One of my coworkers asked me if I liked to golf. I laughed and answered, Well, I like to golf, yes. I like to hit the little ball and walk around the pretty green park. That’s all very nice. I don’t golf, however, because I suck at it. And I suppose I could get better at it if I golfed more often than once every five to ten years, but here’s the thing: I usually only golf when people ask me to go with them. I’m not what you (or anyone, really) would call a sociable person, but golfing with other people is what I consider to be a big part of the fun of golfing. I don’t enjoy golfing by myself. This in spite of the fact that other people becoming deeply upset with how much I suck at golf is the primary reason I don’t golf.

Here’s what happens: Someone will ask me if want to go golfing with them, and I will answer, I’d love to go golfing with you but I feel it’s only fair to warn you that I suck at golf. And they’ll answer, Oh it’s just for fun, it’s not like we’re into competing. So I’ll go with them and as we’re playing the first hole we’ll all be having a good time even though my ball goes from the tee way off the fairway into the trees, never to be seen again, and I have to take another eight or nine strokes just to get to the edge of the green. Then after we tee off toward the second hole they’ll make a few good-natured jokes about how long we’ll be looking for my ball in the woods again, and maybe a few more light-hearted remarks about waiting for me as I divot my way to the green. When I clip another ball into the woods from the third tee, though, they’re already starting to look at me cross-eyed, like they can’t believe anybody can be this bad. At the fourth tee somebody will give me a few pointers on how to improve my swing. By the time we play the fifth hole nobody’s waiting for me any longer. I’m looking for my lost balls all by myself and chip-shotting my way up the fairway far behind everybody else. They know they’re pretty safe walking in front of me by then because they know I can’t hit a ball more than thirty yards.

I avoid golfing with other people now because, even though they say it’s just for fun, golfers are serious about their hobby, and I am not. When they realized how little I care about hitting the ball in a straight line, they take this very personally, as if I am flipping the bird at them every time I tee off. And I’m not bothered by that, but I am bothered that they pretend, at first, it will not make any difference to them how badly I golf, but then they become deeply offended when they see me golf, as if I accepted their invitation just to mess with their heads.

There was this one time I had a really great day golfing. It was on a road trip with a friend who took a business trip and invited me along. He had an afternoon off and asked if I wanted to play nine holes. I accepted with the usual caveat that I really suck at golfing. “That’s okay, I suck too,” he said. And he did. He liked to hit the ball really hard, as hard as he could and he had even less control than I did. The golf course was right next to a divided highway; he hit one ball that hooked left, went over the near lanes, bounced off the far lane and disappeared into a farm field. He hit another ball that overshot the green into the parking lot and knocked out the window of a sports car. He lost more balls in the water hazards than I’ve ever lost in my life. Best game of golf I’ve ever been a party to.

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