that you are powerless over golf
no getting around the fact that you are powerless over golf. The game
has got you wrapped up tighter than a 100-compression Titleist Balata,
and youre caroming through life like a Pinnacle bouncing down
a cart path. Youve convinced yourself that you could quit if you
had a problem, but since you dont have a problem, why should you
you dont have a problem? Try this: You know the name of everyone
in your golf league, and every score youve posted since you switched
from forged to cast irons. But you dont know the name of your
kids English teacher, or the score your kid received on his or
her most recent spelling test. More than once youve requested,
in writing, that your home course erect light towers around the last
few greens so you could finish those late evening rounds. For the same
reason youd be more than happy to pay a premium fee for a cart
with headlights. Halogen if possible.
owns you. From your logo-emblazoned cap to your spikeless Foot-Joys,
golf dictates everything you do, manipulates your emotions, and will
eventually call six pallbearers with lower handicaps to your side.
youre not playing golf, youre thinking about playing golf.
When youre not thinking about playing golf, youre thinking
you should be thinking about playing golf. Like it or not, your life
is spinning out of bounds like a blistered rope-hook off a whippy-shafted,
golfing is a disease, and if you dont think youve been infected,
think again. Only a problem golfer would do the things you do, and have
the things you have.
Over the past three years youve purchased more than a dozen putters, a half dozen drivers, and sampled twenty-eight different types of golf ball. Youre now referring to your stack of first-edition golf instruction manuals as an investment in rare books. You have so many back copies of Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, Golf Illustrated, Senior Golfer, Golf World, Links, Golf Week, Golf Tips, and Southern Golfer, that your attic has an R-value of 125.
have a season pass at three different driving ranges. You can calculate
your handicap, to three decimal points, in your head. You actually believe
that you can hit a low-draw, or a high-fade, on command, with a two-iron.
sold your house for the purpose of moving into a community with a cable
system that offered the Golf Channel. When that system pulled the Golf
Channel, you moved again. You refuse to play miniature golf without
your own putter. You listen to golf on the radio, and PGATour.com is
your home page.
religiously watch both the evening and late night Golf Central report
on the Golf Channel, even though you know that the late night show is
a repeat of the evening broadcast. On occasion you have set your alarm
to wake you between 1 and 4 a.m. so you could catch an infomercial featuring
a radical new swing technique that will revolutionize the way
golf is played. Taping it so you could watch it during daylight
hours was never considered.
You dont think twice about skipping work to watch first- and second-round coverage of the Masters, but have never been able to find the time to watch your children in the school play. Your personal collection of artwork begins and ends with an assortment of Leroy Neiman golf posters. You have golf ball racks on your office wall, filled with balls stamped with logos of courses youve never seen, let alone played.
You name your putters. Nothing sweet and simple, like Calamity Jane. No, you name your putters like people name American Kennel Club show dogs: Sir Reginald Ping Backandfrontnine, Most Holy Roller of the 25-footer; Lord Odyssey Von Greensidebunker, Baron of Inside-the-Leather; the Teardrop Earl of Bentsodgrass, Duke of the Sliding Left-to-Right Downhill Knee-Knocker.
But worst of all, you believe that you can improve your golf game, and that one day other people will consider you to be a good golfer. God have mercy on your soul.
whole existence centers on one trite activity: hit and chase, hit and
chase, hit and chase. Humans call this playing golf. Dogs call this
playing fetch. It allows them to run around, first this way, then that,
and chase objects that have no inherent value to them. Their tongues
wag, they perspire, and they get some fresh air. Its the same
thing that happens to you when you golf, though you do it with less
grace than the average canine.
separates man and beast in this instance is that dogs dont dwell
on playing fetch, dont read books and magazines about playing
fetch, and dont spend gobs of money trying to get better at fetching.
Dogs dont sit around after playing fetch rehashing what just happened.
They dont bark about how they couldve fetched better if
it wasnt for the wind, length of the lawn, and their sore paws.
Dogs dont harbor deep resentment toward other dogs that are better
fetchers than they are. Fetch is just something to do in between doing
what they were put on this earth to do: eat, sleep, and occasionally
mount your grandmothers leg.
like dog, man needs to eat and sleep. We are expected, however, to succeed
in an endeavor with more substance than chasing a ball, or humping our
grandmothers leg. Regardless of how fun these things can be, both
should be out of your system by the time you get a temporary driving
permit. In other words, man has been put on this earth to do something
productive. Its time to quit golfing and get to it.
one put a gun to your head and made you golf. It was laid before you,
and you grabbed it as fast as you accept conceded putts. Knowing how
you got to this state is one thing. Leaving is entirely different. What
makes quitting golf so difficult is this: Everyone is powerless over
golf because golf is run by the Golf Gods, and theres not a damn
thing that you can do about it.
the power of the gods.
the much-ballyhooed Showdown at Sherwood match in August of 1999 between
David Duval and Tiger Woods, Duval hit a perfect drive, straight down
the middle of the sixteenth fairway. His ball came to rest under a boulder
that Jack Nicklaus, the course architect, felt would be appropriate
to leave in the middle of the sixteenth fairway.
In this example its obvious that Duval did everything that he was supposed to do, yet he was powerless over golf as to the outcome. As good as David Duval is, after he hit the ball there was nothing he could do. Duvals poor luck is technically referred to as being boned by the golf gods.
circumstance could lead one to assume that the golf gods were out to
stick it to Duval. This, however, is a myopic view of the big picture.
Dont forget that there was a reciprocal beneficiary to Duvals
poor luck. How do we know that the golf gods werent looking out
for Tiger Woods?
is a very plausible scenario. First, Tiger is the anointed savior of
the game. The gods cant have their man fall to his archrival on
prime-time television. Second, this was a clear signal to Tiger that
the gods had his back. Third, the golf gods had already stepped up to
the plate for Duval earlier in the year when they helped underwrite
the 59 he shot in the final round of the Bob Hope Tournament. For the
most part, golf gods like to spread it around.
a ball under a boulder is a much subtler approach than was used by the
gods in days of yore. If the gods had their money on Woods during the
heyday of Greek mythology, when gods strutted around like rock stars,
treating people with indifference, and sleeping with whomever and whatever
they pleased, Duval would have been blasted off the golf course by a
lightning bolt, end of story. Todays golf gods go about their
work with less dramatic flair than their predecessors; this is the reason
Duval wasnt lit up like Ted Bundy during his visit to Old
In examining why we are powerless over golf, the golf god theory carries weight. Who among us hasnt suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune on the golf course? A ball sliced through a row of trees appears to be heading for the safety of a parallel fairway, only to hit a golf cart and bounce back into the woods. A ball skips a dozen times across a pond, yet falters in its bid to reach land, drowning in six inches of water.
Once you think about it, the presence of golf gods makes perfect sense. Golf cant be this hard; theres got to be something else going on that we just cant see. Much of what happens out on the golf course could be attributable to forces beyond our control. For instance, who could possibly take more than twelve shots on a par three? Nobody can, just the thought is preposterous. Its from here to there; you could almost throw it to the green. You could definitely throw it and make less than a 9. But given the right circumstances, such as a rogue god trying to make a name for himself, nothing is out of the realm of possibility.
Case in point, Tom Weiskopf makes a 13 at the twelfth hole during the 1980 Masters. Even though it is regarded as one of the most difficult and challenging par threes in the world, an eight-year-old should be able to get it home in six. How hard can it be? Its only 155 yards! Bunt it off of the tee, chip it over the creek to behind the green, roll in up onto the putting surface, and three-jack. There, six.
In defense of Weiskopf, its fair to suggest that had he wanted to make 6 he more than likely could have. At least two times out of three anyway. But throw in some entry-level golf god lurking on the lunatic fringe, and all bets are off. One in the water, two out, three in the water, four out, five in the water, six out, seven in the water, eight out, nine in the water, ten out, eleven on the green, two putts13.
This is definitely not the work of a human operating unencumbered. The only way to rationalize something like this, lest the victim slide forever into a state of dementia, is to look for some sort of overlord as co-conspirator. Weiskopf should, as most PGA tour players do, acknowledge the existence of golf gods. They recognize the role they play, and realize that its their world; were just here to make tee times.
His acceptance of this is the reason he isnt meandering around the streets of Columbus, Ohio, wearing his Ohio State University letter sweater inside out and mumbling, I could have made nine. I could have made nine. Maybe even eight, but definitely nine.
collapse of this proportion, to one of the best ball strikers of the
last half of the twentieth century, is the stuff of Greek tragedy. The
role that the Greek mythology, gods, mortals, and everything in between
served in Greek tragedies correlates directly with the role the golf
gods have with the game. They are all over it like white on a Strata.
The existence of golf gods also explains why golf is such a crazy game.
The Greek gods were as screwed up as the characters in an Aaron Spelling
begins with Zeus, the youngest son of a Titan named Cronus. When Zeus
grew up, he initiated a hostile takeover and dethroned his old man,
making himself CEO of the gods. He tossed off a couple of minor executive-level
positions to his brothers Poseidon and Hades, but there was never any
confusion over who was calling the shots.
that he answered to no one, Zeus married his sister, Hera. He fathered
many children; Ares, god of war; Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth;
Hebe, the goddess of youth; and Hephaestut, the god of fire, just to
name a few. Hera, by the way, was not mother to all these kids. Zeus
got around. It seems as though Zeus knocked up just about anyone or
anything, be they goddesses or mortals or whatnot, and would go to any
lengths to get some action.
story has it that Zeus had the hots for this mortal named Leda, who
happened to be married to a Spartan king. That she had a husband meant
nothing to Zeus, and apparently not much more to her. Leda also had
this thing about waterfowl. Zeus, never one to shy away from a kinky
escapade, dressed up like a swan, made goo-goo eyes at Leda, and the
two of them got a room.
tryst resulted in the birth of Polydeuces, and possibly his fraternal
twin brother Castor, though Ledas cuckolded husband Tyndareus
disputed that. When Castor died, Zeus made him immortal like his brother,
and from that point on the two of them spent half their time in the
underworld and half with the gods on Mount Olympus. Sort of like a crazy
uncle and his longtime companion who summer in the Hamptons and winter
in Key West.
further underscore that the Greek gods were eccentric and self-indulgent
whackos, theres the story of Io, daughter of the river god Inachus.
She also made Zeuss knees knock, which apparently didnt
take much. Word about Io got to Hera. Zeus, fearful that something bad
might happen to his latest chippy, changed her into a heifer to protect
her from his jealous wife (changing women into barn animals was the
Olympian equivalent of setting up a mistress with an apartment and a
Neiman Marcus credit card). Suspicious, Hera sent the monster Argus
to guard the cow and keep Zeus at arms length. Then Zeus sent
the messenger god Hermes to rescue Io.
Hera, who was fed up, but unable to leave the village and run for senate in an adopted state, decided to torment Io with a gadfly (not the lady who lived across the hall from your first apartment, but a real fly). Io, who apparently was still a heifer at this point, swam across the sea to Egypt, and in doing so set a world swimming record for bovine that stands today. Once again on land, she was restored to a woman, spent a weekend drinking wine and eating feta with Zeus, and ultimately gave him a son, Epaphus. This progeny put Zeus one illegitimate child above the NBA average. All in all, a grossly undisciplined culture, even if it was only mythical.
Todays golf gods have an ancestry of torture, villainy, philandering, narcissism, dirty tricks, and incestuous promiscuity behind them. You wouldnt want these types of people to take care of your geraniums while you were away, and yet they control all of golf. Knowing this, dont you feel stupid for spending so much time trying to figure out why putts that look like theyre going to break left actually break to the right?
We cant forget, however, that if the golf gods are responsible for all that goes wrong on the course, then theres a good chance that golf gods also control all that goes right. This quid pro quo of golfing fortunes explains golfs most confounding phenomenon, what we call the brilliant shotthe reason to believe.
brilliant shot is the inexplicable shot that goes exactly where the
golfer intended it to go, with total disregard to the skill level of
the golfer. The presence of this shot is enough to cloud the mind of
golfers into believing that golf nirvana is just around the corner.
It lures them back for more, regardless of how bad the rest of the round
was. Shrinks call this random reinforcement. You may as well call it
on the golfers weakness, brilliant shots are distributed methodically
and purposefully, as though the gods are saying, Hey, dude, wanna
get high? Golfers get hooked, and therefore create return business.
brilliant shot is usually presented in three forms:
The perfect drive. This shot is always, without exception, followed
by the statement Wheres that been all day? Thats how
I was hitting em on the range. That shot has been on the
range all day because thats where the golf gods keep them until
its time to mess with someones skull. Then they toss it
out there just to watch how the recipient golfer reacts. The gods are
2. The chip-in from off the green. Many a golfer will vocalize how he was owed that one by the golf gods. The golf gods owe nothing to anyone. Especially some chop who believes his drive into the woods, his insistent slice, his cold tops off the tee, his approach shots into ponds, and his chronic three-putting are the result of him being in disfavor in the eyes of the overseers of the game. Golfers are given a chip-in by the gods because they rejoice in seeing angry men spend good money to scrape it around, and piss and moan all afternoon. They want you to come back.
of the time brilliant shots will occur over the final three holes of
a round, and therefore will be fresh in the golfers mind as he
leaves the course. Without the incidence of these brilliant shots, golf
would have the social and commercial impact of feather bowling.
that theres no difference between the score of 103 and the 101
that is the result of the brilliant shot, it can be concluded that these
shots happen for the sole purpose of golfer retention. So therefore,
not only do the golf gods oversee the game, they are the enablers of
the game. Pushers if you will.
use brilliant shots as an opiate, and prey on the central nervous system
of naïve golfers. If youve ever bent a shaft across your
head and asked, Why do I continue to play this stupid game?
now you knowyoure a junkie. As with all addictions there
are health risks that come with golf. After long-term exposure to these
sporadic shots, the problem golfers nerve cells begin to degenerate.
This results in the golfer becoming physically dependent on an external
supply of these shots.
problem golfer will spend more and more time on the practice range.
Shell pound ball after ball attempting to develop the skills believed
necessary to hit brilliant shots of her own fruition on the course.
She will become proficient at hitting almost any shot she can envision
while on the range, but under no circumstances will she ever be able
to duplicate on the course what she does on the practice tee.
dependency on these brilliant shots can turn into a physical illness
and central nervous system disorder. Many can recall seeing a fellow
golfer out on the practice range after dark, grinding away, trying to
find it. As a cart boy leads her back to the clubhouse, shes seen
twitching and talking to herself: Ive got to hold parallel
at the top. Parallel at the top, pointed down the line. Parallel at
the top, pointed down the line. At the top, down the line. At
this stage her family doesnt even want her.
Most problem golfers will claim that they are powerless over golf because they are powerless over golf. They assert that they have no control over the time and money they spend on the game. Their devotion to the game, and their collection of silly golf stuff, is out of their hands because they are nothing more than a puppet on the end of the golf gods string. The problem golfer will defer all responsibility of her affliction to an outside agencythe golf gods. Believing firmly that since the gods have their fingers on the triggers of everything golf related, all golfers are powerless. So not only have the lives of problem golfers become unmanageable, the problem golfer is as crazy as hitting a one-iron out of a green side bunker.
Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, he said, Thats one
small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Two years later
Alan Shepard would hit a golf ball on the moon with a makeshift six-iron.
We can do many things, overcome enormous obstacles, and achieve heroic
successes, like putting a man on the moon, but we havent figured
out a way to quit golfuntil now.
You should consider Chapter One a small step that will build into the giant leap of quitting golf. No chapter on its own can do the job, but in concert, the twelve steps of How to Quit Golf will release you from the earthlike gravity that has held you under the oppressive nature of golf for all of these years.
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.