Welcome to Investigate’s new and occasional tribute to the greatest game on Earth
If there were an identifiable chemical compound called golf, it would have been scheduled as an illegal drug by now. To the outsider, a golf ‘user’ getting his fix looks about as bizarre as a heroin junkie doing his thing: an assortment of special equipment, the requirement of a special place (though a golf course is generally a lot nicer for non-participants than a bus station toilet), bizarre contortions all cause others to think, ‘Why on Earth…?’
Golf can be like other drugs as well. It can drain a wallet faster than a coke habit, and turn someone into a crashing bore who thinks he has a lot of deep and profound things to say to people who don’t share his enthusiasm faster than three bong hits of the highest-grade hydroponic.
About the only drug it’s hard to parallel golf with is ecstasy: not much chance of seeing players hugging up on one another under flashing lights while listening to trance music. Of course, you can’t spell ‘clubhouse’ without ‘club’, so I could be wrong.
And yet. Like a drug, once someone gets hooked on golf, it can be a lifelong affair: one that breaks up far fewer families (though some, to be sure!) than the hard stuff, but is just as addictive.
The first time I picked up a club I was hooked. I was in my mid-twenties, and I had been living in a small city – more like a big town – surrounded by golf courses, and where the only two social activities for young men were hitting the bars and hitting the links. So when a few friends said they were heading for the driving range after brunch one Sunday, I asked if I could tag along.
To make a long story short, they handed me a nine-iron, a bucket of balls, and gave me about thirty seconds worth of instruction. Which, considering the amount of money I’ve wasted on golf books, tutorials, and sessions with pros over the subsequent years, makes it far and away the most cost-effictive swing coaching I’ve ever had. If I remember right, it was pretty much ‘OK, stand like this, and then swing’, followed by a lot of impromptu Caddyshack routines. (‘Be the ball, Danny. Be the ball.’)
Of course, the first several balls I managed to hit went skittering off in all sorts of embarassing directions, some of them caroming off the wall of my stall on the range. Then came the moment of connection, when everything aligned more-or-less properly and my clubhead hit that range ball with a quiet, distinguished click and the ball took off on an high and graceful arc, hung for a moment at its apex, and then drifted back down to Earth, landing in a ‘Roadrunner and Coyote’-style poof! on the dusty range.
That was something of a fluke, but that didn’t stop me from beating several more buckets (and tearing up my shoulder and palms in the process) and demanding that we all go and play the following week – an experience better left undescribed.
But that’s what this new column, ‘The Rough Life’ is all about. Average golfers who love the game travelling around Australia to hit some balls on some of our best courses.
It won’t be written from the perspective of a jock who hits 300m off the tee; that’s not most of us. Instead, it is devoted to the hackers, the slicers, and the happy hookers who take mulligans, ride in buggies, and are addicted to this great game, no matter how badly they play it.
See you at the 19th.