Thurston column: No man in his right mind
I never gave golf much thought as a young man. Most farmers of my acquaintance back then would have considered it a waste of good pasture land.
But discharged, newly married and a working civilian, I joined a company golf league. I bought some inexpensive clubs, and toiled through that first summer. I discovered that I had a mighty slice — just right for a sharp dogleg to the right, which I almost never ran across. I didnít have a lot of distance, either, and found myself laying up short of water hazards or bunkers instead of risking a clearing shot.
I tried a croquet putter but it didnít help much, and realized, after-the-fact, that I had fallen into the equipment trap that my sonís future father-in-law would describe to me many years later. A serious player himself, he said that many golfers are suckers for the latest club innovation, because they are convinced that it can somehow make up for their lack of real skill. He said this in a nice voice, with his hand on my shoulder, so I knew that nothing personal was intended. I played a few more years, then quit, and didnít do much beyond a little putt-putt with the grandkids.
Then, a few years ago, I retired and took the game back up. I found that I hadnít lost a thing at all during the layoff. I was every bit as bad as before ń which was encouraging in a way. I could only improve.
I began to notice how easy a lot of the old fellows (my age, actually) made things look. They seemed to have almost no backswing, but boasted vintage follow-throughs. The ball would sail out — not terribly far, to be sure — but straight as a string, while I wandered the swamps and backwoods of the rough.
On one outing, my hacking partner and I were joined by one of these veterans playing alone. He was a fine golfer, lived near the course, and played it often.
I had heard that this course was built over an old landfill. Before laying eyes on it, I imagined wispy fumaroles rising from the bunkers, or strange mutant life in the little ponds that dotted it. It turned out to be rather nice, actually, and we asked our new partner about it.
ěYes,î he said ń ěyou rarely run into any evidence that it is over an old landfill, although I will say that after a long wet spell, some rather nasty things come to the surface.î
He left us to ponder this, and added, ěI wouldnít hand retrieve any ball I put in a water hazard here, although I once saw a fellow with a fishing rod in his bagÖî No man in his right mind, I thoughtÖbut isnít that true of anyone who plays this game?
Just recently I visited this course again after a week of rain. I planned on hitting a bucket of balls, if the course was too soggy. A soaked, bedraggled player stumbled into the clubhouse as the rains resumed. ěI lost a ball in a sand trap,î he muttered. I thought immediately ń quicksand! I could envision his ball, quivering slightly on the shimmering surface before sinking slowly out of sight ń to join god-knows what other flotsam — murky fathoms down. I couldnít resist a shiver.
But I continue to hunt for golfing buddies who will tolerate ń or compliment — my lousy game and soldier on with me. Not long ago, one joined me at a treacherous little par 3 near Charlotte ń built on both sides of a substantial creek. I lost 6 balls on the front nine. But…I found 3 that had been lost by others! A net minus 3 — not bad for this course, I told myself! Iíll bring some cheaper balls next time!
Hope springs eternal.
Chuck Thurston is semi-retired and lives in Kannapolis, NC. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org