Fore-Boding

golf

When I was growing up, my mother was always interested in socially “bettering” our family. To that end, she insisted that my dad and I join her in becoming members of a local golf club. By obtaining this membership, she thought we would meet the “right” people and so climb social and financial ladders to dizzying heights.

In point of fact, her strategy did not pay off either socially or financially, but it did enable the three of us to get some much-needed exercise. But that’s about all it was good for since if the Professional Golf Association (PGA) ever kept records about the worst golfers in America, our family would have finished first – hands down!

But the best part of our dubious achievement was that all three of us would have qualified for this top ranking in our own, unique way.

Take my mother for example. At a little under five feet tall and several pounds overweight, she had little, if any power off the tee; her fairway shots were feeble at best, and her putting was abysmal!

That said, her drives and iron shots were always straight down the middle of the fairway. Regretfully, they usually traveled something short of 100 yards, which contributed mightily to the exasperation of parties playing behind us.

Then, when she finally got to the green, she most probably set additional records on the number of strokes required to get the ball in the cup. Nonetheless, she was always cheerful, positive about her game and maintained that her performance was continually improving. Certain had other thoughts, which they confided to me in the locker room.

My father’s approach to the game couldn’t have been more different. While my mother always swung smoothly at the ball, my dad reared back on every shot and hacked down at the ball as if he was welding a cleaver in a butcher shop.

The results of his efforts were spectacular in several ways. For one thing, when he did make contact with the ball (he was not always successful), the white pill took off as if it had been fired from an unseen cannon. However, because of the spin his swing applied, the ball traveled the first 100 yards or so about ten feet off the ground, causing considerable concern among bystanders.

Then, about 100 yards so down the fairway or wherever the ball was headed, the ball soared off into the sky, scattering any flock of birds in the vicinity. Unfortunately, his drives and fairway shots more often than not took off with no idea that they should actually be headed for the pin on the hole we were playing.

In fact, many times his shots landed either on adjacent fairways, in a water hazard or the rough and on one memorable occasion, on the clubhouse roof two holes over. On contact, the ball bounced high in the air, took dead aim on a table on the crowded patio adjoining the clubhouse, landed between a tall Gin and Tonic and a stemmed Martini glass and finally ended up on the pavement between two tables. His shot was the topic of conversation for weeks afterward.

My efforts on the links were also spectacularly unsuccessful and greatly contributed to my embarrassment. For one thing, I had a motley collection of unmatched, hard-used, antique clubs. I wish that I had them today. I’d have gone directly to Pawn Stars and sold them for a nice amount.

To add to the spectacle, my clubs were housed in a hand-me-down cheap canvas bag that had seen far better days. On the plus side, I had one of the largest collections of used golf balls known to man. These saw constant use since I lost more balls per hole than is recorded in golf history.

My unwelcome appearance on the course was further enhanced by my play. To describe it as “inept” would be kind. “Just plain terrible,” would be more accurate. I had an awful slice that I couldn’t correct. As a result, I spent more time in the right hand rough than on the fairway. And since I refused to wear my glasses when I played, I often missed hitting the ball altogether creating divots like the Panama Canal. I also topped the ball when I could find it and generally looked as ridiculous as Peter’s Sellers character Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther.

In the end, rather than actually hit the ball, when no one was looking I took to throwing it more or less in the direction of the pin. The results were still not satisfying.

With all of this unfortunate experience behind me, you would have thought that I’d never take to the links again. But there you’d be wrong. I am a notoriously slow learner. So, many years later on a trip to Australia, one of my colleagues persuaded me to accompany him on a round of golf.

For reasons that I can’t explain, we eventually found ourselves on a public course on the outskirts of Sydney. To say it was not a course to host the Masters Tournament would be charitable. My opinion was further enhanced as we picked up our rented clubs and the course pro said, “Were I you lads, I’d stay right clear of the rough!”

His advice was confirmed as we prepared to tee off on the first hole. A very forbidding tangle of small trees, brackish water and assorted insect, reptile and assorted wildlife lined the right side of the fairway. A chain link fence and four-lane highway lay further out beyond the rough. Not an auspicious location for a golfer with a bad slice.

My companion teed off first and drove the ball straight down the middle of the fairway. Now it was my turn.

I approached the tee with some trepidation. How embarrassing could this be? I needn’t have worried. I teed up the ball, took a few practice swings, addressed the ball and swung. My drive headed out straight and true for about 100 yards or so. And then, right on cue it took a sharp right turn, easily cleared the rough and the chain link fence, headed for the freeway and bounced off the hood of a passing Toyota sedan in the middle lane.

On that note, I quietly picked up my clubs, gave my golf balls to my erstwhile companion and headed back to the pro shop.

“That was quick,” the Pro commented.

“Not quick enough,” I replied and headed into the clubhouse for a cold beer.

I’ve never returned to any golf course anywhere and never will.

(photo courtesy of Ivan Mikhaylov/Dreamstime.com)