Golf is Absurd. That Is Why We Love It

SilverRock Resort, La Quinta,Syndication: Desert Sun
SilverRock Resort, La Quinta,Syndication: Desert Sun /

“Golf is a capricious journey.”

This is my thought as I line up my drive, overlooking a 200-foot drop to the fairway.

Fortunate enough to play Keystone River in the mountains of Colorado, I find myself on the ungodly altitude of the 16th tee, overlooking an entire biome. A bevy of towering pines and aspens rustling in the breeze, the placid river waters gently gliding through both miniature rock formations and boulders. My foreground is a forest, my background is a mountain range.

I’m in the Rockies. On a bluebird day. Playing with a great friend.

So why am I miserable?

My body is grounded in terrain of a golf paradise, yet my mind is focused on my diabolic scorecard.

I’m playing awful – well below my pay grade. Lipping out three-footers, dealing with hazardous duck hooks, and perhaps the worst of my follies – the classic I finally figured it out! tweak for my hip rotation has turned illusory.

Before the round, I had expectations of strong play and about how that strong play would lift my spirits as high as this 9,000 foot elevation course. Four hours later, I feel about six feet under.

My mind coils with opaque disdain ….was the $175 greens fee a waste, was the two hour drive a waste …into a darker malevolence. What else was a waste?…..x golf lessons, y time at the range, z dollars spent on new equipment….

Okay, okay. Deep breath.

I center myself and return to my initial thought. “Golf is a capricious journey.” My subconscious chose the word “journey.” Why? After some awareness, I understood the journey reflects how one’s pursuit of excellence in this crazy game is an infinite endeavor. You’ll never reach “perfect” and any path towards becoming a great golfer is as broad, expansive, and undulating as this mountain course itself.

In fact, the entire enterprise of golf seems boundless.

It’s a sport where we get to be spectators – to follow, bet on, and project hopes onto the best golfers in the world.

But we also get to participate in this testy sport with our own meddle. We choose to invest in this game with our own resources, dedicating ourselves to an arbitrary means of mastery. This isn’t life or death. This isn’t a paycheck or an identity. It’s just recreational golf.

So I try to compartmentalize ways to gain joy from a round of golf, besides scoring near or further than my expectations. Removing my own ego, I see the myriad reasons others enjoy the game. Friendship, nature, escapism, freedom from accountability, and inclusion within a community that bonds all these virtuous variables.

But amidst my brain droppings, I have a vivid eureka moment when I realize the primary reason one should enjoy golf is in (a) its absurdity and (b) how playing activates one’s ability to celebrate this absurdity.

Think about it this way. Golf is a sport where the expectation is for a 1.6-inch ball to go into a 4.25-inch hole from 450 yards away in only four attempts to touch the ball. The sport’s ludicrous expectations provide so much fodder for comedians.

To paraphrase George Carlin, “You’re lucky if you even find the ball. Pick it up and go home. You’re a winner!”

But for all of us trying to succeed at this game, engaging in its absurdity brings about awe, pain, disgust, delight, surprise, laughter, pride – delivering one of the most holistic experiences of human emotion one could have. Within that organized chaos, we elicit a rewarding feeling to keep coming back.

After a poor fifteen holes today, I had finally asked myself If I don’t score well, how can I have fun? followed by If I can’t have fun, why play?

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The answer is initially tough to swallow, but I finally accept that playing golf is one of the most easily accessible human experiences. Getting the most out of that experience brings me joy.

I chuckle uncomfortably out of reassurance and hold the residual smirk, right before my friend regains my attention.

“Adam, are you going to hit the ball or what?”