Friday, August 20, 2010

The Golf Conundrum

- I used to think I could play golf.  Without the occasional bad hole blowing up a round, I was pretty competitive in the crowd I chose to be with.  I also loved the game.  I've found few other ways to spend time so totally zoned that all the usual brain clutter is silenced. 
- But then I grew up.  Golf is a waste of my time.  Golf is a waste of my money.  Golf is a waste of my/our land and water resources.  Golf is selfish.  (Proof: I've used I/my ten times already in this post!)  Better to spend time building something contributing to the common good. 
- Then, after ten years mostly golfless and living in Alaska, a coworker pushed for participation in a company tournament insisting that anyone owning clubs would not be exempted.  (It's AK!)  So, out came the five wood, the railed rescue club that never failed in the past.  The matted practice range is daunting after so much time.  My body has changed.  The clubs are relative antiques that have been shipped and stored and stacked for ten years. I've forgotten all the technique that used to be automatic.  My muscle memory is just that, a memory.  My vision and focus are shot.   
- But the picture of a real golf swing is still wonderously embedded in the closet of my brain, and I just step up to the ball and stroke it.  There is no feeling like that of a well hit golf ball.  When this magic club strikes a friendly ball on it's center, there is no impact feedback.  It's as if the ball didn't exist in the swing, just the click of it's departure, and the "feel" that the distance and direction will be spot on.  And even though I know I will never be as good as I was, or as good as I could have been, even though the season here is frustratingly short, even though fishing and berry picking and touring must suffer, I'm hooked. 
-  The rest of the practice session and tournament didn't go all that well, as I should have expected.  My solace was the poor play of the group, in general.  But everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  My door prize was a new modern driver, which I'm learning to use to effect. 
- UPDATE:  My friend has a quest.  I love quests.  He wants to play every course in Alaska.  He doesn't offer a reason why, and I don't ask.  "How hard can that be?", I wonder to myself.  So I offer to be Sancho to his Don Quixote, windmilling titleists on every groomed patch of mossy grass in this far flung land.  I didn't know, when I offered, that there are some very remote places in Alaska that also happen to enjoy golf.  So, I'm with him in the spirit of his quest, if not actually in the traveling to Kodiak for a round of golf part.  We did play five courses on the peninsula in three day at the beginnng of this season, though.  We did not play them well, but we played them.  I counted every stroke.
- Another UPDATE:  Yesterday, I played the course I've been hoping to see since the bug bit again.  Eagleglen is a track built for the military, designed by a famous architect. (Robert Trent Jones Jr.)  It winds through a spruce and birch forest, crossing Ship Creek several times and rolling through generally gentle hills.  It is a beautiful place to see, and a wonderful course to play, being forgiving and wide for beginners, and offering challenging risk/reward opportunities for true players.  Convinced by my playing partners that it was not particularly long or hilly (it wasn't), and boosted by the first perfect weather in a while, I walked, carrying my bag.  It was one of those incredible days that you'll remember forever, doing something you love the way it was meant to be done in a special place with good people.  As an aside, at 5:30, taps was played on the loudspeaker on base, followed by the Star Spangled Banner.  Play stopped on the course while everybody held their caps over their hearts.  As if planned (?), an F22 fighter jet drowned out the 'rockets red glare', and I felt the stongest welling of patriotism since the days following 9/11. 
- So.  I've rejoined the pill in a pasture dark side, knowing full well that golf time can't be recovered, and money spent playing could make a big difference in a suffering child's life in South America (or South Anchorage, for that matter).  If you climb mountains, hunt,  bicycle groomed trails or tear up wild ones, race cars or snowmobiles, run rapids, or just play video games, you are using resources that could probably be better used, except that it brings you joy, and that is where the value lies.  To me, golf is art; in watching those who play it well, in appreciating a course layout, in learning to play different shots, dabbling in the tradition and history of the game, or just allowing for a day idled outside with friends.  There has always been debate over the value and expense of art and entertainment to society, but I believe we have an inherent need for it, in whatever form.  That doesn't mean we should not try to limit the impacts of our play, but I'll ignore the nitrates from golf courses causing algae blooms in the ocean while I'm on the course, because that's really the point of being there.

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