It's an acquired taste, like raw oysters or escargots

It's an acquired taste, like raw oysters or escargots

It’s not lost on me that the word “golf” spelled backward is “flog,” a transitive verb defined as “beating someone with a whip or a stick as punishment or torture.” That can’t be a coincidence.

I once ate at a restaurant in which there was a sign posted on the restroom wall that read, “Until morale improves, the floggings will continue,” which probably explains the indifferent service, the watery clam chowder and the fact that the place was nearly empty.

Life is hard enough without subjecting oneself unnecessarily to the public humiliation that the game of golf all but guarantees, and I hesitate to even call it a “game” when it is, mostly, no fun at all.

There is something peculiarly masochistic about a sporting endeavor that seldom rewards effort, preferring instead to heap upon its participants mountains of malodorous and shameful dung.

Even the best shots are cruel illusions, often leading to three-putt greens and the sense that an afternoon on the beach would be better.

I was heartened the other day when I read a story that indicated that, overall, millions of Americans have stopped playing golf altogether, citing the expense, the condition of most layouts and the reality that, as Rodney Dangerfield memorably said in “Caddyshack,” a wonderful little film, that cemeteries and country clubs are the biggest wastes of prime real estate in the nation.

Speaking of which, the gated community in which my wife and I lived for 23 years before deciding to move back home billed itself as “a golfing and boating paradise,” or words to that effect, when it was, actually, more low-lying reclaimed swampland, prone to disastrous flooding even when a middling tropical storm swept by.

It was a very nice development, and I have no regrets about living there, though I never hit so much as a bucket of balls on the range.

You might find it curious that in a place where golf was pretty much a year-round activity and hundreds of residents played regularly, I was never even tempted to tee off and start a round.

I could blame the lack of any real friendships I made over the years, but that would be disingenuous because I didn’t want to make personal connections with anyone, forever and ever, amen. It wasn’t that I found them arrogant and entitled, though there was some of that. It’s more that, crucially, I wasn’t very good at golf.

I knew this from a very early age, and my conviction never wavered over the years. Unlike, say baseball or basketball or even football, when kids in the neighborhood got together for games, I always looked forward to being part of the fun. You needed very little in the way of equipment, and as far as a spot to gather, all you had to find was a vacant lot or a driveway with a hoop mounted on a roof, no net required, just a willingness not to mind getting hurt.

Not that golf was in any way dangerous, but it cost a lot of money.

I didn’t mind shelling out my meager allowance on a couple of packs of Topps trading cards and the latest Beatles 45, but golf was out of my league, though friends used to enjoy sneaking through the woods and across a creek, jumping on to play a few free holes.

Miniature golf was a different story, and I got very good at hitting the ball through the windmill and figuring out the best carom shots.

Mom and Dad were into it, which made for nice family outings, and we played while on vacation in Virginia Beach one summer.

But Putt-Putt was only remotely related to golf itself, much in the way building sand castles on the beach prepared a guy for life as an architect or flying a kite made someone ready to be an astronaut.

Golf is a heinously difficult pursuit, especially when — as was my case last week — it had been nearly 25 years since I’d held a club.

I had no business accepting the invitation to join three acquaintances for a friendly nine that Friday morning because I knew — as surely as I knew I’d never be anything but terrible — that the absolute best I could hope for would be to emerge with my dignity intact, a remote possibility that failed to materialize.

The night before, I got very little sleep, and by the time my wife dropped me off at the clubhouse, I’d rather have been at a urologist’s office, waiting for that awful snap of the rubber glove.

On the first hole, I skulled my drive, which barely made it to the ladies’ tee … and that was one of the best moments of my round.

Nearly every time I made solid contact with the ball, it headed dead left, which created in my mind the sound of a demented drill instructor, taking delight in my pain, barking out a mean-spirited cadence that went, “You’re left, you’re left, you’re left, you suck.”

I grew weary of holding up my playing companions, especially when I became painfully aware of a twosome behind us, getting ominously closer as I continued to hack my way around the course.

“Hey,” one said, trying to be kind, “at least you got that one up in the air,” which is the very definition of damning with faint praise.

Afterward, in the fraternal atmosphere of libations and some decent music, I began to decompress, leaving the awfulness of my effort in the rearview mirror, buoyed by the relief that it was over and that all it had cost me was 23 bucks, two balls and some pride.

In the wake of that excremental experience, golf can go flog itself.

Mike Dewey can be reached at or 1317 Troy Road, Ashland, OH 44805. He invites you to find him on Facebook, where there is absolutely no maximum on mulligans.

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load