Stop Trying To Be Perfect

By Jim McNaney

According to, the 4th meaning of the word perfect is “entirely without flaws, defects or shortcomings.” As an instructor, I know that to achieve that in the golf swing is impossible but something we all should strive for. For the sake of this column, I don’t want to talk about perfection of the golf swing but rather perfection of golf courses.

Advances in modern agronomy as well as better education of Superintendents, allow golf courses today to resist diseases, use less water and provide golfers with almost perfect playing conditions.
I have one simple request…STOP!

Now before you think I am trying to tell the men and women that provide such lush playing conditions to not do their jobs, I’m not. What I am advocating is that we as golfers stop demanding that course conditions be pristine. The cost to maintain golf courses in this country to the level the golfing public is asking for has become far too high. Even small local course need to spend MILLIONS of dollars to keep U.S. courses beautiful.

That’s not how the game was originally played.
Sure, when you are in the fairway, you should expect a good lie. Actually, I believe one of the proposed rule changes from the R&A and the USGA should have been to allow people to move the ball out of a divot in the fairway but that’s another column.

Also, I am not proposing that courses be purposely made more difficult by growing the fescue to U.S. Open lengths at every par 3 course. What I am saying is maybe, just maybe we should let the grasses be a little brown from time to time. Maybe, the bunkers don’t have to be like pillows of sand with the consistency of silk. Maybe not every green has to run at 12 on the Stimpmeter.

By contrast, look at the courses used in The Open Championship. This year’s event takes place at Royal Birkdale Golf Club. I understand that Kentucky Bluegrass or bent grass looks different simply because of its chemical makeup, but when you watch The Open, you will see green, yellow, orange and yes even brown…and that’s in the fairway.

I admit it, like most American golfers, I find myself judging courses based on the conditions. Maybe I am wrong in that thinking. Maybe instead of expecting courses with turf that rivals the outfield at Target Field, maybe it’s ok to have a course where the grass is a little thin in spots and a little thick in others.

What got me to this point was an unusual week of, incredibly, playing golf 4 times in less than 7 days. Three of the 4 courses I played were up there among my favorite courses in the Twin Cities. The 4th was a course I don’t frequent very often and is not one that I and my golfing friends would generally think of when we get together.

It was this 4th course that got me thinking because not only was it very plain but didn’t look like the post card pictures I had played earlier; however, I played one of my best rounds in a long time. More importantly, I had a wonderful time talking to the people I was playing with.
I didn’t really care that there were no vista views. Nor did it bother me that the green speeds were rather slow. In fact, it made it sort of fun when occasionally a green would be faster than the others. It made me think and really analyze how I was going to hit each putt. I was not put off by the fact that the edges of the bunkers were not perfectly manicured.

Essentially, I was not distracted by the course. I played a game, enjoyed conversation with friends and had a wonderful time. In other words, I did not judge how I felt about my day on the course by the superficial beauty many courses provide. Additionally, most courses that are “all dolled up” are far too difficult for the average golfer to play. Personally, I’d rather play better than get beaten up by a masterpiece of a property.

After all, to me playing the game is more important than being on a property that looks like the gardens at Windsor Castle. Spending time with friends is more valuable than taking pictures in between shots of mountains or streams that border some of most well-known tracks.
Sure, from time to time it is fun to set foot on such picturesque landscapes, but maybe those courses should be the exception and not the rule?

Maybe, if we stop demanding perfection, we can be happier simply by enjoying the day on the course rather than judging the course?

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