Instead of playing the game, we're consumed by the math, and unless diagnosed and attended to, the syndrome is murder. I've seen it kill off more good rounds -- including too many of my own, some before my spikes were even laced -- than any flub, foozle, yank, shank, top, yip or worm burner, all of which feed off its toxins.
Bob Rotella, author of "Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect" and an expanding shelf of companion volumes focusing on the delicate balance of the golfing psyche, advocates simply hitting good golf shots -- the rest will take care of itself. "Too many golfers get so bound by results," he says, "that they forget about the reason they're supposedly out there: to enjoy themselves."
Of the myriad choices that confront us whenever we head for the links, none is more important than the one energizing all the others: Why we opt to enter into this self-flagellating venture in the first place. For Tiger, say, the answer is simple -- it's business. Keeping score is like keeping the books. It's concrete.
For the rest of us, the answer may not be as cut and dried. Yet, like Picasso's art, certain enterprises are meant to be appreciated in the abstract, and golf, thrillingly, turns out to be one of them.
When we can get beyond the little boxes on our scorecards, we begin to pick up on golf's bigger picture: the landscapes, the camaraderies, the lovely arc of a well-struck shot. We can still note the numbers, chart progress by marking fairways hit and greens in regulation, tally the skins, collect on the Nassaus, grind through tournaments, maintain handicaps, and hope to improve on them. But is that all we want to take from the game? What about the satisfaction of going out to play golf for no reason other than, well, to go out and play golf? With passion and abandon. Like when we were kids. Getting the lead out of our golfing systems now and then may serve up no tangible proof to bring home of how we're playing; instead, it reminds us why we're playing, and even encourages us to play better.
[Jack] Whitaker covered, and delivered essays about, all manner of sport. He wrote as he dressed, with tweedy charm. He said of his favorite game, “Golf is the most movable feast of all.” That is, it could be played everywhere, from Merion, where he was a member, to the public courses of Philadelphia where he learned the game in the 1940s. MICHAEL BAMBERGER