Golf as Mental Therapy By Peter Hellman
Please don't think I am asking for pity, but damn it, I have been feeling sorry for myself. In the early part of the summer of 2014, I tore my Achilles tendon. It was the right one (not the "correct" one, as there is no such thing) but the one on my right leg. Add that to a broken left elbow of a few years ago and I am wondering "is golf over for me?" If not over, will my drives be shorter and my handicap higher?
If you must know, neither injury occurred playing golf. The elbow was result of a fall ice skating. I know, the sport is for kids and ice is hard and I should know better. The Achilles tear - well that occurred playing tennis. TENNIS, you say. Why would a golfer play tennis? It's a violent sport. Unlike golf, tennis players wallop the ball at or near their opponents while in golf one tries hard to avoid them. Tennis players run with quick, jerky movements, which are hard on old muscle and tendons. Golf is more civilized, cerebral, courteous, slower paced, and rhythmic and you don't sweat as much. And, if you aren't winning with the fineness of your game, you can try to gain advantage by suggesting another beer.
With physical therapy for my Achilles, a kick in the butt from my wife and an idea that maybe a little mental therapy was in order, I decide to write about a few of the international golf trips I have taken. As you may have gathered by reading my articles over the years, I am a proponent of taking ones golf game to other countries. To my mind, exploring other cultures, food, history and people add to a golf experience and make that experience more fulfilling and memorable.
Being in the business of organizing golf tours, I have been fortunate to play on virtually every continent (I skipped Antarctica because I couldn't get a tee time). Here are four trips I am particularly fond of. Take Portugal, for example. I visited the area just west of Lisbon called Sintra. Not as popular for golf as the Algarve, Sintra has the benefit of being close to Lisbon and its many treasures. The courses were superb with a nice mix of traditional and modern resorts courses. The choices and quality of the accommodations were also tops. And, the food and wine? Facing the Atlantic, Portugal benefits from abundant, fresh and varied seafood and of course cod. Where else can you have cod for breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared in a different way every time it's served? Portugal is beautiful in its varied landscape and rich history and its remnants as evidenced by many castles, museums and artifacts. Finally, did I mention that Portugal is also a great value?
New Zealand was another country at the top of my "must visit" list. I finally went a couple of years ago and did an extensive trip to both the North and South Islands. Historically and geographically, New Zealand is an interesting place. Besides being the last large land mass inhabited by humans, its relative isolation has protected its unique vegetation and animals. Geographically, the country is blessed with rolling productive farm and grazing land, tall snow capturing mountains and coastlines fjords that match Norway for beauty and remoteness. The country is also blessed by having several of the world's best golf courses, dramatic yet comfortable accommodations, great food and wine, welcoming English speaking people and many things other than golf to enjoy. It is true that New Zealand is further from home and compared to Portugal more expensive, but if it is truly worth a visit.
Closer to home is another favorite - Canada. I have visited both coasts of the country - Prince Edward Island (PEI) on the east coast and Whistler on the west. As part of the maritime area of Canada, PEI has the quaintness of rural New England, the simple charm of "Anne of Green Gables" and the tradition of the sea, which provides my favorites - lobsters, oysters and clams. There is plenty of fine golf as well and the accommodations range from traditional small hotels and guest houses to modern albeit small resorts.
Whistler, on the other hand, is in Canada's ski country, but unlike Colorado lower in altitude. With four choice golf courses, a range of accommodations from the deluxe Chateau Whistler, to small hotels and condominiums, a walkable and lively village with interesting bars and many restaurants, Whistler is a wonderful summer/fall mountain golf getaway.
Okay. You guessed it. The act of writing this article has been therapeutic for me. The mental therapy worked. I am now determined to crank up my physical therapy and start planning my next adventure. Memories of the countries I have visited, the courses I have played, and want to play again, have convinced me my golf life is not over. I am no longer feeling sorry for myself. I will play again, I will do it to the best of my ability and I won't rely on beer to be competitive. Maybe I'll drop hockey and tennis too.