Mankind responsible for things to hate about golf
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
As anyone who swings a 9-iron will attest, there is much to love about the game of golf. But it has a dark side, too, something I’ve found at courses and clubs across the land. Mankind is amazingly adept at messing up what is as pure and delightful a recreation as exists in this world. He simply can’t leave well enough alone. He not only changes the very feel and nature of the sport as a result, but he also irritates me to such extremes that I am compelled to compile a list of things to hate about golf.
And this is not a game I want to hate in any way.
Let’s start with the first scene many of us encounter when we drive into the entrances of those high-end, daily-fee courses that have become all the rage. That, of course, is the horde of khaki-clad attendants descending upon the car with the same frenzied verve as those guys with squeegees who used to work the West Side stoplights in Manhattan. Initially, it feels like a mugging, then you have the sense of being herded, so much so that I half expect those efficacious greeters to brandish a cattle prod if things don’t move quickly enough along.
Then we have the electronic equipment every employee seems to be wearing, the headsets and microphones they use to communicate with “command central.” It makes them look like backup singers at a Madonna concert and makes me feel as if I am in the midst of a low-rent action movie (and about to storm the mountain lair with the Special Ops squad). Or going through the drive-in window at McDonald’s.
And what’s not to abhor about those tedious shotgun tournaments where a pro shop worker assembles players around a sound system and advises everyone through a wireless mike of the various rules and regulations. The nonsensical – and usually interminable – discourse just about taps the last sense of enthusiasm for my day as I listen to the muffled voice of a chatty, lounge-singing wannabe carry across the verdant track I am supposed to be playing. Quite obviously, it is not the sound or setting I had hoped to experience.
Nor are carts, which have done to golf what P Diddy and Britney Spears have done to music. Now I understand the need for E-Z-GOs among those who are infirm or on enough in years that a little man-made transport makes it easier – and more possible – for them to tee it up. But golf is a game that is meant to be walked by all others, and the only thing more unattractive than a pair of healthy 30-year-olds in one of those vehicles is the sight of a cart fleet all charged and ready to go.
Actually, it is even worse watching them go, which is something my friend Simpson was reminded of during a member-guest at a lovely oceanside course last fall. He and a colleague were about to tee off and had taken a moment to admire the vista across the fairways, greens and fescue rough when they turned their eyes to see more than two dozen carts cruising past in formation. “We had this great view of this great course, and then all of a sudden, the place looked like a potato farm,” he says.
Carts in and of themselves also have created a whole subset of things to hate. Such as courses you can’t walk or take a caddie on. I also have utter disdain for cart paths and those layouts that seem to be lined with more pavement than the Mall of America. If you have to have a place to drive those battery-powered abominations, at least use crushed sea shells.
Another problem is all the things that now come with carts. Like GPS systems, which not only mete out the mileage on each hole but also provide sports scores and halfway house menu options. I understand exact yardage can help unfamiliar golfers on resort courses, but isn’t that what caddies are for? And who really cares about the Giants while you’re out playing a Sunday round? Or putting in for a four-course meal at the turn? Stay home if the game – or the lunch – is that important, and please, don’t make me feel like I have to watch “SportsCenter” between shots.
As for the other items on my roster of wrongs, I must include water hazards that have fountains and practice range balls arranged in the shape of pyramids (both too much like Vegas). Flower beds look terrible on any course but Augusta National, and the sort of man-made mounding you find on many new layouts is just as distasteful. Some designers feel the need to create “signature trees” on their tracks, and I’d just as soon have them take a chain saw to those obtrusive beauties.
I also would like to say goodbye to yardage books that require an advanced degree in engineering to understand, clubhouses that double as catering halls and courses that have so many painted signs of instruction and advice by the first and 10th tees that they resemble one of those billboard-strewn highways out West. Golf bags that only can be carried by Olympic weightlifters also are worth chucking, as are those sheets that divide the greens by quadrants and provide pin placements. Again, isn’t that something the golfer, and his caddie, should be figuring out for themselves?
But the thing I dislike most of all is feeling the need to put together a list like this. Because golf is so much better than that.