The Lure of the Game

Golf certainly can make our stomachs churn and scramble our brains. Mark Twain famously described it as “a good walk spoiled.” In the short space of the fifteen minutes or so it takes to play a hole, it’s possible to experience a full gamut of emotions – you name it and it can be felt, in a million different combinations. Fear and trepidation of the opening tee shot, followed by joy and relief after a great drive nailed straight down the middle, then consternation at the fat second shot plunked into the water, and ending with sadness and disappointment as we walk off the green with a triple-bogey. Herein is a great part of the golf’s attraction.

People are also drawn to the game because it takes them into the great outdoors; to open spaces away from the office. Theodore Arnold Haultain discussed the tactile lure of the course, each with its own personality and varied terrain, in his book The Mystery of Golf. Speaking of the delights of the game in 1910, he described the varied elements that stimulate our senses:

“The great breeze that greets you on the hill, the whiffs of air – pungent, penetrating – that come through green things growing, the hot smell of pines at noon, the wet smell of fallen leaves in autumn, the damp and heavy air of the valley at eve, the lungs full of oxygen, the sense of freedom on a great expanse, the exhilaration, the vastness, the buoyancy, the exaltation.”

“We live in small spaces,” wrote Henry Leach in The Happy Golfer, “with many walls and low roofs.” Away from the city, and its cacophony of angry noises that strangle silence, the golf course provides us with a few hours of refuge. Steaming asphalt and concrete, honking horns, and the incessant buzz and clatter of people coming and going gives way to a quiet oasis of cool grass, green trees, chirping birds and the smell of pine needles. “A golfer on the links is uplifted to a simpler, freer self,” claimed Leach.

Michael Murphy, in his classic book Golf in the Kingdom, spoke of golf in terms of “walkin’ fast across the countryside and feelin’ the wind and watchin’ the sun go down and seein’ yer friends hit good shots and hittin’ some yourself. It’s love and it’s feelin’ the splendor o’ this good world.” To David Forgan, who crafted “The Golfer’s Creed” in the late nineteenth century, golf offers “a sweeping away of mental cobwebs, genuine recreation of tired tissues….It is a cure for care, an antidote to worry.”

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