After I uncovered the secret to accessing local private clubs in a legal manner, I noticed a curious reaction by my fellow public-access mates. To a man (or bro), they harmonized lines like “dude has it all” and “what I wouldn’t give to have what he has.”

I read a bit this morning by LZ Granderson (one of my weekly reps) on the disparity between perception of having it all and reality of not having it all. The water mill of association turned its stone and a faint trace of this column came into clarity. There are many aspects of golfing life that the aware envy of others, and there are other aspects that the unaware don’t even know exist, don’t even know that they are missing.

I’ll begin at the end. Think of the last time you sat down at or stood up to the 19th hole, with your partners. You shot the breeze, reviewed the round and investigated the possibilities. Chances are, you temporarily or permanently encouraged others within earshot to join in the convo. It’s public golf and you want everyone to know, everyone to contribute. Why is that? Because there’s nothing at stake. Yet, perhaps you looked around at the trappings of your local course and wondered (or remembered) how the quote-unquote other half (more like other-twentieth) golfs.

Transpose yourself to one of the more elite private clubs in the area. They might, in Ron-Burgundyesque fashion, be surrounded and comforted by leather and rich mahogany, but they might also be imprisoned by it. To gain access to these dens of privacy, these financially-successful women and men gave away the open exuberance that you and your pals share with any Harry, Dick or Tom that shuffles off the 18th green. The membership is typically cordial with each other, yet they have their inner circles, their confidants, with whom they typically interact. I could go on, but suffice it to say that the grill room is not as boisterous, even if the golf course is to die for.

I returned recently from a trek to the sandhills of North Carolina, where I had the immense fortune to play some of the region’s finest courses. I won’t drop names, for you’ll lose all respect for me. Within a few weeks, a family vacay will take me to Myrtle Beach for a week, where I’ll once again have an opportunity to play a handful of outstanding tracks. Without doubt, I’ll react to MB the same way I did to NC: I would LOVE TO DO THIS all the time. Why don’t I move down here? Why don’t I quit teaching and get a job in the golf industry? There’s the nut: get a job. Once golf becomes your job, it’s no longer an unopened gift each time you show up at the course or practice range. All the annoying nuances, the frustrating foibles drive you farther away from loving the game. Ask a tour pro what she or he does during down time; it’s probably not play golf with friends. Some do, but most don’t. Same goes for club pros, club managers, driving range owners, et al.

My cousin won the inaugural Erie County Amateur last summer. He beat the area’s top player in a playoff after the aforementioned top player stormed back with birdies on the last three holes to tie the lead. Said top player was on the golf team that I coach at school. Again, not dropping names, simply making you (my respected reader) aware that I know these players and how they play golf. Go through the last week of July 2012 in your mind:

~How much time did you practice the short game?
~How many rounds did you play?
~How many rounds involved practicing shots that you knew you’d face, that you knew were weak points of your game?
~How many hours did you work out in the gym, targeting golf fitness, golf flexibility?
~How many mental exercises did you undertake, to focus on concentration?
~Have you ever thought about how you breathe on the golf course?

For every elite area amateur that’s just like you and me, that answers “no” and “none” and “never” to these questions, there are five or ten or twenty (I don’t have figures, just suspicion) that work diligently at these tasks. They shun the distractions that some might call opportunities, of life. They truncate their routines to exclude dalliances with extra-golf activities. In other words, they sacrifice movie or trail or museum or park or orchard or mall time, for golf time.

I’m 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a medium frame. Part of me wants to weight 160 again, like I did freshman year in college. Part of me wants to be a muscular 180, like a safety in the NFL. All of me knows that 160 gives up things that 180 has and vice-versa. What do I need to give up this year, to get what I want this year? Will it be the same on March 17th, 2014?