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Jan 10

Explaining Golf’s Pleasures to Uninitiated

Golf’s Pleasures Just A Link Away

Every sport has its disciples who swear by its exhaustive list of sensory and health pleasures. They also have a corresponding group of skeptics that wonder aloud, “Why would anyone do that?” Baseball, football, curling, badminton – golf…they all have it, even boxing, so they say. The naysayers don’t believe that there is a cornucopia of stimulating and refreshing aspects to a passionate devotee’s specific sport, simply because they don’t or haven’t yet played it. They can tell that a lot of golf courses feature attractive acreage of land. Some of them turn up their nose, and suggest that it be used for something else. Joni Mitchell’s “Paved Paradise, put up a parking lot” springs to mind.

The pleasures of golf start  long before an avid golfer leaves home. The anticipation of that terrain is pure catnip to the nature lover.  Tennis has its slab of concrete, bowling has its wooden lane with various markings, and boxing is encircled within a square ring. The golfer knows that he or she will spend the day exploring God’s green earth, to one degree or another, depending on previously unvisited sections of the rough or forest. The golfer, still at home, can look at his equipment as a group of sacred objects. He or she knows how each one feels in the best and worst of the action. The ball of choice, be it Titleist or Top-Flite, is clean, pure white, perfectly dimpled, and waxy smooth. You can just feel how far one of these little jewels will go if you play your cards right – or at least your backswing.

Arrival at the course brings its own rewards. One stands on grass at the first tee, embarking on the day’s adventure, with three friends or with a group of strangers. Nations have been built by these chance meetings and three hours of collaboration. Smell the grass. If you’re in Arizona, it’s a wonderful tinder dry aroma, with a mix of luminescent green. If you’re in the Northwest or much of Canada, there’s a slight wetness to the smell, sometimes more than slight. You might smell the sea, the pines, the fir, the spruce, the cactus.
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Then there’s the other wildlife. You didn’t think you were out there by yourself, did you? Depending on where you are, you might see deer, kangaroos, a rhinoceros, flying Herons, beaver, roadrunners, and all manner of birds. Again, the nature watcher is enticed. These are visual pleasures not seen by tennis players. They’re moving too fast to see them, and white Alaskan buntings usually don’t venture into the cyclone fence. When you play golf, you’re in their house, not the other way around..
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Then there’s the swing. If you’re stiff, or as in my case ancient, you don’t have to tear your arms off – just swing in a way that feels good. There is a host of pleasures that the unitiated don’t get to experience, that being the millions of shapes, angles, twists, turns, upswings and bends that any given shot might take. The trajectories of almost any shot has beauty, even the one you duck-hooked into the weeds. A golfer knows exactly what is meant by a sweet spot. When you hit it, a wonderful shimmer goes right through you, as nature applauds. Granted, if you don’t, it can feel like you hit a brick wall with a metal club, but we live for that “ah” moment. It happens often enough to keep us coming back. 

By the time you reach the last few holes, you may be tired, but you’re not absolutely whipped…you’re exercised. Most of the time, golf courses manage to situate themselves in the fresh air, and that alone is worth the price of admission. After the trials of the 18 you just played, there are the pleasures of hindsight, and “what I should have done.” The great thing is that you can go back and do that tomorrow, with a clean slate. You can go with your family or friends. You can sit just off the 18th at the scene of the crime, have lunch, a beer, or a soda. You can work out kinks on the range if you’re not ready to go home yet. And can you hear it? It’s really quiet out there. How many places in the world can you get that?

And that’s just the top few of the list. If anyone wants to dish golf as elitist or selfish, particularly considering the outrageous sense of charity extended by amateurs and pros alike, pick up a club and pay attention to what’s happening from the time you leave the house to the time you come home. It can be truly wonderful. Try it, you’ll like it..

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.