It’s the best demonstration of how irrational humans are. This is a ‘sport’ that we supposedly play for fun. But take the average round of golf for the average golfer.
You invest two hours travelling to some place you’ve never heard of like Yering. “Not to worry”, you think, “at least I’ll be able to listen to that new podcast about an unsolved murder that everyone keeps raving about.” You pat yourself on the back for using this otherwise “dead” time to do something grown up and productive.
Arriving at the golf course means pulling out your credit card. Try not to think about it as you pay $60+ in green fees, a $10 ‘competition fee’, $30 for the case of extra balls “just in case” plus a few tees, Gatorade and a Mars bar (for when you’re feeling a bit flat on the back nine).
Heading out to the practice green you take comfort in the fact you’re not the only one dressed like a complete idiot. There aren’t many places where ankle socks, ill fitting, tucked in, brightly coloured shirts and ridiculous hats don’t turn heads, but the golf course is one of them. You putt a few balls around the practice green, stopping occasionally to kneel down, “read” the green and pretend like you know what you’re doing. “They’re quick today” you quip to the 87 year old next to you draining putts from everywhere.
All to soon you’re called to the first tee and nervously share some jokes with your fellow golfers to break the tension. “It’s been a while” you say, moving through a series of back stretches you’ve not performed anywhere but on the first tee of a golf course. “I’m pretty tight, this could be ugly”.
Lining up for that first shot you do your best to “clear your head” just like that golf pro taught you three years ago when you had that 30 minute free lesson. Naturally, your mind can’t help but wander. “Did you see Doris and her seven retired friends sitting in the clubhouse? They’re probably watching”, you think to yourself. Just don’t stuff the first shot. Don’t try to hit it too hard. Nice and easy. Eyes on the ball. Head down. Turn your hips. Keep your elbows close. Hit from the inside.
You draw the club back, take your eyes off the ball, lift your head, keep your hips stiff, let your elbows flail loosely and swing as hard as you can, dribbling the ball 60m down the fairway. An awkward silence follows as your fellow golfers watch on before someone offers some words of encouragement “Yeah, that’ll work”. Head down, you look around for you tee, realise it snapped in half and shuffle back to your golf bag mumbling about the wind.
Somewhere between 4-5 hours later you retire to the clubhouse physically exhausted from the walk, and mentally drained from the emotions. You’ve battled more mental demons than you thought possible. You’ve experienced anger, joy, frustration, satisfaction and surrender all in one afternoon. At one point you celebrated as if you just won the US Open, while the very next hole you muttered to yourself “f**k golf. It’s not even a sport.”
But as you sit down for your obligatory post game beer in the clubhouse, your mind wanders back to that one shot. The one where the stars aligned, the golfing gods were present and somehow you hit the ball so sweetly it felt like butter. It sailed straight down the middle of the fairway “at least 250 metres” and all was right in the world.
It’s that one shot that rationalises the investment of time, money and humiliation. The one shot that you have every single round of golf, but that you can never seem to replicate consistently. If you did? Well, you’d “probably be off scratch”.
With the sun setting, bringing respite to your sunburnt arms and legs, your friend asks “Same time next week?”. With that sweet shot in your mind, the cold beer in your hand and the thought that “I’ll be better for the run” you reply “Yep… How good is golf… We really should get down to Barnbougle soon.”
Kramer said it best.