Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Neurotic Golfer

Golf is a game our primate forebearers would have been only too happy to play. It has everything the tense primate could want--twitchy routines, long, stress-reducing walks, and the privacy to mumble to oneself at will. It's got lots of paraphernalia--tees, coins, lip balm, towels, and, of course, a bag full of clubs, which the discerning monkey can use to distract himself from whatever woes await him just outside the confines of the urban savanna. You see all kinds of people playing golf, from guys who think that with just a little more practice they could go pro, to players who not only don't know there are professional golfers, but don't have the foggiest notion how to hit a ball.

Which leads me to wonder if golf is good. Golf may be good for local economies and golf manufacturers, but are people better for having played golf? To hear Deepak Chopra tell it, the pursuit of golf is a mystical experience where a man has the opportunity to meet his "higher self." Sure. From my vantage point, with rare exception, golf is a game where most players hope to further entrench themselves in the notion that they are King and can do anything. Perhaps many golfers come to this errant conclusion because they are "somebodies" out in the non-golf world, COOs and the like, and assume that that supremacy should naturally translate to golf. Having watched countless playing partners flail at the ball, I can assure them that it doesn't. But even if they somehow managed to become a decent golfer (and there are plenty of Kings who are also good players) does that necessarily mean anything substantial about them as people? If Warren Buffet is also a +3 handicap, does that make him a better person? If Mother Theresa had been scratch, would the Catholic Church be rushing her to sainthood any faster? My guess is no and no. Of course, I'd be a complete liar if I said I didn't admit to feeling the prickly fingers of self-judgment creep up my neck as I hit a bad shot. We all want to be able to hold our heads high and say, "I can play better than most." Obviously it takes discipline to be a good player, and I don't want to belittle anyone's technical achievements, least of all my own. But discipline can bring skill to any activity and those activities aren't always good--just ask Charles Manson. No, any gratification you derive from pride-of-supremacy is foolish, and ultimately, damaging because if you fall into the trap of thinking because you're good at something you yourself are "good," then you have missed the forest for the trees. Maybe the USGA should distribute signs to courses across the country that read: "You are not golf, and golf is not you. Relax, keep up the pace, and have fun."

But if I don't hit a good tee shot off #1, all bets are off.

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