One of Mark Twain’s most famous quotes is, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” There are many things with which I agree with Twain, such as his views on religion. He was, to all intents and purposes, a non-religious person. However on this quote, I couldn’t disagree more. Golf to me is more than a hobby. Since I don’t subscribe to any deistic religion, golf is my religion. And playing golf walking, as it was meant to be played before people became too lazy , is the best thing one can do. It’s like killing two birds (birdies?) with one stone. You get a good exercise while at the same time you enjoy the game. There are maybe two reasons why Mark Twain said what he said. The first is that he never played golf, and so, he had no idea how exciting it is. The second is that if he did, he was a terrible golfer and therefore, was always frustrated whenever he played. If the latter was the case, then I don’t understand. Many people have actually likened golf to sex, saying that like sex, even when it is bad, it is still good- for men at least. No matter how bad a round of golf one had, there is always at least one good “drive,” one good chip, or one good putt that one will always remember until the next round. And for people like myself who play golf for fun, it’s that one good shot out of a thousand in a round that makes you go back again and again. In amateur golf, if you can’t forget the bad shots you hit, you’ll never last as a golfer. It’s a fact of life that you’re always going to hit way more bad shots than good ones. So you develop selective memory and relive only the single straight drive, a chip-in, or that 70-foot fluke of a putt.
I recently moved to California from Indiana. Here, golf is an all-year-round sport because winters are quite mild. But back in Indiana, it is truly a summer hobby. It’s the experience from my time in Indiana that I’ll share here. When I lived in Indianapolis, I looked forward to the return of spring and summer the same way that an over-zealous, if not apocalyptic, evangelical Christian zealot looks forward to the rapture and the second-coming of Jesus Christ; or the way that a drug-addict looks forward to the next “fix.” Golf is the most addictive sport for sure. For golfers in the Midwest or the East coast, there is no more miserable period of the year than the winter months from November to April. And when summer rolled around, everyone played like there was no tomorrow. I’m ashamed to confess that many times, I “cut” classes to go and play.
During winter, because you couldn’t go to an out-door range to prepare for the coming summer golf season, you had to do whatever it took not to become too rusty. The part of your game (golf) that suffers first when you’re not playing is the short game. That is, chipping, pitching, and putting. Therefore, I used my living-room as a converted range-complete with a putting-green and chipping area. Whenever I got tired of studying and needed a break (usually around 3 a.m. ), I’d get my plastic practice balls and tried to chip them into a bucket atop my study table. It required consummate skills and a lot of luck to chip a ball into the bucket. For putting, I made a “hole” in the carpet-using a string and putted real balls. Sometimes, my golf buddies would come around at weekends and we would have a very competitive chipping and putting contest. I was a bachelor, and so, my apartment served as the “range” until summer arrived.
Golfers who have families sometimes come with them to play, especially those who have youngsters and dream that their kid will be the next “Tiger” or Michelle Wie. But I was a bachelor, and so had no family to get involved with my game. Among all leisure sports, golf is arguably the most expensive. Or it could be very expensive if it weren’t for Ebay and other used clubs outlets. Many beginners start with Wal mart or K-Mart-purchased clubs, until they realize that there is a reason why brand-name golf clubs cost more. The difference in performance is like that between a Pontiac and a BMW. It’s not only the equipment that is expensive, but also accessories- shoes, shirts, etc. In addition, some golf courses have very high Green fees. Fortunately for me, Indiana has a lot of public golf courses, and many of them offered student discounts, which I fully took advantage of. But once in a while, my buddies and I would travel out of the city to go and play some other courses in the state. Like many a weekend golfer, we over-estimated our skill level, and so, we sought and played very tough courses, and always from the back tees-that is, the tees furthest from the green. It was almost masochistic the way we punished ourselves. We always followed the golf rules to the letter, such as hitting the ball as it lay and never giving “gimmies” on the green. For this reason, other golfers wouldn’t play with us.
One other thing I enjoy most about playing golf is the opportunity to get to meet and know all kinds of different people. Many golfers behave as if they are cut from the same cloth, and whose material is similar to the one of which sailors are made. Many of them have a facility with “four-letter” language -especially after a bad shot- which, well one would never use in the presence of one’s mother-in-law. Golfers also love to tell golf jokes, and I have become sort of a “junkie” or “collector” of these jokes. One of my all-time favorites, told me by an old man of 60-some years is titled, “Dinner conversation gone wrong.” Here is how it goes: Husband and wife are having dinner, and the wife suddenly asked her husband if he would remarry in the event that she predeceased him.
Husband: “Well—ah—no, I wouldn’t.”
Wife: “Why? You don’t love being married?”
Husband: “Ah—mmm—yes I do. I guess I’d remarry.”
Wife: “Would you replace my photos with hers?”
Husband: “I’d think that would be the right thing to do.”
Wife: “Would you sleep in my bed with her.”
Husband: “Well, where else would I sleep, and besides, it’s my bed too.”
Wife: “Would she use my golf clubs?”
Husband: “Ah—No, she is left-hande—oh shit!”