The Puddle Club – behind the imagination of Michael McGruther

Creative writing is one of the more mysterious (and difficult) crafts for many to learn.

The idea of sitting down, staring at a blank page and bringing it to life with words, arranged in such a way that draws the reader into an emotional journey — is incredibly daunting and the process of writing is different from person to person.

In the next few blog posts I am going to reverse engineer The Puddle Club and take you on my writer’s journey within the journey so that I can share my process with you.

In order for this to make sense you should go back to the first Puddle Club posts by clicking HERE. Once you’re caught up, come back to this page.

The premise and the real world collided in my mind when I first noticed my own reflection in a puddle and realized that PUDDLE THEORY applied to me in the writing of this book as well as being a central theme in the story.

For the longest time I would talk about my secret desire to write books instead of screenplays. I would flirt with writing a book but never truly went for it until I decided to write The Puddle Club after my walk on that damp spring morning.

It was time for me to stop talking and start doing. I needed to jump right in and follow through on a dream I’ve had for a long time. I’m experienced enough to know that process over outcome would save me from losing focus — so I began to tell my story, projected onto the hero, who is based upon my daughter in real life – the same girl I have been teaching these hard-leaned life lessons since her birth.

Jumping in…

Skyler, the book’s hero, travels through a puddle and lands somewhere in a mystical golf course.  I started to connect the plot to real life locations I knew from walking my dogs around my home course.

What you see below is the 9th hole tee box at Applecross Country Club. I liked this hole because it is a very long par 5 and really is made of “rolling hills of green” If you knew nothing about golf (like Skyler) you would not know this was a golf course if you were magically transported to this spot.


After Skyler lands in the general area of the image above – she is naturally curious about where she is. The question in her head (if I’ve done my job right so far) is the same as the question in the reader’s mind and that is the perfect moment to create more questions that need to be answered by the hero, who in turn answers the reader’s questions.

The only structure Skyler can see is a shed that sits at the top of a winding trail. In the book the shed is more rustic and has smoke coming from a chimney to signal to her that someone is there. In real life this is the grounds-keepers shed where he stores all of the golf course maintenance equipment.

Skyler starts walking to the shed. Along the way she meets Ralphie the talking golf ball. In my next post I’ll show you the exact spot where Ralphie was found.


The story behind The Puddle Club – Part 7 – Play with a Purpose!

If you’ve been reading this blog you know that The Puddle Club book is a fantasy tale about how golf and life are similar. It vividly shows young folks that the tools they first learn to use in golf are again used in life.

Golf is a game and so is life.

You cannot beat Golf and you cannot beat Life. Both require one seemingly simple gesture – you must play. There are really just two ways to play — you can Play to Get By or you can Play with a Purpose.

You know folks who Play to Get By — you can tell who they are because they never do more than is required, never face the danger of the unknown, and are always making big plans that just need more time before they’re ready to execute. They secretly enjoy being in the safe space known as the bench. Most folks postpone Playing with a Purpose because they don’t feel or believe that they are ready.

This is a lie. What they really lack is an understanding of process, it’s supreme importance at the start of any action and how to develop one of their own.


You know folks who Play with a Purpose – you can tell who they are by their willingness to jump right in and get dirty, do more than is required, and never take their eyes off the ball (goal). They don’t judge themselves for their mistakes along the way because mistakes show you where to adjust your PROCESS.

Playing with a Purpose can be boiled down to simply focusing on the process needed to move forward and constantly adjusting according to what the situation requires.

Purposeful players reap most of life’s greatest rewards as a symptom of their effort. That chance meeting that changed your life? It’s a symptom of process. That book that “found you” and contained in it just the information you needed at that moment? It’s a symptom of process.

LUCK is a symptom of process.

What kind of a player are you?

The story behind The Puddle Club – Part 6 – PERSONAL PAR

One of the big ideas we present to readers in The Puddle Club is something called “Personal Par”

Most folks understand what par means in golf — Par is the number of strokes (hits) it should take you to get your ball from the tee box into the hole.  Each tee box has a marker nearby that tells you what the par is. A par 4 means it should take 4 hits, par 3 means 3 hits, etc. Par is the same for every golfer and never changes. The only thing that is variable is the tee box itself. Most golf courses have three that are set at different distances from the hole. The par remains the same.


Personal Par is a little different. Personal Par is the number of tries it takes you to reach a goal in life. You’ve set the goal, now you must work towards that goal. Someone who reaches the goal quickly has a low personal par for that achievement. Someone who takes more time and has a longer journey has a high personal par.

A high personal par is not negative!

Instead it just means the journey may take longer and be more interesting. The real important part to remember is that the journey is what matters most, not the result. You will win some and lose some but nothing happens if you don’t get moving towards your goal.

Every human being has a fluctuating personal par that is low or high, depending on the situation, skill set and obstacles. The exciting thing is that over time you can bring your personal par down by mastering the skills needed to reach your goal.

So what are you waiting for?

Set goals and begin your journey because winning and losing are just PAR FOR THE COURSE in the game of life.

The story behind The Puddle Club – Part 5 – Game Of Life First

     Today I’m going to go over the underlying theme of The Puddle Club and briefly examine why the book is resonating so deeply with readers of all ages.


How many times have you heard the expression “life is just a game”? I’m guessing quite a few, because it’s one of the truest of truisms that everyone hears but few adhere to.

Instead, most folks adhere to Practiceopolis, which coaxes one into a perpetual training-mode for the game of life, while masquerading as the playing field itself. Practiceopolis is a defeatest state-of-mind and entire industries have been created to cater to those under it’s spell.

This is a trap. It removes the danger and dangles the life-changing journey before you like a carrot on a stick. Someday you’ll be ready…but not now, so why try?

The true game of life is played out on the wide-open fairways of possibility, the rolling hills of uncertainty, the sandy pits of doom and the seemingly dead-end of losing it all.


Sometimes losing it all is what it takes to make you see clearly again.

The fundamental key to the game of life is simply to play though every situation as the temporary challenge that it is.  Move from one hole to the next. It matters more that you dig in and play than if you win. Winning is a symptom of playing with a purpose and always giving your best effort.

Folks who are in this “fully alive” state, all know the game, their purpose, and most importantly, how to play through to the best of their own abilities. The other part of maintaining this positive state-of-mind is to always be on the lookout for your inner Gollum. The temptation to stop playing and instead protect your “precious” is ever present and removes one from the game entirely.

This theme of knowing yourself and playing through accordingly is what makes The Puddle Club the enduring book that it is becoming.


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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