We are currently in a period of the year I like to refer to as golf heaven. The Masters tourney is over, the weather is beautiful, the courses aren’t overrun with strangers from the northern tier of the country and green fees have returned to normalcy. It’s time to get out there and embarrass myself once more.
First a word of warning or perhaps advice: Golf is a game that looks to be simple. The ball is stationary, the fairways are big enough to feed a herd of cows in and the greens are smooth. It’s not like baseball where they give you a round ball, a cylindrical shaped bat and urge you to hit the ball squarely while it’s coming toward you at ninety miles and hour or dipping like a yellow hammer butterfly. Do not be fooled by these factors. If you are looking to take up golf just go out and hit a couple of buckets at the practice range before making a final decision. You will see what I mean. After thirty years of playing I’m worse than I was to start with.
One of the nuances of the game is learning how to bet. This is an integral part of the fun and whether you are a $2 guy or enjoy throwing up while bent over a $100 putt here’s the best tip I can offer: The bet is won before the first shot is struck. A useful ploy on the first tee is to play on my opponent’s sympathy and use his ego against him. I’ll say, “I know you are going to give me some shots today. A guy with four kidneys, only one of which operates properly, is certainly at a physical disadvantage”. Once you’ve fired this shot over the bow he is thinking, “Ok, if this chap that’s had two kidney transplants beats me straight up, I’ll never live it down, but if he happens to luck out and defeat me I’ll have an excuse”. You then proceed to negotiate out of strength and he gives you enough strokes to insure victory before the game has even started. Whatever your own personal physical malady might be (arthritis, bad back, etc.) can be used in this technique.
Also on the topic of betting you should always have some side wagers over and above the primary one. We enjoy the barky and sparky bets. A barky bet is won if someone hits a tree with their ball during the playing of a hole and still is able post a par or better on that hole. A sparky is a variation of the barky wager. If a player hits a cart path with his ball and still makes par or better, he wins a bet.
Here’s another recommendation. Do not play on golf courses where the fairways are lined with houses and condos. The last time I did that I found myself at an outdoor tea party where I pinched off a piece of quiche and played my ball from a concrete patio under the glare of several ladies wearing hats and rudely murmuring while I tried to play my second shot. I also wound up in a swimming pool around which a birthday party was taking place. I scored a couple of cookies, a dip in the cement pond, a free drop and took an eleven on the hole.
Moving on to rules of the game I have some suggestions to enhance your enjoyment of this elegant pastime. The traditional rules of golf lack common sense for the average Joe. For example, I’m a firm believer in mulligans which the formal rules do not allow. You should always have a pre-match understanding of how many each player will have during the round. This rule will reduce the number of ticks you get on you while playing out of the underbrush while lowering your handicap as well.
I also believe strongly in the lie improvement rule. This has nothing to do with far-fetched stories you make up about your score at the end of the day. It simply means that if you find your ball in a precarious position (knee high grass, behind a stand of water oaks, etc.) you can re-position it to where you have a decent chance to move it forward toward the green. If this means moving it several yards that is ok. The little white ball is hard enough to hit straight while lying on flat ground in manicured grass. You will find that both these rules will augment your final tally of strokes for the day and therefore markedly improve your disposition while marching around the course. After all, golf is supposed to be fun.
Now I give you a short, but true story (promise) so you will know that golfing miracles can occur. A few years ago I made a hole in one in a tournament at the Georgia Club. It was the only hole in one of my life and the timing was exquisite. The prize for an ace on that particular hole was $25,000 and after the proper witnesses had signed off and the paperwork done, I received a check. Visions of sugar plums danced in my head as to how that small fortune could be used for my recreational pleasure. Unfortunately Uncle Sam had to get his cut and Laura decided to add a spacious deck on the house we were building at that time. After those two deductions were taken I netted $100 and a pat on the back.
Finally, here’s a quick joke to show you what sort of characters golfers can be.
Wife asks husband if he would re-marry if she died. He says “maybe”. Wife then asks if he would give her car to his new wife and he says “perhaps”. She asks if he would share their old bed with his new wife and he says “possibly”. Finally she asks if he would give his new wife her golf clubs and he says, “No she’s left handed”.
What a great game. Go play.
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at email@example.com