For instance, it is bizarre that a land-dwelling species like the homo sapien which is generally happiest when it is dry, should willingly choose to leave the comfort of a warm house in the middle of a snowy December, to spend four and a half hours slowly walking in the rain.
The feeling of having a wet jacket on whilst you trundle to Asda to pick up some Doritos is one thing. But the feeling of approaching a 13th green and being soaked through to your boxer shorts to the extent to which no incontinence sufferer hath ever experienced, is something entirely different. Does the rain stop us though? No, not for a second.
Seemingly week after week, we wake up on a Sunday morning, we notice the drizzle on the windows, we glance up at the porridge-thick sky, we grimace, we breathe out heavily, we eat breakfast and the rain strengthens, we pack the boot and the rain refuses to relent, we turn the car on and the windscreen wipers squeal across the glass, we drive to the course and the wipers wipe faster. We play. We get soaked.
But, in a strange way, we enjoy it. We are rugged. We are golfers. We were born for adverse weather.
This is – you must admit – pretty strange.
It is just one of a number of curious golfing phenomenons with which nobody will ever be able to fully get their head around. Others include the classic:
“I was going against the wind on the 9th, and then on the 10th, which goes in the opposite direction, I was against the wind again!
It is a complete golfing-cliche but the wind which blows over a golf course must be a different wind to the one which blows through our city and town centres because it changes its mind faster than a child in a sweetie shop! And, unfortunately, the wind rarely seems to blow us in the right direction.
I like to think that it is the working of somebody on high, not necessarily God, just anybody; surely nothing could be quite as fun, as watching from on high a matchstick man use a metal stick with an open faced blade hit a tiny white ball a hundred feet into the air and then blowing on to the ball to make it land thirty yards away from where the matchstick man had wanted it to go. Maybe I am just slightly sick, but think of the fun!
These two curiosities pale in comparison however to what I believe, is the most bizarre and incomprehensible thing about golf. That being, the fascination we collectively have with inconsistency and the way in which we persevere as a group in the face of it.
I am talking about inconsistency of the most annoying, golfing kind.
Scorecards recorded every weekend up and down the country are made up shots which for whatever reason, have borne ludicrously discrepant results. A perfect seven-iron, drawing in with the wind, can land and stop within ten feet of the pin to set up a birdie on a par-four; yet at the very next hole – even a Par 3 which requires a seven-iron off the tee – a mid-iron can cause you grief unbeknown.
The same is true with driving, chipping, putting, punching, splashing, pitching and floating.
We are fascinated by our inconsistencies because we don’t know what causes them. Every swing feels the same and yet sometimes the ball goes too far left and sometimes the ball goes too far right. The mystery bewilders us, but far from putting us off the game, it actually does the opposite. It keeps us coming back for more and unites us all under one big baffled and bemused umbrella.
When you really take the time to think about this, it is the strangest of phenomenons.
If we stepped in to a car and put the vehicle into what we thought was reverse, but every time we did this and hit the accelerator the car actually went forward, we would take it to the garage quickly. If we enrolled at college and took Spanish classes for ten years and spent hundreds of pounds on individual lessons and yet still, after all of this education, could not remember how to order a jug of sangria, we would take the hint that perhaps we were never going to be able to order that sangria and just give up!
So, why don’t we give up? How can we complain that after hitting the sweetest five-iron of our life we followed it up by putting three balls in the water on 18 with the very same five-iron and yet continue to be devoted to the sport.
My suggestion is simple. It can all be explained with monkeys.
If you have been gripped by the game of golf I think you are somebody who is deeply in touch with the elements that have come together throughout the course of history to make us who we today. Because, you see, the act of trying to move a golf ball from A to B using an inanimate object is something which appeals to our most basic, elemental urges. It is akin to the art of catching a ball; something about that act, about not letting that ball hit the ground, resonates strongly with our core and makes us feel, good. We all want to be able to move that little white ball, which lies two and a half feet infront of us and halfway between our left and right foot as we set up to hit it, and we want to move it to a specific location. This is as basic as it gets. It is elemental and when we were monkeys, we were driven by the exact same desires.
At the very first stages of human development we had to be strong to survive. Only the fittest were selected to breed and advance the human condition and as a result we had to be able to catch that bird as it flew past our head and then devour the beast whilst it was still squawking and this is why it still, to this day, feels great when you catch something.
So what am I saying here…monkeys invented golf? No.
What I am suggesting is that the reason we are fascinated by our inconsistencies is because like it or not, we were born with certain human urges deeply imbedded into our genetics. Some people have more of one urge than others, some have less. If you love the game of golf, I am betting that thousands of years ago you were a monkey who was desperate to get back to his family by swinging on as few trees as possible and you were fascinated by it. Two thousand years later this is expressed in the basic desire to put a ball in a far-away hole in as few shots as possible.
So next time you are tempted to call your mate a monkey on the golf course, remember – if it wasn’t for our primate ancestors, those three shanks you hit yesterday on holes six, seven and eight might just have put you off pulling on your Footjoys forever!
By Ross A. Fox