I’m Blaming Trump for This, Too

Ordinarily I’m not a language snob. Does it truly matter if people incorrectly refer to concrete as “cement,” or say “fortuitous” when what they mean is “serendipitous,” or use “enormity” as a synonym for “immensity,” or complain about their “arteriosclerosis” when what they actually have is atherosclerosis (unless it’s the other way around)? Life is too short for brooding about the vocabularies of strangers.

And yet.

Surely you, too, have noticed that at least half the people in America unashamedly use golf as a verb: Do you golf? My brother-in-law golfs. Did you ever see Tiger Woods golf? My wife and I golfed on our honeymoon. I’m thinking of teaching my cat to golf.

The problem has been exacerbated by having a president who, even by presidential standards, spends a remarkable amount of time playing golf. When reporters who aren’t sportswriters report on his weekend activities, they say that he “golfs.”

People who use that word in that way are almost always non-players or neophytes. It’s your great-aunt, not Jordan Spieth, who asks you if you “golfed” over the weekend. The pro at your club doesn’t “golf.” The other members of your foursome don’t “golf.” And Ben Hogan never “golfed” in his life.

This linguistic form is unique to our game, incidentally. Nobody tennises, or baseballs, or billiardses, or soccers. The people who use golf as a verb could cite the dictionary in their defense, but the dictionary is not enough. Using golf as a verb is like using sex as a verb (a usage permissible only for people who hold certain unglamorous jobs in the poultry industry). Using golf as a verb demeans golf.

I don’t mind golfer (although a few purists insist on player). I can even stand an occasional golfing. But the entire conjugation of to golf makes me want to grab a four-iron and golf somebody in the head with it.

While we’re on the subject of golf-related annoyances, let’s spend a moment on ball washers. Beginning players are always easy to spot: They keep their tees in wrist bandoliers, and they can’t pass a ball washer without using it. You hear them pumping as you tee up your first drive of the morning; you hear them pumping as you consider your final putt of the afternoon. These new golfers need to be told that ball washers serve a decorative function only, and are never to be used. Real golfers clean their balls by spitting on them and rubbing them on their thigh, making a permanent stain near the pocket, and identifying them as players, not as people who golf.

18 Good Things About Golf: No. 16

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16. Golf is a literate game. Reading about golf provides plentiful opportunities for genial self-deception. The flaws in your swing recede as you imagine the clashes of titans. As always, your enjoyment is heightened by the certainty that, if you had come to the final nine with a lead that big, you wouldn’t have let victory slip through your fingers, unlike Palmer or Spieth. Then a remark of Hogan’s reminds you of a grip change your pro recommended last year—a grip change that felt peculiar the one time you tried it but that might be your ticket (you now see clearly) to the Senior Tour. Then a description of the sixteenth at Cypress Point transports you to the part of your mind where your children are grown, your spouse is merciful, and you have all the money in the world.

On the page, golf is a game you could almost get the hang of. As you read, your slice becomes a gentle draw, and your best shots swell in your memory until they have pushed aside every lip-out, chili dip, pop-up, and shank. Sometimes when I’ve been reading about golf, a feeling starts to build that’s like a smoker’s yearning for a cigarette. It’s a physical longing, which, as often as not, leads to anxious glances at the clock. Could I get to the driving range and back before the plumber arrives? Will my editor really care if that article is another day late? Isn’t there maybe just enough daylight left for nine holes, if I don’t bother to change my shoes?

Best of all, reading about golf is less susceptible than golf itself to the depredations of age. When the yips have stolen our putting stroke, when we can no longer lift our driver, when even a cart seems like too much effort, we will still have golf’s huge and continually growing library to keep us in the game, even if we have to hire a caddie to read it to us.

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The Tour Championship of Beer-drinking

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While the Tour Championship was under way last month, the alcohol equivalent was taking place in a public park not far from my golf club. The winner was Nick P., the Sunday Morning Group’s Jordan Spieth of beer-chugging. He dominated all six rounds, thirty ounces at a time. Here he is in the third round, halfway to the title. He’s the competitor at the far left—the one who finishes almost before the others have begun:

Notice, first, that he “slicks the pipe” before the round begins. Notice also that he de-foams his boot, and doesn’t “drink” the beer, but, rather, turns his throat into a siphon, causing the beer, in effect, to drink itself—an expert move known as a “Mulholland swallow.” The video above was shot by his girlfriend, Mariana, who’s an honorary semi-member of the Sunday Morning Group by virtue of having driven the beer cart during this year’s men’s member-guest—which Nick and his partner, Carl, won. She was born in Peru and works for a fancy construction company. Here she and Nick are (drinking beer) during the putting contest:

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Beer played a role in Nick and Carl’s member-guest victory, too, because Fritz and Klinger caddied for them during the closing shoot-out and kept them focused by making timely applications of Bud Light. Here’s Fritz preparing Carl for his final tee shot:

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I drew Nick as a teammate the morning after his chugging victory. In golf, a hangover can work either way; in Nick’s case, it worked the other way. Still, I was proud to walk the fairways with him. Here are Nick and Carl and our pro, Corey, with the member-guest trophy:

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Nick’s company, Custom Ts ‘n More , embroidered the awesome golf shirts that he and Carl are wearing in the photo above, and it’s embroidering awesome golf shirts for the Sunday Morning Group’s sixteenth annual October golf trip to Atlantic City, which is coming up. Twenty guys, four rounds, free shirts, no casinos. More about all that soon.

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How Many Times Could Jordan Spieth Buy and Sell You?

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The British golf-stuff website onlinegolf.co.uk—which is similar to TGW, Golfsmith, or Edwin Watts—includes a gadget that lets you compare your earnings with those of the world’s best golfers. You have to convert your salary to British pounds, but once you’ve done that you have access to all sorts of interesting information, including how much you and the world’s best golfers are earning while you fool around at onlinegolf.co.uk.