Monday, August 17, 2009

When Moron and Golf Collide

Golf is a game of absurd precision. The rules of the game require a player to knock a tiny ball (about 1.7 inches in diameter) into a very small hole (only 4 inches in diameter) over 400 yards away using only a tool that resembles a garden hoe. In a game like this, success depends less on physical prowess but more on mental composure. You must sustain focus for long periods of time, you need the patience to think through elaborate problems, and you must stay cool under pressure. I lack all of these skills.

I prefer sports that reward explosions of brute strength or unthinking reaction. I like games that move fast, where the flow of the game doesn't require a thoughtful examination of the lawn or packing up luggage. Therefore, the only aspect of golf I can stand is the driving range. There is something so pleasurable in whacking the hell out of a tiny ball and seeing how far it can go. I love that sharp, slightly metallic, slightly hallow "ping" when you hit it just right. And I enjoy that I can do this over and over again with as little transaction time as it would take me to bend down and replenish a ball on my tee.

Many years ago, when I was home from college, I went to the driving range in my hometown. The driving range was divided into individual stalls by white wooden partitions not taller than 2 feet tall. Because it was a warm summer night, all the stalls were filled, and I could see the people on both sides of me diligently drilling their swings. In contrast, I spent my time, in my usual fashion, whacking at the golf balls one after the other with a great deal of energy but very little thought or consistency.

I was terrible, but I didn't much care. Balls flew to left and right, but as long as they went far I was pleased. After about half an hour, I made the worst golf drive of my life. I hit the ball with my club at such an odd angle, that the ball did not move forward out of the stall, but flew directly left towards the partition separating me from the next stall. I had hit the ball so hard that, instead of coming to a stop, the ball ramped up the partition, launching straight up into the air. The ball shot up eight feet from the ground. As the ball started to come back down, I covered my head with my hands and braced myself for the hit. Of course, something worse happened.

I realized, with horror, that the ball was falling on a leftward trajectory, towards my neighbor in the next stall. I looked at him and saw him standing, holding his club behind him, ready to swing at his golf ball -- his eyes were completely focused on the tee, and the crown of his head was totally exposed. I choked out a weak "Fore!" then winced as my golf ball struck the center of his head and bounced to the ground.

Judging by the way he crumpled slightly at the knees and rubbed his head with his hands, I think he felt a not insignificant amount of pain. He looked around for the culprit. It took less than a second for him to lock his gaze -- a face full of shock tinged with anger -- on me, still bent over in my wincing posture with my hands over my head. "I am so sorry," I squeaked. I started to sputter and gesture what happened then withered into shamed silence under his glare. He took five seconds, I think, to fantasize punching me or dragging me by the ear to the office. Then, wordlessly, he turned back to his swinging, and I was spared.


  1. OMG, you could have killed that guy! You should never go to a driving range again!

  2. You know, I haven't been to a driving range since then. I chalked it up as a sign that I should never hold a club in my hands.