When Monet approached his canvas, he began with two colors: blue and green. The same colors that paint our fairways and our skies when we approach the first tee. Sure, there was some variation here and there on Monet’s palette. Maybe some white. Maybe some brown. But his famous lily pads, delicately draped on the water’s surface, demanded nature’s tried-and-true recipe: a blue background and green on top. Monet’s strokes were small. And thin. Yet each stroke was deliberate—a tiny microcosm of the big picture. Instead of straight lines and tidy corners, we get something organic. Much of his art is intentionally ambiguous, yet not so ambiguous that we fail to recognize what we’re looking at. How could something so static be so dynamic? Swipe. Dot. Swoosh. Swipe. Dot. Swoosh. Swipe. Dot. Swoosh.
How could art so simple reflect nature’s beauty in all its complexity?
And when we approach our golf ball, we are also surrounded by two colors: blue and green. Sure, some variation here and there. Maybe some white, when your ball finds a bunker. Maybe some brown, when you can’t find your ball at all. But as we traverse whatever terrain our ball has taken us to, we are likely in the midst of deep blues and shades of green. Surrounded by nature in all of Earth’s beauty.
Some of our strokes are big, and some are small. Yet they all count the same. We don’t all draw or fade the same lines, but each individual stroke demands Intention. Purpose. We must keep in mind how they contribute to the big picture. Swoosh, click, thud. Swoosh, click, thud. Swoosh, click, thud.
When Monet peering over his canvas, he could manipulate its surface in any way he desired. And if his strokes were unruly? He could start fresh. And golf, too, can be like Monet’s art. But unlike Monet, we live within the art, and we are influenced by its will. With our strokes we try to create something beautiful on this planetary canvas of green and blue. And as we plod our way around, it also shapes and molds us. If we take a look around this Earth Day, we can appreciate how much the art moves us.
It was Monet’s job to turn something static into something dynamic and alive. As golfers, we try our very best Ito turn something dynamic into something static. To turn some athletic pirouettes into a number on a scorecard — into something lasting.
And, sure, there are days we domesticate this game. On our best days, there are a few holes where we shape and mold the ball through the contours of the course and into each hole, just as we envisioned.
But most days we are domesticated by it. Domesticated by the game, but more-so tamed by the world in which we play it. When you tee it up, we just never know how your canvas is going to leave its mark on you. This game we love is adventurous. It’s thrilling. It’s addictive. And sure: often we wish our golf games were a little more like Monet painting: fluid and straightforward but still beautiful.
They say, “art imitates life.” Does golf imitate art?
If we’re honest — golf imitates life. We aren’t as in control as we think we are. We must learn contentment, agility, flexibility, adaptation. We make our impression on the turf and it, in turn, makes its impression on us. And when we step back, we might not have a masterpiece. But like all art: it just depends on the way you look at it.
Erik is a writer and teacher from Fort Lauderdale, FL. When he's not trying to figure out ways to golf for free, he's usually hanging out with his wife and Rhodesian Ridgeback, Koa. You can find more of his work at punchbowlgolf.co