By Memorial Day weekend, even the casual golfer will have dusted off the clubs and played nine holes. And at some moment in that round, perhaps after a perfectly struck shot, you smiled and remembered why you love this game. Nongolfers don’t get any of this, but who cares?
- Success in this game depends less on strength of body than strength of mind and character. ~Arnold Palmer
- They call it golf because all other 4-letter words were taken.
- May thy ball lie down in Green Pastures, and not in Still Waters.
- You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
- Swing hard, in case you hit it!
- I’m the best. I just haven’t played yet. ~Muhammad Ali
- I know I’m getting better at it because I’m hitting fewer spectators. ~Gerald Ford
- A game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose. ~Winston Churchill
- Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad. ~ A. A. Milne
- Eat, sleep, Golf, repeat.
Reasons Golf Is the Greatest
by Bill Pennington
Golf promotes freedom on a playing field with few boundaries. What other game is played on 200 acres or more? Baseball, softball, football and soccer fields all have defined, rigid lines. So do tennis and basketball courts. Ice rinks have walls. Nascar has fences. For goodness’ sake, bowling alleys have gutters, how intimidating is that? Yes, in golf you’re supposed to play the holes where the short grass is, but it’s liberating to know that you do not have to. (And probably won’t.) You’ve got this immense open space to play in. Play the holes any way you choose — just meet us on the next tee afterward.
The gear is cool. It’s amusing, entertaining and even educational to get lost in all of golf’s little details: the dozens of different clubs, a glove, a ball marker, tees, green repair tools, interchangeable spikes, custom grips, shaft flexes, head covers, rain gear, global positioning equipment. And then there are the nicknames for this inner society’s tools: big dog, flat stick, belly putter, cavity back, hosel, kickpoint, camber, off-set, niblick, mashie, brassie, bounce, flange. I doubt that even the C.I.A. has this much fun naming its secret paraphernalia.
Golf is serendipitous. Where else can you get sand in your shoes, pond water on your socks, ketchup on your shirt, sweat on your cap, mud in the cuffs of your pants, blisters on your hands, a farmer’s tan and a frog in your bag? And like it. If you make birdie on the 18th hole, you will spend the rest of the day excessively explaining how you acquired all the sand, water, ketchup, sweat, mud, blisters, color and the stowaway frog.
Golf has the best views. Compared with all the mainstream sports, golf has no equal in terms of the setting. There are hundreds of golf courses that jut into the ocean, hundreds more that wind through forests, hundreds more with majestic mountain views or that flow through parkland valleys.
Golf is played with a host of wildlife partners. Deer, turtles, foxes, woodchucks, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, moose, beavers, trout, bass, hawks, blue heron, eagles, geese, ducks, robins, blue jays, toads, armadillos, turkeys, otters, gophers, lizards, butterflies and even alligators. They come with the golf course for free.
Playing alone. You’ve heard of runner’s high? Golfers have their own version and it takes place on an uncrowded golf course, walking quietly around the green landscape, proceeding at any pace you choose.
Arriving alone and joining another group. A completely different experience, this is more like a blind date, but it almost always ends up better since it doesn’t matter if you ever see your newfound partners again. You meet the most fascinating people with this little leap of faith and you are witness to the most bizarre approaches to playing the game. Who needs reality TV? Just walk into a pro shop on a busy Saturday and announce you’re a single.
Great sounds. There is the crisp sound of a club face contacting the golf ball with no grass in between. The muted “thunk” of a well-played bunker shot. The soft, little plunk heard from the fairway when an approach shot lands on the green. The clatter of clubs in the bag bumping along the fairway, a practiced cadence of leisure on the move. There is the silence that follows a shot from the woods, the audio proof that your ball escaped without striking a tree. There is the sound of surprised, astonished laughter when you sink a 60-foot putt over hill and dale. Auditory delights are par for the course.
Anyone can play golf. It doesn’t matter if you are particularly tall or strong, all body types can succeed. Golfers come in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter what part of the world you are from. Age doesn’t much matter, unless you want to be a touring pro. Even a lack of flexibility or athleticism can be counteracted with savvy and skill around the greens. Just being a good putter will make you a good golfer. And who can’t putt a little white ball into a little hole?
You can, and should, play with your family or male and female friends. The fact that men, women and children can play golf equitably on the same golf course is one of the game’s greatest benefits. It is the perfect blend of social event and exercise. And there’s something about golf’s humbling nature that brings everyone together. No one is immune from embarrassment, and that is liberating to the family dynamic.
The chance of a hole in one. In what other game, in what other walk of life, can you perform something that in that moment is as good as it can be? The average person cannot go to a major league ballpark and hit a grand slam to win a game, but when the average person makes a hole in one, it is a shot that no one, not Phil Mickelson and not Jack Nicklaus in his prime, could have done better at that moment in that place. The chance of, and quest for, perfection is what keeps golfers coming back.
You gotta love that.
See also King of the Grill pop up card and Open Card Now.