Playing golf seems to bring peace to the mind of many people. There becomes a certain serenity to spending four hours chasing around a small white ball. While playing golf can bring feelings of calm, it seems those feelings are more pronounced when walking the course. Walking while playing the round of golf adds another element of challenge. Some courses can involve elevation changes, making it feel like you’re hiking in addition to playing. While other courses are build relatively flat, making the walk less taxing. When learning to play, we played on a golf course that presented both challenges of flat and undulating terrain. The front nine holes were flat, winding through flood lands of the Snoqualmie Valley. With the back nine set up in the hills above the front nine. It was easy to walk the front and fatigue would begin setting in as we finished in the hills. Still, playing golf while carrying the clubs on your back seemed to add something to the experience. Of course, while growing up we enjoyed playing golf while riding around in golf carts as well. The carts were fun to drive and we could play faster. They also took extra stress off the body, allowing more physical energy to be focused on swinging the club.
Golfing with cerebral palsy can add elements to playing. While playing golf as a young man, those elements weren’t as pronounced. As time went by, getting older would change the way I played. However, when learning the game, playing through my high school and college years, walking the course was normal. It was challenging to carry my bag, so to begin the walking process, my bag rode on a push card. As age came, so did my strength increase, and eventually a light golf bag allowed me to carry the clubs. It was a large accomplishment at the time, allowing me to carry like my friends. Today, I can still remember the first time making it around all eighteen holes with the golf bag on my back. After being able to accomplish that feat, my golf game was either played carrying my bag, or riding in a golf cart. With cerebral palsy, it was going to be difficult continuing to play golf in this manner. Carrying my clubs while playing golf remained feasible through my college years. However, as the years wore on, I began carrying the golf bag less.
Walking the golf course while carrying my clubs came with many benefits. Maybe the most valuable of those benefits was feeling included. All my friends growing up carried their clubs while we played golf together. To some extent it felt different for me to be pushing my bag on a rolling cart. It just wasn’t the same as being able to walk anywhere on the golf course, I was required to pay attention to where my pull cart was rolling. The other challenging part of not carrying my bag was knowing my cerebral palsy was the major thing holding my back from carrying. After finally building up the strength to carry my bag with my brother and friends, it caused feeling of accomplishment and inclusion. It might have been my first true feeling of overcoming something cerebral palsy was attempting to take away. Golf had become more exciting than it had been before. It also made golf a significant way to help me feel included with others. Finding ways to share in experiences with those around us seems important. With cerebral palsy, it can be difficult to find those situation, but gaining strength to enjoy golf more similarly to my peers was important. However, age had started taking away the joy of carrying my golf clubs.
As age began catching up with me, carrying my bag wasn’t working anymore. It was causing too much fatigue to walk eighteen holes. The situation was leading to giving up on my ability to carry the bag while playing. During the same time, I was attending college, which seemed to contribute to falling out of shape. When finding the time to play golf, riding in the golf cart became priority. Most courses I played around that time included riding, so the transition made sense. It was also making my round of golf much less tiring. The round of golf would end and my body felt like it could handle more holes. All of these factors seem positive, but it began feeling like I required a cart to play. Almost using the use of a golf cart as a crutch. There had been a few rounds where a pull cart was used. In those situations, riding in a golf cart wasn’t an option, those courses required golfers to walk. Walking while using the pull cart did seem to be working, causing some fatigue, which felt reasonable. Still, the physical limitations of cerebral palsy seemed to be getting into my head as an excuse. It was easier to ride in the cart, so I took the opportunity to take the easier route most times. This wasn’t the way golf was played while growing up. The opportunity to carry my bag was seen as a challenge. Giving into the limitations of cerebral palsy didn’t feel as advantageous as it once had. I was hoping to find a way to get back to playing golf in the manner I learned, which would mean carrying my bag again.
When the goal of carrying my golf bag again came to mind, there didn’t seem much chance of it happening. Most courses just seemed too undulating for me to give walking the opportunity. So, the path of riding in a golf cart continued. But, I could feel myself getting stronger through the training sessions in the gym. My leg strength began building a firmer base. All the work on my strength and stability got me thinking. If there was a relatively flat course that came across my radar, maybe walking could become feasible again. It would seem to require playing the course a couple times to gain comfort, but then starting with nine holes felt doable. That course came into my life last year. Snoqualmie Falls in Fall City has been a fun course to play. It’s relatively flat, set in the flood plains next to the Snoqualmie River. After playing there and riding in a golf cart last season, the comfort was gained on the course to shoot the best round of my life. So, I was clearly comfortable being there. With a few rounds of golf under my belt this year, while riding in a cart, it seemed a good time to give walking a try.
After gaining strength in the gym for a few years and getting comfortable at Snoqualmie Falls, it was time to try carrying the golf bag. The thought of making an attempt at walking all eighteen holes felt daunting. It could have exhausted me to the point of not making another attempt at walking the course. My thought was to build slower by starting with walking just nine holes. Once we finished the first nine, I could ride in a cart for the second nine holes. When we began, the nervous energy had me shaking like a leaf. It was uncertain how these nine holes was going to feel and how my body would react. The shaking never really subsided through my front nine experience. However, carrying my bag around the first nine holes did seem to be successful. Walking had me feeling more involved in the experience of playing. Things seemed to move slower and my concentration felt a little sharper. It was also more seamless, paying attention to the things going on around me, like watching my brother play. The experience of carrying my bag for provided that sense of accomplishment that had been missing. After we finished the front nine, I grabbed a golf cart, and on we went to finish our round.
The feelings of accomplishment seem to help us feel positive. For me, striving to earn back the ability to carry my golf bag feels rewarding. Especially following the belief that cerebral palsy had effected my ability to walk a golf course. The process of building the strength to play golf with the bag on my back will continue. My plan has been to continue the journey back to walking eighteen holes slowly. While completing the front nine this week was a good starting point, it will be done a few more times. Hopefully walking the front nine and riding the back nine will help build the strength needed to walk the full course. Either way it was an enjoyable walk and did leave me tired as I continued playing golf on the back nine. Once that fatigue felt on the remaining nine holes dissipates, it might be time to attempt the eighteen-hole walk. My hope becomes we all find something maybe we thought we couldn’t do. If we take that activity and start building toward accomplishing it again, suddenly we begin an exciting journey. The return of enjoyment can propel us forward to other accomplishments that might not have felt possible once upon a time.