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Golf Dad

What that weird golf dream you keep having might mean

October 11, 2021

Given all the golf I’ve played in my life, it’s not surprising the game shows up in my sleep from time to time. This can result in a blissful rest, like the time I dreamed about caddieing for a victorious Tiger Woods at the Masters. I never wanted to wake up from that one.

More often, however, I wind up mired in a recurring nightmare. The details change, but essentially, I’m playing golf—or, rather, trying to play golf. There’s a struggle to find a place to tee up my golf ball, and then, if I'm able to get that far, there’s something else preventing me from taking a full swing or hitting a normal shot.

Sometimes it's a wall behind me. Sometimes it’s a hedge right in front of me. Sometimes I’m in a room and my only option is aiming through a window or doorway. But every time I have this dream, I’m unable to get comfortable enough to even attempt a shot.

As I ponder my limited options, frustration and anxiety set in—especially because this doesn't seem to affect anyone else I’m playing with—until I wake up or mercifully slip into a more pleasant dream like that one involving Tiger at the Masters. Anyway, does this weird dream sound familiar? If you’re a fellow golfer, it just might. Because, turns out, it's not that weird at all.

When scrolling through Twitter recently I stumbled upon the following message from the handle Average Dad: “I constantly have dreams where I’m playing golf and I’m on a tee box but there either isn’t enough room to make a swing or I can’t get the ball teed up because of a weird surface. Golf Twitter, what does it mean?”

How about that?! I wasn’t alone! In fact, Golf Twitter confirmed I wasn’t even close to being alone. That cry for help generated more than 600 likes and nearly 300 replies—staggering amounts for a tweet from someone with around 500 followers—almost all of which confirmed this is actually a common dream among golfers. I’d say among dad golfers, but I’ve been having similar visions for decades.

So what does it mean? And why would so many golfers share such a similar dream? I decided to track down an expert, Dr. Tina Goodin, to get some answers. Although the founder of the Psychology Center of Palm Beach said that dream interpretation is a common tool of psychoanalysts, she made it clear to take any interpretation with a grain of salt—especially if it’s coming from someone with whom you don’t do regular therapy sessions.

That being said, Goodin says many psychologists believe certain symbols can mean specific things. For instance, snakes appearing in a dream usually indicates the dreamer is scared of something. And Goodin quickly identified a common element in this golf-related vision.

“A dream that has a theme of not achieving, missing the goal, falling, that is pretty thematic,” Goodin said. “It’s often when people feel pretty helpless that they can’t achieve something that they want to achieve.”

Feeling helpless on a golf course? That sure sounds familiar …

“If you look at the subject, golf, it fits naturally. Is there a game or sport out there that challenges the impossibility of success more? No, there’s nothing,” said Goodin, who comes from a golf family, but chose tennis as a hobby instead. “So it would be natural that a lot of people are going to feel the pressure of the inability to succeed at such a game because it’s extremely difficult to succeed with golf, right?”

Yes it is, Doc. Maddening at times, in fact. But us golfers still love it. And thus, Goodin says it also makes sense we’re still thinking about the game while we sleep.

“It stands to reason that anybody with the intention of doing well at their passion is going to have that counterpart to it, which is, ‘Oh, my goodness, I just can’t ever get to do it the way I really want to,’” Goodin said. “And they’ll dream about it because it’s very important to them.”

However, Goodin also explained there can be much more to a dream than just its manifest or surface meaning. It's possible golf represents something else in my life as well. But to discover the latent or hidden meaning, if there is one in my case, would require actual therapy sessions. Although I’m intrigued by the idea, I’m also pretty happy with Goodin’s interpretation. And, yes, I take solace in the fact that I’m not alone.

It's been awhile since I had this dream—perhaps because I haven't played as much golf since having a second kid—and I'd still rather not have it ever again, but it won't bother me as much next time. Hey, it could be a lot worse. I could be dreaming about snakes instead.