I knew it to be a mistake, right from the start. “Hey Dan, let’s go play some golf tomorrow”, said my friends. “I don’t know how to play golf, and I don’t have any clubs,” I offered with as much regret as I could credibly muster at the moment. “Don’t worry, they have rental clubs”, came the reply.
Instead of doing the smart thing, like flat out refusing to play, or feigning cardiac arrest, I did something that I have since vowed never to do again. I played golf.
My reluctance to play golf with my friends was compounded when I came to find that they were all expert golfers, who had apparently been playing golf since they were in the womb. In contrast, my golf experience was limited to watching a Channel 7 news report, in which a tourist was mugged with a golf club, leaving him with a permanent handicap (insert snicker here).
The following day at the golf shack (or “clubhouse”, as the insiders like to call it) started out benignly enough. In an attempt to look like I knew what I was doing, I peered at my friends in my peripheral, and mimicked them as they went through their pre-game rituals of stretching, pointing their clubs to the sky and eyeing them as though the secret to eternal happiness was etched in small print on the sleek, graphite shafts. My club (which looked as though it had been used to bust years of rust off of a freight barge) just said, “Rental #7” on it. I don’t know what that meant, but I felt sure that it had nothing to do with eternal happiness.
To add to my discomfort, I discovered that there is an entirely different language used on the golf course to which I was not privy. I’m not talking about the language that the greenskeeper used when I knocked over the drinking fountain with my golf cart. I’m talking about a language that relies heavily on words like hook, slice, birdie, stinger and skulls. All words which, although I never learned what they meant, reinforced my belief that golf is a terribly violent sport.
When it was finally my turn to “tee off,” I sized up my opponent, an insolent little white ball with dimples all over his face, sitting smugly in front of me, as if to say, “Just TRY to hit me, pal!” Try to hit him, I did. Once, twice, three times… “Try using a tee!” shouted one of my pals helpfully, referring to the little wooden stakes that litter the bottom of your golf bag. I was thinking that the only conceivable use for a tee would be to impale tiny vampires on it, which I imagined to be far easier than trying to hit a golf ball with it.
After an eternity of humiliation, I finally managed to hit the ball (which I presumed was the general goal of the game). It was good thing, too, as the greenskeeper was striding angrily out to my position, wondering in a dizzying display of profanity, why his teeing ground looked like a WWII battleground after an all night artillery barrage. It was at that moment that I realized that those golf carts don’t drive nearly as fast as they should.
And so went 18 holes of golf, each hole worse than the last. My friends, being the amiable chaps that they are, waited until we were on the 18th hole to tell me that you don’t use a tee on the fairway, and that the teeing ground closest to the flag is “generally” reserved for ladies and people with physical disabilities, such as degenerative polio. Another helpful suggestion I received was that I should try right-handed clubs next time, as I am… right-handed.
Since it was my first time playing golf, my friends were kind enough to refrain from laughing in my face, and tactfully waited until I was a comfortable distance away (a little more than a club swing away, to be precise), at which time they laughed themselves into various stages of major organ failure.
Their fear of being clubbed to death was unfounded, however, as they had seen what had transpired when I tried to hit the little white ball (which I could hear somewhere down in the tree line, shrieking with laughter).