The story behind The Puddle Club – part 4 – PRACTICEOPOLIS

With Skyler (our Hero) and her sidekick Ralphie (the talking golf ball) clearly established, they both begin the journey through the mystical golf course known only as The Puddle Club.  This journey will eventually lead them both back home but there is no guarantee they will ever make it.

This is the risk of taking the first step.

The uncertainty sets up Skyler to fall under the spell of an alluring place called Practiceopolis. She decides to go inside Practiceopolis instead of going to the first tee to begin her journey.

What is Practiceopolis?

Practiceopolis is a giant indoor golf park that is housed inside a crystal golf ball set in the middle of the woods. It is located right before the first hole as a sort of trap that golfers can get drawn into with the hopes of winning prizes and accolades from all the robot coaches that populate this “indoor paradise golf theme park”

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In real life, Practiceopolis is a state of mind. It’s the place, both real and unreal, where you go to get ready for some difficult journey but you never truly take the first step in that journey.  Practiceopolis is the parking lot of broken dreams, failed confidence and a fear of learning your own limitations — your own “Personal Par”

This does not mean that practice is bad. Just the opposite. Practice is good if you make it purposeful and pointing you towards the journey instead of becoming an excuse to avoid taking that terrifying first step.

It’s well known that a round of golf reveals who you are pretty quickly. Don’t postpone the wonderful gift of learning yourself and therefore earning yourself.

Jump right in and play.  You can practice another day.



The story behind The Puddle Club – Part 3

Once I knew that the best way to achieve the goal of writing an educational and inspiring book about golf – particularly junior golf – was through fantasy and magical-realism, is when the book really began to take on a life of it’s own.

The structure became apparent rather quickly. Junior golfers typically play nine holes of golf. This meant that our hero would naturally take a journey through the course and each hole would present a new challenge. It was an obvious choice to make “getting back home” the prize at the end of the round.

We would meet at my home for a couple of hours every Monday morning to brainstorm. Gregg would come tell stories about his experiences teaching, then I would use those anecdotes and set them against the backdrop of our hero’s journey. The only thing missing was a real underlying purpose. Something meaningful to give the story some verve.

That’s when Gregg shared a story about how he once observed a junior golfer at the driving range. The boy had a bucket overflowing with golf balls and was hitting them one after the other, no emotion, no passion — just ball, set, whack.  Gregg walked over to the boy and asked him if he knew that he was making the golf ball very sad. Greg said the ball, which he jokingly called Ralphie, had a life of it’s own and waited a long time to be brought out and hit. And after being hit, Ralphie will be laying out on the range waiting in the rain and sun, until the ball collecting tractor comes to scoop him up.  So make it count, for Ralphie.

The boy never hit the ball the same after that. And Ralphie, our hero’s charming companion, was born.

Now Skyler (the hero) would be tasked with not just getting herself home, but also saving poor lost Ralphie.

And anyone who has ever played a round knows — there are plenty of lost Ralphie’s out there waiting to be found and in return they will give you a purpose.

The story behind The Puddle Club – Part 2

      Anytime I was at the clubhouse with my daughter, Gregg Russell and I began to talk about his dream of getting a helpful book for junior golfer’s into the world. He and his wife have run many of the US Kids Golf tournaments in the Philadelphia PGA section, and have years of experience working with youth development.  Gregg had seen so many kids have their journey into the game ruined by overzealous parents who think their child is the next Tiger Woods.  This invisible pressure then strangled all of the fun in pursuit of an elusive goal which is meaningless to the young player.


 I saw this first hand too. I caddy for my daughter in her summer travel league.  The joy of playing seems lost to so many adults, who then impose their non-fun on their children and then joylessness prevails.

So I started to break down the book “I’m Only 8” which was going to be essays and reflections on junior golf. It was called “I’m Only 8” because an 8-year-old junior golfer can navigate a golf course like a mature adult  — but on the car ride home is likely to return to fascination with boogers and fart sounds. A book needed to be written to help parents understand this dynamic and not expect their little future pro to always be “on”.

But every single time I would talk to Gregg about “I’m Only 8”, digging for bits to write about, chapters, etc., he would always talk about the puddle metaphor that communicated what he was truly hoping to get across.

The metaphor is this: when you were young and found a puddle you would jump right in because puddles are fun. When you grew up, you no longer jumped right in. Why? The puddle never changed – you did.

I now call this “Puddle Theory” and the idea stuck in my brain like a hot poker for weeks. I didn’t know where it fit or how to incorporate it until one day I had a eureka moment that meant the death of “I’m Only 8”.


I walk my dogs through the woodland trails that encircle our country club on a regular basis. One morning after a night of rain I decided to head out. When I approached an area where the trail was flooded and I could see my own reflection — it hit me like a ton of bricks — this book would not be essays and musings on junior golf but instead a fantasy story about a mystical golf club you can only enter through a puddle! I decided right then and there to pursue this idea.

And that is how The Puddle Club was born.

(In my next post I will tell you about how Ralphie the golf ball came to be a major character in the book.)



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