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A constantly curious and melancholic wanderer...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Being in a relationship with a golfer (is difficult for people sometimes)...

This morning at exactly 05h45, I was picked up by one eager golfer to go play some golf. (Me in the scenario are off course only in a supporting role).
On our excursions to various golf courses, I am usually very very grumpy and only warms up towards the 16th hole, when the end is visible and we can go home... (sometimes if I get some nice food and a cup of coffee, I might show a little affection during halftime)
So, this morning, when I couldn't feel my hands or face from the cold and the wind, I starting thinking about this bizarre sport and why some people love it so much. Honestly, no answers came to mind. But I thought I would write a little something about the perceptions of the non-golfer about this strange sport.

 When I went for support for the first time, Golf Etiquette 101 was given to me in a ten minute lecture.
  1.  Do not speak - at all. This is off course only a rule for non-golfers, as the people hitting the balls seem to be talking and analyzing and making comments all the time. 
  2.  No cellphones. I understood this: the Rolling Stones could be distracting if they started singing just before someone takes that important swing.
  3. Do not walk on the green - you might hurt it. Again - this is only for non-golfers, the golfers get to walk on the green, look at the ball for hours, while pacing forward and backwards, and yes - even stamping their feet on the precious green when upset.
  4. If at any time, you hear someone scream "Four", immediately fall down to earth, face down - to avoid being hit by a ball.
  5. Do not distract the golfers - meaning: dress rather conservatively if you are a girl.
I've also learned some golf terms and their meaning:
  • Fairway (the place where the ball should be kept on to avoid being in the rough)
  •  Rough (a place that looks almost exactly like the fairway, but a fine line divides the two and if your ball missed the fairway and your into the rough - your into trouble)
  • Par (you played as many shots as the expert said you should play on this hole)
  • Birdie (you have played one less shot than the expert said you should play on this hole...this is a good thing, because in golf - scoring is done the opposite way: less is more).
  • Pissie (a ball that is too scared to go close to the dark hole and stops just a few centimeters before) Golf widow (something I would apparently become very soon according to my mother. Not sure why. Golf is apparently a much more dangerous sport than I thought at first.
From observing and supporting every now and then, I've also learnt a few strange facts about this game and the players:
  • Golf is about walking: you walk and walk untill you find your ball, then you hit if further and walk again to go find it again.
  • Players always retrace their steps once they have hit the ball. This means, that once the ball is gone (and usually it went in a different direction than planned), the take an imaginery ball, put it on the exact same spot than the real ball was and perform which looks to me like the exact same action. Then they say: "That was the way I should have done it"
  • The game consists of a good-shot-bad-shot combination. Once a golfer made a good shot, it is sure to be followed by a bad shot. This is too keep them interested in and excited about the game. Even if a player has played very badly (when even the non-expert eye like mine could see it was a rough game), one good shot can make up for all the poor ones. This is the beauty of the game: because out of the ranging from 80 to sometimes over a 100 shots that were taken, you will be able to recall that one good one, that went exactly where you aimed it at. This wil force you to continue playing golf - to hit another shot like that.
  • This bring me to my next point: The ball rarely goes to where the golf player aims it at.
  • You shouldn't look up too soon before you hit a ball - this could have a very, very bad effect on your game. Other golfers will immediately tell you when you looked up too soon.
  • You have to carry a small bag of sand with you all the time. If you don't other golf players will look down on you.
  • Swearing is part of the game. I did not include some of these word in the terms that I've learned to keep the post viewer friendly.
  • Golfers claim to play golf to relax. However, they always leave the course looking very unrelaxed and frustrated. I've figured that it's probably a long-term thing - where the relaxation only kicks in after a few days.
  • My favourite part of golfing: the zen gardens. Each course has a hundred of these. In golf terms they are called bunkers. The aim is for a golfer (that is starting to get frustrated with his game) to hit the ball in the zen garden/bunker. Then they have to try to get the ball out of the zen garden/bunker, which normally takes the frustration levels to a peek...then they start raking the sand in circles to completely calm themselves down again... Brilliant!
Another thing that rather amuses me about golf, is the pro-shop where you buy all your (oh-so-very-expensive) golf equipment. They sell some pretty useless stuff there: e.g. a pencil specifically designed to write on score cards (?), stuffed animals to put on your clubs, a thing that reaches in difficult places to get hold of your ball. (the last one is actually useful, but still very amusing)... However, the pro-shop is a holy place for most golfers and should be respected at all times.

Even though golfers are strange and the game is even stranger: I truly have respect for them. They never ever give up and they always go back, no matter how frustrating the previous game was. And to see the look of exitement about every new course and before every game - the hope that this game will be the best game ever...is priceless :)

1 comment:

  1. :)

    Okay, okay, for the uninitiated, I concede that it would seem a very strange game… Yet, the principles are quite simple. An outdoor game, with the objective to play a small ball into a small hole using various clubs. Simple. Go to course. Hit ball, find ball. Repeat until ball in hole.

    And yet, like life, the greatest game is not always simple. And definitely not always fair. The margins between greatness and disaster are terribly small. Bad bounces can render good shots unrewarded. Skill and ability do not guarantee a satisfactory result. And the ultimate test is not that of your skill against your playing partner’s, but against your own limitations (both physically and mentally) in the testing ground of nature. It is a game where you call penalty on yourself, and where judgment is left in the hands of the player. A game of imperfection, which, according to Longhurst, is only consolidated by practise. It is possibly the only game where everyone can for a moment, if only for one shot, equal the performance of its greatest exponents.

    Nature left our forefathers the undulating ground where the sea receded. This gift, it seems, was left as a playground for golf. The daily travels of man across this land, vegetation and sea air, sandy soil and sheep, combined to present the cradle from which the game would originate.

    According to Max Behr “playing golf should be a delightful expression of freedom.” He continues “the perfect rhythmic coordination of the muscles to swing the club makes the golf stroke an art. And, being such, it is apt to induce an emotional state, under the stress of which human nature is not rational…” I understand that a majority do not attend this church; their soul is not stirred by the Mountains of Morne behind the 9th fairway at Royal County Down, the ready walk to the first tee of a new course where new challenges await, the possibility of a shot well struck and a game well played. The romance of the game does not speak to them. Yet.

    Perhaps it is best for them to view the game as a microcosm of life. To see in golfers that inherent optimism of mankind, the ability to keep going despite the frustrations and size of the challenge, because, no matter how bad things get, there is hope that the next shot will be different. That it will be the one to render you immortal for a moment, only to fade into memory in your attempts to repeat it. Those confused by the many rules and sometimes strange etiquette of the game, may focus in the character it reveals, no, demands of its players; victor or loser, an ability to reach the 18th green, disregard the events of the day’s play, smile and shake hands, stronger for the experience, closer to learning how to play the game right.

    To understand how golf speaks to us is difficult. To explain the passion and freedom of the walk on a course, simultaneously one with nature and in vigorous struggle with it is impossible. It must be experienced. The spirituality of being alone on a course on a crisp morning, fog lifting to reveal each hole in front of the player. Wavering on a tee-box, waves crashing into rocks below dwarfing the sound of the rustling grass. Lyrical, and true romance. But I won’t force you. The old game requires patience