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Golf’s Strongest Year Yet

Golf’s Strongest Year Yet

Throughout the toughest time in memory, the game we love was there.

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.

Golf in 2020 looked . . . a little different. At least some putts were easier to make.

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. 

There was no British Open on Father’s Day, but golf came through with a new kind of father-son moment.

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.

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.

View Comments (6)
  • I picked up golf this summer, July to be exact, which is basically halfway through the season here in Maine. As I was unboxing my brand new clubs, a friend of mine from high school texted me out of the blue. Random, one might say. We set up a time to play and made sure from then on we would play at least once a week. I fell in love with the game. I couldn’t wait to either go after work during the week, or on a Saturday/Sunday morning. I’m trying to take in as much as I can about the game until next season comes around. It was after the season that I discovered RGC, which only added to my love of the game. I share the same goal to make the game as inclusive as possible, and to make sure all are welcome. I’ve binged almost all of Erik’s content and the RGC has helped me through some not so easy times this year. The game helps me stay connected with nature, people and friends. It’s also a time for me to recharge whenever I get to play. I made it out probably 20 times from July to October. It’s safe to say 2020 helped me find my new passion. 2020 wasn’t always easy, but finding this new passion will carry me through a lifetime.

  • The best 2020 golf memory that comes to mind is one Saturday evening, a couple friends and I are having a wine night.; quarantine friends only of course. Somewhere around 11pm, my other RGC fanatic and I make eye contact and telepathically state, “We should probably play tomorrow.” Keeping in mind everyone is at least a bottle of wine deep at this point. So he frantically looks through GolfNow’s options and the only time available was at something like 8 or 9am the next morning at a course we’ve never heard of that’s an hour away. Naturally we book it and deal with the consequences later. Augustine ends up being one of my favorite and most challenging course in the Northern Virginia area.

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