Prologue

YOU HAVE A PROBLEM

Before we get started, we must make something crystal clear. Quitting golf isn’t going to be easy. You didn’t become this big of a mess overnight, what with slicing, hooking, topping, shanking, chunking, three-putting, four-- putting, and yipping all over the place. We can’t just snap our fingers and make this go away. That’s why we’ve developed the 12-step program How to Quit Golf.

Twelve-step programs are proven world-beaters. When it comes to knocking down the powers of addiction there is nothing better. And if you don’t think golf is an addiction, why do you still subject yourself to slicing, hooking, topping, shanking, chunking, three-putting, four-putting, and yipping all over the place?

The only way to eradicate this problem, to clean up this mess if you will, is through the teachings and guidance of this book. If this program is going to work, however, you’re going to need to understand and accept two basic fundamentals—what golf is, and what golf is not.

To begin with, golf is not a mystical game. It was not invented by magical, spiritual beings as an exercise to heighten awareness or offer meaning to life. It is not a metaphor for anything, other than perhaps what lengths man will go to work himself into a boiled frenzy over the most insignificant issue.

Golf is not a subset of some highly enlightened, Zen-based Eastern religion that if mastered will bring you closer to total consciousness. It doesn’t offer a glimpse inside your, or anyone else’s, soul.

Golf cannot provide you with sanctity, cannot tighten bonds between men, and cannot deliver you to a place you couldn’t get to on your own. If you’re asking this of golf, you may as well be asking this of a dead cat.

What golf is, on the other hand, is a nasty, vicious game, played mainly by educated people who quite frankly should know better than to keep playing this sport.

You may feel this is a strong indictment to throw down against the game, but consider this. Through the years you’ve more than likely asked yourself the following questions: Why do I continue to wildly hook or slice the ball? Why do I always hit the ball into the same pond? Why do I suck so bad I want to throw myself into traffic? Why don’t I just quit this stupid game? We assume that these questions have proven unanswerable.

Everyone who has ever sliced a drive or missed a gimme putt has at one time or another declared that they were going to quit the game, and who can blame them? Playing golf is like trying to go up a down escalator while bouncing on a pogo stick. Sure, you may know what you’re trying to do. But the execution is brutally flawed, and you more often than not fail to achieve the desired results.

A golf course has boundaries, a golf ball doesn’t. They go absolutely everywhere. They go in rough, sand and water. They shatter windows, shatter bones, and shatter dreams. Even tour professionals at times hit balls everywhere but where they want. Ever suffer along while watching Greg Norman try to win at Augusta?

It can be pointed out that Norman, who has suffered more heartbreaking setbacks on the golf course than anyone, hasn’t quit. He keeps having at it, and if he’s still out there giving it his best shot, why shouldn’t everyone else keep trying?

He hasn’t quit for the same reason you haven’t been able to quit, which is the same reason no one can quit—as hard as the game is, it’s even harder to quit.

The issue at hand isn’t the desire to quit, but the ability to quit. First of all, nobody needs to play golf. Secondly, everybody who plays golf knows they don’t need to play golf. The problem is nobody knows how to quit. Golf has a beginning, a middle, but no end. The game has no exit strategy.

Walk through any major bookstore in the country and there are thousands of books on golf. How to Play Golf; How to Play Golf Better; How to Play Really Better Golf; Golf for Kids; Golf for Women; Golf for Pets; Where to Play Golf; Where Not to Play Golf; The Mental Game of Golf; The Physical Game of Golf; The Existential Game of Golf; How to Make Chicken Soup from Golf Balls, Tees and Divots; and I’m OK, You’re OK, but the Golfer in the Corner Is Screwed Up Beyond Hope.

Yet, with all that has been written on how to start golfing and keep golfing, nothing has been written on how to stop golfing. The explanation for this is clear. The elements working to keep golfers in a static level of dependency make the marketing staffs of the tobacco industry look like the golf writers playing Augusta National from the back tees on the Monday after the Masters.

Many golfers feel weak and helpless because they can’t muster the strength to walk away from the game by themselves. This is understandable. Golfers are weak and helpless, but it’s not entirely their fault. Golf teases, lures, and seduces us to try again, to give it another shot. By offering a drive or two down the middle, a great recovery shot, a birdie on the hardest hole, or anything at all of which golfers can boast, golf is in essence passing out free drug samples on the playground. Golf entices you to come back. As if saying, “You’re almost there, just a little more work and you’ll get it. Any day now you’ll have the game figured out, and when you do you’ll be envy of all.” But it’s not going to happen. You’re never going to get any better at this game. No one is ever going to get any better at this game.

Technological advances in golf have paralleled those in fields such as biotechnology, telecommunications, and personal computers. New genetic-based drugs are being developed every day. The PC on your desktop has more power than what was used to run the Apollo space missions. Anybody can reach anyone virtually anywhere in the world with the touch of a button.

Drivers are loaded with springlike faces that rocket balls down the straight and narrow. Golf balls have multiple layers of various materials and dimensions, and it’s almost to the point where you can yell at them and they’ll listen. But even with all of this, no one is getting any better at golf. The average handicap today is the same as it was twenty years ago.

In any other commercial venture there would be an outcry for an investigation to unearth the causes of this inertia. Yet no one has peered behind golf’s satin curtain to expose the evils that lurk. Golf just stands there, with the precocious smirk of a six-year-old boy that claims he has no idea of who put the cat’s tail in the electric outlet, while still grasping a handful of singed fur behind his back.

The fact is that golf is as innocent as O.J., but at least it’s not as smug. Golf isn’t pretending to be looking for the real reason you can’t quit; it just doesn’t feel like telling you. But we will: You can’t give up the game because golf is the most addictive substance in all of nature. Golf is the one- armed bandit of the sporting world, the crack cocaine of the recreation industry.

Now, for the first time, we have outlined the addictive nature of the game, along with all of the underpinnings that make golf the asylum of lunatics, and the refuge of lost souls.

Many will question if golf is really a crisis that we should concern ourselves with. In the year 2000 the National Golf Foundation (NGF) estimated that there were 26.4 million golfers age twelve and over in the United States. Approximately six million of these golfers play more than twenty-one rounds per year. These people are characterized as avid golfers. Avid is such a benign term for people who are teetering on the brink of insanity.

If someone spends more than twenty-one afternoons a year throwing back shots of Stoli, do we call that person an avid drinker? Of course not, we call him a former member of the Soviet Politburo. If a person shoots heroin into his veins more than twenty-one times a year is he referred to as an avid intravenous drug user? Absolutely not, he’s a junkie.

Labeling these golfers as avid softens the severity of the situation. Golfing, especially avid golfing, is an issue of national alarm, and needs to be taken as seriously as poverty, health care, gun control, and the impending collapse of the Medicaid and Medicare systems. Issues of this magnitude need important sounding names. We classify these six million people not as avid golfers, but as problem golfers.

This crisis isn’t going away. Since 1986 the number of golfers in this country has increased 33 percent. If that pace continues, by the year 2013 there will be more than thirty-five million golfers in the United States, eight million of whom will be problem golfers. This screams epidemic. If golf were classified as a disease, as we believe it should be, Junior Leagues across the country would hold charity golf tournaments to raise money to fight it.

The NGF also estimates that the typical golfer is male, thirty-nine years old, and plays twenty rounds per year. This is also the age of the typical father with young children. At a time when this parent should be home doting over his children, he opts to putter around a golf course. At a time when he should be saving money for college tuition, he’s out spending foolishly in the pursuit of something he can never achieve—a good golf game. The Holy Grail is still missing; why not try to find that while you’re kicking around in the trees looking for yet another lost golf ball.

How to Quit Golf offers the direction, counseling, and tough love that is necessary to rid your life of the most maddening, demanding, and unbalanced game known to man. If you’re like everyone else and have had it with the game, but just haven’t been able to break free of the shackles that golf has chained to your ankles, this is your bible.

As with all 12-step programs, in order for How to Quit Golf to be effective golfers must first admit that perhaps they’re not handling the game as well as they could be, and they may possibly have a problem associated with their golfing. Below are questions that the suspecting golfer should ask:

1. When stuck on a highway in bumper-to-bumper traffic, have you ever
gotten out of your car to hit shag balls in the median?

2. Have you ever conducted tryouts to determine who your partner will be in the club invitational?

3. Do you wish people would mind their own business about your golfing?

4. Do you play blades?

5. Have you ever been in a passionate embrace, and when the woman you’re with said, “I want to see your magic wand,” did you run to your car and pull a Ping out of your bag?

6. Have you ever doused yourself in men’s cologne to make your husband think you were having an affair, when you were actually at the range getting in some extra work with your irons?

7. Do you envy people who can golf without getting in trouble?

8. Do you tell yourself you can stop golfing any time you want, even though you have a standing, prepaid tee-time every Saturday morning until the day you die?

9. Have you ever made a demonstrative proclamation that you’re going to give up the game for good, such as throwing your clubs in a pond and quitting your golf league, only to sneak back at night to retrieve your clubs and join another league across town?

10. Do you own more golf shoes than dress shoes?

11. Have you ever decided to quit golfing for a week, only to find yourself at the driving range within a couple of days, telling yourself it’s not really golf if you’re not on a course?

12. Do you count going to the driving range with your husband as a night on the town?

13. Given a choice between (a) a week of guilt-free, extramarital sex with the supermodel of your choice, complete with a guarantee that your wife will never find out about it, but all of your buddies will, or (b) a lifetime supply of balls at your local driving range, would you choose b?

14. Have you ever considered throwing yourself in front of the range ball picker due to poor play?

15. When you watch Caddyshack, do you turn down the volume and handle all of the dialogue yourself?

Most problem golfers will answer yes to at least seven of these questions.

From the first time the local bully called you a turd-face, you’ve been overly sensitive to people pointing out your flaws. When it comes to something as personal as your golf game, even the slightest suggestion that you may be losing control is likely to send you into a hissy fit. If someone calls you a no-talent slash, don—t take it personally—face it, you probably are. All that we can say in order to ease your pain is that it takes one to know one. In other words, we are not holier than thou, we are thou. And we’re here to help. Remember, there is no shame in quitting.

Chapter One

Admit you are powerless over golf—

That your life has become unmanageable.

 

Reprinted from How to Quit Golf by Craig Brass by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright Craig Brass, 2001. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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