The course has changed

By: By Mac McPhail - Contributing columnist

It’s a funny golf story with a message. Maybe you folks who don’t golf will also enjoy it.

A young man was playing a round with an elderly golfer. The younger player was trying to impress the older gentleman, who had been quite a golfer back in his prime. And the youngster’s game was also quite impressive. The twenty-something young man was booming long drives off the tee, and was accurate around the greens. After an impressive shot, the young man would look over at the much older gentleman and grin. The old man would acknowledge the shot and would continue playing.

Later in the round, one of those long tee shots by the youngster strayed off the fairway into the rough. When they arrived to the ball, they realized that there was a problem. There was a tall tree between the golf ball and the green. The young golfer knew that there was no way he could hit the ball high enough to get it over the tree and onto the green. So he prepared to hit a shot back to the fairway and then hit to the green.

The elderly golfer saw what the young man was doing. He commented, “You know, I had that same shot out here when I was your age. I just took an eight iron and flew it over the tree and on the green.”

“Over that tree?” thought the young man. “There’s no way. That tree must be at least thirty feet tall!” But his pride was at stake, so he grabbed a club to give it a shot. He took a swing and the ball took flight toward the hole. The golf ball didn’t make it over the tree. It hit a limb near the top of the tree and fell harmlessly back near the young golfer’s feet.

The old golfer had a sly grin on his face and said, “Of course, when I was your age that tree was only about fifteen feet tall.”

The golf course had changed. The tree had grown. The same shot that had been effective years ago wouldn’t work today. I suppose that joke can be a parallel for life in general. We often try to play the same shots that we hit years ago, but the course has changed.

Some changes are gradual, like that tree growing on the golf course. But often the changes happen much quicker. There may have been a heavy rain the night before on the golf course. Your golf ball won’t go as far or roll as fast in the wet conditions. Or, they may have mowed the putting greens much shorter this week than when you played last week. You realize it when your putt goes racing by the hole.

For us, change also may be gradual, or it may be sudden. It may be the gradual effect of age or a sudden illness or accident. But for certain, there will be change. Just look around. Where are the sewing plants or tobacco markets? Today, there are solar farms. (By the way, I always thought a farm was a place that grew things you eat. I suppose calling it a farm makes all those special tax incentives and government subsidies easier to digest.)

There are three ways to handle change. People can be proactive. (They see the change coming and get ready for it.) People can be reactive. (The change takes place and they respond accordingly.) Or, people can be no active. (They do nothing and the change overtakes them.) Well, the no active group does do something. They complain.

The good thing about golf is that no matter how bad you might play today, it’s just a round of golf. There will be another day, another round. The young man in my golf joke could recover from failing to adapt to the change in the course. If not, there’s always next time. But if individuals and institutions don’t adapt to the changes they face, there may not be a next time.

A headline I read this week on the “USA Today” website reads, “More people died this year trying to take a selfie than from shark attacks.” So, be careful, you Facebook addicts. Yep, the course has changed.

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at

By Mac McPhail

Contributing columnist

Mac McPhail McPhail

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at