I hit a new thing. The results were tragic.

I played golf on Sunday. 

On the second hole, I hit a tree with my second shot, causing it to ricochet directly back at me, nearly killing me. My third shot was heading toward the green when it struck a rake lying between me and the green, popping the ball up and sending it right of the green.

I kind of lost my mind for a moment. Threw my club to the ground and jumped up and down. My friend, Jeff, said, "You hit everything but the hole. It's unbelievable." Then he and my friend, Tom, began ticking off the objects that I've hit in the past.

There have been a lot. 

Golf cart. Barn. The flag on an adjacent green. Yardage marker. Snack shack. Drainage pipe (I actually put the ball in the drain pipe). Tree after tree after tree.  

The history my humiliating golf shots is long and storied. 

I finished the hole with a double bogie. Less than five minutes later, I hit a tee shot that sailed low and hooked left before striking a bird mid-air, killing it. 

Yes. I hit and killed a bird mid flight. Probably a starling. Do you have any idea how improbable that is, particular after talking about all the things I hit on the golf course just minutes before?

I only saw the brief flutter of feather and wing because I was keeping my head down (as every golfer should), but Tom said that the bird paused midair for a moment as if to cry out, "Goodbye, cruel world!" before plummeting into the ravine below. 

I felt terrible. I had killed a living creature with a golf ball. Not a terribly well hit ball, either. 

I was also a little annoyed. Following the bird into the ravine was my ball, costing me a penalty stroke. My friend, Plato, says the ball wasn't going to clear the ravine anyway, but he's a pessimist who cannot be trusted when it comes to judgment calls like this.

Later on, I learned that there is actually a rule (19.1) that would've permitted me to take a free drop. No penalty. But given that a bird died in my fruitless pursuit of par, I felt like the penalty was probably justified. 

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The most unlikely of pars

I play golf because I love the game, even though I play it poorly.

I play golf because it allows me to spend time with friends. 

I also play golf because sometimes, the moments are unforgettable, ridiculous, and hilarious.

On Sunday morning, I played golf with two friends at Rockledge country club, a public golf course in West Hartford, CT. After playing poorly for seven holes, I came upon the 17th hole, a downhill par four that curved slightly to the left. 

My tee shot went low and left, hitting a tree and landing amidst the trees on the left side. 

My second shot - an attempt to punch the ball out of the tree line - hit the tree in front of me dead on. The ball ricocheted backward, flying across the fairway about 15 yards behind me.

I was now farther away from the hole than when I started. 

My third shot sailed down the fairway but hooked left, hitting another tree - my third in three shots. This time the ball dropped like a stone at the base of the tree, inches from the trunk. 

Trapped against the tree, now about 50 yards from the green, my only choice on this fourth shot was to punch the ball toward the green as best I could. I took a 7-iron and treated it like a putter, smacking the ball toward the pin.

The ball flew over the grass, landed softly on the green, and rolled into the cup.

I had just managed a par, despite the fact that I had hit three separate trees on my first three shots, including one shot that yielded negative yardage.

The most unlikely par ever. 

My friends thought it ridiculous and hilarious and unforgettable, as did I. On the previous hole, I had hit another tree while teeing off, this one just 20 feet from the tee box. The ball ricocheted directly back at me, about six feet from where I was standing. 

That had sent us into hysterics, too. Little did we know that there were greater things to come.

I have so many clear and brilliant memories from my dozen years on the golf course. Moments spent with friends, hitting spectacular and spectacularly bad shots, laughing at our own inanity, and sharing moments of genuine warmth and friendship. 

There was also the time a squirrel stole the bag of nuts from Plato's golf bag. The time Phil hit a woman with a ball and tried to blame it on us. The time I hit a duck on a hill. The time the head of Plato's six iron detached from his club mid-swing, sending it helicoptering between mine and Jeff's heads. The time Andrew and I unintentionally played in the snow. The time Jeff accidentally divulged the sex of his future child to me without realizing it, and then the time we did it again with the next child.  

Both of those moments also happened on the 17th hole at Rockledge. 

Those moments, and hundreds more. Maybe thousands. 

I was lucky when my friend, Tom, introduced me to golf by purchasing a set of irons for me for $10 at a yard sale and throwing them into the back of my truck with a ribbon wrapped around the shafts. Little did I know what I was getting that December afternoon more than a decade ago.

A lifetime of unforgettable, ridiculous, and sometimes hilarious moments, including the chance to one day score par on a hole despite squarely hitting three trees along the way.

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A serious commitment to golf

I've played golf in the rain many times. 

I've once played golf in the snow. 

To be fair, it wasn't snowing when we started the round, and the forecast hadn't called for snow. But it was definitely cold enough for snow. 

But this photograph of golfers in California playing as wildfires burn in the distance is both unbelievable and most impressive. 

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My son thinks I'm a golfing god

I haven't beaten one of my golfing buddies in well over a year. I've been drastically altering my grip and swing, but I'm also just not as good as the guys who I play with. They hit the ball farther and more consistently than me.  

I managed to squeak out a tie against one of them this summer, which almost felt like a victory.

But I'm getting better. Hitting the ball farther. More consistently. Understanding all that was lacking from my game. Still, beating any one of them is probably a ways off. 

It's fine. I love golf. My father-in-law gave up the game years ago when he realized that he was never going to break 100. I understand his desire to be competitive, but even if I never beat a single person again for the rest of my life, I'd still play the game. 

But it sure would be nice to win again. 

As the summer drew to a close, Elysha and I took the kids to mini golf. 

The one thing I can do on a golf course is putt. A three-putt is a rarity for me, and when I'm reading the greens well, I can sink long putts.

Sadly, the expression "Drive for show, putt for dough" doesn't apply when you hit your driver as far as your friends hit their pitching wedges. 

An exaggeration, but only slightly.   

On the nineteenth hole of mini golf, I sunk the miracle putt to win a free game. As the buzzer sounded, my children went wild. My son told everyone in the vicinity that I had won a free game, and he kept telling them until we finally walked away. 

Honestly, it wasn't luck. It was a straight putt that needed to be struck just hard enough to leap over two troughs and land in the hole without going past. I judged the distance carefully and swung. 

It dropped. 

Two weeks later and Charlie still talks about that putt. My free game. My miracle shot. 

I'd still rather beat one of my friends occasionally. I'd like to be a competitive factor as we make our way into the final hole. But if that can't happen, Charlie's belief that I am an amazing golfer is a solid consolation prize. 

Psychology of true friends

My friend Andrew - a golfing fanatic - ruptured his Achilles tendon while playing basketball last week. It's going to be a long road to recovery.

Three months in a walking boot. Eighteen months for a full recovery. 

The next golfing season in serious jeopardy.

My friends and I have a sack of golf balls that we pass from player to player depending upon who has won the last round. Bragging rights of sorts. Andrew currently holds the sack after winning the last round of the last season.

I sent a group text alerting my friends to Andrew's injury.

The first response was a statement of empathy. A question about recovery time.

Andrew provided details and expressed his concern over the upcoming golfing season.

I reminded him that I played golf with a separated shoulder one year and told him to suck it up.

A friend warned him against the hazards of contact sports at his advanced age.

Then we asked about the sack. Demanded it back. Reminded him of the rule that if you miss three rounds of golf, the sack must be returned to the group. Forgot his injury entirely. Moved onto more important things. 

When Andrew attempted to insert a injury clause to the bylaws, we told him we'd just get a new sack. A bigger, better sack.

See that? A momentary expression of empathy for a man who will be suffering through 18 months of pain and rehabilitation and perhaps a loss of the thing he loves most, and then we were ready to stick him on an ice flow and push him out to sea. 

This is what friendship is all about. 

Country club dress codes treat adults like children, and yet adults continue to be members of country clubs. I don't get it.

My friend's country club does not allow denim to be worn after May 1. 

Women are allowed to wear shirts without sleeves but only if they are also wearing a collar. 

Men must wear collared shirts, and their shirts must be tucked in at all times. 

These are just a few of the ridiculous rules imposed on members of this country club, which leads me to ask:

Why?

Why can women wear denim on April 30 but not on May 1?

To what purpose does it serve to require men to tuck in their shirts?

Don't the people who established and enforce these rules understand how elitist, sexist, and arbitrary they make their country club appear? Are they blind to the snobbery and exclusivity that they are promoting?

But more importantly:

Why would anyone who is paying thousands of dollars per year to belong to a country club allow themselves to be subjected to dress codes that infantilize their choice over how they present themselves to the world?

Why would someone subject themselves to this kind of treatment?

There are very few times in life when we allow someone to dictate what we wear without paying us for our time:

  • When we are children
  • When we allow our significant other to determine what is appropriate for a specific occasion
  • When we're asked to serve as a bridesmaid or groomsman, pall bearer, or the like 
  • When we join a country club, and when we visit establishments like fancy restaurants that are closely akin to country clubs in terms of their elitism and snobbery

That might be it. These might be the only times when someone requires us to dress a certain way without paying us for that privilege. 

And in only one of these instances are people actually paying large sums of money in order to be told what to wear.

I have always felt that when you allow someone to tell you what to wear without compensation of any kind, you're allowing yourself to be treated like a child. You're allowing someone else to assume the role of Mommy and Daddy. It's one of the reasons why I bristle at every attempt to control my clothing choices in any way.

If you're not paying me, don't even think about telling me what I should wear. 

I also think (as you may already know) that this inane, materialistic, unnecessary focus on clothing and the condescending determination by others about what fashion choices are appropriate are things that should have been left behind in junior high school. 

I think this would be the case if not for a special breed of elitist jackass who thinks they they have the right to tell some that it's not appropriate to wear denim in the summer or that a man must play golf with his shirt tucked in.

You know the type. Just imagine the worst person you knew in high school. The one who wore the most stylish clothing and made fun of those who didn't.

They exist, even in adult form. 

I know these dress codes exist in many, many places. I know that they are commonplace in almost every country club in the world. But I also think that they are the direct result of a a lot of elitist jackasses who are hell-bent on ensuring that their kind of people don't accidentally become confused with any other kind of people. These dress codes serve to denote and separate the members of these country clubs from the heathens outside their pristine walls. They seek to elevate the image of the club and its members above the kind of thing you might see at a less-than-classy public golf course or a less-than-exclusive restaurant. 

I think that these things are decidedly less-than-noble goals, and they come at the expense of personal choice and treating adults like adults.  

The members of my friend's country club (and all country clubs) are adults. Hard working, well respected men and women who pay large fees in order to be members of this institution. They are all presumably successful people by any standard. Yet they allow their physical appearance to be dictated by who?

  • The anal-retentive snobs who run the place?
  • A conservative, stick-up-their-ass rules committee? 
  • The members themselves, who cast sidelong glances at the ladies who dare to wear denim, gossip about men when their shirts come untucked, and turn in their fellow members to whatever parental-like standards squad who is charged with enforcing this nonsense?

I know that most if not all country clubs have dress codes. My friend's country club is not alone in its buffoonery. I have played golf at some of these clubs and conformed to the dress code because a friend has invited me and I choose to respect my friend's wishes and their standing in their club.  

But I think these dress codes are almost always stupid. As adults, we are supposed to be able to wear whatever the hell we want. While I understand a country club requiring members to wear something, the banning of denim or the tucking requirement are examples of a system gone amok.

It's also a system predicated entirely on sexism and gender inequality.  

When women can wear a sleeveless shirt, for example, and a man cannot, the ridiculous double standards and sexist attitudes of the past are proven to be surprisingly alive and well in some corners of the world. 

But even more baffling and disturbing to me is the contingent of people who want to be members of an exclusive country club badly enough to allow nameless, faceless, elitist strangers to tell them what to wear based upon the day of the year and the genitals that they happen to be equipped with at the moment.

Is there no attempt at rebellion?
No effort to force a rule change?
No declaration that "I'm an adult, damn it, and I will wear whatever I want, whenever I want!"

Maybe you're a guy who likes his shirt tucked in at all times, so the rule isn't a problem for you.

Maybe you're a woman who despises denim. 

But still, even if you happen to conform to every inane dress code rule out of personal preference, doesn't it enrage you to think that someone is taking your money and telling you what to wear?

It would enrage me.
Every day I would be enraged.

I am not at the point in life when I can afford a membership to a country club. Perhaps someday I'll be able to, and being a golfer, I think I'd enjoy a membership a great deal. But when and if that day comes, I will be faced with a Devil's bargain, as so many have undoubtedly been before me:

Become a member and dress as I am told. Dress in ways that I do not like. Allow elitism, snobbery, and buffoonery into my life.

I love golf. Truly. And I have always enjoyed the time I have been able to spend at my friend's country clubs. I would like to be a member, but when push comes to shove, I don't think I could do it. 

I'm an adult. When I play golf or sit by the pool or eat lunch on a terrace, I will wear whatever I damn well please, and if that does not conform to the expectations of the elitist, snobbish club officials, to hell with them. 

I'll continue to play with the riff-raff on public courses and swim in public pools, and I will like it. 

7 much-needed rules for golf according to me (which makes them absolutely correct)

Putt every putt. If the six inch putt is a forgone conclusion, then just putt the damn thing. Conceding putts only serves to assist the players who can't putt or those who suffer from the yips while marginalizing the advantage of players who excel under pressure. 

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Every golfer should have a system for not forgetting their wedge by the green. If you forget your wedge more than once during a single round of golf, you must forfeit ownership of the club to a fellow player for one calendar year.  

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Handicaps are fine for determining tournament seeding and groupings, but they should never be used in actual competition. No other sport artificially adjusts the score to accommodate for a lack of skill. Also, claiming victory over your opponent thanks to the advantage of a handicap is pathetic and shameful. You honestly shouldn't be allowed to play golf ever again.  

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Every golfer should be allowed to chop down one tree in his or her life without penalty. This must be done with an axe. Chainsaws are too easy, and nothing about golf should ever be easy.  

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Players who roll their balls out of divots are breaking the rules, regardless of weather or season. These players are also fancy-pants golfers who require the ground to be pristine in order to swing, which is lame and stupid. Hit the damn ball where it lies. That is the essence of golf. 

As an alternative, go play mini golf. There are no divots amongst the windmills and water features of a mini golf course, and you can usually get an ice cream cone after the round.

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Dress codes are nonsense and should be eliminated entirely. They serve no useful purpose and only cause golfers to be perceived as elitist jackasses. Dress codes are also nonexistent at many public golf courses, so don't allow your pretentious friends to bully you into colored shirts and plaid pants when playing these courses. Wear whatever the hell you want. You're an adult, goddamn it. 

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No mulligans. Ever. There is nothing uglier and more idiotic on a golf course than a golfer taking a mulligan. 

The Portland 54: Embrace uncertainty

On Friday I had the honor of playing in The Portland 54, an annual golf tournament that has been played for the last 17 years. It was started by a group of guys at ESPN who wondered if it was possible to play all three 18 hole golf courses in Portland, CT in a single day. 

Turns out it is. All three courses are less than three minutes apart.

Play the first 18 holes at Portland West at 5:00 AM.

Play the next 18 at Portland Golf at 9:30.

Play the final 18 at Quarry Ridge at 3:30. 

The scores from the first two rounds of golf determine the teams for the final 18 holes, which are played as a scramble. The winning team in the scramble is declared champion and takes possession of the trophy for a year. The trophy was purchased from eBay and dates back to the early 1900's. It was originally a trophy for a women's contest of some kind. It is old and a little ugly and glorious.

Winners traditionally drink Rolling Rock from the cup at the end of the tournament. 

I was able to play because every year, one rookie is added to the roster of 16, and this year I was the lucky one chosen. I didn't know anyone in the tournament, but the commissioner is a Speak Up fan and regularly attends our shows. He found out - maybe through this blog - that I was a golfer.

When I received the invitation, some of my friends advised against playing in the tournament, for several reasons.

  • 54 holes of golf in a single day is insane.
  • I didn't know a single person playing, which meant I'd be spending at least 15 hours in the company of strangers. 
  • This could be a scam. I might end up dead.

In the end, I took the advice of a friend who said that I had to play, for several reasons:

  1. It's golf. As bad as it can get, it's still better than most things.
  2. It's an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. 
  3. Guys who are able to get together like this for almost two decades can't be that bad.

All of this turned out to be true.

The golf was great. I started to lose my mind (and my swing) during holes 13-16 of the second round of 18, but I powered through and finished strong.  

I met some fantastic people. The commissioner of the league might be the best golfer I've ever played with. I also played with his son, his son-in-law, and a cast of other characters.

I met a guy who is a ball hawk, diving into the woods whenever possible to find lost balls. He probably found three or four dozen balls over the course of the day.  

I met a guy who holds his club with a reverse grip, which looks incredibly painful but is surprisingly effective. 

I watched two guys putt by looking at the hole instead of the ball.

I played with funny guys, serious golfers, quiet guys, and everything in between. 

My day was not without incident. Over the course of the three rounds, I managed to bounce my ball off a rock outcropping and land it on the green for a birdie. I hit two rakes - both which sent my ball back into the trap. I hit several cart paths. Many trees. One golf cart. I ate a bug and had a bug land directly in my eye. I lost a ball on a fairway.    

Of the 16 players, my score ranked 13th. I shot an 87 on a par 60 and a 109 on a par 72.  

Not good scores, but this is the summer that I change my swing. I am hitting the ball better but also decidedly less consistent. 

Sadly, lightning interrupted our final round, so The Portland 54 ended up as The Portland 47 for me. Happily, we will be returning to the course later this summer to complete the final 18, so I'll have a chance to see the guys again and play some more golf.

I know people who would have passed on an opportunity like this.

  • 54 holes of golf might have seemed like too much.
  • Surrendering an entire day to a golf tournament might have been hard.
  • Playing with 15 strangers might have been unnerving for some, especially if they play like me.

Mostly, it's uncertainty that prevents us from trying new things. The unknown is scary. Taking risks is frightening. Daring to do what seems a little crazy is something people tend to avoid. The inability to perceive the future and accept the consequences of uncertainty traps so many of us in the present. We fail to move forward. Our lives remain static. 

I have learned to embrace uncertainly. Accept possible failure. Say yes when opportunities arise. I'm not entirely sure why, but I suspect that two near-death experiences, a violent armed robbery, and near imprisonment have taught me to do everything I can while I still have breath. 

As a result, I end up standing on stages around the world. Launching seemingly nonsensical businesses with my friends. Meeting new, remarkable people. Trying new things.

Playing 47 holes of golf with 15 great guys. 

I am a happier person for it.   

My highly improbable weekend

On Saturday, I played golf. In December. In New England. The course was closed, and there were sticks and pine boughs in place of the pins, but that didn’t matter. I played.  

I didn’t even care that I lost.

On Sunday I attended the Patriots game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots lost to the Buffalo Bills. Since New England had already locked up the top seed in the playoffs, the game had no real meaning. The Patriots sat many of their starters, and as a result, they failed to even score a touchdown.

I didn’t even care that they lost.

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On Saturday night, I attended my extended family’s Christmas party in Massachusetts. I was in the room for more than five minutes when my wife called over to me. Pointed.

I looked. Standing in the corner was my father.

My father was at the party. My father does not go to parties. My father does not leave his house unless forced to do so. My father does not interact with large groups. My father does not attend family functions. 

My father was attending a family Christmas party. 

Given my immature and petulant need to win at all costs, I’m not sure which was more improbable this weekend:

  • Playing golf in December
  • Not caring about losing my golf match
  • Not caring about the Patriots losing their game
  • My father attending the annual family Christmas party

It’s nice when life can offer up such a bounty of surprises.

Kolf: Golf played on ice. And yes, we're going to play it.

A friend sent me this pen and ink drawing from circa 1620 by the artist Hendrick Avercamp and purchased by King George III. It’s kolf. Golf on ice.

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Which, of course, is amazing.

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There’s actually some scholarship on the rise and fall of the kolf (and it’s sister sport, colf), which was apparently (and stupidly) replaced by billiards as the preferred winter sport.

Living in New England, our golf season typically ends in November, and it doesn’t start up again until March or April. For three to five long months, we dream about golf but are unable to play.

Enter kolf.

I sent these images to my golfing buddies, one of whom happens to live on a pond that’s perfect for kolf. He’s also an obsessive compulsive perfectionist, and he is already planning the course, which will include holes sunken into the ice and bunkers made from snow.

It will be cold, and it will be frustrating, but it will also be amazing.

I can’t wait for the pond to freeze.

Men are far more likely to make stupid decisions in sports. But are the reasons for this stupidity all bad? I don’t think so.

This will come as no surprise to anyone who plays a coed sport:

On the playing field, men are more likely than women to make dumb decisions.

The major finding:

As the competition (in US Open Tennis) gets tighter, men are more likely to screw up. During set tiebreakers, female players were more likely to make the correct challenge call, and men more likely to make an incorrect call.

The study, conducted by conducted by economics professors from Deakin University in Melbourne and Sogang University in Seoul, only looks at US Open tennis, but the same principles are easily applied to other sports, including golf.

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More than half of the errors that I make while playing golf are mental errors, and a good percentage of them amount to little more than dumb decisions.

These dumb decisions fall into three categories:

  1. I failed to take an aspect of the course (a tiered green, an enormous pond, a stiff breeze) into account before swinging.
  2. I failed to think strategically before swinging
  3. I attempted a shot that was impossible or nearly impossible in hopes that it might work.

It’s this latter error (and my most frequent error) that this study seems to address.

Errors like these often occur when I am standing in a tree line on the edge of a fairway. “The mature shot” (a phrase my friends and I often use to describe the boring but sensible shot) would be to chip the ball out of the tree line onto the fairway and proceed to the green.

Instead, I look ahead to the green and see an opening through the tree line down to the green. Hitting my ball through this series of spaces between the trees will require me to hit a ball low and long and accurate to within three feet, absent of any slice or draw. It will require the perfect shot. But if I manage t pull it off, I could be on the green and save myself at least one stroke.

It’s a decision I make often. It’s a decision that my friends make often.

The results are rarely good.

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These findings can be applied to other sports as well. I play coed basketball, and I’ve found that a man is much more likely to throw up an improbable shot during a game (and particularly near the end of the game) than a woman.

The authors attribute the propensity for men to make these kinds of dumb decisions to three factors: 

Overconfidence: Men are more prone to cockiness, and think that their perspective is always correct.

Pride: Men also possess a disproportionate amount of pride. Governed by their egos, men can’t bear to lose, and are more susceptible to making an irrational decision.

Shame: Men are also less prone to shame than women. They don’t see the same downside to screwing up. “Guys just don’t care as much about losing challenges,” Martina Navratilova, winner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, told TIME. “Women are more concerned about being embarrassed.”

The authors of the study agree:

“At crucial moments of the match, such as tiebreaks … male players try to win at all costs, while female players accept losing more gracefully.”

Overconfidence and pride seem to be hindrances to performance in almost all cases, but a reduced propensity for shame is less clear.

In the 16 years that I have spent working primarily with women, in addition to the three years spent studying at a women’s college, I have taken note in this difference in the way that men and women experience shame. I think Navratilova and the authors of the study are correct:

Men are far less concerned about being embarrassed than women.

While this lack of concern over embarrassment may lead to my willingness to attempt impossible golf shots and ultimately cause me to lose more often, I’ve also noted that men are more willing to take risks, both athletically and professionally, and that these risks often pay off enormously.

It also allows men to focus more closely on critical aspects of their job that they deem most important while allowing less important but potentially embarrassing aspects of the job to receive little or no attention.

It also prevents concern over perceived embarrassments over factors that others would never even notice.

This one seems especially prevalent in female culture.

So yes, men are more likely to make dumb decisions on the tennis court, and probably in most athletic endeavors. And yes, overconfidence, pride, and shame (or a lack thereof) are contributing factors to our stupidity.

But men’s reduced level of concern over embarrassment may not be all bad. At the very least, it reduces anxiety and worry and frees up vast amounts of time and resources. But it may also greatly contribute to a man’s willingness to try new things, take risks, fight relentlessly, fail often, and ultimately find higher ground.

And take some terrible golf shots along the way.

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The best clause in any contract ever

Samuel L. Jackson has a clause in all his movie contracts stating that he gets two days off a week to play golf and the producers must pay for it.

I have always respected Jackson. His acting skills are superb. He’s been an ardent civil right’s and political activist for his entire life. His work with charitable foundations, including his own, is admirable. His attempts to raise awareness of testicular cancer may have saved lives. He’s been married to his wife for 35 years, and together. He attends each of his movies in theaters as a paying customer.

But this golfing clause in his film contracts impresses me more than anything else. 

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What are the odds that I can get a similar clause written into my next teaching contract?

Golf is in a decline because people are stupid.

TIME reports that golf is experiencing in a precipitous decline in our country.

Golf equipment sales have been tanking. The number of golf courses closing annually will dwarf the number of new courses opening for years to come.

Apparently people aren’t playing the game like they once did, which is a damn shame.

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TIME offers five reasons why this is the case.

1. People are too damn busy.

The argument here is that it’s impossible to find four hours on a weekend to play 18 holes of golf.

As new dad Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal put it recently, speaking for dads—all parents, really—everywhere, “It is more likely I will become the next prime minister of Belgium than it is that I will find 4½ hours on a weekend to go play golf.”

Of course, there’s no need to play 18 holes of golf at a time (which TIME acknowledges). I probably play 40-50 rounds of golf a year, but a great majority of those rounds are nine hole rounds, played at 6:30 in the morning.

Also, as busy as everyone claims to be, the average American spends 34 hours per week watching television and almost 3 hours per week playing video games on console and mobile devices (with hardcore gamers logging almost 20 hours per week).

Everyone is so damn busy, yet they seem to have a lot of time for the couch.

2. It’s elitist and too expensive.

TIME also points out that golf can be made exceedingly affordable, but quickly discounts that notion:

It’s just that, by and large, the sport has a well-deserved reputation for being pricey—think $400 drivers, $250,000 club “initiation” fees, and too many gadgets to mention. The snooty factor goes hand in hand with the astronomical prices and atmosphere on the typical course.

I played golf for my first five years with a set of used irons that cost my friend $10, a driver that cost about $150, and a putter than cost $1.

I play on public courses which cost me $12-20 per nine holes. We walk the course instead of riding in a cart, which is good for us and saves us money.

Golf is supremely affordable if you allow it to be. 

As for the elitism, that all depends on where you play and who is playing with you. If you and your friends are playing on public courses, elitism doesn’t exist.

Dress codes on public courses barely exist.

If you’re playing at a country club that costs tens of thousands of dollars a year to join, yes, you will encounter elitism. Also strict dress codes and cigars. But this has nothing to do with golf and everything to do with who you choose for  friends are and where you choose to hang out. 

It’s just not cool.

Bah.

It’s too difficult.

This is the beauty of the game.

“The deep appeal of golf, once you get hooked, is that it’s difficult,”John Paul Newport, golf columnist for the Wall Street Journal, told NPR last month. “Normally when you play a round of golf, you step onto the green and that’s when all the intense stress starts. You know, this tiny little hole, you have to look at putts from many ways, you hit it a few feet past and you add up strokes quickly around the green.”

I’m not sure what Newport means by intense stress. Unless you’re playing in some PGA competition, the amount of stress is determined solely by yourself. I may feel pressure at times while playing, but it’s self-imposed pressure. The only thing riding on every shot is my desire for excellence.

Newport is also right that one of the appealing aspects of the game is the challenge. Golf is hard. It’s incredible complicated. You learn new things every time you play. Every single shot is unlike any previous shot. There are constant improvements to be made.

Yes, golf is hard. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so great.

Recently, lunatics have proposed changes such as 15-inch cups in order to make the game much easier and approachable.

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This is stupid. This would strip the game of its luster.

Besides, there are already ways of making the game easier to play. Instead of larger holes, play from the red tees and shorten the course for yourself.

Also, learn how out to putt.

5. Tiger Woods.

Skeptics insist that golf isn’t dying. Not by a long shot. The sport’s popularity, they say, is merely taking a natural dip after soaring to unjustified heights during the “golf bubble” brought on by the worldwide phenomenon that was Tiger Woods.

This may be true, but it’s not why I started playing the game, and I can’t imagine quitting a game as great as golf simply because one of its stars is aging.

If TIME is right and these are the reasons that golf is in decline, people suck.

People have plenty of time. They choose to spend it stupidly.

Golf is absolutely affordable if you’re willing to play on public course, walk instead of ride, tee off with last year’s driver, and hit golf balls that don’t cost $5 each.

Golf is difficult. If you require ease and leisure in your life, play Go Fish.

Otherwise, find some grit and determination  and learn to play the game.

Putt-Putt Perfection

The Friday and Saturday nights of my youth were often spent at a now-defunct Putt-Putt course in Framingham, Massachusetts.

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I was not seeking putting perfection as much as I was attempting to impress girls with my wit and guile, but beneath the desire to make girls laugh and demonstrate my male prowess was an almost equally strong desire to win.

I was shooting for a hole-in-one every time.  

The chase of perfection is noble at any level. When achieved, it is a great thing, even on a mini golf course.

This is a great short film about the chase for Putt Putt perfection.

Contender for best golf shot of the year

The thing about this unbelievable golf shot is that my friends would call me an idiot for ever attempting such a shot. But here is a professional golfer, making it work better than even he could’ve imagined.

See. Maybe I’m not such an idiot after all.

Also, I would’ve never been able to make this shot.

Not in a million years.

And would’ve likely hit myself with the ball in the process. 

Still…

The most baffling part about the North Korean government is their inability to lie well.

The North Korean government is obviously unlike any other governing body in the world, but what I cannot understand is why they are such bad liars. While there may be good reasons to enhance the reputation of their country and their dictator around the world, the propaganda that they promote is so  ridiculous and ultimately damaging to the nation’s image that they would be better off saying nothing.   

For example, while he was still alive, their official news agency claimed that former North Korean dictator, Kim Jong II, had invented the hamburger, composed six operas and written more than 1,500 books in three years while at university.

His birth was reportedly heralded by a swallow and caused winter to change to spring, a star to illuminate the sky and rainbows to spontaneously appear.

According to his official biography, he did not defecate, despite this book’s insistence that this could not be true. 

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Best of all (at least to a golfer), he reportedly shot eleven holes-in-one the first time he played golf (a feat verified by his army of bodyguards).

Is the North Korean government so backward as to think that these claims would be received by anything but amused smirks by the rest of the world?

I honestly don’t get it.

Resolutions that didn’t make the 2013 list

In deciding upon this year’s New Year’s resolution, several were discarded for a variety of reasons. Among them were the following:

Set a new personal best in golf.

I may have excluded this from my list simply because I am afraid that it is not possible. My lowest score for nine holes is a 46, and my lowest score for 18 holes is 95. Without lessons or a dramatic increase in the amount of playing time, I just don’t see myself improving these scores without an enormous amount of luck.  

Launch a podcast related to teaching.

I already plan on launching a podcast related to writing in 2013, so my idea of bringing three teachers (my wife, my friend and me) together to discuss education and answer questions of parents, students and fellow teachers might turn out to be fairly simple once I learned about the process, but it may not. Even if I manage to streamline the technical aspects of the process, it will still take time to record. As a result, I thought that one podcast this year would be more than enough. If the second manages to get off the ground, it will be a bonus.

Deliver a TED Talk.

While the idea of delivering a TED Talk remains something that I would like to pursue in 2013, the amount of content that I already plan on producing is so large that I felt that some ideas had to be left off the list. A TED Talk was one of them. 

Write and perform a 5-10 minute standup comedy set in 2013.

I would like to attempt standup comedy someday, but once again, the amount of writing, storytelling and podcasting that I have planned for 2013 is already more than enough.

Launch a proposed business venture with a close friend.

A friend and I have a possible business idea on the drawing board that we hope to launch in 2013, and we are already in discussions about it, but it may take more than a year to accomplish, so I have left it off the list for now. 

Read a specific number of books in 2013.

Readers suggest this resolution to me every year. Three years ago I established the goal of reading a dozen books published within the same calendar year (and achieved the goal fairly easily), but that goal was set in order to force me to read more current material.

My attitude towards overall reading has always remained the same:

Read as often as possible in 2013. The number of books doesn’t matter if I am reading as much as I can. Therefore no resolution is needed.

Make one mortgage payment from poker profits.

I paid for our honeymoon with poker profits, and I’ve always wanted to make at least one mortgage payment via poker, but the amount of playing that I do today is limited because of my writing schedule. Also, the online poker environment became decidedly more challenging with the US restrictions on online gambling in 2010. While I am fairly certain that I could earn enough money via poker to make at least one mortgage payment if I dedicated time to the endeavor, it turns out that writing is simply more profitable.