For the whole of my adult life, I have had a love-hate relationship with the game of golf: I love me and it hates me.
But no more, for I am giving it up. Let it be recorded in the pages of Maclean’s that I have played my last round, recorded my last triple bogey, and lied for the last time about it being a triple bogey when, let’s be honest, it took me five strokes just to get out of that sand trap. Fittingly, I am giving up golf “cold turkey,” which is what I’m told I resemble when I swing.
Every spring now for more than two decades, I have pulled my clubs out of the basement, cleaned the cobwebs from the woods, scraped the dirt from the irons and attempted to straighten the shaft of the putter, bent theatrically the previous autumn after a three-footer for a ﬁve somehow became a nine-footer for an eight. Curse you, undulations!
I am at peace with my decision. Never again will I experience the thrill of taking out a driver on the first hole and watching as my ball sails high, higher, before settling gently onto the ladies’ tee box. Not once more shall I, in search of a wayward shot, be obliged to march into woods, or swamp, or marsh, or parking lot, or that fairway two holes over, or pro shop. Nevermore shall I shank it, pull it, hook it, slice it, flub it, duff it, lose it left, lose it right, sky it, top it, worm-burn it or—most humiliating of all—just plain miss it.
I have tried, at great cost to wallet and sanity, to become not lousy at golf. I have read books and watched Internet tutorials. I have invested in pricey irons and massive drivers and hilarious pants. I have taken a number of lessons from a number of golf pros. One of them went to the trouble of videotaping my swing so we could view and analyze it together. I remember catching his expression out of the corner of my eye as the tape played—he had the look of a young child watching someone beat a baby panda to death with a baby koala.
That was a dispiriting moment. I always figured I’d be one of those guys who conducted business out on the golf course, forging relationships that would pay dividends for years to come. But it’s surprisingly difficult to reach a handshake agreement when your would-be client is on the green in two and you’re wildly swinging your eight-iron to ward off snakes in the long grass.
It’s hard to put a finger on my moment of greatest ignominy. At Banff, we teed it up one morning with a herd of elk grazing perhaps 120 yards down the fairway. The others in my group that day cleared the animals with ease. I hit one of them . . . softly, on two bounces. To this day, I am haunted by the casual, pitying look it gave me.
Not long after, in the company of my father, I managed to lose 23 balls over the course of just 17 holes. (I declined to play the 18th, using the time instead to write formal letters of apology to the inventors of golf, the country of Scotland and each woodland creature I’d concussed.) My dad, being a supportive and sensitive man, hardly ever mentioned my inglorious achievement to others, save for a few phone calls, a little bit of skywriting over downtown and that one-act play he wrote and performed.
Many good golfers along the way attempted to fix me. Some would start as soon as they witnessed me warming up on the driving range. Others did their best to hold off on dispensing advice for fear of coming off as chesty or condescending. But ultimately few could resist. What glory there would be in repairing a game so dire! Think about this, they would say, and when this didn’t work there would always be a that. But there was no fixing me. My ineptitude would remain a dense and enduring mystery, like how Mike Weir ever won the Masters.
There are a few things I will miss about the game of golf: the beer cart, the beer cart girl, the beer cart coming back. I will likely miss the way the sport fills so many daylight hours that will now have to be devoted to pastimes that don’t make me cry. I will certainly miss the occasion it gave me to channel all my energy and intelligence into crafting new and innovative swears.
But my golf game is dead. It died surrounded by friends and family, who mocked it to its final breath. In lieu of flowers, please send a couple badminton racquets. Maybe I’d be good at that.