Susan Arledge: Play it Where it Lies—and Other Life Lessons Learned from Golf

Susan Arledge
Susan Arledge

I learned the hard way that if you don’t play golf, your commercial real estate career can suffer, and that I would be much better armed to achieve my life goals if I learned to play golf. So, with a Yoda-like approach, I determined I would “Do. Or do not. There is no try,” and “do” golf.

According to the 7 Life Lessons you Can Learn from Golf by Althea Mann, you are supposed/forced to learn from golf because golf demands continuous learning. Even the best player in the world has not perfected his game. “Once you stop improving yourself, you start to rot.”

Well, Althea, I’m no rotter, so several years ago, I started playing golf. By now, I should have gotten better.

Full disclosure to my foursome for the NTCAR golf tournament next month: When I play golf, I only play with a few clubs—all of which I ordered online, because I hate the questions they ask me at Golfer World about my hosel and clubhead preferences, implying that a wrong decision will result in grips don’t fit your hand, shafts that are too firm or the wrong length, and then I’ll have an unpleasant experience. Now, the unpleasant experience mostly affects my playing partners, but I do understand his point.

So, I pick from the limited number of clubs in my bag, swing with the proper form that I have been taught by instruction and video, and then immediately check to see if the ball has moved from its original position. I play under the theory that forward is good, which is an honorable goal, because even the slightest forward motion for me is a great victory.

One member of my foursome carefully examines her bag, selects a club while mentally analyzing the shot geometry and pondering theories of time and distance, tosses grass particles in the wind, lines up the shot, steps back, lines it up again, steps back … and so on. But I just swing and hope I don’t hit the “Keep on the Cart Path” sign, which results in backward motion and not the forward progress adrenaline rush that I desperately need to keep playing 17 more holes.

You have probably figured out that I don’t play a lot of golf, and the golf that I play, I play badly. But I really love to play. (Now, watching golf is different; that’s like watching the drapes fade.) But being outside on a beautiful spring day with my huge collection of balls with random company names is great. I have at least 1,000 balls from no fewer than 100 different companies (which frequently are not enough). So I can choose to play my KDC, my DCT, Prologis, or my Granite balls, while pretending that I’m not really waiting for the golf wagon to come by with beer.

I also love watching people watching golf and what people wear while watching golf. I even enjoyed the Byron Nelson’s 2012 failed attempt at Argyle Day, which encouraged players and fans to wear argyle, which is fine for socks, but not a great look for knickers. I’m not sure golfers need any more encouragement to find and wear the most unattractive pants known to man, but several last year raised the bar.

According to Dave Barry, “Golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, but today it’s open to anybody who owns hideous clothing”, which means that anyone can dress like Dennis Rodman and still be welcomed on the course.
Women play golf differently than men; we replay every hole as we finish the hole, evaluate what we did wrong, make club suggestions, and then attempt to correct the swing on the next drive. We say things like, “Use your five-iron here” and then take a vote, as though we think it will make a difference. I have enough stress just trying to focus on how to properly line up my fourth putt.

Men confidently step up and address the ball, swing, and hit, while the other players shout things like “Bite” and “Get in the Hole,” find the ball and continue this for 18 holes, all the while discussing business, women, sports, women, politics, religion, women—anything but the golf shot, saving the replay of every single hole and the related lengthy anecdotes for the 19th hole, as though none of them had actually been there, which means that 18 holes times four guys, requires 72 different stories, requiring almost as much time as it took to play—which is, of course, the entire point of golf.

But what I love most about golf is that no one ever criticizes your play, your lack of skill, or your club decisions. I love the “crack” of that one perfect shot that brings you back to play again and again. (Little known fact: crack cocaine was actually named by a golfer, due of the addictive nature of that sound.)

Everyone starts out badly—except, of course, for the late North Korean dictator, Kim Yong Il, who, according to his biography, first picked up a golf club in 1994 at North Korea’s only golf course and shot a 38-under par round, that included no fewer than 11 holes in one. Satisfied with his performance, he reportedly immediately declared his retirement from the sport.

Bobby Jones said: “Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots—but you have to play the ball where it lies.”

Perhaps I should consider playing in North Korea. It seems you get better lies there.

Susan Arledge, president of Arledge Partners Real Estate Group, is humbly learning that some people take their golf seriously and feel that it’s not sportsmanlike to pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling. She has a lot to learn, but reminds them: “Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you do criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.”

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2 comments on “Susan Arledge: Play it Where it Lies—and Other Life Lessons Learned from Golf

  1. Susan you rock! Great article. It’s not how you play the game, it’s the company you keep. We will no doubt have our own stories to tell at the 19th hole after the NTCAR Golf Tournament and I look forward to it! Fore!!!!

    Reply