In an earlier column I expressed fairly strong opinions about the only corruption-based major global sport – golf – a game for many reason I had never played.
In a rare reversal, when faced with the reality of a deteriorating body (52 years of tennis) more post-retirement free time – and pressure to play from friends and relatives who golf – my wife and I decided to take up the game. We purchased clubs and shoes and hired a pro with the idea of taking all the time required to develop a consistent swing before setting foot on a course.
Five lessons, six weeks, and 2,000 balls struck from a practice tee, we have concluded that there may be no objective on earth more difficult to achieve. While it is hard to convince a first date to be intimate, to wrestle an alligator, to eat a bowl full of jalapeno peppers at one sitting, to hit a major league fast ball, to swim the Channel, to scale Mount Everest in the nude, it is much harder to consistently hit a golf ball flush on the face and in a desired direction and distance despite the apparent ease displayed by a handful of touring pros.
Hitting a very good shot once is fairly easy. Duplication is often impossible and for reasons which defy self-analysis. Rhythm, pace, release, grip, stance, ball position, back swing, follow through, weight transfer, all conspire to produce a miracle and a disaster from the same person with the same club doing the same thing to the same ball in the same place at the same time.
I have found nothing in life to equal the compounding frustration of trying to hit consistently good golf shots. When things go wrong, trying harder makes it worse. The tighter one grips the club – the harder one swings – the higher the probability of an outright whiff, or an equally embarrassing miss-hit. The ball literally jumps off the clubs of a fat little old non-athletic looking souls who appear to hardly swing at all, while young giants rip away in complete sweat-soaked futility.
With all the practice and coaching, we are no closer to the first tee than when we started and we have yet to take a swing from the sand, the rough, from a downhill or uphill lie or on a green. Without a consistent swing, it is difficult to know how hard to hit the ball or what distance to expect from the club selected.
There are more variables associated with golf than any other sport. The playing field is never the same. While every course has 18 holes, pin placements, length of rough, number of bunkers, amount of water, width and length of fairways, number of trees make every course unique in its requirements.
The only sustainable golf related skill I have acquired to date is the ability to yell FORE very loudly, an asset I expect to capitalize on many times when we actually try to play.
I am told that in spite of the inherent untrustworthiness of most golfers when it comes to keeping score, the social side of the game is really delightful. Hopefully this is true and we will have a chance to experience the light side before the next duck hook induces heart failure.