A Gentleman’s Game

I don’t have a lot of disposable income, but when I manage to pull a few bucks to the side, and I’m having trouble finding other ways to embarrass myself, I play golf.

I suppose I should rephrase that. I don’t play golf. I think of golf the way a medical doctor thinks of their day-to-day activity: practice. Could do it everyday and still never be perfect.

By no means should I be considered an athlete of any level. Don’t exercise. Don’t lift weights. Don’t know why anyone would jog. If you think about jogging, I suggest laying down until that crazy though passes.

The greatest level of my personal exertion is to think about something… really, really hard… for a long time.

Whew. That sentence was intense. I’m exhausted. Where am I!?

When it comes to golf, something else takes over. Now, the fact that no matter how many articles I read with some combination of the words “perfect,” “swing,” and “easy” in the title, how many tan guys in polo shirts analyze my backswing (keep your elbows in) or how much focus I put into keeping my head down, I can’t seem to correct this slice. (for right handed golfers: hitting the ball in such a way that it travels on an angle to the right, rather than straight down the middle.)

My lips are chapping from a combination of sun and grimacing. I’m locking my pinky between my index and middle finger – tighter, then looser, then a little tighter. I’m looking down the fairway, bending my knees slightly and straightening my back. “This time,” I tell myself, “It’s going right there. Right down the middle.” I look back down the fairway.

There’s nothing fair about it. This stretch of impeccable green carpet is thinner than my odds of impressing the beer cart girl.

I’ve shanked dozens of shots like this before. But something about this game and its hold over me makes me feel like maybe this one is going to be different. Because for the dozens of shots I’ve shanked, I’ve had others that sing off the club head. I’ve had heard applause from birds and squirrels all to used to seeing a guy like me duff it. The scwhiff of the grass just sheared and the unmistakeable sound of the ball’s first few feet in the air, a symphony to a golfing phony like me. But now, having heard this song, like that of a Siren, I’m drawn to the next shot.

And so it repeats. There are more bad ones than good ones, but more good ones than before. That’s what makes me plan trips to the driving range or carefully consider which ball I’m comfortable with sending to a watery grave. This expensive, time-consuming and somewhat physically demanding sport is fun to me. I’ll keep playing because, when it comes to golf, I don’t need to birdie every hole.

There are times when par – or a few over – feels a lot like winning.