The Best Worst Game Ever
Like most who attempt it, I both love and hate the game of golf. Here are some nuggets of insight I’ve salvaged from “a good walk spoiled.”.
Bowing to pressure from my wife and daughter who quite enjoy it, I recently began taking some lessons. I’ve always resisted golf. It might be fairly characterized as being elitist, the worst spectator sport, and a horror show of fashion.
It hardly even seemed a sport, for there is no team or blood involved. It’s more a pastime or skill- apparently most appealing to those seeking to either abandon their families or perhaps try their hand at alcoholism (my case thus far excepted).
Only after subjecting yourself to its cruelty for an extended time, does golf begin to reveal its appeal. With a little practice, this monkey’s paw of pastimes begins to close its furry knuckles around your mind.
Golf features an ever updating phonebook of a rules manual- a tome of minute, Byzantine regulations that “true players” must memorize. No game ever invented offers anything to rival the dreadful prospect of memorizing and relearning the rules of golf.
However, after wasting untold hours at whacking away (pardon the expression), I’ve discovered that golf begins to yield a variety of insightful lessons, if you but give the miserable fruits of your labor a chance to ripen a bit.
For starters, golf offers its victim-host a customized cautionary beacon, for it is a striking subversion of the idiotic adage, “Practice Makes Perfect.” This is golf’s first lesson.
As you practice your crap golf swing over and over, you find you only reinforce your crap swing, digging your hole ever deeper. You stand in line with a chain gang of other lost souls, each doing their dedicated best to enshrine their worst habits with numbingly repetitive poorly set up and poorly executed swings.
As my Dad/is fond of saying, “Practice Makes Permanent.” Practicing golf is more, “Practice makes poop.”
If ever there were a game where you are your own worst enemy, it is golf. At its cruel heart, golf pits man or woman against themselves in an endless rotation of humiliation and foiled hope, ignited by the disproportionately insistent memory of that one great shot, among all your other horrible ones.
Like a slot machine that drags all the money from your wallet by once in a life time awarding you ten dollars for all those tens of thousands of nickels played, so golf depletes the soul of any whiff of confidence or competence.
“Poor human creature,” chirps yon sparrow from its branch, “See how the feebly this stick-wielding wretch attempts to calculate force and trajectory while pathetically attempting to control its misaligned, ever-aging body, as though such a thing were even possible!”
“Chit-chit chirp-willow!! Chee-chirrup! Chee chirrup!” Is all the golfer hears.
A golf swing begins with an insult to physics, with the player pretending to calculate such incalculables as wind drag, gravity and force, with the only data input being that of pure supposition and blind guessing.
Once the club connects with the ball (never an inevitability) the doomed fantasy switches to attempted psycho-kinesis. The most rational player begins talking to the ball, gesticulating- as if human agency were still a part of the orb’s typically abysmal trajectory. “Get up! Sit! Sit,” or some such rot, is blurted to the skies.
It’s not spoiling anything to let you know in advance, that no matter the swing- it will not “get up” or “sit.” It will invariably ignore the whispered wish of this pathetic would-be spoon bender. The ball will defy all attempts to control it with powers of prayer or mind or
But there is some daylight possible amidst this flailing addiction. You face the inevitable obstacles in microcosm- cruel disinterest of time, physics and the limits of mental control over your imperfect physical vehicle. These are profound challenges that you must face alone, with but a stick and a little white ball. Each effort is a reminder of your limits, the insufficiency of your capacity to make your body and the universe bend to your feeble will.
[If there’s one thing my recent acquaintance with the game of golf has taught me, is that you play best when you are able to forget about all your shots so far, as well as what others are doing. If you forget about competing with yourself and others, and you focus on fundamentals of the process of good play- in the moment- that is when you perform the best.]