A picture from Augusta frames the reasons why we play this game

A picture of the 13th green at Augusta National hangs on the wall of my living room and adorns a special place in my golf dreams as well. It’s one of those holes – you know, the ones that make you wonder.

How would I play it? Would I have the guts (or foolishness) to go for it in two if I hit a big drive? And even if it played it perfectly and had a shot at par, could I putt that diabolical green?

Watching the Masters all these years does that to you.

Even though I’ve never been there, I feel as if I know every hole on the back nine the way I would if I’d played the course a hundred times. And now that the front nine also is on television, I’m getting well acquainted with Nos. 1 through 9, too.

I imagine hooking my drive on the 10th around the corner and down the hill, giving me a shot at the green.

I imagine bravely going for the green with my second shot on No. 11 … but knowing that I’d probably bail out to the right, as the pros often do.

I imagine trying to gauge what the wind will do to my tee shot over Rae’s Creek on No. 12.

I imagine all the different ways to play No. 13, trying to putt the absolutely terrifying green on No. 14 and laying up (no way I go for it) on No. 15.

I imagine hitting a soft hook right into the traditional pin placement on No. 16, on the lower left side of the green.

I imagine making a routine par on tricky No. 17, where the main challenge, the Eisenhower Tree, was lost in an ice storm five years ago.

And I imagine (or at least try to) getting my drive in play through that narrow chute on No. 18, then bludgeoning a iron up the hill and over the massive bunker in front of the green.

In other words, I imagine a lot of things that would never happen if I was lucky enough to play one of the most famous courses in the world.

Playing a great course reminds you of why it’s great. The common thread is that it just wears you down.

I have been privileged to play just about every course on the Monterey Peninsula, for example, and only once have I ever shot a round I truly was proud of on a course there – an 80 at Cypress Point after fading on the last five holes.

And yet, despite all those dreadfully bad results, I still would expect to shoot a good score every time I went back. To this day, I see great shots in my dreams as I envision playing those courses again.

I dream of handling the terrible trio at Pebble Beach – Nos. 8, 9 and 10, three brutal par-4s along the ocean. Then I really get crazy and dream of parring No. 18, something I’ve never done.

I dream of getting on a roll at Spyglass Hill even though every time I’ve played that monster, it has frazzled me to the point where I felt incapable of hitting the simplest shot.

Up the coast a bit, I dream of going back to Pasatiempo and dream of hitting straight drive after straight drive, putting myself in position to attach those lightning-fast greens. Being able to leave in the flagstick while putting would be a big advantage there, one we didn’t have before.

And then there are the courses I haven’t played. Looking down to Southern California, I dream of making a quality shot over the water on No. 18 at Torrey Pines South or finding a way to play the short par-4 10th at Riviera. And way up the coast, I dream of navigating all those crazy mounds at Bandon Dunes.

See where we’re going here? In no other sport do you ever have dreams like that. In no other sport do you think that way. In tennis, bowling, etc., you simply try for quality shot after quality shot in a venue that never changes significantly. You try to make it easy on yourself.

Not in golf. Not in our great game, where no two shots are ever alike and we actually WANT to take on extreme challenges. Maybe we’re gluttons for punishment. Maybe we just have a lot of character. Or maybe we’re just plain crazy.

So as you watch the Masters, dare to dream. Dare to think big. And then go somewhere and find one of those shots that make you dream – it could be the simplest shot at your local muni.

Do more than look at a picture. It might be like a thousand words, but getting out there and playing creates a thousand memories.

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