Golf: A sport of skill and intellect

March 11, 2019 — by Alex Wang

I pull back my putter and gently tap the golf ball. The ball rolls for a little bit and then nestles into the hole. I do a fist pump like Tiger Woods and write down another birdie on the scorecard.

That’s what it looks like on TV, and it’s how I thought my first time playing golf would go. I couldn’t have been more wrong..

I wanted to try golf, the quintessential old man’s sport, thinking, “How hard could it be?” After playing video games like Golf Clash, where 300-yard drives were the norm, I thought it would be easy to match that on the course. Furthermore, I wanted to see if my friend junior Kevin Sze was truly deserving of the numerous awards and trophies he has won for golf. After all, it’s not that difficult to swing a club a few times — or so I thought.

Kevin and I, along with junior Leo Cao, booked a tee time at Deep Cliff Golf Course, a relatively easy 18-hole course in Cupertino. I had to borrow Leo’s clubs because I didn’t have my own. After stepping into the tee box of the first hole, I immediately got nervous. There were a few people around, and they were going to watch me swing and probably miss the golf ball.

Meanwhile, Kevin coolly pulled out some sort of binoculars that measures distances and looked at the flag far in the distance. “About 270 yards,” he said. “That shouldn’t be too hard.”

I squinted at the flag and thought that there was no way the distance was only 270 yards. It had to be at least 500.

Focusing back on hitting the golf ball, I swung my club as hard as I could. Whoosh — I missed the ball entirely. Embarrassed, I tried again — another whiff. When I finally made contact with the ball, it made a beeline drive into a tree, traveling a grand total of five yards.

Then, Kevin placed a ball on the tee, took a few practice swings, and whacked the ball. It sailed high up in the air, and it landed on the fairway. Leo proceeded to smack his ball as well, with his ball flying high and landing in the same general area as Kevin’s.

Watching this, I felt that I needed to redeem myself, so I placed another ball on the tee. I swung and missed. And again. And again. At this point, Kevin, who was pretty annoyed at my terrible play, told me to pick up the ball and start playing where his ball landed.

Trying to hit the ball from the ground was not any easier. I would swing the club and miss too right, and then I would adjust and miss too left, and then I would adjust and miss too high.

Eventually, I picked up the ball again and started putting from the green where Kevin’s ball had landed. Before putting, Kevin would squat down and “read the green” to look for small slopes or bumps. Trying to emulate him, I also squatted down, but to me, everything just looked flat. Somehow, Kevin saw a slope, and when we went to hit the ball, he was right. He ended up sinking the ball in one stroke for a birdie. Meanwhile, it took me three putts to hit the ball in the hole, for a total count of eight strokes on a par three hole.

As I got closer and closer to actually hitting the ball, I started looking through Leo’s wide array of golf clubs to decide which to use. To me, they honestly all looked the same, so I would just pick a random one out, often to the laughs of Leo and Kevin. I didn’t really understand what was funny, nor did I understand what each club was used for, except for the putter and driver. To this day, I still can’t tell the difference.

Before the sixth hold, I had picked up the ball on every hole and hit the ball about twice. As I stepped to the tee for this hole and swung — thwack — the ball went flying. It was my first and probably best shot the whole day. Kevin looked through his binoculars and reported that it only went about 150 yards, but for me, that was progress.

Throughout the rest of the day, I was able to play a few holes without picking up the ball, but sometimes, I had to yell “Fore!” to warn others that a ball was heading toward them. It was fun until I realized that I was hitting more balls at people than in the direction of the hole.

After wrapping up the 18th hole, I looked at the scorecard, seeing it was not full of birdies, nor pars, but rather X’s. I had told Kevin to mark down an “X” for each hole I picked up the ball, so my final score was the algebraic expression 12X+38. Basically, I was unable to hit the ball on 12 of the holes and shot 38 on the other six. On the other hand, Kevin shot 58, which was two under par, and Leo shot 75.

In the end, while I was not the golf master that I hoped, I still had a fun time golfing with my friends, who were clearly a lot better than I was, and I now have more respect for professional golf players. I want to try playing again, but I think it’s more likely that I will be dominating others in Golf Clash than dominating others in real life.

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