The Awful Truth About Recreational Golf


I live on a golf course. I don't say that to be flashy. It's fairly common in Florida for real estate developments in various economic strata to encircle golf courses.
So I have a nice view from my back lanai of the 16th fairway of Hunters Creek Golf Club. I sit there often, watching the recreational golf world go by.
Folks, here's a flash: We suck.
You only need to see a few groups pass through to realize that few of us can make a decent swing, let alone repeat it. (Notice I say 'us.' A colleague once accused me of having an eight-piece takeaway, and he was being charitable.) Most of us who can play only once or twice a month know that if we count every stroke, we'll be in the one-oh's easily when it's time to total up.
(All you good players please lay off the SEND button on your e-mail. I know you're out there, and we both know there aren't enough of you to fill the lower bowl of the Staples Center.)
Most recreational players, no matter how much they enjoy the game, no matter what handicap they report (if they even bother), are hacks. Chops. Duffers. Me too, and I confirmed it the other day by pummeling my drive into the swamp in front of the 18th tee at Hunters Creek.
So why do we keep doing it? Why do we repeatedly troop back to the pro shop for the latest and allegedly greatest?
I think it's because we're watching the wrong people.
There's nothing I see from my back yard that makes me want to join in. Ah, but late Sunday afternoon, I can watch the best in the world make golf balls do the stuff of dreams. It never occurs to those who are hypnotized by the expertise of Woods, Mickelson, Love et al. that they couldn't, on their best day, get within sniffing distance of playing half that well.
But it looks like so much fun. And we've got to try it. Golf lets us. We don't need to break into a stadium and persuade El Duque to pitch us batting practice. We don't need to take Pete Sampras hostage and make him serve to us. We only need to trundle over to Hunters Creek.
We are the victims of our own expectations. No matter what we know in our heart of hearts, we want to hit the ball every time with that telltale hiss as it rockets off the tee. We want our sand shots (which we hit often) to come out high and land soft. We want a caddie.
What is it with us? We don't watch the NFL and expect to complete 70-yard bombs in our Saturday pick-up games. We don't watch the NBA and expect to slam like Kobe. We don't watch Major League Baseball.well, who can sit through those games anyway?
But as John Updike said, every round of golf is a clean slate, a new bundle of possibilities. And that's enough to fuel the Market of Hope.
That's what's for sale, no matter the company. Even Callaway Golf, which is supremely confident in its designs, is careful not to promise consistent nirvana off the tee. Callaway knows better than to promise what it can't deliver. So does most of the rest of the industry.
There comes a time in one's golf game, though, when playing better than everyone else becomes a lot less important than playing better than you used to. Some people call that knowing your limitations. Fair enough. But a glass-half-full version could be called reaching golf maturity.
Who markets to that?