What Happened to Doctors and Golf?
A common stereotype of the anesthesiologist (which both Passive Income MD and I happen to be) is that we like to end our days early to hit the golf course before the rest of the physicians finish clinic and crowd the links.
I’m being truthful when I say that I’ve never canceled a case in order to make a tee time. I did, however, make a 1 p.m. tee time on the day I took my USMLE Step 3 test as an intern, a test that was scheduled to last until 5 p.m.
I made the tee time; I’m a fast test taker. The $2,100 “8 hour” ABA Recertification exam took me an hour and 40 minutes. I’ve got better things to do than hem and haw over the answers to computerized tests.
I’m getting off-topic, but today’s Saturday Selection is rather off-topic for a personal finance site. Or is it? Golf is a great way to network. How much business takes place on a golf course? Plenty.
This post was written by Dr. Peter Kim and originally appeared at Passive Income MD.
What Happened to Doctors and Golf?
“Doctors love to golf.”
It’s a stereotype we’ve all heard. In fact, for a lot of people, it seems that doctors go through life with a stethoscope in one hand and a golf club in the other. It never seems to die.
Unfortunately, this stereotype carries a somewhat negative connotation. Golf is thought of as a wealthy person’s sport and physicians are thought to fit the demographic. It makes us seem almost elitist.
Doctors and Golf in Film and Media
Of course, it doesn’t help that time after time, this idea of doctors and golf continues to be reinforced in the media. One of the most famous of the golfing doctors is Dr. Beeper from the movie Caddyshack.
I remember Dr. Beeper for two reasons. First, for wearing one of the best golf hats of all time, and second, for uttering what is, in my opinion, one of the most memorable quotes in the movie:
“We’re about to tee off now, so call the hospital and move my appointment with Mrs. Bellows back 90 minutes… Just snake a tube down her nose and I’ll be there… in four or five hours.” – Dr. Beeper
But the media’s love affair with doctors and golf doesn’t end there. Golf Digest actually used to run a ranking of the “Top 250 Golfer Doctors in America.” In one of the most telling quotes from this list, the author stated that “when they’re not busy saving lives, doctors love to play golf.”
Do Doctors These Days Have the Time?
In reality, I find that very few physicians find the time to be able to hit the golf course these days, especially young ones.
According to the AMA, more than 50% of physicians say they work more than 50 hours a week, while 25% say they work more than 60 hours. Considering a typical round of golf takes nearly 4.5 hours (never mind the time driving to the course and back, plus the time it takes to warm up and practice), you could be looking at a six-hour time commitment just to play a single round of golf.
Unfortunately, most physicians simply cannot find that much time in their busy week. You might find some physicians at the end of their careers who are able to take a day off for golf, but not those whose careers are just beginning.
Given the demands of building and sustaining a practice, or the fact that many of us find ourselves employees of hospitals or health systems, taking an afternoon off just isn’t a realistic possibility. Waiting until the weekend is no better because we’re then forced to decide between a round of golf and precious time with family.
Why I Enjoy Golf
So the stereotype just doesn’t seem to ring true today, but could golf actually serve a purpose to us as physicians? When I was in medical school, I was under the impression that knowing how to play golf could lead to some great networking opportunities. Through golf, I thought I might even land residency spot or a job. Unfortunately, this really hasn’t been the case.
Still, I have to admit…I love playing golf. It helps that as an anesthesiologist, I work long shifts, which allows me some time during the week to play. The reason I play is simple: I honestly feel that there’s no better stress relief. Yes, there’s the occasional frustration with a bad shot, but there’s just something about being out in the open air and enjoying the company of friends for a few hours.
Unfortunately, burnout amongst physicians is a growing epidemic. Many of us deal with daily decisions that could make or break someone’s life. These things tend to accumulate. We should all find something that provides a healthy outlet for this pent-up stress and make it a priority.
My outlet just happens coincidentally to be golf… and I’m a doctor.
[PoF: Now you’ve got me wondering what happened to golf and this doctor. I grew up within walking distance of a golf course and we used our neighbor’s field as a driving range until we got big enough for our drives to reach the road… then things really got interesting!
Where I grew up, an annual pass to the course was under $100 for a kid. In my early teenage years, I would sometimes play 27 or 36 holes in a day. Or sneak out to the 10th hole (closest to our house) after dinner to get in a quick 9 as twilight set in and the course was nearly empty.
Once I started college, there wasn’t much time for golf and a dorm room doesn’t have much room for a set of golf clubs. Not that it mattered much in Minnesota, where we started school in late September in those days. In the spring, there was too much other fun stuff going on, and in the summers, I worked a lot.
I played rarely as a medical student and my interest tapered off. The last time I picked up a club was probably in a scramble tournament 7 or 8 years ago.
For me, the biggest deterrent is the time commitment. Like you say, it’s 4+ hours on the golf course. Then there’s the commute and the 19th hole.
I am about to have quite a bit more time on my hands and I’ve got kids who are old enough to learn the game. Maybe we’ll introduce them to the game with some group lessons in the relatively near future.
If they show a real interest and want to be avid golfers, perhaps I’ll join them on the links. Unlike PIMD, I don’t know that I find golf to be all that relaxing, though. Frustrating? Yes. Perplexing? Constantly. That doesn’t sound like stress relief to me, but that’s just me.]
What’s your outlet for stress? Think golf is a waste of time? Whatever the case, let me know…
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