Our earth took its usual trip around the sun to signal another tally on the chalkboard of life. Glasses were clinked in joyful cheers, strangers kissed in a crowded bar, concerts reached their penultimate moment, and the ball ceremonially dropped in Times Square. A new year: 2020. Resolutions were set, dates were planned, and we reveled in anticipation of the successes the new year would bring. But our fairy tale changed lanes, and then it hung a sharp U-turn. Before we knew it, 2020 started careening down the highway in the wrong direction.
The omnipresent theme for this past year is not exclusively one of heartbreak, but change. Date nights turned from nights on the town to takeout on the couch. Homes became offices, classrooms, gyms, and safe havens. Live sports became re-runs. It’s hard to remember a time when our world was challenged in such a unique way. Perhaps the most troubling part was the absence of a compass to navigate our turbulent waters. But even while dark clouds moved in overhead, one light shone through and brought hope: golf.
When business attire became sweatpants and slippers, golf was there. When commerce shut its doors and fine dining closed its kitchens, golf was there. When our humanity and common bonds were questioned, golf was there. When April went by without a green jacket, when Father’s Day passed without a U.S. Open to watch with Dad, when the Claret Jug went untouched in July, golf was still there. After brief closures across the world, the gates of green flew open again and the soft-spiked masses flocked to the course in droves. We basked in the smell of fresh-cut greens, the sight of friends joining us on the first tee, the sound of a crisp wedge shot. After the hush of April, rounds of golf in the U.S. jumped by almost 15% compared to 2019.
The game we love reached people and places we never thought possible. Strangers to the game felt the first internal splendor of a well-struck iron. Others dusted off the clubs in the basement to shoulder the bag strap for the first time in years. Old became new and lost became found — and I’m not talking about your ball.
It’s a curious notion to think that a simple game can carry people through tough, depressive times. It’s as though the game saved us, supplied the kick of fresh air and endorphins we needed at just the right moment. It made a “new normal” just a little bit easier to stomach, and gave us the drive and focus we’d been longing for since the dark early days of the year.
Through the ups, downs, and doglegs: golf was always there.
As the seasons changed and we trudged through the year, golf showed up even bigger. It slipped away from the chorus and ran to the front of the stage. We saw the brute brilliance of Bryson DeChambeau outlast the field to win his major. We were introduced to Augusta National’s palette of autumn colors, and we saw Tiger cloak a new legend in his blazer. We got to see Charles Barkley hit a golf ball on national television.
We saw the past walking stride for stride with the future as Charlie hit every fairway on a different kind of Father’s Day weekend. It was weird, it was new, it was at times downright uncomfortable — but golf was always there.
Sure, as we amble off the green and look back down the fairway of 2020, it may look instead like uncut rough. But the game we love deserves our many thanks, and can help us reflect on the year with a more positive takeaway. Thank you for being a brief escape, our much-needed walk in the woods, and our shoulder to cry on. Thank you for reminding us that peace on earth is only a short wedge away.
As the days get longer and the rising sun of January shines upon us, the game gives us a lot to look forward to in 2021. Soon we will once again hear the sound of our ball in the hole without a pool noodle to catch it, the clamor of clubhouse bars full of stories from the day’s round, and the firm feel of a handshake after the final putt drops. When spring thaws out these winter months in the northern hemisphere, we’ll get back out there, joined by hundreds of thousands of new juniors and beginners who picked the game up over the last year. And this year we’ll be hopeful a different kind of golf season awaits us. A year of golf so different … it feels just like golf used to feel.
Your caddie does so much more than carry a bag — they’re more like your personal shrink for the day. To learn more about how they read minds, Connor Laubenstein went to Bandon Dunes, the Mecca of American caddying, and played with one named Squid.
The past year was anything but easy. But thank you, golf, for being there in 2020. And thanks for making 2021 look just a little bit brighter.
What was your favorite golf memory last year? Let us know how golf made 2020 a little more bearable.
Ryan is a writer currently living in Atlanta, GA by way of Augusta. His writing evokes his passion of golfing throughout the south with friends, family, and total strangers. The people who have crossed his path inspire each piece, aimed at peering into the beauty of the game and its untold tales. He prefers his coffee black, on a first tee, in the Georgia pines. It is rare to find him without his Ray-Bans and a witty quip to lighten the mood. His approach to writing, life, and the game made him a perfect match for the Lang team.