Fucking Golf

Men take up golf in their old age because they need an excuse to feel stressed and hate themselves after they retire. At least that’s my working theory right now.

I might be biased though, since I’m just finishing up what may have been the longest 18 holes ever played in the history of the sport. How long, you ask? Well, if I were playing in a foursome with Christopher Reeves, Stephen Hawkings, and Helen Keller, they would have probably played through and left me behind. My score would have been pretty good, if I had been bowling.

Freedom Twenty-Five readers, I shit you not, I took one hundred and forty nine swings today, on a par 71 course. Let no one ever tell you otherwise: I am terrible at golf.

So why do I play?

This isn’t a stupid question. Contrary to conventional wisdom, you’ll often find higher returns to perfecting your strengths rather than shoring up your weaknesses in life. Going from the 90th to the 99th percentile in a given ability is usually worth more than going from 50th to 90th. And my shit performance on the golf course is not just a consequence of having only played 10-20 games in my life. My body excels at sprinting headfirst into other people’s bodies, and lifting very heavy things. In all the sports I’ve ever played, I’ve never been a finesse guy.

I’m even worse at the mental game of golf. In rugby, there is no fear of going on ’tilt.’ If you rage and lose control of yourself, all the better (as a flanker or lock, anyways). Golf, on the other hand, rewards the ability to remain calm and in control of your emotions at all times. This has never been a strong point for me, the kid who put his first Nintendo controller through the TV screen. Frustration is an emotion I know well, and getting defeated by some challenge has always had the effect of sending me into an incoherent rage.

As you can imagine, I’m a fun guy to watch on the golf course. Still on the fairway after a 50 yard ‘drive’, slowly carving a near-continuous canyon of divots between the tee and the green. Sending ten-foot putts 20 feet past the hole. Hitting a pitching wedge on what looked like a short approach, but was actually 175 yards. Wrapping my three-iron around a tree and then trying to re-straighten it. Constantly being hit with the desire to laugh, cry and scream all at the same time.

Do I hate golf? Sometimes. But I also enjoy it. I like challenging myself. I like taking a three-hour walk to organize my thoughts and recharge. Most importantly, I like to practice a skill that will come in extremely handy in my life and career. I’m not talking about the importance of a good golf game to networking, although there’s that too. The skill I want to develop is the ability to conquer and harness the beast of rage that bubbles up inside me, whenever I’m faced with the slightest frustration.

Usually, a man should seek to develop his expertise in the few skills that he can excel at, and hire people to do the rest, rather than achieving across-the-board mediocrity. But there are some things that we all need to be at least decent at. A man needs to be in good health. He needs good social skills. He needs to learn who to trust for the information he uses to make decisions. Above all, he needs to become the master of his body, mind, and soul.

I’m taking up golf to force myself to achieve that self-mastery, which in my current young and immature incarnation of myself, I lack. In the month that I have remaining in this country, I’m going to shoot for 20 full games, the scores of which I’ll post here. Given that I’m starting from almost one hundred and fifty strokes, I think an honestly-recorded score of 100 is a fair goal. And whether I learn the whole self-mastery thing or not, it’s a great excuse to get out with friends, take a long walk, and have some fun with a game that can already tell that I’m – grudgingly – starting to enjoy.