I have an unhealthy disdain for sports which doesn’t make me sweat. I love to play sports which involve a lot of running, jumping, diving, sliding, and use of skills involving physical movements which are developed through years of practice and instinct. Sports which involve a direct contest of physique, looking your opponent in the eye, anticipating their next move and baiting and beating them accordingly. Sports where you compete eye to eye. I’m not a fan of cricket mainly because it involves half of the players just standing around while four or five participate in the action on one delivery. And this is ignoring the players sitting stuck in the pavillion waiting for their teammate to get out so they can bat. In some ways Golf is similar to cricket in that respect. But that’s where the similarity ends. There’s one major difference which negates the negatives of cricket in Golf. In Golf you are on your own. It’s just you, the club and the ball.
Instant gratification is the byword for today’s youth. They look to get involved in activities which have an immediate payoff. Score a goal, hit a sixer, swish in a jumpshot, that’s what appeals to them. Going through a 9 hole course has a steep learning and adapting curve and may not come with the glitz and glamour of the games where a ball is kicked, thrown, batted around.
As opposed to driven in a rainbow trajectory with clinical precision towards a hole. That has its own appeal once the bug bites you.
I’ve mentioned the appeal of shooting a basketball before, the beauty of aiming a 9 inch wide sphere, towards a 18 inch wide rim, perched 10 feet high. Looking at it mathematically makes you think about the intricacies of the shooting motion. The adjustment required of the arms and the wrist to release a perfect shot, the years of practice required before you can make even half of your shot attempts.
Looking at Golf with the same perspective makes me more appreciative of the beauty of the true gentleman’s game. Reading PG Wodehouse’s stories about golf and the love for the hunt for elusive handicap sparked a drive in me to take a drive and drive one down the fairway.
Here are three reasons to love the game.
One with nature and yourself:
Picture the moment prior to a tee off. Heartbeat stops, birds stop chirping, it would be a pindrop silence if the pin would actually make a sound on the meticulous greens. All existence is tuned out. Your sphere of awareness narrows down to the ball and the club. Nerves and muscles go taut and in that moment before you hit the ball nothing exists. Not your caddy, not the crowd, not your job, nothing.
All emotion and concentration is powered into your wrists and as you swing and make contact, it’s like exhaling after holding your breath until you turn purple. With the smack of club and ball, the volume is turned up again. Birds chirp, crowds chatter, and your caddy effuses words of praise over the drive which took you to the green and within 20 yards of the hole.
As you make the drive to the green in the electronic golf cart, you file away the memory of that perfect drive into your mental hard drive. To be reminisced on later when you replay the perfect hole to yourself as you lay down to sleep. On the drive you muse on which club you will use to knock the ball in when you putt. You observe how beautiful this stretch of the course is. Unspoiled by the urban sprawl. And it occurs to you that a golf course is not just a playground for a pastime. It’s a natural haven. A preservation of nature, perfectly clipped down to the last blade. You witness the starling revelation that a golf course is also a perfect cocoon of nature. In a crowded, polluted, city which bleaches exhaust fumes this is a unspoiled paradise.
You realize that this is the first time all day that you have truly inhaled a breath of fresh air. You close your eyes and breathe in. Filling your lungs with the fresh sweet scent of the grass. You aren’t here just to play golf. This is a garden of Eden, touched to the last hedge by man, and yet it appears untouched. Amidst your musing you hear cheers. While your mind was meandering your body putted the ball in for a eagle. Bemused you raise your club in silent acknowledgement of the cheers. Most of golf is silent. It brings you in touch with your self. A million thoughts can race through your head during a day on the course and you don’t even know when the day ended.
These days time is money, earlier we would spend time in traveling, in cooking, menial chores, but now everything is instant. Fast forward. Multitasking. On one hand you may want to socialize with your friends, at the same time you may want to engage in a competitive sport. While basketball does offer that, conversations cross court are piecemeal and monosyllabic. Golf allows you to keep up a conversation across the entire course. Golf is a exclusive sport in terms of finding a course to play on. But it’s a very inclusive sport in terms of who can play it. It can be enjoyed by people of all ages, a teenager can have a competitive contest with a septuagenarian. Its the ultimate measure of social end economic status. There are waiting lists of eight plus years at the prestigious golf clubs. All the who’s who of the upper strata of society can be found at the links.
Beating the odds:
Shooting a basketball, kicking a ball towards a goal, intercepting passes through anticipation. The faster games have risks and payoffs of small magnitude and high frequency. A pass, a shot, a rebound, all in a matter of seconds. Golf on the other hand involves adrenaline rushes of small frequency and highly magnified magnitude. To the casual observer, the game of golf may seem simple and shallow in its premise. You boink a ball around until it pops down in a hole. There are a gazillion variables which come into play when you play golf. The grass, the hazards, wind direction and strength, club design, course handicap, I could go on. The skill set in golf is just as varied. How far you can hit the ball, aptitude for adjusting to the wind changes, putting skill, driving aim, ability to tune out distractions and focus on the shot at hand.
Gambling is one of the reasons the faster games are extreamly popular. Not the off court gambling although that adds a element of macabre to it as well. Gambling in terms of taking risks and the delicious wait of anticipation to see if it has paid off.
The odds against a hole in one are astronomical. Making one makes you feel like even if you accomplish nothing else of note, your life has been worth living because of that one hole alone. That hole will be replayed endlessly on Youtube. You get so used to going above par that hitting a straight drive is akin to a miracle from gods. The exhilaration of making contact with the ball and watch its flight with the realization that this shot is perfect and no Scotsman could have hit a better one. Watching that perfect beauty sail away and plop on the green is one of the most beautiful spectacles the sport has to offer.
Being an avid runner, I wish I could just eliminate the golf cart and caddy and just keep running to and fro between my shots on the links. A healthy workout combined with the pleasure of Golf. But I doubt that would go well with the golfing populace. Picture a man with a club set slung upon his back, sprinting up and down the links while you attempt to concentrate on your drive and try to resist the temptation to change aim towards said runner instead of the hole.
Maybe someday, when I’m old and gray, I’ll be a regular sight on the links. By the next fifty years, golf courses will be sacred sanctuaries of natural preserves, giving one all the more reason to take up this beautiful game.