Friday, October 21, 2011

It's Complicated

I love golf.

I hate golf.

I want to play golf the rest of my life and dream of having more time (and money) to play as I get older.

I want to give up golf and never pick up a club again.

Confused by these contradictions? It gets better. I can feel all that on the same round, the same hole, heck, I can feel all that on the same swing.

Golf is a gentlemen’s game. It’s a game full of etiquette and ethics.

Golf is a game for losers and masochists. It’s a game full of pain and discouragement.

At its best golf teaches lessons that extend far beyond the course and gives clarity to life.

At its worst golf makes you want to give up and forces contemplation of the trivial nature of life.

An illustration

You start your day on the links. The sun has just crept over the horizon and a gentle breeze blows through the mature lush trees that surround the fairway while the birds are singing to you. You start your day off with a par followed by going birdie, birdie on the next two holes. ‘I love birds’ you think to yourself, ‘and eagles’. The sky is a brilliant blue with cheery fluffy white clouds, providing the perfect mix of sun and shade. What a beautiful day.

You approach the fourth hole with a smile on your face wondering how one applies for a PGA tour card. You can’t think of any possible way this day could get any better and there’s nowhere else you’d rather be. After a booming drive on the last hole you step up to tee off with anticipation of the greatness that is about to ensue.

Tempo you tell yourself as you start into your backswing. The club comes through the ball and from the sound you know you didn’t strike it well. You look up to see the ball soaring to your right which wouldn’t be so bad if the course didn’t dogleg left. Still it’s a par 5 and you can recover.

After a bit of searching you find your ball a couple hundred yards up just off the fairway in the tall stuff. Where’s that cool breeze? Without much thought other than distance you pull out your 4-iron and line up your shot. You let back and swing topping the ball and sending it bouncing just ten or twelve feet ahead of you. Cuss.

Well at least it’s on the fairway now. That’s just two shots. You can still save par. You get out your 5-iron because you remember you’ve never been able to hit your 4-iron and don’t know why you tried to hit it then. You double check your grip turning the club ever so slightly in to avoid going right again.

Good news, you avoid going right. Bad news, you go way left. CUSS. You are now in range of the green though and with a good putt you can save par. Why is it so blazing hot all of a sudden?

Sitting at about 150 yards now, even in the tall stuff your 8-iron should do and your 8-iron never fails you. A large tree stands about twenty feet to your left but that doesn’t matter because the green lies dead ahead. Your backswing and follow through feel perfect, you get that beautiful ping sound you were looking for and know that ball is headed for the pin. Thwack!

Although the canopy of a tree is 80% air your ball manages to find a small part of the 20% which sends it flying over the fairway into the rough; back on the right side. CUSS! Where did those blasted clouds go?!

Okay, your laying four now but even with a bogey you’re still -1 on the day. This heat is relentless.

Your next shot lands on the green and promptly rolls off the back. Why have you forsaken me God? You get out your lob wedge and take a halfhearted swipe at the small white sphere that torments you. The ball trickles up about six feet from the hole. A good approach by almost any measure, but you fail to enjoy it because there goes par.

Taking extra care on lining up your putt you decide it breaks slightly to the right and set up just to the left of the cup. Be the ball, be the ball. You strike the ball and watch it roll. To your bewilderment it doesn’t break at all and rolls to a stop dead even with the cup only to the left. CUUUUUUSSSSS!!!!!

The usually delightful sound the ball makes when it drops in the hole fills your soul with disgust as you tap the ball in thinking of all the things you’d rather be doing right now. You’re wasting a perfectly good Saturday morning out in the blistering heat surrounded by annoying chirpy little birds and lugging around these deficient heavy iron clubs. You could be mowing your lawn for heaven sake. This is a game for fools and clearly designed by the devil himself.

You step up to the next tee just wanting to pack it in. And I don’t mean just golf but life itself. Thank goodness it’s a par 3 so the agony will be over all the sooner. You snatch your stupid 6-iron from your bag with little hope for the future (again and not just in terms of golf). You strike the ball well and when you look up its sailing straight for the flag. With two soft bounces it comes to rest less than ten feet from the hole.

Ceremoniously you place your beloved 6-iron gently back in your bag, throw your clubs over your shoulder and strut like George Jefferson all the way to the green. The breeze is blowing, the birds are singing and you’re the king of the world, baby. What a beautiful game.

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