HOLE IN NONE – 50 years later, I’m finally into golf

Photo by Kory Roundtree
Note: (Today I woke up at the mid-point in my life. I’m now 50 years of age. I wrote this blog a couple of weeks ago after playing golf for the first time in my life. I had anticipated playing again today with a few friends, but alas, Red Lodge, Montana, is chilled with a fresh layer of powder and so I’m moving now towards plan B: hot wings and cheer at a local pub with a few friends. I’d like to believe golf will bring a new level of satisfaction, activity and challenge to my life over the next 50 years or so …  I’ve taken my time thus far to take a swing at the game so what’s another week or two until the grass is visible again? For now, here’s a few thoughts about my first impressions of the game …)

I’ve mocked golf and golfers all my life. It’s always a surprising jolt when you wake up one day and realize you’ve been living a cliché’ or buying into some rhetoric handed to you –usually from some influential adult who was just highly ignorant. All the classic asinine comments about golf being a silly, boring game, in which fashion-challenged Scotch drinkers chase a little white ball around has been my view of golf and its players since I can remember. Embarrassing really.

But not half as embarrassing as I must now appear. The laughter is centered around my next attempt at driving that tiny white ball a couple hundred yards from where I stand, towards a hole barely the diameter of a tea-cup. No plastic wedge, no dragon’s mouth with those pesky plaster teeth to avoid, just the massive sea of groomed grass between me and that near-invisible hole.

A couple weeks ago, Kory spontaneously asked me to golf with him. A life-long, avid golfer, he knew I was a complete thumbless neophyte at the game, but he also knew I was toying with the idea of “trying” golf someday soon. So, he handed me a set of spare clubs and we set out for a full 18-hole experience – my first ever.

Naturally, there was no point in scoring my game. The number of swings I took that day were well into the triple digits. But I had a couple of moments where I was able to sample a subtle taste of what it must be like to be good at this game. Moments when I came close to actually putting that ball where I intended.

I felt the magic of the sport on the 15th hole this day. The tee sat a few hundred feet in elevation above the hole, which was a couple hundred yards away, surrounded by a mote of water. I immediately saw myself finishing the last three holes with swampy feet and soaked pants, hunting for the last of my extra balls in that murky water.

“Just get up there and hit that ball freak-show,” Kory directed. “Use your muscle memory and don’t think too hard!”

Hell I had nine years of hardball behind me – playing Little Leauge baseball, high school and even some college – I have some athletic sensibilities damn it! But despite the fact that this wasn’t baseball, and that my swing looked more like Joe Cocker swatting a pesky hornet, I somehow managed to loft that drive from the 15th tee, up and onto the green within two modest putts of the hole. My first 3-stroke par ever! It was as euphoric-a-feeling as any I’d had from a  home run hit in high school.

By day’s end, my once white Pinnacle 1, now looked remarkably similar to a meatball the dog had refused to eat. I’d had some moments of success this day, but obviously had spent most of my “golfing” digging my ball out of every ditch, mud hole or sand trap within a mile of the green.

I loved it though. That now brown ball marked my induction into a sport which I formerly mocked. All of the reasons I gave for golf being silly have now left me. It IS the greatest game in the world. The mental challenge, the 5 or 6 miles you end up walking (without a cart of course), the precision required, the agility, the concentration, … there’s a hole in none of the rationale for why golf is a worthwhile activity. Now I find, that the only holes in all of this, are the ones I’ve yet to fill with that tiny little orb.