Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Golf For Dummies

Don’t worry, this post is not disrespectful of my readers. The dummy, in this case, is me.

I learned to play golf at the age of fifteen. An older cousin of mine wanted a golf buddy that he could call in the evening and say, “let’s play golf tomorrow! I’ll pick you up at 4:30!” We played Clearview, a very nice city course in Queens, New York City. He sold me his old clubs while he up-graded to a good set. I guess he had decided that he could tolerate the psychological torments of golf well enough to continue playing.

Having taken up the game, I began to play with my friends. A few of them had golf clubs in the house, and we were always looking for affordable things to do. Most of them used a baseball grip and just went Happy Gilmore on the ball. New York had many public courses, which varied from straight and short to longer and fancier. They were cheap. We were all duffers, so straight and short was fine with us. We often went to Kissena. In those days, you often saw garbage trucks with golf bags hanging off the sides. You saw those trucks in the parking lot at Kissena, too. And you saw the garbage men on the course. Don’t be holding them up, either. They wanted to finish in a hurry, and they were a rough bunch.

My scores have always been high, in the low three figures, but my game is straight. I have always believed that any straight shot is a good shot. You had to walk that way anyway.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1975, and over the years I played whenever I had friends who were disposed to play golf. If they asked me nicely, I’d say, “sure!” I never brought it up myself, but I did enjoy the time on the course with friends. L.A. is another good golf town. There are lots of public courses, and here again they vary from the ridiculous (Penmar) to the sublime (Rancho Park). There are lots of beautiful, yet affordable private courses too. I have never really liked golf; I have never played golf just for its own sake. I always tried not to annoy my friends with my awful game, but there were a few years there where I declined to keep score. Golfers are funny. I discovered that my hitting a 119 didn’t bother them, but my not keeping score got under their skin. Maybe they just wanted to know exactly how much they beat me by.

Those scoreless years were my happiest years as a golfer. All that I could remember after a round of golf were my good shots and the time with friends. There was no huge number to ruin it.

Golf is a diabolical game. There are different elements: the drive, long irons, short irons, putting.  I have known a few very good golfers who could hit any of those shots just like you see on TV. You know, guys that were way inside bogey golf. (“Bogey Golf:” a score lower than eighteen strokes above par.) Two of them were usually hitting about ten above par, and it was very close to par for one fine fellow. But their common experience was for the different elements of their game to come and go. Maybe for six months they couldn’t putt for shit. When the putting came back, the irons went bye-bye. Diabolical.

Perhaps worst of all for the good golfer is that your entire game is liable to desert you at some point, never to return. I took lessons from a pro at Rancho Park one time, and this guy could really hit. Back fence on every drive; serious target shooting with irons. I asked him why he wasn’t on the tour. “I was,” he said, “then I lost my game.”

Golf is frustrating and annoying for anyone that plays it. So what is the attraction? For me, there is no attraction. But I believe that for many golfers these disagreeable characteristics make the game so absorbing that it can be a vacation from worrying about day to day life. Many people do seem to enjoy the horror of golf, and good for them. 

By now I haven’t touched a club since 2007. It’s just as well. I have friends here in Thailand that play, but Thailand is way, way too hot for golf. So I say, “no thanks!” with a clean conscience. Golf is always a mental health issue; in Thailand it’s a physical health issue as well. 


Unknown said...

Fred, I am part of the group that enjoy the game to its fullest . For me it is a chance to get out and walk five miles a day, get some moderate exercise and practice against myself. The competition part against others is not my priority. Those days were over when I hung up my Chuck Taylors and left the court 15 years ago.
What better place to enjoy a nature walk than a well manicured landscape of a course. I do visit Clearview once a year with my High School friends in an annual Invitational we call the Walk with the Lord Open. AKA The Stations of the Course. We do it each Good Friday in celebration of our days at Paraochial school. We count only 14 of the 18 holes and follow it up with a benediction of sorts at Donovan's Pub, where we ravage 1/2 pound Hamburgers in defiance of our early teachings. It's my favorite day of the year. We celebrate days gone by and golf is our vehicle to lift our glasses to friendships started 50 years earlier at Clearview . That's why I golf. I also play 150 other times a year to practice for the big day.. Retirement has its benefits!

fred c said...

Lou, it's wonderful that you enjoy golf. Not just the walk and the friends, but the game itself. I know that many people do. I'd say that you have very good qualities of friendship, too. You seem to be very good at that. Do you think that the two have walked hand in hand all these years? I think that it must have helped.