The Shame of Golf

By Jimmy Ewing

I got caught playing golf the other day—not by my wife, who wouldn’t mind and always seems to know where I am anyway, but by a friend. I didn’t want to do it, but I had to on account of my brother-in-law and maintaining good family relations. My friend called while I was on the golf course, so I answered, which you are not supposed to do and I don’t care. When he asked what I was up to, the words barely made it out of my mouth when I realized what I had done. The shocked silence on the other end of the line confirmed it.

He was ashamed of me. And he was right. I was ashamed of myself, too. It felt good though, to get caught. Having confessed was a relief and my sporting conscience was now clear. I have been forced to play golf maybe three times in the last 10 years, and I want to be clear that playing golf once or twice does not make me a golfer. Like most games with a ball, golf is silly, but I don’t hate the game—or golfers, and I have accepted the golfers who are my friends, those who I came to love before I knew they were golfers and am now stuck with them.

It’s not golfers, though, that are the problem for the most part; I can get along with nearly anyone. It is their stories I can’t abide. Have you ever sat in a country club and listened to the stories? Me neither. Sweet Lord Almighty.

“And there I was, standing on the tee box, sun shining on my face, and I hit the ball in the hole with just one shot! It was glorious.”

“Wow. Alright, Ken! Great work! Tell us about it again! I love the part where the ball goes in the hole!”

My skin begins to itch and pull away from my frame almost immediately as the sheer, depressing, mundanity of it tears at my soul.

If golf involved moments of real, genuine, terror it would be much better. If every golf course had a pride of lions on it, that would be a good start. “Bob, how did you play the big female on 16? I heard she got hold of Ken last week.” That is a story I will hang around for.

People always tell me I would like golf if I was good at it and I can tell you emphatically, that’s not true. I like lots of things I’m not good at. Sex. Fishing. Diplomacy. Moderation. Humility. I could go on. I don’t dislike golf because I’m bad at it—I’m not that bad; I resent it because it is mundane, pedestrian, impossible to master for normal humans in flip flops, bolstered only by its self-imposed exclusivity and “tradition,” and perhaps most importantly because I have seen that the methadone of golf serves to slake modern man’s thirst somehow, falsely, for the sweet, sweet drug of real life and adventure. Golf is the matrix that has been pulled over your eyes.

“Don’t you want to play golf?” golf whispers, with cunning and malice in its voice. “Well, you can’t! It’s too expensive, you don’t have time, and you don’t know how, and you’ll NEVER be good at it.”

Golf is the cheerleader you went on one glorious date with in high school. The next week you broke your leg and got shingles and mono and your parents got divorced and you had to move with your mom to El Paso so she could be closer to your grandparents who needed help on their llama farm. It was a tough week.

Ten years later when you finally pulled yourself together in life, got a job, and quit crying so much, there was no Facebook, and people before Facebook simply disappeared from the face of the earth when they moved or graduated. She became nothing but a vapor.

That is golf. And the best thing to do is just forget about her or she will haunt your dreams forever. And you know what? I’ve seen her. I didn’t want to tell you this, but while you were wrangling llamas, she got pregnant, moved to New Jersey, married a butcher, and started smoking. Her first 3 kids did ok in the quick-change oil racket, but the last two are still at home, playing lots and lots of video games and smoking pot. 

I played badly that day. I am sure my brother-in-law won. I usually just mark down “double par” on my scorecard, but this time I kept score so I could make sure I beat my 10-year-old, who has only played golf once before in his life and doesn’t know much about sports ball anyway. I didn’t beat him and that’s not the point, but I hid the scorecards anyway.

About mid-way through the game, he clambered up on the golf cart all sweaty after a particularly lengthy foray into the bushes looking for my ball and sighed.

“Dad—this is just a game for indoor dogs. I mean, we can do it if we have to, but we’re outdoor dogs, you know? Let’s try to catch that alligator.”

My heart swelled with pride. Maybe some good does come from golf.

I may take a lesson, just to make sure.

From the FE Films Archive

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