Friday, January 13

What Golf Says About Us

By Charles Prokop

Copyright © Charles Prokop. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Courtesy of Sidereal
THERE’S A TYPE OF PYSCHOLOGICAL DIAGNOSTIC PROCEDURE called a projective test. The idea is that what someone makes of an ambiguous stimulus says more about the person than it says about the stimulus. In the Rorschach Inkblot Technique, probably the best-known projective test, the inkblots aren’t really pictures of anything, so what they look like to me is different from what they look like to you. Our differing perceptions presumably say a lot about the differences in you and me.

I’ve always thought golf was a pretty good projective test. Different folks see golf in different ways, from “How can you waste your time hitting that stupid little ball around a pasture?” to “Golf is the new yoga of the supermind.” I’ll say no more about the golf haters and disparagers in our midst. They deserve only our pity and are beyond our help. With my deepest respect and sympathy, I say to them, “Go with God, but go away.” But for us golfers, golf is many things.

For some of us, golf is an addictive spectator sport. We’ll watch a tape delayed broadcast of players we’ve never heard of battling it out for second place in the Upper Volta Invitational while we wonder how many balls John Daly can hit in the water and still collect his appearance money. And how about that bunker shot that What’s His Name holed to nail down second place? And do you have any idea what kind of trees those were lining the 18th fairway? They don’t have those at my local muni, that’s for sure. (I confess I’m guilty of this. When I want to veg out I’ll watch any golf, anytime, anywhere. Give me a crossword puzzle and a boring golf tournament and I’m happy as a clam.)

Golf is a great soap opera for some folks. Did you hear what Stevie said about Tiger, and what Adam said about Stevie saying what he said? And what’s Tiger going to say about what Adam didn’t say about what Stevie said? Inquiring minds want to know. Discussions like this can go on forever on some golf sites, and often degenerate into wonderfully creative suggestions about what other commenters might consider doing with their anatomies to improve their analytic and playing abilities. If I moderated one of those sites I’m afraid my list of banned commenters would be longer than my list of active commenters. The banned list would likely include myself.

Of course, we don’t just watch golf and talk about golf, we play golf. For some of us golf is a skills challenge, a never-ending quest to get better. We work at it whenever we can, bang those range balls, take those lessons, buy that belly putter. A round below our expectations sends us into fits of despair, rage, or existential ennui. We vow to work harder. Or quit. That works, too.

For others, golf is just a way to relax and have fun with friends. We say we don’t care how we play, it’s only a game, we’re not trying to make the tour anyway. I expect that’s a healthy way to be, but I can’t personally vouch for it. I know one (count ‘em, one) person that I actually believe when he says this. If he thought playing well mattered he wouldn’t be the happy-go-lucky guy he is. I try to avoid him—his happiness might be contagious.

I’m sure there are more ways we look at golf, and each way will say something a little bit different about the personality of that golfer.

In the interest of science, I’m selflessly offering myself as a consultant and diagnostician to dedicated golfers. I’ll be happy to study your golf game in it’s natural habitat and spend time in exhaustive interviews with you as we visit the 19th hole after our rounds. I’ll charge nothing for my professional time. You’ll pay only my travel, my greens fees for our evaluation rounds, and you’ll cover the food and drink during our interviews.

I guarantee my satisfaction. Your satisfaction, not so much. But the experience? Priceless, I say. Priceless.

Charles Prokop is a clinical psychologist who writes about golf at fairwaywords.


TJ Morrey said...


I just wanted to say I'm a fan of this blog. I've been a fan of golf since I can remember, and it's funny to me when I talk to other people that don't like golf that think it is all about hitting a stupid ball around a pasture. I have found myself watching Playing Lesson With the Pros on the Golf Channel at 2 in the morning, preparing to play the next morning. I also really enjoyed the end where you can offer your services and find satisfaction with your "clients" paying of everything. LOL!

Enjoy your stuff,

TJ Morrey

Charles Prokop said...

Thanks for the kind words, TJ. Like you, I can spend hours and hours thinking, learning, and reading about the game without getting bored. There aren't many things like that for me. And I've always thought a little humor never hurts.