grayscale photo of support group having a discussion
0 17 mins 1 yr

I sat in the none too comfy chair, opposite the Doc, fidgeting like a schoolboy outside the Principal’s office. Looking around the room I could see a framed certificate on the wall from some medical college. There was, also, a painting of something that might have been a scene from a horror movie. Strange thing to have on the wall of a psychiatrist, in my opinion. I was here to get help for my problem. My gaze fell upon a framed photograph of some sort of ink explosion in grainy shades of black and white. The Doc calmly consulted his notes in the chair opposite me. The air in the room seemed scented with pine fragrance or some such artificial odour. The Doc was a non-descript sort of fellow, around fiftyish I guessed, dressed in grey slacks and a mauve sweater. His head was crowned with receding silver locks. Glasses sat on the bridge of his nose and peered down at the pages he held in his hands. Time seemed to stand still. The unknown was all around me. I took another breath and exhaled a little too loudly. What would unfold I wondered. Where would this take me.

“Tell me about your problem, Mister Ball. I understand from our earlier conversation on the phone that you wish to find solace from your obsessive behaviour.”

I steepled my fingers together and looked down at my shoes. How would I begin. I felt my tummy tighten and my breathing got shallower. Did I really have a problem or was it merely the judgements of others upon me.

“ Don’t be afraid Mister Ball. Can I, perhaps, call you Gabriel? I am here to help Mister Ball.”

“Call me Gabe,” I mumbled.

“Very well Gabe. What you share with me here today is strictly confidential between you and me. This is what I do, I listen carefully to what my patients have to say. You could say that I am a professional listener. These sessions are designed to give you the time and space to unburden yourself. There is no judgement here. You have the complete freedom to tell me your story. Share with me your concerns about your life and behaviours. This consulting room has been furnished with that very purpose in mind. The room is yours Gabe for the next 40 minutes or so. Please begin.”

I am addicted to golf -man in black long sleeve shirt lying on gray couch
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Things seemed to close in on me. It was like I was standing on the very edge of the high diving platform at the local pool. There was only one way out and that was down.

“I am addicted to golf.”

There I had said it. It was out.

The Doc looked up and eyeballed me.

“go on, Gabe.”

“well, that’s what some of the people around me say anyway. Maybe the problem is with them, who knows, right?”

The Doc waved his platinum fountain pen around a bit.

“How does that manifest, Gabe? In what way does your addictive behaviour show up in your life?”

I thought about his question for a bit. My mind shuffled through memories like cards in a casino. My mental hand held a few picture cards that could be considered illustrative.

“There was the time I… the time I…well, chose not to go to work for a few days and played golf instead.”

The platinum pen waivered a bit.

“That doesn’t sound too bad. What was the outcome?”

“I played in 14 consecutive club golf competitions and lost my job. I did win a golf ball and came third in my grade in one event.”

“I see. And how did that make you feel?”

“Well, I could have scored a lot better in at least half of those comps. My putting really let me down.”

“How did your family feel about you losing your job?”

“My wife left me and took the kids with her back to her mothers’. It was hard at first but I eventually go the hang of the cooker. In retrospect, I have been able to play a lot more golf since the separation. My putting has definitely improved.”

Golf ball png sticker, sport

The platinum pen hovered in the space above his clipboard.

“How long has this obsession with golf been going on Gabe?”

I scratched my head and thought back over things.

“Well, I didn’t really pick up a club until I was almost 30. I was a late starter. I had never really thought about golf. I don’t remember playing it at school. I mean, sure I tried it a few times but it didn’t attract me. I considered it a game for old guys. I remember all those guys with funny names like Arnold and Jack wearing horrendous plaid outfits on TV. It was a fashion nightmare in the eyes of a teenager.”

The Doc jabbed that pen forward.

“How did you get started then?”

“I had been playing regular tennis with the bloke that managed the liquor store across the high street from my work. One day he says to me, ‘do you want to try golf instead today?’ Maybe I had been beating him too often or something I can’t remember. I said, you gotta be joking – golf is for old men! Anyhows, to cut a long story short we played, I loved the challenge – I was hooked. It was the odd time I really connected club and ball and watched that thing fly through the air like nothing else on earth. That was the magic that grabbed my attention and kept me coming back for more. I used to hire clubs and drive miles to play nearly every afternoon, whenever I could get away from work. My girlfriend at the time started to really hate me. It ended our relationship. I found out later that she was doing the dirty on me with her old boyfriend because I had replaced her in my affections with this crazy game called golf. True story Doc. That bitch really hurt me.”

'Why men leave home' by Avery
‘Why men leave home’ by Avery by Library of Congress is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

“Gabe, when was this on a time scale? It obviously preceded your most recent marriage and her departure from your life with your kids.”

“Yeah Doc, this was when the golf bug first really bit.

I played 36 holes every Saturday at two different golf clubs. I carried my clubs in a bag over my shoulder. I was young and pretty fit.

I went at it hard but had no idea what I was really doing, technique wise. Golf is funny like that, you can fall in love with the game, even though you are a rank beginner with little talent. It captures the imagination that soaring golf ball climbing into the heavens and scorching down the fairway. I tried to brute force it. This only works every now and then. Much of the time it ends in embarrassing defeat. Golf is better served by sound swing mechanics but it has taken me a long time to learn this. I truly loved the challenge at the time. I think something inside me enjoys the struggle. The older I have got the more apparent to me that is. Golf was too intricately demanding when I was a youth but its appeal has grown and grown as I have aged.”

I stopped and looked around me. What was I doing sprouting all this stuff to a veritable stranger. The lemon walls and funny pictures hanging on them reminded me of where I was. I clammed up.

Golfer clipart, vintage hand

The platinum pen was poised above the plane of the clipboard like the sword of Damocles. I thought about my takeaway and my position at the top. About how important it was to be smooth and to maintain an even tempo. I wished I was at the range right now with club in hand on a fine day. Instead I was stuck in this office pouring out my guts to some rubberneck I had never met before. Life was a weird thing.

“Gabe? Mister Ball you were telling me about your involvement with the game of golf and what it has meant to you. Please continue. Did your love affair with golf progress unabated until this very day?”

I suspiciously looked at the Doc. What was his game I wondered? Did he play golf? Plenty of medicos indulge in the small ball game. I thought about those early days at Royal Marrickville and that long hole that ran alongside the river. They were good days, when the blood in my veins pumped with real vigour. I had no idea what I was doing with driver in hand but I swung with gusto anyway. Risk reward stuff and you felt alive, even when you dunked your ball in the water and had to reload.

“My name is Gabe Ball and I am addicted to golf.”

“What was that Gabe?” The pen did small circles in the air below his chin.

“Oh nothing Doc, it just reminds me of AA meetings I have seen in movies, when the bloke or lady stands up and tells their story.”

“Mmm. I see.”

“I suppose I feel on the spot telling you all this stuff about my golf obsession. It feels weird to yabber on about a game where you don’t talk much about golf. I mean in a friendly four-ball we talk about all sorts of stuff but nothing too deep, if you get my drift? See ball, hit ball that is my motto! Too much reflection can paralyse your ability to strike the ball effectively. Get inside your head when you are swinging and it is a sure fire recipe for disaster. Keep it simple and stay in the moment. Take putting for instance. This is the simplest stroke in the game of golf. I mean any fool can do it. However, that is the problem. It is so simple and you have so much time to think about it that it gets inside your head and messes with your mind. Golfers get the yips, which is something you could make a fortune from helping headcases in the golfing world. Involuntary jabbing movements making a smooth stroke an impossibility on the green. Getting that little white ball in the hole from three feet becomes more unlikely than climbing Everest. I have seen it bring strong men to their knees, quite literally.”

I am addicted to golf - man wearing blue shirt playing golf
Photo by Martin Magnemyr on Pexels.com

The platinum pen tapped gently in rhythmic beats atop that clipboard full of notes. I noticed the clock on the wall for the first time. It was one of those minimalist renditions with no numbers and only four marked positions. It was barely a clock at all. The two hands were so thin they could have been made out of filament. The light in the room was diffused and probably some LED production.

“Tell me Gabe, what does golf gives you that other parts of your life, perhaps do not? Why do you think that you like to play so much golf?”

I sat back in the chair and pondered the question. I asked myself, why do I play so much golf? There is the strong desire to get better at golf. An obsessive drive to improve my strokes, scores, and lower my handicap. The stuff I bet most golfers feel. It is not such crazy stuff.

“I feel compelled to get better at the game, I suppose. Every time I venture out onto the course I see it as an opportunity to test my mettle.

You see, when I am playing golf there is just me and the golf course. Me with club in hand and ball beneath my feet or between my feet at any rate. The golf ball sits quietly and there is this kinetic dynamic happening between the target and the stationary golf ball. I have to send that little white ball where I want it to go. Somehow, I have to create that momentum from scratch and launch the ball to the target. It bristles with energy or the imminent promise of that unleashed energy. There is a risk reward factor here and all of these elements can have addictive properties. Much of the rest of my life is bereft of this quality, I suppose.”

The pen paused in mid-air.

“Very eloquently put, Mister Ball. I will remember that and make note of how you expressed it for future reference, with your permission of course.”

silhouette of man playing golf during sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“If I am addicted to golf, this is maybe at the heart of it. This is probably what brings me back to the course each day. You know they joke about me, down at the golf club, saying that I only play golf on days ending in ‘y’. Even among keen golfers I have a bit of an obsessive reputation, I suppose. I am not ashamed of my love of the game, however. Life is too short to feel guilty about what we truly enjoy.”

That platinum pen conducted a silent orchestra.

“Why then are you here, Mister Ball? What can I do for you Gabe?”

Opening my eyes wide I looked around the room again. Breathing in a few deep ones, I rubbed my chin.

“I think you can go to the well too often. I want to find some balance in my life. Golf, has, perhaps, swallowed up the rest of my life. I mean I have lost my wife and my family. My job has tanked and I haven’t really found another. I watch too many instructional golf videos on YouTube. I read golf books. Hell, I even have my own golf podcast. Someone told me that if you want to be the best golfer you can – be prepared to not have any friends. I am almost there in terms of friendlessness but my game has stalled on the fringes of A grade. I am here Doc to find my way out of this maze of blind holes and doglegged fairways. I feel like my life has become one long putt into my own shadow.”

The platinum pen abruptly stopped its twirling and was slipped away into a waiting pocket.

“Thank you for that Gabe. We have reached the end of our allotted time for this session. This is, of course, only the beginning and I will see you next week. I would like you to think about the things that you have shared with me today. Perhaps, reflect upon some of the insights you have revealed simply by giving voice and thought to your golf addiction. Until we meet again.”

by Robert Sudha Hamilton

©GolfDom