Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I have been thinking about this for a while. As a relatively new golfer, I am constantly amazed by what happens on the golf course and in the minds of golfers.

Let me go back in time for a moment. Growing up and in my adult life, I was a tennis player mostly. Yeah, like most guys, I played adult league softball and basketball. Also jogged some. But golf? Well I played once or twice a year in captain's choice events when it was a "command performance" for business purposes.

But really, who had time for golf? Having to actually work for a living, it just seemed like golf took a long time to play. First of all, you have to get to the course. Then you have to park and check in and register-maybe 10 to 15 minutes. Next, you need to practice putting and hit some balls. For me this is at least 30 minutes. Tee time is next and a round of golf can be from 4 hours to 5 hours depending on a lot of things: playing partners, weather, groups ahead of you, and finally, how many balls you hit straight or into the woods. Then, you need to have a drink, settle the bets, and talk about each stroke that each person hit. So, that is another 30 minutes or an hour. We could be talking 5 to 6 hours in total. Again, what person who has a couple kids and a job has that kind of time to do this fairly frequently?

Also to be honest, my opinion of golfers as sportsmen was not very high. I have always been into exercise and the thought of getting my exercise by riding around in a mechanized golf cart didn't give me goose bumps! Seeing these mostly old, mostly overweight, and mostly white guys hitting balls into the woods didn't do much for me. Thus my opinion of golfers was pretty low.

Yes, I did have some friends who walked and played and seemed to do pretty good at it so there were at least a few positive thoughts about golf. In fact, one guy who is a very good friend played a lot and was very good. We were both transferred to the same city while working and we ended up sharing an apartment until our families arrived. He used to watch the golf channel; oh my God, how could anyone do that? I thought: "what could be more boring?". He thought it was the greatest thing in the world: his wife wasn't around to comment on his channel choice; he could watch it every minute he wasn't working; and he might even have learned something in the process!

You ever notice how golfers can remember each and every shot they made during a round? They remember the distance; the lie of the ball at their feet; the amount and direction of the wind; and what happened to their shot. This used to blow my mind. How can anyone remember all this information? Forget about the fact that us tennis players could remember our aces and passing shots.

Anyway, once I retired for the first time and had some time on my hands, I made up my mind that I would give it a shot and become "a golfer". So I started playing and taking lessons. This was in 2002 so I have been at it almost 7 years.

My perceptions now of golf and golfers are now different from what they used to be! Rather than try and put these into prose let me just bullet point them.
*First of all, on my home course my partners and I walk so we are getting 4 to 5 hours of exercise by walking about 6 miles. Playing 3 times a week gives you some good exercise!
*Golf is a hard game! It is much harder than tennis especially when you have “only” been playing the short amount of time that I have. Most good golfers have been playing since they were kids and their swings are grooved. Mine is not.
*The concentration required for golf is huge compared to other games. Tennis for example, will allow you to take “some time off” and still compete and win. You can’t do that in golf without ruining your score.
*The Golf Gods seem to control everything that happens to you instead of you being in control. You can play good one hole and screw up the next hole; the Golf Gods make this happen.
*You can play really good for several rounds and think you have the game whipped. Fuggedaboudit; the Golf Gods are just teasing you and will make your next round or 10absolutely terrible. Your swing will be gone and it will be like you have never played the game before.
*You will suddenly be endowed with a super memory and will now be able to remember each stoke of your 70 to 100 strokes that day. You will now be able to bore your buddies and your spouse as well as other non-interested people with your litany of what went into the woods, the water, and yes, even those putts that went into the hole.
*This memory, however, is only good for golf and will not help you remember birthdays or even what to get from the grocery store on the way home, if indeed you are sober enough to drive home.
*I have learned that I have a split personality. There is the one that can shoot around par for 9 holes; call him unconscious Ray. Then there is the one who appears for the second nine and shoots 45 or so; call him real Ray. When and where they come out is entirely beyond my control as they both want to have some playing time. I think the Golf Gods have something to do with this.
*It is apparent that the Golf Gods are in control and I am not able to suppress real Ray and keep unconscious Ray on the course.
*New golf clubs can make you play better; that is until you buy them. At that point, you will revert back to the same pathetic shots you used to hit. I have bought new golf clubs twice. Once to replace the ones I got from my dad, which were obscenely old. This actually helped my game. Then I bought another set of irons. This helped for a while but not lately.
-Drivers are another entire subject. I have friends who will buy a new driver in a heartbeat if they think it will get them another 10 yards off the tee. In fact, it will; but only until they buy it (see above bullet point)!

So, what else can I say about golf? Nothing except that it is an addictive game. I can safely and confidently say that I am addicted. More than I have ever been about tennis. I think the reason is that it is so hard to master. It always will be no matter how good you or I get; the Golf Gods will see to it that we are humbled any time that we get too much confidence.

The challenge continues!