Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

You Need A Hobby

Some time ago, I had occasion to consider that my life was awfully full of music. Not that this is a bad thing … I certainly don’t think so! … but this music teacher paused to try to list his “outside activities”, and came up with: [1] I took up the bass guitar a couple of years ago…? Um … musical.  Related to my professional life. Try again. [2] Writing arrangements for friends’ bands and such. Um … well, I rarely write an arrangement of something purely for the heck of it, just to see if I can, or for an ensemble that only exists in my head (and there are people who, upon reading that, will comment acerbically; you know who you are!). And that still counts as music. Try again.

Well, all right … [3] Reading. The dictionary definition of “hobby” is “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.” If anything, I read myself to sleep, but I don’t know that this can be considered leisure time. And certainly, with gas prices the way they are and will likely continue to be, recreational driving is out. My car doesn’t have a top to put down anyhow.

A few years ago, upon arriving at the top of the stairs in my house and having to pause briefly to collect myself, I had one of those revelatory moments that is rather hard to miss. It culminated in the purchase of a bike, so as to force myself to get some gol-durn exercise. “Some people’s mid-life crisis is a red sports car,” I thought, “…mine is a green bicycle.” And beyond the exercise element, I have gotten to enjoy researching bike trails made out of former railroad routes (the Cape Cod Rail Trail is 22 miles worth of exercise masquerading as terrific sightseeing).

So, my list of hobbies had exactly one thing on it that didn’t involve music.

Okay … establish a blog, said the little voice in the back of the mind. Get writing. You used to think that creative writing was the best activity in your school day; let’s see if the skills have atrophied any. So okay: here’s proof that I will occasionally listen to that voice. It’s a blog. An awful lot of which is about … music.

(Hey, guy, were you listening when we read the rules to you? A hobby outside your set of professional activities. And you cuss out your students for not listening to the whole instruction…)

I flirted briefly with photography. That is to say, I did quite a bit of research on digital cameras that were slightly more sophisticated (and took clearer pictures) than my ancient cellphone. In the past couple of years, I’ve observed the fine work of a few of my friends (and Facebook Friends) and have been inspired to see if I could create a few “nature appreciation moment” photos of my own. I always did regret not being more of a camera hound (i.e. I wasn’t at all, sadly) in college. So I almost bought one of those cool cameras … and I suspect that this quest is not a dead-end street.  (Although my good friend at the camera shop probably thinks that visit to his place of business was just a lark. No, I swear. Not merely!!)

But then came last August.

I was a volunteer at a charity golf tournament. I did so because I wanted to be involved, but frankly didn’t feel like I had a golf game that ought to be seen outside my own imagination, or in fact any game at all. By the end of the day, a number of my learned colleagues were insisting that, rather than manning a golf cart, “next year you’re playing on our team.”

Confession: I do occasionally sit and watch an hour or so of this or that pro golf tournament on the Golf Channel. Really. And I admire certain things that I see on the TV, like the ability to swing ferociously and actually make contact with a golf ball. However, if one were to make a serious and sober assessment of my current golf game, it would probably read: “Subject’s putting form is Adequate; he spent his childhood playing miniature golf. Subject’s short game is about 40 percent of the way to Decent, provided he makes contact with the ball on follow-through. Subject’s long game is Unknown. No dossier available.”

Can I help it if my first and only time teeing off was, errr, underwhelming? … My father and I went golfing once on Cape Cod. I stepped up to the tee, placed the ball, grasped the driver firmly, and took a mighty hack. The head of the club (the club itself being a bit too large for me) hit the ground about 18 inches ahead of the ball, hit the ball weakly and sent it screaming onto the fairway. All of about 20 yards.

I mean, look, I was nine years old.

Never really got over that, though.

So a local cut-rate merchandiser held a golf equipment sale last weekend, and I decided I’d go and see if I could supplement my set of golf clubs, which at that point included a seven-iron and three golf balls. Seemed like just the event to jump-start this new phase of my life, that of “supremely amateur duffer.”

I underestimated how popular this event was: at a quarter till 8 on a Saturday morning, I stood in line behind 360 other people who got there before me. I’d driven too far to wuss out on my own idea, so I hung in there. An hour later, I got into the actual sales area. “Well, at least I’ll see if they have a decent golf bag; maybe I can get out of here with one of those, and take the rest of the spring to slowly populate it with clubs.”

About fifteen minutes later, I had filled the thing with a hybrid driver, a sand wedge, a fairly high-tech-looking putter, and a bag of tees. And I sheepishly returned three other clubs to their display racks, thinking perhaps I was about to go a bit overboard in the other direction.

When one spends the kind of money, even super-discount money, that I did, in the short amount of time I did … one is perhaps even more inspired to follow through (golf joke) on one’s previously slightly-tongue-in-cheek promise to one’s self. Okay, guy: you wanted a hobby? You got a hobby.

Now to find a driving range far enough away from civilization to allow me to begin this odyssey without having to apologize to anyone for what it’ll look like. (“Strike one!!” Oh shut up.) It’s been a long time since I learned an activity from the absolute beginning …


April 4, 2012 - Posted by | sports | ,


  1. Rob,

    As a duffer myself, I have two recommendations for you. First, take lessons. If you are serious about doing this, it’s the only way to go. You learn the foundational stuff, the basics (grip, posture, ball position, alignment, etc.). Without them, all else is futile. Plus, the golf swing has so many little pieces and parts that only an instructor can identify areas to focus on (the takeaway, the top, the all important downswing, the swing plane, the finish, etc.).

    And they need to be regular lessons, e.g., once a week for several weeks or every other week at the very least. I started taking regular lessons (about six a year) about four years ago They turned me into a total hack that made your 9-year-old 20 yard drive look huge into a 17-handicap (not great but somewhat respectable for a weekend duffer).

    My second suggestion – especially if time and cost are concerns (and they are legitimate ones) – is to find some good instructional videos on YouTube. For example, my golf instructor has some videos up there that I found to be useful. His name is Dennis Sales (you can also friend or like “Dennis Sales Golf” on FB; he posts short articles and new videos pretty frequently). Look him up. But I’m sure there are some good foundational or basic videos as well (plus some good books on the basics).

    Finally, don’t forget to watch or DVR the final round of the Masters this Sunday. It’s by far the best and most dramatic golf tournament (and golf course) of the year.

    Anyway, golf is an often frustrating but sometimes thrilling hobby but like anything, if you stick with it and do it right (i.e., get the lessons!), you’ll get a lot of joy out of it.

    Be well, my friend!

    Mike Jolin

    Comment by Michael Jolin | April 5, 2012 | Reply

  2. […] lesson, though, was all about golf. My golf experiences number three: the Great Cape Cod Tee-Off Disaster of (Probably) 1974 … all my birthday-party trips to the local miniature golf course (so my […]

    Pingback by The Tables Have Turned, Mr. Bond « Editorial License | June 27, 2012 | Reply

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