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Golf Reflections Over a 577 Day Blog
on 23 May 2008
In our own minds, playing the game of golf becomes the kind of titanic tussle that we have so often observed as Tiger, Phil, and Vijay fight it out on some tough course while we watch on television. In fact, when you play the Old Course at St. Andrews, you can hire a video crew to follow you around on the last few holes and provide commentary.
But the reality is far different. Most of us hit many more bad shots than good ones. The appeal of the game quickly becomes beating others in Nassau's abetted by our large handicaps. I came to think of golf's enduring appeal as being in part the opportunity for middle aged people to have their own Little League.
Usually, a club will put you together with those of similar ineptitude and you soon forget how bad you are. Being a hacker myself, I was once absolutely floored to watch Chi Chi Rodriguez (all 147 pounds of him) easily lofting shots onto a green 230 yards away from a deep bunker while shooting an advertisement on my home course. Now, I had never gotten onto that green in less than two shots from there (and not often in only two).
Years later, I had a chance to meet Chi Chi, and I told him how humbling it had been to watch him. He stared at me for one count and then said, "Now you know how I felt the first time I saw Tiger hit the ball."
Having played the game diligently (and poorly) for most of my adult life, I was curious about what it would be like to return to the game as Carl Hiaasen did in his 50's in order to write a book. I was immediately struck that all of the silliness that I had observed in myself and others was reflected in the book.
I've always found that observing the frustrations that others experience with golf to be hilarious (but I'm usually able to keep a straight face). Hiaasen makes the same observations about himself that I've often made about others. I admire his ability to see himself as others see him.
The trick with golf is to have a carefree attitude: You have more fun and you play better. Hiaasen has more trouble with achieving that emotional distance from his game while playing than he does getting out of a bunker. That overly self-critical attitude adds sourness to the book that would otherwise be totally hilarious.
You'll read very funny tales about new uses for clubs you've never considered, weird gadgets that don't work, unexpected things that can go wrong, and superstitious looks for omens. I think this book would have worked better as a series of essays about the silliness of golf obsessions and practices rather than recounting so much about his return to the game. The sections involving David Feherty were a complete stitch, and you could do a whole book about him . . . filled with wisecracks.
For those who are dyed-in-the-wool Carl Hiaasen fans, you'll be fascinated by his comments about the environmental implications of building golf courses and his reactions to the wild life he encounters.
The book ends on a positive note as his wife and son take up the game, and he recalls great moments spent with his father many years earlier.
There are a lot better golf books out there, but none that capture the experiences of the average frustrated golfer any better. It's like reading an autobiography in some ways (in fact, there's a story in here about hitting a fairway shot from a perfect lie that went 3 yards backwards . . . been there, done that).
Take dead aim!