From Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul The Second Round

Start of a Love-Hate Relationship

I’d like to see the fairways more narrow. Then everybody would have to play from the rough, not just me.

Seve Ballesteros

Apologies to the property owner on South Mountain, the one who must’ve wondered if a comet had crashed through the drywall. Honestly, I didn’t know a little white ball made so much noise when hitting a house.

Apologies to the man who came into view just after I made contact, the one who suddenly appeared in my fairway and came within inches of not finishing his life, much less his round. I really must learn to say “Fore” a little earlier.

And sincere empathy goes out to a certain female, the one currently wondering about the return policy on husbands.

Yes, I did a very bad thing on vacation. I learned how to play golf.

I’m not sure what precipitated such madness, but one day, I was scanning the Internet, printing out pages on how to swing a golf club. The next few days were spent in a ridiculous cocoon: Trips to the cash machine, trips to the driving range, midnight swing sessions in the driveway. And then, the binge.

Eleven rounds, nine different courses and, oh, the things I’ve seen.

I have tasted the euphoria, the intensely satisfying moment when the swing is true and the ball sails forever. I have been slightly alarmed by my shortcomings, especially when the result lies somewhere past a warning sign regarding rattlesnakes in the immediate vicinity.

I have seen a woman stand aghast in her backyard, resentful of the ball that just plunked her tile roof, as if a golf course had suddenly sprouted around her home.

I have barged onto a hidden green, unaware that a foursome hadn’t completed the hole. After apologizing profusely, I proceeded to hit one of their balls.

I have played a round in two hours and five minutes. Alone. An exhilarating day when it seemed like the course was empty and I was the only person alive. Naturally, on this day the planets were aligned, the clubs were wands and I was the maestro—a day I craved for witnesses.

Another time, I made the turn after nine holes in three and a half hours, stuck behind a legion of slow-playing foursomes. A tortoise parade that would qualify as golf purgatory.

I have seen men examine long-distance putts for five minutes, only to hit the ball six inches.

I have seen a friend hit the ball sideways, nearly decapitating another friend sitting in the cart. I have willingly raked sand.

And just when you think you’re the biggest and only doofus on the planet . . .

One afternoon, while I walked to my ball, which teetered on the last blade of grass separating land from lake, a diver emerged from the black. In full scuba gear. Carrying about six thousand errant shots.

Yes, misery loves company.

And yes, golf is a lot like life. Humbling beyond reason. Laced with a rich bouquet of hope. And in the end, it gives you just enough to keep going.

To be honest, the intent of this experiment was born from curiosity and a desire to become socially equipped. Living in Arizona and not learning to play golf is like living in Paris and not speaking French. I still maintain that any endeavor requiring a collared shirt is not a sport, but for a recreational skill, golf is addictive. Much better than Ping-Pong, and much more than a good cart ride spoiled.

Fascinating game, really. Intoxicating in its solitude, decadent in its consumption of time, a wonderful reminder of how nice it is to walk on grass.

Granted, I still don’t get the extensive volumes of etiquette, and I’ll never forget the look on my friend’s face when I arrived for our initial golf date in a T-shirt. But I quickly learned to love the game, and now I’m ready for the next step.

Because I’m starting to hate the game.

On Friday, I hit three excellent shots in succession, leading to a six-inch putt and the first birdie of my life.

On Saturday, I stepped up to the tee, swung at a ball and missed.

And now I get the joke.

Why do they call it golf? Because @!#@ was already taken.

Dan Bickley

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