Our Best Golf Memories Might be Different Than What We Expected
When we look back on a lifetime of activity, some little part of our brain always wants to calculate whether it was worth it. I’m not talking about the part that calculates cost, but spiritual, emotional benefit. Did playing this game over all those decades make me happy? Did it provide more uplift than it did depression? What do we really remember fondly when we search our memories of the course, from childhood on? The results may not be what we expected.
The first surprise from my own evaluation is that for the life of me, I cannot remember a single scorecard, good or bad. My memories are filled with aesthetic pleasures surrounding the game of golf, which is as it should be. The game of golf is at the same time beautiful, poetic, visually alluring, and mechanically brutal in terms of difficulty. It has everything that an artist or engineer could want. I can tell from my distant recollections that the best course designers create something akin to what the great painters do. I am warmed by the memories of many individual holes, visually stunning in composition, texture and light play. And that all hits me before I ever swing the club, interacting with the beautiful scene that will immediately transform into an opponent.
I remember the smell of various courses, from the forest and seaside to the deserts of Arizona. My memories have even allowed me to keep one or two moments of satisfied vanity, things I couldn’t do if I practiced them all day. Among my favorites is the day upon which I hit my first and only 300 yard drive. Well, actually, I hit a drive of 190 to 200, but the fairway at Casa Grande, Arizona was so hard packed (mostly dirt) that I got another 100 yards plus of roll. That hard pan was just as good as hitting the golf cart path on most courses. Hey, qualify it how you will, but I hit one 300 yard drive in my life – it’s checked off the bucket list.
There’s a silly little par 3 at Neskowin on the Oregon coast, which requires that we climb a hill for one or two hundred feet. The trail, however, is arranged as if one is climbing the Alps. Once at the top, you can see the ocean to the right and the green far down below, about 70 or 80 yards out, and hundreds of feet straight down. When I play it now, I use a wedge – send it out into the wild blue yonder, then watch it stall into a vertical drop onto the green. As a little kid, I used a teed up driver, and got the very same shot I get now. Both are supremely satisfying, because an elevated tee still gives that little thrill suggesting that I am a member of the space program.
I have seen bear, deer, elk, skunks, possum, snakes, coyotes, rabbits, eagles, and much more on the courses of my life. I have played in every kind of rich air, and have played close to forest fires. I have sat quietly on the bench as my brother shot his first sub-par round at the local pitch and putt at the age of 13. My father and I both understood the moment, and went quiet to avoid getting into my sibling’s head. He had and has nerves of steel. Long final hole, and he banged it way out there dead center to the apron where even I could have gotten down in two or three. I took inspiration from that. A person with confidence doesn’t need to choke. Fate isn’t cruel by itself, we help it out too much.
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I have played this game with all manner of people I love. Some, I still see every day, and others I have not seen since, but they are still with me. This game has given me color, scent, action, sound, calm, companionship, health and nature’s glory for well over half a century. You bet my memories hold such esteem for a game that has given so much more than it has taken. The only thing is, for all the fuss I made in those years about scoring and failure to score, I still can’t remember one single scorecard.