If you wish to hide your character, donât play golf.
âGolf is the cruelest of sports. Like life, itâs inherently unfair. Itâs a harlot. A trollop. It leads you on. It never lives up to its promisesâŠitâs a boulevard of broken dreams. It plays with men. And runs off with the butcher.â
Okay. I admit it. Golf is my out of body, masochistic muse and amusement when Iâm not working as Jimmy Olson, occasionally mild-mannered editor, reporter, publisher and cleaner of toilets for the Statesman-Examiner and occasional trimmer of floribunda in the yard that has no conscience.
Golf may be a four-letter word that, somewhat ironically, spells f-l-o-g backwards. Thatâs my game these dayâs, a disjointed series of spastic flogs and twitches heading inexorably and far too rapidly toward a stationary ball thatâs ill-suited to the task.
Yes, as noted on-course television funny man and Golf Channel host David Feherty has intoned, âHis swing looks like an octopus that just fell out of a tree.â
Guilty as charged.
I donât play often enough any more to attack the game competently or competitively, but thereâs something about a game played outdoors, on green grass (okay, itâs August and some of that green is brown) and mostly without the aid of text messaging, tweeting and email that appeals.
The game is both simple and complex. Itâs easily the most difficult sporting exercise Iâve ever attempted. No, it isnât even close. Yes, marriage is a distant second on the Degree of Difficulty meter.
Itâs a confounding game played mostly within the vast five-inch space between your ears. Yes, it could be described as an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle. Itâs a game of minimizing the negative impacts of all your mistakes and realizing that if you canât afford to lose an occasional golf ball you shouldnât be playing in the first place.
(Editorâs note: Bowling would have been a cheaper sport. After all, you donât have to buy clothes that clash and on the maÂŹjority of occasions with bowling, you are going to finish with the same ball you started with.)
Iâm a former proponent of winter rules in the dog days of summer and the one-time owner of the best wood in the game, my trusty pencil. I once owned a low single digit handicap that got me into a lot of club championship drop flights and an admonition from a former Colville golf professional who advised me after a lesson in futility, âCowb, your swing looks like a five-car pile-up on 395âŠ I canât even slow it down here with my slow motion cameraâŠI strongly suggest you take two weeks off and then quit.â
âIf you want to take long walks, take long walks. If you want to hit things with sticks, hit things with sticks. But there is no excuse for combining the two and putting the results on television. Golf is not so much a sport as an insult to oversized lawns.
Golf is also an exercise that brings into play its practitionersâ sense of fair play and ethical qualities. Okay, I am a little naĂŻve at times.
Played at its purist levels, that is, by rank amateurs of the realm, the game offers no arbiters and no instant replay. There are no whistles, unless your partner in the Mixed Two-Ball Texas Hold-emâ is wearing a tight little number that only Natalie Gulbis could wriggle into. There are no referees or umpires to oversee the game.
And therein lies the conundrum and the problem. There are liesâŠand liesâŠand lies.
Like life, not everyone plays the game of golf as it was inÂŹtended to be played. Unless youâve worked the swollen banks of a rapidly rising river, filling and laying sandbags out of desperation or community service, this column may be for you, Mr. Sandbagger.
Take this mashie over the side of your nogginâ and listen up.
You know the guy weâre talking about hereâthe fellow who lies about his true playing ability and tends to make himself worse than he is. After all, thereâs a big tournament coming up and that usual Sunday afternoon money game.
Cash is on the line and that double-digit handicap is just fine, thank you very much.
We all know the culprit(s) here. These guys tend to register a bit low on the Moral Compass Meter. They understand the USGAâs handicap system, its nuances and how it can work for them. Maybe they enter only high numbers into the computer, or maybe itâs just a handful of numbers before the big tournament or game.
Okay, even I (hard to believe it) was unjustly accused (more than once) of being a Sandbagger at one time. But that was back when plaid was cool and so was persimmon.
(Editorâs note: Since I havenât packed a handicap other than my golf game for at least 14 years and donât even take a scorecard with me on my appointed rounds, youâre going to have to call me something else besides Sandbagger these days.)
Give me music on the course and a swing entirely bereft of tempo and timingâŠwell, Iâm all over it, Chivas Irons.
Time and perspective change. I donât like math on a good day. As far as Iâm concerned, golf at this AARP juncture of life is about smelling the fertilizer and chasing those $5 a dozen Ti-Techs down the first cut of clay at Dominion Meadows.
Personally, I never play money games against guys with double-digit handicaps. Period. No exceptions, even when I had one of those USGA-approved GHIN and Tonic numbers. Itâs either play straight upâŠor play for the sheer enjoyment and pleasure of the best game that was ever created by Scottish folks.
If weâre all playing by the same rules, count me in. Otherwise, son, you might want to think about changing your shoes. Youâre tracking sand all over the Poa Annua.
Playing against some hack that gets two strokes on a hole makes absolutely no sense to me.
Sam Snead had some advice for those who opt to play a friendly little game against somebody with a fraudulent handicap.
To wit: âYou should never gamble with a stranger, and consider everyone a stranger until youâve played with him at least a dozen times.â
âGolf gives you an insight into human nature, your own as well as your opponentâs.â
My esteemed sister, the Senior Director, Handicapping and Course Rating for the Oregon Golf Association, weighs in on the subject of USGA/GHIN handicaps in a companion story in this edition.
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After many years of work with the OGA, she has heard more than her share of laments from golfers who have chosen to not post his or her scores.
Here are a few heard from OGA staff members:
*I was playing with my husband/my kids/my grandkids
*I was on vacation.
*I didnât know the Course/Slope Rating.
*Iâm just a beginner and was playing with a beginner.
*I was too embarrassed and I just wanted to go home.
*I wasnât playing my home course.
*I was in another state and theyâre not on GHIN.
*The clubhouse was closed.
*I didnât play all nine (or 18) holes.
*I was playing alone.
*My score was too low/too high.
*I finished in the dark.
*I lost my scorecard.
*We were allowed mulligans in the tournament.
*The weather was really bad.
*There was a temporary green in play.
*I forgot my GHIN card and I donât know my number.
*Iâve got 20 scores postedâI thought I could stop there.
*I was playing in a Best-Ball.
*I played a different set of tees.
*I was using new clubs.
*I was just practicingâŠI practice a lot.
*I donât play in tournaments anyway.
*I was drinking beer while I was playing.
*I was just playing for fun.
*I was in a hurry.
*I havenât played in a long time.
*I was playing Winter Rules in July.
*The course was a Cow Pasture.
*My ball went in the water and a fish ate it.
*I donât want my handicap to go up/down.
*I didnât keep scoreâŠI donât have to post every score, do I?
*Our group doesnât start playing for another week/stopped playing last week.
*I donât understand handicapping. I just signed up and paid my money because we have great card games after we play.
*âSo and soâ doesnât postâwhy should I?