People often dog Mississippi for being a “poor” state, but everything is relative. Mississippi may have one of the lowest per capita GDPs in the nation, but the U.S. is a very rich nation.

Mississippi’s GDP is about 70% of the national average, which puts Mississippi on par with France, England, Japan, Finland and New Zealand and many other countries that are not thought of as “poor.”

And that’s just material wealth, which is not nearly as important as spiritual wealth. As Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

Mississippi is the most spiritual state in the union and one of the most spiritual places in the world. Faith runs strong here. Churches are everywhere. Faith is far more important than big houses and late model cars.

Our climate is perfect if you appreciate the change in seasons. Our average annual temperature is a perfect 68 degrees. Rainfall is abundant, giving us an unlimited supply of water. We forget how vital and scarce water is in most parts of the world.

Our land is fertile with gentle rolling hills. We have a lot of land, probably more naturally arable land per capita than any place in the world — 30 acres per household. Compare that to England, with just one acre per household.

This gives Mississippians the chance to enjoy the outdoors in a way almost unimaginable to the rest of the world. We take hunting and fishing for granted, yet it’s a huge luxury to be able to affordably enjoy these activities.

Over the last few years, with children grown, I have rekindled my love of golf. I am keenly aware of the huge luxury Mississippi golfers enjoy compared to the rest of the world.

In places like Japan, you may have to reserve a tee time a month in advance and pay $300 just to play a round of golf.

Here in Jackson, there are 15 excellent courses within 30 minutes of my house. I am a member of the Randy Watkins group of courses: Lake Caroline, Whisper Lake and Patrick Farms, all within 20 minutes of my house. Three good courses for $220 a month, including carts. I call that the best golf deal in the world.

I have plenty of friends at Jackson Country Club, Annandale, Reunion and Deerfield — all great courses, so I never run out of places to play. It’s a real blessing.

Like everything, golf has gotten “mo better faster cheaper.” Everything about course management has advanced — grass varieties, machinery, irrigation systems, club management. It’s all advanced, making golf easier and more accessible for everyone.

Lake Caroline, where I play the most, is not the premier golf course in Jackson by any means, yet its greens are soft, true and beautiful year round. As good a golf course as my game deserves. Patrick Farms has brand new greens, and it’s now very nice as well. Same with Whisper Lake.

I have made up my own sayings about golf: “It’s four hours of frustration interspersed with fleeting moments of hope and joy.” “It’s a Rubik’s cube you play with your body in a beautiful outdoor setting.” “Our lives are so easy and simple and free of stress, that in our spare time we have to offset that by playing the challenging game of golf.” (Sarcasm!)

President Woodrow Wilson is rumored to have said, “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

President Wilson was right, but golf equipment has advanced, making the game slightly less frustrating. Clubs are more forgiving. Balls go straighter and farther.

Perhaps even better, smartphones with built-in video cameras allow anyone with a tripod to analyze their swing in slow motion. Then you can get on You Tube and compare your swing to the pros.

It was quite a shock when I did this the first time. Despite playing golf a lot in my youth, I had to completely reverse my swing. I was swinging backward: inside out (over the top) instead of outside in (dropping into the slot.) I had the bad loop and had to learn the good loop. Progress was painfully slow.

Having a big backyard and lots of practice balls helped. It took two years of frustration, but I now have a technically correct golf swing and, lo and behold, I can play well enough to actually enjoy the game, which is the ultimate goal.

There is nothing quite like the moment of truth when you mount the raised tee box with everyone watching and rare back in an attempt to wallop the ball as far and as straight as possible down the fairway. There is the dread of humiliation followed, most times, by the joy of success.

There are many reasons I love golf. First of all, golf courses are green and beautiful. I truly love tennis and its aerobic benefits, but a tennis court can never compete with a golf course in beauty and fresh air.

Then there is the comradery. Golf is a very social sport with a ton of time for talking, joking and getting to know your golfing buddies. My golfing buddy list is well over 30 now, and it gives you a great additional social group.

Road trips are a huge benefit. Golf courses are great reasons to hit the road and escape for a few days. Luxury courses make great destinations.

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