My end-of-the-season ritual: It’s over and I’m good with that

bsI am not grieving the end of the golf season. I’m done and I’m good with it.

I’ve accepted that I won’t be hitting the little white ball off green grass for another five months, except in the unlikely event that I go south this winter.

Over the past half-dozen years or so, I’ve followed a season-ending ritual that allows me to segue into winter unbridled with sorrow and longing. If you are “normal” person, you may not grasp the pathos of November. You probably think golf is a game. For a golf nerd, the end of our season-long affair can be messy.

I’m big on rituals. They include any activity we repeat, from shaking hands to toasting someone’s birthday to observing a minute of silence on Remembrance or Memorial Day. A pre-shot routine is a ritual. If done thoughtlessly, rituals are empty. But if entered into with intention, rituals help us step into the moment consciously so that we are fully present to what the experience offers us.

I went through my end-of-the-season custom last week at Blue Springs GC in Acton, Ontario. Professional Dave Belletrutti is familiar with my little deal, so he arranged for me to go first off the tee. I play by myself, which is an important part of my ritual.

[For more on my season-concluding thing, check out Show #34 of Swing Thoughts, my podcast with (Humble) Howard Glassman, who had his own late-season thrill.]

I find that a game of golf is sometimes like sharing a nice dinner; I’m so absorbed in the conversation that I don’t fully appreciate what I’m eating or drinking.

When I’m solo, I can be immersed in the experience of savouring the golf course and being outside. After a shot, I put my club in the bag and consciously give myself over to my senses: I look at the bare trees and notice how the limbs move like arms against the sky as I move past. I hear brittle leaves still clinging to trees bristle in the breeze. I feel the wind coolly brush my face. I smell the musty tangle of grass, brush and ferns that frame a pond.

On such a day, I have few if any thoughts about an upcoming hole, or ruminate about a three-putt. I don’t think about how to swing. I just do it. That’s the beauty of being in an experience, rather than thinking about it. It’s a skill that I’m continuing to develop.

Cognizant that I am playing a hole for the last time in a long time, I’m far more invested in everything around, below and above me. I really see the course, its quirks, rolls, humps and bumps, some for the first time although I’ve played Blue Springs hundreds of times.

My annual solo trip is also my way of saying goodbye for winter. As I finish a hole, I often look back and say something like, “Thanks No. 6.” Sometimes, I wave.

Yeah, I know. Sheesh. But I talk to my golf ball all the time. Why not talk to the holes?

With that Buddha-like peace and harmony flowing all over the place, I played pretty nicely during my autumnal ritual and relished making three three-footers on the final trio of holes for a 79 to send me into winter feeling sweet. Sure, score matters. Cut me, I bleed.

After saying thanks to Belletrutti, his great staff and the dining room folks, I hopped in my car and headed home, feeling upbeat and tranquil, yet another season in the books.

Two days later, I drove into Glen Abbey on yet another surprisingly bright November afternoon, the trees alight in yellows and reds. As I walked toward the clubhouse, the 16th fairway was awash in afternoon sun, flowing like a bright green river overlaid with slanting shadows.

In years past, I would have felt a clench of angst—if I only I could take one last waltz. I thought about how beautiful the scene was. Then it hit me that one day, it might be housing.

I stopped in my tracks, stared and savoured.















About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!