How to Play Golf – or Not , a personal perspective
How to Play Golf - or Not , a personal perspective
Origins of the word Golf
Well Golf! This word reputedly has it's origins as an acronym for "gentlemen only, ladies forbidden". however according to about.com, "that's a common old wives' tale. Or, in this case, more likely an old husband's tale". A pity but it makes for a good tale. Furthermore thy go on to say:
"No, "golf" is not an acronym for "gentlemen only, ladies forbidden." If you've ever heard that, forget it immediately. Better yet, find the person who told you and let them know it's not true.
Like most modern words, the word "golf" derives from older languages and dialects. In this case, the languages in question are medieval Dutch and old Scots.
The medieval Dutch word "kolf" or "kolve" meant "club." It is believed that word passed to the Scots, whose old Scots dialect transformed the word into "golve," "gowl" or "gouf."
By the 16th Century, the word "golf" had emerged.
Sources: British Golf Museum, USGA Library"
Sport as I grew up.
Now when I was growing up golf simply did not come into my lexicon. Sure we read about Gary Player and Bobby Locke but these were newspaper stories about South African sports legends and far removed from our world of reality. My father did not play golf. His friends and our immediate family did not play golf. Come to think to it we were not really a sporty family at all. Perhaps this fact accounts for some of the disconnect with my Dad. I played Soccer (A team at primary school). In high School I participated in Rugby (mostly age group A teams), Swimming (represented my school and province at age groups)and tennis. This was balanced by my being a member of the choir, chess and debating teams. My folks did not relate to this sporting part of my life.
Sports, involving a stationary ball.
You will notice that I do not mention any sport where the ball stands stationary. Into this category falls cricket and, in later life, golf. I actually seem to have a failure in my make up when it comes to hitting stationary balls. But I am getting ahead of myself.
As I grew up I became more aware of golf and cricket. My fathers' lack of participation did not extend to being a spectator. My dad was an avid cricket fan and listened to every international match on the Radio. We did not have television in South Africa until the seventies. He also followed the exploits of Gary Player in the newspaper. However, in our upbringing golf was an elitist, pursuit followed only by the wealthy and privileged.
I eventually played quite a bit of cricket and could field very well (moving ball - note) and bowl a bit. Here the ball moved in my hand under my control, hence I became a spin bowler.
The bug bites or does it?
After I had begun working, I noted that more and more of my colleagues played golf. I also noted that a lot of golf tournaments were played in working hours. Aha, now my canny brain figured that if I could play golf, I could get some time off to play and join in the festivities at the 19th hole. Also the guys were always talking about the prizes that they had won.
At any rate, I eventually had few lessons. Inter Alia
- Keep the forearm stiff.
- Hold the club with the correct grip.
- Have an easy natural swing.
- Let the ball do the work.
- Hit through the ball.
All of this was easy in theory, but in practice a different story entirely. Now hitting the ball was one thing. But there are many clubs in a bag. Each has a different purpose. Each has a different loft giving a different elevation and in turn (in theory) giving different distances with the same mount of effort and swing. Then there was putting. The greens were different speeds and had a bias to a different direction. That is, if you hit the ball straight it would veer left or right or even (sometimes) go straight. So you had to "read" the green and play left or right or straight with the natural turn (or bias or rub) finishing off the shot for you at the end of the roll.
Joining a Club and playing
So this was a relatively easy game or what!
I bought all the right gear and joined a club. You could not get a handicap if you did not play for a club. You could not play in a tournament (organized game) without a handicap - catch 22. The handicap was a method of ensuring that no matter how good or bad you were, you could play on an even footing with your fellow players. Again in theory, very simple. You start off as a 24. In other words you get 24 free shots before the count of actual shots played begins. These "free shots" are dispersed throughout the 18 holes with initially one shot per hole, plus 6 others added to the more difficult (or usually longer holes). Each course that you played on determined where the free strokes would be applied. Okay, now so far so good. As you improved your handicap was lowered until you became (again in theory) a scratch golfer. That is you had no handicap and no free shots.
The More you play the worse you get!
Now I discovered that the more I played the worse I got! I also learned that once you were 2 shots over your allotted number of shots for a hole you picked up your ball and put a circle around the allowed score plus 2. An example of this would be (for me) a par 3 short hole with one shot allowed (4 shots) but I had already played 6 and was not within putting distance of the hole. My card would be a "ring 6" at this point.. Therefore the first holy grail of golf is to score better than 100 shots. An average course was, say par 70, plus 24 frees 94 and if you then scored all ringed scores you would be shooting 120. So breaking "a hundred" would mean you were getting close to a par round for your handicap. Well, I discovered this is not so easy. You are trying to hit a stationary ball around 300 yards to a small hole twice the width of a golf ball This is a bit like trying to put a man on the moon at a specific spot with some accuracy. I wonder how many NASA controllers were golfers? So in this case the better I got, the worse I got. I have never really gone beyond a twenty four handicap. That is until I "gave up" golf.
Giving up Golf
There is a different form of the game called "Medal Golf". Medal golf entails counting every shot. Now in our club we played medal golf once a quarter overr 36 holes (two days golf). This form of golf was torture because every shot counted and you knew what you were in for. Also as all the club members were there, the course was full and the high handicaps (me) teed off at the back of the field, meaning a late start and a late finish. Then the after event (the 19th hole) tended to go on a bit.
After once such weekend, arriving very late both Saturday and Sunday My ex wanted to know how we played in the dark. Did we have floodlights? Seeing as I was a bit "two sheets to the wind" I flippantly replied "No we use night clubs!'
Wisely she waited until the next day and said "Golf or me - choose". I unwisely chose her, but, honestly though, my golf was going nowhere.