Get out there and sports
“Golf is a good walk spoiled.” – Mark Twain
Not so fast, Sam.
To a big and growing cross-section of Saultites, golf is a grand way to spend a summer day.
Besides, who walks the course anymore?
They have CARTS! Sometimes for FREE!
To the uninitiated, the game of golf must look like farce: Seemingly-rational human beings dressed like parade floats, holding what appear to be expensive garden implements, swinging full force at a ball the size of a quail’s egg, covered in dimples, trying to navigate it over hundreds of hectares of uneven yet pristine real estate into a target the size of decapitated beer can, all the while attempting to dodge INTENTIONALLY PLACED impediments including but not limited to tall grass, shrubs, wetlands, sand, rocks, paved paths, trees, fences, bodies of water, other humans, and the occasional predatory bird.
Combine this with a code of conduct and honour reminiscent of feudal England, and a rule book roughly the size and detail of a university physics textbook, and it must seem like to them like some existentialist revenge-torture-fantasy drill dreamt up by JK Rowling after an absinthe bender.
And did I mention you have to pay to do this?
No? Well, you do.
I like the game quite a lot.
To those of who do play golf, however, the reality is something quite different.
It is an opportunity to spend several hours in the beautiful Northern outdoors, with friends, in good-natured competition, all with the goal of a little bit of self-improvement and exercise.
There may also be beer involved.
Golf is yet another of the quirky, anachronistic imports that only a country like Scotland seems to provide, along with haggis, single malt scotch, bagpipes, caber tossing, and Gordon Ramsay.
Originally a game for the aristocracy, it has developed and democratized to a point now where anyone with some spare cash and a desire to be eternally frustrated in the name of fun can do so.
That said, the best way to get a primer for the game is to watch the professional game on television, and then promptly forget everything you see and hear.
What do I mean? Here is a sample of a slow motion video breakdown of a professional golfer’s swing, keeping in mind the elapsed time of said swing in real time is about a second:
“Check the points of the golf swing. First, when the club shaft is parallel to the ground, perfect position. Up the forearm, with a full turn of the upper body against the lower body, bringing the club slightly past parallel. As he starts back down he maintains his spine angle beautifully, releasing his hips in concert with his hands which have been kept back until impact, a shut club face protecting against a block, continuing through the ball to a beautifully held finish.”
Try this instead.
Instead of paying thousands (seriously) for Tiger or Rory’s brand of weapon, check out a local sporting goods section, and speak to one of their employees about a decent, playable set in the low hundreds.
Get a comfortable pair of soft spike shoes (fifty bones ought to do it), then head to one of the Sault’s many driving ranges with a friend you trust (and has a healthy level of patience), buy a bucket of practice balls, and have at ‘er.
When you feel like you’ve got enough muscle memory and a whiff of confidence to give it a go on a course, grab three friends, head to the links, and have a blast.
Sure you’ll struggle.
You’ll swing and miss.
You’ll frighten the elderly.
You’ll hit several “shots” that looked like you used a pool noodle.
You’ll send pristine white balls with which you had no previous grudge so deep into the purgatory of the boreal forest that the next human eyes that gaze upon it will be those of an archaeologist.
You’ll tap a putt slightly too hard that it will tease the edge of the cup, roll past, and continue until it comes to rest in a sand trap.
Your friend will laugh at you.
This is okay, because on the very next hole your friend will do the same thing, and you will laugh.
Also, you can play this blasted game until you’re far too old to know any better.
That’s what golf is really all about.
Forget the encyclopaedic analysis.
Ignore the “bam!” “pow!” equipment commercials promising ball speed and distance like it had been launched from an aircraft carrier.
Grab your sticks, call your mates, pick out your loudest shirt/pants combo, book a time, and get the first round.
The Sault has six local courses waiting to have you join them for the communal misery and hilarity that is golf.
Algoma district has more still, and across the bridge lies the state with the most golf courses per capita in the Union.
You’ll never be a master, or a Masters champ, but you will have the time of your life if you don’t take it too seriously and have fun.
Trust me, it’ll all make sense the first time you line it up, put your head down, take a good swing, then watch the ball go where you ACTUALLY WANTED IT TO GO.
“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.” – Arnold Palmer
It’s also a Hell of a lot of fun. Get out there and golf, Sault Ste Marie!
I’m up for a round whenever you are.