My luck-of-the-draw playing partners at Tarbat Golf Club, a ten-hole course in Portmahomack, Scotland, across Dornoch Firth from Royal Dornoch Golf Club. I don’t remember their names, but they lived nearby and worked in the oil industry. They were playing in a tournament but had no expectation of winning anything and so didn’t mind having me along. May, 2007.
Life, I discovered recently, is much shorter than it seemed to be when I was fifteen years old and waiting to get my driver’s license. I’m going to turn sixty in a little over two years, and not long ago I realized with distress that I scarcely have enough time left to paint the rest of my shutters, much less to qualify for the senior tour. And what about that twenty pounds I was going to lose?
Fortunately, I’ve already managed to accomplish more than I ever thought I would. In a club tournament a few years ago, I five-putted from six feet, turning a merely bad round into one that I’ll be able to boast about to my grandchildren. I also once spent part of a family vacation writing an apology letter to the entire membership of my golf club, after (allegedly) behaving like a man half my age.
Now that I really am my age, I intend to devote the dwindling remainder of my time on earth to telling other people what to do. Here is the first of ten important things that I think every serious golfer ought to try to accomplish before it’s too late:
1. Explore golf from the singles line. Like most golfers, I play most of my rounds with people I know already—guys I tend to think of as my best friends, even though I’m not sure where some of them work or whether they have kids. However, I’ve played more than a few of my favorite rounds with total strangers after showing up at an unfamiliar course by myself or with less than a full foursome. At various times over the years, on golf courses on four continents, I’ve fortuitously been paired with: a French real estate developer who had a weekend house in Morocco, a guy who owned and operated a souvlaki pushcart in Manhattan, the man who served as the Senate’s chief counsel during the Iran-Contra hearings, a retired Korean wigmaker, three guys who were playing hooky from their jobs on the assembly line at Boeing, a future chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a teacher who had recently started a golf program at an inner-city high school, a retired cotton broker who had once been a colleague of Paul McCartney’s father, and an unemployed carpenter who looked like George Carlin and told me that the key to golf is to “swing easy as hard as you can.” How many other relatively ordinary activities throw you together with people like that for an afternoon?
To be continued.
The ninth/eighteenth at Tarbat. This is one of my favorite golf holes anywhere: a short par-four that plays either around, over, alongside, or into a cemetery, depending on the shape and length of your tee shot.