Golf. Famously described by Mark Twain as a “good walk spoiled”. Or in my case more usually a good walk spoiled, then lengthened considerably, and finally re-routed to take in exclusively the kind of undergrowth that has a pathological desire to inflict pain.
I know most injuries are supposed to occur in the home, but amongst the golfing demographic I beg to differ – they happen in the heavy rough.
Yet once you have the bug, it’s very hard to shake. Golf can be so dangerously addictive it should probably only be available on prescription, or under the counter from backstreet sports shops.
The eternal tease, golf offers you just enough breakthroughs and encouragement to keep you coming back for more and numbs you to the reality that most of the time it just delivers pain and disappointment. What’s worse, improving at the game doesn’t really help. The better you get, the higher your expectations become. You might make a better class of mistake, but the frustration is in perfect proportion.
Even when you do something spectacularly good, golf finds a way to punish you. Should you happen to achieve the holy grail of golf – a ‘hole in one’ – your reward, by tradition, is the honour of buying a drink for the whole clubhouse. Lucky you! Golf has its own language, code of etiquette and even clothing. Oh my, the clothing. Quite who first thought that it would be a good idea to strut around a golf course in what looks like Rupert Bear’s hand me downs I don’t know, but on their heads rests the responsibility for some of the greatest sartorial abominations humanity has ever seen.
Then there’s the toys. Golf has gadgets galore, which optimistic fools like me lap up in the hope that technology can compensate for lack of ability. Or practice. It can’t of course, but that doesn’t stop us from investing in the latest ‘fly further’ ball, or ‘revolutionary’ club. Probably the most nonsensical purchase I ever made, and that’s a title with a few contenders, was of a ball detector. The idea was that you point the detector at the general vicinity you think the ball went, and it would detect it. Or not. Mostly not…
The average golfer’s fondness for gimmicks is of course manna from heaven for marketers. In the first instance golfers get through a lot of consumables – golf balls (which we lose), tees (which break), hats (which we leave in locker rooms) – so anyone giving us replacements is most welcome, and will find their gifts used readily.
You can never have too many towels, umbrellas, pitch mark repairers, ball markers, shoe cleaners or pencils. Golf is notionally a social sport, so any branded premiums are going to be seen by a wide group, and likely be found by someone else and a whole new group a few weeks later. Truly the gift that keeps on giving.