Games Humans Play

IN A FEW MINUTES, I’ll be off to play a round of golf with friends I met after we moved to our condo in 2018.

Golf is a crazy game, insane actually. It’s immensely frustrating and yet has a way of providing devious incentives to keep you playing—like hitting that last good shot of the day after 75 lousy ones. Not unlike stock-picking.

This week, I shot a 39 on the first nine holes. I was headed for the best round of my life. My final score was 95. I simply couldn’t do anything right on the back nine.

I often imagine trying to explain golf to an alien visiting our planet.

Me: Well, we have this 1.68-inch ball—they used to be all white, but now they come in designer colors. The object of the game is to take this stick and hit the ball into a hole that’s 4.25 inches in diameter and 400 yards away.

Alien: That sounds hard. How many tries do you get?

Me: Four or five.

Alien: You have to be kidding.

Me: Yup, for most of us, it’s a real joke. It gets worse. Just for fun, they put lakes and big hazards filled with sand around the course. I’m convinced—but have no proof—that they also put magnets in the sand and water capable of attracting golf balls. By the way, each ball costs $3 to $4.

Alien: How do you get from one hole to another?

Me: If you’re smart, you walk. But if you’re like most of us, you ride in a cart—for an extra fee. And sometimes you do both because you can’t take the cart off the path and must walk to your ball, which invariably is on the opposite side of the fairway from the path. The last time I played golf, I walked 5½ miles—and I was using a cart.

Alien: What’s a fairway?

Me: It’s a big lawn going from where you hit the ball to the cup—I was going to say tee box, but that discussion would go on forever. Sometimes, it’s wide, sometimes not so much. The sides have trees and other stuff along the way.

Alien: So, all you have to do is hit a ball down the middle of a big lawn and then into a cup and you get four or five times to do that? Gee, that sounds easier than I initially thought—and boring.

Me: That’s what my wife says.

I then explained to my alien friend that they charge you for all this frustration, sometimes a lot of money. Most of us stick with a public course and pay $30 to $40 each time we play. But I have played private courses where the member initiation fee is $200,000, with annual dues of $25,000 to $40,000, plus a monthly dining fee—even if you don’t eat there. Now, that’s out of this world.

Alien: Where do you get those sticks?

Me: They’re called clubs, actually. Many stores sell them, online too, and you can have them custom made as well. The idea is to have clubs that match your age, height, swing and other things.

Alien: And that helps you play better?

Me: Yeah, sure, I wish.

Alien: Are they expensive?

Me: If you want them to be. I paid $1,100 for mine last year, plus $300 for the driver. They can cost less or a lot more. Mine were designed for older folks and were meant to improve my game. I should ask for my money back.

Alien: You said driver, where does it drive you?

Me: Into the woods mostly.

Alien: So, you humans amuse yourselves with a little ball, frustrating yourselves while spending lots of money to do so? How long does all this take?

Me: About four hours or so each time. Now that I said that outloud, it does sound crazy.

Alien: Does everyone play golf?

Me: Oh no, but we have lots of other games involving a ball. Hard ones, soft ones, funny-shaped ones, large and small. Sometimes, we hit them, throw them, even kick them or bounce them off our heads. It’s all quite popular.

Come to think about it, is there any logical way to explain what humans call sports? I hesitated to tell my alien friend that a third of Americans anticipate going into debt after splurging on tickets, gambling and other costs related to their favorite sports team.

Originally published on November 14, 2022

One comment

  1. “Golf is a good walk, Spoiled” It was long thought the quote was by Mark Twain but it actually came from a book published in 1905 by Leon Wilson.


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