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Art Buchwald

Golf's True Nature: Frustrating, Not Relaxing

November 16, 2000|Art Buchwald

Art Buchwald is reprinting some of his favorite columns.

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I hadn't been on a golf course since I was a kid. The reason was that in my youth I was a caddy, and after carrying around heavy bags filled with irons and woods every weekend, I vowed that when I grew up I would never step on a fairway again.

But a friend named Riley, who plays every week, persuaded me to go out with him. "You'll love it," he said. "It's great exercise and the most relaxing sport in the world."

"I'll go along with you," I said, "but I won't play."

So the next morning we showed up at the golf course.

"The first thing we have to do," Riley said, "is rent an electric golf cart."

"Why do we need a golf cart?"

"Because they won't let you play here on the weekend unless you drive around the course. If people walk, they slow up the game."

"If you drive around the 18 holes, how do you get any exercise?"

"Looking for your ball. They permit you to get out of the cart to look for it. But they don't want you to look too long because the people behind you will get sore."

"How long do they let you look for your ball?"

"Three minutes."

"That long?"

"It gives you just enough time to stretch your legs, but at the same time, it doesn't tire you out. Here come the other three guys we're playing with." I was introduced to Hal, Chris and George. They each had their own golf cart.

"Why do you each need a golf cart?" I asked.

"We like to race one another up and down the hills," Hal said. "And besides, if you have your own golf cart you can block the view of your ball and kick it to a better lie."

Chris said, "If one of the other players gets a real good shot and you can get to his ball first, you can run over it, so he can't find it."

George said, "I find golf cart racing is far more fun than playing the game. It gives the average guy a chance to drive like Evel Knievel."

The foursome teed off and then we all got into our carts and raced to our respective balls. Since I wasn't playing, Riley let me drive his vehicle. "Park as close to the ball as possible," he told me, "so that I don't have to walk."

Riley hit his second shot into a sand trap and started cursing. "Relax, Riley," I told him. "It's only a game." It took him three shots to get out of the sand trap, two to get on the green, and three to putt into the hole.

He slammed the bag with his putter, as Hal, Chris and George laughed at him. "I don't care which one you hit," Riley muttered, "but I want you to ram one of their golf carts."

"But we could hurt somebody seriously."

"So?"

"Look, Riley, I haven't been on a course in many years and I just remembered why. Golf is the most frustrating game in the world. I've never seen anyone who had fun while he was playing."

The next 17 holes went about the same way, with all the players cussing and gritting their teeth after they hit the ball. I figured that if you counted how many steps they took to measure their ball to the flag, each player had actually walked the equivalent of two city blocks for the entire 18 holes. The rest of the exercise came from carrying their golf bags from their carts to the locker room.

I'm not trying to put down golf. It's a great contact sport. It's like auto racing, and it takes a heck of a lot more skill than driving the bumper cars on the boardwalk at Atlantic City.

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