The wonderful, maddening world of golf

I hate golf.

It is, without a doubt, the world’s most maddening sport. Absolutely, positively, maddening. Why I continue to play, every now and then, remains a mystery. Golf is a game that requires a bit of commitment and regular practice if you really want to get better. For three decades, I haven’t want to do either. I prefer to just show up on those mornings I’m willing to rise early, grab the dusty clubs out of the closet, and go, which is what I do. And it has led to optimism that shouldn’t be there.

Every time I step up to the first tee, I’m confident. On this round, I’ll play like a young Arnold Palmer. I’ll split the middle of the fairway. I’ll rip a four iron, watch it rise and fall and settle on the green. My pitching wedge will be like a magic wand, sending the ball high in the air, just the way it is supposed to, and plopping to a stop near the hole. If that’s not enough, I’ll be dashing and daring, hitting through tree branches, over bunkers and slicing shots around bending fairways.

On this day, I think to myself, I will be great. Well, at least good. I will make Tiger proud.

Then, I swing the club.

The result is usually one of four: Shank, low and left; topped and bounced 15 feet; a slice to the far right; a whiff. Nothing but air. Yep, it happens. By the time I’ve carded a nine on a par four, my confidence is fading but hope is not lost. It’s early yet. Sadly, though, the outcome is foretold. The rest of the day will be one of ground balls, chunks and clunks, dinks and drops, and golf balls disappearing into bushes, water and somehow, even rocks.

There are holes I will cover 400 yards in a three shots, than need four more to go the final 20 feet. There are holes I just need to hit straight ahead a few yards to reach the green, but will somehow chop it a few feet left and the ball rolls downhill into the water.

I will mutter and mumble and put my hands to my head and, eventually, start slamming golf clubs into the ball and taking deep, dejected breaths.

By the time I’m done, despair, reality, is setting in. Especially when I review the scorecard and see double, triple, and quadruple bogies marked in those little squares. One would think, I would never return.

But I will. I will try again. I plan to play this week. Why, you ask?

Because, as I said, golf is maddening. Ergo, I am mad, as in crazy. Though, not entirely. You see, there are moments when I do split the fairway and the ball flies straight away toward the intended target. There are those rare times the pitching wedge will lift the ball up and over the sand trap and land softly onto the green. And perhaps most satisfying, there are occasions when the putt slowly snakes its way toward the hole and just catches the lip and drops in. In hundreds of rounds, I once birdied a hole — perfect drive, nice chip, drained a 20-foot putt — and have dreams of doing it again.

So I return.

The last time I golfed at the beautiful Poipu Bay Golf Course, I fired a blistering 120. Yes, 120. Out of those 120 shots, perhaps 10 were hit well. The rest need no explanation or description, other than to say, it’s a good thing we were the first ones on the course so there was no one else around to witness this debacle, other than my playing partner and TGI reporter, Alden Alayvilla, who is a very good golfer. When someone mentioned he should let the boss win (perhaps it was me), he said he tried.

Boom.

Ironically, it wasn’t that long ago I introduced my wife to golf and even bought her some clubs, a nice set of Callaways. Tried some chipping and putting and swinging the driver. Gave her some sound advice about head down, elbows tucked in, don’t swing too hard — that’s all I know. Much to my surprise, she actually enjoyed it. She was smiling and happy. That was really annoying.

I haven’t taken her out yet for a round of golf for two very valid reasons.

One, she has a miserable day, hates the game by the time we’re through three holes, snaps her putter in half. And in a final fury, she notices me snickering when she hits into the bunker again, and wraps a six-iron around my head.

Or, two, she plays well, is relaxed and joyful, has a wonderful day, hits several great shots, beats me and can’t wait to return and is talking about buying better clubs and joining a league.

Neither sounds appealing.

It’s a maddening game, I tell you. That’s why I hate it. So, I’ll see you on the links.

•••

Bill Buley is editor-in-chief of The Garden Island. He can be reached at bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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