Friday, September 5, 2003

Golf And How It's Not Cheating When You Cheat

I went golfing on Wednesday night with my golf buddy, Nancy. Two years ago, she invited me to take group lessons with some of her work cohorts. There were five of us when we started out; now it's just Nancy and me. I'm grateful she deigned to invite an outsider to join in on the fun; she's grateful she invited an outsider because I've been the only consistent one.

Golf was always something I wanted to try -- not because it looked fun but because I thought I might be good at it. I seem to have an affinity to not wanting to fail at things, so I choose activities at which I think I can succeed. I'm too much of a perfectionist for my own good. It seemed like a natural transition for me to make from the world of hitting a ball, plucking it out of the air while it's hurling towards me at 40 mph vs. hitting a stationary ball. Size would be different, yes, yes, but the smaller target wasn't moving, so how big of a challenge could it be, really? Angle of the swing you say? Big deal. Just adjust the club vs. bat downswing a teench, and I'd soon be hollering "FORE!" with the best of them.

Piece. Of. Cake. Or so I thought.

After some initial misgivings because I wasn't perfect right off the bat, er, I mean club, I am an addict. I still can't really watch it on TV, because seriously, this is the world's most boring sport, folks. As for it being an actual sport? I'm on the fence on that one. In fact, at the first lesson when the instructor was demonstrating the proper stance, he said, "Golf requires athleticism." I laughed in his face. There are no aerobics required for this! Workout? Pshaw. Elevated heart rate? Hardly.

But there is something about playing it that makes me want to inject it directly into my veins. Especially for those of us who think we really can be perfect. There is nothing more challenging than hitting a two-inch ball around hundreds of acres of green grass. And nothing more satisfying than the sound it makes when it plunks into the cup. Nirvana.

The key to all of this, though, is to have fun. For someone who takes herself way too seriously in life, even I realize the futility and senslessness of approaching golf in the same way. This is why I make sure to go with a good friend who also doesn't care how well she does, enjoy the great outdoors, and laugh at myself a lot.

It helps that I cheat.

Don't judge me!

Anyways, it's really not cheating. I don't actually write a different score on the card than what I got. I simply improve my score. It's quite simple, really, and I recommend it to anyone who has ever been frustrated at not being able to break 100 or get a good handicap or whatever the terminology is. (See what I mean? I don't even know all the real golf vocabulary yet. You just can't take this stuff too seriously and still have fun.)

Here are a few tips I recommend:

1) If you don't like the drive off the tee, hit it again. There is no stroke penalty to add to your score card -- this is called, "Oof. I-topped-it-and-know-I-can-do-better-so-I'm-hitting-another-one-don't-judge-me-okay?" Some people actually call this a mulligan, but that makes it sound like you know what you're doing. The key to creative scoring is to maintain your innocence to rules so that it's not actually cheating.

1a) Apply the same principle to chipping and putting. Simply change "topped it" to the applicable situation.

2) If you're actually brave enough to brave a "big-girls'" course with [gasp!] sand traps, give the sand wedge the ol' college try a maximum of two times. Any more and the frustration level rises. After that, it's time to break out the "hand wedge." With practice, this move can be perfected to look like you really are hitting it out of the trap with a club, not using your hand to toss it out.

3) Hit two balls on the same hole. Take the lower score.

4) Nancy and I came up with a new term the other night while she was applying suggestion #3. She got par on both of her balls. I got twice par on one of mine. She called hers double par; so did I. Woo! That's some good golfin'.

5) Round down. Always.

6) Fore! is more than a warning. It's a number, baby. Use it wisely.

7) Be creative. I am still working on more ways to "improve" my score, but I believe there are no limits to what you can do -- both as a golfer and a scorer.

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