A Day in the Life ScenariosPersonal History

GOLF: Its Social Relevance is Underweighted

GOLF—all the other “four-letter words” were taken! Every golfer has heard that phrase, especially in reference to the maddening, frustrating situations connected to the game. It drives you nuts. It makes you question your manhood, your worth to the universe, your base intellect. How many times will a golfer call himself “a dummy” after he misses a short putt or slices a drive into the woods? Or refer to himself as an anatomical structure when he takes three shots to get out of a bunker?

Many golfers bemoan why they inflict such punishment upon themselves. After all, it is they who hold the clubs that hit the ball that flies who-knows-where. It is they who are totally responsible for everything that happens in that four-hour period of torture. The troubling thing is, they know it, but for some reason they keep coming back for more. Why on earth do they do that? 

Golfers do self-assessments of their personality and intelligence after nearly every shot. If he hits the ball short of his target he asks himself if his “skirt got in the way of his swing.” If he leaves a putt short of the cup, he calls himself “Alice” in a sexist insult to the female gender. If another member of his foursome outdrives his tee shot, he’s suddenly transformed into Linda Ronstadt because my ball “blew by you!” Golfers are in a sense bipolar. On one hand, they get depressed and deride themselves about the incompetence of their game and how they may give up golf, while on the other hand, they love the game and are manic about the birdie they made on number 7. 

However, you almost never hear a golfer say he is good at the game. Self-deprecation is common among golfers. They rarely brag about their game because the next shot may be horrible and remind him of his ineptitude. Golfers berate themselves but always believe they can get better. However, there’s always one hole that challenges his conviction and convinces him to quit the game. Then, later in the same round, optimism re-emerges when he puts together several good shots for a par. Now he’s convinced to keep at it because he knew he had it in him! There’s always that one shot or one hole that’s just enough to make him play again. It’s crazy. It stresses his ego, but he can’t quit.

Despite all that I’ve said here, all the ambivalent feelings I have about the game, I miss it very much. As the title of this blog states, golf is as much a SOCIAL ACTIVITY as it is a sport. A golfer’s life revolves around the game. Friendships are begun on the golf course, vacations are planned around one’s desire to play a certain course or stay at a certain golf resort, and social interaction is enhanced by spending four hours with friends. Before I had to physically give up golf, I used to drive out of my way to see a renown golf course. I remember the excitement I felt   when I saw Pinehurst, Pebble Beach, Augusta National, Torrey Pines, PGA West, and many, many more. I loved it. They are beautiful places. 

When you can no longer play, your life changes. New friends are harder to find. I used to go to the course as a single and join three others for 18 holes. Four hours later, there was a good chance I had 3 new friends. Or if I learned two of my neighbors played golf, I asked to play with them. Four hours later, I knew my neighbors a lot better. I’ve often said, after spending four hours on the golf course with someone you really know what they are like. If you don’t, then shame on you. You’ve isolated yourself and missed a great opportunity.

When you can no longer play, your physical condition declines. You aren’t carrying your bag, walking, swinging, or stooping any longer. Your competitive spirit wanes, hand-eye coordination declines, stamina lessens, and your passion for anything golf ebbs. Now when I drive past a golf course, I still look, but the excitement to play it has gone—because I know I can’t. Why even think such unrealistic thoughts? 

All the good things about golf—friendship, fellowship, exercise, perseverance, optimism, hope, male bonding—are gone without the game. It completely changes your social circle. You gain weight, get lazy, and lose interest, but also have a lot more free time and disposable income. 

The best friends I have are men I met as a result of interaction around golf. We played golf together once or twice a week for 35 years, took 4-day golf trips all over the country every summer, ate lunch before and dinner after rounds of golf every week. Our wives all became good friends, too, and we vacationed together often. All as a result of our love for a frustrating, aggravating game. 

Augusta National Golf Club, every April the home of the Master’s Golf tournament, in Augusta, Georgia, is the site of one of the most memorable golf days of my life. For Christmas, our wives had given Dr. Roger Core, Dr. Bruce Bender, and me tickets for a day trip with Ambassadair Travel Club in Indianapolis, to the Wednesday practice round and par-three tournament at Augusta National before the 2004 Masters tournament. We flew to Augusta arriving at 9:00 am. A bus drove us to the course which is located near the center of town and not visible to passersby. In fact, you really can’t tell it’s there. From 9:30 am to 5:30 pm that day I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Our first stop was the huge, very crowded merchandise tent. It was overwhelming because of the number of people in there, and the wide variety of items for sale. Everything imaginable had the Master’s logo proudly visible and jillion’s of people were in there buying. It wasn’t until later in the day that I decided to see what I couldn’t live without. Next we decided to see the Butler Cabin. Then, starting at the first tee, we walked the entire course! We really did. I felt like I was walking on hallowed ground. The place is massive, well-contained, secure, very hilly, and beautiful. Bleachers were everywhere so we sat awhile when we needed a rest. We saw or followed most of the golfers who we had previously only seen on TV.

At lunch time, for $1.50, I bought a famous pimento cheese sandwich and Coke at one of the numerous foods tents. The amazing thing was the price of sandwich was only $1.50–a pimento cheese sandwich for $1.50. What a deal. Anywhere else you’d pay at least $10.00 for the same thing. Smaller merchandise tents were located all over the course. On every hole we saw famous current or past golfers. If we missed someone, we saw them on the putting green or driving range, later. 

At 1:00 pm the famed Par-Three contest began. Roger, Bruce, and I found a precarious place to sit on a very steep hill behind the ninth green (it’s a nine-hole par-3 course) which turned out to be a great spot. Every golfer in the contest played number 9. We saw three holes-in-one that afternoon—Tiger Woods, Jay Haas, and Craig Stadler. What a thrill! Jack Nicklaus almost made one, too. You talk about excitement. Seeing the best golfers of all time make aces was unbelievable. 

Surprisingly, in the April 5, 2005, issue of GolfWorld magazine there was a full 2-page photo of the ninth hole taken from a spot right behind us. In fact, my head and arms and Roger’s head and left arm were visible in the lower left side of the picture. When I opened that page in the magazine, I thought to myself “that’s the exact view we had of nine!” When I looked closer, there we were. WOW! Sandy had the picture mounted and preserved for me. 

After the par three tournament we watched golfers on the putting greens and driving range, shopped at the merchandise tent again, then left the course at 5:30 pm. Our plane left Augusta about 8:30 pm and arrived in Indianapolis about 1:00 am. IT WAS AN ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS DAY!!!

Without my interest in golf, that trip would have never happened. Golf was the central activity; the course and the players on it were the highlights. The Masters golf tournament ranks up there with the Super Bowl and the Indy 500 as one of the exceptional sporting events each year. The golfing traditions it represents are held in high esteem. Golfers respect the course and the tournament for its heritage. Being on the ground at Augusta National brought it all to life, and I am thankful I was able to see it in person. 

As the title of this blog says, golf has unlimited relevance. The game influences lives, relationships, and personalities. If you play the game, love the game, and love all the activities that accompany it, you understand what I mean. You may not, however, understand how drastically your life changes when you no longer have golf to enjoy. Yes, it is just a game, but it’s a “life” game; a social event one can enjoy until old age or infirmity shuts it off. But nothing is the same without it.    

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2 Comments

  1. You are so spot-on. Jim and I just got new clubs and are so anxious to get to the driving range to try them out. This is the first time in 25 years that I have had new clubs!!!!!. I certainly know how the game of golf impacts your social life as that is exactly what happened to my dad. He could still swing but couldn’t walk to the tee and he didn’t want to slow everybody down. When he was losing his eyesight, we knew we were in trouble as he was a voracious reader. God knew what he was doing when he took him to heaven!! Have a great day!
    Sharon

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