GAM BLOG: Springtime on the Links

By Susan Smiley

For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

For many years, Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell’s recitation of this passage from Song of Solomon heralded the start of the baseball season. The official start of the Michigan golf season is upon us as of April 1 and I wondered what sort of literary quote would best kick off the 2015 season on the links?

There are always poetic options such as this quote from Harriet Ann Jacobs:

            The beautiful spring came: and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.

It is certainly true that Michigan golfers have a bad case of cabin fever and can’t wait to get back on the golf course. While some have been able to escape to warmer parts of the country where they could continue playing golf all winter, many of us have been relegated to the indoor golf domes or putting a golf ball into a tipped-over red Solo cup on our living room carpet. Sometimes just gripping your driver on the first tee box and breathing in the damp, spring air can be invigorating. The soul of the Michigan golfer must feel revived by warmer temperatures and the promise of spring.

But this is Michigan where spring golf often means muddy or flooded fairways, random snow, and the need to wear a fleece when teeing off. Perhaps this quote from American journalist Doug Larson is more appropriate:

            Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.

Feel free to insert the word “golf” before “shoe” to really give it a Michigan golfing feel. But this is the typical Michigan golfer; excited to be playing golf even if it means soggy pant cuffs and ingesting large amounts of hot coffee during their round. This line from Mark Twain also seems to have been written specifically for Michigan’s spring golf season:

            In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.

Although truly in Michigan, this could be said at just about any point of the golf season – not just spring. There could be a sudden hailstorm. You could tee off on a sunny, hot day and find yourself running for the clubhouse mid-round because of a tornado warning or sudden thunderstorm.

For the golfer who has been visiting the golf dome on a regular basis and devouring golf-related articles all winter in effort to improve, there is this from musician Henry Rollins:

            In winter I plot and plan; in spring I move.

This is what Michigan golfers do. They prepare during the winter for the golf season. They attend golf shows, book weekend trips to golf resorts, purchase new equipment and clothing. When the weather gets warm they are ready to take action and get onto the course to try out their new swing, break in that new pair of soft-spike golf shoes and put carefully planned golf strategy into action.

Going hand-in-hand with the idea of taking action once spring arrives is the idea of hope. English philosopher Bernard Williams has this to say:

            The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.

And honestly, who is more filled with hope than the Michigan golfer come spring? Hope that the short game will be better! Hope that the new driver will land you in the middle of the fairway each and every time you tee off. Hope that you can play more golf than you did last season. Everything seems possible at the beginning of the season with so many Michigan rounds yet to be played. At this point the glass seems decidedly half full – overflowing even. You feel strong enough to tangle with the toughest golf holes; savvy enough to triumph over the fastest of greens. It is the time when you feel you can cross several items off of your golf bucket list.

No list of Michigan spring golf quotes would be complete without this nod to the beast that is the bane of many a golf course superintendent. From environmentalist Aldo Leopold we have this down-filled gem:

            One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of March thaw, is the spring.

Note to all Michigan golfers: Goose poop falls under the “loose impediment” rule in the USGA Rules & Decisions book. Thus, you may move and clean your ball without penalty should it land in some of the stuff on the green but if it lands in the “loosey goosey” substance on the fairway, you must play the ball as it lies or take a one-stroke penalty if you feel you must lift and clean your golf ball.

With so much emphasis on technology – GPS systems, software that tracks everything from putts to sand saves, video analysis of your golf swing – we sometimes forget the main reason we all started golfing: it is fun! Being outside with friends, enjoying the beauty of the golf course, playing golf and rehashing the round at the 19th hole is supposed to be fun. So perhaps it is this simple quote from comedian Robin Williams that best captures the excitement Michigan golfers feel with the arrival of spring:  

Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’