The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is when you learn something new and suddenly it appears everywhere in your life. Some folks describe this phenomenon after purchasing a car ad seeing it on the road more often than in the past. It happens with words, too, or bits of knowledge; learn a new word and it starts appearing in shows and conversation and reading, making us wonder if it’s been there all along and we’ve only now just noticed it.
I might also ascribe the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon to verbal crutches - using the words “like” or “um” or “kind of” to fill the gaps in our thinking when we speak. It’s tough to “unhear” some of those crutches once they’ve been brought to our attention, and it’s even worse when you notice it in your own speech patterns.
The word “fun” has permeated sports writing and discussion over the last handful of years. In particular NBA and golf media have beaten the word so thoroughly into the ground that it’s lost all meaning. Damian Lillard is fun to watch. The Phoenix Suns are fun to watch. Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe discuss their most “fun” NBA League Pass teams each year.
Golf has the same problem with the word fun.
That local muni? So much fun.
The semi-private joint that you paid a bit too much to play? It was only only okay, but it did have a few fun holes.
The word “fun” as an adjective is defined as “amusing, entertaining, or enjoyable.” There are certainly basketball teams, golf courses, and golf holes that can be described as “fun.”
But we can do better than leaning on the word “fun” when praising golf courses. This isn’t language snobbery (okay maybe it is a little bit…), but I believe we can all do better.
Over the course of this year, and hopefully many more, as I record my golf adventures and thoughts, I am going to do my best to avoid using the word “fun” to describe any golf courses or golf holes. Golf is a game and should be fun; it’s the purpose playing any game: fun. But the word is subjective and it seems it has replaced other words that more readily paint the picture of the golf course.
Here are some words that could replace the word fun when you’re recalling a course, a hole, or a round of golf. Add your own thoughts in the comments section to build on this glossary.
This is probably the least likely, but some people would say that easy golf is fun golf because the course offers them a chance to shoot a low round. It might also mean they can keep track of their ball and maybe even play the entire round with one ball (something I always take great pride in). Low stress (and a low score) can absolutely mean fun.
Blinds shots! Uphill shots! Downhill shots! Balls rolling after they hit the ground shots! Some people love this type of golf and simplify it all with the word fun. Golf is more entertaining when the golf skitters along the ground for a bit before coming to a stop.
It’s always nice to play courses that stand out from the crowd. Quirky courses might have asymmetric design characteristics or holes that are carved into funny spots on the property. The greens might be heavily sloped or protected in ways that we aren’t familiar with, but the experience is still amusing and enjoyable and the features don’t distract or take away from the experience. I would say that quirky golf can teeter on the “not fun” line more than any other word on this list as it can become distracting.
The woke golf crowd, of which I am a part-time member, loves to discuss shot value and if a course “asks good questions.” The fun comes in the challenge the course provides and the engagement a player feels as they walk the course and consider how to attack a hole or how a hole might be attacking them. These thought provoking courses are also the ones that people like to play over and over again because they do keep us entertained and engaged beyond the first visit.
Sometimes the fun comes from the surprises the course offers. The holes are all different and provide surprises both during the first time around the course of the hundredth time. There are people that do not like surprises, and would prefer to have everything in front of them. Playing courses that are laid out like sausages links on a plate - back and forth - becomes incredibly boring and leads to straight golf holes without any real variation or surprise.
A challenging course is different than a hard golf course. Challenging courses make you hit good shots, and still allow you to shoot a good score because they aren’t horribly penal. Just like a challenging math test, a challenging course usually makes sense. Whereas a hard test or course can make no sense at all. A hard golf course can be transformed into a challenging one if the player chooses the proper tee box to play from. Bethpage Black is a hard golf course from certain tee boxes (and no fun at all…), but it would be challenging (and a measure of fun could be had…) if it was played at a shorter length. People also understand that when they sign up to play Bethpage Black they’re playing the Mike Tyson of courses. Bethpage is going to punch you in the face all day and most of us are not Buster Douglas in this analogy (We’re more like these ten guys…).
I PLAYED WELL!
This might be the worst use of fun. It can be used to describe a shot, hole, or entire course and it’s completely based on a player’s success. This is different than a shot, hole, or course being easy. If the fates aligned and a player shoots a good score, that doesn’t mean the course is fun; it just means a person played well.
On the flip side, this mentality can also ruin a person’s perspective on a golf course if they play poorly. I think it’s important that our score doesn’t directly correlate to our review or thoughts on a course. It’s difficult to separate our experience from our score as golfers.
Every round of golf should have elements of fun, amusement, and entertainment. It’s why we show up to the first tee!