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.