Last April I wrote a column about taking up the game of golf. My previous golfing experience occurred many frog lives ago, having to do with a road trip, two women, two guys, the usual recreational substances, and happening upon a random golf course alongside Highway 1. No one in the car played golf, so it being one of those invincible kind of days, we stopped and stumble-lurched through 18 holes. I shot 129, thought it a splendid score.
Enter Groupon, by way of my inbox, asking the question, “How about a weekday round of golf for two? We’ll throw in a cart, couple sandwiches, couple drinks for $49.” Telephone best bud described the swag to be had for $24.50. He demands immediate action.
It was a goof. I’ve always thought golf was a fake sport designed for rich white people who like to dress up in funny clothes and ride around manicured acres of lawn in a clown car. Me and golf seemed like a grotesque fit, good for a laugh, maybe get a column out of it.
So, I played 18 holes and loved it. Loved walking around in the green and trees. It was like an afternoon in nature, except nature has professional staff to tidy up. Loved hitting or hitting at the small dimpled ball. Loved the way it felt when I actually did hit the ball. Spontaneously relived that feeling for days. The same feeling I had as a kid after a Saturday at the beach, going to bed that night still feeling the waves rising and falling.
I bought the cheapest set of clubs I could find ($108 for a South Korean set, with bag and four sleeves of golf balls). I’ve been playing/practicing whenever I can ever since.
We become the thing we once mocked.
I’m not saying I know anything about golf — I don’t, look elsewhere for that. I can tell you what I’ve learned after grazing in the back pasture for a few months. Thin gruel maybe, but take a seat, we’ve got a few minutes.
As prelude, this is a great time to start playing golf — it’s gotten cheap. Cheap because, according to a 2014 article in Bloomberg Business, “About 400,000 players left the sport last year...” More golf courses are closing than opening. CBS News says, “While 14 18-hole courses were christened in 2013, a whopping 157 closed.” Worst factoid: AmericanGolf.com reports the average age of a golf player is 54.
Listen up, golf can be cheap. Shop wisely and you’ll find a round of golf with a cart for $10. I’m not kidding. This price requires a start after 2 p.m. and a $30-a-month tribute to Golfzing, but it’s a killer deal if you play regularly.
Let’s say you’re playing once a week at our $10 rate. That’s $40 a month plus the $30 tribute for a total of $70. A round takes four hours to play, give or take. That’s 16 hours of golf per month. Your outlay is $4.37 an hour. Incredibly cheap entertainment. Three rounds a month, $5.83 an hour. Two rounds, $8 an hour.
No worries, they’ll still take your money. You can pay $500 for a round of golf at Pebble Beach, $380 for a putter, $500 for a driver. Not a problem. Then, there’s Craigslist.
At first I thought the idea was to get the swing down. Just practice a swing until I could do it pretty much the same way every time. Then refine and refine.
So, I went to a PGA Tour tournament and watched professional golfers swing. To my profound disappointment, everybody had a different stroke. Some stand this way, some that way. Some lean forward and down one way, some lean forward and down another way. Some back swings end up in alarming pretzel poses, some don’t. There is no template.
I decided not to take golf lessons. The going hourly rate is $100, which doesn’t seem to be in sync with battlefield conditions, especially since YouTube offers one zillion golf-instruction videos. I have no delusions about ever getting good at this. Getting better is what I shoot for. And I am suspicious about the variety of teaching techniques.
This variety has provided a living for an army of golf instructors and golf-magazine writers and editors. Since there is not a single agreed-upon template, the topic is open to all. Think of nutrition. There are countless diet plans, health-food regimens, superfoods, super-bad foods, no regulation on what can be claimed, no definite authority on what is best. That’s golf. There are a lot of dieticians/golf instructors out there selling a technique.
Pick a card, any card.