Your reaction when you hear the phrase, “Say it ain’t so!” is a barometer of your interests and, perhaps too, your age. If you are an aficionado of baseball, you immediately think of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson and the famous Black Sox scandal of 1919. If you are a rocker, on the other hand, you will recognize the phrase as the title of a song written and performed by the American rock band Weezer. I am appropriating the term, however, with deference to neither but rather simply to register my shock and horror at such a heretical idea. A vacation without golf? Please!
Even I am astute enough to recognize that the entire populace does not share this view. Therefore, this post will attempt the impossible. (Why squander our time on the merely difficult, right?) I shall attempt to deconstruct and reprogram the minds of those of you whose opinion of golf tends to parallel a popular quip attributed to Mark Twain, among others. “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” Whoever may have said it first, it succinctly sums up to the opinion of a multitude of non-golfers.
As seems to be the case ever more frequently in my advancing years, in this matter I am convinced my view is the proper one and all those of a contrary opinion are sadly misguided. Having shed all pretense of modesty, let me begin to marshal my evidence before I lose your attention altogether. Here are three incontrovertible reasons why golf should be part of every vacation.
1) Golf Affords The Opportunity For A Fresh Beginning
I have a preacher friend who once told me that he loved preaching in black churches. When I enquired why, he replied, “In black churches, you get to start over every week.” He did not mean this in any derogatory sense. Quite the opposite. He admired the black churches’ emphasis on forgiveness and manifold grace.
This may seem a bit of a stretch but golf is like that. When you stand on the first tee, you have nary a blemish on your scorecard. The card in your hand looks positively pristine, not unlike the closely mown grass under your feet. You may have gouged and hacked your way through the previous round to the utter consternation of the groundskeeper but all those snowmen (8’s for the uninitiated) on your last scorecard are but a wispy vapor of the mind, melting into nothingness in the morning sun.
As you peer down the first fairway, in a moment of sheer delusion, you ask the starter about the course record. You pretend it is idle curiosity but inwardly you are fantasizing. You never know, right? Sometimes that seductive mirage even lasts a hole or two. I once started a round with two birdies. If they could only bottle euphoria like that!
2) Golf Is Played In Idyllic Surroundings
Have you ever walked the grounds of some palatial estate dreaming that some day your ship would come in (personally, mine broke apart on the twin reefs of poor judgment and bad advice several years ago) and when it did, you too would finally live in such breathtaking environs? My humble suggestion . . . in the meantime, of course . . . is to just take up golf. I have strolled the grounds of the Palace of Versailles and I have ambled through London’s Kew Gardens. I have also played the incomparable Pebble Beach and Maui’s stunning Plantation course and the former pair have nothing on the latter.
If you are a lover of nature, if you like beautiful panoramas and grand vistas, if you like endless variety, fresh air and the sound of birds chirping, if you like gently rolling fields and towering pines . . . you get my drift . . . may I gently remind you that the game of golf is played in the great outdoors where nature in all its grandeur is, at least temporarily, your private estate.
3) There Is No Such Thing As A Bad Round Of Golf.
OK, admittedly this blanket assertion assumes no freak accidents such as golf cart rollovers, lightning strikes or beanings of your fellow golfers. Let’s dismiss those negative thoughts at the outset. Barring such rare occurrences, golf reminds me of a comment I once heard about sex. Even when it’s bad, it’s good. As long as you go to the golf course with the right attitude, every round can be a pleasure.
I know what you are thinking. Precisely because golf is played outdoors, isn’t it true that the vicissitudes of nature are always looming to spoil your outing. Au contraire, mon ami. As Oscar Wilde famously said, “There is no bad weather . . . only inappropriate clothing.” That is precisely why they make rain gear!
I once arose at six in the morning keenly anticipating my first round of golf ever in Ireland. I flipped on the TV to catch the weather only to be told that I should expect rain and gale force winds off the North Sea. When my friends and I entered the clubhouse, we were met by the club manager who made the sign of the cross muttering, “God bless you, my children” under his breath. Not even the locals had ventured out. True to the forecast there was steady rain and forty mile an hour winds all day. Ever prepared, I was wearing the proper gear for the conditions. This undoubtedly renders my sanity suspect, as if it took this final bit of evidence, but I have to say that experience is one of my favorite golf memories of all time.