Golfers of Every Age Able to Process Better with Golf Course Therapy
I chanced upon an item this morning concerning Greg Norman and a special man he met named Steve Milnikoff. The meeting was profound enough that Mr. Milnikoff got a golf lesson and some good light-hearted conversation out of the Australian star. It seems that Mr. Milnikoff was a veteran of the Second World War, and vividly remembers hitting the French coast on D-Day. Although he didn’t recall being overly psyched out by the event at the time, being confident in his training, it is still difficult to know what we sublimate from traumatic experiences of any variety. Milnikoff is now the youngest 99-year old one would ever want to meet. If I ever intended to be that young, the ship sailed fifteen years ago. In retrospect, Milnikoff feels that it’s time to have that conversation about the war, with other people, and with himself. Given the availability of a church or probing therapy on the psychiatrist’s couch, he has instead chosen the golf course, where he can most easily process the experiences of his youth.
My father was a similar case. Also present at the Normandy landing, his sensitive nature was beyond offended, but he did his thing and made it home in one piece. He never spoke of his experiences, except on the golf course, where he spent an inordinate amount of time for one who played the game so poorly. Regarding the war that took place just a few years before my birth, speaking of it brought an icy silence in the house. Spoofs such as Hogan’s Heroes were not to be watched. I understood. I’m sure that dad never found much about the war that was funny. However, on the golf course, things thawed out a bit. He wasn’t all that informative, but at least more tranquil.
No one escapes some sort of trauma in a lifetime, or just plain occasional stress that comes with life changes. I couldn’t tell my parents I was getting married, so I had to lure them to the golf course, where it all came out just fine. People find refuge from physical, emotion, and spiritual abuse on the fairways and rough in their favorite landscapes. The course is even good therapy for imagined trauma, which is not uncommon, and just as real. As I thought of it, so many trips to the golf course were attached to major decisions and life-altering events, and I’m not alone. Friends and siblings have partaken of nature therapy on the day of their weddings, and the births of their children. They were so addled that in several cases, it was the only occasion on which I could beat them.
Nature is so much more welcoming than an office. We can breathe there in a way we can’t in dim inside light on antiseptic walls. We can walk, see the natural beauty of the world that makes other considerations seem much less dire. Playing the game may be competitive with one’s self or playing partners, but all the goals of the game have peaceful, liberating ends for those occasions in which football or boxing just won’t do. For some, the golf course serves as one of the only places where conversations among family have a certain permission to occur. Chatting is natural to the landscape, and the atmosphere is almost always quiet. When it isn’t, the sounds of the course are usually soothing, and not created by all the things humans love to argue over. Whether on the beach, forest, or desert course, a certain air of forgiveness reigns, a more family-friendly version of “what happens on the course stays on the course – unless you sink a three-wood for an eagle. Then, I’m telling everybody.” As therapy goes, golf is a fairly tender approach, and thinking of Steve Milnikoff, I’ve got to think that the game played a big part in bringing him to such a spry and ‘with it’ 99 years of age. Even if a round of 18 can get pricey in some places, it’s usually no more than half of a therapist’s hourly rate. Besides, on the course, you get one or two hours more for your money. Besides, it’s good for us to get off the couch, not pay $100 per hour to lounge on it.