Golf is a uniquely alluring sport without a rival as far as I’m concerned. It’s much more than a game. Golf is a character tester and it can be a character builder. A golf course is a place to conduct business, have a date, get exercise, spend money, enjoy nature, unwind and make new friends. A golf course is where memories are made.
Golf is primarily an individual sport. Golfers sometimes lose sight of this amidst all of the two-man best ball and Texas scramble events. Even though I like team events, I play golf primarily because it’s a one-on-one game. In fact, it’s really several one-on-one games rolled into one. It’s me today against me yesterday. It’s me against my best ever. It’s me against the course and the forces of nature. It’s me against my own mind. And of course, me against each of my rivals. The challenge is to win one or more of these battles. I don’t have to win them all to have a good day.
“There’s something intrinsically therapeutic about choosing to spend your time in a wide, open park-like setting that non-golfers can never truly understand.” — Charles Rosin, Northern Exposure, Aurora Borealis, 1990
While total score is the competition benchmark I value most, there are actually 18 competitions — 18 opportunities for victory and a story in the clubhouse. Come to think of it, each shot affords such an opportunity. It only takes one special shot to earn bragging rights and bring a golfer back again.
Golf has a strange tradition where a player scoring an ace buys a round of drinks for his/her playing companions (in some places for the entire clubhouse). In spite of this hit on the wallet, a golfer rejoices when he/she gets the opportunity to lift the ball out of the cup and scratch a “1” on the scorecard. Such a “stroke of luck” (pun intended) gives a golfer the right to describe how he carefully lined up the shot, accounted for the wind and struck the ball with great precision. Somehow, the double skip off the lake and friendly kick off the tree never make it into the clubhouse version.
“Man blames fate for other accidents but feels personally responsible for a hole in one.” — Martha Beckman
Like a theatrical production, a round of golf can be a comedy or a tragedy. When my opponent hits his ball out of bounds it’s his tragedy that often results in some spicy golf language and possibly a physical act more appropriate for a track and field meet. I can’t help but see this same scene as a comedy. In my younger days, I put on some great theater for my playing companions, like the time I unofficially broke the world javelin record with my pitching wedge.
“They throw their clubs backwards, and that’s wrong. You should always throw a club ahead of you so that you don’t have to walk any extra distance to get it.” — Tommy Bolt, about the tempers of modern players
There is an immediate bond between golfers. So the question, “Do you play golf?” is a great icebreaker at parties and business functions. A particular line that makes me laugh inside everytime I hear it comes from non-golfers. When asked if they play the game, some will say, “Just miniature golf.” This is like Chuck Yeager asking someone, “Are you a pilot, too?” followed by the response, “No, but I make great paper airplanes.”
The game never gets boring because there are so many ways to play it and so many different tracks to play. I’ve played night golf, one-handed golf, golf with only two clubs, and golf in the rain. I’ve played golf when it was 10 degrees as well as barefoot golf (not on the same day.) Some claim to have played naked golf. (I cannot.) I’ve played 150 or more different courses, including some nice private clubs like Muirfield Village near Columbus and Country Club of the North near Dayton. I’ve been thrown off two golf courses (not these.) — stories I’ll save for another day.
“Golf is a game in which you claim the privileges of age, and retain the playthings of childhood.” — Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)
“The reason the pro tells you to keep your head down is so you can’t see him laughing.” — Phyllis Diller
“If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt.” — Dean Martin
What is the most alluring part of the game? Why, the memories, of course!
© Copyright July 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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