In 1966 my parents took us kids to a miniature golf course. I think we had fun. In 1973 my best friend, Stoney, and I had a half-semester of golf in P.E. I vaguely remember sitting in a classroom instead of on the gym floor – which was unusual – and listening to lectures on sports theory, or some such thing, and the rules of golf. I also recall the class tossing around basketballs when it was too cold or rainy to go outside, and that happened a lot. Only once during that whole quarter were we allowed to use the tools of golfing. The class was taken to a low ridge overlooking a grassy plain some distance from the school, where each of us was given a club of some number, and two students had to share one bucket of balls. Stoney and I both got nine irons, and as always we took turns being the straight man and the goofy sidekick as we evaluated our efforts. Neither of us remember the jokes we made, but I’m sure they were patterned after the comedic routines we heard on Firesign Theater, a radio show very popular up north back then. No doubt part of our own repertoire included the seventeen-year-old observation: We sure got a lot of balls! In 1995 while I was on the crew for a direct-to-video movie, we spent a whole day filming on a golf course. We got to drive carts to the several locations, and someone gave us putters and a few balls, and during breaks of producer/director meetings a few of us technicals and talents tried to tap balls into a hole. I did a few times, but it’s tricky. And somewhat anticlimactic. I would have enjoyed it more if the ball had then shot out of the hole and exploded high in the sky like fireworks. (Years later I finally observed something like that in Cricket, for most of the time the stumps and bails will light up when hit).
So that’s my experience with golf.
To my befuddlement, the coach of my grandson’s Varsity baseball team decided to raise funds by requiring all who were interested (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, et al) in supporting their favorite athlete to not only contribute to the cause, but also to participate in the fundraiser itself by playing golf. Golf? Why we didn’t play baseball or softball, or perhaps tennis or badminton or ping pong, or bowling (if they’d asked me, I would have insisted on Wiffle Cricket) I do not know, nor can anyone explain it. My opinion is that the coach likes golf best, but the high school doesn’t have a team for that. So instead of playing a game that allows the players to remain in a localized area, like all those I mentioned, we had to follow a ball from place to place over vast expanses of land. To me, that’s like if a batter in baseball gets a hit or is struck out, the teams have to walk or drive over to another stadium for the next play.
It was a forty-five-minute drive westward to the golf club, and when we got there we found out we were expected to play eighteen holes. What the tubular bells, man!? No beginners course of three to five? Our team was me, my wife, my son-in-law, Chopper (used to be Skipper, but he got rid of his boat and now has a motorcycle) and my grandson, Rye (used to be Rex, but I renamed him from J. D. Salinger’s book) and none of us were golfers. We didn’t get lessons; they just gave us a scorecard, two golf carts, and told us to “head that way.” It wasn’t until the second hole that I figured out what “Par” meant. Then during the third hole we found that a couple were right behind us, waiting at that tee. Chopper waved at them, and they waved him over and they explained that for this kind of tournament, golfers often used the ploy of what I call “dropball.” That is, whoever’s ball goes the farthest from the tee, everyone else retrieves theirs and drops them next to it, and you do that after every hit when working your way to the green. Wow, talk about speeding up the game! But then we noticed that every time we teed off, the couple was immediately behind us. I don’t think they were really playing. I suspect that since we were not familiar with golf, they were sent to make sure we didn’t dawdle with trying to learn the whole thing. Golf spies! Thank you.
We had to borrow a bag of clubs from my other son-in-law, Caesar. At the end of the sixth hole, I found that the palms of my hands were red and stinging. My wife gardens, usually without gloves, and Chopper and Rye both have rough hands from the balls, gloves, and bats of baseball, so the grips on that old set of clubs didn’t bother them. The only calluses I have are on the fingertips of my left-hand from playing the guitar. So I checked the zippered compartments and found two gloves, both left-handed. Huh? Fine, I put a left-handed glove on my right hand. But while the palm of a golf glove has a thin leather-like surface, the back of the glove is even thinner, not leather-like, and is full of holes for ventilation, so by the eighth hole it had started to disintegrate. I thought I was done with the whole experience, but this was for my grandson, and there were spies, so I plucked the stapled sheet of printer paper, which had all the rules of the tournament, from the scorecard and used that to grip the grip. I folded it twice, and it work just fine.
On the side of the golf carts were containers of green sand and a little scoop. Whenever we hacked out a divot, we were supposed to fill the hole with the sand. I think we used about a pound of it. As newbies, we immediately established the routine of hitting the ground in front of the ball, then swinging over the ball when trying to compensate, and hitting the ground again, back and forth, until finally, six to eight swings later, we finally hit the ball itself. Having no muscle memory from golf, I eventually reverted (around hole 14) to the now diminished muscle memory of Croquet from my days of childhood and early fatherhood. Instead of trying to posture myself like the golfers I’d accidently seen when happening upon the UHF PBS channel back in the 60’s, I simply raised my club about thirty degrees from the ground and could hit it every time. The ball didn’t go far, but it always went straight toward the flag. Fortunately, Chopper and Rye, whose muscles are fresh with baseball memory, hit the ball hardest and farthest, though not always accurately; there were some in-the-back-yard landings, and one that hit the roof of a house. But mostly they moved us along with distance, for dropball.
Here’s what I feel is problematic about the place: I don’t think houses should border the courses; golf needs to be played far away from residential areas, like how airports ought to be. But then, I don’t think there should be hills or ponds or depressions full of sand, so what do I know? My wife kept calling the sand traps (or are they bunkers?) sand dunes. I tried to explain that dunes were hills of sand, not holes, but she didn’t want to hear it. She was having fun. She likes golf. She wants to keep playing. She wants me to join her. I will, but only if there’s only one course of flat, waterless, treeless, and sandless land, the ball is bigger, the hole is much bigger, and I can use a Cricket bat.
I just turned 800 months old, and while I might be open to learning new tricks for old hobbies, I am not at all interested in learning any new hobbies or their old tricks. In fact, I might explore the dropball technique for some of my chores: do I really need soap when washing clothes? I might try putting my outerwear in the machine and pushing the button for rinse and spin, and that’s it. Of course, that probably wouldn’t work for underwear.