To quote my friend Jessie, “Golf was invented by the Scots to annoy the British.” The British are not alone in their exasperation.
Jessie works at the Willowbrook Golf Course in Winter Haven, Florida. Willowbrook gained some minor notoriety when a foursome playing the back nine became a threesome after one of their number dropped over dead onto the 16th green. The threesome went ahead and finished the round because ‘that’s how Bob would have wanted it.” I am not making this story up but it does supply a handy illustration about how golf sort of destroys all your reason.
In 2003, for very solid reasons, my golf clubs and I decided not to see each other anymore and got an amicable divorce. I had been playing golf five or six times a week for about 15 years. Two things were clear: (1) Unfortunately, even under some expert tutelage from various fine instructors, it was painfully obvious I was about as good as I was ever going to get. My handicap was, numerically speaking, 16, but in reality it was my short irons. Couldn’t hit them worth a darn. That’s not strictly true. I could hit the heck out of them. I just couldn’t hit them straight. (2) I was spending a lot of time — and I mean a lot of time — at the golf course. Meanwhile, I had taken up long distance bike riding and was also flying open cockpit antique airplanes cross country. Both these things require decent weather. At the most severe point in my golf addiction, I played in the rain, over ice, and in one hundred four-degree temperatures. But mostly golf is a fair-weather sport and Ohio gets only so much fair weather. Something had to go. Golf went. My playing commitment went from nearly daily to zilch overnight.
But the human vessel is weak and the human vessel’s memory is even weaker. Some who knows just how weak this particular vessel is suggested I take the game back up. So, because let’s face it, no one can ever get their fill of frustration, my clubs and I reconciled.
Denying everything I knew about addiction, I convinced myself I could master the urge to golf this go-round. Golf would not be in control; I would be in control. And how is that working out for me? Just about like you’d expect.
I am not playing golf every day but I am — and tell me if this sounds familiar — spending a lot of time at the golf course. I am on a first name basis with the guy who hands out the balls for the practice area. I should be since I am putting his kids through college. I want to play only if I can play well and that means (cue scary movie music … da-da-DAH!) practice.
Here is some shocking news. It certainly shocked me. If a person who is not a very good athlete to begin with takes a 15 year hiatus from the world’s most difficult sport (excepting perhaps Quidditch), things, shall we say, do not improve. Things — important things like the swing, the flexibility, the concentration — go right into the dumpster. When the not-very-good athlete plays with a really, really good athlete, with whom she happens to play often, the comparison in diminished skills is somewhat depressing at best and oh, there’s that word again, damnably frustrating at worst.
As though the depths of my delusions weren’t deep enough, there was more shocking news. How you hit the ball on the practice range … you know all those hours and all those swings and all that once-removed tuition … does not exactly translate to how you hit the ball on the course. And when I say “does not exactly translate” I mean it’s as though the range and the course are on two different planets and I’m an alien on both of them.
Luckily, my playing partner is handling this reacquaintance with golf with far more restraint than I. Not. He spends no more than four or five hours a day watching golf shows, golf matches, and instructional golf videos on the Internet. He then forwards the golf videos to me. Here is one thing I noticed about the videos: even the professionals can’t agree on how to swing the club. They can’t agree on stance, ball placement, swing thoughts, or even how to hold the club. What hope is there for us mere mortals?
I hate to block you-know-who’s email but it might be the only way to retain my sanity. Not that sanity is necessary to play golf.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.