Monica de la Torre, p.1


A Brit exclaims “O to build character in a playground riddled with hazards! O gusts of wind, bumpy treeless fairways, deep bunkers, knee-high rough!”

Golf should be played by the seashore was the dictum Scots received from Nature. They have been much relieved to find this in accord with their Calvinist beliefs. Man is meant to suffer; never more than when he goes out to enjoy himself.

Despite his preference for courses designed to penalize players who stray from the path from tee to green, an American claims “Games ought not to be played in moral gymnaseums: give me vistas, decorative ponds, token fairway bunkers!”

(Far more than anybody else, Americans have found hanging watercolors of golf courses in the bathrooms of their homes in good taste. The choice of Walmart’s interior decorators to have them enliven restrooms, for example, must also have been informed by this longing for pastoral environments.)

As in other developing countries, in Chinese boom towns the real business deals are done while playing golf. (My father says he tests potential partners by playing with them first. I wonder if he thinks he’s the only one keeping a close eye.) If in China the way of doing business is lubricated by guanxi, in Mexico, for instance, it’s lubricated by the drinks the caddy helpfully provides. (By the way, certain circumstances allow for betting to be considered business.)

Whatever one’s nationality is one mustn’t forget the ancient maxim: Forget length when you’re in a bunker from hell; make sure you get out of it before you get ambitious.

Wives and daughters of golfers around the globe identify with their being excluded from the game; they either don’t understand the language of golf or they speak it with far too much trepidation, making sure they don’t stray from the surface. They like that their men are out facing hazards, the familiarity between tea and tee, and the fraternal spirit of the handicap system.

(Another aside: It is not infrequent for some women to picture men naked when they feel harassed by them. In their minds, men almost immediately lose their threatening power. Some men feel naked at the golf course, their weaknesses far from concealed. Golf outfits spell overcompensation.)

Those who nervously flick remote controls tend to oversee the poetry of this far from telegenic game. Any player would sustain that more than any other sport, the aim of the game—to complete the course in the fewest possible strokes—looks infinitely easier than it is.

Like its settings, the history of the game has been non-linear. Main controversies have involved, unsurprisingly, the introduction of technological advances into the game. Rubber-core balls were considered nearly prosthetic when they first appeared in 1898. Those who excelled at playing with the Indian gutta-percha balls stuck to them, assuming that the fashioning of their shots required far more artistry and improvisation. The gutty had in turn replaced the 400 year old feather ball which got soggy when wet and was stuffed with top-hatfuls of boiled feathers. (Bear in mind that while I write this someone is firing innumerable shots not far from here.) One can guess why balls needed to be nicked and cut in order not to duck quickly in flight. Indented and dimpled balls were far more resistant than smooth-surfaced ones, which would necessarily dent when banging trees and other hard surfaces.

Speaking of birds, to see is to believe. Not wanting to soil the idea of golf as the game of eternal hope with its promised lands beyond every horizon, I’ll leave out the issue about the dead blackbirds, blue jays, coots, geese, grackles, gulls, mallards, robins, starlings, widgeons and other etceteras. Without enough information to prove that the pesticides used to enhance the greens’ greenness provide courses with bountiful doses of neurotoxins and mutagenic substances, why ruin people’s only chance to experience earthly paradise? Those 546 geese collected in a golf course in Hempstead at least can say they died in heaven. The reader should try to figure out whether snakes and rodents suffer from context disorder when the desert they dwell in is transformed into a tropical environment. Change or die!

Let us tread upon a course where the cardinal rule of enlightened (and spartan, indeed) design is followed: a first class hole must present the player with an alternate route to the green.