Golf: A Stream of Consciousness Essay
I often find my facebook page littered with posts and apps that automatically report how long or how fast one of my friends ran the 5k where, for some reason, they paid $100 to get sprayed with an assortment of colored paint at the finish line under the false impression it was all for a good cause. Or worse yet, the act of running was done simply for exercise and they thought their 500 Internet friends would like an update about how many calories they burned. I’ve never been impressed with their numbers or their bragging, for lack of a better word, and as far as I’m concerned these people have replaced non-drinkers on the unworthy pedestal of people I cannot trust.
Then there are tennis players who strike me as odd…and little else. From the one oversized forearm on their dominant side, to their unimpressive run in Little League that led them to the tennis courts in the first place, I’ve never truly been friends with anyone who plays tennis. Has anyone? Aren’t tennis acquaintances just that? People you play tennis with and nothing more? I do not know the true answer to this question, which is in turn the answer as far as I’m concerned.
I once played on a softball team in a city league for a couple of years. I recall that before our first game, before all of our games really, we met at a nearby Mexican food restaurant, ate greasy burritos, and drank margaritas before showing up at the ball fields in a state ranging from tipsy to drunk. That first game, we played against a team that called themselves the Terminators, carried matching bat bags, wore long pants, slid into second, practiced twice a week, and beat us so bad the scoreboard operator stopped keeping up. Down at least 20 runs, they still took pitches and drew walks as if their high school coach manned the dugout preaching the tenants of on-base percentage. I should’ve been drunker.
And what about basketball players. Rec league heroes who have their girlfriends in the stands secretly recording their games in case they accidentally produce a highlight worthy of a youtube clip overlaid with a rap song. No thanks.
When I finish a round of golf and my group rallies in the 19th hole for a post-round cocktail, I rarely hear talk of anything other than the tribulations we suffered through.
“Man, I hit that ball two miles left on 3.”
“I lost 4 balls today.”
“If that putt on 15 would’ve hit anything, it might’ve exploded.”
“My swing is so good right now my back hurts and I have a tingling sensation in my left wrist.”
Other than our golfing group, there is nobody there to see us, nor anyone, save maybe our one rival, or our father perhaps, or golfing mentor, who we even discuss our scores with.
Golf is different. The difference reveals itself on the way home or when we get there and settle into the couch to watch the Golf Channel, when the bad shots – the hook on the first tee, the yips for 13/18 holes on the putting green, the shank on 17, the missed opportunities, generally – become memories that peel off, crumple, and disintegrate into thousands of insignificant and forgotten pieces. What’s left originated in those fleeting moments of grace on the course – the flushed iron that drew toward the pin, spun, and left a 5’ birdie putt (no matter that it was missed), the long drive that felt effortless, the way the wedge shot soared perfectly over the tip of a branch and floated high in the sky, long enough to admire against the bright blue backdrop before it plummeted to the center of the green.
And when we go to bed, these memories of the good shots become predictions for our next round that cannot get here soon enough; the one we hope to dream about when we close our eyes. When we will hit the sweet spot a few more times, have three fewer putts, and card a mere three strokes less. And no one will know it as a great success. Because no one has to. Because golf is different.