FUNNY BUSINESS: A farewell to fairways: Why I'm retiring from golf

Mike Redmond
June 16, 2008
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More than once I've been told that to get ahead in business, I need to play golf.

Sorry. Not going to happen.

Oh, it isn't because I don't like golf. Quite the contrary. I love golf. Golf, properly done, can be beautiful: the ballet of the swing; the crack of the driver against the teed ball; the drive rocketing away from the tee box, curving to the right and then drawing itself back onto the fairway; a laser-guided short iron arcing up, up and then falling to the green and sticking like Velcro; a 30-foot snake of a putt, coiling and curving as it finds its way to the hole.

These are things of beauty.

And they are not found in my golf bag.

Oh, no. In my bag you have an assortment of banana balls, duck hooks, shanks, clanks and cranks.

My tee shots head automatically for the nearest patch of trees. I've spent more time in the woods than Robin Hood. They curve left. They curve right. They curve every place except onto the proper fairway. Once, I swear, I had one land in back of me.

Irons? It would make just as much sense for me to walk up to the sand trap, or the tall rough, or especially the water hazards, and throw the ball in. I'd save time and it would actually be less embarrassing.

As for putts ... well, let's just not talk about those.

It is for these reasons that I have given up golf, even though I love it. I have too much respect for the game to allow it to be sullied by my complete lack of ability.

Now, don't give me the Old Familiar: "All you need are some lessons." I've HAD lessons, from several different pros, ranging from a kid who could boom drives into the next area code to a codger who drank Sevenand-Sevens all through the lessons. The consensus was that I should try bowling.

Besides, I've never really believed that bushwa about golf being a good business tool. Let us remember the words of Bob Hope, who said: "It's wonderful how you can start out with three strangers in the morning, play 18 holes and by the time the day is over you have three solid enemies."

Now, I know there are people out there playing golf as poorly as I do, thrashing, splashing and otherwise making a hash of things, and enjoying it immensely. And they keep coming back for more, no matter how much they stink. Golf can do that to you.

Inside the heart of every amateur golfer beats the heart of a little kid who used to step to the plate in Little League imagining himself to be Mickey Mantle or Duke Snider or Willie Mays, or perhaps one of baseball's more recent steroid monsters. That same kid, now grown, is now standing at the driving range and somewhere, deep down inside, imagining himself to be Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods, or Nancy Lopez or Babe Didrikson Zaharias. (Let us not forget that golf is an equal-opportunity tormentor.)

Of course, all this imagining is folly. Amateur golfers are, in the main, human beings. Nicklaus, Woods, Lopez and Zaharias (the golfers, not the law firm) are aliens from the Planet Niblick.

But the real problem with golf is a tendency to play practical jokes on its players. By that I mean you can be in the midst of the worst game of your life. Your swing can look like you're trying to swat bees and kill snakes; your shots can take a laser-guided path out of bounds and into traffic on a street two blocks away. Including putts.

And then, out of the blue, will come a miracle: A drive hit with just the right amount of draw; an iron shot that sticks to the green like Velcro; a putt that rolls over 40 feet of bumps and dips to rattle satisfyingly in the bottom of the cup.

This, of course, causes you to forget that you just shot a cool 126 on the front nine, and makes you want to play all the more, just on the chance it might happen again. And it will. To somebody else.

So no thanks, no more golf for me. If it costs me a speaking gig or two, so be it. I won't ruin the day with my lousy play. It's my way of giving back to the game that has given me so much. Mostly grief.

Redmond is an author, columnist and speaker, and a consultant on business writing and workplace issues. His column appears monthly. You can reach him at mredmond@ibj.com.

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