Golf: A Foreign Land

by Abbey Algiers

When you start to play golf, it’s kind of like being dropped off in a foreign land where you don’t know the language or how to get around. You hear people saying strange things like “Who has honors?”Hey, don’t forget—winter rules.” “You better hit a provisional.”

You have no idea what these people are talking about, or why they just say these things at seemingly random times. Yet, they all understand each other perfectly and are going about their business as natural as can be.  They carry their bags with ease, and they know just what club to select each time they stop. Then, they proceed to hit beautiful shots. They can do all of this AND carry on conversations and laugh with those around them. You simply don’t understand how it can all look so easy.

You, on the other hand, have problems from the start.

As you approach the first tee, you’re completely stressed out about the fact that you really have no idea what you’re doing.  Sure, you’ve played before, but you’re new to this land, and you fear the tee box.  The clumsy bag that you selected because it was pretty and had a cool logo, a drink holder, and a place for your phone has great features, sure, but even this pretty bag feels hard to manipulate as you get to the tee box.

You grab a ball and tee.

Set up.

Aim for the green.

Get your stance correct.

Relax…

There’s so much to remember.

You especially hate this part, because somehow the ball always manages to fall off the tee about a thousand times, only when people are watching. Is it a stroke penalty each time it falls? What ARE the rules on this?  Finally, you hit the ball, peanut gallery watching, and… you MISS! How could you miss?!

Frustrated, you try again.

This time, you don’t miss. You hit the dirt and knick the ball, causing it to roll to a place that’s still technically on the tee box, but definitely not anywhere near the fairway. Just what are you supposed to do with that?

After someone tells you to let the others tee off, you then hit your second shot, (off the ground, no tee) from the tee box area, and pray it goes a halfway-decent distance.

Of course it doesn’t.

Sweating, embarrassed, frustrated, and really annoyed with the person who bought you these clubs and brought you to this foreign land, you trudge on.

This brings you to another one of golf’s great mysteries… which club are you supposed to use?

While they sure are all pretty, and you do really like how they stand in the bag you picked out, quite frankly all of this golf business is losing its charm as you approach your 3rd shot (not counting the whiffs).  In this foreign land, you have no idea which club to choose, because really… none of them seem to work.  You wonder if maybe you’ve been given a bum set.  You grab a club and hit a shot that gets off the ground and goes maybe 70 yards.  You’ll take it even though you’re still far behind the others.

As you approach this shot, you realize your golfing partners haven’t even hit their first shots yet, and suddenly you feel rushed and confused.  Now what club do you use? The green seems far away, but not that far. Desperately, you look to your guides, your coach, golfing partners, whomever it is you’ve brought on this journey. “Which club?”  They tell you a 6, which seems like a great answer.  Yet, as you look in your bag, you suddenly panic.  While back in your world (off the golf course) you can tell the difference between a 6 and a 9, today you’re not so sure.  How come it is so hard to read numbers?! The person beside you coughs and points to the two foursomes now gathered on the tee box, which is still clearly in view. Rushed, you mistakenly grab the 9, whiff once, and then hit the ball… about 40 yards.

This is not going well.  None of the clubs feel right, you have no idea really when to use them, and everything you’ve learned in lessons is really irrelevant to you in this foreign land. It’s like taking Spanish in school for four years, being dropped off in Mexico, and the only thing you can remember is how to ask for the bathroom and how to say that Pepe has a red-headed sister. At this moment, you’d like to book your flight right off this course.

But you have to get to the green first, a new city in this foreign land.  Here, again everyone you’re with knows what he or she is doing and looks so relaxed. Because you’ve had so many shots, you run to the green, with your bag in tow. Halfway there, you realize you should just bring your putter, so you place your bag on the ground.  When you get to the green, your partner informs you, “Your ball rolled off, you’ll need your pitching wedge.”

REALLY? How could this have happened?  Then you remember you’re supposed to watch and mark your ball – something you didn’t do because you were feeling rushed by the people behind you. Who, by the way, are now gathered in the middle of the fairway talking together while they wait—for YOU.  Who are these guys, the foreign police?

Desperate, you decide to forget the wedge (because your bag is so far away) and use your putter, much to the chagrin of the people you’re with.

Obviously—even you know this—the ball does not go far when putted from long grass, yet two strokes later, you get on the green and of course the ball rolls to the farthest point from the hole.  Relieved just to be on the green, you walk to your ball and wait for the others to putt. Yet they’re just standing there, waiting for you.  One of them says, “You’re out.”

At first you panic. What??? They’re kicking you out? Because you’re so bad? Then you realize they mean it’s your turn. There’s that language again… you’re out.  But then you smile because you understood! “Yes, I get this now!”  Like a traveler who just ordered her first restaurant meal with success, you gallantly putt and SINK (you know this term) a 25-foot putt that even the pros would be happy to make.  Even the angry foursome behind you cheers at this.

Okay, so maybe this game isn’t so bad.  Ecstatic, you start to leave the green, but are stopped by another friendly reminder cough from one of your partners. “Wait until we’ve all putted,” she whispers.  You calm yourself down, wait, and exit the green… only to find you’ve placed your bag on the opposite side of the next tee.  You make a mental note to place your bag correctly for the next hole, which, of course, you forget again several times throughout the round.

This land we call golf truly is its own country, with its own language and customs for a new golfer to learn.  From the lingo to the club choice to the rules and etiquette to the different skills needed for each and every shot, this is not a game learned in a day, a week, or even a year.  Golf is a lifetime sport. As you enter this new land, go slowly yet confidently, knowing that we all begin playing the game with much to learn. Each time you play, you will understand the game more. True, you’re never going to know everything, but what do we really know everything about? Nothing! Like life, the best part about golf is the fact we learn each time we play, and it gets more fun the longer we do it.

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