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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Social Side of Golf

Despite this, this, and of course this terror on the 10th tee box I truly love the game of golf. I mentioned a line very similar to this back in 2010 or 2011 in that I love golf when in provides an isolation factor for me. In other words I prefer to be alone when I golf which is why I will often play when I'm traveling through small towns. However, I've been thinking over the past six months or so if the realm of a golf course could provide a decent ground to do what I fear.

I think back to October 2003 when I was living in Las Vegas while I was a race car driving instructor and there was a time I played at the Boulder City public golf course and I was paired up with a retired gentleman and I still remember the conversations we had. Somewhere along the way I grew scared of interacting with those I don't know; perhaps it was all the ordeals I had, but I firmly believed golf was a sport best enjoyed alone (a truly Aspergerish way to view the sport.)

Things have changed and so far this year I've targeted tee times that I know I will be paired up with others. Maybe I'll eventually turn this into a full on experiment like my Sunglasses Experiment but for now I've had about six test runs this year and what I've found has actually shocked me.

First, I've got to thank the website www.golfnow.com for making golf super affordable which has made these outings possible. Anyway, I also have to go back to a chapter in my book, Finding Kansas, called "Game Theory" which I state, not in these exact words as I didn't know how to say it back then, "within rules everything is known" and what had I had feared on the golf course wasn't the fact that other people may see some rather hideous shots from me (I do have my good moments, like my hole in one) but the social aspect of golf. There are so many social rules that I didn't know or understand. The first one I learned at a young age which was, "Don't get on your knees to put the tee into the ground" (thanks, dad for that one!) and secondly, and on the same day as rule #1, "There is beginner's luck" as my first shot on a full course was when my dad we alternating shots and I chipped it in from about 20 yards. This planted the seeds that this was an easy game (HA!)

Joking aside, there are many rules like, not walking in front of a person's putt, or the proper time to talk, or the fact that I've learned that one is always supposed to say, "nice shot" if the person makes proper contact with the ball. Where the ball goes is irrelevant, as long as there is contact and it sounded awesome one is supposed to say, "nice shot." I don't understand this because one should await the end result, but when in Rome...

I've only played one round solo this year and all the others have been with others. To let you know how extreme a turn around this has been for me; I used to fear playing by myself and approaching the next tee box to see someone there because they may invite me to pair up with them. Random social encounters aren't the easiest for myself, and others on the autism spectrum (remember though, if you've met one person with autism you've met one person with autism so perhaps there are those that counter my belief on random social encounters) and I'll do anything I can to avoid them. But let's go back to "Game Theory" and look at what I stated. Within rules everything is known which means that, within the confines of a game, a game is a safer place to socialize and since golf is a game wouldn't this mean that this would a safe place? Was it that all these years the fear of others was simply because I didn't understand the rules of the game (not the rules of golf; however I have tried to read the official rules of golf and there are more rules and more things you can get a two stroke penalty for than you could possibly imagine) meaning the social side?

So far this year I have had zero issues like the three links I started with and, in fact, each time I've golfed I've eventually ended up in presentation mode explaining things about autism. For the first time in all my years golfing an odd event happened over the weekend, and one I'm actually proud of; one thing people always ask when playing with others is, "What do you do?" referring to profession and this is what gets the ball rolling about autism however, this past weekend for the first time, I returned the question! I had the exclamation mark because reciprocity is not something I do and it did take another hole before I realized I should ask it, but I did and I found out that this person was a social studies teacher and wanted all the info he could get on my thoughts of Asperger's in the classroom.

In other rounds someone always knows someone with autism, a grandson, an uncle, or closer family member that there always seems to be some common ground for a conversation to occur. But this topic aside, the realm of the game itself makes for an easier social setting. I've always known this but I don't know why I didn't realize this when it comes to golf. The thing with games is this; there's always a topic to talk about that doesn't have to be personal as there's plenty of stuff to talk about when it comes to golf such as, "Best course you've played?" "Worst course?" as golfers are more than willing to open up about such topics. The one thing I struggle with in the open world is finidng common ground, but if I'm enjoying the same game as someone else this creates common ground and sort of lowers that wall which is the name of this blog. If the wall is lowered I'll feel more comfortable and I may just open up. And the odd thing is, so often, a autism presentation will be given in the oddest of locations such as a tee box, a green, or the beach... ahem, a sand trap. I can't believe it took so long, but instead of fearing others of the golf course now I'm actually wanting that interaction. For my long time readers can you believe what you just read because I can't believe I just wrote it?

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