Golf is a four-letter word. With that stated, you can imagine my perspective of the game, which I do play enthusiastically…usually…well, sometimes. However, I started the game when my wife and I first met, in our early 50’s, thus my body doesn’t “swing” as it should…we’re talking golf here…or once might have. In addition to having started the game late in life my wife has been playing golf since her 20’s, which does nothing for my manhood when out on the course together. But it is a wonderful sport for a couple to participate in, a source of exercise in the great outdoors enjoying the beauty of manicured greens and fairways and the all to often walk in the woods in search of the elusive white orb, better known as the @&*$%#* golf ball.
It is not a game for the timid (as you must be prepared to embarrass yourself regularly in front of others when playing at my level) nor the impatient or easily confused (you cannot rush the shot….yet you have to hurry up otherwise you hold up the group behind you). It is a sport that is advertised showing peaceful, tranquil, gently rolling fairways meandering through the countryside with not a soul on them, yours to experience alone…yet it is impossible in California to get on a course without reservations, usually as part of a required foursome and most often on a course lined with homes…ripe targets (albeit unintentional) for the less experienced. There is no greater a means of deflating ones confidence on the golf course then taking a grand swing off the tee with the big-headed driver only to see your golf ball arc to the right or left and bounce loudly off of a series of roofs before disappearing into the adjacent neighborhood…which is preferable to the sound of breaking glass. I remember shortly after I met my wife, early on in our dating, inviting her on a vacation to Hawaii (rather impressive I must say). On our very first golf outing on the island, as I drove the ball of the first tee with my wife and other couple (whom I did not know) standing behind me, the ball sliced to the right and began bouncing off of the roof and walls of the adjacent rather expensive home. The first words I heard from the supportive group were, “Well, at least we didn’t hear any glass break.” What manhood???
Golf is a game that gets into your system like a drug and is next to impossible to wean yourself off of short of “cold turkey”….which translates to mean “throwing your golf clubs and bag in the lake.” Many has been the day when the round of golf has ended and I find myself walking to the car, shoulders slumped, ranting that never again will I play this foolish game. Years have been taken off my life in the short time I have been playing the game…for that matter I should be dead. But within a few days the itch is back, the thought of just adjusting this aspect of the swing, a different golf ball, better grips, different clubs…and the need must be satisfied again. Or there is the remembrance of that one good, honest, sweet shot made when the sound of the golf club hitting the ball was pure, the arc and trajectory picture perfect, the distance superb and the words of the other golfers in the group of “nice shot” lingering with you for days… such a memory will draw you back like a fly to flypaper. So often the word heard is “fore!!”
Golf is a culture unto itself with a proper dress code, special footwear wear and equipment. Shoes with spikes, conservatively patterned to go with nothing else, compliment fine slacks and shorts, shirts and blouses, sweaters and pullovers, rain gear and cold weather gear. Hats are emblazoned with club and equipment logos, walking billboards to make you feel just like the pros. To put the outfits on in front of a mirror is satisfying and rewarding, even more so when walking into the “club” or out onto the first tee. I enjoy dressing well for the game….unfortunately it has no affect on the quality of play what-so-ever. But something inside of me requires that I look my best when walking through the woods waving to my colleagues…and wife…on the fairway.
Golf and its associated equipment industry have soared in popularity the last fifteen years, roaring like a tiger, so-to-speak. Equipment and accessories by TaylorMade, Nike, Titleist, Callaway, Wilson, Cleveland, Cobra, Adams….and on and on and on…are available at every price range for every level of player. There are more golf brands and types of equipment than foods in a grocery store. Drivers, fairway woods, utility clubs, irons, wedges with loft differentials and putters are available for every golf shot and challenge imaginable. Golf balls are designed for longer flight, more control, greater spin, softer feel…but never advertised as “guaranteed to go straight.” Special fairway binoculars let you determine the exact yardage to a green from your location with laser precision so you know the perfect club for the moment…doesn’t mean the ball is going to land there, but you’ll know the exact distance of where it should have gone. Poles to retrieve golf balls from water hazards (those beautiful lakes sprinkled throughout the golf course having a magnetic force that attracts golf balls) and oversized umbrellas to keep player and equipment dry from rain are but a few of the available, and therefore necessary, items to have in your arsenal. Golf takes the guess work out of birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries and other special gift days. The simplicity of a gift card to a golf shop or sports store is almost orgasmic to a golfer as there is always something needed, something better and guaranteed to improve the game.
But the end all to knowing your place in golf is the scorecard and keeping score. Each hole is listed with it’s “par,” the number of shots it should take to complete the hole, usually ranging from three shots (a “par-3”) to five shots (a “par-5”). The majority of holes should take four shots (“par-4”). What a joke. I mean really. When the scorecard indicates it should take 72 shots to complete the 18 holes, and my score is 104 on a good day, well, you know what they can do with the scorecard. Ha! There have been many a round of golf when, at the end of the day, my colleagues are tallying up there scores…83, 88, 92, 94. My score is minus-7 (12 golf balls lost, 3 golf balls found…final score -7). After shooting 120+ enough times you start looking at more creative ways to keep score. Again, what manhood?
Without a doubt my most favorite hole on any golf course is the 19th hole….the bar…a much (desperately) needed oasis at the end of any round of golf. Chugging down that first cold beer after a less-than-relaxing outing “in the woods” takes the edge off, dulls the tension and bonds you with your fellow golfers. Soon the anxiety felt on the fairways gives way to the camaraderie of the clubhouse and all is well and somewhat forgotten. And then the thinking begins….if I just adjust this, try that, buy this. Like drugs to a junkie!
When, and if, my wife and I reach retirement we plan on playing a lot of golf, and if we do, she will certainly out live me. But amidst the challenges of the game there is a certain level of real enjoyment from experiencing time on a golf course together. To walk the course or ride the course in a golf cart is time spent doing the same thing, facing the same challenges in the fresh air and in exercise. The trick will be to accept the game and my ability or lack thereof to play the game as it is…as some things in life will never change! I have always said that when we die we will ask to have our ashes spread over our favorite golf courses. My wife’s ashes will be sprinkled down the middle of the fairways, as true as her game. My ashes will be sprinkled through the adjacent woods and occasional neighborhood, true to my game. Still, we’ll be together just as we played together.
Golf……you gotta love it.
G’Day friends, see you next Friday morning.