POM Golf Tournament
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What is golf? It is a vicious arrangement where nature takes its revenge on hapless human beings for seemingly no reason but to get its kicks. Talk about passive aggressive. Golf is a game (LOL). In this game you have 18 holes artfully plotted over an area of land. On this land there are a number of hazards or penalty areas. These may include bodies of water, wild bushland, and desert like sand traps. The aim of the game is to get a small white ball from one end of a strip of land to the other, where a small hole is located. This hole is demarked by a flag on the end of a thin pole.

man in white t shirt playing golf
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Comprehending The Game Of Golf

To play this game, the player, now designated as the golfer, transports the golf ball via striking it with one of 14 golf clubs. These specially designed golf clubs have individual properties, which facilitate the ball travelling in particular ways. The length of the golf club shafts and the angle of the their face/heads determine the distance and launch properties. The golfer must aim the club head/face toward the target and swing it correctly to send the golf ball in the desired direction. This is the first rabbit hole in which the participant can lose himself or herself. Golfers have been known to lose years of their lives attempting to work out the golf swing.

A friend of mine went down to his local golf club to get a lesson and learn to play golf. After booking a lesson and arriving at the practice area the local teaching pro handed him a bucket of balls and directed him to the golf nets to warm up, whilst he temporarily attended to another matter. Being an ex-cricketer my mate proceeded to stand at the enclosed end and hit out, as one would in a cricket net. Bystanders were nervously looking on and rapidly getting out of the way of the struck golf balls heading their way. The moral of this story is never assume anything.

Golf court photo

WTF Is Golf?

Golf is not a quick game to play. Golfers can spend up to 5 hours or more playing 18 holes of golf. Life partners, husbands and wives, have frequently cited golf in divorce proceedings as an example of cruel and inhumane treatment. The game of golf, therefore, becomes a psychological test of endurance- a marathon rather than a sprint. In this game you have 18 holes to do your best somehow. It is a journey often up hill and down dale. Amid the walking, each participant is required to swing at their golf ball no matter its lie upon the land. For in truth, it is the travails of that little white ball that really matter on the score card. Yes, score is kept in regard to the number of shots played in getting that dimpled ball from tee to green and into that small hole.

what is golf?

Small Ball, Small Hole, Little Hope

The tee block is the ground upon which each of the 18 holes begin. The green is the ground where the hole with flag is located. The tee is the starting point and the green is the destination. To play golf one must become familiar with its terminology and jargon. Golfers frequently make reference to these things via well known sayings and cliches. There is a ritualistic quality to these statements, which are attended to do with sage nods by playing partners on the links. Playing golf is a social activity and the sharing is equally as important as the game itself. Rare triumphs and regular disasters occur on the golf course and the camaraderie between participants is, perhaps, insurance against the permanent traumatic damage suffered. In golf, the real action happens inside the mind of the golfer. Somewhat like the duck gliding upon the surface of a pond the viewer cannot see the furious paddling of its legs beneath.

In golf, the observer only witnesses the walk in the park and not the crushing psychological blows between the ears.

Closeup on golf ball in grass

The View From Golf

According to a famous Japanese Zen master –

“Golf is not the sound of one hand clapping, it is trying to get your umbrella up and rain gear on whilst being lashed with rain and high winds.”

Golf places its participants in the open for all the elements to play havoc upon them. Fairways are fine when the weather is good but not in a deluge or electrical storm. The golf course is a favoured site for departing from this mortal coil, second only to dying in your sleep according to the statistics. Many golfers would, I think, prefer to go out swinging. However, let us not dwell upon the gloomy side of the small ball game. This is a terrific sport in the view of many golfers and they totter out on the links as often as possible. Indeed, the greater part of the golfing tribe are old men and women. At times, it is like a mass exodus from a nursing home with wrinkled skin and grey hair flapping in the wind amid the lush green cathedral. Why is this so?

10th Mountain Division (LI) Golf
10th Mountain Division (LI) Golf by U.S. Army is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

Counting & Measuring

I believe that golf features the two single greatest loves of humanity. The first of these is the employment of tools. This utilisation has set human beings apart from all other animals. Whether this tool be a weapon or a digging implement humankind has gripped these things and broken open opportunity. The second great love is counting stuff. People adore counting and measuring aspects of their lives. Today it is all about counting money and amassing material wealth. This is the score card for success. Golf provides the participant with a bag full of tools and the game is all about counting every stroke. Therefore, old and young folk, but especially oldies, become transfixed by this activity to the exclusion of all other games and pastimes. Club golfers get a thing called a handicap with which to measure their golfing prowess and this proves to be another addictive element within the sport. This numerical indicator reveals via an algorithm  their averaged out best score to par. How many over par in most cases but in a few rare cases how many under. This allows golfers of all abilities to compete against each other when handicaps are taken into consideration. More importantly, it becomes a measuring stick with which golfers can beat themselves for not measuring up to their own inflated opinions of their true golfing ability. For I will let you in on a little secret, almost all golfers quietly and deep down inside reckon they are really much better golfers than their handicaps indicate. Counting and measuring are intrinsic reasons as to why golf maintains such a strong hold on the lives of its proponents.

Most golfers may be ‘over the hill’ in terms of their athletic ability but, even, in retirement these hardy souls can battle away at improving their handicap. It becomes one final arbiter, toward the end of life’s journey, that the golfer can continue to tussle with. We all need reasons to go on living no matter how inconsequential they might appear to others.

people walking on green grass field carrying golf bags
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Beginnings of American Golf

Back in the day, according to a recent report into the beginnings of golf in America, folks in West Virginia used to come out to watch and laugh at the Scottish expats golfing their ball. The very idea of grown men knocking a tiny ball around vast distances over a property was considered fairly hilarious. Times were tough back then and there would have been a rarity of things to laugh at, I bet. 1884 was just a decade or more after the Civil War and aiming at distant greens was a novel concept, rather than at men in grey or blue uniforms. The game of golf may have been seen as a healing thing, in addition to looking exceedingly silly, just the same. Oakhurst Links was the very first golf course in the USA, carved out of the land by its owners and friends.

The Roots Of Golf

The game of golf has its roots back in Scotland well before the latter part of the 19C. Hitting stones with a stick or staff and playing a game around this activity gains popularity in the 15C in Scotland. Indeed, the sport was banned by the King of Scotland in 1457, as it was taking precedence over the Scotsmen’s military training. However, you canna keep a good thing down, as King James IV took up the sport himself in 1502. More royals in England cottoned on to the charms of the small ball game with King Charles I getting into golf before he lost his head. The French royals found golf via Mary Queen of Scots during the time Mary studied there. The term ‘caddie’ is derived from her French military aides, called ‘cadets’. Golf was, I suppose, taken over by the upper classes and morphed into the expensive and rule-bound game we know today

“Golf is an exercise which is much used by a gentleman in Scotland……A man would live 10 years the longer for using this exercise once or twice a week.”
Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745 – 1813)

Sam Torrance, the Scottish golf champion and now commentator mentioned recently, that back in the day a golf ball used to cost the equivalent of 3 month’s wages for the working man. I imagine he was talking about a feathery, with all those feathers having to be hand stuffed into each ball. This is one of the reasons why they used to play golf in the foursomes format, with two golfers playing one ball, at courses like Muirfield. A gentleman golfer required two caddies with one to carry his bag of clubs and the other, the forecaddie, to spot the ball where it landed. An expensive business to say the least.

St Andrews - the Home of the Royal and Ancient Game (poster)
St Andrews – the Home of the Royal and Ancient Game (poster) by Fred Taylor is licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0
The Price Of Golf

What is golf today? Global inflation of late has pushed up the price of golf balls, especially at the top end. Golfers frequently lose their golf balls, of course, due to those penalty areas with bodies of water and wild bushland being regular culprits. Tramping around a golf course in search of your ball is not much fun, especially when worrying about your score. The joy of being outdoors in nature is somewhat mitigated by the calculations inside your head projecting possible humiliating scores. Humourists have over the years made reference to the penny pinching nature of the Scottish people, as founders of the game of golf, and how this remains an integral makeup of golf. It is very easy to drop shots in golf but much harder to make them up. Bogey and doubles and worse are common. Birdies and eagles much less so.

Golf can grind down the spirit because you have to count every stroke. However, despite this hard road and, indeed, because of it – golf remains popular.

a golfer in driving range
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Why Is Golf Popular?

We live in an era where everything is made easier and more convenient. Much of life is push button or touch screen in the 21C. Golf is not. Yes, you can employ a veritable s***load of technological devices to measure stuff on course and in your game. The jury is out, however, whether it actually aids your game. I think that the reason why golf remains popular is in no small part due to its stubborn difficulty and refusal to become just another easy thing to do. Mastering the game of golf is no easy thing and for most human beings is a fleeting experience. There are just too many variables for a small ball on its journey via being struck over a vast tract of land amid wind and sometimes rain. Bad breaks and unfortunate rubs of the green happen to good golfers too.

Winning at golf does not occur so frequently for the greater majority of players. Therefore, it is an achievement savoured rather than just another fast food throwaway experience. There lies the golfing gold.

Robert Sudha Hamilton is the author of The Stoic Golfer: Finding Inner Peace & Focus on the Fairway.

How To Play Golf Like A Winner by Robert Sudha Hamilton


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