Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Mashochism of Golf

Voice inside the Hatcher's head: Feet shoulder width apart ... head slightly tilted right ... right hand relaxed on grip like I'm holding a stick of butter ... left elbow locked ... slow on the backswing ... shift weight to the right foot ... keep the head down ... transition to foreswing ... shift your weight to the left foot ... shift your weight to the left foot ... dammit shift your weight to the left foot already!

The weight shift came too late, and the head of my seven iron, with considerable angular momentum, hit ground about 3 inches behind the ball and the same distance above the natural low-point of the radius of the club action. This implies considerable shock to the wrists, arms, and back, and a hard metal blade tearing through a small ant colony beneath my ball like a bunker buster bomb into the recessed basements of one of Saddam's castles. Oh, and it also means that the ball travels about 30 yards.

Voice inside the Hatcher's head: Quick, think of some original and witty permutation of the five or six standard curse words in the English language - this is your chance to contribute to the well-being of the foursome, to leave them with an expression that they too can use to impress other golfers with the originality of their profanity, and to make your wit, rather than the wretchedness of your golf game, the lasting impression .

Voice from the Hatcher to the outside world: F%&@!!!!

That's all I could come up with. So the lasting impression is a guy with both the golf skills and the cursing ability of a seven-year old. That, in a nutshell, is how I spent my Myrtle Beach vacation. Why why why why why? It didn't have to be that way. With the temperature of the surf about 70 degrees, similar to that of the air, I could have been boogie boarding with the twins (or, as they call it, buggy boarding) in mid-October, or trying to coax Jake into braving the treachorous ankle-deep waters of the Atlantic.

I know that some of you may correctly point out that a guy who spends this much time writing about his opinions is clearly in love with himself, which is definitely true, but the Hatcher is more complex than your average narcissist. There is a corner of my psyche that is pure self-hatred, and it manifests itself by convincing me to play golf, where I can spend 4 solid hours cursing my own existence. What compounds the problem is the fact that beyond the age of 30, this is the most likely game involving any sense of coordination that you are likely to play with other guys, and so each guy you play with infers your athletic skills in all other sports based upon your ability, or lack thereof, in golf.

It is manifestly unfair. Hey, when I was twelve years old, I was second in the majors in home runs to Ed Preston, and I am still sifting through the Balco grand jury testimony to see if his name pops up, 'cause I'm sure he was juicing. I am a coordinated guy - I'm not embarressed to play any sport other than golf. But with golf, 70 year-old guys suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, with flexibility on par with what mine would be if wrapped in a straight jacket, own me on the golf course.

There were some bright spots to my game, but even those say very little for my character. I noticed by the third day that I played very well when others in the foursome were really playing poorly. I could barely suppress the shadenfreud, the feeling of joy in seeing the misery of others, and it lifted my game to a whole new level. The sight of a partner's ball duck hooking into the woods, the inevitable sound of titlest hitting hard lumber, the subsequent cursing of said partner and the look of utter frustration on his face - all of it, a delight for my senses. My drive - straight down the middle 230 yards out.

But even if you are good at golf, you are never as good as you think you should be, and with certainty somewhere in your future lies a horrendous round of golf. To use some of the language I learned from Nobel prize winner Ed Prescott - if golf scores follow a Markov process, a bad round is in every golfer's ergodic set. I am not really sure what that means, but I think the context is correct. Golfers as a group are like Wiley Coyote (super genius), with that elusive perfect round as the Road Runner. Whereas Wiley Coyote is buying the latest explosive bird seed made by Acme to improve his chances of feasting on the bird, we are always buying Big Berthas to improve our drives. That's all I need - a better set of clubs - and you can count me in for Myrtle Beach again next year.


Blogger The Conservative UAW Guy said...

Interesting take on the game.
I usually beat myself up on my target shooting skills (my golf, if you will). :)

Keep up the good blogging!

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gold is a beer drinking game, a time to get away from the wife and kids, no more no less. But its always fun to watch some fool in the foursome. It always makes me feel better about shooting 90

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

golf sorry

8:49 PM  
Blogger John Wolfram said...

You must introduce yourself to the beauty of golf -- better known in these parts as "The Scramble"

I suck at golf. I hit 16 ground balls off the tee until lightning ended our round just two days ago. But, when on the green, I offered to sacrificially "see how this green rolls" for the better golfers, and actually sank two long puts, which instantaneously turned me from golf zero to golf hero. At the end of the day, I had two good puts, one nice pitch to the green, and about 60 crappy other shots that no one will remember -- including me.

Another beer here, fellas!

10:17 AM  

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