Golf For the Book
By ice rivers
Golf took a gigantic leap forward with the invention of the hole.
Up to that point, golf was simply a lot of people with sticks and balls walking around some very lovely terrain doing all sorts of things with their sticks and balls.
Most of the people with balls were men who were trying to get the hell outta the house because the "woman's driving me bonkers etc." I'm sure it was all very spontaneous, creative, individualistic, time consuming, non-judgemental; usually comic in its pointlessness but occasionally tragic in its masculine temperamentalism.
Then somebody dug a hole in the middle of the environmental splendor. The idea was to try and use a stick to put the ball into the hole. Since putting the ball in the hole was the final act of each hole, the stick used to put the ball in the hole came to be known as the putter which originally rhymed with footer because sometimes a golfer in frustration would just kick the ball into the hole. Eventually the stick for putting the ball in the hole took on a new rhyme. Putter began to rhyme wiith both nutter and mutter. A lot of nutters muttered about their putters until they just kicked the ball in with the foot which was counted as a put not a putt.
In another example of the beauty and simplicity of our language amidst the wonder of rhyme, the word hole rhymes with the word goal. At first there was only one hole in the whole three mile walk and players counted the number of swings it took to finally put the ball into the hole. Putting was not as essential a skill ren as it is now.
The goal of the hole, although it increased judgmentalism and decreased individuality, proved to be a such a great idea that another goal was eventually dug into the ground and then another and another and another until somebody said "Damn, how many holes we need for this game?"
With our human tendency toward excess, 175 holes were dug before the guy who was digging the holes realized that he had enough of this and decided he would just as soon go home and listen to the troubles of the wife than dig any more of these goddamned holes which were a lot bigger than the tidy holes that we have today.
The first holes were big enough to bury an eagle in case one of them got killed during the invasion of their air space by the men with sticks. It became a short-lived superfluous tradition because no one ever killed an eagle although many smaller birds were dispatched. Dispatching a small bird was considered a good thing and came to be known as a birdie.
Eventually the size of the hole was reduced to the height and width of three golf balls which because they were made of wood and were almost impossible to hit into the air was a lot bigger than the golf balls of today.
After playing a couple rounds of 175 hole golf, it was determined that too many goals produced a "game" strikingly similar to no goals at all because everybody quit at different time and in various degrees of rage having long lost the number of swings needewd to reach the breaking point.
It was at this juncture that Lord Ferguson Calloway, came up with his revolutionary idea. " A half dozen isn't enough," thought the good Lord "and neither is a dozen. I got it. Of course, a dozen and a half is ideal."
And thus we arrived at the first course of eighteen holes.
Par is the standard for each hole.
Par is an exemplar representing skillfull reaction to the specific problems presented by each well defined goal/hole.
As each hole developed a standard level of difficulty measured by the number of swings required to put the ball into the hole, someone else came up with the idea of adding all the standards together and coming up with a standard for the entire course.
Shortly after coming up with the standards for each hole and then the entire course, some other wizard...perhaps Lord Bellamy Foxtrot decided to record all of those standards so that each golfer at the beginning of his walk had a clear idea not only of the goals of the "game" but also of the standards of each individual goal and each individual course. Individual holes from different courses could be compared as well as courses themselves.
The longest most difficult holes required five swings of the stick to put the ball into the hole.
Shorter holes required four swings.
The shortest holes required three swings.
Since most courses contain four holes that allow five swings to meet the standard, four holes that allow three swings to meet the standard and 10 holes that require a standard number of swings to be four. Add that all up and most courses have a par of 72 swings to put the ball into eighteen holes.
A score of less than 72 on most courses is considered under par.
Under par is good because it means it took less swings to complete the course than the standard requires.
A score of 72 means, a round of golf played exactly to the standards of the course.
A score of 73 or above means over par which indicates a playing of the eighteen holes with a number of swings more than needed by better players to complete the course.
Each hole is its own measure of standards.
If the goal is achieved on each hole by taking one less swing than the standard, that effort is called a "birdie".
If it takes 4 swing to put the ball into the hole of goal that has been established as needing 4 swings to complete. that effort is known as a "par".
If it takes a swing more than the standard for putting the ball into an individual hole, that effort is known as a "bogey".
Two strokes over is a "double bogey"
Three strokes over is a "triple bogey"
Four strokes over par on a par four is known as a "snowman"
Five strokes above par has no generall name but there is a name for anyone who regularly needs more than four extra shots to reach par.
That term is "duffer".
Most of us are duffers in this world.
It takes u a lot more time to finish a task than it takes other folks to finish that same task.
We keep reinventing the square wheel.
Not only does it take us more time but the task we completed is a shittier version of the task completed by people who possess what I have come to know as "talent".
This lack of talent however usually doesn't stop us from trying to achieve the impossible while ignoring the possible.
Ya know, the usual.
Par for the course.
Not too long after the invention of "the hole", another great moment in golf arrived; the invention of the green. The green is the closely mowed area immediately surrounding the hole. If the hole stands for the essential goal then the green stands for the important goal, a more general place to aim. To reach the green predicts looming realization of essential pursuit.
A century or two after the invention of the green, another great moment occurred; the invention of miniature golf. Let's skip the whole driving and fairway thing. We're not as interested in the journey as we are in the destination. We read the last chapter of a mystery novel first so we know who did it all along and who cares about anything else?
Miniature golf is a concentration of essential goal with a diminishing interest in important goals. As it turned out, many people became activated by the single minded pursuit of the essential and thus the world dicovered a new use for miniature windmills, aquarioums filled with enamel fish and plaster dinosaurs holding fake candy canes.
Shotrly after the concept of truncated activation peaked with miniature golf, some true star invented yet another form of abbreviation namely the "driving range". This one deals with the other end of the spectrum and once again gets rid of the "hole" as history once again rhymes with itself in a colossal retreat. Here the golfer can exercise a specific strategy, while sacrificing other important activities including the essential goal.
Both of those innovations diminished the concept of "walking" which at one time (before the invention of the hole) was in fact the primary goal of the game. Unless you count the husband's goal of getting the hell out of the house and the wife's goal of getting him the hell out of the house yet keeping him away from the harlots. Everybody used to win.
Miniature golf requires some walking while the driving range requires only getting out of the car and waking to the tee, usually grabbing a beer on the way. This means that the guy gets home before either he or his wife wanted him too or he stretches it out by stopping off somewhere and sometimes with a "golf instructor"
Shortly after the appearance of driving ranges and miniature golf courses, another synthesis reared its head. This manifestation included some walking, some iron driving, an important goal (The green) and an essential goal (the hole). This innovation became known as par three golf as the fairways were shorter and narrower and the expectation is to be able to reach the essential goal with two swings and a putt..
Even with this myriad of manifestations, golf has remained a non-essential activity. Therefore, people discover or ignore the game based on their own interest and time table. Some folks activate through miniature golf. Others activate through the driving range. Still others activate because of the par threes. It's imposible to choose betweeen the game of golf and these three activators other than for purely personal reasons including the need to go "shopping" by the wife and the need to get the hell out of here by the husband who fully realizes how much his wife cherishes her private time.
I'm going to step away from the history of golf, like a pro who hears a fart in the gallery.
I'll tell you about MY game. Since it's my game, it's my rules. This is why I prefer to play alone.
When I do play with someone else, the game is best ball. My partner and I are playing against the course by co-operating with one another.
Here's how it goes; my partner drives.
His drive is straight and true and right down the middle.
I hit my drive straight into the woods.
Together we go look for my ball.
We find it and we head to HIS ball, the Best ball...hence the name of the game.
We take our second shots.
His shot lands in the trap.
My shot lands on the green.
We retrieve his ball from the sand.
We putt from my ball on the green.
My approach putt is short. He knocks his putt in.
We have a birdie...The hole was a par four and we took three strokes to get it in.
We're pulling for each other on every shot.
When I play alone, I start out with a mulligan.
That means sometime during the round, I won't count a shot that I hit. That non-shot is called a mulligan.
I only allow two putts of the first green.
I'm not warmed up yet so...two's the limit.
When I hit the ball into a trap, I just pick the ball up and underhand it out of the trap.
If I hit the ball into the water, I go to the place where my ball hit BEFORE it went into the water and I hit it from there.
Every horrible shot I hit, I find solace in the reality that no matter how bizarre the shot...I've definitely hit worse.
If the ball gets lost in the woods, I play as if it went into the water.
I never forget that I'm here to relax and now here to recover.
I usually have my camera with me and I take pictures.
I keep score in my head. If I score five on each hole that's 45 as I only play nine holes at a time.
45 is pretty good.
That night as I go to sleep, I replay all of the forty five shots in my head which usually puts me to sleep.
Sometimes, I'm out on the course all by myself with no one else in sight.
At those moments, baby I'm a rich man.
Today, I'm a richer man. I won't be alone. I'm playing a best ball threesome. Because we have three guys hitting every shot, we'll have a lower score than any of us would have had if we had played alone.
My partners are Deke and Crown.
Deke, Crown and I have done a lot together.
We did the great American road trip in my truck from the Atlantic to the Pacific. We camped out almost every night under the stars down by the river.
We visited the Ponderosa Ranch in Nevada and got drunk in the saloon where the Cartwrights drank.
We played blackjack every day and learned to count cards only to lose everything one endless night in Lake Tahoe.
We got kicked out of Candlestick Park.
We've been to the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont.
We've chilled with Muhammad Ali.
We've been through births, deaths, wedding, divorces, sickness, health and every stop in between.
We've climbed mountains and worked on Horse farms.
When Crown was an MP, he arrested Jane Fonda.
Deke got married at Graceland
Deke and Crown were there the night that Pete Rose broke the record for all time hits.
Crown and I saw Secretariat win at Belmont.
Deke helped my dying father into the ambulance in which he died.
Crown had a heart attack at the Kentucky Derby and since then has had colon cancer and open heart surgery.
Nobody can plank like Deke.
One thing we had never done before is play golf.
Two years ago, it looked like Crown wasn't going to survive his illnesses.
Last year, I had my moments of doubt.
Deke is the youngest of us and still is in great shape.
He doesn't owe anybody anything. Everything is paid up. His house. His car. His college loans. His credit cards. Everything.
So we've lived this great life together but until yesterday we had never played golf together.
Deke hadn't lifted a club in 10 years.
Crown, like me, played only 27 holes last year.
I can't lift the ball out of the hole anymore which explains why I NEVER miss a five foot putt.
Crown can't get the ball out of the hole either. At least he thought he couldn't. Yesterday on the third hole, he reached down and plucked it out.
Way to go, Johnny
Now, because Deke is still flexible enough to pick the ball up out of the hole, we had no excuse to take gimmes on any putt. That killed us as we missed one five footer after another over and over and over and over ad museum.
We played amazingly from tee to green and from a distance might have passed as younger men but when we got on the green......fuggedaboudid.
Of course we used carts as this is the reason that God invented them.
The sky was blue, the clouds beautiful. We talked about life. We laughed. We rejoiced. We remembered. We were present with our eyes on the ball.
It was worth the wait.
Golf they say is a sample of sorrow
A walk in the park scarred by frustration
Then we hit THAT shot...come back tomorrow
For more sorrow amidst celebration.
We retain our most ironclad of grips
We visualize keeping elbow tight
We take dead aim and we let er' rip
When we lift our eyes we see ball in flight.
When we lift our head a little too soon
Too anxious to see the ball in the air,
We won't see the sky, the sun or the moon
We'll see our ball on the tee sitting there.
We promise to always keep our head low
Then we strike a beauty and on we go.