I stand here on the second tee at Balgowlah golf club, armed with a bucket of balls and a lone golf club. As I stare towards the beautifully mown green, some 96 metres in front of me, I acknowledge a lone checkered flag erected high into the sky by a thin pole that sits comfortably in a hole in the ground just big enough for a golf ball to fit into.
My aim is simple; I want to hit a golf ball directly into that hole from where I stand, hence achieving a golfing ‘Hole in One’. I have chosen to be here.
Between the hole and myself lays a beautifully designed terrain that I have to acknowledge before I start. To the right lays a small lake ready and eager to swallow any wayward golf shots should they be sliced. A slow-moving creek sprouts from this lake and slithers through a deep ravine 50 metres in front of me until it eventually disappears into a thicket of trees, far too dense to consider walking through, on the left side of the fairway. A small wooden bridges crosses this watery divide between myself and the hole, presenting when passed a steep uphill path towards the basking green guarded of course by two large sand bunkers on ether side. A final stand of defence against those attempting to penetrate her vast and hallow beauty. This is my environment.
I place a ball on the ground and stand tall, club in hand, staring at the elusive hole. Inhaling deeply with nerves and trepidation, I note that the flag at the top of the poll waves gently in the wind. In theory it tells me that with a slight breeze blowing to the right I should aim my shot to the left but if the truth be known I lack the skills to aim this golf ball in any direction other than forward. I’m relying on pot luck that it somehow ends up travelling in the direction that I dream for it.
Around me is silence and I am alone. To get this point I’ve had to explain to the golf shop pro my bizarre intention of not actually playing a round of golf but instead wanting only to hit a hole in one; “It’s number 18 on my list, you see”. A challenge that even the most seasoned golfers will never achieve in their life, I have to convince him that I am serious and that I am fully aware that this feat is extremely unlikely. Being told that I will never achieve this goal is something I’ve come to live with. To date i’ve hit 6,812 balls without success. Thankfully he’s granted me access to his course. Against logic, favourable statistics and in truth; societal norms, I’ve stayed true to my desire and I’m determined to get this done.
With my hands firmly gripped around the club I move my eyesight from the hole and onto my ball. It sits on the ground out in front of my body ever so quietly, seemingly unaware that in a matter of a few second my intention is to hit it with all my might and send it at great velocity in a direction that currently he or I have no idea of. I’m anxious and my mind is a blend of fear and possibility. Staring at the ball intensely now, I draw the club back and around my shoulders as I inhale deeply in anticipation of the unknown. A momentary pause at the top of my swing prompts the adrenalin-fuelled release and in one fowl swoop I swing the club down upon the ball with speed, power and pure hope.
Crack! The balls journey has begun and I exhale loudly.
By the time I look up at the shot, my golf ball has transformed entirely. From a beautiful white ball intricately covered in tiny dimples in front of me, it now soars high in the air, nothing but a far off black dot in the sky. To this stage, I’ve done all I can. I’ve prepared myself, researched the environment, and applied my best efforts to the cause.
As it happens, the ball miraculously seems to be flying directly towards the green! The rest of this journey is now reliant on things far out of my control; wind, ground firmness, invisible slopes and chance. A phrase I was recently told by a religious friend of mine rings in my ears;
‘God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference’.
Serenity at this point seems appropriate.
The ball continues to climb into the air in slow motion and I lean on the club with the vast feeling of opportunity filling my body. I’m genuinely excited and I gaze into the air with my mouth wide open. This is what life is about after all; opportunity. Each moment we live and each day we breath, we are surrounded by opportunity. The key is identifying opportunities that lead us to our desired goals. Setting goals and attempting to achieve them is fundamental to our existence and the emotion of hitting a golf ball for me is surely equivalent to the feelings we all must feel when pursuing something deemed important to anyone else? It’s all relative.
A gust of wind high up swings the ball slightly to the right of the green as it reaches it’s apex and now begins to fall. Although the flag is positioned more centrally, I’m still optimistic that it’s close enough to demand my full focus. For these brief few seconds the immense anticipation of unlikely success makes me extend my neck in the direction of the green, as if it this may actually help in some way. My body soon follows as I take a few steps forward.
From high altitude the ball plummets towards the ground quickly now. Tracing it’s flight as it nears earth, it’s becomes clearer that it’s too far right to stand a chance of landing miraculously in the hole as I’d dreamed of. The sense of opportunity starts to fade and with a sudden thud the ball slams into the undulating fringe of the green, some 15 feet to the right of the hole. Not as accurate as required, it’s an opportunistic ricochet off a bump in the ground that offers one last gasp of energy. Instantly the ball bounces violently to the left and into the heart of the green with speed. For reasons beyond my influence, the ball is now somehow rolling with pace towards the empty cup. The thin pole stands there stationary as the flag upon it waves for help like a distressed maiden. Like me though, there is nothing now that she can do. The final destination of where this ball lands is not up to us.
Closer and closer the ball rolls as it’s speed drops with each rotation. This is going to be close. I squint in astonishment as my eyes dart continuously between the ball and the hole. My body is filled with emotions of all types.
By the time I exhale again, the ball has come to it’s final resting place. Its 2 feet from the hole and has turned white once again on the backdrop of a silky smooth green. Dismissing the science of physics, I stand and stare in the hope that it’s just resting before again rolling directly into the hole, but alas this ball’s journey has ended. It is close but not close enough. My heart is racing.
For the first time since hitting the it, I take my eyes off the ball and look to the ground in front of me. I am smiling. ‘What a journey!’, I think to myself as I realise that the whole event has taken less then 15 seconds.
With that, my bucket, sat silently on the tee beside me,catches my eye. Physically it could be said that it’s full of golf balls only but I prefer to see that it’s actually full of opportunities. I bend down and pick up the next ball and get ready to do it all again. There is nothing else I’d rather do than chase opportunity.
Emotions are what give our lives depth. Positive or negative, it’s these feelings that transform a mundane life into one of adventure and purpose. The more golf balls I hit the more i realise that the success does not lay in the ball ending up up in the hole, but instead everything that happens before it. At the risk of sounding cliche, it’s the not about the destination, instead it’s about the journey.
By the end of the day I’d raised my grand total of balls hit to 6,901. None of the subsequent attempts came closer than the first. Strangely though I’m kind of glad that they didn’t.
Number 18- Hit a Hole in One…. INCOMPLETE.
100 Things… What’s on your list?