A few weeks ago, I innocently mentioned to my coworkers that I was planning to hit the links over the weekend. Judging by the looks on their faces, it would have been more acceptable for me to have proclaimed my intention to scale the northern rim of the largest crater on the moon to picnic with a group of anarchist leprechauns.
I cringed a little under their lingering, quizzical gazes, suddenly self-conscious of the fact that, at that moment, a golf bag was resting in the corner of my living room. Never mind the fact that said bag is being held together with strategically placed duct tape, or that it's filled with clubs and shoes handed down from my mother; the very mention of golf had suddenly moved me out of the "us" category and dumped me directly into the "them" category.
Somewhere between the hallowed links of Scotland and the divot-laced fairways of the local course, golf became a four-letter word—at least for those who are trying to avoid being associated with the "establishment."
Over the last few decades, golf has become a symbol of the elite—a sport for bankers, lawyers, glad-handing politicians and aging retirees. Drop the "g" word and images of knee-length plaid knickers, polo shirts and shoes with tassels jump to mind. And the clubhouse? Forget about it. It's a bastion of social climbers and trust-fund babies.
Sure, I've seen all of those stereotypical characters, including the guy with the shmucky grin hitting on the waitress and the guy trying to compensate for something with a driver the size of a compact car. But apparently, I'm playing a different game.
When I play golf, I'm not the only one on the course with duct tape on his or her bag, nor am I the only one willing to traipse through the underbrush in a vain attempt to find a ball that I paid good money for.
For me, golf is a combat sport. Parents gather their children and run screaming for the hills when I tee off. It's not that I'm a bad golfer, I'm just not very good.
I can hit the ball, and I can aim; I just can't seem to do both at the same time.
I've impressed other golfers with the variety of objects I can hit with a ball, be they stationary or moving. Among the most notable: a 1-inch-wide railing, a memorial plaque, several birds, countless trees, my own father (on his birthday, nonetheless) and myself.
I've never thrown a club, although I do admit to displaying an impressive array of curses gathered from years of working in newsrooms. And there was that one time I high-centered a golf cart on a rock, which was, of course, a total accident.
So, why would anyone in his or her right mind continue to participate in an activity that causes stress, frustration and, in my case, bodily injury? Because it's fun.
Some argue that course maintenance means putting chemicals into the ground and wasting enormous amounts of water. But, honestly, I can't deny that there's something appealing about spending an afternoon walking around a lawn and smacking a tiny ball with a long club in the general direction of an impossibly small hole in the ground. Maybe I just love the ridiculousness of it all.
In my family, it's a bonding experience. We laugh ourselves silly, have unlimited do-overs (or "mulligans" in technical golf-ese) and see what new and exciting objects I can hit.
So next time someone mentions golf, cut them a break, or better yet, set a tee time. I'll be out there this weekend, so be prepared to duck.