless others through the years, Hughie was 100% correct – even if it took me over two decades to realize it. Last summer, I played in league events, and member tournaments – late nights and early mornings. With staff, members, public, friends, relatives, family – even by myself. I rode, I walked, I carried my bag – whatever the folks I got paired with were doing. I played from the senior tees, I played from the tips, and I even occasionally played up on the forward tees. And I learned more about our courses, our clubhouses, our staff, and our players, than I would have learned in 100 summers otherwise. During four hours on the course, customers and employees alike will tell you things that would never come out in a boardroom, survey, or letter of complaint. When it came to the properties themselves, I saw things that thrilled me, pleased me, surprised me, and annoyed me – and priorities for training, maintenance, and capital improvements would often be shuffled between nines.
I still haven’t ground myself back down to a 15, and perhaps I never will. But I’d have never dreamed that I could derive so much pleasure, from doing something which makes me more effective at work, and that has actually made me more healthy.
This coming summer, I’ll be documenting my quest to play every course in the GolfNorth family, and will be blogging about it here, as I go. I’m even planning to work in some winter sports that GolfNorth offers. I’ll be curling at Ridgetown, and skiing at Uplands (I might even take a shot at snowboarding – although I swore many times that I never would). I’ll play the courses, eat the food, meet some people, and tell you all about it here. Stay tuned.