There was a slight breeze as I walked down the ramp of the clubhouse — green fees paid, a few new tees in my pocket, and a scorecard in my hand. The red and white flag on the No. 9 green waved as if to say hello, and my eyes scanned the horizon hoping there were others taking advantage of the mild, spring morning.

As I sauntered toward the cart shed, I thought about the hundreds of times I had walked out of clubhouses during my life. I thought about golf shoes, putting greens, my favorite rain gear, and the smell of freshly mowed greens. Today, I was returning to something that had once defined me in hopes that it could find a place in my full and busy life once again.

The lock on the shed door popped open with the turn of the small key. I slid it off the metal latch and smiled to myself as I grabbed the handle. It was the kind of smile that appears when I’m not sure what lies ahead, but I’m brave enough to find out. It was the smile, I’m proud to say, that has appeared frequently over the past several months with a new job, a new focus, and new opportunities.

With a soft push, light filled the small, dark space and the top of my golf bag came into view. I hadn’t touched my clubs for years and wasn’t sure if I’d even remember how to hold onto them with the right amount of strength or confidence that once came without a second thought. Chuckling to myself, I thought about how the confidence in one’s ability to do something changes when they haven’t put what they know into practice, or when circumstances and choices haven’t allowed for that “thing” they once loved to be a part of their life. The spaces and places that had filled my days for nearly half my life were left behind years ago. Now I had found myself strapping my trusty blue bag filled with 12 of my favorite friends to the back of the golf cart, hoping they knew how excited I was to get them out of the dark and into the light.

The first tee was empty. I looked at the scorecard to check the yardage and was thankful for the long, straight hole in front of me. The tee markers pointed straight ahead, and the driver in my hand seemed to sigh with pleasure as my fingers wrapped around the grip. I pushed up on my toes, and then settled back into my heels as I took a few easy swings, feeling myself relax as the club head brushed softly across the grass in a back-and-forth motion. The fluid motion was still there, even without the practice, and as I kept my head still, staring down at the ball on the ground in front of me, I knew the few hours I had cut away for myself were going to be just what my clubs and I both needed.

An hour and a half later, the fairway of the ninth hole had three balls sitting in various places near the 150-yard marker. For as long as I could remember, my 5 iron had always been my “go-to” club at 150 yards out, and today was no different. The first shot came up just a bit short, but would lend itself to a short chip and one putt. The second shot was off the back side and seemed to be ready to go home before I was, and the third one was the best. It popped off the face of the club and soared toward the middle of the green. I watched it carefully as I held my follow through, hoping the one tee left in my pocket would have to repair the ball mark it had the potential of leaving. It was the shot that begged me to come back for more.

Nine holes might not seem like much of a challenge, and 40-plus strokes may not seem like much either, but that time on the course in the town I call home was everything I needed it to be and then some. It had been the quietest place I had been in months, maybe even years. I heard meadowlarks chirp, I watched some deer graze in the rough, and my gaze was not focused on myself, but instead on everything that was in front of me and a small, white ball. Thankfully, I hadn’t forgotten how to swing, how to keep my composure when the shot didn’t go where I wanted it to, and how to see that with a bit of practice, I can still play a decent round of golf.

If you’re like me and haven’t made time for something that brings you joy and offers a chance to be quietly present in this one life you have to live, then make a change. Step out on a limb, pick up that thing you’ve forgot you were good at, and show yourself that you don’t have to be the best at something to enjoy it to the fullest. Thank you, Echo Hills Golf Course, for giving me a place to continue to grow, a place to connect with the beauty of home, and a place where I remembered to look forward — because honestly, I believe that the best is yet to come.

———

Lindsay Murdock lives in Echo and teaches in Hermiston.

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