MARK Twain is often quoted as having said that “golf is a good walk spoiled”, but the problem is it’s wrong. It’s certainly not in any of Twain’s written works, in fact there are no records of him ever uttering it at all.
And although all golfers can relate to the witty phrase, whoever did was probably a keen but frustrated golfer who uttered the clever phrase in jest, I’m not surprised it wasn’t Twain.
For someone that was described as the “greatest American humorist of his age” I find it difficult to believe that Twain would have overlooked, or disregarded one of the the joys of golf, and one of my favourite aspects of playing the game - spending four or so hours in the company of strangers.
Most golf is played with familiar partners. Golfers you already know - your regular Saturday group, fellow members or family.
But without doubt one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had on the golf course is when joining a few golfers I’ve never met before to play 18 holes.
What other sport, or indeed what other endeavour encourages people to spend four hours in the company of people you’ve never met before? It’s a unique experience that is humbling, fascinating and often, eye-opening.
It’s been said before (not by Twain) that you can tell a lot about a person by playing a round of golf with them.
My measure for the mark of a golfer’s composure (or on-course likability if you like) is how different one’s personality is after a good tee shot compared to a bad one.
It is the walk from the tee where most golfers can get a good chat in and there are some golfers you need to stay well clear of if they’re lying three.
But it’s being wrong about someone where I’ve gained the most satisfaction with playing with strangers on the golf course.
The old phrase, ‘never judge a book by its cover’ (possibly wrongly attributed to Twain too) is a difficult, yet wise saying to adhere to.
It’s almost innate to form an opinion of someone based on first impressions but time and time again I've been shown how deceiving it can be on the golf course.
Most recently a golfer with overly large cargo shorts, no belt (some might say this is more fashionable than wearing a white one) and different coloured socks was walking to join me on the first tee.
No sooner had he asked if he could join me for the round, he suddenly remembered he’d left his driver on the back seat of his car.
After returning, he teed up his ball and sent his golf ball down the middle of the fairway with one of the most unconventional swings I’d ever seen.
It turns out he played off a handicap of four, almost broke par and left me languishing well below him in the club competition.
Although a daunting proposition for any golfer, I’d encourage beginner golfers to play with golfers they don’t know as often as possible.
The initial, unrealistic pressure will be good for your golf game in the long term, but in the short term you’ll most likely meet someone interesting that may be the best thing about the round if the golf goes pear-shaped.
A good walk unspoiled.
Play golf for golf’s sake. But don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone from time-to-time and play in the company of strangers.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michael Green founded AussieGolfer.com.au - Australia's #1 golf blog - in 2007, is a member of The Australian Golf Writers Association and has covered some of Australia's biggest golf tournaments, including the Australian Open, the Presidents Cup and World Cup of Golf.
Michael began playing golf as a 10-year-old in Adelaide where his father introduced him to the game.
He has managed to maintain a single-figure handicap while studying, living and working abroad and keeping a close eye on his three children.
Michael has a PhD in Physics and when not writing about golf, he continues to work in medical research in Sydney.
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