“GOLF IS DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” – Arnold Palmer
It’s been said that golf is a lot like life. This is not true at all – unless (as author John Updike once wrote) some players are using tennis rackets and hockey pucks, some are teeing off backward from the green to the tee, and some think the object of the game is to spear fellow-players with the flags. In other words, golf has a strict set of rules to follow – whereas in life, you sort of make it up as you go along. At least, that’s what I’ve been doing … which seems to be working out okay so far.
During my teen years, my family and I moved into a new suburb on the shores of the Manukau Harbour, complete with its own golf course. One of the attractions of building a house in the area was a complimentary membership of the aforementioned club. But, on our list of reasons to move here, this came dead last; my parents had no interest in chasing a little ball around a sculpted paddock, and at that point, neither did I. In fact, the only chasing that happened during those early years was the greenkeeper chasing me and my friends. We’d discovered that golf courses, with all their humps and hollows, are great places to ride our bikes …
All this changed, however, when one of my soon-to-be mates moved in up-the-road. He played golf and was related to legendary Kiwi golfer Michael Campbell. He introduced me to the game – and for the following few years, we played … a lot. We played after school, got some coaching, entered competitions, and even became friends with the greenkeeper!
The greatest game mankind ever invented had hooked me in – and despite its maddening properties, I played right into my late teens … until I stopped.
I’m not sure why I stopped. It was probably a combination of surfing, leaving town and lending my brother my clubs, which he subsequently lost. (How do you lose a set of golf clubs?!) Whatever the reason, it’d been nearly 30 years since I’d swung a club in anger … until a few months ago.
Now this frustrating, endlessly complicated game has taken my interest again.
A cynic might say, “Mike, you’re having a midlife crisis!” But it’s not that – although I am in my mid-life, and the world is in a crisis. No, it’s simply that my two sons (like me when I was their age), have both been bitten by the golf bug – and their incessant watching of YouTube videos and constant practise swings have reminded me of why I got hooked all those years ago.
Honestly, I went from yelling at my sons, “Turn those damn golfing videos off!” to “Hey, have you seen this clip on how to get another 40 yards on your drive?”
So, after being reunited with a long lost love and reminded why Arnold Palmer was right on the money, here are my top five reasons why I reckon you, too, should give golf a crack:
GOLF KEEPS YOU YOUNG
And it can age you terribly – such are the ambiguities of the game. But if you’re getting on in years, it’s a great motivator to go outside into the outdoors, get the heart rate up a little, and enjoy some exercise.
Unless you’re of the same mind as Mark Twain, who once said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”
Regardless of your mindset, you just need to pop into your local golf course and see the numbers of pensioners enjoying a round of 9, or (for those with carts and two good hips), 18 holes. It keeps the moths at bay, the brain active, and perhaps most importantly, it’s a chance to socialise with others.
On the other hand, a bad round has been known to drive the healthiest 28-year-old straight to his grave.
GOLF REVEALS YOUR TRUE CHARACTER
It’s true. You think you know someone until you play a round of golf with them. For some strange reason, golf has the ability to reveal all your innermost thoughts and shout them from the rooftops. Long suppressed expletives find themselves centre stage as you hurl them towards a small white ball heading for a pond. Innocent clubs are thrown further than you knew was humanly possible, and balls are secretly moved out of the rough and onto the fairway when no one is looking. If there’s the infinitesimal trace of wickedness dwelling within you, it’ll be magnified a hundredfold.
This is a good thing … I think.
“Golf … is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well.” – P.G. Wodehouse
GOLF IS CONTINUALLY CHALLENGING
Just when you think you’ve got it sorted – that you’ve finally mastered this most wonderful game – it’ll mercilessly crush your hopes and dreams before you can say $#@%!!!. Golf is a game of minute adjustments. Let a fingernail get too long? You’ll slice a ball into the rough. Wear boxers that are too tight? You’ll miss the ball completely. Two coffees before a game instead of your usual one? Your slightly elevated heart rate will land you in the bunker every time.
There are so many subtleties and almost imperceptible adjustments one can make to change the ball’s flight that one can never get bored.
It’s a lot like a woman … to be honest.
“They call it golf because all the other four-letter words were taken.” – Ray Floyd
GOLF IS A GAME OF SKILL … & LUCK
That old saying is true: “The more you practise, the luckier you get!” But skill will only take you so far. In fact, golf is purposely played under circumstances that ensure superior skills alone will not always determine the winner. Take a ball sliced out of bounds, which then hits a tree and bounces back into the fairway, for example. Or one heading for a sand bunker, which instead hits a guy’s head and bounces up on the green … fortuitous indeed! Except for the guy whose head you hit.
Then there are those 60-foot putts that drop into the hole perfectly, when you know the last thousand strokes have missed, winning you the game and the keys to a new BMW. This could be why golfers tend to be more gracious in defeat and less pompous in victory than soccer players.
GOLF IS SOMETHING I CAN DO WITH MY KIDS
Which, to be honest, is the whole reason I’m playing again. My entire aim in this recent pursuit of golf is to beat my kids – which, despite 30-odd years of not golfing, is a challenge I’m up for. It’s a lot like riding a bike (you never forget). I’ve just got to remove a little rust, trim my nails and wear loose boxers – then I’m gonna start playing ‘a-dollar-a-hole’ with them!
I figure if I do it right, I can potentially start winning back some of the money I’ve spent on them over the last 19 years.
So there you have it! Five reasons why golf is the most complicated, frustrating and maddening game mankind has ever invented.
Now get out there and play!