Jon de Vos: Acting normal in plaid
June 10, 2010
I’m a bit envious of golfers. Actually, I just admire people who are able to act normally wearing plaid pants.
Golfers drag a bag of clubs around a big lawn. Once in a while they stop and pull out a club, wave it around ominously and whack a ball off into the distance. Then some hired fellow runs out to find it. Eventually he stumbles across some other lost ball and, whack! It starts all over again. The object of golf is to hit the ball over and over until you die.
Mark Twain described golf as “A good walk, spoiled.” If you’re going to walk, for God’s sake, walk. If you’re going to whack a little ball, then smack away. The only other sport that combines two distinct activities is the biathalon. That’s the one where athletes ski furiously for a while, then flop down and shoot at each other.
Oh, I’m sure they’re not actually supposed to shoot at each other but what happens if a really competitive guy starts to fall behind? Say, Sven Ostergaaard is skiing furiously, two meters behind Snorgren Bjerdskt, the world’s top biathalete. They’re all alone in the woods. Fame, glory, tall, straight-haired blonde girls, and commercial endorsements lay across the Finnish, er, finish line for the winner.
Sven is skiing like a dream! No man has ever skied so fast! No man except Snorgren, that is. Sven is right on his heels but his trouble is that Snorgren’s slowly pulling away. Trouble for Snorgren is that Sven’s packing a rifle.
Did you know that if you played every golf course in America, one per day, seven days per week, it would take more than 46 years to do all 17,000 of them? It would be a long walk, too. At 6,000 yards per course, you’d walk almost 58,000 miles, about a fourth of the way to the moon.
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With an average fairway width of 80 yards, golf courses cover more than 2,668 square miles, an area much larger than Rhode Island or Delaware, and that’s just counting North American golf courses.
All the football fields, baseball fields, soccer fields and tennis courts combined wouldn’t add up to half that. But what that really means is that at any given moment, there’s some muttonhead wandering around an area a little smaller than Connecticut, trying to swat a 1-3/4 inch ball into a 4-inch cup.
The Soviets claimed that golf originated in Denmark in the 15th century, while the Chinese assert that the game was popular in the Orient 300 years before Christ.
Despite odds calculated at 8,606 to one, the golfer’s dream remains the hole-in-one. The record holder, Art Wall Jr., sank 37 hole-in-ones during his 31-year professional career.
By rule, a golfer can only carry 14 clubs. Now they are numbered but earlier they were named. The number 4 wood was called the Baffy and the number 7 iron was the Mashie Niblick, for instance. Standards have changed too. Before 1848, balls were constructed of leather stuffed with “as many feathers as a hat will hold.”
The People’s Almanac lists the worst golfer in the world as a mercifully unnamed woman player in the Shawnee Pennsylvania Invitational. She took 166 strokes for the 130-yard 16th hole. It seems her tee shot went into the Binniekill River and began floating downstream. She and her husband jumped into a nearby boat, finally beaching her ball a mile-and-a-half downstream. Hubby dutifully kept track of the strokes as she bushwhacked her way back to the pin.
She probably had to spend the next day filing the burrs out of her Mashie Niblick.