I’m going golfing with my dad tomorrow. I’ve decided that I’m going to pick up my ball when I’m three over par, just to keep things moving. I’m no good. I know this, and I’m okay with it. I can’t really expect to be good with my frequency of play. I haven’t hit a ball in so long that my clubs are still in the trunk of the car that broke down last December.

I enjoy playing though. At least, I enjoy hitting golf balls–playing is frustrating. I can understand why baseball is so popular. Once you learn how to hit the ball on a regular basis, you can enjoy playing. It doesn’t really matter how well you hit it. You get to spend time outside, enjoy the company of your teammates, and spend half of the game sitting on a bench and the other half standing in a field.

In golf, you spend time outside, and, if you take a cart, you spend most of the time sitting. But you play with two or three people you’ve never met before, and you get to humiliate yourself as every tiny mistake sends you farther into a pit of dispair from which there is no return. A mishit drive off the tee can send you into the rough (or worse, sand). It is hard to hit long from sand or high grass, so then you just have to concentrate on getting the ball back in the fairway. Once you hit it from one side to the other, you finally get it on. If you make it on the fairway, you have to try to make the ball land in a 10-30 ft. circle, with precisely controlled rolling, from one to two hundred yards. It just gets worse from there (assuming you make it; if you don’t you’re in the rough again, or sand).

Golf is cunningly deceptive. It sounds easy–hit a ball with a stick, find it, repeat. I prefer to think of golf this way: put a two-inch-square piece of metal on the end of a yard stick, then try to swing it at about one hundred miles per hour and hit a one inch ball with the exact center of the piece of metal. And that’s the easy part. That’s the part you can practice at a driving range, free from the pressures of a game. It’s easy to feel pretty good about how you hit the ball when you have no real goals. When you aren’t thinking about how far behind you are, about how you’re slowing everyone down.

I, like most other golfers, am damn good on the driving range. I can hit just about any of the targets I want to. I have a swing. When I start playing though, it all unravels. My swing goes away, and I turn into some insane woodsman, incessantly hacking at the grass, divots flying left and right. I’m just not a good golfer, and I’m okay with that. I can’t afford to be good, with even the low end courses charging $15 per game. So instead of golfing tomorrow, I’ll just have a nice stroll through the course, occasionally hitting my ball when I come to it. If I can’t be a good golfer, at least I can be a gracious quitter.