The course was backed up last night, and while I was waiting on the third hole, I was joined by another single—a young man in a cart named Rich.
I invited him to play along with me, but he hesitated. “I’m not very good,” he said. “I’m just learning.”
“That’s o.k.,” I said. “I’ve been playing a long time, and I’m still learning, too.”
After a couple of holes, both of which I parred, Rich said “You’re really good.”
From his expression and tone, it was apparent that he thought I was stringing him along, pretending to be learning when I was in fact an accomplished player (although my double on the next hole would dispel that notion).
I meant it, though. I’m always learning, and except in competitive rounds, I’m always practicing. When playing casual rounds, I’ll often take a shot I know I shouldn’t just to see if I can learn something. I’ve also been known to deliberately hit a ball into trouble just to see if I can get out. My handicap balloons as a result, but a low handicap isn’t my goal. I want to learn everything I can about the game.
I’m always learning. And so is everyone else who takes golf seriously. I’m absolutely certain that Tiger would say that he still is in the learning process. Ditto Phil, and Padraig and Vijay and everyone else on the Tour.
That it can never be mastered is one of the most intriguing things about golf. My other hobby is painting toy soldiers, and in that, I have by and large mastered the art. There really isn’t anything left except the enjoyment of researching and painting the diversity of costumes and uniforms over the ages.
In a strange way, I don’t really think that I would ever really WANT to master the game of golf. Constantly blasting drives down the middle and tapping in for birdie would be fun for a while, but in the end I think I’d lose interest.
So I continue to learn. And am happier for it.