There’s no such thing as a good walk spoiled

Jack Buan

Golf, a game dating back to early 1400s Scotland (although some experts even believe a version of the game was invented in China during the eighth century), is a tradition unlike any other. The pageantry and thrill of the sport create an atmosphere for golfers young or old, professional or amateur, or frankly anyone from any walk of life to enjoy. However, Harry Wilson (author of “The Boss of Little Arcady”) declared in a now infamous quotation (often attributed incorrectly to Mark Twain) that “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” I am here to challenge that assertion and give reason to those of you who haven’t watched the game to at least give it a chance. First, the chief complaint I receive about golf and why it is considered boring, is that it takes too long to play. Indeed, not many people these days have time to spend four hours playing a sport, but golf isn’t the only sport that approaches this amount of time. The average football game can take nearly three hours to complete despite only having roughly 11 minutes of actual playing time. Baseball is just as long, and basketball has endless stoppages. Now this shouldn’t be taken as rhetoric trying to speak ill of other sports; I merely want to prove golf really doesn’t take much longer to play than other sports.

Second, I hear so much about how golf is not athletic and that you don’t need to work out to play it well. Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth. In order for the best in the world to compete and win, they need to hit the ball around 300 plus yards with greater than 60 percent accuracy. While this might not be wholly brute strength, because you don’t need to squat 600 pounds to hit the ball that far, you do need to train your muscles to coordinate themselves at speeds of over 110 mph. To put this into perspective, a one degree misalignment from the target line in the clubface (the part that impacts the ball) can mean 20 yards offline at 250 yards. Considering the average fairway is only 40 yards wide or less for many courses, the margin of error is mind-bogglingly small. Therefore, it is unfair to say from a non-golfer’s perspective that golf doesn’t look athletic, because athleticism comes in all forms.

Third, there are very few sports where all of the onus for success is on the individual. When you play golf, no one can sit you on the bench after a bad string of shots, you are forced to keep grinding. Now maybe if you have a bad day on the course, that spoils your walk, but when all of the pieces fall into place, and the best round of your life takes shape, I can guarantee that feeling of elation is unrivaled.

Finally, I still cannot understand what makes golf “boring” outside of the aspect of time. Sure it doesn’t have the brute force of football, or the quick pace of hockey, but that doesn’t mean golf is not without its share of high-intensity drama. Imagine being on the last hole of a tournament round, you’re tied with your opponent and they have already hit it onto the green to within one-putt range from the hole. The pressure on you to execute a shot similar to that is like being the last player to take a penalty shot knowing you need to score to continue the shootout, or being a free-throw shooter with no time left on the clock and needing two baskets to win. I would be hard-pressed to find this situation boring. Golf gets a bad rap because there are very few equivalent scoring situations in other sports. A successful round of golf takes a few hours to build, but can fall apart rapidly, whereas a few quick goals in a hockey game can end the competition fairly quickly.

One of my favorite tournaments, The Masters, is coming up this April. It is considered one of the greatest spectacles in American sport because of the beauty of the golf course, the storied victories that have come on those grounds, and for how it holds up the majesty of golf (a concept indescribable, but understood rather quickly after watching Sunday coverage of the Masters on CBS). I hope I have at least piqued your interest enough to take an hour out of your day on April 8 to watch some of Sunday at the Masters.