Richard Meltzer playing golf with various rich old men and discussing the game with them
It should be evident that golf, and especially golf with Bob Hope, has given me as much enjoyment, relaxation and laughter as anything else in my life. Golf is a great game that has grown because of the many purposes it serves.
— Gerald R. Ford, foreword to Bob Hope’s Confessions of a Hooker: My Lifelong Love Affair with Golf
That was the trouble with golf, I thought. Only a golfer could ever understand why anyone would play the stupid, fucking game.
— Dan Jenkins, Dead Solid Perfect
A communications code word for the letter g.
— 2nd definition of golf in Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary
... and then as the ball lands, oh, no more than two feet from the pin, Greg slaps your back, hard, Gregory Corso the poet. "Great shot!" — slap. A turtle is dislodged from your pocket. One of those small ones, two small ones. You reach for your center-shaft putter. Greg, ever the card, says, "You 're gonna putt? You 're gonna putt?! Well, you must be some kind of putz.” Also in the foursome: two bankers. The turtles by now are dry, all four-five of them — your turtles, the ones you forgot to water. Sand, you 'll need plenty for the tank, but the bunker is nothing but Minute Rice. Okay, quick, improvise — these reptiles are desiccated. Rice, check, water, check, and for the tank itself: album covers. Two Tenors by John Coltrane & Hank Mobley (extremely out of print) and three pre-Apple Beatle sleeves. "An LP's as good as glass ...on the course" — an old PGA saying. Saved! Back to health, they swim up a storm, but geez these bastards are hungry. Worms, where's a worm? Greens without worms, what's the world coming to? ‘ ‘Putt, goddammit, when you gonna putt?" — a banker imitating Gregory. ‘If you won't putt with a putter, use my driver.'' Hands you instead a six-wood, the so-called "comedy club," beat to within an inch of its life but containing a WORM. The punch line — voila! Golf is but a dream ...
SQUARESVILLE - It’s around Xmas, and parties, well, parties are not what I’m after. I’d rather watch mold grow. I’d rather do the frigging laundry, but I’ve got this gal, see, who drags me to a screaming motherhumper of a gathering at which non-retarded children — and interested adults — are induced to sing happy birthday to Jesus. I’m thoroughly revolted — what’s this earth coming to? — and only by sheer force of will do I avoid puking right in my eggnog. That accomplished, I empty my glass, launch into a chorus of “How old are you now?’’ and am ssss’d down royally. By staring at my shoes, speaking to no one, and swallowing everything liquid that isn’t Pepsi, I survive the event with little more than a major-league hangover and serious ruptures in my boy-girl relationship.
“Wasn’t that lovely?" she whispers, all aglow (“ ... ’neath the mistletoe”), my longstanding, longsuffering relational other.
“Urn ... you mean escaping with our lives?”
“No, silly, the party. Didn't you find it extremely warm and beautiful?”
“Huh, whuh — all that lowlife? The seersucker, the tweed? I was surprised how few gold chains — they must’ve left ’em home as tree ornaments.”
“Y’know sometimes you don’t understand anything. What those people were was normal.''
“I wish you could appreciate the things in life like they do.”
“What, read the stock pages, play golf?”
“I’m not talking about golf.” “What then, stocks? Bonds?”
“I really wish you'd grow up.” “Oh, and play golf?”
“It’s got nothing to do with golf!” “Yes it does. That’s the heart of it.”
“So play golf then. If you’re so fixated on it, play.”
“I don’t wanna play golf. Why should I play golf?”
“I need to find someone who’s not such a baby.”
“Okay, I’ll play.”
I MUST PLAY GOLF
I MUST PLAY GOLF
I MUST PLAY GOLF
I MUST PLAY GOLF
I MUST ...
Just for research.
DOES GOLF REQUIRE A JOCK? We’ll soon see.
In golf as in the broiling of duck, thought might as well proceed action. Some preliminary theories:
- Golf = bowling without beer. Light recreation. Sociable bozos. Easier to cheat than with pins.
- 'S a prechoreographed, predigested, 18-hole version of God-bless-America, er, America-the-beautiful. Various terrains in e- z-dose form, landscaped and preternaturally green.
- An aerobic picnic. Out-of- doors w/ forcible token exercise. In a mere public park, without the next foursome to bust your hump, you could go from sun to sun without actually standing up.
- Miniature golf — long version. But without the windmills or noisy, whiny brats.
- Condohood made flesh. With less dehydration — and fewer coronaries — than in same qua tennis.
- Skin cancer w/out tennis.
- Standing board rm. w/ skin cancer and sweat.
- The sporting equivalent of, oh, let’s say opera. Something for r * i * c * h folks to embrace, for the sake of embracing, in gaudy excess of any and all direct existential oompah. Some biz about “symbol,” “conspicuous etc.,” etc. Or maybe green is simply the color of $$$.
- [The vile, much-discredited “ageist hypothesis.”] Fun/frolic/merriment for seniors who hate scaling fish. Or are tired of shuffleboard, bocci, and Chinese checkers. Or have lost their license, still care to drive, and are too fragile for bumper cars.
- Day-glo Republican m.
For the listener, who listens in the snow.
And, nothing himself, beholds Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
— Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”
IS IT GOLF YET? - Okay, I’ve played. I’m back from the links, 18 rough, tough ’n’ torrid holes, 36 in two days, and I’m certainly, well, whatever I am I have still got my WITS about me. There’s a good chance I'm “tired” if that’s the word, fatigued, spent, possibly even footsore, but at this hour — after 8:00 — tired/etc. is often what I am. Just from having, y’know, been up so long. From having already done a whole dang day's worth of things.
Golf, that thing among things, has hardly. I’m quite sure, made me tired er. Nor, better yet, has it kilt me. I’m alive, as alive as I gen’rally am at let’s say 8:20, my sweat- soaked garments a-glued to a bod which lies seated (reclined?) on a bed with the teevee soundlessly blasting.
Something has been on for 15-20 minutes. Something insistently green. Something about the something, perhaps merely the green, eventually stirs me.
Did I turn this on? This? What channel??
hmm ... guesswork ESPN. Sports ... green ...not baseball... which must mean ... golf, the tape of a tournament. Or the hype for a tournament. Has the green been continuous? Can’t be certain but yeah, I think, a tournament. The Pascawawahooly Open, or perhaps the Darren McGavin Baja Classic.
Groovy. I probably WATCH it every fifth of a century. Last thing I saw was the ’65 Masters. Arnie Palmer won, or maybe Nicklaus. Somebody. Am I due? Overdue? If I wasn’t so beat I would get up & turn up the volume or change it.
Summoning my strength, I pull off a sock, I pull off a pants, I scratch my itchy eyes, I scratch my itchy head, I cancel my scratching and bing-go! What I am viewing, it SUDDENLY DAWNS on me, is naught but the televised version, the televised professional version, of THAT WHICH I HAVE PLAYED, endured, not once but twice, as recent as my last dozen urinations: a full entire round on each of two days, consec. The v. same game!!!
— Look, hey, c’mon, this is a golf piece: let’s get casual. If you won’t willingly suspend disbelief, I can understand. But — truly, verily — it had not occurred to me, nohow, until that moment. I hadn't made the connection until just then. It’s like, well, you’re on LSD, you turn off the light and it doesn't go off. You manipulate the switch and it’s still on. But maybe, somehow, you turned it more on, not less off. Maybe, y’know, maybe maybe maybe...
— Or remember the Amos 'n' Andy episode, the one with the narrow house? Kingfish buys a property, cheap, with a front door, a front wall, a stoop, and much general frontness. When he walks through, however, it seems to lack a certain depth. Likely it is only a front, though perhaps he has merely walked too quickly. (Slow down and we shall see.) It is POSSIBLE, by the same token, that I somehow did not play that golf... that there is, somewhere, another golf... a pluralistic golf universe.
I wouldn’t bet on it.
I have fucksurely PLAYED golf, yet golf (as form; as content) has eluded me. What has kept me from KNOWING I’ve played golf, it would appear, is golf. Between me and golf: golf. Between golf and golf: golf. Between me and me: me. That’s two out of three. What’s a normal guy to do?
Blame it on the Bossa Nova.
— Eydie Gorme
Gimme my memory cap. Datums and data. I’ll sort this out.
Well, first, the holes weren’t torrid. I was lying. First day wasn't tiring at all.
18 holes, twice around Spindrift Pitch & Putt, adjacent to the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club (Members Only), the sometime digs of Jackie O and Diana Ross; Philip Marlowe might’ve once got laid there; I could prob’ly have gone 27.
A buncha par 3’s. Short. On the first hole I took an 11. After that I stopped counting except around the 8th I think it was, and again at possibly the 14th, I shot only one over par, two single-bogey 4’s, which in each case I followed with an immediate 9 or a 10. I just couldn’t imagine it mattering to shoot so well twice in a row. (So I just said fuggit.) My average hole for the afternoon was probably a 6 or a 7. Let's say 6.5. Somewhere like a 117 total, or 63 over par.
Which is not counting all the “whiffs" — misses — or, worse, whatever you call it when you miss the ball, impact with turf, and the clubhead just stays there, vibrates ... ka-thunk! No divot ’cause the swing’s got no follow-through.
But I lost no balls — no brush to lose ’em in. A benign, “pretty," open-airy place, salt blowing in from the sea. Ocean venue yet I never once caught sand: no traps (a miracle?) to-day. “Golfers responsible for damage to vehicles and homes" — sign on a low perimeter fence — but I dented no vehicles either. Also spoke to no one but a pair of geez — um — a couple of seniors. Oh right, I was alone. Solo. It’s so deserted if you get there late, say 4 o’clock, that they won’t even shove you in a foursome. Or an x-some.
But these two guys, a twosome, are faster’n me and they catch up, we intersect, somewhere along the back nine. Dr. Olafur Kune — handshakes and names — & his sidekick “Billy." Nice gents, 1.7 times my age (est.), and I let ’em play through after lending an ear to their golf rap. “It's the pursuit of a Platonic ideal," says Kune, a retired history prof from Kalamazoo, “although I must admit the gap between my capabilities and my goal are ever widening, unfortunately. There are days, however, or shall we say there are still occasionally holes, where I come as close to this goal as I could any longer authentically hope to come." Well, gee, that’s nice.
Billy (a retired doodoohead): “What I hope is they come up with a ball that’ll fucking talk to you."
Then I let ’em play through, by now it’s getting late, and these even older guys come around to take in the flags and the last hole I finish is flagless. And what else? Well, this other bozo, I could see him where the holes ran parallel, half my age w/ punk shades & hairdo. And that’s about it.
TIME PERMITTING, though, or even not, I coulda kept playing. It was physically in my realm. But why bother? an inner voice axed me. (I had no reply.)
You take out ol’ Number One on maybe 14 or 15 holes a round, so I’d say it’s a pretty important golf stick.
— Sam Snead, The Driver Book
Maybe for Sam it is; anything’s possible. For me, meantime, on the 2nd merry day of my golfing life, I could probably have done as well with a plastic spoon or fork. Or a celery.
The Lomas Santa Fe “Executive” Course, not to be confused with Lomas Santa Fe (non-exec) where Rollses are parked. Here it’s just Caddies. In scenic, prefab Solana Beach, up one of those hilly roads where every side street is a Santa or a Punta or a Cerro. An a.m. start. I rented a full set of cel— er — golf clubs.
I figured I’d need ’em. Unlike at Spindrift, where all I used, per the lender’s suggestion, were a borrowed nine-iron and putter, this joint boasted long-ish par 3’s and a couple of 4’s. Go ahead, laugh — if you’ve played, this must sound chickenshit — but it sure was a longgglong day. I was slower than snailshit.
Just before tee time I detected something foreign at the bottom of my golf bag. I jangle it, poke at it, finally I pull out my clubs and turns out’s an empty Heineken can — shooting holes in golf theory #1 (“Bowling w/out beer”) and sending me off to the snack bar for one of my own, make that two (and not empty). Which slowed us some more.
Us: me, Luke, Rudy and Biff. Slight acquaintances, a/k/a the Foursome That Time Forgot. Took us like four hours. The seniors behind us hated our guts.
On each of the first six, maybe even seven, holes I managed to land in a sand trap. After two or three I was already feeling bad, sad — in the comparison dept. — that I’d failed to take advantage of all the sand at Spindrift, never got to know it or nothin’. ’Cause this biz here was straight from a pet (or a plant) store: too immaculate, too eye- blazingly WHITE, too finely granulated to ever make it on a beach. And these rakes — you’re supposed to rake it after you’ve stepped in it — made perfect sense: these sands were born (made?) to be raked. Sand that has never run free — my shoes were full of it.
And my balls — no, fortunately, not my “nuts,” my “rocks,” my hairy male mammal things — were full of dents, gashes, fissures. From topping the sumbitch, slicing, hooking: mis-hits by the number, i.e., number of club, hole after hole after hole. Irons, woods, but especially woods — no distance, no direction, no diff — no matter how much concentration, backswing, or how mighty a whack. I took a 12 (par times 4) at #4 and a 10 (par square plus 1) at N9. And some 8’s.
But that kind o’ number, shit, means little or nothing to me. It’s only on account of the foursome that I (scorekeeper) was even counting. Nor was I bothered by Luke’s, Rudy's or Biffs significantly lower scores; nor even by the fact of Biffs having been achieved with right-handed rental clubs (he’s a lefty). Naw, what was pissing me off was parabolas. The consistent lofts these other bastards were getting. I couldn’t get my muhfucker off the ground.
So I switched to a sand wedge for everything. Off the tee, from any lie on the fairway, rough, etc. — regardless of distance. Everything but putts.
Which didn’t improve my accuracy, and certainly not my yardage, but for the first time either day I actually got a hint of sky to frame the action. My own personal action. Raising my eyes, chin and neck to follow each brief, feeble arc, I took in eyefuls of exalted supplementary “nature”: well- groomed storebought treetops, killer sun, distant overcast, bugs in flight, feathered friends.
Speaking of which — birds — these old coots behind us would not leave us be. Like we’d take our time putting, i.e., we’d simply putt normally, and back at the tee they would stomp and hoot and audibly obnox us into hurryin’. Just so they could line up, drive — 1, 2, 3, 4 — & hop in their fugsucking carts. At the conclusion of one hole, maybe 4 seconds after replacing the flag, I was kneeling alongside the green filling out our scorecard when this impatient geezer ball came bounding past my ear.
So “nature” — maybe. But “tranquility,” “serenity” — you’ve gotta be joking. (How do bizpersons do their biztalk with all these cranky, pushy winter-o'-their-years folks around???)
By the 15th I’d hafta say I was tiring. Possibly from toting the clubs. And bored. Possibly from using them. I’d also broken at least a dozen tees and had to panhandle extras to make it through the round.
But make it I did. A survivor.
At the 18th there was this huge muddy fake pond or lake. The damn thing was so formidable that even after rotating my stance 45 degrees, my second shot caught water — caught it like you catch a fish. On the lip. It dribbled in right at the edge, only like a foot down, and I’d seen this on TV (or read it somewhere) and figured why not. To avoid a one-stroke penalty (“go for it” — right?), I yanked off a shoe & sock, rolled up a pants leg, inserted five toes in the slime. Heck, I thought. I’ll whack the sucker outta there! — w/ my trusty sand wedge! — and pretend, and broadcast, that I actually GIVE A FUCK.
The various characters in this narrative being portrayed on a television set
Which is easier said than, well, it took me four whole splashes to realize I was slamming it deeper.
So I snatched it out, play-acted sheepish hurt pride, added the requisite stroke, carefully circumnavigated Loch Ness, and finished with my high hole of the day — a slappy-go-lucky 13.
On the whole, however, it is possible I didn't PUTT too wretched. How else to explain a slim, trim 122? Only 66 over par; a mere 30 above average for the rest of the fellas. If I played another 200 years I’m sure I'd start getting things right... though I can’t imagine lasting much longer than another 150.
Goof. What's my gaff? The ongoing gulf. 'Tween me and my subject.
Gorf — spelled backwards is frog.
(Gofe uck yerself)
THE RHYME OR THE REASON — So it’s done now, the scrupulous “research.” Two days and I’ve gotten nowhere. No, that’s not it. I have gotten to nowhere. It sure as hell took some doing.
Yet still, the chore. To say something. 'Bout golf. Like what izzit?
But I’m fighting it, right? Taking the hard road. Eyeballing the critter a tad too eyefully. The mind’s road to golf, the mind’s road to golf... does the mind have a road to golf? Is perhaps an inappropriate strategy.
Maybe I should take a break from posing these questions to golf — I should pose them to golfers.
Let them get verbal. Biff?
— not talking
C’mon golfers! Spill it! You w/ the 5-iron: c’mere.
GREG CEELEY, bartender, National City: “What viscerally appeals to me about golf is you have no alternative but to approach it from a zen perspective. It’s a game I actually only appreciate every other time I play it, rarely twice in a row, but I have this strong feeling that I might someday enjoy it — three times out of five, or let’s say even four — so I see no reason to cease playing.
“Getting ‘good’ is not something that particularly interests me, certainly not in terms of anything as corny as par. If I can eventually go a round where I just hit everything straight, all 18 holes, where I stay on the fairway 18 times, where I never have more than two chips per hole, where um, putting I don't really care about... that’s all I need to accomplish. If I break 95 in the process, bully for me, but that's really just so much bullshit.
“I mean, look. It’s absurd to count all those shots, for the numbers to be that high and for the lowest high number to be declared ‘winner.’ It would also be absurd for the highest score to win, very absurd, but not — let’s say — even twice as absurd as the whole setup to begin with, so in the end you’re just gauging between two profoundly enormous absurdities.
“But gamesmanship, wanting to win, all this macho stuff, that just doesn’t register to me. Y’know like seniors, and this is the real reason they play — I mean those that aren’t very good — is half the time they get to beat other seniors who are worse, or more past it, than they are. It’s this subdued, kid-gloves kind of macho. The equivalent of yuppie touch football.
“Anybody crazy enough to want to beat me, as soon as I identify them as that, I immediately let them. I’m basically a sharing type of guy; if that's what they want, they can have it. Of course if I can make some great shots on the last three or four holes so they don’t win by as much ... that way I can at least keep them from gloating.
“Down at its base, at its root, golf is not a very social game. You’re there with these people, sure, but oftentimes you’re by yourself because you hit the ball where nobody else hit it — and that's when you’re luckiest. I like mid-iron play more than the rest, say a tricky 7-iron shot from under some tree, ’cause when you’re driving or putting there’s three geeks standing around staring at your asshole.
“It’s a really kind of amazing contradiction. You’re out there in this vast green expanse, almost nobody per square mile, no park is ever quite so empty, not even at night — yet there’s nearly zero privacy! And then the flipside, this dance, all these scattered foursomes operating independently — externally as well as internally — a few hundred yards apart, separated by not much physically but actually by everything, independent yet extremely parallel... this weirdly synchronized behavior under the sun. A strange game!
“But the strangest, most arcane aspect, I think, is the greens. Well-tended greens are extremely mysterious things. They can break in ways that are just this side of impossible to guess — you’d almost have to go down and brush the shit. Which is fortunately above the level of my game, thanks!”
And thank you, Greg. Greens. Let's resume the inquiry.
Around Mr. Palomar’s house there is a lawn. This is not a place where a lawn should exist naturally: so the lawn is an artificial object, composed from natural objects, namely grasses. The lawn’s purpose is to represent nature, and this representation occurs as the substitution, for the nature proper to the area, of a nature in itself natural but artificial for this area. In other words, it costs money.
— Italo Calvino, Mr. Palomar
Depends, in fact, on what you even mean by “naturally.” If you read Thorstein Veblen, for inst, this renegade turn-of-the-century economist who wrote Theory of the Leisure Class and coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption,” you’ll find this great lawn debunk which actually goes a whole entire pair of half-steps further. Lawn even as nature, says T.V., is a matter of sheep. And cows. They chew, they graze, they’re nature’s own lawnmowers.
And what they leave behind, dig, what these stupid animules can't quite rip out from the roots was one upon a time — by the Celts — dubbed lawn. Like a word to describe what two-year-olds have made of a neat pile of objects (mess), or the oxidation product of old abandoned hacksaws in the rain and sun (rust). Lawn = what the fucking cows don’t want.
So eventually you’d have these manors, see, this is back a millennium or two, and whoever had the most bovines and ovines — and I guess also equines — also had the most, or the most manifestly chewed, lawn. You’d walk by, see all this lawn, and sooner or later it clicks that lawn = wealth. Power. The coding becomes automatic, instantaneous. Time marches on.
Finally some cowless wiseass — there's one in every' crowd — decides fuggit. I’ve got a scythe, a wife and nine brawny brats, we’ll spend a portion of each day (after tilling the heather and spuds) beating this stretch of sheepless, goatless heath into shape, trimming and pruning it into the luvliest ersatz lawn y’ever did see ... why even them genu-wine heifer-holders will not know the diff! (Ah! — the dreams dreamers dream ...) And the rest is history.
A world of lawns — love it or leave it.
Me, shit. I’m a weed-lover, I hate lawns. I love it love it when sun burns them brown — go ahead, crucify me. But putting greens I like, though possibly not for putting so much as for walking. Especially the 18 in Solana Beach: nice cushion, spring, bounce, jounce. Very cottony, spongy, pillowy, which is awful if you’re talking fresh-baked bread (but this is grass). “Carpety” — in the good sense of the term.
So, anyway, grass, snake, snake bites tail: lawn unto putting green.
A green is a functional lawn. Lawn with a function (other than “See — I have cows”). It is ... so that we might putt. Its evenness of stubble, i.e., its lawnhood per se, is so crucial that Rudy even brought this little two-pronged thing-a-whatsis to poke at spots trammeled by the ball (which weighs about as much as a grape). Even after centuries, blades are still sensitive.
And where’s this Veblen guy talking, somewhere like Scotland, right, Wales? And ain’t Scotland the “cradle of golf’? Well, gollll-leeeeeeeee…….
Clip art of a golfer mid-swing
DAVID CROUCH, unemployed guitarmaker, Del Mar: “I don’t know about other golfers and their friends, but when me and my golf buddies talk, it’s the opposite of fish stories. We’re proud of our bad game, miserable shots we’ve made, times we’ve been incredibly lucky. We never talk about ‘ones that got away,’ holes we almost birdied, or ‘Gee, that hole-in-one I got, too bad no one was around.’ I’m sure a lot of these rich cocksuckers talk like that, drinking in the clubhouse brings out the liar in them. But to me and my gang, reality is the trip.
“I’ve never understood the option of improving your lie — what kind of horseshit is that? I, and my friends, we’ve always played off of concrete, up trees, on top of the bathroom, over the fence on the other side of the street, having to shoot over cars. This is how I started. So now, five-six years later, now that I to some extent know how to play, it’s like going from walking barefoot on broken glass to walking the same route with a thick, protective — and really comfortable — new pair of shoes. Being able to finally limit my game to grass. Ha!”
HULK HOGAN MEETS ORVILLE MOODY - Spatially unique among playing-field events, golf is the only sport besides professional wrestling with an indicated playing area but essentially no out-of-bounds. If you can see it (find it), you can play it. If it lands in a bird's nest, you can climb up, play it. Can and may. A foot deep in water: can and may. A yard deep: ditto. Two yards: may. It bounces into a mob of tournament spectators — here even the bounds of wrestling are exceeded — you play it there. It leaves the course, rolls down an open sewer, you can always trade a stroke for better placement — your option. Or you can/may, at least in principle, scramble down the sewer and try chipping the fugger out if it takes all day. Anywhere on the planet, at least for the sake of argument, is a playable lie.
And likewise f'r the MOON. A playable lie. And not only playable: a possible lie. The ball could land there. Could. Let’s say your tee shot caroms high off a phone pole, a power line, and leaves the course from a steep angle — this is Florida you're playing — directly into a flatbed truck bound for Cape Canaveral with a carelessly exposed cargo of astronaut boots.
It lands in this boot, stays in the boot until just before liftoff. An astro-bumpkin, a real hick from the sticks, draws the boot, it's his size, custom-made even, it feels kinda lumpy but fugga. The moon awaits, the goshdarn moon — “It felt sorta like a dried possum turd,” he will later declare — but the moon, daddy. So he bears the discomfort.
Okay, a couple days, they land, the flugging lunar surface, and he just cannot take it no more. Removes his footwear and — gosh all fishhooks! — a golf ball. Lucky for Squodunk’s first man-o-moon he has brought his 3-wood. “Reckoned I’d have some moon rocks to whack at”; he whacks instead at a Top-Flite XL that has traveled a long, long ways from a tee down in Boca Raton.
The point being: the moon is reachable in one. Is. ’S not exactly likely but neither, I dunno, is Reagan shooting himself. And having been reached, with a penalty perhaps for the yokel handling it (though at this point who’s any longer talking scores?), it becomes the legitimate base of operations for continuation of the round, or more specifically, the hole.
Well, heck, you're probably gonna tell me it’s not the same golfer play — Wait, no, I just didn’t write it right. It was, come to think of it, could very well’ve been the SELFSAME S.O.B.! He’s out golfing, see, between moon-shot rehearsals, and then by this skillion-to-one shot... ain’t life funny!!
So surprise surprise, he's surprised of course but he’s on in one. He grabs for his club, computes the penalty for improving his moon-lie, takes a GIANT STEP FOR GOLF-KIND and ...
But wait, let’s compare BASEBALL — bear with me. The Bambino, the Babe, the fabled “Sultan of Swat,” that old metaphoric moon-shooter George Herman Ruth. 1927, September the 30th, Yankee Stadium. 8th inning, one man on base, Tom Zachary the opposing pitcher. Swat — swack! — home run number 60: the “shot heard 'round the world.”
Intimations of superhuman potency, of godhood ... of multiglorious space/time/et cetera ... of orbiting mini-spheroids in the void. Great Moments in Bio-Astro-Theologico- Poeti-Physics. Okay, now answer me these:
— Could a “fantasy variant” of the Babe’s great shot have hit the moon? Hmm ... factor in a fantasy ball, a fantasy bat... trajectory of the angle of the dangle ... temperature at game time ... Babe himself times a trillion and fifty... sure.
— Could #60, by similar bogue reasoning, have become the moon, physically replacing the old one?
Uh why not.
Such happy hogwash is, in other words, hogwash-conceivable. But conceive me this (I dare you!): the mighty Babe, 59 notches in his seasonal lumber, coming to the plate — in regulation league play — on the moon. Huh ... whuh ... no way. There are no leagues on the moon! (Such an at-bat would fall under the category of “exhibition” — and thus command no official HR record status.)
Whereas. Whereas! Golf on the moon COULD happen. In USGA- sanctioned play. As long as it’s not a lunar tee shot, i.e., as long as you're merely continuing a sequence of play which began on the big blue marble. Of course — bear in mind — the hole you’re ostensibly aiming for is back on the marble as well.
And the ball, the ball — look at the fucking ball! It’s got craters, fchrissakes. Golf... the moon. (Which came first???) (And where does MAN fit in?) Geez, it’s eerie.
FRED BURK, plumbing contractor, Hillcrest: “The two things I like about it are the tool aspect and the mindlessness.
Having these specialized tools — more than in any other sport. You wouldn’t take eleven fishing rods with you, and you sure don’t need eleven baseball bats, or even two gloves. New irons are very nice and shiny. And the mindless part, the fact that it’s highly repetitive and you just do it — I find it very much like playing cards not for money.
“Business is something 1 never transact on the course, or even after, not with the people I’ve just played. I have this terrible temper.
I’ve had it since I was a kid, and a golf course is the last place to try and contain it. I’m the one — like in those cartoons — who wraps his club around a tree after blowing an easy putt. I want a loan from someone, I should take him out and show him that? So that, I think, is really a silly myth — golfing and business.
“And that other myth, ha. Republicans. Aside from the fact that moneyed people play more often, that they have time to play more often, and moneyed people tend to be Republicans, there’s nothing essentially, quote, ‘Republican’ about golf. In fact, isn’t handicapping an equalizer, er, ‘Democratic’? It allows people from different golfing castes to play together — so maybe in a sense it reinforces the caste system — but it’s also a way to play with someone much better than yourself and still be extremely aggressive, without having to actually shoot in the 80’s in order to win.
“And speaking of aggressive, you can’t ignore the element of pure, basic aggression. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction in whacking the ball again and again, just beating on this object which is sitting still. In baseball, where the object flies at you, how many times a game, excluding batting practice, do you make that good of a contact — three or four, five? And they call it a club, right? Even in baseball it’s not called a club.”
“After we moved up here," Rachel said, “there was one clue to when he was upset, when things had gone particularly badly. He'd go out on the lawn with a bucket of golf balls and take his driver and one after another hit those golf balls into the water."
Robinson sat up. His eyes grew merry. “The golf balls were white,” he said.
— Mr. & Mrs. Jackie Robinson, quoted in Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer on the subject of Jackie's response to frustration in his later days with the Brooklyn Dodgers
Everybody likes to whack at things. With your tool, your dick — oboy oboy! — whack it, Jack.
So golf as primal whackin': no problem there. It computes.
It even almost plays at the other end, the hole. It’s corny I know — hi, me again, the author — but for this cute li'l “spermlike” ball to enter all these wide 'n' willing ORIFICES — what can I say, it plays. Well, almost. It’d probably play more interestingly if they weren't limited exclusively to greens (sand holes! woods holes! tree holes!), but interest ain’t the crux of this here “take." Boring, uniform green holes: no real problem.
The part that’s tough, though, is everything between the whack, the impact of clubface on ball, and that Final drrrrop down the hole. Even on a hole-in-one you’ve got two separate metaphors at work, two radically disparate pleasure principles. The psychological urgencies of none of the various “inner games" of golf, of the myriad push-pulls which serve as the pillar and post of every hole as dealt, as lived, seem remotely capable of unity.
Whacking ... holing. What’s between?
Keeping straight on the fairway. Reaching the green. Coming near the hole ... then nearer. At least in bowling you’ve got an impact — ball on wood — on the target end. And pool you’ve got two impacts — at least — before the drop (which itself is somewhat impactful). Archery? Darts?
Come on, let’s face it. The midgame of golf — the game game of golf — is fraught with psychic diffusion. Maybe if you could only combine, urn, let’s see, resexualize uh y’know from this end, the other, in terms of, and then try and get urn o.k. well the, dunno. not, or maybe or....
ADDRESS BY KEL KECKLER, VICE-CHAIRMAN OF THE UNITED DRUG-FREE MASTURBATORS OF AMERICA, TO THE COMBINED ASSEMBLED MEMBERSHIPS OF LOS ANGELES, ORANGE AND SAN DIEGO COUNTIES, HOTEL SAN DIEGO, 2/31/88
Yes! — yippie yay hey! — Congress has done it!
Victory is ours, and celebration is for doggone sure in order.
But the last luxury we may allow ourselves, at so crucial a juncture for both our organization — if you’ll pardon the pun — and the destiny of the planet, is to gloat... to sink into the complacency of blah blah etc.
In overriding the President’s veto — and thank God for those checks and balances — our legislators have responded to the dire threat of AIDS in sound and efficacious manner: by granting citizens, tourists, and documented aliens, over age 6, unlimited access to pornographic materials and stimulation, all media, and the right of unconcealed beatoff-to-completion in perhaps not all, but certainly most — c'mon, it's a start — public places. No, we didn’t get hockey rinks this time around; ’tis a pity. But what’s wrong with basketball, indoor soccer, theme parks, beaches, airports, synagogues, bike paths, libraries, class-A restaurants, and upholstery showrooms?
Indeed, how many among us, before this lucky day, have beat our meat with full legal impunity in pipe shops, 24-hour convenience marts, and savings-and-loans? I rest my case!
Yup, yuh, this day est glorieux. And we of the UDFMA share directly in that glory. Have we not shown the way since day one of the AIDS crisis? We have, far in advance of the general populace, intercoursed with no one, either in or out of wedlock, and unlike our poor, unfortunate brethren in HAPPA, the Heroin-Addicted Pud Pullers of America, it has always been our goal, nay, our solemn duty to rely exclusively on our own, ahem, needles — if you get my drift. It is we the undrugged pullers and floggers, and of course all the many self-strokers of the vaginal persuasion in attendance tonight, who have more than pulled, pardonnez-moi, our weight.
Every kudo in the book is rightly ours, but... there’s a big but and I’m not talking buttocks. I’m talking fly in the ointment, well not that fly, but by ointment, yes ... “ointment." Jizz. Spunk. Jism. The male seminal goo.
Ladies, you can stroll out to the powder room if you’d like — or to the lobby to massage your pudding (sorry but current law does not extend to this spacious hall). The remainder of this discourse will be of little interest or relevance to you — it involves merely those of us with peckers.
To wit: it is high time we gents of penis learned to aim it. Our emissions. And by we I do mean our, as I for one, I hazard, am one of our more egregious offenders. You, me, all of us — correct me if I'm wrong — have tended, in the privacy of our own homes, trailers, or apartments, to be sloppy with our tools. Some might prefer the word “carefree," but it ultimately comes out the same: a yicky, sticky — and potentially quite lethal — slimy mess.
Okay. Let us imagine taking such a show out on the road. We’re at the NBA playoffs, or perhaps a Philip Glass concert, taking full advantage of our newly acquired prerogative to slam the salami, whip our wire, play scales on ye old skin flute right in our seats. Fine, dandy, swell, but c’mon now ...
Far be it from me to suggest that even one among us might harbor, at this very moment, the deadly HTLV-3 bug in his system. As I have previously stated, it is we the UDFMA who have conspicuously set the preventative pace. But we must continue to set the pace, and how, I wonder, will it look if a stray wad of our miracle-of-birth glop should at the end of its arc land with a splash in an unsuspecting someone’s 7-Up?
It would be disastrous to our cause — to our common cause — as free and responsible growed up human beans.
Lookit. From this moment forth, our every observed ejaculation will count as a concrete example. Safe targets must be our byword — and target practice must enter our daily routine. It could be a hanky, heck, or a map of New Jersey, but believe me, this is important: it matters if we spill it. And I don’t mean no Biblical “joke."
From a practical standpoint, you may question where we are to gaze for exemplary guidance. Good question; let’s face it logically. Flog spelled backwards is of course golf, a Fine game I’m told (though I’ve only tried my hand at the miniature variety), and where better than ye old links to seek time-tested touchstones of targethood?
“Floggers never miss the green." “Tee shots aren’t pee shots." “Pullers one-putt or they don’t putt at all." “And on the 9th hole Onan parred." Bumper stickers in the lobby as you exit. The fate of the world is in our hands.
Gosh. Does that mean golf as psycho-sexual whutsa “excludes women” (from some of the “fun”)? I’ll ask one — one who plays — and see.
RAMONA WOOLSEY, hosiery model. La Mesa: “The whole thing is phallic — for either sex. Unisex phallic. But specific girl sex, okay, let’s start with the grip, curling your fingers tightly around this stiff long rod. I suppose at 17, when I first started playing, there was something about that which was moderately kind of a thrill. And the stance, okay, you have to bend over, knees not together — although actually not that far apart.
“When I was at the age when I was about to sprout bosoms, I sometimes put ping pong balls in my mother’s bra and wore it — but not golf balls. They’re about the same size but golf balls would only have made the cups sag. This was before I ever hit a ball; today I don’t mind hitting them. But not as any sort of symbolic S&M type object... in that sense. Gloves, however, golf gloves — mmm, kid leather, it’s very soft — there I could imagine getting into the S&M, y’know, aspect. A ‘woman’s leather sport,’ ha.
“What else? Tees. I used to love to take a tee and put it like a fat piece of straw between my teeth, suck it with my tongue, usually the cupped end out, the ball end, but not always, that end is nice too. For some reason I’ve stopped doing it. The bag? No way it’s any big deal, but the minor thrill in pulling the club out of the bag, pulling the mitt — some people cover them — off the wood. But covering the clubs, putting the mitts back, that’s domestic stuff, furniture, housecleaning — forget it.
“Golf balls as ben-wa balls? That’s sick. But really, actually golf is hardly sexual at all. I find male golfers no more, no less adequate as lovers — there's no added sexual dimension — they’re just typical normal, boring guys.”
Which is where we came in.
So how to get out?
More golf? More golf.
Bad weather is not of itself a good reason for discontinuing play.
Note: Leaving the course does not of itself constitute discontinuing play.
— rule 6-8a, The Rules of Golf 1987, as approved by the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland
Well that sure’s a load off my mind. It’s raining, it’s pouring, retirees and pensioners have scattered to the eaves & niches, if not the clubhouse bar, while me and Ramona are out on the course still a-playing. No, not that kind o’ play — me no Gary Hart! — but don't tell my gal now, y'hear? THANKS, and meantime: at least these oldboys’ retreat-from-wet has not of itself meant surrender of round. They work hard for their round — especially here.
Here? Well we figured, hey, go exotic, so we hopped in my pickup for H'wood, no, better yet, Burbank where “Johnny” tapes his show.
The De Bell Municipal Course, on the side of a mountain. The Verdugo Mtns. — way up. Coriiing down you could feel your ears pop. A panoramic view of, well, you could see smog looking down, but that was before the rains came. The last rain of springtime. W/ thunder.
And I guess thunder means lightning, and lightning plus golf means Lee Trevino, so these of buzzards ran for their lives.
Leaving me and 'Mona alone and drenched on a mountain, a mountain of golf, a mountain of golf and gorges, of gullies and gorges and pesticide. Or was it fertilizer?
There was all this sand, see, at least it seemed like sand, on the greens, fairways, all over. You’d putt, snatch your ball from the cup, and jesus it’s picked up sand.
Which kinda made sense ’cause wherever you look there are sandbags. Must be for flood control — it snows, you’re up high enough so it stays, collects, spring comes, it melts ... that’s how you get all these gulches. Erosion. So eventually the bags break, burst, they must break a lot, so much sand ... then this smell comes up.
Pee-yew and it ain’t wet sand, it’s wet plant food. Or wet bug death. Either way, rainsoaked poison. C-c- cancer. In fearing not lightning we have risked the Big “C.” Life is life!
And golf is golf. The object is still you’ve gotta chase balls and smack balls and tap balls and count and walk and carry — in this case, Ramona's dee-luxe set (she wanted a cart but I was stubborn). Heck, it's enough of a mountainclimb at sea level. And on an actual mountain, ha, counting’s cool — it starts reading like a good bowling score — but chase, walk, and carry ... considerably less cool.
And smacking/tapping, youch, there it starts bordering on the Sisyphean.
Everything that wasn’t hit perfectly straight, with picture- perfect range, would either go directly over the mountain, down the side, or if it hit a piece of mountain it would bounce down the side. Or land in gullies 20-30-40 feet deep. Even misdirected putts, until the rain slowed them down, were as likely as not to roll to the sea. Or down into — no joke — snake holes. At the first tee there’s this sign, “Beware of snakes.” I didn't see any. Nor did I see many flags. At least 13 holes were doglegged around the mountain.
And this was my first taste, any altitude, of either a par 5 (there were four) or anything approaching a regulation-size course (5595 yards). That’s over three miles — not counting zigzags or hill-climb.
My 173, including a 17, two 14’s and three 13’s (no single-bogeys, only two doubles), put me a cool HUNDRED AND TWO OVER PAR — and I felt it. My entire forearms ached, along with the palms of both hands, bizarre portions of my legs and chest, abdomen, back, neck, (face?), the arches of my feet, “muscles I never knew I had” I was too exhausted to, uh ... well I sent Ramona (and her 98) home to model hose.
But I finally got a handle on the equation: the higher the score, the greater the exercise. How can low scores keep you “healthy”? And I wonder how many seniors golf kills a year.
Theory #9: One tough pastime, golf is penance for the Good Life; an ever-escalating invoice for the payment of Dues.
MAY I NEVER PLAY THE @*$%ING GAME AGAIN.
Golf is the void.
Still in H’wood, I sleuth out a fairytale country club. The Wilshire C.C. Through gaps in an ivy- covered fence. And atop the fence: razor ribbon. Moderately shielded, by leaf and vine, to reduce the IMAGE of menace. So’s not to harm the fairyland LOOK.
At the parking gate: “Warning: ....Pinkerton's.” A dog barks. A doberman.
I peer through a safe snatch of fence, cop an eyeful of quaint little bridges like from off a Chinese willow-ware plate, cute li’l matched flowing waters, classy little bunker rakes — the classiest rakes I have seen. Varieties, many, of non- indigenous flora; of songbirds earning their room, if not board.
On the world’s greenest green — the galaxy’s — a gentleman putts, misses, recites (as if by rote),
ohfudgeohfudgeohfudge.” Then smiles.
Then a groundskeeper comes up, snarls: “Whatchoo lookin' at? Scram." [The much-vaunted “exclusion” experience.)
So I back off, spin, and facing OUTWARD from the border between golf and life I see what 'tis to be seen. Bums slipping handbills under windshields. A dirty-diaper truck. Bag lady on a curbside resting her feet. Surly young bopcat fixing a flat; the jack won’t go down. Then this black guy pulls up, an old beat Chevy, “Hey buddy, wouldja help me out?”
I reach in my pocket, some change, but no — he’d just like a signature. Needs his wife’s scrawl on some DMV form to get her one of those handicapped parking cards. For the windshield. He’s already signed his own — “Phlebitis, man” — and can’t fake hers without it looking too similar. She’s back in Inglewood. “Won’t they check?” I ask. “What the fuck they care?
She’s just a cripple.” I sign. “Now the date, same handwriting.” A job well done.
Now let’s all SING! “Life, life frames the golf course.” 2nd verse: “As it frames many, many a void.”
GOLF MOVIE HALL OF FAME
1. Goldfinger. Sean Connery’s putting vs. Gert Frobe’s: who will win???
2. Raging Bull. Robert De Niro and Cathy Moriarty in mini-links land. They can’t find the ball — “I guess the game’s over.” (“When the music’s over, turn out the lights.”)
3. Caddyshack. Natch.
4. The Caddy. Martin & Lewis. Dean sings “That’s Amore.”
5. The Joe Louis Story. Golfing = avoidance of serious training. Metaphor for the decadence that comes with success; for loss of competitive edge.
6. True Confessions. De Niro (as golfing priest) loads a full bag of clubs in the trunk of his car.
7. Once You Kiss a Stranger. Golf version, if you can believe it, of Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.
8. Follow the Sun. Glenn Ford as Ben Hogan. Like a bowl of mashed turnips playing white bread on toast.
9. Banning. A feature-length golf film? About nothing else? Oh, go on...
10. Broken Par (Japanese). Print lost in the ’23 Yokohama quake.
Okay, so what izzit?
If it’s me you’re asking, and let’s say it’s Greece, Athens, around 500 B.C., I’d be only too glad to supply you an answer.
As a first trial balloon, everything is golf. Nothing is that is not 9 or 18 holes w/ occasional sand and some water. And since this is Greece, the four elements, let’s have fire hazards — it’s only proper. Anyway, stuffed grape leaves are golf, the eruption of Mount Aetna is golf, the works of Homer are golf, the concept of goodness is golf, tennis is golf ... which, even on a cheap empirical level, would add to such patent lame b.s. as to totally annul my frontline Sophist credential.
Okay, how about nothing is golf? In the vernacular, “Golf ain’t.” It don’t exist. So that tournament last week, the Acropolis Open, won by Xenonophon of Samos with an amazing 20-decameter putt on the 17th — it might’ve been, but it wasn’t golf. Which again, though it might take a week to prove it, seems cheesy, full of holes.
Leaving us only with golf is golf. That is, golf is golf. And golf is golf. My instincts tell me this is the one, and if the poet in me hadn’t already lucked into likewise, I’d be whistling “Eureka” in E-sharp minor.
So it is golf. Indubitably. Who said explanations had to entertain?
Play word association with “madras” and you probably think “preppy,” “golf course,” “fifties,” or any combination thereof. Truth is, madras doesn’t have to signify loud plaids in violent colors; it refers simply to the lightweight yet surprisingly strong cotton hand-loomed in the villages of southern India.
— ad for 100% cotton “Quiet Madras” shirt in Banana Republic summer ’87 catalogue
Not this wordsman. I saw NO madras on the course.
Loud colors, sure — available upon request — but no plaids. And no preppies, no fifties.
Spindrift, if you wanna talk decade, might have had a vague flavor of the Forties, Lomas Santa Fe the Eighties, De Bell the Sixties, Wilshire Country Club the Twenties (or Thirties).
It just shows to go ya: some people don’t know golf nohow.