I enter the Tucson City Amateur Golf Tournament every year. Since it begins next week and I haven’t played since September of last year, prudence dictates that I dust off the clubs and practice by endeavoring to coax a dimpled ball into eighteen different holes scattered around a square mile or so of devilishly designed landscaping. It is also an opportunity to get a little exercise. (Emphasis on little). If you walk an eighteen-hole course, you’ll probably cover over four miles, which actually isn’t bad. You likely won’t notice (because you’re so focused on that cursed little ball and its indiscretions) that you’re essentially walking back and forth, as the holes tend to line up laterally. When you stop to think I was just under this same dang tree twenty minutes ago you start to realize how stupid the game really is.
Mark Twain is generally credited with having said that “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” Only during the ten times or so that I’ve actually played to my expectations (you may have read that I claim to be a “glass half empty” guy, but this does not apply to golf until after the first swing) have I truly taken the time to appreciate chirping birds, the rare glimpse at a mammal in its habitat or breathtaking panoramic views. These are the very things I seek whilst hiking with family, but put a club in my hand and I am instantly transformed into Neanderthal man, reduced to roars of frustrated rage as I fruitlessly pursue my vexing prey. (That ding-dang ball).
Basically, every round of golf follows a familiar pattern. For those of you who wish to pursue the sport of gentlemen (apparently, a gentleman is someone fat, decidedly unathletic and dressed in neon green or orange plaid slacks), I offer you the following guidelines with which to fit in and enjoy the experience to its fullest:
1) Enter the pro shop and present your credit card to the “gentleman” behind the counter. Engage him in light-hearted banter whilst simultaneously cursing him in your mind for playing his part in raping your finances and denying your children an inheritance.
2) Wait at an appropriate distance for the twelve groups ahead of you at the first tee to hit. Whisper to the rest of your group various criticisms of the golfers who tee off with respect to their obesity, hideous attire, poor athleticism and sense of direction; mutter disdainfully about how long it will take to finish because of playing behind so much incompetence.
3) When it is your time to hit, establish the order in your group by tossing a wooden tee in the air; whomever it points closest to is the first to hit, and so on until the full order is established. This is your first clue to how ridiculous the game really is.
4) Depending on how well you know those in your group, openly deride them for their poor tee shot. Often they will laugh. If you don’t know one or more of them, do so anyway and establish bad blood for the round. This makes golf more enjoyable.
5) Once it is your turn to hit, waddle to the tee box confidently. Take the time to enjoy the chirping birds, various mammals going about their day and splendid panoramic views. It will be your last opportunity. Stick the wooden tee in the ground and place your ball atop. Silently curse, bend back down and replace the ball after it falls off the tee. Address the ball, but don’t use the one for your home, lest a serial-killer golfer find it and seek you out.
6) Remind yourself to take the club back slowly, and begin your downswing likewise. Remember at the last moment how much farther the ball will go if you swing as hard as you can. Remove your scrotum from off your left shoulder (right if you’re left-handed) and ask those in your group where your ball went.
7) Waddle the roughly twenty-seven paces to your tee shot; remind yourself that one poor shot does not a round make. Endeavor to make a better swing this time. Choose a club that will allow you to advance the ball as far as you can without hitting the overhanging tree limb in front of you. Take a slow, purposeful swing, then pause for several seconds to allow your boys to stop vibrating after having hit the subterranean tree root hidden under your ball with your club.
8) You’re back in the fairway. One good swing and the damage done can be minimized. Choose the appropriate club and swing easily but deliberately. Watch your ball one-hop and hit the golfer in the next fairway squarely between the butt cheeks. Yell “fore” and blame the snail-like speed of sound for not having given fair warning. Silently congratulate yourself for having hit your ball into at least one “hole.”
9) Make it eventually onto the green where you can use your “putter”. After “putting” several times, curse the choice of cheap Mexican food for last night’s dinner, then pull out the club with which you’ll knock the ball into the hole. Strike the ball back and forth past the hole, leaving yourself with hopefully shorter putts each time. Be sure to mention to the others how badly “you were screwed” after each effort. Scroll down your mental chart and bleat out the first of many swear words you’ll use today. Finally cajole the ball into the hole; conduct a mental tally of your attempts at the cursed orb, subtract by two, and confidently announce your score to the others.
10) Repeat seventeen more times, with increased animation for each increment. Upon finishing, tell the other players to go (occupy) themselves and vow to never play again. Forget how bad you really suck after a couple of weeks and repeat the entire process again.